Sometimes travel is more than just getting away.
We travel to find ourselves, make a difference, learn about the world, and be inspired by its many teachings.
Different places on our planet embody this sentiment.
They’re hidden gems off-the-beaten-path, and we’ve identified four we’d like to share.
These four places call out to people looking to make a difference.
People looking for a new beginning.
Travellers wanting to enjoy a lap of luxury, and others who are captivated by adventure.
Declutter in Chioggia
Where is “Piccola Venice?”:
This place is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets.
“Piccola Venice”, or Little Venice, is Chioggia’s affectionate moniker.
It’s a quaint island city connected to the mainland by two bridges.
Why should you Declutter in Chioggia?:
You’d be doing Venice a favour by visiting its smaller, cuter neighbour.
Some Venetians weren’t too bothered by the pandemic.
It meant that they could finally have their city to themselves, and it wouldn’t be some overcrowded cluster of visitors looking to take the perfect Instagram picture.
Venice is already sinking, but the many tourists exacerbate the problem. Waves from their daily cruise ships erode at the city’s buildings.
Venetians don’t feel like their city belongs to them.
By visiting Chioggia, you’re taking pressure off of its famous counterpart.
What can you do there?:
Witness A Moment in Time
Go to Chioggia and get a glimpse of history by visiting the world’s oldest clock. Standing 30 metres tall is the clock tower, not far from Saint Andrew’s Church. The earliest documented citing dates back to 1386. But it may even be older.
Taste World-Class Seafood
Chioggia is well-known for its fish market, and it’s one of the most important in Italy. Stroll through the Pescheria and grab some fresh food straight out of the sea. Get a taste of authentic Chioggian cuisine.
Learn the History
There are some unmissable churches and palaces in Chioggia. Learn more about the culture through these stunning establishments.
- The Civic Museum dates back to 1315 and holds several archaeological and wartime pieces.
- Santa Maria’s Gate and its Venetian Lion sculpture.
- Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, dedicated to Santi Felice and Fortunato, Chioggia’s own patron saints.
- The Museum of Adriatic Zoology and its Elephant Shark.
Find True Serenity
Chioggia gives off a soothing ambience, and the embodiment of that is where your feet touch the sand. Cross the bridge leading from Chioggia’s historical centre to Sottomarina. You’ll find 10 kilometres of the finest sand. The Sottomarina beach has been awarded the “Blue Flag” several times, recognising its cleanliness. These beaches are gorgeous. Visit the Camping Village, hire a spot and enjoy your private beach. Spend the night and fall asleep to the sounds of waves gently caressing the sand.
Rejuvenate in Uttarakhand
Where is “The Land of the Gods?”:
The “Land of the Gods”, Uttarakhand, is a sacred place renowned for its spiritual disposition.
It’s India’s 27th state and sits on the foothills of the Himalayas.
The natural landscape gives temple visitors the perfect backdrop for connecting to one’s inner essence.
Why should you Regenerate there?:
An unfortunate record marks this holy land.
The land borders the Himalayas. Locals traverse tall peaking hills and mountains daily—some of those who drink too much fall to their deaths.
Widows are left behind, and sometimes these widows have suffered domestic abuse.
Social Justice activist Poonam Rawat-Hahne wanted to help.
She set up Fernweh Fair Travel, an organisation that trains the widows to offer homestays, cook for visitors, and be guides.
A group of visitors buying just one meal from a widow supports her for months.
As you can tell, a huge difference is made in these locals’ livelihoods when travellers visit.
Ms Rawat-Hahne explains, “This is not mass tourism”, “this is empowerment.”
What is there to do?:
Foster An Inner Awakening
There are over 140 temples in Uttarakhand, so visiting them all would be close to impossible. However, three stand out due to their significance and location. These temples are a seamless combination of nature and spirituality.
- The Kedarnath Temple sits majestically in front of the snow-capped Himalayan ranges. It’s a popular Shaivism site.
- The Tungnath Temple is the highest Shiva Temple globally, and it’s believed to be 1,000 years old.
- The Mahasu Devta Temple dedicated to Lord Mahasu, the “God of Justice”, was constructed in the Huna architectural style giving it an esteemed look.
Explore the Land
The Valley of Flowers is a must-visit to connect with Uttarakhand. Just as it sounds, wildflowers are scattered around this valley, surrounded by mountains full of green. The trek is easy, and anyone can do it. Enjoy the pristine beauty.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
Hire a guide and visit the remote Himalayan villages. You can stay in some of the lovely old houses, walk the fields and meet the friendly people of the land. Best of all, you can learn some of the local dishes and eat a nice homecooked meal.
