Cassis close to Marseille France
Europe’s 35 secret travel gems
With a stunning 35 entries on the ‘100 Secret Gems You Need to Know About’ (click for the full list), it’s pretty clear that Europe is still one of our and your firm favourites.  
Bantayan Island, Philippines secret travel gems Asia
Five secret travel gems of the Philippines
Home to the peculiar Chocolate Hills on the Batayan Island and to stunning stretches of white sand on Siargao Island, Philippines is a beautiful and riveting place... 1. Calaguas Islands Where on earth is it? A small group of islands in the province of Camarines Norte. Why you need to know about it The Philippines is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any peaceful tropical retreats left to discover. [caption id="attachment_25951" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Calaguas Islands in Philippines remains relatively untouched by people.[/caption] The Calaguas group of islands are largely untouched and the native people want to keep it that way, with government controls on tour operators to maintain its slow-paced way of life.   With a number of campsites and beach huts to stay in on the white sand beaches, such as Mahabang Buhangin Beach on Tinaga, it’s still a relatively undiscovered gem. Get there soon! 2. Siargao Island Where on Earth is it? In the Philippine Sea, 800 kilometres south-east of Manila. Why you need to know about it Siargao (pronounced Shar-gow) is almost blissfully untouched by the hand of man, and what ‘development’ there is is completely laid-back.   The tear-shaped island has long been a drawcard for surfers – it is known as the surf capital of the Philippines – but there’s lots to entice non-boarders, not least the achingly clear waters and white sandy beaches that look as soft as icing sugar.   Island life centres around the town of General Luna, with its bicycle traffic and restaurants, or you can retreat from the world at Dedon Island, a boutique resort that is as breathtaking as its surroundings. [caption id="attachment_25952" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Siargao Island is renowned for it's crystal clear waters (photo: Melanie Huehnlein).[/caption] 3. Bohol Where on Earth is it? A must-visit island off the east coast of Cebu. Why you need to know about it A ferry-hop from Cebu, Bohol is home to the iconic Chocolate Hills, more than a thousand grass-covered, cone-shaped hillocks. The grass turns brown in the dry season, hence the name, and it is surely one of the most alien-like landscapes on the planet. [caption id="attachment_25953" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Bohol, Philippines is where the iconic Chocolate Hills can be found, thousands of dome shaped hills dot the landscape.[/caption] The island is also home to the bizarre-looking tarsier primates, with their enormous protruding eyes, which you can ogle at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary visitor centre in the town of Corella. If that isn’t enough of a reason to come here, the adjoining island of Panglao is one of the world’s great diving destinations. 4. Bantayan Island Where on Earth is it? An island paradise in the Visayan Sea, north-west of Cebu. Why you need to know about it The Philippines is part of the coral triangle, an area with more species of fish and coral than any other marine environment on earth.   Bantayan Island is a great place to base yourself to explore the reefs found in its marine reserves and the stunning beaches around its circumference. it’s big enough to support some lively towns with great hotels, yet manages to retain a chilled-out feel. [caption id="attachment_25955" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Traditional Ivatan stone houses with thatched roofs in Batanes, Philippines.[/caption] 5. Batanes Where on Earth is it? The northernmost archipelago of the Philippines. Why you need to know about it The Philippines is a world unto itself – more than 7000 islands of cities and national parks, beaches and coral reefs. The Batanes sit in the far north of the country, straddling the gap between the Philippines and Taiwan.   Home to the native Ivatans and their traditional stone houses with thatched roofs, it has the lowest population of any of the islands, most of it given over to rolling hills of lush cattle pastures; hire a car or a bike and explore this pastoral dream for yourself.   More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia
Kythira, Greece, secret travel gems Europe
Four secret spots to explore in Greece
Greece's stunning seaside views and charming villages make it very popular with tourists. Fortunately these 4 of our 100 Secret Gems You Need To Know About (click for the full list) you'll be able to enjoy sans crowds. 1. Kythira Where on Earth is it? Kythira is one of Greece’s seven Ionian Islands. Why you need to know about it While tourists flock to Mykonos and Santorini, the Ionian Islands possess a less frenetic pace.   From ancient times the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Venetians have traipsed over the island, but in the modern era it’s Australian accents that proliferate: many inhabitants emigrated to Australia (comically referred to as Big Kythira) in the early 20th century and their descendants regularly return to holiday.   Other tourists are in short supply, which means the island’s rugged landscape, silky-soft beaches and white-washed villages are left in relative peace. 