Travel is exciting no matter where you go and no matter what you do. It’s full of new experiences, cultures, foods and friends. But many of us are guilty of hitting the highlights that are easily accessible to us and not looking further into what a country could offer if we were willing to go further outside of our comfort zones.
Urban dictionary defines “basic” as someone who is “only interested in things mainstream, popular and trending”. So the question is, are you a basic traveller? It’s very easy in this day and age to be hyper aware of what is popular and trending because we are exposed to it every time we unlock our phones and connect to the internet. For some reason, rather than yearning to break the norm, we decide we too must experience the most mainstream things so that we can say “yes, I’ve done that.”
These countries will treat you well if you refuse to follow your inner basic-ness and search for opportunities to learn more about the culture and venture further off the mainstream path. Here are 25 experiences most travellers miss out on while they’re too busy ticking the popular activities off their lists - don’t be one of them!
25 Italy: Stay In a Trullo In Puglia
The colosseum in Rome, riding a gondola in Venice, the cathedral in Florence....basic travellers are often hitting these highlights and forgetting to explore further than the top three suggestions on TripAdvisor.
In Italy, Puglia is a southern coastal region that doesn’t get enough attention from visitors to the country. Afternoon siesta is still taken by many locals, but travellers should be taking theirs in a Trullo. Trulli (plural) are accommodations with a cylindrical base and a cone shaped roof made of limestone tile. Seeing a whole village of these is pretty amazing, but staying in one is even better!
24 France: Shakespeare And Company In Paris
Of course the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are some of the most sought after experiences when visiting Paris, France but it would be a mistake not to look a little deeper into the city of love.
Facing the Seine is an independent bookstore called Shakespeare and Company where generations of writers have a home for their most beloved works. An afternoon spent sifting through these shelves and then relaxing for a read with a cup of coffee will give you a taste of what it truly is to live the Parisian life.
23 Sweden: Fika
Calling all coffee lovers - this one’s for you! The Swedish “coffee break” is known as Fika. Sure, in North America we take coffee breaks all the time (usually at a Starbucks) but this concept is completely unique to the people of Sweden.
Fika is more than a cup of joe. It’s about taking a moment to relax, to regroup and have a break from the busy pace of everyday life. Fika means you have a coffee (or tea), maybe a baked good as well and you can do this absolutely anywhere. Anytime you just need to take a minute. What is especially cool is that it’s often shared with friends or loved ones - this is all about making time for you and the people you care about. No wonder Sweden cracks the top 10 rankings for happiest country in the world.
22 Thailand: Celebrate Songkran
The reason a basic traveller might not experience this celebration is that they probably don’t even know about it in the first place. In order to have this experience your trip has to be planned for April as the Thai New Year’s celebration begins on April 13th every year and lasts three to five days.
While it may seem like just a wild party of super soakers and people spraying each other in the streets, there is some symbolism behind it. The water is meant to cleanse and wash away any back luck for the new year.
21 Germany: Currywurst In Berlin
Unfortunately many people travel to Germany and don’t even learn of the existence of currywurst. Perhaps settling for a plain bratwurst sausage instead, or thinking that a plate of Schnitzel was the real reason to visit, travellers exhibit a basic knowledge of Germany’s vast cuisine on a regular.
But now you know better. This delicious fast food dish is comprised of a sausage that has been steamed and fried, then topped with a spicy ketchup and curry powder, served with a heaping side of fries. Never again will you settle for a basic, boiled sausage.
20 Ireland: Skellig Michael Island
Located in County Kerry, you could be here while all other basic travellers are taking selfies at the Cliffs of Moher using the free Wifi.
Yes, this is a more local, private and authentic experience that few are aware of on their travels through the stunning country of Ireland. Rising to 218 metres above sea level (Skelligislands.com), this island can be visited on a day tour from the Portmagee marina in County Kerry. If you’re lucky you might spot some local wildlife like puffins or a herring gull that may otherwise be scared off by the plethora of tourists.
19 Iceland: Midnight Sun Horseback Rides
Most people go to Iceland for a famous hot dog and the blue lagoon (or let’s face it, because the flight was SUPER cheap). But if you want to step outside the comfort zone of a basic traveller and become a little less extra, there’s a magical experience waiting for you here.
Riding the Icelandic horse in Iceland is something every traveller should consider. This breed is unique to the country and is the only horse breed that exists here. They live unvaccinated in the wild and if they leave, can never return lest they bring back diseases to infect the herd. Riding one of these short, sturdy and furry horses under the magic hours of the midnight sun is not something that every visitor can claim they’ve done.
18 Costa Rica: Explore The Tortuguero Canals
Most people might picture the beach or the jungle when they think of Costa Rica, but the Tortuguero Canals offer something a little bit different.
