In a recent post on my day trip to Trogir, someone asked in the comments how I how came across the town. In my most recent post on Civita di Bagnoregio, I revealed that what truly inspired me to visit the town was it featuring on the reality show the Amazing Race. Together they got me thinking, how do I find the places I visit?
It’s no secret that this blog and my travels tend to focus on places less visited. It’s literally in the name. But honestly, there’s no great trick to how I find these places off the beaten track, these hidden gems, these unsung destinations, these elsewheres as I like to put it. I don’t think a single place I’ve been didn’t already have at least a handful of photos or articles about it.
The following are 7 simple sources of inspiration for finding hidden gems and places elsewhere.
It may be a little bit of a surprise, but the social network Pinterest has to be my favourite medium for researching and finding hidden gems to visit. If you haven’t used it before, Pinterest allows you to save photos and articles in categorised galleries called boards and is very popular with those interested in recipes, fashion and travel (you can guess which I focus on).
Aside from bookmarking things, Pinterest is also basically a search engine and you can find all sorts of things just by entering a destination in the search bar. A lot of travel bloggers use Pinterest to share their articles, so there’s plenty of info out there to be found. When I am researching a place on Pinterest, I simply search and save the places to a board called “ideas” and then I have a ready set of destinations to choose from, with pictures and articles for help.
My trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria were guided quite a lot by searching on Pinterest and saving a whole bunch of places that grabbed my attention with just a photo. Probably my biggest find through Pinterest was a funny mistake, when I decided to visit the Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria based on a pin I had found. As I explained in the post, it turned out to be a photo from another cave but the sights we found around Bacho Kiro made it a happy mistake.
2. Google Maps
I have to admit, I love maps. If I wasn’t technically homeless, I’d to love to hang up some old maps about the place. So when I’m planning a trip or just brainstorming, I like to look at Google Maps to visualise my ideas. By looking at the map you can see whether you may need to break a journey up, as well as notice things like cities, towns and national parks that are close to where you are going. This geographic awareness can definitely help you uncover some hidden gems.
This is indeed how I realised the town of Trogir was so close to Split and also how I’ve come across plenty of other places like Maribor, Trebinje and Bialystok. I hadn’t really heard much about any of these places and it was only by looking at the map and seeing they were convenient stopping points, did I begin to dig a little deeper.
3. TV and Film
The impact that movies and television is having on travel these days is undeniable. You’ve undoubtedly heard of all the real life locations used for the fantasy epic Game of Thrones like Dubrovnik, Iceland and Morocco. Each has seen a definitive boost in tourism thanks to their inclusion in the awesome saga (you can tell I’m a fan, right?). But Game of Thrones is not the first show or movie to have done that for a location – think Ko Phi Phi in Thaildn for Leo De Caprio’s The Beach or Top Gear’s visit to Halong Bay and the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam.
And yet, there are so many places shared through movies and TV that not all of them can rocket to fame like the ones mentioned above. This is especially true with TV shows that touch on so many different places like my guilty pleasure, The Amazing Race. This globetrotting reality show takes contestants all over and can be a great source of inspiration; it’s how I learned of Civita di Bagnoregio, the Dying City, that I just wrote about. Other shows like Tales by Light on Netflix or Anthony Bourdain’s various shows, touch on some seriously off the beaten track places like Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Congo. Pretty hard not to be inspired by that.
While these days much of its information is quite outdated, one of Wikitravel‘s stronger selling points to me at least, is its habit of shining a light on deserving destinations. A community site in the same vein as Wikipedia, Wikitravel covers just about everywhere in world to varying degrees. You may not always get heaps of detail when you drill down, but at the Country Page level you can find enough information to really kick-start your planning.
For me, Wikitravel may have been at its most useful when I was trying to figure out where to visit in the Republic of Macedonia last year. As a still fairly unpopular part of Europe to visit, coming across a list of 11 cities to see was worth its weight in gold. In fact, I just realised that everywhere I eventually went is on this list. I likely wouldn’t have come across places like Prilep or Tetovo without Wikitravel and having the map meant I was able to visualise things as well.
5. Other Social Media
While I touched on Pinterest earlier, it’s not the only social media I use to find new places. I’ve professed my love for Instagram quite a bit and of course there’s always Facebook, and both can be great for finding new places to visit. The trick with these is to find the right people and accounts to follow. Plenty of them will show you the same old places time and time again, but there are also plenty that have such a broad spread that you’re bound to come across some hidden gems.
Since everyone has different interests and travels differently, it’s kind of tough to give out recommendations that will help everyone but I can share a few. On Instagram, there’s the big broad ones like Matador Network and Greatest Travels. If you’re after charming old towns, I like Kings and Villages, and for cities Best City Breaks. On Facebook, I tend to follow fewer, but a favourite for Europe spots is Living Europe. I think the trick for both is to search for things that you’re interested in and follow accounts that seem to have a good range.
6. In-Flight Magazines
Usually the first thing I do once I’m seated on a plane is flip open the in flight magazine if they have it. The articles inside are generally good reads and provide some great ideas for places accessible by their network.
This can either mean learning of new places to see when you arrive at your destination which is great especially if you have a somewhat flexible itinerary. And even if that place isn’t anywhere near where you’re headed, you can take a note and come back to it when you’re planning a trip to that part of the world.
After reading about them on a flight through Scandinavia, I wrote down the Crooked Forest in Poland and Lithuania’s Curonian Spit in my list and was rewarded two years later when I visited them both during my travels along the Baltic coast.
In the end, you just can’t go past the classic word-of-mouth. Whether it be friends and family recounting their time in a destination or a fellow traveller dropping you a hint based on their experience, often the best spots are those recommended to you by other people. While this often means chatting in person, I think these days it can equally apply to online communities and yes blogs.
For example, I learned about the Polish town of Torun from a travel themed Facebook group that I frequent. I simply asked for recommendations there and someone was kind enough to suggest the town and I’m super grateful. Similarly, throughout my travels I’ve exchanged recommendations with other travellers I’ve met along the way and has become to so common to me I can’t think of any particular moment off the top of my head.
By the same token, travel blogs are usually just a fellow travel enthusiast sharing their personal adventures. Whether it be through their posts or by posting a comment on their blog, most will be more than happy to provide advice or suggestions. In fact, I’m writing this post from the awesome walled town of Obidos in Portugal, which I was inspired to visit by a post by Rhonda over at Albom Adventures.
Do you any of the above to help you find travel inspiration? Where else do you look to find new travel destinations and ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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