Two thirds of global travelers said they desired a completely new travel experience in 2017 from what they'd experienced in previous years, according to a poll of 34,000 respondents from around the globe conducted by Booking.com.
To help travelers tap into their adventurous sides, Booking.com compiled traveler recommendation data to find a list of destinations that are well off the beaten track while packing a big cultural punch. What does that mean? Places with as big of a wow factor as the Inca Trail or Taj Mahal, but without so many tourists.
If you're looking to take your bucket list to the next level, here are some lesser-known cultural gems to check out:
You've heard of Rome, Florence and Venice, but what about Recanati? This humble Italian hill town, nicknamed the 'city of poetry,' is home to a surprising collection of Renaissance art spread throughout a few excellent museums, as well as an impressive cathedral.
Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
You may not have heard of Ait Benhaddou before, but you might just recognize it. This fortified village situated between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including The Mummy, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel and Game of Thrones.
Perched on the shores of a lake in the Southern Estonian forest, the peaceful town of Viljandi features castle ruins, wooden architecture and scenic views. The adorable town is home to the Cultural Academy and is often called the Cultural Capital of Estonia thanks to its full calendar of festivals and events, including an annual folk music festival.
While the Taj Mahal may be a more familiar image of India, the fort of Jaisalmer rising from the sands of the Thar Desert is equally breathtaking (and much less crowded). The Golden City, while remote, rewards visitors with a magnificent old city and opportunity to venture by camel into the surrounding desert.
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, rises from the otherwise flat expanses of the Australian Outback. The Aborigines attached great spiritual significance to this natural landmark, which changes colors throughout the day, depending on how the sun hits it.
More than 300 years older than the more well-known Angkor Wat, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Surrounded by verdant rice paddies and lush jungle, the mandala-shaped structure is particularly stunning as the sun rises each misty morning.
Many a traveler passes right through Flores on the way to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, but the tiny island village is well worth exploration. Many of the small hotels have rooftops with lake views, while colorful cubist houses and a promenade around the town's exterior add to the appeal.
The hilltop town of Vézelay in Burgundy boasts fine wine, a magnificent Romanesque basilica, French cafes and galleries, all scattered amid the 15th, 16th and 17th century houses. The village is also a starting point for the popular pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Founded in 1705, the Colombian town of Barichara is characterized by the sense of tranquility along its cobbled streets. While the scenic town offers plenty in the way of history and culture, it's also a base for adventure activities like paragliding and rafting.