Sorry, Venice, This Belgian City Is Stealing Your Thunder In 2021

Experts say it’s a hidden gem.

Originally Published: 
under-the-radar travel destinations

At long last, many people are finally getting to satiate those feelings of wanderlust they’ve had over the past year and a half. And to make up for lost time, they’re thinking big. From luxe accommodations to exotic, bucket-list locations, travelers are planning what they hope to be their most memorable trips ever. If this describes your hopes for the not-so-distant future, but you also want to skip over the usual tourist traps and try something new, there are so many under-the-radar travel destinations to explore — and no better time like the present to start seriously looking into them.

Whether you’re an avid traveler who’s already been-there-done-that in go-to cities like Paris or Venice, or you’re just someone who prefers to go off the beaten path when it comes to your vacation style, your next adventure awaits in some hidden gem that you may not even have heard of yet. Thankfully, travel experts have gotten to know all the different destinations to suit whatever your requirements (nearby beaches, tons of outdoors activities, a rich history and culture, and so on), including so many out-of-the-box ones.

TZR reached out to a few such experts, well-versed traveler and author Karen Gershowitz — whose book Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust will be released this summer — and John Clifford, luxury travel designer and founder of International Travel Management, to help you find a vacation spot that’s a welcome change from some of the usual locations, but also boasts all the things you love about some of those more popular places. Find eight of them ahead, and start turning your wanderlust daydreams into reality.

Instead of Sydney, Try South Coast

Alf Manciagli/Shutterstock

Plotting a trip down under but have already checked out Sydney? Gershowitz explains that the South Coast could be dreamy new terrain to explore — whether it’s epic beaches or city life you’re seeking. “There are wonderful museums and gardens in Canberra,” she says. “About two hours away on a lovely drive dotted with small, interesting towns, are beautiful and uncrowded. Exotic birds are everywhere and kangaroos wander the beaches.”

Instead Of Napa, Try Willamette Valley

Steven Madow/Shutterstock

Want to go wine tasting but have already covered Napa? Gershowitz suggests heading a little further north to Oregon’s wine hub instead. “Most Americans immediately think of California, [but in] Willamette Valley you’ll discover fabulous wineries and a wild, less crowded coast,” she says. “Or go inland to the Walla Walla Valley for some of the best red wines anywhere.”

Instead of Lisbon, Try Evora


“Travelers flock to Lisbon, but 90 minutes away, Evora is a medieval city oozing with charm,” Gershowitz tells TZR. “There are narrow cobblestone streets, an impressive Cathedral, Roman ruins and great, affordable hotels and restaurants. Shopping streets are quaint and the stores are worth visiting for locally made ceramics and crafts, clothes and artwork.”

Instead Of Santa Fe, Try Taos

Nick Fox/Shutterstock

If it’s a southwestern vacation you’re dreaming about, Clifford suggest trying Taos, New Mexico — just a short (and scenic) drive from the more popular city of Santa Fe. “Santa Fe is rightfully a cultural, art, and Southwestern cuisine mecca, but just a short drive north, on The High Road, you’ll pass remote mountain villages with Spanish colonial roots and Pueblo enclaves,” he explains. “Yes, Taos is an art epicenter for the likes of Georgia O’Keefe, but its laid-back vibe still delivers. And the nearby Taos Pueblo is the only Native American community that is both a National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Instead Of Amsterdam, Try Utrecht

Olena Z/Shuttrstock

If the Netherlands is on your travel radar, Gershowitz recommends putting Utrecht on your list as an alternative to Amsterdam. “The city center is car-free, so it’s great for walking,” she says. “There are picturesque canals and you can grab a boat tour and get a different perspective of the architecture and city life. Along the canal are cafes and bars where you can hang out and people watch.”

Instead Of Venice, Try Bruges


Culturally rich Venice is a travel favorite for good reason, but if you want to avoid the post- Covid rush, Clifford suggests opting for Bruges in Belgium instead. “Nicknamed ‘the Venice of the North,’ the city boasts charming canals and an allure in the medieval city center full of churches and historic buildings.”

Instead Of Singapore, Try Kuala Lumpur


If you love the bustling city energy and food scene of Singapore, you’d probably enjoy Kuala Lumpur, a slightly less touristy destination. “The city is an eclectic mix of British Colonial architecture, towering skyscrapers, and Asian sensibilities,” Gershowitz says. “It’s less crowded and less expensive. The shopping and nightlife are world class. Any cuisine you might want is available and excellent, including spicy Malay dishes, and parks are dotted throughout the city, providing a calm respite from the city’s energy.”

Instead Of Mykonos, Try Naxos

Christos Siatos/Shutterstock

Planning a Mediterranean getaway? Clifford suggests the island of Naxos as an alternative to Mykonos. “Naxos, the largest Cycladic island, is ensconced in long, sandy beaches, olive groves, charming villages, and over 200 Byzantine churches and ancient ruins,” he explains. “Add to that incredible food, nightlife, and a more low-key vibe.”

This article was originally published on