2. Crete Where on Earth is it? Greece’s largest island sits in the southern part of the Aegean Sea. Why you need to know about it Having only united with Greece in 1913, Crete has its own unique culture and customs. [caption id="attachment_25731" align="alignleft" width="667"] White-washed windmills of Crete, Greece.[/caption] But there’s still that quintessential Greek Island charm: sun-drenched beaches and hidden coves, white-washed buildings, frescoed chapels and churches, and narrow laneways with coffee houses, artisanal boutiques and tavernas. 3. Kastellorizo Where on Earth is it? A tiny Greek isle off the coast of southern Turkey. Why you need to know about it Just a couple of kilometres off the Turkish coast, Kastellorizo is the smallest of Greece's Dodecanese islands. [caption id="attachment_25732" align="alignleft" width="667"] A rustic door on a building in Kastellorizo, Greece.[/caption] The main town spills down to a colourful, mansion-lined harbourfront with plenty of tavernas to while away the hours; enjoy the seafood while watching fishing boats come and go.   Follow a path at the back of town into the hills for spectacular views to the Turkish coast. If you want to explore further, catch a boat to Kas on Turkey's mainland, a lovely seaside town. 4. Meteora Where on Earth is it? In Kalabaka in the western region of Thessaly, 355 kilometres from Athens. Why you need to know about it A collection of monolithic pillars crowned by a clutch of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, Meteora is a confluence of man, nature and faith. [caption id="attachment_25733" align="alignleft" width="667"] 100 secret gems: Looming boulders and monastries in Meteora, Greece.[/caption] Hermetic monks settled here from the 11th century, with 24 monasteries built during the 15th century on the perilous peaks, with building materials carried to the top by ropes, ladders, nets and baskets.   Six monasteries survive today and are collectively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors need to climb lots of stairs, but the views, history and 16th-century frescoes are truly divine.   More… The 35 Secret Gems of Europe
Agonda Beach, Goa, India
Four secret travel gems of India
From sipping fragrant tea in the tea gardens of Coonoor to trekking a breathtaking hike to Dzongri Peak, India's 4 secret gems will offer experiences to last a lifetime. 1. Agonda Beach, Goa Where on Earth is it? In goa state on India’s south-west coast, on the Arabian Sea. Why you need to know about it It’s the best beach in India, according to TripAdvisor members, thanks to it being not much more than a sleepy hamlet hugging the wide, white sands on an idyllic stretch of the Arabian Sea; a contrast to some of the big resorts further north.   It’s also home to a hatchery for Olive Ridley turtles, providing a great chance to see them nesting. Grab a colourful beach hut for a week and get to know this wonderful palm tree-framed golden crescent by doing nothing much at all. 2. Coonoor Where on Earth is it? It is the second-largest hill station in the Nilgiri Hills in India’s southern state, Tamil Nadu. Why you need to know about it One of three hill stations in the Nilgiri Hills (the others are Ooty and Kotagiri), Coonoor sits at an altitude of 1839 metres and is surrounded by tea plantations. [caption id="attachment_25996" align="alignleft" width="667"] A vibrant green tea garden in Coonoor, India.[/caption] Though the town is accessible by road, many visitors choose to arrive via the UNESCO World Heritage-listed mountain railway built from 1891–1908; its track passes over 250 bridges.   Many people visit the hill station in summer because the cool climate offers a welcome break from India’s stifling heat. 3. Dzongri, Sikkim Where on Earth is it? In the state of Sikkim, north-west India. Why you need to know about it Sitting at an altitude of 4200 metres, Dzongri is incredible for trekking. The five-day journey to Dzongri Peak and back starts from the town of Yuksom in West Sikkim, a six-hour drive from the nearest railway station. [caption id="attachment_25998" align="alignleft" width="1000"] A dramatic view of Kangchenjunga from Dzongri, Sikkim, India.[/caption] Passing through verdant rhododendron forest, past Buddhist monasteries and taking in views of snow-drenched mountains, the journey can be a taxing one, but standing on top of the world looking out over uninterrupted 360-degree views will make all the work seem worth it.   Hypnotised by the Himalayas? read about Leisa Tyler's experience here:  Sikkim: The spirit of India's Himalayas. 4. Gangotri Where on Earth is it? In the Indian state of Uttarkashi, 470 kilometres north of Delhi, close to the Indo-Tibetan border. Why you need to know about it Surrounded by the Indian Himalayas, the picturesque town of Gangotri is an important pilgrimage for Hindus as it’s the origin of the sacred Ganga (River Ganges). [caption id="attachment_25997" align="alignleft" width="1000"] India's Gangotri has a divine beauty and is an important pilgrimage for Hindus.[/caption] Pay your respects at the 18th-century temple, which stands at an altitude of 3042 metres. Alcohol and meat are strictly prohibited here, but you’ll find delicious vegan cuisine at the local dhabas.   More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia
Ilulissat Greenland secret travel gem
Scandinavia – 5 secret travel gems
Spurn the sun and surf, Scandinavia is home to 5 secret travel gems from the majestic glaciers of Ilulissat, the active volcano of Mount Hekla, and the vivid, vibrating Northern Lights, which command us to stand in awe of Mother Nature - part of our 100 Secret Travel Gems; see the full list here.
