by Kate Appleton, David LaHuta, Laura MacNeil, Sean O'Neill, Erik Torkells, and Brad Tuttle | September 2007 issue
Photo by: wyzik
|The Best Places You've Never Heard Of|
(from Budget Travel)
Baranja Region, Croatia
Estacada, United States
Puerto Angel, Mexico
Jura Region, France
Sangkhla Buri, Thailand
We asked 10 people who explore for a living to reveal the places they've recently "discovered" in other words, the best places you've never heard of (and, frankly, neither had we). Go now, before the rest of the world catches up. CASTELMEZZANO, ITALY
Photo by: Susanna Thornton
Enrico Pizzorni: Tour leader for Ciclismo Classico, which runs small-group cycling and hiking trips in the U.S. and Europe (ciclismoclassico.com)
One of the company's most varied routes begins in Puglia by the Adriatic Sea and heads southwest across the arch of Italy to finish in Calabria. After completing that trip, Pizzorni and a colleague wondered if they could find a more appealing place to stay than their base in Potenza.
One night they skipped dinner to scope out the surrounding villages. "It was dusk, and we were driving up a little mountain and then through a tunnel when all of a sudden this incredible place appeared," recalls Pizzorni. He recommends a 20-minute after-dinner stroll further up the slope to the base of the rocky spires that overlook Castelmezzano's 13th-century church, the ruins of a Norman fortress, and the Basento valley. "It's very romantic," he says. "Italy is full of these unknown places."
Photo by: MBrus
Walter Lowry: Founder of and buyer for TableArt, an L.A. store specializing in imported tabletop products (tartontheweb.com)
Walter Lowry always loved window-shopping while on vacation, so about five years ago he gave up his legal career and cofounded TableArt, a Los Angeles store selling imported cutlery, linens, and objets d'art. Now Lowry hops around Asia and Europe for up to 10 weeks a year as its buyer. "I visit craftsmen in their studios to order goods from them directly," he says. "And I get to see neighborhoods that aren't in guidebooks."
In February, Lowry visited southwestern Poland to meet with porcelain producers, and he became wild about the city of Wroclaw (pronounced vrot-swav), five hours by car from Warsaw. "It has the prettiest plaza in Poland and perhaps in all of central Europe," Lowry says. But the city's real draws at least to Lowry are the linens, clothing, and jewelry sold in the markets around Rynek Square and at nearby factory stores. And because tourism isn't a major industry in Wroclaw, "you get a sense of how Poland's creative types actually go about living their lives."
JURA REGION, FRANCE
Photo by: Damouns
Mo Frechette: Founder of Zingerman's Mail Order, which sells artisanal food from all around the globe (zingermans.com)
As the founder of the Zingerman's mail-order catalog and web site entities within the Ann Arbor-based gourmet-food juggernaut Mo Frechette is constantly on the lookout for artisanal food. Frechette combines visits to international trade shows with pilgrimages to farms in the surrounding countryside. "My trips usually involve long drives and a lot of getting lost," Frechette admits.
One of his favorite revelations was on a cheese mission in the oft-overlooked Jura region in eastern France, about an hour's drive from Geneva. "It's sort of like Wisconsin crossed with Switzerland," Frechette says. "There are almost 200 different creameries making the main cheese of the region, Comté. And not many tourists." Frechette stayed in the town of Jougne ("in the middle of things, cheese-wise"), stopped by the cheese and wine shops in nearby villages like Les Hôpitaux-Vieux, and visited local cheese makers.
Photo by: bryannys
Vanessa Berlowitz: A producer of the series Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel (discovery.com), now working on its sequel
Vanessa Berlowitz, a wildlife film producer who worked on the BBC's series Planet Earth (which aired in the United States on the Discovery Channel), is constantly on the move. In the past year, she's been to South Georgia, a small island near Antarctica; Svalbard, in the Norwegian Arctic; and twice to Pakistan. When researching the migration of demoiselle cranes for Planet Earth, Berlowitz discovered that Jomsom, Nepal, was an ideal spot to watch the birds in flight.
At an elevation of 9,000 feet, the Himalayan town has spectacular views of the Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges and is a popular departure point for treks. During the first two weeks of October, however, there's no need to venture far to get prime wildlife viewing: "From the center of town, you can see and hear large groups of demoiselle cranes flying overhead," says Berlowitz. "If you walk for about an hour and a half up the valley on a very easy trekking path, cross a bridge to the other side of the gorge, and wait for the thermal winds to pick up, you'll see golden eagles dive-bombing the cranes as they take off."
Read more about the Best Places You've Never Heard Of at BudgetTravel.com
Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.