20 Non Touristy Places to Visit in 2024

Travel Tips

Published on 3 January 2024

Trying to plan your next adventure? You fancy something a little bit different, more of a local experience? This list of non touristy places to visit in 2024 will help to give you some ideas! 

Getting away from crowds of tourists and finding little corners of the world that are less-explored is THE most exciting way to travel. You get to see real life, you get to meet local people, you get to experience the culture first hand. 

Hopefully this list will get your juices flowing, and maybe get you thinking of destinations that don’t hit the typical tourist radar. Travel experiences are so much more meaningful for yourself and for the locals in these off-the-beaten-path destinations. These places and your experiences are authentic; you leave a piece of yourself there, and take a piece with you. 

This list is to give you an idea of how to incorporate some off-the-beaten-path stops into your next trip!

Nakhchivan – Azerbaijan

Where?! Yeah, we hadn’t heard of it either until we started planning a trip through Azerbaijan. Nakhchivan is a small Azerbaijani exclave bordering Armenia, Iran and Turkey. Being completely cut off from Azberaijan means that you’ll have to a get a 55 minute internal flight, but I promise you it is worth the extra hassle.

Nakhchivan feels like a whole different world. It’s Soviet and oddly quiet in the city (kind of like I’d imagine Pyongyang or Ashgabat might feel) and then you venture outside the city, and the landscapes are breath-taking. Hike up to Alinja Castle, known as Azerbaijan’s Machu Picchu; drive through dusty, red canyon roads; wander through lush, green pastures dotted with lakes and colourful flowers. I hate to use the cliché, but this is the epitome of a hidden gem.

Combine your trip with a visit to Baku.

alinja castle, nakhchivan, non touristy places

Alinja Castle

Duzdagh Salt Caves

Pankisi Valley – Georgia

Again, completely off the tourist trail, Pankisi Valley is full of natural beauty, fascinating culture, and the friendliest and most welcoming people. Wander around the remote villages, stop for tea with the locals, try the local Kist cuisine (and beer!), head to the valley viewpoints, find the old amphitheatre. A trip to Pankisi Valley is all about experiencing the unique culture.

While the majority of Georgia is Orthodox Christian, you will find mostly Sufi Islam here. The Kist people who live in Pankisi Valley are descendants of Chechens who fled during the Chechen wars. They settled in the valley, and Georgia gave them citizenship which means that there is a beautiful unique culture here. Easily accessible by twice daily marshrutka rides from Tbilisi, you could add a few nights in Pankisi to your Tbilisi trip.

Combine your trip with a visit to Tbilisi, Telavi, or Sighnaghi.

pankisi valley, non touristy places

Alaverdi – Armenia

This small town is the perfect base to explore Armenia’s Debed Canyon. Cute and rural, but still close enough to hike/get a Lada taxi to the most stunning historical UNESCO monasteries. Make sure you explore Sanahin Monastery which is in Alaverdi, then maybe hike to Haghpat Monastery (the hike is beautiful!), and get a Lada taxi to take you to Akhtala Monastery and Kobayr Monastery that are a little further along the canyon. This peaceful and tranquil canyon dotted with ancient treasures is a must-see! 

Combine your trip with a visit to Yerevan, Dilijan, or Tbilisi in Georgia.

alaverdi, armenia, non touristy places

Hike between Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries

kobayr monastery, debed, non touristy places

Kobayr Monastery

Bitola – North Macedonia

When people visit North Macedonia, they either head to the capital, Skopje, or Ohrid for the lake and the old town; tourists don’t seem to know about Bitola though. Situated in the south of the country near the Greek border, Bitola has ancient ruins and amazingly preserved mosaics, a charming Ottoman bazaar, great cafe culture, and plenty of restaurants catering the vegetarians/vegans. 

Combine your trip with a visit to Krusevo, Skopje, or Ohrid.

bitola bazaar, north macedonia, no touristy places

Osh – Kyrgyzstan

Even though Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, it has more of a town feel about it. The city is actually home to the country’s only UNESCO World Heritage site – Suleiman Too Sacred Mountain. For a grand total of 20 SOM (20p), you can hike up the steps to the top of the mountain for panoramic views of the city. You’ll also find a mosque at the very top, and further along, is a history museum set in a cave.

