Travel

Jenna Berndt
5 minute read
30 Dec 2019
9:22 am

Hidden travel gems to visit in 2020

Jenna Berndt

Be a trendy undertourist and make the journey to these off-the-beaten-track, alternative destinations in 2020.

Picture: Supplied

According to pretty much everyone in the know (we’re looking at you Skift, NY Times, Independent, etc.), undertourism was one of 2019’s most significant travel trends.

While some tourist hotspots buckle under the pressure of too many visitors, others are desperately seeking the Tourism Fairy Godmother to wave her magic wand in their direction.

Undertourism, roughly defined as “inadequate levels of tourism,” are destinations or communities hoping for more travellers so that they may benefit from the many socio-economic benefits that tourism brings.

Get away from the crowds and journey to these hidden gems:

Northern Ireland

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The Republic of Ireland has long welcomed many South African travellers to her shores. Just a hop, skip, and a jump to the north, however, Northern Ireland hopes to double its tourist arrivals by 2039.

Filled with just as much toe-tapping music and marvellous myths and legends as Dublin to the south, Belfast and rural Northern Ireland offer the same Irish magic. From the surreal Giant’s Causeway to the Titanic Belfast Visitor Centre, there are many fantastic attractions showcasing the rich history of the area. Art lovers are in for a treat when they embark on a walking tour around Belfast, with some 2,000 murals documented on the city’s streets. Don’t miss The People’s Gallery in the Bogside suburb of Derry and the 12 wall-high murals on Rossville Street, the site of Bloody Sunday.

Sicily

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Some say it’s the ‘new’ Italy. But that would be an understatement, as Sicily has just as many of her unique charms and treasures.

Sicily is the Mediterranean’s largest island, situated just off the boot of Italy. The majority of its visitors are local Italians, but it does enjoy a sprinkling of French, German and British holidaymakers too.

For a laid-back, sun-kissed holiday, where you can do as much or as little as you please, Sicily is just the spot to hideaway. Visit the quaint fishing villages and sun-warmed ancient ruins, or dive straight into the warm, turquoise water that laps the quiet shoreline.

Most visitors head straight to Sicily’s east coast, taking in Catania, Taormina and Messina, and ticking off Mount Etna and the bustling capital, Palermo. But go off the beaten path, tackling the cliffs to Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro, Sicily’s first natural reserve, and the 300 000-year-old Alcantara Gorge.

Dining with the locals is a must-do when visiting Sicily, says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa which offers a Trafalgar Be My Guest experience in Sicily.

“Guests can visit Maria Marano’s wine farm on the slopes of Mount Etna, before joining her in her kitchen for local appetisers, insights into family recipes and renowned regional chocolate – all paired with the family’s favourite wine,” says Teresa.

Georgia

 

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You’d be forgiven for struggling to find it on the map. Not to be confused with the US state of the same name, Georgia is snuggled at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, along the northeast border of Turkey.

The former Soviet republic boasts access to the snow-capped Caucasus Mountain and Black Sea beaches. Don’t leave without visiting the cave monastery of Vardzia and getting lost in the maze of its cobblestoned capital, Tbilisi.

South African wine lovers won’t miss their local Cab Sav in Kakheti, the heart of Georgia’s wine region. It’s the perfect spot to connect with locals, enjoy a lunch and wine tasting, and learn how to bake traditional Georgian bread and churchkhela sweets.

Armenia

 

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Just below Georgia, Armenia is perfectly coupled with her neighbour for a history and culture holiday combo.

From the ‘The Blue Pearl of Armenia,’ Lake Sevan, to the lakeside village of Noratus and the country’s very own “Stonehenge,” Karahunge, you’ll marvel at how unknown these unique gems are.

“Trafalgar guests on the newly launched Georgia and Armenia Uncovered itinerary visit Shinuhayr village to see how the community makes a living from crafting intricately detailed and exquisite wool carpets,” says Teresa.

Colombia

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Rediscover South America’s Colombia in 2020. Colombians are working hard to welcome visitors, and shake off the destination’s former doubtful reputation. The new Colombia is stable, charming and filled with hidden treasures.

Julian Guerrero, Vice Minister of Tourism, reported that Columbia had experienced continuous growth in tourism for the past 15 years, thanks to improved air access, investment and cruise lines stopping in port.

From the historic neighbourhoods of Bogotá (which is earning itself a name on the culinary calendar with award-winning restaurants cropping up) to the quiet of the tropical coastline, Colombia offers a taste of everything. Nature, culture, history and wildlife – it’s all here. Coffee lovers can fuel up with the world’s most famous adrenalin-boosting drink in the Coffee Triangle. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and the perfect place to learn how your brew is perfected.

Egypt

Returning to the tourism radar, Egypt is bouncing back with its improved stability and economy. The 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) report noted that Egypt’s tourism and travel sector registered the highest performance improvement globally, jumping nine places to rank 65th.

Teresa counts herself fortunate to have visited the country many times, naming the country’s staggering wealth of ancient history, tombs and monuments, museums and the life-giving oasis of the Nile River as unforgettable must-dos.

Be a trendy undertourist and make the journey to these off-the-beaten-track, alternative destinations in 2020.

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