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Little known but much loved favourites away from the tourist trail

Date published: 11/07/2017 Updated: 12/11/2019

Many of the best memories from a trip are from places that few people know about – either completely off the beaten track or just somewhere that other people haven’t discovered yet.

From a small South African fishing village to an indigenous community in the shadow of an Ecuadorean volcano, Audley Travel’s destination experts pride themselves on knowing the best places to recommend to clients — so they don’t miss out on seeing something amazing.

Audley’s experts are keen to know what destinations have a special place in their fellow travellers’ hearts and are asking them to share pictures from their own travels on Facebook, twitter and Instagram using #MyLittleKnown.

Becky Moore, owner of top five UK travel blog GlobalGrasshopper.com, says:

“For me, the road less travelled gives me so much more from my travel experiences. I love unravelling the secrets of the world's most unique, under-the-radar and beautiful places. Audley’s recommendations of destinations are fantastic and I can’t wait to see what further gems are unveiled from travellers suggesting their own #MyLittleKnown."

For Audley, the top #MyLittleKnown spots span the globe and include:

San Rafael, Ecuador

Audley’s #MyLittleKnown in South America is the indigenous community of San Rafael, two hours south east of the town of Riobamba, which lies in the shadow of Chimborazo, the country’s highest volcano. Tourism in this part of Ecuador is limited and Audley Travel can give its clients unique access that can’t be booked elsewhere.

Visitors to San Rafael are greeted with fantastic views of the Sangay Volcano and surrounding valleys before being welcomed into a project established to reintroduce the native alpaca to communities in the Paramo highlands with the goal of generating a sustainable source of income for the women of these communities. The trip is a unique opportunity to visit an authentic indigenous village which has had little outside influence on its culture. Visitors interact with locals who wear their traditional clothing (on a daily basis, rather than for the benefit of visiting tour groups) and practice the customs and beliefs of their ancestors. A highlight of the visit is seeing the alpacas in their mountain top farm, with the Sangay Volcano rising up as a backdrop. For guests who want to stay a little longer, an overnight stay in the community can be arranged.

Lake Kussharo, Japan

Audley moves to Japan for its next #MyLittleKnown – Lake Kussharo in Hokkaido. It is a large and beautiful cobalt blue lake within the Akan National Park. The lake is found in the Kussharo caldera, formed when a volcano collapsed into itself. Although the largest of the three lakes in the national park (and the largest caldera lake in Japan), Lake Kussharo is much less visited than neighbouring Mashu-ko and Akan-ko.

The spot that Audley’s Japan experts say is something visitors will never forget is found in one of the rotemburo scattered around the shore of the lake. These natural hot springs are the perfect place to relax after a walk around the lake, drinking in the beautiful views of the dramatic mountains on the horizon.

Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

Moving to China for Audley’s next #MyLittleKnown, the Jiuzhaigou National Park is found in the high Min mountain range north of Chengdu in Northern Sichuan Province and Audley’s China experts say it is one of the country’s finest scenic spectacles — with snowy peaks rising out of heavy forest.

Ancient Chinese legend says that the goddess Semo accidentally smashed her mirror here and the pieces that fell down the mountain forming beautiful lakes, streams and waterfalls.

Audley recommends a visit to Zechawa and Rize – the two southern valleys in the Jiuzhaigou National Park. Zechawa is the western valley and the spot that Audley’s China experts say is not to be missed is found at the end of the valley. Zechawa’s Long Lake and multi-coloured lake are stunning year round, but Autumn is a particularly special time to visit when the spectacle is enhanced with the trees turning a multitude of colours.

Rize valley is the south-western branch of Jiuzhaigou and features Five Flower Lake, a stunning shallow multi-coloured lake (azure blue, blackish green and light yellow) crisscrossed with fallen tree trunks.

Banaue, Philippines

Audley’s Southeast Asia specialists recommend a visit to Banaue — in their expert view this currently relatively unknown place is set to rival Sapa (Vietnam) for those wanting to trek amongst the rice fields. Banaue boasts five stunning UNESCO recognised rice terraces which date back over 2,000 years, trekking routes and villages to explore. Audley’s #MyLittleKnown is the hidden rice terraces of Mayoyao - an area newly introduced by Audley Travel and not on the radar of many visitors. The views are breath-taking with towering peaks to enjoy, small farming communities to explore and multiple trekking opportunities.

