I use the Lonely Planet Guide Booksquite a lot when I travel and I like them. Usually they are correct, mostly they are useful but sometimes they are horrendously wrong and ill-informed. As soon as they go to press they are out of date, as prices go up, bus timetables change, visa regulations change etc. However today I’m going to do a post about 10 places I really enjoyed which weren’t even mentioned in the Lonely Planet – (at least not in the editions I had or at the times I visited). This is the real “lonely planet” guide – places so far off the beaten track, even the Lonely Planet doesn’t know they exist! We start off in lonely Poatina…who on earth goes there?
1. Poatina, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA
I’ll never really know why life took me to the mountain village of Poatina in Tasmania but it did. I lived in my tent up in the mountains back in 2010. At the time I was working on broccoli farms nearby. I can understand why Poatina isn’t in the Lonely Planet, however it’s a cool village that I can say I’ve lived in. Alcohol isn’t allowed or sold anywhere (unusual for Australia), the village offers great views, has decent wildlife (saw deers, wallabies, Tasmanian devils and possums there) and virtually closes down after 5pm.
There’s not even a shop open! The entrance sign to the village reads “the way life was meant to be”, I don’t quite buy this definition but it’s worth checking out. They even have postcards and a communal village barbecue.
2. Shinying/Sinying/Xinying, TAIWAN
How Shinying has missed out in featuring in the Lonely Planet I’ll never know. It is a massive city and in fact houses some of the government offices for the entire Tainan County (even with former Taiwan capital Tainan in the same county). I visited Shinying in 2009 and used it as my base while bacpackng round the island. My best mate Neil Macey spent a year or so living there. The city has its own train and bus stations and is well connected to other places such as Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung.
Shinying itself has several decent temples, a swan lake, a sugar refinery, a top class night market and a few relaxing parks. It’s a big and busy city. From a personal perspective it has extra meaning for two reasons, the first is that Shinying reignited my spark for travel back in 2009 when I was at a low ebb. The second reason is that the cover photo for my blog Don’t Stop Living was taken there! The picture of me with that globe that you might have seen, well it was taken by my travel buddy Natalja while backpacking in Shinying. Well worth a visit.
3. Santa Ana Alta, COLOMBIA
A paradise in the Colombian mountains, a two hour bus ride north east out of Bogota, Santa Ana Alta was my home for a few days. A great farming area with sparse fields, great views, countryside walks, wildlife, nature and away from the madness of the big city. Travel bliss. I stayed with my mate Julio on his farm here and loved it!
4. Danxiashan, Guangdong Province, CHINA
I could list over 20 Chinese towns and villages I’ve visited that the Lonely Planet doesn’t even cover. That’s kind of obvious though, as China is the world’s most populated country and you can’t quite cover it all. Of the places that aren’t in the Lonely Planet, I’d say the World Heritage Site at Danxiashan was the most remarkable. A National Park with rivers, mountains and odd rock formations that has endless outdoor activites, hikes and remoteness. Foreigners don’t really go here. In fact my reports on it on this blog are probably the most informative stories you can get on Danxiashan in English on the internet (happy to be proved wrong by the way!). Interestingly there are sexual parts rocks – A Vagina Rock and A Penis Rock !
5. Jougla Point, ANTARCTICA
Hidden away shyly and completely overaud by the presence of Port Lockroy, Jougla Point sits un-noticed in Antarctica. I was delighted when I learned on our trip we would be visiting it. It’s part of Wiencke Island which sits along the Antarctic Peninsula. In terms of sightseeing, it offers great penguin and cormorant watching and a nice view over to the British Base of Port Lockroy.
6. The Samade Buddha, Kurenegala, SRI LANKA
I was shocked that the Lonely Planet didn’t include this one to be honest. It’s a fantastic Buddha which towers over the town of Kurenegala. OK so Kurenegala isn’t the most picturesque or touristy Sri Lankan town, but it’s still a nice place to go backpacking in. Head up to the Samade Buddha which so obviously overlooks the town and enjoy the views. Take your shoes off and go inside. A Buddha that is really worth seeing!
7. Juquitiba, BRAZIL
Juqitiba is a rural area consisting of rainforests, rivers and fields. And while local people live here and refer to it as Juquitiba, the Lonely Planet doesn’t seem to feature it. It’s a great place for outdoor activity. We went white water rafting there and loved it. It’s about 2 hours drive outside of Sao Paulo.
8. Osterweddingen, GERMANY
Life parties away in Osterweddingen in the former East Germany but nobody else notices. I was staying there with my old workmate Rene who grew up in this remote village. I got invited to a local dinner, where Rene’s Dad was hosting a party as part of a local council event. This was just an amazing few days to be honest. I was eating with the family and staying in their house. Commercialism has yet to really influence Osterweddingen, though nearby thriving Magdeberg is your best bet for a big city of Sightseeing. Osterweddingen doesn’t have a train station but can be reached by bus.
9. Blandford Forum, ENGLAND
This is a typical English country town, which has been made famous because of the massive army baracks there. While living in nearby Bournemouth, I had a mate who was working in the army camp there and visited the town a few times. The central streets are pretty, there’s a nice church, market stalls and it had England’s first ever 24 hour pub. The Railway Tavern in Blandford Forum was where I enjoyed my first ever legal pint at 4am, back in 2008.
10. Comber, NORTHERN IRELAND
Comber is where my Mum is from. She was born there and she grew up there. It’s an excellent Northern Irish town which typifies a lot of the country’s appeal. Hard working people, a proud square and a good farming lifestyle make Comber a special place. This is also the birthplace of the man who designed the Titanic! Yes, Thomas Andrews was from Comber. The town is also famous for its very tasty potatoes. I love eating them with butter, you should try them out – Comber Potatoes.
I could actually go on for a bit longer on great places I have been that don’t feature in the Lonely Planet books, but 10 is a nice number for now. Perhaps I’ll do another post on it at sme point. If you really want to see the world and experience it as a lonely planet, then yes you need to head to places that “aren’t even in the lonely planet”. Safe travels one and all.
Santa Ana Alta: