Off-The-Beaten-Path: Part 3

Looking for some Off-The-Beaten-Path travel inspiration? You have come to the right place.

This weeks places are scattered all over the world. And feature a variety of different Off-The-Beaten-Path activities. So whether your looking for a foodie vacation, island paradise, or a scenic train ride, it’s all here.

No Name Restaurant, Mexico City

(Anais from @thecuriousmexican)

On a busy backstreet in the Historic Center, across the street from a beautiful and abandoned Art Deco Orfeon Cinema and right next-door to an uber cool Mezcal dive bar, you’ll find one of my favorite (if not my favorite) food spots in town, a 24-seat restaurant with No Name.

This unpretentious restaurant with perfectly executed food is commonly mistaken as Oaxacan. When in reality, the inspiration for most of the dishes comes from the southern Mexican states. And most importantly from owner Sofia Garcia’s, memories of her aunts and mother spending hours in the kitchen.

The Main Attraction. Food.

Decoration is simple and straightforward, just like the menu. Here simple techniques and high-quality ingredients are the protagonists. Elements such as pipicha, avocado leaf, hoja de acuyo (hoja santa), grasshoppers and chicatana ants make an appearance, next to nopales, tostadas, tomatillo based salsas and fresh guava.

Masa and tortillas here are not store-bought, but made totally from scratch. Corn kernels are brought in from the popular Ozumba market (1.5 hours outside the city), bought only from small producers who respect seasonalities. It’s then nixtamalized in-house, a practice that’s been around since the pre-columbian times, but has regained a lot of popularity in the last couple of years.

The dishes that are completely unmissable are the itacate, a corn masa pattie triangular shaped, stuffed with fava bean puree, cheese, tomato and chili and wrapped in hoja de acuyo. The octopus rubbed with morita chili and served with black beans. The nopales salad with fresh cactus mixed with cheese and white beans. And the avocado leaf pound cake served with a soursop (guanabana) foam as a dessert. You can also ask about their Mexican wine and craft beer selection or even better, get one of their amazing artisanal mezcales.

Overall the Sin Nombre (no name) restaurant is a place where food is cared for, cooked and served with utmost attention to detail. But most importantly with a deep respect and love for each ingredient and its flavor, that feels more like an effortlessly delicious introduction to the complexity of Mexican gastronomy and its purest essence.

Dogu Express, Turkey

(Ellis Veen from @BackpackAdventures)
Off the beaten path

I love trains and when I planned my trip to Iran I was eager to go by train through Turkey. Unfortunately, the train between Istanbul and Tehran was canceled for an indefinite amount of time. The only other option was the Dogu express to Kars in the northeastern part of Turkey.

This journey was far from straightforward. Instead of a direct train I had to travel from Kars to Iran in a combination of buses and taxis with an additional stop in a town called Dogubayezit. I had to think twice about this. I needed three extra days in places I had never heard about and even on the internet there was little information about them. 

In the end I am glad I decided to take the Dogu express. The beginning of my trip could not have been more spectacular. The train from Ankara to Kars is one of the most scenic train journeys I have made and I enjoyed every minute of the 24 hour journey even though I was the only tourist on board.

Northeastern Anatolia also turned out to be a beautiful area of Turkey. I would never have thought that Dogubayezit at the foot of mount Ararat would become a highlight of my trip, but it did, for the friendly and welcoming people. With few tourists that make it this far in Turkey it is as authentic as it can get. I am already planning a next trip to this region, because there is so much more to explore.

Cook Islands

(Lisa from @Rebellious Tourist)
Off the beaten path

My now-husband and I struggled to choose a honeymoon destination. Coming from Europe, the Caribbean and the Maldives just felt a little too accessible. We were set on the South Pacific, but Fiji seemed a bit touristy and French Polynesia too expensive. So when we stumbled across the idea of the Cook Islands, it felt like everything fell into place.

These tiny islands, about 4 hours by plane from Auckland and 9.5 hours from LA, are popular with Kiwi and Aussie tourists but virtually unheard-of to anyone else. Flying into the main island of Rarotonga – the ocean on one side and lush green mountains on the other – it really is like your Polynesian stereotypes have come true.

Venture even further off the beaten path, and it just keeps getting better. A one-hour flight on the local airline can take you to Aitutaki. A postcard-perfect island with just enough tourist infrastructure. Yes, there’s a great beach bar and a couple of boutique hotels. But you’re never far from a deserted stretch of beach. Hire a water taxi to tour the lagoon and its string of 15 islets, and chances are you’ll find yourself completely alone. This is the closest to a castaway fantasy I’ve ever been able to find.

Read my full story on the Cook Islands here

Kalaw, Myanmar

(Anastasia from @TravelLeap)
Off the beaten path

We spent the last few days of our Myanmar trip in Kalaw, a small little town in the hills. Kalaw was a wonderful discovery, quite different from the rest of the country we had seen so far. This small town is perched on top of a hill in the Shan State and benefits from cooler, mountain-like weather.

During our few days there we joined a guided tour with a local. He took us all the way to the top of the hill where we had a lovely lunch. It was prepared the local way and we exchanged stories of travels with other groups. The hike lasted roughly six hours and showed a beautiful side of the area, made of forests and green hills.

To our surprise, in town, we found an Italian restaurant called the Red House, managed by an Italian guy and his Burmese wife. The food and the atmosphere were fantastic, so much so that we went back a couple of times and had great conversations with the owner. He had been living in Myanmar for the last ten years and has seen the country change rapidly in the last few years. Definitely an Off-The-Beaten-Path stop we recommend if you travel to Myanmar!

Want More Off-The-Beaten-Path Travel Inspiration??

Question? Comments? Let me know here!