7 Sources of Inspiration for Finding Hidden Gems

Inspiration for Hidden Gems

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.


1. Pinterest

Bacho Kiro Tunnel, Hidden Gems

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.

Pinterest Screenshot, Hidden Gems

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

Maribor, Slovenia

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

Bridge of Civita di Bagnoregio

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.


4. Wikitravel

Marko's Fortress Prilep, Visiting Macedonia

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.

Wikitravel Screenshot, Hidden Gems


5. Other Social Media

Loket, Czech Castles

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

Crooked Forest Trees, Hidden Gems

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.


7. Word-of-Mouth

Tower View Square Torun

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.

Why Not Pin It for Later

If you have an interest in finding places off the beaten path, here are some sources for inspiration to help you find and travel to your own hidden gems, via @travelsewhere


This post is part of Wanderful Wednesday at SnowinTromso. Please head on over for more great posts.

Wanderful Wednesday


28 Comment

  1. Nice post! I definitely find instagram useful if you find the right pages or hashtags, I’ll look at the ones you suggested. I too got inspired by Top Gear’s Vietnam special!! Haven’t been yet but I want to do everything they did 🙂

  2. It is interesting that you find Pinterest so useful. It is not a social media platform I have invested much time in – I will have to take another look! https://babylovestravel.com/

  3. kitgraham says:

    I keep going to Game of Thrones locations but have never seen the show!

  4. Sarah says:

    Pinterest is also my go to!

  5. I love this list! As much as I love travel, I can find the planning process a bit overwhelming – I often feel bombarded with information, and start to worry about missing something! I haven’t used Pinterest for travel, I think I’ll have to take another look.

    1. David says:

      Yeh Jane, it can be really tricky keeping all the trip info in a useful/handy format. Using Pinterest to bookmark it all in one place is definitely a helpful strategy, hope it helps!

  6. vanbrune says:

    I love love love Pinterest and Instagram!! But I’ve recently also discovered quite a few gems on in-flight magazines so I’ll have to keep out an eye for magazines in general more I think!

    1. David says:

      In-flight magazines are highly underrated and I really do think they’re great if you’ve got all that time up in the sky Van!

  7. Kat says:

    I do the In Flight Magazine thing as well! I feel so old doing it but sometimes they have fantastic ideas that lead to places that I never would have gone to otherwise.#WanderfulWednesday

    1. David says:

      Who knows how long they’ll remain with the continuing modernisation of air travel but until that day, I’ll be reading them too Kat!

  8. Ruth says:

    I would say travel blogs help me to find hidden gems! Yours is an example of that and there are others that inspire me a lot (examples, Kami and the rest of the world, Heart my backpack). In terms, of social media, Pinterest is the channel I use to find less known places. #wanderfulwednesday

  9. I totally use all the same! I have maps plastered to my walls, globes on my counters, travel books and magazines everywhere, I’m addicted to IG and Pinterest which is usually where I find most of my inspiration. Great post! #WanderfulWednesday

  10. Fun list! I’d say travel magazines in general, though. Even in today’s digital age, I love thumbing through Islands Magazine and Travel + Leisure and daydreaming a bit. And, of course, there’s the magazine that started many down the travelling path: National Geographic!

  11. Definitely pinterest and in-flight magazines are great too. I also subscribe to 4 travel magazines so I get plenty of inspiration from those!

  12. Great article on how you find some hidden gems. I do like the in-flight magazines, trip advisor, and now getting into finding some great places from Pintrest. I agree with you on the influx of tourism with some movies like Game of Thrones. Thanks for sharing!

  13. This is great – there are so many different ways to find these special spots! I love stumbling across cool things like this. I’ve also found I can learn a lot about hidden gems from other travel bloggers!

  14. All great resources to find hidden gems. I’m trying to limit my time on Pinterest or I’d be there day-dreaming all day. 😉

  15. What a great post! For us, usually it is through blogs. Sometimes stumblupon also leads us to some unknown travel blogs or websites. Inflight magazines are also interesting, especially when you forget to carry a book to read 🙂

    1. David says:

      Ooh forgot about StumbleUpon, good call! I agree, it’s definitely a good way to find new blogs. Thanks for sharing!

  16. tracystravels10 says:

    You are number 8! I have learnt about so many new places by reading your blog it has been great! (knew about Trogir though – i am a UNESCO fiend!!) – I also find some of the UNESCO sites are not that well knowb (I visited one in the UK recently that I had literally never heard of before I started researching UNESCO sites!)

    1. David says:

      Aww, thanks Tracy! Your love of UNESCO sites has actually had me thinking about them lately and I may even do a post on my favourite ones because there are just so many, including all the ones in the UK I’ve yet to see.

  17. PackYourBaguios says:

    I love the Amazing Race, too! It is always packed with history and trivia. Great tips. I also get ideas from the books that I read. Some authors really make a culture come alive!

    1. David says:

      Good point on books. My favourite travel book is Around the World in 80 days and I was stunned to learn that Jules Verne rarely even left France, yet he was able to tell stories of places half a world away.

  18. I’m with you on researching on Pinterest, I find the coolest less explored hikes and places on there. I’m also a sucker for maps, they are taking up most of our little apartment here in Portland. Great article 🙂

  19. At Lifestyle Crossroads says:

    So many great ideas! Never seen The Amazing Race or Tales by Light, by the way! Got something to check out for this weekend! Thanks for sharing #feetdotravel

  20. travlermb says:

    try http://www.minorsights.com/
    it is not frequently updated but lists interesting places

    Also use http://www.atlasobscura.com/

  21. You are spot on with your list – these are some great places to find inspiration for travel to less visited locations and get off the beaten path.. Pinterest is great for that and so are recommendations from fellow bloggers such as yourself. Oh and we share love for maps – they are awesome and is probably the reason why I am also obsessed with capitals and flags!

  22. Thanks David for posting another different and interesting post! We should use Pinterest a bit more! We found Instagram very inspiring too. Like you, we love maps and we used to have a big one in our living room and it created many conversations about travels all the time!
    Keep up the great work 🙂 Patrick and Cécile from http://www.travel4lifeblog.com

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