The other must-sees in Osh are the many well-preserved Soviet mosaics, the huge bazaar, and maybe try the local fermented fizzy milk off the street (if you are brave enough!).

Combine your trip with a visit to Arslanbob, or Fergana Valley and Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

soviet mosaic, osh, kyrgyzstan

Misha the 1980 Moscow Olympics mascot

kurt fermented cheese balls, osh

Kurt (fermented cheese balls)

Mysore – India

Known for its extravagant palace, Mysore is largely untouched by foreign tourism. Make sure you see the palace at night all lit up and sparkly like it’s straight out of Disney, as well as venturing inside to be amazed by all the intricate detailing and decoration. Head out for street food in the evening (6pm onwards).

Try dry gobi (deep-fried spicy cauliflower), egg 65 (spicy fried egg stir fry), sev puri (I honestly don’t know how to describe this, but you need to give it a go!), masala soda (coke with masala spice, salt and lime?), and the world famous Mysore pak (a local fudge sweet made from ghee). We had an absolute ball in Mysore just wandering the streets and trying all the street food we came across. 

Combine your trip with a visit to Bangalore, Coorg, or Kochi.

Mysore Palace, India, non touristy places

Beautiful decoration of Mysore Palace

dry gobi, mysore, india street food

Dry gobi (spicy, deep-fried cauliflower)

Mardin – Turkey

In the very south east of Turkey, sits Mardin; an ancient city built up on a hill overlooking the plains of ancient Mesopotamia. Mardin is the ultimate destination for street photography as the old town consists of a labyrinth of narrow paths that Google Maps isn’t even sure about.

Getting lost down these cobbled alleyways, finding characterful doors, stumbling upon viewpoints dotted with minarets is the best thing to do. And when I say ‘getting lost’, that is exactly what we did, on several occasions! Have a pistachio coffee with a view, or a full Turkish breakfast spread, or even a glass of pomegranate wine.

If you are heading out to Mardin in November, check to see if you can align your visit with the bulgur wheat festival; literally and figuratively a wholesome event!

Combine your trip with a visit to Sanliurfa, Cappadocia, or Ani.

Una National Park – Bosnia and Herzegovina

So off-the-beaten-path in the north west of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that the only way to visit Una National Park is by hiring your own car, and even that was a struggle when we turned up without a booking. So, top tip: book your hire car in advance!

The national park is full of the most stunning and powerful waterfalls, tranquil lakes, glacial blue rivers, and historic towns and castle ruins. Spend two days exploring all the beautiful bodies of water, stopping for lunch or a Bosnian coffee just to take in the phenomenal views. 

Combine your trip with a visit to Jajce, Mostar, or Sarajevo.

Strbacki Buk, Una National Park, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Korca – Albania

Korca is a fascinating city in Albania full of charm and all the street photography opportunities you could ever want! From the bizarre ‘cheese’ building to the Romanian house, to the traditional architecture in the residential streets. We spent hours literally just wandering and photographing.

Head up to the Martyr’s Cemetery for panoramic views over the city, and then head even higher up to Shen Ilia church for even better views. Visit the National Museum of Medieval Art (it’s not usually our sort of thing either, but it was genuinely breath-taking!), try Korca beer straight from the brewery, and take a free walking tour. 

Combine your trip with a visit to Gjirokaster, Tirana, or Ohrid in North Macedonia.

Bentota – Sri Lanka

This peaceful beach town does have a few big hotels but is much quieter than most you will find in Sri Lanka. The long stretch of golden sand is lined with palm trees, and you’ll find a selection of restaurants set on the train tracks – it’s quite an experience to be having your dinner while a train goes past! But, you can also find truly local places hidden in the residential streets backing on to the beach, and this is where you will find THE best rice and curry! 

Combine your trip with a visit to Galle, Goyambokka, or Kandy.

Sanliurfa – Turkey

Sitting in the south east of Turkey, Sanliurfa is a historical city with ancient hans/caravanserais, traditional markets, and seriously strong coffee.

The absolute highlight of any visit to Sanliurfa is the fascinating Archaeology Museum. If you only visit one museum in the whole of Turkey, make it this one! We literally spent three hours wandering round, being wowed by everything.

