6 Offbeat Destinations for Your Next Spring Adventure

6 Offbeat Destinations for Your Next Spring Adventure

Summertime may get all the glory, but why wait until then to set off on your next great adventure? Some of the world’s most popular destinations are at their absolute best during the spring season: milder weather, beautiful locales awash in colorful blooms, and the start of outdoor fun and festivals get travelers and locals alike buzzing with excitement about the warmer months ahead. 

Well-loved classic destinations may spring to mind when planning a trip, but often the most rewarding and enriching moments happen when we take the roads less travelled. Plenty of hidden travel gems and under-explored corners of the world can offer the same gorgeous weather, beautiful sights, and exciting events as the “bigger” destinations, yet in a more relaxing, unique, and authentic setting, allowing you to immerse yourself an incredible area as you take a much needed rest from the humdrum wintertime blues.

Ready to break free from the familiar this season? Here are six favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations sure to put a little spring in your step:

 

Central Asia & the Silk Road
The magnificent mosques in Bukhara's Old Town are some of the best preserved in Central AsiaPhoto credit: Lindsay Fincher

The magnificent mosques in Bukhara’s Old Town are some of the best preserved in Central Asia
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

The bridge between East and West for more than a thousand years, the Silk Road was the conduit for the silks and spices that gave the world some of its brilliance and flavor, but also for the ideas, art, architecture, and spiritual beliefs that shaped ancient empires, from imperial China all the way to Italy and the Russian frontier.

Centuries later, the “five ‘stans” of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — as well as the exotic oases of Western China, are still imbued with the spirit of the old Silk Road, encapsulating the medley of cultures and conquerors that made their mark on medieval Asia.


Dazzling mosques and minarets, boisterous bazaars, ancient ruins, stunning mountain and desert scenery, and engaging, down-to-earth people can be found at every turn, allowing travelers to step back in time and witness living history and traditions that have changed little throughout the centuries. And with modern transportation and infrastructure steadily improving across the region, exploring these fabled lands has never been easier.

Uzbek hospitality is second to nonePhoto: Lindsay Fincher

Friendly smiles greet travelers in Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Spring Travel Suggestions: 


 

Iran
For over 15 years, MIR has shown travelers the dazzling beauty of Iran, as here in Isfahan's Imam Square  Photo credit: Ann Schneider

For over 15 years, MIR has shown travelers the dazzling beauty of Iran, as here in Isfahan’s Imam Square
Photo credit: Ann Schneider

With a complex history spanning over 2,500 years, Iran has enthralled visitors with its fabulous bazaars, splendid architecture, and amazing archaeological sites. Arts, architecture, spiritual beliefs, and culture have poured back and forth across political borders here, and history can be read clearly in UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Cyrus the Great’s ceremonial capital, Persepolis, and Isfahan’s sumptuous Imam Square.

But perhaps the real surprise is Iran’s engaging and unfailingly warm and friendly people. Hosts of a rich culture that prizes hospitality above all, the people of Iran pride themselves on being endlessly welcoming to travelers, wherever they are from.

With Iran ready to seek out deeper connections with the U.S. and the rest of the world, there’s never been a better time to visit than now.

Love from Iran Photo credit: Ann Schneider

Heartfelt greetings from Iran
Photo credit: Ann Schneider

Spring Travel Suggestions: 

  • Ancient Persia – Modern Iran
    On this 18-day journey, experience 11 wonderful UNESCO Sites, explore fabulous bazaars, admire splendid architecture, discover formidable archaeological sites and converse with the welcoming Iranian people.
  • Iran Unveiled
    Pay a visit to modern Iran, getting acquainted with its hospitable people on a compact overview that hits all the highlights of Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd and Isfahan.
  • A hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace and dates.

 

Eastern Europe
Bran (Dracula's) Castle, Romania

Romania’s Bran Castle, more commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle,” was actually built by the people of Brasov in 1382 to defend the Bran mountain pass against the invading Turkish army
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Hidden from view for much of the 20th century, the historic countries of Eastern Europe boast gorgeous countryside, congenial people, and idyllic villages, as well as rococo capitals, fairytale castles, and medieval town centers.

Each country offers its own distinctive flair: Bulgaria and Romania are two of Europe’s oldest — and newest — countries, blessed with Roman ruins, sections of sunny Black Sea coast, soaring mountain scenery, fantastic folk art, and fine frescoes. Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova are some of the most complex and intriguing European destinations, a rich medley of glittering Slavic churches, Soviet time-warp cities, rugged wilderness, unspoiled farmland, superb wines, and colorful local traditions.

