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Skip Europe: The World's Greatest Overlooked Destination Cities

Posted on 25 November 2017

This year, do travel. Be the change you want to see in the world - by going out and seeing the world. But don’t get stuck looking only as far as the old standbys. If you find yourself in Rome, or Prague, or Madrid, you’ll also find gobs of tourists. Here are some ace destinations on five continents other than Europe. In any of these cities, if you do go, you’ll wonder why more people don’t make the trip.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

One look at Chefchaouen (or just Chaouen, if you want to fit in with the locals) and it's clear how it got its nickname as Morocco’s “blue city.” Blue doors, blue walls, blue buildings, and blue trash bins mingle with the colourful pops of potted plants dotting the staircases. Wander the markets and barter for leather goods, high-quality woven carpets, and the must-have goat cheese. This is an endlessly Instagrammable city.

Less touristy than Marrakech or Fes, and steeped in centuries of Spanish and Jewish influence, Chefchaouen defies easy definition - or easy reach. The only way to get there is by (an admittedly long) car or bus ride. 

If you have the time, don’t miss an often-overlooked day hike to the Akchour waterfalls. The natural pools and views are well worth it, and you can even stop at small tea shops along the way if you need a break. Fair warning, the tea is cavity-inducingly sweet.

Luang Prabang, Laos

The few people who do make it to Laos might skip this quaint city for its bigger, busier sister, Vientiane, the capital. With about 60,000 inhabitants, the city slows pleasantly, allowing you to steep in the infinitely-detailed Buddhist temples and the smattering of Parisian architecture.

Situated on the Mekong River, the city puts on some dreamy sunset shows, so grab yourself a table at a riverside restaurant and enjoy. While you’re there, order the local dish of steamed fish in banana leaf: tender, lemongrass-infused fish with a side of sticky rice and veg. When you decide to learn the ropes yourself, hit up Tamarind Cooking School. Starting with a tour at Phosi Market - Luang Prabang’s largest marketplace - you’ll gather your ingredients and head to an open-air kitchen to begin the class. Four hours later you’ll leave with an appreciation of the local food, a full belly, and seven written recipes.

Oaxaca City 

Set in a valley ringed by green mountains, Oaxaca’s cobblestoned streets are lined with kaleidoscopically coloured buildings, punctuated by some of the best street food vendors you’ll find in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more laid-back than the vast megalopolis that is Mexico City, but doesn’t skimp on the eats and has more than its fair share of excellent museums, galleries, and cultural centres.

On street corners and in bustling covered markets like the lively Mercado 20 de Noviembre, complex dishes such as Oaxaca’s famous mole negro stew reach their apex. Enthusiastic eaters shouldn’t neglect vendors’ more humble offerings, either: Regional street foods such as the tlayuda (a crisp tortilla “pizza” spread with black beans and topped with milky Oaxacan string cheese) and tetelas (triangles of corn masa stuffed with tangy Mexican crema and more) are delicious bargains for a filling meal.

Drinkers won’t be disappointed in Oaxaca, as the region produces some 90% of Mexico’s mezcal. You’ll find it poured by passionate, knowledgeable barkeeps at excellent mezcalerias such as Mezcaloteca, Archivo Maguey, and In Situ.

Queenstown, New Zealand

The idyllic snow-capped mountains look like the backdrop of a painting against the clear waters of Lake Wakatipu. This serenely stunning town, located in the South Island of New Zealand, boomed in a 1860s gold rush and has since been a destination for film crews, wine lovers, and travellers who like vertical drops.

It’s known as the birthplace of bungee jumping and jet boating, but you can also downshift with mere white water rafting, skydiving, skiing and ziplining. Jumping off bridges works up an appetite, so don’t leave without trying a “big-as-your-head gourmet burger” from the town institution, Fergburger.

It’s not only for adrenaline junkies. Queenstown is also known for its rejuvenating spas, gorgeous mountain lodges, and quite possibly the freshest air you’ll ever breathe. Treat yourself to Onsen Hot Pools for a soak in natural spring while you sip on some local wine and revel in the sprawling views.  

Amman, Jordan

In Amman, you will find yourself at the doorstep of world wonders: The stupefying ancient metropolis of Petra, and the multi-hued Wadi Rum, one of the earth’s most scenic deserts. But the city itself is nearly as timeless, and in its peaceful blend of cultures, surprisingly reassuring.

Walk around and you’ll also catch the smell of meat grilling everywhere. Several fresh and organic restaurants feature 12-string oud and tabla jam bands cranking out Arabic space-jams. Amman is also a great place for non-boozers to feel at home, with the option to groove with a coed crew puffing Hookahs while sipping ultra-sweet tea. Or find your way to the new Jordan Museum and pay homage to some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

One trip down Buenos Aires’ cobblestone streets, taking in the art-nouveau apartment buildings and Italian Renaissance-style palaces, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into an electric Old World party, and that everyone showed up. So grab a power nap and hydrate.

A city of night owls, true porteños, as the city’s residents are known, grab ice cream at midnight with their grandmothers, show up to the nightclub when most American bars are announcing last call, and never eat dinner before 10pm. Tango is just the tip. The leafy, tree-lined barrio of Palermo Hollywood ensures a night out that will rival that of the world’s best party cities: outdoor bars, swanky lounges, and intimate venues. 