The region is conveniently served by a new flight route from Manila (Clark) to Bagabag (the closest airport to Banaue).

Paternoster, South Africa

Paternoster is a small fishing village on South Africa’s west coast. Much of its appeal comes from the fact it is far off the tourist trail – most of its economy is based on small-scale angling and crayfish netting and, as such, the village boasts charming little white washed cottages where the fishermen live and their colourful painted boats which line the shore when they are not out fishing. During August and September, the village is further awash with bright colours from a spectacular floral bloom.

It is also home to a gastronomical scene that punches above its weight, with restaurants producing delicious fare made from local ingredients in stunning surroundings – for example, Gaaitjie’s extremely high-quality cuisine is served to guests in a simple, 70-year-old white-washed fisherman’s cottage on the beach.

Audley’s South Africa experts say that a must-see place in Paternoster is the Columbine Nature Reserve, just three kilometres from the village. It was established to conserve the indigenous sandveld fynbos, providing a stunning contrast to the salty plains typical of the area.

Despite its relatively small size, the nature reserve is home to some fantastic hiking trails and it is on one of these that Audley’s next #MyLittleKnown destination is found. The view is stunning — vast vegetated dunes sweep down to a pink shore of granite boulders, little coves and beaches which are tinted blue by the oyster shells which are washed ashore and ground to fine particles. It is also one of the best places in South Africa to see whales — in fact, more whales were spotted in Paternoster last whale watching season than in Hermanus, traditionally known as South Africa’s whale watching capital.

Mount Borradaile, Australia

Audley’s #MyLittleKnown in Australia is a sacred aboriginal site in Arnhelmland, at the north end of the Northern Territory. The vista is rugged, with billabongs, flood plains, monsoonal rainforests and paperbark swamps dotted throughout the valley. The caves here tell the story of over 50,000 years of history of their traditional custodians, the Amurdak people and offer magnificent examples of rock art – with more still being discovered. The artwork is fascinating, marked onto the rocks using charcoal, clay and vegetable dyes and telling the stories of the animals and spirits that guide the aboriginal culture.

Audley’s Australia specialists say it is a special and unique place, ideal to learn more about the aboriginal way of life. Access to Mount Borradaile is restricted to permit holders, as it is operated under an honorary custodian status given by the traditional landowners. Permits are automatically issued for guests saying at Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Camp — giving guests exclusive access.

Guests stay in cabins surrounding a newly completed eco lodge and enjoy experiences including cruises along the billabong seeing wildlife including sea eagles, jacanas (tropical waders) and cockatoos as well as watching crocodiles in the wetlands. Visitors can explore further into the woodland and rainforests, taking the wheel of a four-wheel drive.

Bequia, the Caribbean

Bequia is a charming island, nine miles south of St Vincent and is the northernmost island of the Grenadines. Although the largest of the Grenadine islands, Bequia is a true hideaway island, away from the traditional tourist's radar. Steeped in sailing and pirate history it offers peaceful and secluded white sand beaches and a relaxed, friendly pace of life. A favourite spot for the Audley specialists is found on a coastal walk from Port Elizabeth to Princess Margaret’s beach – a truly authentic and charming Caribbean hideaway. Audley’s Caribbean experts say the best place to recharge the batteries after the walk is Jack’s restaurant on Princess Margaret’s beach – the food is delicious and the location is perfect for enjoying a fantastic view across the harbour.

Molokai, Hawaii

The shade of a kiawe tree on Kapukahehu Beach on Molokai, a small Hawaiian island, is the location of Audley’s next #MyLittleKnown. Life on Molokai, known as ‘the friendly island’ is slow and relaxed, and the island itself is one of the most traditional in Hawaii.

Kapukahehu Beach is found on Molokai’s remote western shore and Audley’s experts say the journey to it is well rewarded with one of the best beaches for swimming on the island. The calm waters of the bay are thanks to the protection given by the reef. The beach is also known as Dixie Maru Cove – a name given in the 1920s when the Japanese sailing boat Dixie Maru was shipwrecked off the shore (the name plate from the ship hangs near the beach’s gate).

