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Top 10 offbeat destinations to beat the crowds

by Su and Titu

Ideas for post pandemic travel

We’ve always been drawn to isolated, hard-to-reach places. Far flung destinations without proper roads, the ones that require hiking for miles to get to, for instance, have been our favourites. Since Covid-19 has made travel unlikely in the near future, we can’t help but reminisce about our adventures to the remotest corners of the world. The ones off the beaten track, the ones where we didn’t cross paths with another human for days. Places where social distancing won’t require an effort. In other words, top offbeat destinations we wish we were quarantined in.

So here’s presenting our top 10 offbeat places to beat the crowds:

1. Preda, Switzerland

Watching Heidi as a kid made us yearn for the Alpine life. So while traveling to Switzerland, we had to stay in a traditional Swiss chalet. For us the ideal place is often the one that’s not listed on google maps and we found the perfect one in the scenic village of Preda. Furthermore, the property description read ‘Very remote and calm. Not for spoilt 4-star hotel visitors.’ Score!

Swiss chalet in Preda
Fairytale chalet in the Swiss Alps

Let me confess though – getting there wasn’t easy. No phone signal, no google maps and nobody around to ask for directions. Our host had told us to follow a dirt road up a hill but thick layers of snow had covered the trail. Therefore we started climbing in a generic direction whilst hoping to be on the correct track, but we weren’t getting anywhere. To top that, we were carrying heavy backpacks and the sun was about to set. Yes, we were basically lost.

Childhood dream of living in a Swiss Chalet coming true

We decided to retrace our footsteps to find our bearings and started descending. It was getting darker by the minute but luckily we spotted faint traces of the trail this time around. Soon after, we located our chalet and it was certainly as magical as we had imagined it to be. Just like Heidi’s Grandpa’s chalet, up in the Swiss Alps, far away from the village. Besides Preda is one of the offbeat destinations in Switzerland too. How we wish we could quarantine here.

In case you’re wondering how to book such offbeat accommodation, most of them on this list are Airbnbs self check-in stays. You don’t meet the host at all. Keys are kept in a lockbox instead and the host will message you the access code few days before your trip. You unlock the keys and get in to your accommodation. Similarly, you put the keys back while checking out. Thus, no human contact.

You can book this wonderful chalet here – Bündner Berghütte auf 1800müm

  • Human encounters: 0
  • Deer encounters: 2
  • Isolation Score: 10/10

How to get here?

Switzerland is well connected by rail so we took the train to Preda from Chur. We had purchased the Swiss Rail pass for 15 days and it was totally worth it.

2. Stokkvågen, Norway

Stokkvågen is a tiny coastal village with barely 5 or 6 log cabins housing the village residents. We hitched a ride from the village through a narrow muddy road to a wooded forest. Thereafter we had to hike uphill through shallow swamps to reach our Airbnb – a tiny cabin on top of the hill. The cabin was totally secluded and offered gorgeous views of the mountains, the sea, the jagged islands, and the forest around. There was no running water or electricity in the cabin, in other words a total ‘into the wild’ feeling. Collecting fresh water from the river and getting the fire started to cook our meals truly made us feel one with nature.

Into the wild feeling in one of the most offbeat places we have been to

We spent our days hiking in the woods, skinny dipping in the freezing river, sitting for hours by the sea – essentially relishing the slow life. Undoubtedly, the nights under the Arctic sky were extraordinary. We spread our sleeping bags on the porch and laid there gazing at the auroras all night long. Just us, miles away from civilisation. This not only ranks high up on our top offbeat destinations list but also on our top favourites list.

Northern lights cabin in Norway
Cabin in the woods + Northern Lights – what more can you ask for?

Accommodation details – Hajen

  • Human encounters: 0
  • Isolation Score: 10/10

How to get here?

We took the train from Trondheim to Mo i Rana and later a bus to Stokkvågen.  Besides Norwegian railways offer special fare advance tickets known as Minipris that costs around 249 to 300 NOK (£22) for the entire route. You can do really long rail journeys at a fraction of the cost by booking them directly from vy.no up to 2 months in advance.

