Life

These Less-Instagrammed Travel Locales Belong On Your Bucket List


Photo by Henry Gillis on Unsplash

For better or worse, we document pretty much every second of our lives now. Then, we put the photographic highlights online for mass consumption. It’s such a part of our culture at the present that sometimes it’s hard to know whether we’re just documenting the amazing experiences we’re having or if we’re having those experiences in order to document them. The whole mess is kind of a chicken or the egg thing at this point. And obsessively scrolling through our Instagram feeds to see where our friends (and favorite celebs and/or robots) are hanging out has become so ingrained in us that it isn’t even a conscious act anymore.

The fact is that we’re all living in an Instagrammed world. And we are an Instagram girl.

Or something. The point is, the world has changed rapidly in a short amount of time. First, digital cameras allowed us to not be precious about how many shots we take and then, seeing them instantaneously, allowed us to cultivate the most attractive shots in the most photographic locales. Suddenly, we could always get a great photo of ourselves in front of every monument we stumbled upon. And smartphones took it even further. Now, we don’t even need to remember to bring a camera. We have one on us, always. Ready to document the spectacular, or the mundane, and, of course, the really good hair days.

But in some ways, this perfection leads to a homogenous look on social platforms. Follow @Instarepeat if you need evidence of how this happens amongst influencers. The most Instagrammed backgrounds are just what you’d expect, conventional: Paris — the Eiffel tower, Vegas — the fake Eiffel tower, Your bedroom — attempting the sex position, “the Eiffel tower.” And look, going to those places, taking those same pictures as everyone else, it’s not the worst thing, but we’ve become weary of them. So, we set out to find places that aren’t Instagrammed to death. The place where few have traversed or (gasp) you aren’t allowed to take pictures at all and have to just sit with your own thoughts and take it all in.

Quick note: We’re using Instagram shots in these locations to show them (as ironic as ten thousand spoons when all you need is knife, we know). But we’ve avoided pictures taken secretly if it isn’t allowed. Because, yes, you can probably get away with sneaking your phone in and snapping a couple of pics in some of these spots. But maybe don’t do it, okay? Whether it’s to respect a religious or cultural tradition or to keep priceless art from fading so that future generations can enjoy, you are not the one special person who deserves to get a picture over everyone else (and if you think you are, understand that a million others think the same thing, and that impact adds up).

Paro Taktsang (Bhutan)

Located on a cliff, 3,120 meters above the sea level, this Buddhist monastery (tucked into the mountains) draws pilgrims and tourists in from all over the world.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

This is where Guru Padmasambhava (called the ‘Second Buddha’ in the region) is said to have flown a tiger to, and then, meditated in a cave for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. It’s considered an extremely holy place and electronics of any kind are not permitted inside the monastery.

Why you should go anyway:

Called “the holiest site in Bhutan”, this Unesco World Heritage Site has been used for meditation since the 8th century. It’s a special place. The hike to it is steep but manageable (though, with the elevation and 2-3 hours it takes to reach, visitors are urged to go slowly), and involves spectacular views, a waterfall, and even a lovely café. When you get there, you can be blessed by the monks, anointed with sacred water, and just take some time away from technology to reflect in the same way that the people have in this spot for a thousand years.

In the quiet, free from distraction, you can open yourself up to have a spiritual experience.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

Yep. The outside of the monastery is stunning and the hike up the cliff — through lush forest — will provide plenty of gorgeous pics for the peanut gallery back home.

Pitcairn Island (British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific)

This barely inhabited island in the South Pacific has a stunning natural landscape, an insane history, and is one of the most isolated places on Earth.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

It’s really hard to get to. Like really hard. Pitcairn is unreachable by plane or even by helicopter. And at 1350 miles from Tahiti, its nearest neighbor, it’s not exaclty like you can just drop by. Supplies are brought over from New Zealand (over 3000 miles away) every three months. So, while Pitcairn depends on tourism, they get very little of it. To put it into perspective, they actually get less visitors yearly than Mount Everest’s summit.

Few have experienced this natural wonder and even fewer have documented it on Instagram.

Why you should go anyway:

It’s an opportunity to see an island few have traversed with a truly, crazy history. There isn’t really a native population here. The island was uninhabited until 1790 when a British ship mutinied. They headed to Tahiti, there about half the men decided to stay (bad call, they were caught and executed) while the other half headed out to sea and found this secret island that was incorrectly drawn on maps. Of course, before they headed off, they kidnapped a bunch of Tahitians to take with them. Seem like nice guys, right?

So, the nine mutineers along with a group of Tahitians (six men, 11 women, and a baby) began living on the island (no way to get home — the mutineers set fire to the original boat cause they were assholes). At present, the 50 or so people who still live on the islands are the direct descendants of this group. Nature and food wise, they had stumbled onto paradise (murder-wise, less so… but we’ll get to that in a minute).

It’s really beautiful here. You can hike, truly alone, swim in some of the bluest, cleanest water in the world, see unique wildlife, and meet all the locals. Literally, you can meet the entire population of locals, and how often can you say that you’ve gone to a country and met every single resident?