This is one of the most significant nesting sites for several species of turtles worldwide. Taking a boat ride through these canals that are both natural and man made will take you through a part of the jungle in Costa Rica’s “Amazon” that most people never really get to see. July to September sees the turtles coming ashore to lay eggs and giving visitors a glimpse of different species like Green sea turtles, Giant Leatherback turtles and more.
17 Singapore: Shopping At Mustafa Center
Located in Little India, Singapore’s Mustafa Center needs to be on more traveller’s radars rather than just the gardens by the bay or night markets.
Mustafa Center is open 24 hours and is the prime location to get some seriously affordable, delicious and authentic food. For a full meal of rice, noodles, curry and a drink you can pay as little as $3.64 USD. Who said Singapore had to be expensive?
Eating here at all hours visitors will find themselves surrounded by locals and there’s really no better indicator of a great location than the stamp of local approval.
16 Vietnam: Climbing Fansipan
Vietnam is well known for its low prices and natural wonders like Halong Bay or the fields of Sa Pa. Hanoi is sought after for its food and custom clothing. But have you spoken to anyone who’s climbed Fansipan?
Basic travellers googling top things to do in the country might not make it as far down the list as Fansipan and it’s not at the top because it’s not for everyone. The highest mountain in the country at 3143 meters above sea level, it’s located near Sa Pa and is a challenge for even the best of climbers and trekkers. But even if you’re not a hiker, there’s a now a tram that will bring people to the summit. So there’s really no excuse not to explore this anymore!
15 Hungary: Visit Esztergom Basilica
We’ve all heard of Budapest and know that it offers food, history and hot baths but many don’t even know that Esztergom exists as a city, and even fewer are aware that the Esztergom Basilica is the largest in Hungary.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Adalbert Esztergom (Esztergom Basilica) was constructed on the site of 10 historical churches existing in Medieval times and was built from 1822 - 1869. It’s certainly worth a visit to appreciate the immense effort put into the ornate details not to mention the sheer size of it.
14 Japan: Eating From A Vending Machine
Yes, we do have vending machines in North America but we don’t have them like this. Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita world wide with 1 to every 23 people according to Businessinsider.com. This means more than 5 million of them exist across the country, and the things you can purchase will blow your mind.
Rice, sake, batteries, slippers are only a few of the many things that can be found inside. So if you thought you were coming for the cherry blossoms in Kyoto or the nightlife in Tokyo, let’s reassess. If you went to Japan and didn’t buy from a vending machine did you really go to Japan?
13 South Korea: Venture To Jeju Island
South Korea was thrown back into the public eye after hosting the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang earlier in 2018, and it has become more and more popular as a travel destination despite tension in nearby North Korea.
While most people flock to Seoul and enjoy the unique cafes and delicious food of the country, few travellers venture to the beautiful Jeju Island. This little piece of paradise offers volcanic views and hiking trails in a world of relaxation where travellers can escape the bustle of city life.
12 Israel: Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
Israel draws travellers for its biblical history as well as its stunning beaches. Bethlehem and Jerusalem attract those seeking a glimpse of the Holy Land while Tel Aviv has been a hotspot for European vacationers for years.
But the Rosh Hanikra Grottoes are a lesser known experience that travellers looking to escape from the more frequented routes should be taking note of. Located at Israel’s north western tip, these sea caves are a magical site to behold, and in addition to exploring the grottoes visitors can take advantage of the bike paths or ride the small train along the sea.
11 Turkey: Kayaking Kekova
Turkey is full of awe inspiring sites and there are a few that every traveller has in mind upon arrival. A hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia or a visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul are the automatic first stops.
But the island of Kekova is little known and therefore a true adventure. Kayaking in the vibrant light blue waters here over the ruins of an ancient Lycian city will transport visitors back in time to imagine the grandeur that once existed here.
10 Indonesia: Escape The Jellies At Kakaban Lake
Bali Indonesia has become a tourist hot spot and literally the poster for all things basic. Instagrammable cafes, flamingo pool toys and floating breakfasts are now more mainstream than ever.
The best way to escape this epidemic of extra is to head over to Kakaban lake in Indonesia’s Derawan Islands. Here, the chance to swim in a lake full of stingless jellyfish will set your adventure apart from those of your friends and followers. While it may seem alarming to climb in with them at first, these harmless creatures will make this a swimming experience like no other.
9 Taiwan: Try Bao Bing
Bubble tea is the obvious choice of sweet dessert or snack beverage in Taiwan since this is the place of its inception. This sweet beverage has made its way to North America and is now insanely popular among millennials everywhere.
So maybe it’s time to branch out when arriving in Taiwan? Bao Bing is a shaved ice dessert that originated from China but is now wildly popular in Taiwan. Topped with fruits like lychee or strawberry and fruity syrups it will leave you refreshed and satisfied for sure.