3. Naxos, Greece

Offbeat islands in Greece
Empty beaches in peak season

This one’s for all the beach lovers. Now who wouldn’t like to be marooned in the Mediterranean right? Imagine pristine turquoise waters, whitewashed villages, unlimited sunshine and great food. We’re obviously not talking about the touristy Santorini or Mykonos here. There are about 6000 Greek islands and many of them are secluded. Take Naxos for instance, the largest island in the Cyclades but not as crowded compared to its famous neighbours. Easy to get to, yet offers seclusion. We found several untouched beaches and hidden coves in spite of traveling in July. Of course, not to mention, the yummiest food. On the whole, our favourite Greek island.

You can always choose something offbeat even in touristy destinations.

Accommodation – Paradise Studios

  • Human encounters: 5 (Tricky as the main town had a tourists but plenty of secluded beaches to get away)
  • Isolation Score: 6/10

How to get here?

Take the ferry from Athens to either Naxos or other islands. You can book it here.

4. Iceland

Winter waterfalls in Iceland
Icelandic waterfalls will blow you away

With frozen glaciers to steaming geysers, active volcanoes to thunderous waterfalls; mother nature is truly alive and buzzing in Iceland. It’s the most sparsely populated country in Europe and their population is mainly based around its capital Reykjavik. In short, drive away from Reykjavik and the popular golden circle and you will be the only person on the road for miles. Moreover a winter trip to Iceland is surreal with frozen waterfalls, pink skies and of course – the northern lights. In truth, the combination of striking beauty and isolation is what makes Iceland so appealing. Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular destinations on earth with several offbeat locations.

Isolation score: 8/10

5. Lapland, Finland

Do you know there are more reindeer than people in Lapland? In Finland’s remote north, isolation is a way of life. The population being sparse, houses are miles away from each other. Moreover 75% of the country is forest. In order to experience the traditional lapland life, we skipped the famous resort towns. We headed to a small village of Lohiniva instead.

Firstly, a google search on Lohiniva won’t yield many results which obviously is a win. After all, it’s so hard to escape the internet these days. Furthermore, a traditional Finnish log cottage surrounded by acres and acres of forests, lakes and reindeer farms was a bonus. Needless to say, it had a private sauna. With the nearest bus stop and shop 14 kms away, we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We hiked in the forest, met some curious reindeers, sat by the Ounasjoki river and relaxed in the sauna at the end of the day. In essence, simple soulful living and certainly a top pick if you are looking for something offbeat.

Accommodation – Cottage in Lapland

How to get here?

We took the bus from Rovaniemi to Lohiniva and our host picked us up from the bus-stop straightaway.

A traditional Finnish log cabin with a sauna is a perfect way to experience the Sami life.

The second one was a wooden cabin in Karesuvanto, in the northernmost region of Finland. A small cabin by the lake that came with a boat and a sauna. With no houses around, it felt like our very own private lake. We enjoy rowing – it’s not only fun but also offers a different perspective to admire the scenery. Above all, to stop in the centre of the lake and soak in the stillness is surely one of the most peaceful experiences. Later, we warmed ourselves in the traditional sauna. In fact, this was one of the highlights of our trip.

Accommodation – Holiday Home

  • Human encounters: 0
  • Isolation Score: 9/10

How to get here?

We took the bus from Lohiniva to Karesuvanto and walked to the cabin.

6. Spiti Valley, India

Winter Spiti
Roads of Spiti – undoubtedly one of the most thrilling road trips

Let’s get closer to home, shall we? As some of you know, Himachal is home and a place closest to our hearts. We will write a detailed post about offbeat locations in Himachal soon but nevertheless a small mention of one of favourites here. Spiti Valley is a remote high altitude cold mountain desert located in the Indian Himalayas. It also happens to be one of the top offbeat destinations having road access. Undeniably the most spectacular too.