BA is all about the secret addresses - speakeasy staples like Frank's, closed-door dinner parties, and members-only 24-hour club pool parties at spots like Mansion Boreo or The Clubhouse. Once you’ve properly lost track of time, you'll find yourself topping off the night with helado (a cross between hard frozen ice cream and gelato). More than 2,000 heladarias (ice cream parlors) dot the city - the only way anyone here knows how to cool down for even a moment.

Jaipur, India

When heading to India, the only part of New Delhi you should see is the airport when internally connecting for Jaipur, the capital’s laid-back little brother. Otherwise known as the Pink City, owing to a centuries-old tradition of painting the centre’s facades to give it a welcoming and romantic hue, Jaipur is an oasis of sterling architecture and wonder in the desert region just south of New Delhi.

The Rajasthan capital is a backpacker’s treasure trove. You can stay in the ancient city, eat like a Maharaja, go fast/furious in a tuk-tuk and visit India’s most majestic temples and forts, all that on a budget. (The Peacock Rooftop Restaurant, in particular, has great curries and cold beer at fair prices.) The setting feels like an Indian fantasy movie, with tastes, smells, and sounds as real and intense as only India does.


Tunis, Tunisia

Africa’s northernmost city is an idiosyncratic melting pot of Arab, French, and progressive Muslim influences. It’s not uncommon to see Tunisians walking around in soccer jerseys, carrying loaves of French bread, singing in English.

Get lost in Medina (Old Town) and its snaking labyrinth of market-teeming alleyways, then scale the encircling high wall for reorientation. Outside these walls, the Ville Nouvelle (New Town) hurls you into the lavish belle époque architecture where chic French cafés invite a caffeine buzz. Outside the city center, find the evocative ruins of ancient Carthage. They prove once again that the Romans knew the value of real estate, as the Mediterranean views won’t disappoint.

Hobart, Tasmania 

If you want to work up an appetite in Tasmania’s capital, look to the 3,000ft Mount Wellington. Not as if you can miss it: Even amid the city’s lakes, wine valleys, epic drives, and Michelin-starred restaurants, you’ll want to tackle the enchanting backdrop of it all. A half-hour’s drive (or full-day hike) from the city, the panoramic views from the mountain -- where winds can top 108mph -- are well worth it, even if you have to hold on to the nearest traveller to keep your ground. You’ll gaze out over Hobart and out to Bruny Island, despite possible warm-season snow flurries at the peak.

The mountain now conquered, the hungry city of 220,000 beckons. Australians consider Tasmania the country’s seafood capital. Stop by Barilla Bay Oyster Farm -- a five-minute drive from Hobart International Airport -- for some of the freshest oysters you’ll ever have, as well as the most delicious Blood Mary oyster shooters in the Southern Hemisphere. A million people a year visit this city. Tell the folks back home where you went, and you’ll sound terribly exotic. You don’t need to tell them it was so cheerfully comfortable.  

Yangon, Myanmar

A key starting point in Yangon is the basic but inviting Friendship Restaurant (across the street from the Business Alliance Hotel) where ingrained expat teachers and day-off diplomat types drink cheap drafts side-by-side with mellow locals. The city’s centrepiece is Shwedagon Pagoda, the country’s most sacred site and home to eight sacred locks of Buddha’s hair. A radiant hilltop campus of Buddhist shrines surrounds a 300ft-tall golden dome visible from virtually anywhere in town.

As a flight hub, Yangon collects culinary and cultural influence from all over the region: Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, and Thailand. But because British rule lasted until 1947, Yangon’s also a swell place for tea time. On nearly every street, people huddle in establishments or on sidewalks, perched atop 10 inch stools around mini-tables supporting a teapot. 

Cape Town, South Africa

In the Mother City, as it’s known, travellers can drink up any sort of wanderlust -sophisticated city living, foodie and cultural expeditions, coastal playtime, or an intoxicating cocktail of it all. Some districts vibe almost European; others are distinctly African in spirit. If you’re into the finer things, there’s designer shopping on Waterfront, and ample beach clubs and restaurants full of beautiful people with amiable Afrikaans drawls. Or get closer to locals’ lives and find delicious home-cookery, African goddesses with invincible grill skills and the pastel houses and call to prayers of the famous Muslim-Malay neighbourhood known as Bo-Kaap.

Spaces also feel infinite, whether scaling up Table Mountain or rambling around sprawled out Wineland estates with a buzz (fair warning: impulsively shipping a case of red home only to be slapped with a stiff duty later is no urban myth). Cape Town’s known for being sunny year-round, but the best time to go is February and March. 

Tainan, Taiwan

Think of Tainan as Taiwan’s version of Kyoto: an ancient city with its own unique culture, thriving in the shadow of a more renown metropolis. Arriving by the country’s high-speed rail (seemingly one of the few things modern day has touched) you’ll find a charming, lively city so dominated by old temples and monasteries that anything less than century-old looks almost tacky by comparison.

Yet from the past you can bring yourself firmly into the present. To view ornate, beautifully preserved buildings, head to Tainan Confucius Temple, Chikan Tower, and Grand Queen of Heaven Temple. Meandering through Hai’an Rd and Shennong St is a trip through hip cafes, bars, and art venues. At night, it’s thronged by live bands and a spectrum of locals, packed into small shops that serve traditional and modern twists on Tainan delicacies.

Original article from Thrillist

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