Also, with less than 50 residents (most of them advanced in age), they really want to incentivize you to move here. And you might want to consider it. Pictairn will give you a free plot of land to build on if you do. And, you know, it’s a great place to escape charges if you decide to rob a bank or take over a vessel. The founders did it and look how that turned out! (Just kidding-all the original men who landed on the island murdered each other until there was just one man left.)

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

Yes. If you can get there, photo opportunities are plentiful and encouraged. And unless your high school or college class decided to visit here for their ten-year reunion (which would be a pretty insane choice), you’re likely to be the only person you’ll ever know to have pics in the same spots.

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Pitcairn Island Sunset🌴

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Skocjan Caves (Slovenia)

One of the largest cave systems in the world, this amazing site has been called, “The Underground Grand Canyon”.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

For environmental reasons, photography is not allowed in the caves. Apparently, artificial lighting introduces an environment for foreign algae to take hold, even the lights on the paths aren’t great for the cavern system. Plus, tourists trying to take pictures in the dark stop up the tours and flashes ruin any of the natural ambience of being in a cave. (And they also clearly attract the half cave/half monster people who have long lived in the cave and feast on tourist flesh. But if you want to be slowly eaten alive by some sort of human/bat hybrid, be our guest.)

Why you should go anyway:

These breathtaking natural formations are truly incredible. You have to experience the insane columns, giant chasms, and formations that make this one of the best caves to explore in the world. Maybe you can’t take a bunch of pics but if you let your eyes adjust, you’ll actually get to slow down, feel the cool air on your face, and enjoy the majesty around you while thinking about all the people who probably plummeted to their death in the dark exploring this shit so that you could take a tour. (Plus, come on, it’s a cave. Your photos were going to turn out terribly anyway and you know it.)

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

Yeah, it’s a really pretty area. Pictures at the mouth of the cave (and surrounding areas) are still super impressive. Your frenemy from high school will feel just as bad about her life after looking at those, we promise.

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Walking through caves #slovenia

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Annobon Island (Equatorial Guinea)

This picturesque spot is the least-visited island in Africa’s least visited country. That’s a lot of leasts.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

Nobody knows about it. It’s super hard to get to. And even finding someone who has gone to it ON THE INTERNET is nearly impossible.

Why you should go anyway:

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you were dropped onto a desert island ala Lost (minus the polar bear and the time travel and the sexy Desmond toiling away in an underground research facility), this is the island to visit. It’s remote and beautiful. There’s this insanely stunning crater lake in the middle of the island that really does make it look fake. Plus, untouched snorkeling and white sand beaches, and all sorts of natural elements that make it all paradise-y.

However, as the least visited island in one of the world’s least visited countries, you probably want to do a couple of days and then combine the trip with other more populated parts of Equatorial Guinea (more white sand beaches plus wildlife like sea turtles, manatees, and elephants are there!) — even in the busiest parts of Equatorial Guinea, you’ll probably be the only person you know who’s visited.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

For sure. You’ll look like a swimsuit model on the white sand beach with dipping palm trees swaying in the breeze. IT’S THE INSTAGRAM HOLY GRAIL.

The Abbey Library of Saint Gall (Switzerland)

This incredible baroque monastery houses one of the oldest libraries in the world.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

Photography isn’t permitted. The books are VERY old! DON’T DAMAGE THE BOOKS ALL OF YOU JERKS WE FOUND ON INSTAGRAM WHO TOOK SELFIES ANYWAY. YOU’RE MONSTERS, THE LOT OF YOU.

Why you should go anyway:

Anyone who loves history or books should visit this 8th-century library with over 130 thousand volumes (some dating from its inception). Gorgeous murals on the ceiling adorn this ornate and (both literarily and religiously) sacred space — it’s a completely one of a kind experience that will put you back in history. The lack of photography only contributes to this lost in time feeling. AND YOU CAN STILL ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY PULL OUT AND LOOK AT MANY OF THE BOOKS.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

The outside of the abbey is really pretty. I mean. DO YOU HAVE TO GET A PHOTO? No, we get it. You do. Do an outside pic with a filter and then comment on how amazing the collections in the library were. You’ll seem mysterious. And smarter, you photo happy dolt.

Valley of the Kings (Egypt)

This elaborate burial ground for many of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs is a true bucket list kind of trip.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

Photography is not allowed in several of the tombs (including Tut’s). Though, it actually used to not be allowed anywhere so you can be excited if your phone has literally fused to your hand like some sort of people/robot hybrid. You can now purchase a photo pass that will allow you to take pictures in three of them. Don’t sneak pics of the others — even the humidity of tourist sweat is damaging the paintings enough as it is. Taking pictures could hurt the art in these ancient tombs.

Worth noting: Among other reasons, part of why they don’t allow you to take pics is because the flash causes mummies to rise up for some sort of revenge. If you’re an archeologist searching for buried treasure or ancient spell texts, maybe you risk it, but don’t come crying to us when swarms of locusts and sand monsters come after you or whatever.