Heal from the Inside
The Himalayas are the birthplace of yoga, and for centuries people have travelled here to find rest and cleanse. Let yourself be guided in yoga and meditation. Many courses are offered in Rishikesh for visitors looking to freshen their souls. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, the land is so rich that even nature meditation is possible. Imagine clearing your mind perched at the top of a hill surrounded by the most incredible views. You can even participate in waterfall cleansing, river walks, and river baths. You will leave here with a purified spirit.
Experience Tradition in Kyoto
Where is the Heart of Japan?:
When you close your eyes and think of authentic Japan, you’re thinking of Kyoto.
Kyoto is Japan’s seventh-largest city, and it’s located in the Kansai region.
It’s “Old Japan”, a place wreathed in culture that can only be admired.
Why should you Appreciate the Tradition?
Kyoto’s wooden townhouse, the machiya, symbolises the city and Japan.
These houses were built before 1950, representing the country’s rich history.
Beautiful as they come, they have been disappearing at an alarming rate.
Kyoto is on the brink of bankruptcy, so they’re cost-cutting.
Tourism dropped by 80% in 2020, and traditional neighbourhoods are being remade to accommodate commercial development.
Some investors have fought to keep these machiyas, converting them into guesthouses, restaurants and boutiques.
Visitors to Kyoto are helping to preserve Old Japan. They’re proving tradition matters.
What can you do in Kyoto?
Take in the Charm of Southern Higashiyama
The history of Japan can be felt walking through these streets. The machiyas are immaculate, the roads are well-preserved, and the scenery is picturesque. There are temples to visit, but this area is perfect for walking around aimlessly. Many visitors even rent kimonos and wear them while exploring this historic district.
Take the Philosopher’s Path
It’s said Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro walked this track for his daily meditation, and it isn’t hard to see why. This cherry tree-filled path is quiet and tranquil. It’s 2km long, and you’re meant to take your time with it. It connects two of the most famous temples in Kyoto, Nanzen-Ji and Gingakaku-Ji. Practice some meditation just as Kitaro did, clear your mind.
Pass through the Torii Gates
Thousands of bright orange gates slalom through the forest into the mountains. They’re the Torii Gates, leading to the Fushimi Inari shrine. Once you enter these gates, you pass into a sacred world. It’s a trek visitors must take; there’s nothing like it.
Stay in a Machiya
If you want to take in all Kyoto has to offer, you need to stay in a traditional machiya. Many machiyas have been refurbished and upgraded to support more modern living: floor heating, air-conditioning, Wi-fi, beds instead of futons. The interior of these homes is still very Japanese. You’ll be getting the full experience.
Admire Mother Nature in Chimanimani
Where is this National Park?
This nature reserve’s landscape is breathtaking, still untouched by humans.
It’s home to Mozambique’s highest peak, rare mountain elephants and a plethora of wildlife.
Bordering both Mozambique and Zimbabwe, this natural paradise resides.
Why should you explore this Reserve?
Mozambique showed its resilience by creating this national park.
A civil conflict 15 years long cost millions of lives here, human and animal.
Poachers decimated this area’s wildlife.
In 2008, conservation programs resulted in the opening of this park.
They trained local women as game wardens.
The wardens protect the area’s fauna and historic sites.
It is now one of Time’s “World’s Greatest Places” for 2021. A testament to all the hard work put in.
Visiting this place would be supporting an initiative that brought one of the earth’s paradises back to life.
What does Chimanimani have to offer?
Hike to your Heart’s Content
The paths for trekking are exceptional at Chimanimani. You can hike the mountains, and the views are incredible. But if you’re looking for something less challenging, there are trails for you too. Visit the northern parts of the park. There are still wonderful sites like the Muhowha River and Mohowha Falls. Envelop yourself in the wilderness.
Stand where they Stood
Chimanimani has several ancient caves that were homes to early settlers. Rock paintings cover the walls, stories from the past. Thrillseekers can visit these caves and even spend the night. A real African experience, outdoors, by a campfire and under the stars.
Get your Feet Wet
You cannot visit Chimanimani and not see the natural pools and waterfalls. Imagine a picnic, sitting by the water, listening to the birds sing. It’s enough to make you never leave. You can swim in some of these pools or just dip your feet in and watch the water cascade down—marvel at nature’s beauty.
See the Majestic Elands
The Eland Sanctuary has remained relatively untouched by development, so it’s still very wild. Of course, eland can be found here, sable, bushbuck, duiker and even leopard. Animal lovers will enjoy this park area. The animals certainly do.
We hope this Leaves You with a New Train of Thought
Travelling with a purpose may not have been something you’ve ever done.
We hope this piece shows you there are places out there where you’d be making a difference with a visit.
Not only that, you’d be making a difference within yourself.
These places offer so much, the rewards for taking a trip are hopefully apparent.
Want to make a difference?
Think about it. There are places out there that could use your support.
You’d be preserving history, improving livelihoods, saving cities.
Not only would you be doing a great thing, but you’d enjoy yourself so much you wouldn’t even notice.
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