Norway's Lofoten islands - 100 Secret Travel Gems
100 Secret Travel Gems You Need to Know About
We present to you: ‘100 Secret Travel Gems You Need to Know About’. Thanks to your suggestions, we have put together a list of stunning destinations around the world that are still blissfully undiscovered by the masses. 
Cefalu, Italy
Eight of Italy’s most beautiful secret travel spots
Pizzas, plazas and palazzi, Italy does it all in grand style... ... and with an impressive 8 entries in our 100 Secret Gems You Need To Know About list, it's a must-visit for those who love history, culture and cheese. 1. Ortigia Where on Earth is it? This small island forms the heart of the evocative old town of Syracuse on the east coast of Sicily. Why you need to know about it Its tiny size and isolation has allowed Ortigia to retain its rustic charm after centuries of settlement by the likes of the Greeks, Byzantines and Romans. [caption id="attachment_25744" align="alignleft" width="1000"] In Ortiga, Italy, locals and tourists enjoy a dip in the turquoise waters.[/caption] Its creamy white-columned Duomo di Siracusa and wide Piazza Duomo are scorched by sun during the summer months, while its narrow medieval streets, populated by crumbling Baroque palazzi and myriad churches, festooned by clotheslines of colourful drying washing, provide cool respite in the heat of the day.   When the sun sets after a day of eating Italian food and swimming off the rocks in the Ionian Sea, the buildings that have stood resolute for centuries are bathed in a warm honey hue. 2. The Aeolian Islands Where on Earth is it? In the Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily. Why you need to know about it Accessible by high-speed ferry from the Sicilian town of Messina, these largely undiscovered islands, which are dotted across 1600 square-kilometres, are anchored by Lipari, with its ancient ruins and relatively bustling town. [caption id="attachment_25745" align="alignleft" width="1000"] A view of the Mediterranean sea from the Aeolian Islands.[/caption] The outer islands offer the ultimate Mediterranean experience: Salina with its verdant landscape and lazy villages; the jet-setter’s hideaway of Panarea (Giorgio Armani has a house here); and the rugged beauty of Stromboli, its main town clinging to the base of an active volcano. 3. Pienza Where on Earth is it? This town is snuggled in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia region. Why you need to know about it Sitting atop a hill and boasting breathtaking views of the rolling greens of the Val d’Orcia, Pienza was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 for its superb Renaissance architecture that dates back to the 15th century. [caption id="attachment_25746" align="alignleft" width="1000"] The rolling green hills of Pienza, Italy (photo: Vanessa Jackman).[/caption] This charming medieval town is also considered the capital of pecorino cheese – if you visit in early September you may be able to celebrate the cheese festival, when the town is abuzz with activity. 4. Civita di Bagnoregio Where on Earth is it? Set atop a rock in Viterbo Province. Why you need to know about it Perched on a plateau formed by the Chiaro and Torbido streams, wind and rain is gradually eroding the volcanic rock on which it is perched, its lovely buildings slowly falling away. For this reason it’s known as ‘il paese che muore’, or ‘the town that is slowly dying’. [caption id="attachment_25747" align="alignleft" width="667"] Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy is perched on top of volcanic rock.[/caption] An elevated walkway carries you up to the citadel, where you’ll find pretty plazas, a museum and the exquisite Villa Cuevas if you plan to stay overnight. 5. Cefalu Where on Earth is it? In Palermo Province on the northern coast of Sicily. Why you need to know about it This medieval town is so pretty that Giuseppe Tornatore set parts of his masterpiece Cinema Paradiso here. [caption id="attachment_25748" align="alignleft" width="1000"] The fishing port of Cefalu, Italy overlooks crystal clear water.[/caption] With a fishing port hugging a sparkling, crystal-clear cove, a popular stretch of beach, and plenty of historical sights to explore, such as the magnificent cathedral, Cefalù is the basis for a perfect Mediterranean getaway.   The whole town is set off by the colossal Rocca, an outcrop of rock that dominates the skyline; climb it for views along this spectacular corner of Sicily. 