While the glistening Eiffel Tower boasts seven million visitors per year, it is a hidden waterfall, sacred Mayan cavern and valley of an ancient Hawaiian king drawing travellers away from the obvious landmarks. Whether you’re seeking an authentic experience or a destination open to exploration, these hidden paradises are well worth the trek. A personal travel manager can help you discover this road less travelled, uncovering the living legends behind such natural wonders.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
Nestled within China’s Yunnan Province, hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge is a truly remarkable experience. A photographer’s dream, the deepest gorge in the world is framed by epic mountains and rustic countryside and has been barely touched by humans. For the best views, visit the lower viewing platform next to the gushing waters, followed by hiking the Upper Trail. However, beware you may be followed by local “pony vendors” who want you to journey on the back of a pony. For a truly magical experience, catch the sunset or sunrise as it passes over the gorge.
Luang Prabang Waterfall, Laos
A secluded wonderland of waterfalls and jade pools, the Luang Prabang Waterfall cascades from the picturesque Laos jungle. Although most of the pools can be used for swimming, one of the waterfalls is closed to visitors as it is listed as a sacred site. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a turn on the rope swing from a tree into the pools. The forested path trek to the waterfall also passes the Bear Rescue Centre, where endangered Asiatic bears have been rescued from poachers. It’s also worth taking time out to explore the surrounding Hmong village, where locals don traditional costume and make beautiful hand-woven crafts.
Valley of the Kings, Hawaii
The sacred Waipio Valley on Hawaii’s Big Island is not only a place of secluded tropical beauty, but also historical and cultural significance. Deemed the “Valley of Kings” by Hawaiian legend, it is said ancient gods battled in the valley, and was where the ancient King Kamehameha began his quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands. Now, less than 100 residents live alongside the untouched waterfalls, taro fields and rivers. For breathtaking views, trek or horse-ride the hidden wonders within, discovering secluded waterfalls and pools that feed the majestic Hiilawe Falls.
Ik Kil, Mexico
A natural sinkhole in the Earth’s surface, the 130ft deep waters of the Ik Kil cenote reveal an extensive system of underground caves and add a dimension of mystic legend. For the ancient Mayans, cenotes were believed to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods, often being used to perform human sacrifices. These days, Ik Kill is host to many swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers, even hosting the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2010. Great for adventurers and history buffs alike, this hidden gem is located a mere ten minutes from the Chichen Itza ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and pre-Columbian city built by the Maya.
Find out more about these and other natural wonders from your local, personal travel manager.
Image: Courtesy of Chinese National Tourist Office