Unusual Holiday Destinations for a Unique Trip Away

Unconventional destinations for travellers who like to do things their own way

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A view of tall icebergs and clear water in front of snow-capped mountains, Antarctica

There’s a certain thrill to breaking away from the mainstream. For many people, part of the joy of travel is getting away from the crowds and exploring the weird and wonderful places on our planet. If you’re looking for something different to the popular beach destinations and city breaks, you’ll be pleased to know that we've found plenty of offbeat places out there waiting to be explored. Being the travel experts we are here at Plum Guide, we can tell you all you need to know about destinations that are off the radar. So, whether it’s places shrouded in mystery, rarely-visited countries, or well-known cities which offer surprising and alternative things to do, keep reading for our expert guide to the most unusual holiday destinations in the world.

Famagusta, Cyprus

A view of the Old Cathedral of Saint Nicholas on a sunny day in Famagusta, Cyprus

A view of the Old Cathedral of Saint Nicholas on a sunny day in Famagusta, Cyprus

The walled city of Famagusta on the east coast of Cyprus is among the most unusual holiday destinations thanks to its fascinating past. Once the most important city in Cyprus, with its port serving as a rendezvous for merchants and various empires, parts of Famagusta (most famously the resort town of Varosha) were left deserted after the Turkish invasion in 1974. As Greek occupants fled, the island became divided, and Famagusta became part of a newly formed state called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - which only Turkey currently recognises.

However, not all of Famagusta has been abandoned, and it has now grown into a lively resort on the north side of the walled Old Town. Here you’ll find remnants of different eras, including the remains of the Venetian Royal Palace - one of the city’s top attractions is the ghost town of Varosha. Rent a bike or explore the town on foot, and catch an eerie glimpse of previous lives in the abandoned hotels, apartments, and shops.

Galatea, Plum Guide home in Famagusta, Cyprus

Galatea, Plum Guide home in Famagusta, Cyprus

Azerbaijan

A view of tall, quirky skyscrapers standing above the city in Baku, Azerbaijan

A view of tall, quirky skyscrapers standing above the city in Baku, Azerbaijan

One of the world’s most underrated holiday destinations, Azerbaijan is a fascinating place, and relatively undiscovered by tourists. Straddling both Europe and Asia, you can expect an interesting clash of east and west. The capital, Baku, lies on the Caspian Sea, and is a curious combination of old and new. Alongside shiny skyscrapers is the old city of Icheri Seher, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which include relics such as the 12th-century Maiden Tower and 13th-century Shirvanshah Palace. The architecture isn’t the only allure of the old town, but there are a wealth of shops selling ceramics, textiles, handicrafts, and traditional Azerbaijan national clothes. Head out of the city and you’ll find an incredible natural landscape of semi-deserts, sand dunes, beautiful coastline, and natural wonders - like the ‘burning mountains’ and mud volcanoes, a result of all that subterranean gas and oil. Hike into the mountains and visit the small towns of Guba and Lahic, where artisans ply their traditional trades.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

A small waterfall flowing past rocks and green mountains, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A small waterfall flowing past rocks and green mountains, Isle of Skye, Scotland

For those who believe in magic, a trip to the Isle of Skye promises mountains and mythology. Norse for ‘misty isle’, the island is known for its microclimate which presents atmospheric clouds of mist, rain, and double rainbows. These dramatic weather conditions are what make the Isle of Skye so magical and unique - not to mention its enchanting waterfalls, medieval castles, rugged landscapes, and majestic rock formations. It’s thought that fairies and pixies roam the land, which explains the names of attractions such as Fairy Glen, Fairy Pools, and Fairy Bridge - all said to be gathering places for pixies. On the coastline, you have the famous Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, said to have been formed by the kilt of a Scottish giant. Head inland to the otherworldly Old Man of Storr, perched dramatically on the Trotternish Ridge, or step into Middle Earth at the epic Cuillin Hills.

Rob Roy, Plum Guide home in Scotland, UK

Rob Roy, Plum Guide home in Scotland, UK

Socotra, Yemen

A view of Dragon trees on a dusty, rocky plain in Socotra, Yemen

A view of Dragon trees on a dusty, rocky plain in Socotra, Yemen

One of the most extraordinary places in the world, Socotra is like another planet. The largest of four islands in the Socotra archipelago, it’s one of the most isolated landforms of continental origin on the planet. In fact, it’s so isolated that a third of its flora is completely exclusive to its land, and can’t be found anywhere else on earth. It’s nicknamed ‘Dragon’s Blood Island’ for the bizarre-looking, umbrella-shaped trees that dot the landscape. There are a few villages here and there, and even the capital, Hadiboh, feels more like a large village than a city. It’s the perfect destination for nature-lovers - enjoy indulging in all kinds of outdoor activities. For hikers, make sure you venture into the highlands or Homahil Protected Area to see the Dragon Blood trees, or enjoy the views from the Dirhour Canyon. There are countless empty beaches to relax at too, so try out water sports or head for a refreshing dip in the Wadi Difarhou Natural Pool - all while admiring the captivating views of the coast.

Istria County, Croatia

An aerial view of large green hills and a hilltop town at dusk, Motovun, Istria County, Croatia

An aerial view of large green hills and a hilltop town at dusk, Motovun, Istria County, Croatia

This is another destination for those who believe magic is all around us. Croatia’s famous state runs rampant with myths and folklore - a place where witches, vampires, and giants roam the land. The best way to explore the legends of the land is to take a road trip through inland Istria, stopping off at medieval hillside hamlets like Motovun, Grožnjan, Opatalj, Pazin, Pičan, and Kringa. Ancient Slavic Gods, prehistoric monuments, and ley lines are just a few of the details you’re likely to encounter while exploring the Istrian highlands.