Changing with every moment that goes by, these places should be visited now before they are fully and irretrievably “discovered.”

The young, and young at heart kick up their heels in Bulgarian folk dancing at the Kazanluk Rose Festival Photo credit: Michel Behar

The young, and young at heart, kick up their heels in Bulgarian folk dancing at the Kazanluk Rose Festival
Photo credit: Michel Behar

Spring Travel Suggestions: 

  • Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses
    On this small group tour, explore the complex history and fascinating cultures of Bulgaria and Romania. Discover the luminous frescoes of the painted monasteries, breathe in the fragrance of the Valley of the Roses, and spend an afternoon visiting with villagers in a tiny Transylvanian town.
  • Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova
    Traverse a little-known region that has changed hands from its earliest history. Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova are three of the least-frequented and least familiar countries in Europe.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace and dates. 

 

The Baltics
Aerial view of Riga, Latvia Photo credit: Latvia Tourism

Aerial view of Riga, capital of Latvia
Photo credit: Latvia Tourism

Clustered along the shore of the Baltic Sea in northern Europe, the Baltic countries stepped out from the shadow of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century. Each of their capitals is a UNESCO Site, with cobbled streets, handsome medieval churches, and a wealth of fascinating cultural heritage

Creative and cosmopolitan, these nations are swiftly gaining recognition as some of Europe’s best hidden gems, and their people are eager to welcome visitors into their formerly isolated lives.

Folk dancing at Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds where Estonians defied the Soviet Union in 1988 Photo credit: Toomas Tuul / Estonian Tourist Board

Folk dancing at Tallinn’s Song Festival Grounds where Estonians defied the Soviet Union in 1988
Photo credit: Toomas Tuul / Estonian Tourist Board

Spring Travel Suggestions: 

  • Kaliningrad & The Baltics
    This overland small group journey roves the countryside and urban centers of four distinct nations: the three independent Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia. 
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace and dates. 

 

The Balkans
Old Bridge in Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Old Bridge in Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

A remarkably complex region, the beautiful Balkans includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. It is a brilliant mosaic of competing cultures, ethnicities, languages and ideologies, and serves as a sampler of contrasting landscapes.

The Balkan Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the Adriatic, the Mediterranean and the Black seas.  The sun-drenched Adriatic coast has the rocky white-washed, red-roofed appeal of the Greek islands, while the interior segues from lowland farming regions into stony plains and forest-clad mountains.

Montenegro

Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Spring Travel Suggestions: 

  • Balkan Odyssey: Crossroads of Cultures
    From low-lying Belgrade up through the Dinaric Alps, down to the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia and back up to mountainous Macedonia, this overland journey ties together seven of the wildly divergent Balkan countries.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace and dates. 

South Caucasus
Mt. Ararat seen from ArmeniaPhoto Credit: Richard Fejfar

Mt. Ararat seen from Armenia
Photo Credit: Richard Fejfar

The soaring Caucasus Mountains separate Europe from Asia, and the three South Caucasus countries, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, are on that borderline. A region unfamiliar to many Americans, these are some of Europe’s most ancient 
inhabited places, characterized by stunning mountain backdrops, powerful stone architecture, abundant and savory cuisine, and a strong code of deep-rooted hospitality.


Azerbaijan’s mountain villages stand in stark contrast with the capital, Baku, a dynamic city modernizing rapidly due to its strategic location near the oil and gas fields of the Caspian. The dramatic peaks of beautiful Armenia, the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, are scattered with hundreds of lovingly carved khachkar crosses and powerful old churches. And the little country of Georgia, a land of ancient history and up-to-the-minute strategic importance, is a gorgeous place boasting fabulous food, wine, music, and mountains

Georgian musician

Georgian polyphonic singers pose for a photo after an outdoor concert
Photo: Peter Guttman

Spring Travel Suggestions: 

  • Treasures of the South Caucasus
    Georgia’s renowned winemaking traditions, Azerbaijan’s Zoroastrian and Islamic background, and Armenia’s multitude of ancient churches combine to make this distinctive journey more than the sum of its parts.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace and dates. 

 

See What Spring Has to Offer with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of travel expertise. You can travel to any of our destinations with MIR – on a small group tour, a rail journey by private train, or an independent journey.

With affiliate offices in RussiaUkraine, and Uzbekistan offering on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about, MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Contact MIR today at [email protected] or 1-111-111-1111.

(Top Photo: Forget the crowds, travelers can mingle with locals in Bulgaria. Photo credit: Michel Behar.)

PUBLISHED: January 20, 2017

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