And then after your museum visit, take the bus out to see Gobeklitepe: the world’s oldest known megalithic site at over 12,000 years old!

Combine your trip with a visit to Mardin, Cappadocia, or Ani.

Balıklıgöl, Sanliurfa, Turkey

Balıklıgöl

Urfa Man, Sanliurfa archaeology museum

Urfa Man at Sanliurfa Archaeology Museum

Krusevo – North Macedonia

Small but mighty Krusevo is a perfect hidden spot to add on to a Balkan trip. Tucked up in the mountains, this North Macedonian town is famous for defeating the Ottomans and has a huge memorial to commemorate the town’s heroism. But it’s not just your regular memorial; this is a huge Yugoslavian-style spomenik design (essentially looking like a massive UFO!).

Even though it’s impressive, it’s not the only reason to head this way: the street photography opportunities around this small mountain town are phenomenal. Cobbled streets, painted house facades, rusted classic cars, wonky staircases. It’s picturesque, but it’s also raw, authentic, and full of charm.

Combine your trip with a visit to Bitola or Skopje.

Ilinden monument, krusevo, north macedonia, non touristy places

Shkoder – Albania

Shkoder is in the north of Albania and is best known as the gateway to the Albanian Alps, and maybe a stopover before you cross the borders either into Kosovo or Montenegro.

But the small city deserves so much more credit than it gets. It’s great for street photographers due to the part delapidated buildings, part refreshed buildings. It’s a short cycle ride from Shkoder lake and Rozafa Castle which will both give you breath-taking views. And our tastiest meal we had in the whole of Albania over five weeks was right here.

Combine your trip with a visit to Tirana, Gjirokaster, or Kotor in Montenegro.

Rozafa Castle, Shkoder, Albania, non touristy places

Fergana Valley – Uzbekistan

You might have heard of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, but have you heard of Fergana? Situated right at the border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is Fergana Valley. This is where authentic Uzbek life takes place away from the tourist crowds that flock to see the beauty of the ancient Silk Road cities.

Basing yourself in Fergana City is your best bet, and then take day trips to surrounding towns within the valley from here. Fergana City itself doesn’t have many sites, but it has the most hotels and great cafes and restaurants – we had THE BEST South Korean food here! Head to Kokand for the stunning palace, and Margilan for the traditional silk factory.

If you’re visiting Uzbekistan for the Silk Road cities, consider adding a stop in Fergana to see a more local side of the country. And it makes the perfect stop off before crossing the border.

Combine your trip with a visit to Tashkent, Samarkand, or Osh in Kyrgyzstan.

Palace of Khudáyár Khán, Kokand, Uzbekistan

Palace of Khudáyár Khán

Margilan Silk Factory, Uzbekistan

Margilan Silk Factory

Bangalore – India

One of our biggest surprises when exploring South India has to be how much we loved Bangalore! In my head, I just pictured a big, dusty, busy city. And yes, there are parts that are like that, but there is a huge part that is green and modern. There are large parks, a super sleek metro system, and great bars and restaurants.

Unlike a lot of the rest of South India, alcohol is very easy to get hold of. You’ll find fancy shops selling every drink you can imagine, and you’ll find great pubs and bars.

And the restaurants do amazing food! Go classic South Indian with dosas and idlis, maybe classic Karnataka state with bisi bele bath, or even good international options! (We found places serving baked beans so we felt right at home, and the mushroom and burnt garlic pizza from Toit was just outrageous!) The best part about this all, is even though this sounds fancy (and it is!), the prices are so so affordable. Make sure you bring your elasticated trousers!

Burnt garlic pizza for two people – £5

Pint of craft beer – £2.50

The most phenomenal ghee pudi idli you will ever eat – 80p

Combine your trip with a visit to Mysore, Coorg, or Hampi.

ghee pudi idli, Rameshwaram Cafe, Bangalore

Ghee pudi idli

Lemongrass chai

Trebinje – Bosnia and Herzegovina

A hidden gem in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not too far from the border with Montenegro, Trebinje is largely off the tourist radar; it really has an authentic, local feel.

Explore the small old town, drink Bosnian coffee overlooking the Trebišnjica river, walk up to Hercegovačka Gračanica Orthodox Church for panoramic city views and to see the floor-to-ceiling artwork inside, and go on a wine-tasting with our friend, Stevo!

He will walk you through his vineyard, and let you try all his wines (and we didn’t just have sample size portions!), and chat about everything from the wine-making process to Only Fools and Horses. He’s one of the loveliest guys you will meet, and he makes bloody good wine!

Combine your trip with a visit to Mostar, Sarajevo or Kotor in Montenegro.

Pristina – Kosovo

Somewhere that we didn’t really know much about, Pristina ended up being such a pleasant surprise. Pristina is the capital city of the youngest country in Europe, Kosovo.

The city runs a great free walking tour which is the perfect way to get to grips with the complex history of the country and the continued difficulties in the northern Kosovo province of Mitrovica which has a Serbian-majority population.

See the ‘world’s ugliest building’ (yeah, it really is ugly), find all the street art, see the Newborn monument, sip on THE best macchiato (sorry, Italy), and then head out to some other Kosovar cities nearby as day trips: Gjakova and Prizren.

Combine your trip with a visit to to Skopje, North Macedonia or Shkoder, Albania.

kosovo national library, non touristy places

Borjomi – Georgia

Only about a two and a half hour marshrutka ride away from Tbilisi, Borjomi is tucked away in a valley, surrounded by green. Borjomi is best know for its mineral-rich, sparkling water, and you can even try it here straight from the source. Though, it is an acquired taste and it’s warm!

Walk through Borjomi Central Park, see the retro train station, stroll along the river, learn about the history of bottling the famous water at the small museum, find the Soviet mosaics, bathe in the medicinal waters, and take a day trip to nearby Akhaltsikhe to see Rabati Castle and gorge on Meskhetian cuisine.

Combine your trip with a visit to other cities in Georgia – Tbilisi, Gori, or Sighnaghi.

Yeghegnadzor – Armenia

Ok, so Yeghegnadzor might not be the happening centre of all things going on. But, it is in a great location to explore some nearby wonders in the centre of Armenia. Stay for two nights and hire yourself a driver for the day in the middle.

Close by is UNESCO listed Noravank Monastery set up on a cliff overlooking orange and red stone canyon (the drive through this canyon alone is fascinating!). Once you’ve seen the monastery, the ancient khachkars (cross stones) and taken in the views, head to Areni-1, AKA THE oldest winery in the world. Pay a little bit extra to get a guided tour to help give you all the history and info on this excavation site. This winery is in a cave and dates back to 4100 BC! It’s also where the world’s oldest leather shoe was found (which is now housed in the Yerevan’s History Museum of Armenia).

Then finish off the day trip with a wine-tasting in Areni (Armenia’s centre of wine-making). There are several wineries here, but we went to Areni Winery because they had a very budget backpacker friendly offer of taste 10 wines for 1000 AMD (£2!). White, red, rose, cherry, apricot, pomegranate, you name it.

Back in Yeghegnadzor, check out the history museum, the abandoned fairground and old rusted retro signs.

Combine your trip with a visit to Yerevan, Goris, or Debed Canyon.

noravank monastery, armenia

Bishkek – Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s capital is somewhere we have visited three times now! This really laid-back city is full of Soviet mosaics/friezes and Soviet-style buildings. Streets are lined with vendors selling the classic Kyrgyz drinks kymyz (fermented horse milk) and maksym (thick, sour corn and wheat drink), which are interesting flavours particularly for Westerners!

But the older feel of the city is being brightened up with a modern, hipster feel; you’ll find street art murals, vegetarian/vegan options at restaurants, craft beer and cider spots, and loads of cute cafes. So many people head to Kyrgyzstan and just skip through the capital, but it really deserves more of your time! 

Combine your trip with a visit to Karakol, Jyrgalan, Bokonbayevo.

soviet mosaic, bishkek, kyrgyzstan

Would you like to visit any of these places? Or maybe you are adding them to your list?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions.

Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments

  1. Joanne Dawson

    Brilliant work again guys!

  2. Sam Dawson

    Thanks so much!!

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