From the outside, these villages appear as though they were established in the medieval Venetian era, but many have a history that dates back at least 2,000 years. The most famous spot is Motovun, which attracts architecture lovers, cyclists, foodies (both black and white truffles are found in the forests here), and those interested in the esoteric. There are many stories to uncover - so don't hesitate to visit these villages and talk to local guides, experts, and residents.

Graševina, Plum Guide home in Istria County, Croatia

Graševina, Plum Guide home in Istria County, Croatia

Bhutan

A temple next to a calm river in front of green hills at sunset, Bhutan

A temple next to a calm river in front of green hills at sunset, Bhutan

This small, landlocked country in the Himalayas has intense restrictions when it comes to tourism, making it a very under-explored (and rather unconventional) destination - you’ll find very few signs of commercialisation here. In fact, Bhutan was one of the last countries to adopt television and the internet, only introduced in 1999. The country still holds onto its heritage and culture, which you can see through the distinct architecture, numerous festivals and celebrations, archery competitions, and the Bhutanese people - the locals wear their vibrant national dress on a daily basis.

One of the most popular activities is trekking in the Himalayas, but there are plenty of other things to do in Bhutan that don’t require such high levels of fitness. As well as iconic sights like Taktsang Goemba, those looking to get into nature will enjoy river rafting, kayaking, horse riding, rock climbing, and even wildlife safaris - you may get the chance to see black bears, golden langurs, Asiatic lions, and tigers.

New Orleans, USA

A red tram and a dark green tram next to palm trees and apartments in New Orleans, USA

A red tram and a dark green tram next to palm trees and apartments in New Orleans, USA

Are you wondering what the most unusual holiday might be? Well, New Orleans may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of ‘unusual’, but you’ll be surprised at just how many weird and wonderful experiences this city has to offer. If you’re into voodoo and black magic, a visit to the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum has all you need to know about this kind of thing. This is a blend of African and European influences that merged within the cultural melting pot of New Orleans. There’s even a Museum of Death, and a cemetery tour for those who want to take it to the next level.

Keep things lighter with a bayou swamp tour for a chance to spot alligators, or step inside The Music Box Village for a magical sculpture garden - it consists of an assortment of artistic shacks, and tiny homes made out of recycled materials. Enter one of the houses, and you’ll find various homemade musical instruments built into the homes themselves - you can literally ‘play’ these houses.

Factory Girl, Plum Guide home in New Orleans, USA

Factory Girl, Plum Guide home in New Orleans, USA

Antarctica

Eye-catching blue icebergs and melting ice in Antarctica

Eye-catching blue icebergs and melting ice in Antarctica

When it comes to the world’s most unexpected holiday destinations, what better place than Antarctica? In recent years, the issue of climate change has sparked people’s interest and created a sense of urgency, making it an increasingly popular place to visit. One of the most remote destinations on earth, this is truly the trip of a lifetime where you can totally disconnect from the rest of the world - you won't find any mobile phone service, tourist traps, or ATMS. At this point you’re probably wondering ‘so what is there to do?’.

Well, the best time to visit is between November and March, which is the Antarctic summer. Naturally, all the activities take place outdoors where summer temperatures range between -6°C to 10°C. Wildlife watching doesn’t get any better than here - you’ll spot whales, penguins, seals, and various seabirds. Other activities include snowshoeing, kayaking, skiing, camping, visits to historic sites, and even snorkelling and diving (for those brave enough to plunge into the icy waters).

Mexico City, Mexico

Tourists walking around the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico

Tourists walking around the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, so it can be hard to feel like you’re getting a truly ‘unique’ experience. But if you get off the main tourist path, you’ll find that the city has a quirky side to it, offering peculiar and unconventional things to do. Those into dark tourism will want to visit the National Museum of Death, where you can find out more about the role of death in Mexican culture and folklore. The bravest visitors can step it up a notch at the Island of the Dolls, which is quite literally an island filled with hanging, decomposing, and decapitated dolls (you’ve been warned).

For the superstitious, why not take a stroll through Mercado de Sonora? This isn’t a regular market - this is Mexico’s largest esoteric market. Discover a solution to any of life’s ailments in the form of a magic soap, a holy water spray, or even a love potion containing toloache - a plant with hallucinogenic properties. So if your ‘problem’ is a holiday that’s too short, there may just be a remedy for it here.

Tranquilita, Plum Guide home in Mexico City, Mexico

Tranquilita, Plum Guide home in Mexico City, Mexico

North Macedonia

An aerial view of Jovan Kaneo Church overlooking Lake Ohrid on a sunny day, North Macedonia

An aerial view of Jovan Kaneo Church overlooking Lake Ohrid on a sunny day, North Macedonia

If you’re looking for unusual holiday destinations in Europe, we can highly recommend North Macedonia. Quirky even by Balkan standards, this tiny nation is perfect for those looking for an offbeat destination. Start your journey at the capital city, Skopje. Inhabited since at least 4000 BC, the city boasts an eclectic mix of architecture, from Ottoman buildings to rather eccentric structures like the space-age monument that is The Makedonium. Follow the many wacky sculptures around the city, catch a show at the National Opera and Ballet, or step back in time at the Old Bazaar, a maze of cobbled lanes where you'll find all kinds of treasures.

Venturing out of the capital, North Macedonia is filled with unexpected gems. Its second largest city, Bitola, is steeped with history, and offers a mix of mosques, Ottoman bathhouses, Byzantine churches, and heritage buildings. Elsewhere, admire the breathtaking beauty of Lake Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or visit the charming villages of Janče and Galičnik, the latter famous for its traditional village wedding festival - one of North Macedonia’s quirkiest summer festivals.

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