Moreover visiting Spiti in winter meant zero tourists, fresh blankets of snow and a perfect Himalayan fairytale. Though some areas are out of bounds during winter but the road from Shimla to Kaza stays open throughout the year. A few homestays remain open in winter and therefore it’s the best way to understand the local life and culture. By and large, the amalgamation of breathtaking vistas, seclusion and spirituality makes Spiti a life altering experience.

Spiti is one of our top offbeat destinations in India

Here are a few of our offbeat accommodation options in Spiti –

  1. White Lotus Homestay at Tabo – One of our favourite homestays in Spiti. It’s run by Masterji and his wife. He is a teacher at the local school hence the whole village calls him Masterji. Comfortable rooms, brilliant views of the mountains and delicious food.
  2. Not on Map Komik – Great views all around.
  3. Key Monastery – You can ask the monks to stay at the monastery. It will surely be an experience of a lifetime.
  • Human encounters: 5 (Homestay Hosts, no tourists)
  • Isolation Score: 8/10

How to get here?

We hired a car with driver but there are HRTC busses too.

7. Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok best beaches
Secluded beaches of Lombok

When we think of Indonesia, it’s always Bali. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love Bali but unfortunately it has become rather touristy. Lombok is what Bali was 20 years ago – raw and untouched. Lombok still has idyllic beaches, virgin spots and traditional communities. Despite visiting in high season, we had most places to ourselves, be it beaches or waterfalls, and there are plenty of both. We stayed at Kuta in the south and the village of Tetebatu in central north Lombok. There’s something for everyone in Lombok regardless of the type of traveler.

Lombok waterfalls
In short, Lombok is tropical paradise

In Kuta, we beach hopped, went on impromptu fishing trips, soaked in the sun and slept to the sound of ocean waves. It was a perfect slow beach vacation. On the other hand, in Tetebatu we hiked in the jungles, rode past endless rice fields and visited a dozen of untouched waterfalls. So surely add Lombok to your offbeat places list.

Accommodation details: Kuta Mountain Bungalows

  • Isolation Score: 7/10

How to get here?

We flew to Lombok and booked a taxi via our hotel to Kuta and Tetebatu.

8. Isle of Skye, Scotland

Cozy cottages in Isle of Skye
Our cozy cottage in the Isle of Skye

This is hands-down one of the most picturesque accommodations we stayed at. A cozy cottage tucked between two hills overlooking the sea in the Isle of Skye. Beautifully designed with a large glass front providing panoramic views of Staffin Bay and the other isles, right from the couch. It was the perfect place not only to savour the rugged and dramatic highland landscapes but also to get away from the tourist spots.

As can be seen on the list, this too was a self-catered cottage. We did our shopping from Portree (capital) itself as there weren’t any shops or pubs nearby. Moreover it being off-season, most of the hotels and hostels were closed. The bus from Portree took us through an incredibly scenic coastal route to our accommodation. Unsurprisingly we were the only people on the bus.

We spent the next 4 days doing day hikes in the northernmost peninsula of Skye with its striking coastal scenery, hidden beaches and countless sheep. It was great to return to the warmth of the cottage and spend a relaxing evening with some wine by the fireplace. Above all, this was a perfect blend of seclusion and comfort as it had central heating, a well equipped kitchen, running water and wi-fi.

Accommodation details: Seascape

  • Human encounters: 0
  • Isolation Score: 9/10

How to get here?

Busses run from Portree to Staffin, you can rent a car too.

9. Ghandruk, Nepal

Ghandruk homestay
Our homestay in Ghandruk

We cannot have an offbeat destinations list and exclude the pretty villages of Nepal. Imagine being quarantined in the lap of the Himalayan giants. The thought itself has me grinning ear to ear. Ghandruk was one of our first stops while trekking in the Annapurna circuit. Major part of the journey was on a local bus from Pokhara through perilous and dusty mountain roads. The last leg however was on foot following a steep trail to the village. Although we visited far more secluded places in Nepal, Ghandruk’s on this list due to accessibility. The others required few days of trekking to access.

