If you are ever thinking of a vacation to de-stress, sure Paris or Italy sounds nice; maybe even Japan, Germany or the United Kingdom. These are, after all, among the most recognized countries in the world. As a result, they can also be tourist traps.
But if you think outside the box for a moment, there are still plenty of sites in the world that might not originally have been in your radar. However, they not only offer plenty of opportunities for an adventure, but they will also allow you to leave your stress behind while also proving to yourself that you can try something new, and actually love it.
Although there are plenty of amazing destinations around the world, we compiled this list with the crowd at the back of our mind, or more specifically the absence of it. We want you to de-stress, not add to your stress, which a crowd tends to do.
However, there are some destinations on our list where you will encounter crowds. But that can’t be helped. Just think that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
So without further ado, let’s go straight to the 20 of the places that could be included in your bucket list.
20 Dongchuan, Red Land
When God decided to splash the world with colors, most of them probably landed in the Dongchuan Red Land. The area spans about 30 miles and despite its name, and depending on the season, you will see a lot of green, yellow, purple and even some blue. It’s a unique kaleidoscope of colors that you probably won’t see anywhere else.
The ride going to the area is also an adventure. The Red Land can be found in Huashitou Country in Xinxiang in Yunnan Province. The best time to visit is between May and June when it’s harvest season for the farmers.
19 Hobbit Village
You’ve probably seen the movie, The Lord of the Rings, and likely gushed about the cute little village called The Shire where Frodo and Sam lived. But did you know that you can actually go there? It’s called the Hobbiton, located in Matamata in New Zealand. There are actually plenty of tours going to the site, which is understandable considering that it boosted the tourism industry of the country.
It’s a movie tour, but not really. You may learn a few tricks on how they made Frodo smaller than Gandalf. The whole tour takes just two hours but you can explore the rest of New Zealand, as well.
18 Ba Na Hills
Tucked in a small town of Da Nang, in Ba Na Hills, Vietnam is a whole French Village. The European village, which is a striking contrast to the simple life of rural Vietnam, is located nearly 1,500 above sea level. There’s a cable car that will take you there. The ride will take about 20 minutes that will take you past beautiful scenery, deep gorges, and tall waterfalls.
There are nine gardens all in all in the French Village, each with a different theme. There’s also an amusement park and a giant Buddha facing the mountain. Better get your cell phone juiced up because you are going to take a lot of pictures.
17 Vadhoo Island
How would you like to swim in the sea of stars? The Vadhoo Island offers you that opportunity. The ocean glows in the dark due to plankton, the bioluminescence microorganisms which are the main diet for the blue whale. Vadhoo is just among the many islands in Raa Atoll in the Maldives.
And the best thing is that it’s only just a 15-minute boat ride from the Male airport. However, the Maldives is a beautiful place even without seeing the glow-in-the-dark water. Just soak in the sun, sea, and sand and forget all your troubles, at least for the time being.
16 Dracula’s Castle
Historically, there are actually three castles that lay claim to be connected to Vlad the Impaler, the real historical conqueror by which the legend was based. There’s Bran Castle, and there are also the Hunyad Castle and Poenari Castle. They are all located in Romania. Now how can you de-stress touring Dracula’s Castle?
Well, we do admit this is not for everybody. But if you love history and castles, you can’t go wrong by traveling to Romania and see for yourself how people of that era lived. Of course, you can also learn to separate the facts from the myths.
15 Pamukkale, Turkey
Listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you know you are in for a treat. Pamukkale is roughly translated as Cotton Castle, and for good reason. First, however, you should visit the spa city of Hierapolis. The two sites are just a walking distance away. There’s a two-kilometer necropolis in Hierapolis, which dates back to 190 B.C.
The reason why you should visit Hierapolis first is due to the fact that you can take a dip in the cascading thermal waters of Pamukkale. The water is said to have healing properties but that’s really just an added bonus. You are literally taking a dip where an ancient civilization bathed. How cool is that?
14 Plitvice Lakes
This was already added to the UNESCO list as far back as 1979. The Plitvice Lakes is a national park located in Croatia. It sits on the border at Bosnia and Herzegovina. The whole area spans 300 square kilometers featuring 16 major and minor lakes. What’s amazing about them is that they feature different colors even if, technically, the same water cascades through and over rocks in a distance of over eight kilometers.
The largest of the waterfalls in the area has a drop of about 70 meters. Not as impressive as some waterfalls in terms of height but you are supposed to take in the whole view. And what a view it is.
13 Ha Long Bay
Located 105 miles east of Hanoi, you will find yourself in Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are about 2,000 islets in the area but you will probably be limited in a 300-square kilometer site, which has almost 800 islets. As if the beauty is not enough, you should know that nature took 500 million years to produce the rocky formations that tourists enjoy today.
You can dock at some of the islands and see some of the structures there such as the Hang Dau Go grotto. About 40 of the islands have people and you can see for yourself the idyllic life of a Southeast Asian village.
12 Jiuzhaigou Valley
More than 100 lakes, snow-capped mountains, caves, thick forests, rich flora and fauna, and multiple waterfalls, welcome to Jiuzhaigou Valley. The lakes will assume different colors depending on the algae and other marine life beneath. This Eden is located in the Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, to the north of Sichuan Province.
It’s at least 2,000 above sea level so this nature preserve always has a cool climate even during the height of summer. Take a hike in the various trails and let the beauty of nature envelope you. Time your visit during Spring or Autumn when the forests will take on different colors, which only adds to the splendor of the place.