Audley’s USA experts say visitors shouldn’t leave Molokai without a trip to the town of Kalaupapa on the island’s north coast. Selected as the location for a leprosy colony in 1866, the town remains the chosen home of several of the former colony’s residents. As such, access to the area (now a National Historic Site) is regulated and tourists can only visit as guests on one approved tour. Some of the most breath-taking views on the island can be found in Kalaupapa – accessible by the Molokai Mule Ride which takes visitors down the tallest sea cliffs in the world (over 2,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean). At the bottom, in the shade of a palm tree, visitors can enjoy the views along the coast line of the vegetation covered cliffs raising from the sea.

Alex Bentley, Head of Product for Audley Travel, says:

“At Audley Travel, we pride ourselves on being able to recommend places to our clients that they won’t find in the guidebooks. Our destination knowledge is unrivalled as our staff have all travelled extensively in the countries and regions they represent. We all have our favourite little spots and we would love to hear from fellow travellers about the places that have struck a chord with them.”

To share a #MyLittleKnown with Audley, travellers should post a photo on social media using #MyLittleKnown, explain why it is so special and mention @AudleyTravel. More information is available at www.audleytravel.com/social.

Audley Travel can arrange tailor-made trips to all of its #MyLittleKnown recommendations. Trips are designed based on the client’s budget, tastes and wish list. For more information visit www.audleytravel.com or call 01993 838000.

Notes to editors

All images can be downloaded together from here or by individual destinations using the links in the release.

Sample itineraries to visit each of Audley’s #MyLittleKnown destinations are below:

Riobamba, Ecuador

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to Ecuador. A 13-day trip Ecuador by river and rail includes one night in Riobamba and costs from £5,815 per person (based on two sharing) and includes all flights, transfers, accommodation and excursions. For more information visit audleytravel.com/Ecuador or call 01993 838655.

Lake Kussharo, Japan

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to Japan. A 15-day trip Wildlife and Hot Springs of Hokkaido includes two nights in the Akan National Park and costs from £6,245 per person (based on two sharing) and includes all flights, transfers, accommodation and excursions. For more information visit audleytravel.com/Japan or call 01993 838210.

Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

China- Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to China. A 16 night trip includes two nights in Jiuzhaigou as well as four nights in Beijing and costs from £5,995 per person (based on two sharing). Price includes international flights, transfers and accommodation. For more information visit audleytravel.com/China or call 01993 838220.

Banaue, Philippines

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to the Philippines. A 16-day trip Highlights of the Philippines includes three nights in Banaue and costs from £4,155 per person (based on two sharing) and includes all flights, transfers, accommodation and excursions. For more information visit audleytravel.com/Philippines or call 01993 838155.

Paternoster, South Africa

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to South Africa. A 15 night trip, Western Cape self-drive, includes three nights in Paternoster and costs from £2,415 per person (based on two sharing). Price includes international flights, transfers, car hire, excursions and accommodation. For more information visit audleytravel.com/south-africa or call 01993 838550.

Mount Borrodaile, Australia

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to Australia. A 17-day trip to Australia's Top End, including a self-drive itinerary visiting Darwin, Nitmiluk Gorge, Kakadu National Park, plus charter flights and three nights at Davidsons Camp, costs from £5,480 per person (based on two sharing) and includes all flights, transfers, accommodation and excursions. For more information visit audleytravel.com/Australia or call 01993 838810.

Bequia, the Caribbean

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to the Caribbean. A 14 night trip, Bequia Beach Hotel and Barbados and Grenada, includes seven nights in Bequia and costs from £3,012 per person (based on two sharing). Price includes international flights, transfers and accommodation. For more information visit audleytravel.com/Caribbean or call 01993 838275.

Molokai, Hawaii

Audley Travel offers tailor-made itineraries to the USA. A 14-day trip includes three nights on Molokai and costs from £4,500 per person (based on two sharing) and includes all flights, transfers, accommodation and excursions. For more information visit audleytravel.com/USA or call 01993 838755.

About Audley Travel

Audley Travel offers tailor-made trips to over 80 countries across the world. Each trip is designed by a destination specialist who knows the country in great detail, having lived there or explored it many times. Each trip is designed specifically for a client, based on their tastes, interests and budget but with a common commitment to quality and to showing clients the highlights of a destination in a different light, and introducing them to places and experiences that others might miss. For more information on all of Audley’s tailor-made trips, please visit www.audleytravel.com.