Have you ever travelled somewhere and wondered why you’ve never heard about it before? Why those “in the know” must have received the memo, whilst you’ve stumbled across it by accident? A place you want to shout about from the rooftops, but at the same time want to keep it a secret? As part of the March Travel Linkup (#travellinkup), here are three places to visit before everyone else knows about them!
I had never heard of this tiny Portugese island, off the coast of Madeira, but Mr Fletche spotted a deal when we were looking for a September getaway in 2015. We stayed at the Pestana Colombos, sharing facilities with its sister hotel the Pestana Porto Santo a couple of minutes walk away. The island is most famous for its magnificent 9km-long sandy beach on the south side, and for being home for a short while to Christopher Columbus; the explorer is celebrated wholeheartedly with a museum in the island’s tiny main town Vila Baleira and a week-long September festival. Most of the island is undeveloped and barren, with amazing sand dunes which can be discovered using quad bikes or on a small tour. You can also walk or cycle to the south-west tip, Ponta da Calheta, where the beach ends in dramatic cliffs and rock pools. It’s a perfect destination for a short relaxing break away from the crowds.
This was one of those places that I saw pictures of on Pinterest, and immediately put the area at the top of my travel wishlist. And in reality – it is just as enchanting, if not even more so. Pastel coloured buildings clinging onto dramatically plunging cliffs. Lush vineyards on steep terraces. Fresh seafood, brought in on the same boats bobbing in crystal clear waters. A choice of five very different villages to stay in: the bustling seaside village of Monterosso al Mare with its sandy beaches, the harbour village of Vernazza, the hilltop Corniglia. Swim off the rocks at Manarola, or explore the tangle of buildings that make up Riomaggiore. Travel between them by boat, or by train, or by using the hiking trails which link the towns high up on the hillside – the towns themselves are largely traffic-free. Although the tourists are starting to come – the area is linked by rail to many of the Northern Italy cities via the station at La Spezia – this UNESCO World Heritage site still remains relatively peaceful. All the tradition of an Italian village (five of them in fact) nestled onto a gloriously scenic stretch of Ligurian coastline.
Okay, Montenegro topped lots of “best place to visit” lists in 2016 so technically this isn’t a secret anymore. But this was a “booked on a whim” daytrip from Dubrovnik, and even on a gloomy drizzly June day, the scenery as we left Croatia behind and headed south-east along the Adriatic was breathtaking. Coastline, lakes, mountains and beautiful old towns, all in one day. Kotor itself deserves a longer visit, one which would allow us to walk the 1200 steps to the top of the city’s fortified walls. It would also be good to spend time in the North of the country, where there are pine forests and lakes and waterfalls and canyons and gorges and hiking trails. this really is a country that has it all – in such a small package! Its also still relatively cheap, using the Euro despite not being an EU country. (Interestingly, neighbour Croatia is an EU country but doesn’t use the Euro – if you’re visiting both countries, remember to take both currencies)
I love it when a place exceeds expectations, especially if you don’t have that many expectations in the first place! Have you discovered any hidden gems? Either travelling, or on your own doorstep? Let me know in the comments below…I’ll put them on my list and I promise not to tell everyone…