When planning your next getaway, do you think of Europe first? While Europe is jam packed with famous sights, the rest of the world is full of many beautiful places to visit, too. Maybe you’ve already visited the beautiful cities of Europe, or maybe you just want to discover the world’s hidden gems.
Whatever your travel motive is, here are some unconventional, but equally stunning cities to check out.
Taj Mahal, India
This UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts close to 8 million visitors each year, and it’s easy to see why.
This breathtaking mausoleum was built by an emperor to hold the remains of his favorite wife, who died during childbirth. It’s both a striking architectural feat, as much as it is a tender love story.
Pamukkale Thermal Springs, Turkey
Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish, and that pretty much sums up these gorgeous, natural springs. They’re colored in soft white, pink and blueish hues. It evokes an image straight out of fairy tales, but this amazing spot has been Mother’s Natures gift for thousands of years.
The Romans even enjoyed these hot springs, as is evidenced by the ancient ruins, called Hierapolis, which are spread out within the thermal pools.
This North American city has a very European vibe. Situated along the St. Lawrence River, you’ll see both old cobblestone streets and charming architecture, as well as modern skyscrapers and a little China Town.
More than 60% of its inhabitants speak French, and according to Anthony Bourdain, “this is where the cool kids hang out.” You’ll be sure to eat very well in this French-influenced city.
Cape Town, South Africa
It’s a long flight to South Africa, but once you get there, you’ll experience amazing sights at a very low price.
This inexpensive city combines seaside with mountains, cool breezes and temperate climates. One mountain, Lion’s Head is a popular tourist stop, offering a jaw-dropping vista over the coast. There are plenty of opportunities for both hiking and shopping, and the food scene won’t disappoint.
Mexico may call to mind rowdy undergraduates on their spring breaks, but Mexico is so much more than Cancun, Mexico. You can explore the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan, or stand in awe of more modern masterpieces in busy and bustling Mexico City.
Mother Nature does not disappoint either. Be inspired by Cenote Dzitnup, a breathtaking sinkhole, or check out an underwater river, located in Cenote Angelita. These are only some of the many wonders awaiting you in Mexico.
This Russian city mixes European taste with Slavic influences. It’s situated among many canals that connect and reflect the beautiful, colorful buildings filling this unforgettable city.
Want a religious experience? Visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the third largest cathedral in the world that boasts a pure gold dome.
Into the arts instead? There are fantastic museums where you can see Picasso and Matisse. You can even see a ballet at the Mariinksy Opera and Ballet Theater.
A star along the Caribbean coast, this old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find it all in Cartagena: hot weather, stunning vistas, historic palaces, churches and old stone walls that have wrapped around the city for centuries.
Experience luxury, or the rush of every day, middle class here in Cartagena. You’ll also be surprised at the mosquito-free atmosphere, thanks to a specific wind that prevents these pesky insects from filling the humid air.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Here is yet another UNESCO heritage site, where 16 natural lakes glisten with a lovely, turquoise color. It’s quite a large park with so much to see, but don’t worry. There are trains and ferries to help you see everything while you visit.
When you visit Croatia, rent a car, because outside of these beautiful parks, there are many stunning sites. There are Ancient Roman remain, in Pula, or the gorgeous coastlines, and islands. Croatia makes a breathtaking, affordable travel destination.
PS: Croatia is well indeed in Europe, but it’s definitely one of the most underestimated travel destinations, therefore still making the cut to this list.
Perhaps this isn’t your first thought for travel, but Vietnam offers undeveloped, rolling mountains, wild jungles, islands, and a fascinating mix of French-inspired and authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
There’s something for everyone, and all at an affordable price. You can experience both the suburban and the rural here. And see temples, tombs and palaces in Huế, or you can experience modern city life in Ho Chi Minh.
Much like Vietnam, Argentina offers a wide variety of landscapes for the curious traveler. With jungles, penguins and the Andes mountains, it’s hard to be bored in Argentina.
Want to see some exciting night life? Look no further than the bustling scenes in Buenos Aires.
Want to touch the southernmost tip of South America? Head to Patagonia, where you can observe penguins, whales and dolphins alike.
Vancouver, British Columbia
You don’t have to travel far from the U.S. to experience lots of cultural diversity. Vancouver offers so much in its densely populated seaport town. Plus, you can speak English here, which makes your travels more convenient.
Walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, swaying 450 feet about the Capilano River, and explore the deep forests on either side.
If daredevil feats aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy Mother Nature without an adrenaline rush. The city is packed with lush parks, like Stanley Park, or Queen Elizabeth Park. You can also visit historic places located throughout the city, or get a bird’s eye view from the Vancouver Lookout.
When you’re ready to eat, head to Granville Island to dine at the hip and trendy restaurants.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You’ve probably seen many photos of the world famous monument, Christ the Redeemer. Why not see it for yourself? Stroll along Brazil’s popular beaches like Capocabana and Ipanema – it’s impossible to not hear jazz standards playing in your mind as you gaze out on the Atlantic Ocean.
Enjoy colorful buildings, European charm, lush botanical gardens, and sultry live music and while feasting on delicious foods with locals and tourists alike.
The world really is your oyster, and there are beautiful pearls waiting for you. While it’s true that Europe may boast some of the most famous travel destinations, there are many treasures hidden throughout the world. These twelve unconventional travel destinations are only a few!