6. Camogli Where on Earth is it? In the Genoa Province on the spectacular Portofino Peninsula. Why you need to know about it Just around the peninsula from the idyllic village of Portofino, Camogli is its big brother in the beautiful parcel of land that makes up the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino. [caption id="attachment_25749" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Towering palazzi sits along the beach of Camogli in Italy.[/caption] While Portofino has always been a quaint fishing village, Camogli was a major seaport in the Middle Ages. Today, it’s a stretch of multicoloured, towering palazzi that sit along its beach, a busy little harbour and a popular retreat for Italian families, with great hotels and restaurants. 7. Bolzano Where on Earth is it? South Tyrol in northern Italy. Why you need to know about it The ‘Gateway to the Dolomites’, Bolzano was once the meeting point between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. [caption id="attachment_25750" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Bolzano produces unique alpine cheeses and wines, enjoy a glass while enjoying a view of Dolomites Mountains.[/caption] Its streets are lined with pastel-hued houses and its farmers’ and flea markets sell the unique produce of the region, such as alpine cheeses and wines, and 19th-century artefacts betraying the region’s rich history. 8. Castelfranco Veneto Where on Earth is it? An historic town in the province of Treviso, in the north. Why you need to know about it Just 40 kilometres inland from Venice, the heart of Castelfranco Veneto is enclosed by a moat and medieval walls, some of the best-preserved in the country, its buttresses dating back to the 12th century. [caption id="attachment_25751" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Medieval walls in the town of Castelfranco Veneto, Italy.[/caption] At its heart is the Duomo, the cathedral, which holds its main attraction: the famous painting Pala di Giorgione, an altar piece by the town’s talented son, Renaissance painter Giorgione. More… The 35 Secret Gems of Europe
No cars allowed on Gili Islands, Indonesia
Three secret travel gems of Indonesia
The 3 hidden gems of Indonesia offer an experience away from your typical commercialised offering, from the largest Buddha temple in the world to an island that prohibits cars. 1. Gili Islands Where on Earth is it? The Gilis are an archipelago of three small islands off the coast of Lombok. Why you need to know about it Surrounded by pristine water and fringed by pure-white sand, The three atolls that make up the Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – are an idyllic break from popular Bali (just A two-hour boat ride away).   The fact that they do not allow cars nor motorbikes is bliss; tourists rent bicycles instead. The most developed of the three, Gili Trawangan, is a bit of a party island, while the other two are more laid-back, with hip hotels, bars and restaurants popping up. 2. Borobudur Where on Earth is it? An ancient complex in Central Java. Why you need to know about it The largest Buddhist temple in the world is a massive hulk of sculptural work planted in a lush landscape. Constituting one the most important Buddhist monuments on the planet, it was built in the 9th century and has 2672 reliefs and 504 statues of Buddha. Incorporating Indian influences as well as indigenous art, it’s a distinctly Indonesian masterpiece. [caption id="attachment_26014" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Borobudur Temple surrounded by lush green jungle in Indonesia.[/caption] Pilgrims start their journey at the base of the temple and wind their way to the top in a symbolic journey to nirvana. Spend a few days getting to know the region and rise early to see it at its best.   If you're after a Bali holiday of the spiritual kind, Despina Meris finds a peace in a rejuvenating resort : Is this Bali’s most relaxing hideaway? 3. Sidemen, Bali Where on Earth is it? In east Bali, a 90-minute drive from Denpasar airport. Why you need to know about it The allures of Bali have been commercialised for so long that it’s staggering to find there are still parts of this island that offer a glimpse of life as it once was. Sidemen is one such place, Surrounded by mountains and lush rice paddies that day-trippers flock to see in Ubud. [caption id="attachment_26015" align="alignleft" width="667"] Away from the typical touristy areas of Bali, bean crops are planted on the hills of Sidemen, Bali.[/caption] There are no flashy resorts, but sacrificing chilled towels is a small price to pay for the privilege of discovering the undiscovered.   More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia