The 15 non-touristy destinations you absolutely have to visit that made Journey Grit’s list include the walled city of Carcassonne, colorful Cartagena, and urban yet historic Baku.



Tired of the same-old, clichéd vacation spots? I hear ya.

I scavenged through deep corners of the interwebs to come up with a list of non-touristy destinations you absolutely have to visit, especially if you’re tired of the typical vacay spots.

And don’t worry – these spots aren’t middle-of-nowhere remote nor are they difficult to get to.

Ease of transportation and awesome-itinerary potential were the two criteria for my search.

So go ahead – check out these locations and add them to your bucket list!

**And by the way, if you’re loving what you see here and want some more ideas for offbeat destinations, download The Offbeat Bucket List below!**


1. Fes, Morocco

fes morocco non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Giannis Pitarokilis // CC BY-SA 2.0

Instead of: Athens, Greece

Vibe: medieval, bustling

Features: medina

Fes is a bit chaotic, especially in the narrow alleyways of the Medina. But that’s what adds to the charm of Fes. Let yourself take wrong turns here (most travelers will say it’s “easy” to get lost in Fes); it’s no fun otherwise (warning: first-timers may want a local guide).


2. Rotorua, New Zealand

rotorua new zealand non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Tony Hisgett // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Banff, Canada

Vibe: laidback, relaxing

Features: hot springs, mud pools

Hot springs? Oh, yes! Much like Banff, Rotorua has plenty of them. Think of Rotorua as a beautiful geothermal playground infused with Maori culture and history, to boot. Rotorua is amazing for an outdoorsy adventure, so don’t expect any big-city feels here.


3. Carcassonne, France

non touristy destination carcassonne france journey grit

Source: Photo by Poom! // CC BY-SA 2.0

Instead of: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Vibe: medieval, historic

Features: walled city, rocky hills, churches

If you take a look at Carcassonne from afar, it looks a lot like an expanded version of Hogwarts. Yes, it’s fairy-tale-like, a bit dreamy, and full of turrets. In 1997, UNESCO named the city a World Heritage site.


4. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

cox's bazar non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Labib Ittihadul // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Phuket, Thailand

Vibe: beachy, laidback

Features: longest beach on the planet

You may have heard that Cox’s Bazar has the longest beach on the planet (nearly 75 miles long!). But compared to the beaches of Phuket, Cox’s Bazar’s are a lot less crowded. Most parts aren’t densely populated, so don’t expect any crazy nightlife while you’re here (save for the sparsely-positioned lounges and bars).


5. Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon portugal non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Maria Ekland // CC BY-SA 2.0

Instead of: Barcelona, Spain

Vibe: coastal, romantic

Features: tram, old gothic style

Lisbon has the best of so many worlds. It’s a coastal town. It’s romantic. And it’s got a bit of an urban sprawl, too. Lisbon’s Tram 28 is pretty famous, so make sure you hitch a ride on it. Another fun fact: Lisbon is also one of Europe’s oldest cities.


6. Hue, Vietnam

hue vietnam non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by katiebordner // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Vibe: historic, laidback

Features: ancient tombs, old capital

Hue was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty, so you absolutely have to visit sites like the Royal Palace. The weather is infamously cloudy and rainy here, but if you look past that road bump, you’ll seriously enjoy the ancient architecture and culture.


7. Yangon, Myanmar

yangon myanmar non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Gin The Wanderer // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Beijing, China

Vibe: spiritual, adventurous

Features: pagodas, temples

Like Hue, Yangon is also a former capital city that is sprawling with ornate Buddhist temples and pagodas. Its weather is a bit peculiar, as it’s sweltering hot year-round. The photo here shows Shwedagon Paya, a Buddhist gem- and diamond-adorned pagoda (it’s also 326 feet tall – approximately 30 stories!).


8. Riga, Latvia

riga latvia non touristy destination

Source: Photo by Bryan Ledgard // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Budapest, Hungary

Vibe: vibrant, eclectic

Features: cobblestoned alleyways, Gothic spires

Riga is the capital of Latvia and one online travel magazine called it the “cosmopolitan city Europe forgot.” Even though you’ll spot cobblestones and traditional old-European-city architecture in Riga, it’s got a cool and fresh art-nouveau vibe with some crazy nightlife.


9. Milos, Greece

milos greece non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Jacopo Della Porta // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Santorini, Greece

Vibe: beachy, coastal, small-town

Features: rock formations, volcanos

Combine coastline, beach vibes, and ancient archaeology and you have Milos. I know everyone loves themselves a Greek Island, but not everyone loves themselves a crowded Greek Island (myself included). Milos is your primary choice if you want to cut back on crowded destinations like Santorini.


10. Manila, Philippines

manila philippines non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by travel oriented // CC BY-SA 2.0

Instead of: Bangkok, Thailand

Vibe: urban, exciting

Features: heritage museums, nightlife

Manila is a bit notorious for its slums and has a reputation for being overcrowded. But don’t let that stop you from adding Manila to your offbeat-destination bucket list. Some must-sees: Intramuros and the National Museum.


11. Cartagena, Colómbia

cartagena colombia non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Justin Sovich // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Havana, Cuba

Vibe: colorful, exciting

Features: coastlines, plazas, stone walls

If you’re not feeling up for Cabana, try Cartagena instead. Allow yourself to wander in Cartagena because of all the colorful scenery, stone walls, and architecture. A must-visit: an impressive Spanish fortress – Castillo de San Felipe, built to defend the city against pirates in the 16th century – that overlooks the cityscape. The city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.


12. Antwerp, Belgium

antwerp belgium non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Edwin van Buuringen // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Paris, France

Vibe: romantic, historical

Features: riverside, shopping

Yes, I know it’s pretty controversial of me to encourage you to visit Antwerp instead of Paris…but hear me out. You can’t replace the Eiffel Tower, but if you’re going for the same reasons: fashion, food, and cute cobble-stoned alleyways, then you’ll get so much of that and more in Antwerp. The city has made some of the world’s top designers and their shopping streets are filled with everything from high-fashion stores to small boutiques to internationally-recognized “fast fashion” brands.


13. Kagoshima, Japan

kagoshima japan non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Yoshikazu Takada  // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Naples, Italy

Vibe: friendly, “nature” city

Features: active volcano, hot springs

Similarly to how Naples sits at the foot of Vesuvius, Kagoshima has a panoramic view of Sakurajimi, its own active volcano. Kagoshima has a perfect mixture of nature and scenic routes in addition to all the necessities you’d find in an urban environment. If you’re craving adventure after shopping in the ports of Kagoshima, go ahead and take a hike up on one of the trails in Sakurajimi.


14. Utrecht, Netherlands

utrecht netherlands non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by Marcelo Campi // CC BY-SA 2.0

Instead of: Warsaw, Poland

Vibe: historical, charming

Features: medieval town center, canals

Utrecht is The Netherlands’ fourth largest city, and it’s only 40 minutes by train from the more popular Rotterdam. Like Warsaw, it has a beautiful town center and its own famous cathedral to add to the “must-visit” category of your bucket list. One thing that’s different about Utrecht is that it’s home to many students, giving it that “student-city” feel in some parts.


15. Baku, Azerbaijan

baku azerbaijan non touristy destination journey grit

Source: Photo by David Davidson // CC BY 2.0

Instead of: Casablanca, Morocco

Vibe: old-and-new, urban

Features: beaches, seaside

With some recent incentives to boost tourism, it comes as no surprise Casablanca may be a bit too over-crowded for visitors craving low-key refuge. If that’s the case for you, Baku is your saving grace. It’s Azerbaijan’s capital and a spookily beautiful mix of East, West, and all things Eurasia – soaring skyscrapers, medieval palaces, and everything in between.


Did I Miss Anything?

So…is there another offbeat and non-touristy destination I forgot to add here? Let me know in the comments below!

And if you haven’t done so yet, make sure to download my Offbeat Bucket List below!

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