You’ve heard of Paris and Rome, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the largest shopping malls in Bangkok. Yes, we all know about the world’s most visited cities, they are busy, charming, historic, museum-filled and diverse.
They have unique skylines, Michelin star restaurants, and coffee shops cluttered with students and entrepreneurs hovered over laptops. Locals in sidewalk tables people-watching and couples oblivious to the world around them in deep conversations.
They’re listed in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best Cities in The World”. The have all of my (few) but guilty pleasures: international chains such as Joe & the Juice in SoHo New York – to start my day with a freshly squeezed juice, Amorino gelato in Mexico City – to satisfy my sweet tooth with a flower shaped gelato cone, and Ladurée Tokyo in Shinjuku, home of the best macaroons. They are cities that I love!
But what about traveling off the beaten path, to unique destinations around the world?
If you follow my Instagram travel account, you’ve seen my featured photos for the #travelguruflagchallenge. The goal has been to inspire others to visit countries I’ve been to by featuring their flag and photos I’ve taken throughout my travels. Each post has a special memory, description or recommendation of the country I’m featuring.
I like to join walking tours in the cities I visit to learn the specifics of the history, understand the mysteries behind their “Old Towns” and learn more about the local culture! For me, it’s all about using the world as my textbook and increasing cultural awareness.
For example, did you know the Danish flag is the oldest flag in the world? The Cambodian flag features Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. And the United Kingdom flag also known as the Union Jack, is designed with the red cross of St George (England), the blue saltire of St Andrew (Scotland), and red saltire of St Patrick (Ireland).
My favorite part has been receiving comments on the posts for countries less visited. I’ve found some of my favorite places to be those that are not found in the most-travelled list. My hope is that awareness will encourage YOU to travel and explore!
Since I find much joy in sharing a little bit of my travel knowledge with you, here are my personal recommendations for 5 Unique Cities To Visit In 2019:
Porto, Portugal –
Home of Port Wine
Port wine is a sweet fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in Portugal (and the reason I missed the flight one time), it is delicious! These wine cellars by themselves are worth the visit to the less frequented European country. Porto is a charming coastal town that is quite special in my memories. You will find breathtaking views of the orange tiled homes in various sky-high lookouts and golden rooftops throughout the city. Its old riverside center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Can you tell I’m on the hunt to visit as many UNESCO sites as I can? They tend to be my most favorite!).
A day in Porto includes a stop for a francesinha, quite the meat lover’s sandwhich, and Livraria Lello, a stunning bookshop frequented by JK Rowling with an impressive forked spiral staircase – not to be missed by all Harry Potter fans! Don’t forget to buy your entrance voucher here which is credited towards your purchase at the bookshop.
Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom –
Found in the Castle Capital of the World
Yes, you feel like you’re in a fairytale because there are around 600 castles to visit in Wales! Cardiff is a family friendly, port city that has transformed from a Roman fort into the modern capital city it is today. A day in Cardiff would include a Castle visit, a stop to grab some grub at Cardiff Bay where you can catch a free showing of an outdoor movie, and a stop at Fabulous Welshcakes (you can stop the last day to bring some home or order online!).
Of course, your visit is not complete without taking a nighttime ghost
tour through the Cardiff Castle, and taking home a Welsh carved wooden lovespoon.
For more info, contact me or the Cardiff Tourist Information Centre!
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic –
European paradise in the Caribbean
This is the kind of place that you daydream of when you’re wanderlusting for the Caribbean. Palm tree lined beaches with crystal clear, peaceful waters. Not flooded with tourists from the cruise ships and instead the perfect beach town to guarantee days and days of relaxation. It’s not uncommon to overhear both Spanish and French conversations from the locals. This gem was discovered and is home to a prominent European community.
You can be sure to find delicious, open-air waterfront restaurants featured in Lonely Planet, such as La Terrase. If you order the octopus please send my watering mouth a picture or two! I promise you, you’ll never want to leave Las Terrenas. I’m counting down the days for us to return to my boyfriend’s home country in December to celebrate the holidays with a beach vibe!
If you find yourself in the Dominican Republic next month, please give me a shout!
Tallinn, Estonia –
Back to Medieval Times
Where is Estonia? It is small country in northern Europe, bordering Russia. Tallinn, its capital city, is one of the best preserved Medieval cities in the world. It’s also deemed as the Silicon Valley of Europe and a badly bombed city after WWII.
It’s historic centre is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with cobblestone streets and 0 modern reconstruction. It’s the Baltic state where you can find Neo-Byzantine architecture such as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Quite the unique destination!!
A visit to Tallinn will likely result in buying a “Ushanka” (if you like the one I’m wearing, shop for yours here!) After walking the old town, you should heard to the Estonian Open Air Museum, an 18th century rural village in a forested park.
For more on Tallinn, Yulia’s travel smart guide gives you all the info you need and recommendation on where to stay!
Strasbourg, France –
Capital of Christmas
Strasbourg might as well be the closest thing to a visit to the North Pole! Found close to the French-German border, this city if known as Capitale de Noel. Its Christmas market has earned world recognition for its magical illuminated decorations for people of all ages. The Great Christmas Tree of Place Kléber reaches almost a 100 feet in height! You will find yourself in a happy holiday cheer, lost among hand made ornaments and half timbered homes.
Dress warm! But also, vin chaud (mulled wine) is easily found to warm you up as you walk through endless booths of local artisans and Christmas décor. The light show is not to be missed on at the Strasbourg Cathedral!
How do you get there? We rented a car from Paris and made our way to Strasbourg in 4 and a half hours. The underground parking is easy to find, and you can explore on foot the remainder of the time.
Are you ready to plan your vacation for 2019? Do you plan to visit any of these cities? Contact me for tips or advice or just to share your experience. I’d love to hear about your travel adventures!
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Signed after booking our next flight to the Dominican Republic (!),
Salma Travel Guru
I use my own experiences to be your travel guru.
Contact me to save you money & plan your next trip!