11 Citadel City of Valetta
Recognized by UNESCO in 1980, most of the buildings here date back to the 16th Century on the auspices of the Knights of St. John. It was meant to be an area where warriors participating in the Crusade could do their R&R. The walled city is very small, at just 1 kilometer by about 600 meters.
You can walk around in just a matter of hours. However, there are plenty of details to soak in that a day would just not be enough to explore Valetta. Fortunately, there are several hotels and inns inside where you can rest for the night and resume your exploration in the morning.
10 Temples of Bagan
There’s probably no place on earth with the most number of temples per square mile than in Bagan, Myanmar. A good number of them, (the number ranges between 100 and 400), were destroyed or damaged by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016 but there’s still a lot you can see today. These temples date back to 9th B.C. and supposedly there were 10,000 pagodas and temples at the height of its epoch.
Today, there are just 2,200 structures remaining. Of course, you can’t visit them all. But you can burn an incense in the temple and pray for blessing or you can just take in the scenery and get some precious photos.
9 Goblin Valley
If you are in the US, you don’t have to go overseas to de-stress. The Goblin Valley State Park is located more than 200 miles southeast of the capital city of Salt Lake. You can hike through the three major trails in the Valley of Goblins, go on guided horseback rides, or bring in your mountain bike so you could explore as much of the park as you can.
Countless Hoodoo rocks pierce the red sandstone and they stretch several feet into the air. The whole area has been likened to the Red Planet. The movies, Galaxy Quest or the Tree of Life were filmed here.
8 Aoshima, Japan
Aoshima, an island in Ehime Prefecture, offers really nothing special. Certainly, there are far more beautiful islands in the world. But no area can claim to have more population of cats than people. There are six times more cats here than people. From the time you step off the ferry, you will be greeted by cats of all shapes and sizes.
Most of them are tame and people have learned to live with them. They are also used to tourists gawking and taking photos so you should be good. If you are a cat lover then you just found your paradise.
7 Machu Picchu
The Inca civilization has been the subject of conspiracy theories all over the world, not least of which is how the aliens were responsible for their advanced knowledge in different fields of science. But Machu Picchu, located almost 2,500 meters above sea level, is a testament to man’s capability to surpass himself.
The site abhors wasted space so each structure and outcrop has a certain function. There’s also the Intihuatana stone, which is believed to be how the Incas tell time, days, and years. October to April is the rainy season so better steer clear of those months. Going up is hard enough, try doing so with mud on your shoes.
6 Hanging Gardens of Bali
Pamper yourself in this seven-star hotel located in Ubud. The Hanging Gardens of Bali features several infinity pools where you can take in the view of the lush forest, as well as the Ayung River. There’s a full luxury spa treatment, free shuttle from and to the airport, muscle-relaxing massages, and being treated like a king or queen. You can also ask the front desk for a guided tour of the island.
Don’t forget to visit the Monkey Forest while you are there, pretend like you’re Indiana Jones seeking treasure as you marvel at monkey temple right within the sanctuary. There are actually a lot of infinity pools in Bali, as well as white sand beaches.
5 Geghard Monastery
Head off to Armenia to the multiple complexes of Geghard Monastery. This ancient structure is carved right out of a mountain and overlooking the deep gorge below. It’s located in Kotayk province, and its beginnings are traced back to the 4th Century. The monastery itself is an engineering marvel and you can see intricate churches and just hole-in-a-wall prayer grounds inside the complex.
And while you are there, you can also visit the Temple of Garni, which is just 15 minutes away. The Temple of Garni is even older than the monastery as its construction dates back to the 1st Century.
4 Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains, stretching from Georgia to Pennsylvania, didn’t get its name for the heck of it. Without going to too much detail, the mountains look blue from the distance because of the gas called isoprene released by the trees. This is part of the mighty Appalachian Mountains. Driving around the road will give you the most breathtaking view.
There are also plenty of camping grounds, hiking trails, waterfalls, and local cuisine to make it worth your while. You can zipline, kayak, mountain bike, hike, and paddle in the lakes and rivers in the area. The Shenandoah National Park is located here, as well as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
3 Tombs of the Kings
Located in the Paphos port in Cyprus, the Tombs of the Kings is a necropolis site that dates back to 4th B.C. Despite the name, however, there are no kings that are buried here. Instead, the area is the burial ground of the aristocrats and high ranking officials of the government.
Going to the site is easy and it will just cost you a little over two Euros to get access. But while you are in the country, you should also visit the Ancient Kourion, Byzantine basilica, St. Hilarion Castle, Ancient Salamis, Kolossi Castle, and the many beautiful beaches of this ancient republic.
2 Cuenca, Ecuador
Another of UNESCO heritage site, Cuenca is a Spanish enclave that speaks volumes of its colonial past. Most of the structures in the area date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The city is nestled about 2,500 meters above sea level so the climate is temperate. Cuenca is a walking city so there’s plenty of opportunity to roam around.
Don’t forget to visit the Monastery of El Carmen de Asuncio, the Old Cathedral, Museum of La Concepcion, and the Ruinas de Todos los Santos, where you can see the Inca influence. The best thing is that your dollar will go a long way here because of the favorable exchange rate.
1 Lake Hillier
A lake painted entirely in pink!?! It really exists, we kid you not, and it’s located in West Australia. And it’s not just pink, pink. It’s bubblegum pink! If you want to know the science behind its color, well, this is the wrong place for that. Google it or something. But really, how often can you say that you swam in a lake that is bubblegum pink?
Fly a drone and take a photo above and you will see the contrast between the pink lake and the blue Pacific Ocean. It’s really a unique experience that will drive away your stress for a moment.