In the Instagram age, it's rare for a truly magical travel destination to remain untouched; geo-tagging and the Valencia filter serve as open invitations to hordes of curious travelers from around the world. But Conde Nast Traveler's recent list of undiscovered gems proves that some places are still sacred; its esteemed team of travel editors dished on the one unexpected place they've managed to keep quiet over the years. Below, read up on their cherished off-the-beaten-path destinations and the enchanting stories behind them.
"When I was growing up, I used to spend every summer in Paestum, Italy so it's very special to me. It has the best of both worlds because it's right at the tail end of the Amalfi Coast, and the start of the Cilento Coast—one of the most beautiful, unspoiled stretches of Italian waterfront. The beaches are long and wide, and it has some of the best-preserved Greek temples outside Greece." — Victor de Vita, associate director, brand communications
Likoma Island, Lake Malawi
"On my first day [in Malawi], in the haze of a late night at a particularly lively hostel, someone told me about this place you could take a ferry to, where mangoes grew from every tree, and the water was crystal clear and full of delicious fish. Fast forward and after a 12-hour bus ride, an overnight ferry, and a trek under the blazing African sun across the island to one of its only hotels, I was there. No one else can ever know about this place, I thought to myself, freshly plucked mango in one hand, cold Carlsberg in the other, view of Lake Malawi's magnificent blue as far as the eye can see.
And yet here I am telling you it exists—after all, it was the kindness of some other stranger who told me their secret in the first place." — Sebastian Modak, associate digital editor
Akotiri, Porto Kagio, Greece
"The ultimate Greek island fantasy … is not that of Santorini tourism board ads. … I think we all long to find a little inn that's right on the water (so you don't need a pool), is in a little town, in an area that has plenty of day trip options, and has a great local restaurant that you don't mind eating at over and over again. … Well, I think I found the place: the Akrotiri in Porto Kagio, in the Mani area of the Peloponnese." — Yolanda Edwards, creative director
Mount Maunganui, New Zealand
"This coastal town on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island is a favorite summer escape for locals but way off the traditional tourist trail. … The [beach's] sands end at the base of a small green mountain (Maunganui), whose corkscrew trail will take you about 45 minutes to climb to the mountain's top. Once there, you have the most stunning, interrupted views across the deep, dark blue of New Zealand’s Pacific Ocean, the beaches, and the bay on the other side. And once done climbing, a collection of natural hot pools await at the base of the mountain to help you relax after a day roughing about on the beaches." — Erin Florio, senior associate editor
Castle Leslie, Northern Ireland
"Dublin and the Ring of Kerry get all the press, but on a 2014 road trip around Northern Ireland … we saw some of the country's most spectacular emerald-green scenery (minus the tourists). We ended up at Castle Leslie, on the border of Northern Ireland and Ireland, and felt like we had the Leslie's ancestral home to ourselves (that is, until we had a full Irish breakfast one table over from Sir John Leslie himself, perfectly at home in his robe and slippers)." — Laura Redman, deputy digital director
Head over to Conde Nast Traveler for more hidden gems, and share your best-kept travel secret below!