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15 Under-the-Radar Vacation Destinations

  • Justin Guariglia/National Geographic Creative/Getty Images

    Little-Known Places to Visit

    The world is full of places on the well-trodden path, where the number of visitors seems to go up every year. Don’t you want to go somewhere different for a change? Here’s a list of overlooked vacation spots around the globe — some you may never even have heard of.

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  • Mark A. Johnson / Alamy

    North Stradbroke Island, Australia

    Located less than 20 miles from Brisbane, “Straddie” (as locals call it) is a popular weekend destination for Brisbanites looking to escape the city. Activities here include swimming, fishing, surfing and hiking to explore the island’s five beaches and dozens of inland lakes. You can spot koalas on the island or head to Point Lookout, considered one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world.

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    Hainan Island, China

    Popular with Chinese and Russian tourists but mostly unknown to other travelers, this tropical island off China’s southern coast has gorgeous beaches, a volcano park, monkeys, a Shaolin Buddhist temple, an ancient Hainanese village and more. The term “China’s Hawaii” may sound like a tourism ploy, but the scenery is worthy of the comparison.

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    Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

    Hiking, biking, archery, fishing, hunting, camping — you’ll find it all at this state park that spreads across more than 2,300 acres. The park is most notable for its waterfalls and dramatic rock formations, including Old Man’s Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave and Cedar Falls.

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    Koh Lipe, Thailand

    Accessible only by boat, this island paradise in the Andaman Sea is surrounded by clear water and pristine reefs, and home to 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species. Some beaches are developed; some, such as Sunrise Beach, are quieter; others are almost deserted. As part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, Koh Lipe is unlikely to see the kind of massive development that has detracted from the appeal of other Thai islands.

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    Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska

    This northern Alaska park spreads across 8.4 million acres of nearly untouched wilderness. There are no established, roads, trails or campsites, which means that trekking in this landscape is a challenging but one-of-a-kind adventure. Home to the Brooks Range mountains and six rivers, the park offers excellent fishing opportunities in addition to its superlative scenery.

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    Kobarid, Slovenia

    This picturesque town in the Soča Valley is surrounded by majestic mountains and rolling green pastures. Archaeological sites date to the Iron Age, and a museum commemorates the town’s role in World War I. For such a small place, Kobarid is home to a surprising number of fine restaurants, five of which comprise a group known as the Kobarid Gastronomic Circle.

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  • Getty Images/Moment Open

    Schönau am Königsee, Germany

    Popular for health retreats and winter sports, this town lies near the Austrian border inside Berchtesgaden National Park on scenic Lake Königsee. Mount Jenner offers skiing in winter, while Mount Watzmann is better suited to mountain climbers. Featuring small-town Bavarian charm, Schönau am Königsee is home to a number of cafes and traditional restaurants.

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  • Art Brewer/Corbis

    Rangiroa, French Polynesia

    You’ve heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora but not this place, which happens to be the second-largest atoll in the world. Essentially a strand of coral encircling a beautiful lagoon, Rangiroa offers world-class diving and one-of-a-kind natural beauty. Activities are centered on beaches and water, but you can also explore villages and visit a working pearl farm.

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  • Guido Cozzi/Corbis

    Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

    This stunning national park features approximately 20 lakes plus breathtaking caves, forests and waterfalls. An abundance of wildlife includes bears, wolves and 126 bird species. Spread over more than 70,000 acres, the park, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, is notable for the geological processes that formed its cascading lakes and continue to alter the terrain to this day.

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    Ulan Bator, Mongolia

    The Mongolian capital has a reputation for being a rather unattractive city, but don’t let that discourage you. It makes a good base for exploring one of the world’s most beautiful and hospitable countries. It’s primarily a business-traveler destination, so you won’t see too many Western tourists here (meaning that the museums won’t be overrun). And don’t pass up the opportunity to hike in the mountains south of the city.

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  • Philip Craven/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

    El Djem, Tunisia

    Originally built as Thysdrus, this town features well-preserved architecture from the days of the Roman Empire. The massive amphitheater, constructed in the 3rd century, could house up to 35,000 spectators. Though parts of the structure have crumbled, enough of it still stands to conjure its former glory. A museum features a large selection of mosaics and a restored Roman villa.

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  • Thomas R. Fletcher / Alamy

    Anguilla, the Caribbean

    Ringed by white sand and aquamarine waters, this mostly flat, mostly deserted island offers a decidedly low-key escape, especially compared to bustling St. Martin nearby. There are no nonstop flights from the U.S. to Anguilla, and no cruise ship ports. Locals value privacy and peace — they won’t even permit Jet Skis on the island for fear of noise pollution.

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    Sanliurfa, Turkey

    Commonly called Urfa, this historic city dates back at least 3,500 years, and Turkish legend has it that Abraham was born in a cave here. The cave and other important sites draw hundreds of thousands of Muslim visitors annually. A trip to nearby Göbekli Tepe is considered a must, as it is home to the world’s oldest temple, which dates back more than 11,000 years.

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    Virunga Volcanoes, Rwanda

    This active eight-volcano chain straddles the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; for security reasons, your best bet is to visit the Rwanda section. Hikers who scale the volcanoes, up to heights of 15,000 feet, will be rewarded with incredible views and sightings of mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants and other wildlife.

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  • Justin Guariglia/Getty Images

    Lombok, Indonesia

    Want the splendor of Bali without all of the crowds? Then head to Lombok, where you’ll find beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls, a looming volcano and relatively few tourists. The scenery and way of life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the indigenous culture is quite rich.

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