With the sometimes overwhelming stress of daily life, it's crucial to put our phones away and get on the road...or plane...or boat. Travel is transformative. Experiencing a change in culture or embarking on a new adventure can cleanse the mind and soul. In fact, I say it makes us more human.
Sometimes it’s the hidden gems that can provide the most interesting and beneficial travel experiences. There are so many well-known places that tourists flock to year after year, making travel more of a competition and less of a catharsis.
Below are my top 10 cities that you can immerse yourself in local living and appreciate natural beauty, without the crowds, for a truly life changing experience.
In the Azores, you will find nine volcanic islands known for their beauty and adventure. The archipelago is actually comprised of some of the largest mountains in the world, leaving just the tips of the unexposed mountains visible. Explore beautiful calderas and hot springs and marvel at the natural beauty of these islands.
Experience Scandinavia in this capital city by visiting a variety of historic attractions. From picturesque canals and cobblestone streets, Stockholm is perfect for exploring. Learn about Swedish history in the Skansen Museum or visit one of the city’s two UNESCO world heritage sites: the Royal Palace of Drottningholm and the Woodland Cemetery.
Sedona is a city in the Southwest renowned for its natural beauty and rich heritage. Grab your hiking boots and explore the beautiful red rock formations and canyons that Sedona is known for, such as those found in Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe bend. Learn about Native American culture at historic sites like Honanki or the Palatki Ruins. Last but not least, unwind by sampling wines along the Verde Valley Wine Trail.
Málaga is a coastal city that lies in the south of Spain. As one of the oldest cities in the country, there is much learn about Moroccan and Phoenician influence and a rich artistic presence (Picasso was born here!). Stroll along the Puerto de Málaga for delicious seafood and excellent shopping in the city center, hit the beach, or visit the historical castle Alcazaba. Perfecto!
This walled city will take you back in history as the oldest imperial city in Morocco. With an impressive number of hotels and a unique food scene, Fez is coming close to overshadowing the more popular Marrakech. There is no shortage of amazing architecture and history in Fez, as the whole city was named a world heritage site. Soak in the culture of Morocco by visiting one of the many artisanal markets in the city.
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Asheville captures the adventurous spirits of many. Symbology founder Marissa even tied the knot in this beautiful town! Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a booming town with art, music, and killer food. Asheville boasts a surprising amount of accredited chefs and fine dining in the area for a city of it’s size and the most microbreweries per capita of any city in the US. Asheville is also home to the Biltmore house, the largest private estate in the US and a major tourist attraction. Whether you’re listening to some live music or shopping in the eclectic downtown, good vibes will surround you on your stay in this mountain gem.
Lace up your tennis shoes and explore one of the most historic cities in Europe that is often missed by tourists. As one of the largest cities in Poland, Kraków known as the cultural capital of the country. Visit the Historic City Centre and the Jewish District and explore a vast array of shops and restaurants. Popular attractions include Wawel Castle, Salt Mines, and the Ojcow National Park.
Off the coast of Sicily, this island of Gozo is known for its scenic beaches and hills. Although Gozo has a small population, it is home to some of the oldest religious structures in the world. Take a tour of one of these incredibly preserved sites or go snorkeling on the pristine beaches to fill your day. We promise you won't want to leave.
Fittingly nicknamed the “Flower of the East” by the Venetians that once ruled this island, you won’t believe how blue the water is in Zakynthos. Go snorkeling or scuba diving in the beautiful waters, soak up the sun on the beach, or immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting Greek markets.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
A highly culturally significant city in Thailand, Chiang Mai is a relaxed alternative to Bangkok. The city is complete with a central night baazar that gives travelers an urban experience contrasted by a countryside that feels like you have transported to a different world. Visitors should explore the many temples inside the ancient walled city center, or make the trek to the most famous landmark temple 'Wat Phra That Doi Suthep,' which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the city. Part of the Himalayan Mountains, the Doi Inthanon National Park (pictured above) is another amazing landscape found in the province for once-in-a-lifetime views.