8 Mexico: Attend Lucha Libre
This unique wrestling style is a far cry from what you may imagine when you think of taking a trip to Mexico. While many go for the tacos, mayan temples and beautiful beaches, Lucha Libre offers a local experience that’s a little different.
Developed in 1863, this is a freestyle wrestling match with two opponents facing off and trying to ultimately pin the other down, with a particular emphasis on aerial moves. There’s a great deal of showmanship involved in these matches that is almost as important as the strength of the wrestlers.
7 Kenya: Exploring Hell’s Gate National Park
Located Northwest of Nairobi, this stunning park encourages you to “take a walk on the wild side” (Kws.go.ke). You can easily take a day trip from Nairobi and park entry costs only $26.00 USD.
With amazing massive rock formations and full of African wildlife such as zebras, baboons, buffalo and gazelles, it is hard to imagine being disappointed by spending some time here. While most would opt for Nairobi National Park, this will give you a true taste of the wild side of Africa.
6 Tanzania: The Great Migration
Forget climbing Kilimanjaro (but that’s cool too, still not as basic as bubble tea), and set your sights on witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration instead.
Every year, more than two million of these fascinating animals travel across the Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara in a loop. Visiting from July to October allows traveller to witness the Wildebeests crossing the Mara River which is a visually stunning sight and is therefore considered to be one of the prime times.
Because of the loop they travel through, it’s possible to witness the migration year round if you know which part of the region to look for them in.
5 Switzerland: Sleep In An Igloo
Skiing in the Swiss Alps might seem like the main and only reason to visit Switzerland but there’s one unique experience you definitely don’t want to miss out on.
Sticking with the winter theme, sleeping in an Igloo is a must for travellers visiting the country, particularly in Zermatt, under the Matterhorn. The interior may be frosty but you can keep warm with hot chocolate and soup while marvelling at the experience. Though worth it, this is a costly accommodation akin to staying at a nice hotel, rather than a hostel.
4 Canada: Get Screeched In
Banff national park and the bustling cities of Toronto and Montreal attract many travellers from all over the world to the True North Strong and Free. But if you think your photos at Banff National Park are the best experience here you’ve been on social media for far too long.
Newfoundland on the East Coast of the country boasts the tradition of “Screeching In” people from the mainland when they visit and this ceremony is one that travellers should not be ignoring. This ceremony makes you an honorary Newfoundlander, and following the kissing of the cod, a recitation and a shot of Screech rum, you’ll be presented with a certificate announcing your successful “screeching in”.
3 Greece: Dance Like A Local (Or With a Local)
Greece is a place full of hospitable people who will make you feel endlessly welcome in their country. The cobbled streets are full of shops, music and the aromas of fresh food. While travellers may be checking off basic bucket list items like visiting the Acropolis, the Roman Agora or Temple of Poseidon, the true beauty of Greece lies in the culture and its people.
The warmer the place, the warmer the people; some believe this to be true and the Greek people support this theory. Sirtaki and Hasapiko are two of the most popular Greek dance styles and if you want to maximize your time here, do some research on the styles so when you’re invited to dance in the streets you can give the locals something to talk about.
2 Nepal: Take A Risky Flight To Lukla
While many come for the affordable food, hikes around Pokhara or one of the seven UNESCO world heritage sites in Kathmandu, that’s all pretty mainstream.
The real adventure here is trekking to Everest Base Camp, 5364 meters above sea level. It’s no easy feat, but it's the experience of a lifetime with a very rewarding moment when you finally reach the end goal. But to get here, you have to take one of the most dangerous flights in the world from Kathmandu to Lukla. Not only is the runway short and the conditions surrounding the region treacherous, but the runway ends in a stone wall and a mountain so there’s really no margin for error. But for adventure seekers, this whole experience is one for the books.
1 Peru: Hike El Misti Volcano
If you’re following the beaten path you’ll find yourself at Machu Picchu, but if you’re ready for something a little more unique then head on over to Arequipa and see El Misti volcano.
Located in Peru’s second largest city, this is an active volcano that some travellers attempt to hike but this is not an easy trek to make. It does take roughly two days to reach the summit and so preparations must be made, preferably hopping on a guided tour for safety reasons, though some do try to trek it alone. In these scenarios though, travelers rarely make it to the summit as they are not prepared for the conditions and must turn back.
References: Alongdustyroads.com, Thethinkingtraveller.com, Vanityfair.com, Thekitchn.com, Scmp.com, Germangirlinamerica.com, Businessinsider.com, Theculturetrip.com, Chasingtheunexpected.com, Lonelyplanet.com, Airbnb.ca