Why you should go anyway:

Seeing the art and carvings of people from 3-5 thousand years ago is an insane privilege, and your dumb photos wouldn’t be as good as just buying a postcard anyway.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

Let’s be real. You’re going to Egypt. All you really wanted was a pic of you on a camel in front of a pyramid anyway. And camels can’t go into the tombs. So since any non-cameled photo near the pyramids is worthless garbage to you, you’ll be fine.

Uluru–kata Tjuta National Park (Australia)

This gorgeous and iconic park in Australia’s northern territory is filled with sacred images and beautiful hikes.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

This park belongs to an Aboriginal people, the Anangu. They lease the park to the Australian government for visits but there are strict rules about photography of sacred areas. Some places are not to be photographed, others are not even to be seen or visited. The park has areas marked on maps to avoid snapping shots, but they suggest, if you’re unsure, that you go through your photographs with them before you leave to make sure nothing you’ve photographed is off limits.

Climbing Uluru, nearby, was finally banned this year (and that’s a good thing!).

Why you should go anyway:

Visiting this other-worldly, spiritual landscape is a must when visiting the Northern Territory. The hiking, wildlife, desert plants and rocks, and opportunities to learn about the area’s native culture, all make it a fantastic park to experience.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

There are still PLENTY of photo opportunities under Uluru and it is particularly spectacular at sunset. Just follow the rules and take a pic at one of the many allowed locations. If you’re headed to Uluru, the new “field of light” experience is very visual and Insta-friendly.

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#Uluru #ayersrock #Australia

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Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, United States)

This fascinating historical house was continuously (and bizarrely) built on, is rumored to be haunted, and has been the inspiration for multiple horror movies.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

Photography is not allowed in the house. We assume that’s because it upsets the ghosts. Specifically, it’s upsetting because if you take a selfie, you’ll realize you were a ghost the whole time when you don’t show up in the frame, Bruce Willis style. It’s always upsetting to realize you’re a ghost — we get it. But you’re not the only ghost in the house you know?

Why you should go anyway:

The history behind this house is super weird. Sarah Winchester (wife of the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company) was supposedly haunted by the deaths her father-in-law’s gun company had caused. So, she spent 38 years building a 7 story mansion with dozens of bedrooms and other oddities. There are staircases that go nowhere, windows to other rooms, and all sorts of strange details to keep spirits at bay. Rumor has it that she spent every night sleeping in a different bedroom (and that, of the many bathrooms, only one actually worked) to trick the ghosts so they couldn’t find her. It’s a very cool visit even though there are actually only four stories of the structure left (three collapsed in an earthquake), but four stories still encompass a lot. That’s 40 bedrooms alone.

Who knows how many other insane things the house used to contain. It’s strange and scary and you should experience it.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

You can take a picture of the outside of the house and selfie it up. Admittedly though, it’s not as cool as a picture of you, in terror, finding a staircase you walked up is a dead end. If you need to do that, you could break in with a camcorder and a bunch of teen friends looking for sex and booze and rock and roll and then get trapped inside with a bunch of vengeful spirits that murder you all one by one. Whatever floats your boat.

Palmerston Island (Cook Islands)

This gorgeous coral atoll is one of the most isolated places in the world with supplies coming only ever 6-18 months.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

Pretty much the only way to get here is to sail on a private boat or yacht. The island gets about a dozen of these small groups of visitors a year. That’s it.

Why you should go anyway:

This place is seriously beautiful with white, sandy beaches, crystal blue and green waters, and a lagoon in the center that encompasses most of the island. Visitors are treated as family and the island is filled with warmth. Families compete to make feasts for the small amount of tourists and (lovingly) fight to get to show them around. It’s an experience that almost no one in the world gets.

Plus, the history of it is also pretty weird. About 60 people live there, all of them related. It’s crazy levels of incest.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

Oh yeah. The picture opportunities are pretty spectacular here (and the island even gets a little bit of power and internet every day so you can attempt to upload them). Insta posts for DAYS.

Akshardham Madir (India)

Made entirely of pink sandstone and marble, this ornate Hindu temple is a huge draw for tourists in Delhi.

Why it’s tough to get that Insta shot:

Like many working spiritual centers on this list, photography is not allowed inside (out of respect) and phones/cameras are taken and stored upon entry.

Why you should go anyway:

It’s incredibly beautiful with ornate carvings, art, and architecture. It’s also a great way to learn about Indian history as they have shows, exhibits, and good food in the complex.

There are also beautiful gardens AND A LASER WATER SHOW. You know what we always say: Nothing says spirituality like lasers. Nothing.

BUT CAN YOU STILL GET SOMETHING UP ON INSTAGRAM TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST?

There are a couple of designated photo areas where you can purchase a shot of yourself from a photographer. Or, alternately, you can wait until we can print out pictures from our brains. That feels like it’s coming soon. Hold on tight to that memory and we’ll Black Mirror it out of you later.

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