Discover tips from these five globetrotting photographers as they share images of their favorite out-of-the-way locations.

Diane Arbus once said, “My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” Photographers crave the unknown, and when faced with two destinations, they are likely to select the one less-traveled. In major cities and remote towns alike, it’s the photographers who know the hole-in-the-wall haunts, the out-of-the-way treasures, and the local spots kept hidden from the average tourist.

Today, travel is more accessible than it ever was. We can hop on a plane and explore places we would never have dreamed of visiting just a few decades ago. As a result, fewer areas remain untrodden. Unexpected, out-of-the-box travel destinations are hard to find.

We asked five seasoned travel photographers to take us on a journey to some of the most unlikely destinations they’ve ever encountered. Their responses range from locations accessible to everyone to those reserved for only the most experienced visitors—one even took us into the mysterious depths of a Ukrainian mine!—but all of them captured our imaginations and left us with a serious case of wanderlust.

1. “Go to the local places, meet the people, and ask for their recommendations on where to go and what to see.”

Olga Kot Photo

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — Ask Locals for Tips

Image by Olga Kot Photo. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikon 16-35 mm f/4.0 lens. Settings: Focal length 19mm; exposure 1/800 sec; f7,1; ISO 320.

Cahuita, Costa Rica

The place that comes to my mind first is Cahuita, a small village on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. We were on a trip through Mexico and all of Central America, and our schedule was quite tight. We were in desperate need of a place to rest for a couple of days, but we were too cheap to stay in the touristic resorts of the Pacific coast. After a bit of googling, we came across Cahuita, which is just next to Puerto Viejo.

Cahuita is situated near a national park of the same name. The first great thing about this park is that it is an amazing place for spotting the funniest creature called the three-toed sloth. And the second is that the park can be visited on a donation basis, paid only once. We managed to get lost there one day, and we were very happy to suddenly come across the surprising sign in the photo above. This picture became an embodiment of this place for me: a destination in the middle of nowhere with just the sea and the jungle… and a sudden bus stop some three kilometers away. We spent the whole week chasing the elusive sloths in the park, hiding food from the ravenous and ever-present raccoons, and observing the life of the crocodile family in the creek in the backyard of our hostel.

Video by Olga Kot.

Pro Tip

My advice is simple. Go to the local places, meet the people, and ask for their recommendations on where to go and what to see. They surely know some amazing places your guidebook will never tell you about. If you feel shy, there is also a great feature on Google Maps called Gallery, which can be found as an overlay in the bottom of the map itself. It shows you images with a line connecting them to the place where they are situated. Just zoom into the area you’re interested in, open the images layer, and discover new destinations in just a couple of clicks!

Instagram

2. “When traveling, relate to the people and experience their traditional hospitality.”

Nejdet Duzen

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — Embrace Local Culture

Image by Nejdet Duzen. Gear: Nikon D7100 camera, Sigma 10-20mm lens. Settings: Focal length 10mm; exposure 2.5 sec; f8; ISO 100.

Mardin, Turkey 

For thousands of years, Mardin has been a city where the Anatolian culture is intertwined with the history of Mesopotamia in Turkey. Mardin is a mosaic of cultures, combining history, architecture, geography, and food. A rare atmosphere of peace in the Middle East is created here, and people of different religions and races live together in tolerance. If you visit this area, you must stay in the old city of Mardin. The streets are safe, and the people are friendly. It was exciting that my hotel in the old city was next to an old hamam and mosque. For this photo, I just waited to photograph the wonderful sunset with the city lights.

Nejdet Duzen
Nejdet Duzen

Pictured: [1] Nejdet Duzen [2] Nejdet Duzen

Pro Tip

When traveling, relate to the people and experience their traditional hospitality. If you visit Mardin, add the towns of Midyat and Hasankeyf to your program points. The buses are comfortable and cheap, and they have many stops along the way. Because they are used by few foreigners, they also provide an excellent opportunity to meet locals.

Instagram

3. “If something doesn’t work out as planned, see it as a chance to have new experiences!”

Julian Peters Photography

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — See What Opportunities Come Your Way

Image by Julian Peters Photography. Gear: Sony SLT-A37 camera, DT 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 SAM lens. Settings: Focal length 26mm; exposure 1/50 sec; f4.5; ISO 100.

Trinidad to Santiago

When I visited Cuba at the turn of the year 2015-2016, the country was seeing an unmatched influx of tourists, and all the tourist buses were booked days ahead. After sharing a taxi from Trinidad with some other travelers, I planned on taking a local train to Santiago in the East of Cuba. Unfortunately, the train that departs from the small village of Guayos near Sancti Spiritus was not running, and I was stuck in the village for the night. Luckily, I met some really nice and helpful Cubans who offered to host me.

The next day, I decided to make my way back to Sancti Spiritus and from there onward towards Santiago in local camiones or “chicken buses,” which are essentially trucks from the 1950s that are equipped with benches and stuffed with people. After some hours in the exhausting heat, the bus made it to Ciego de Avila, a small town that I explored while waiting for the next camion. In the evening, I finally arrived in Camaguey, and the next day, I managed to get a seat on the night train that took me all the way to Santiago. While getting from Trinidad to Santiago was neither easy nor comfortable, it was one of the most amazing journeys I have experienced. I met many great people and saw beautiful places that I would have missed otherwise.

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — Be Open to Changing Your Plans

Image by Julian Peters Photography.

Pro Tip

My most important tip for discovering out-of-the-way destinations is to have the right mindset. If something doesn’t work out as planned, see it as a chance to have new experiences! I always do some research online or read a travel guide to get a general overview of my destination, but I never have a fixed route. Instead, I adjust my plan when I get recommendations from fellow travelers or locals. My favorite resources for inspiration are the travel blogs featured on TravelFeed, and for discovering less-traveled places near my destination, I look at Wikivoyage.

Instagram | Website

4. “Get lost. Just blend in with the crowd, go where your eyes take you, and walk without any particular plan.”

Ekaterina Pokrovsky

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — Keep an Eye Out for Details

Image by Ekaterina Pokrovsky. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 85mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f2.5; ISO 100.

Morocco

Every country I’ve visited has something special, but Morocco is definitely one of my favorite destinations. This country has a lot to offer: plenty of history and character, unique nature, exquisite architecture, colorful markets, delicious food, hospitable people, cozy riads, and, of course, easy access to the stunning Sahara. This image was taken at a traditional Moroccan market (souk) in Marrakesh. Spice cones are some of the most beautiful and colorful things you can find in Moroccan markets. Locals use a lot of spices in their cuisine; they are at the heart of Moroccan cooking, so at every souk, you will see plenty of these colorful pyramids. As a photographer, I wanted to have this experience.

Ekaterina Pokrovsky
Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Pictured: [1] Ekaterina Pokrovsky [2] Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Pro Tip

Get lost. Just blend in with the crowd, go where your eyes take you, and walk without any particular plan. This is where the fun is. You will not be able to visit every tiny street, but you will definitely see many things worth shooting. The Moroccan medinas are narrow, and they are crowded with people, so you will need a wide-angle lens for general views. Consider taking a long-focus lens as well for capturing beautiful details. Also, ask for permission. Not all Moroccans like their photographs to be taken, so ask before shooting a portrait.

Instagram

5. “Photographing underground is not simple. Protect your equipment and yourself.”

Marianna Ianovska

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — Protect Your Equipment

Image by Marianna Ianovska. Gear: Nikon D3100 camera, Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens. Settings: Exposure 30 sec; f8.0; ISO 200.

Donetsk, Ukraine

I like to travel underground. In industrial cities, you can find a world of tunnels and underpasses, mines, dungeons, and historic rivers. There is a special atmosphere in underground caves where there has been no sunlight for millennia. This photo was taken in a plaster mine in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. My friends and I went down to this place in the dead of night.

We walked all night in search of a good frame, and my camera misted over from the sharp changes in humidity at the different levels of the mine. The first level was 100 meters underground; the second was 500 meters underground. I waited for half an hour for my camera to get used to the temperature. Two of my friends began to shine lamps on the walls, and one of them performed as a model. The light drew a silhouette, and I was able to show the scale of the place.

5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers — Stay Safe, Wherever You Go

Image by Marianna Ianovska. Gear: Nikon D3100 camera, Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens. Settings: Exposure 30 sec; f8.0; ISO 400.

Pro Tip

Photographing underground is not simple. Protect your equipment and yourself. Cameras are often not designed for crude and dirty rooms. Your lenses will often sweat from the humidity and the changes in the atmosphere, and it will be necessary for you to frequently remove dirt, dust, and sometimes even water. It is cold, wet, and dark in these areas, and you have to be careful to avoid catching a cold or getting injured.

Always dress warmly; when you’re underground, the temperature can often reach below 8-15 degrees. There will also be an absence of light, so bring a candle, lamps, and colored lenses for your lamps to help create an ideal frame. Many of these places are hidden underground, and they are hard to find. Some of them require special permissions. Research into ancient mines can be done on the internet, and you can also study maps of the area.

Instagram | Facebook

*Safety Note: Underground photography can be dangerous and must be conducted safely and professionally. This is not a travel destination for anyone without the proper experience.

Top Image by Julian Peters Photography.