Annapurna sunset Nepal
Fiery sunset from our homestay

Since it was off-season, we had not booked accommodation beforehand. We passed several homestays and lodges on the trail till we reached the top. Great views was what we desired and we finally found one at the very end of the village – a traditional Nepalese lodge with outstanding views of the Annapurna, Machhapuchhare and other peaks. Additionally, the hosts were a friendly old couple and we had our best dal-bhat dinner in Nepal made from fresh produce from their garden.

Accommodation – Snowland Homestay

  • Human encounters: 3
  • Isolation Score: 7/10

How to get here?

We took the cheap public bus from Pokhara to Ghandruk.

10. Svalbard

Closest settlement to the North Pole with more polar bears than people definitely scores high on the top offbeat destinations list. Home to just over 2000 residents, this archipelago is perfect for the lovers of raw untamed nature and remoteness. To top that, we stayed at a dog yard at the very edge of town. Basically as remote as it gets in Longyearbyen.

Svalbard budget stay
Polar Bear country

Our cottage was cozy, had spectacular views of the mountains and the fjord but most importantly we had 100 huskies for company. We hiked with these furry fellas through the frozen tundra which was an experience of a lifetime.

We have an exhaustive guide on Svalbard and hiking with huskies so do check them out for details on accommodation and things to do.

Accommodation – Tommy’s Lodge

  • Human encounters: 2
  • Isolation score: 9

Hope you enjoyed the offbeat destinations list for some post pandemic travel inspiration. Undeniably, Covid-19 will change the way we travel in the future. Let’s hope that sustainable travel and visiting lesser known destinations will forge a new travel landscape in the long run. For now we indulge in arm chair travel and pray the pandemic ends soon

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Ava September 5, 2020 - 9:07 pm

Really loved reading this guys. You have truly been to some of the breathtaking places away from the tourist radar.
Of all these, we have only been to Ghandruk yet 😊. Would love to stay at such places and experience nature. Thanks for all the details.

Su and Titu September 5, 2020 - 10:18 pm

Thanks so much Ava. I had asked you about Ghandruk before out trip to Nepal and you had told us about the public bus. That’s what made us go to Ghandruk, ever so grateful for that tip :)

Meenakshi September 5, 2020 - 9:24 pm

Detailed explanation.. Even a layman can plan his trip with this. All the places mentioned are very beautiful and worth a visit. During this pandemic year,the best places to be stuck too.🤗😜
Best wishes for future traveling and do put it up in your blog.

Su and Titu September 5, 2020 - 11:58 pm

Cherishing these memories for now :)

Lakshmi Guru September 5, 2020 - 10:59 pm

Loved reading your blog. All the places visited by you are beautiful , breathtaking and offbeat destinations
Best wishes to you and Titu and would love to hear more from you guys

Su and Titu September 5, 2020 - 11:59 pm

Thank you :)

Supriya Malkar September 6, 2020 - 2:16 pm

Beautiful places to visit in the pandemic. Such offbeat destinations help you to absorb local culture. Thanks for detailed explanation.

Su and Titu September 6, 2020 - 3:06 pm

Thank you for reading :)

Prithviraj September 6, 2020 - 10:46 pm

This is Amazing ! All of these beautiful destinations are on my list now 😍

Su and Titu September 7, 2020 - 10:33 am

Thanks Prithvi. You can start visiting when you get to the UK, makes Europe travel easy and cheap :)

Mythili September 14, 2020 - 3:34 pm

Lovely offbeat places
May they continue to remain pure and pristine
That’s possible only when sparingly visited
I pray they continue to attract nature lovers and not the regular tourists who merely amass photographs
Su and titu continue with your travels over the roads less travelled

Deepika January 6, 2021 - 6:00 pm

Very well written! These awesome destinations are on my list now


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