PHOTO: Marina Denisova
Although it pains us to say it, summer is coming to an end. Time to say goodbye to those long days on the beach and sangria by the pool, and hello to the crisp air and beauty of fall. Travelers, we know that contrary to popular belief, autumn can be the perfect time to get out and explore. Off-season means fewer tourists, cheaper rates and shorter wait times. Even better, choosing lesser known locations ensures a more authentic experience, free from the exorbitant prices and tourist traps present in most popular cities. But the advantages go both ways, since travelling to off-the beaten-path destinations supports local economies and livelihoods that could really benefit from our tourist dollars. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five amazing, and still lesser-known, destinations to visit this fall.
1. Porto, Portugal
PHOTO: The Independent
The gorgeous coastal city of Porto is perfect for those of us who love rich history, decadent architecture, and delicious wine. A must-see when visiting the region is the Ribeira district. As the oldest district in the city, travelers have the opportunity to walk narrow cobbled streets lined with ancient houses and shops, and discover plenty of family-owned restaurants, cafes and bars for when you're ready for a break. As a World Heritage Site, the city’s old town is home to extravagant baroque churches and soaring bell towers, all found within a short distance from the ocean. As one of the world's main producers of port wine, visitors have the chance to participate in tasting cruises along the Duoro River and sun-filled tours of its many vineyards. Once the sun sets, Porto boasts a lively and exciting nightlife as well. Although most sources suggest a long weekend is enough time to enjoy the city, we think you just might want to stay forever.
2. Porto Veccio, Corsica, France
Located in the south of France on the island of Corsica is the picturesque city of Porto Veccio. The city is a unique combination of pristine beaches along its southern coast and breathtaking mountain scenery to the north. In fact, it is known in the region as the "Island of Beauty and Contrast". Travelers have the chance to enjoy world-famous beaches like Palombaggia and Santa Guilia, with their white sands and sparkling turquoise water surrounded by lush countryside. Long days at the beach not your thing? Visitors looking for more adventure can venture inland towards the mountainous Alta Rocca region. Rock-climbing, horseback riding and quad biking are only a few of the activities offered in the region. A must-see is the Porte Genoise gate, which provides an amazing panoramic view of the Harbor, sea, and surrounding valley. A trip into the city’s Old Town reveals cobbled streets lined with unique shops and restaurants, a diverse main square and ruins of the ancient citadel. There is truly something for everyone in this lovely sea-side town.
3. Akureyi, Iceland
Located in Iceland’s Northern region, Akureyri is an excellent combination of nature, culture and adventure for the tourist looking for something a little different. The incredibly diverse biosphere is perfect for hiking trips and other outdoor activities like horse-back riding, cycling, and fishing. A must-see is the town’s botanical garden, which is known for its stunning walking paths and luxurious flora. Founded in 1912, the garden contains nearly every plant species found in Iceland. Besides its natural beauty, the town of Akureyri has an excellent selection of restaurants, museums, art galleries and exhibitions highlighting local talent and history. Visitors can participate in tours to local villages, national parks, and even see the northern lights (no big deal!!). Of course, a trip to Iceland wouldn’t be incomplete without visiting one of its natural hot springs! We're feeling relaxed already.
4. Vilnius, Lithuania
PHOTO: Lonely Planet
As the capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius has a lot of offer. Most notably, its stunning architecture. The town is best known for its baroque style buildings and churches, seen especially in its medieval old town. In fact, it has the largest baroque old town in all Central and Eastern Europe and is recognized by UNESCO for its history and beauty. Visitors can easily spend a day exploring the charming city center, stopping into shops and boutiques, and admiring the diverse architecture. Some must-sees include the picturesque courtyards of Vilnius University, St. Anne's Church and the Gates of Dawn. At the end of a long day exploring, the city offers a huge selection of restaurants and cafés to choose from. Something that simply cannot be missed is the self-proclaimed independent state of Užupis. The micro-nation has its own constitution, national anthem, a bishop, four “official” flags and will even offer to stamp your passport for you. This curious area is definitely worth the short stroll from the Old Town. The best part? It’s still super cheap! Vilnius (and Eastern European countries in general) are known for their excellent value. You can grab a tasty meal for around €5 and a beer for €1 if you’re on a budget, or you can splurge on luxury travel experiences, like a hot air balloon ride, for far less than you would pay in other countries.
5. Valencia, Spain
Last but not least, Valencia. This dynamic city is a perfect choice for those looking to avoid the chaos of larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, without compromising on that coveted Spanish charm. The port city lies on Spain’s southeastern coast, where the Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea. One of Valencia's main attractions is the beautiful architecture combining old and new. Visitors have the chance to see decadent medieval castles and towers mixed in with modernist art-deco builds, and even futuristic designs at the famous "City of Arts and Science". Some must-sees include the picturesque Plaza de la Reina located in the Old Town, the Valencia Cathedral, and the historic Central Market. Of course, a trip to Valencia would be incomplete without enjoying some traditional Spanish meals like Paella! One of the best places to do this is at one of the city’s beaches, such as the Malvarrosa city beach. Stop in at one of the traditional restaurants along the water for authentic food and drinks. Valencia is a one-of-a-kind city that is sure to become one of your favorites!
So, there we have it. Five amazing destinations for those of us who prefer the road less travelled. Let us know, have you been to any of these places? Any suggestions for uncommon trips in Europe or elsewhere? Drop us a comment below!