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Off-the-beaten-path adventures to ignite your wanderlust

Skip the main tourist attractions and learn what makes these three global destinations the perfect places to travel for deeper exploration. | By Elizabeth Wellington | October 8, 2021 (Updated March 30, 2022)

When you’re planning a trip to a new place, it’s easy to fall in line with the typical travel advice. You end up experiencing a country and a city the same way as everyone else, despite your unique interests and motivations for visiting.

There are many ways to travel, though, and the best journeys are often off-the-beaten-path. The adventure ideas below ensure you’ll see a beloved travel destination in a fresh light — whether you’re a first-time visitor or return traveler.

Here’s what you can expect from each one:

  • A new perspective: From helicopter flight to a giant slide, these travel experiences will give you an unexpected way to explore an inspiring place

  • Adventure and activity: Even if you’re headed to an urban destination, there’s always an opportunity for adventure, be it a glamping trip or an underwater excursion

  • Bespoke planning: Lean on the hotel Team Members as your local guides to plan a life-changing itinerary along with remarkable meals at the area’s top restaurants

Aerial view of the Hill of Tara, an archaeological complex, containing a number of ancient monuments and, according to tradition, used as the seat of the High King of Ireland, County Meath, Ireland
Aerial view of the Hill of Tara from a helicopter ride in Dublin.

See Ireland from above

On a vacation to Ireland, you’ll want to see the country from new heights and explore lesser-known sites that enchant locals and visitors alike.

Embark on a road trip to County Cork to take the Dursey Cable Car to tiny Dursey Island. Soaring high above the ocean for 10 minutes, you’ll see panoramic vistas of the dramatic coastline and rare birds. Take a long hike on the island before heading back to Cork for the evening.

While you’re by the ocean, consider kayaking along the dramatic Irish coastline or fishing with a local. If you prefer rivers to the sea, head north to County Down and glide down Lough Erne’s 30 miles of marked canoe trails through Northern Ireland. You’ll get to paddle by the beautiful ruins at St Mary's Augustinian Priory at the bottom of Lough Erne, and the stunning Enniskillen Castle Museums, which dates to the 16th century.

No matter your preferred water adventure, end your trip in Dublin, where Conrad Dublin serves as the ideal stay for your stay in the Irish capital. Tour the centrally located hotel, decorated in a calming green palette and inspired by the beauty of the Iveagh Gardens (which are just down the street). Lemuel's Bar and Lounge, named after the famous fictional traveler Lemuel Gulliver, a pseudonym of the celebrated Irish author Jonathan Swift, pays homage to the magic and curiosity of “Gulliver's Travels.”

One of the best things to do in Dublin is to see the country from the sky on a private helicopter ride. You can ask the concierge at Conrad Dublin to arrange the experience. A quick transfer to Weston Airport will bring you up and away over Dublin and the East Coast of Ireland, including the Hill of Tara, an archaeological site that is home to the Irish High King’s “stone of destiny.”

Star gazing on desert safari in Dubai
Star gaze on a desert safari in Dubai.

Experience nature up close in the UAE

If you like adventure travel, a vacation to the UAE offers many wonders across diverse landscapes. For example, you can go horseback riding across the Empty Quarter, more than 250,000 square miles of sand desert. As one of the least-explored places in the world, it promises a once-in-a-lifetime adventure on horseback.

While you’re in the UAE, consider a day of underwater exploration. Al Boom Diving offers scuba diving courses and trips along the coast, and they can arrange for you to dive in the shark tank at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world. Here, you’ll come face-to-face with more than 300 sharks and rays. Ask your instructor to capture the experience on his or her GoPro so you’ll have a recording of your spectacular underwater experience to take home with you.

Stay at Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre, where you can experience the best of Dubai in a sleek setting, designed with mid-century aesthetics. This urban oasis is in the heart of it all, complete with a refined rooftop pool. Ask the concierge to arrange a nighttime desert safari tour in Dubai with a private guide. Amid the magic of the sand dunes, you’ll experience a three-course dinner, followed by stargazing with a professional astrologer.

Nordic Themed Glamping with Christmas Decoration
Glamp underneath the stars on your expansive outdoor terrace.

Plan for unexpected twists in China

China is on almost every traveler’s bucket list, and with adventure at every turn – it’s for good reason. When you’re ready for an unexpected twist on a classic trip, make the 48-mile (about 77 km) drive north from Beijing to the Great Wall of China. Rather than visit the popular Badaling segment, head to Mutianyu, where you can slide down from the top of the Great Wall. This five-minute experience will transform the way you see this landmark — taking in the views as you zig-zag down — and give you a unique memory that transcends the status quo.

While in China, hike the Longji rice terraces in Guilin. Begin in Dazhai or Ping’an to embark on a 12-mile, half-day walk in either direction with panoramic views of green rice terraces against the mountains. If you want more views without strenuous exercise, the village of Jinkeng, along the route, offers visitors a round-trip cable car experience.

Instead of planning a traditional visit to Beijing, the country’s Chinese capital, delight in the unexpected at Waldorf Astoria Beijing. The hotel is centrally located near top tourist attractions, and you can stay in the Aston Martin Glamping Suite.

The luxurious tented suite is located on the balcony of the Terrace Suite and is outfitted in relaxed furniture, green plants and cozy throws for cool nights. Begin your stay with a bottle of Champagne and settle into your glamping suite — complete with a working fireplace — before taking a complimentary limo to explore the nearby Forbidden City. Order room service the next morning, including decadent eggs Benedict, from Brasserie 1893 and enjoy breakfast on your terrace for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience with expansive views of the capital city.

All of these trips give you a unique view of different cities, cultures and continents. Let these ideas inspire you to think outside the box and get off-the-beaten trail — especially when visiting well-known landmarks and tourist destinations.

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Elizabeth Wellington is a travel writer and brand copywriter whose work has appeared in Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure and BBC. When not writing in her Vermont farmhouse, she's usually en route to a new destination with a notebook in hand.