5 Unusual and Unexpected Destinations for Travel Photographers

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!


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.