Getting off the beaten track can be among the most rewarding gifts that travel can offer. While cities like London, Bangkok, or New York have earned their reputations, heading to a city you don’t know much about can be even more rewarding. Free of expectations and preconceptions, you can really delve into cities that lack a world-wide reputation.
With that in mind, here are half-a-dozen places that offer unique rewards for an intrepid traveler. Some of these were recommended by friends, and I’ve run across mentions to others while planning future travels. Which ones sound the best to you? Between this article and the first, what places have I ignored?
The city of apple trees is the former capital of Kazakhstan and still the largest city in the country. People have lived at this site since at least the Bronze Age, and in the Middle Ages, Almaty was an important stop on the Silk Road. In modern times, it’s been reinvented as a city full of gardens and fountains. An ariel tram connects it with nearby Blue Hill, which boasts great views, amusement park rides, and restaurants.
Another city famous for its apple trees, Amasya is a fairy tale of a city set in a ravine hemmed in between two great ridges of rock. It’s bisected by the Yeşilırmak River, and lined with Ottoman houses. It feels almost as if it shouldn’t exist at all.
Elista is the capital of the only Buddhist region in Europe, and surely one of the few places in the world with statues of both Buddha and Lenin. It is also a famous region for those who play chess—the former president of Kalmykia is the head of the International Chess Federation. Kalmykia is a land of rivers, lakes, and it borders the Caspian sea. Come here to see antelope, ghompas (one approved by the Dalai Lama), or Chess City.
Grahamstown, South Africa
This university town surrounded by mountains is known as Africa’s festival capital. The mountains are nearby, but live music is always even closer in this chill city full of Victorian, Colonial, and Gothic Revivalist buildings. (If that’s not enough, you can also find the tallest toilet in the world here.)
St. John’s, New Foundland and Labrador
The oldest English-founded city in North America is also the most easterly. The numerous hills, brightly painted buildings, and foggy weather earn comparisons to San Francisco. Head down to George Street to see live music of most genres every night of the week and you might discover the next Hey Rosetta!
As a city in tourist-friendly Rajastan, Udaipur oozes history, culture, and great food. But what makes this Venice of the East stand out are the plethora of Rajput-era palaces and some of the most beautiful lakes in the region.