3 Best Kept Travel Secrets: Rwandan Safari, Chernobyl and Damascus

A couple of months ago I was nominated (by Angela Corrias – Travel Calling) to take part in a unique and collaborative online experiment called, “3 Best Kept Travel Secrets.” Started by the folks over at Tripbase–a new, personalized approach to travel planning–this exercise calls for travel bloggers to write about three obscure places they’ve been (restaurants, hotels, tours, etc.).

Katie Sorene, author of the original blog post on Tripbase, writes:

Been somewhere amazing you’d never even heard of? You want to let your buddies in on the secret, right? Read on for my top travel gems!

What’s interesting about travel is that the places / hotels / restaurants that everyone agrees are fantastic, are often not so fantastic.

And even if they are, it can all be a bit predictable.

Now what’s really fun is when you find somewhere obscure that is truly out of this world.

You can’t believe your luck to have stumbled across this travel gem. How could you not have heard of this place before??

You want to shout it from the rooftops.

So here goes… these are My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

Fortunately, my job has taken me to some fairly wacky destinations. Below are three that I would like to share with you.

Akagera National Park, Rwanda

An offbeat, cheaper alternative to the traditional African safari.

From Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, Akagera National Park is only a few hours away. Why pay $700+ to see Silverback gorillas when, for a third of the cost, you can hire a private driver and guide for a personal safari?

Last February, I found a hotel employee in Kigali that had access to a four-wheel drive vehicle and negotiated a $200 day trip to Akagera. We left at 6am, and on arrival at Akagera learned that the ~$30 entrance fee included a complimentary guide. SWEET.

The safari was amazing. We drove around for 5ish hours and saw a herd of elephants, a Masai giraffe, several Cape Buffalo, Oribi, Reedbuck, and an Olive Baboon that tried to climb into our car! If you have more time, you can arrange to stay overnight–lion spotting anyone?

Click here for: my blog post on Akagera National Park

Chernobyl Day Tour, Outside of Kiev, Ukraine

An intimate, exotic and informative tour of the world’s most infamous radioactive disaster zone.

Many of you out there have taken a group tour. I’ll go ahead and say it–Chernobyl is the wildest and most fun tour I have ever taken. For $180 you can hitch a ride from Kiev with Solo East Travel. During your1-2 hour drive, you’ll watch an American-made documentary about the Chernobyl disaster.

The tour group was small–no more than 17 people. We drove into the zone of exclusion to take pictures and to Pripyat, the ghost town next to Chernobyl known for its abandoned school, hospital and playground.

Click here for: my blog post on Chernobyl

Old City, Damascus, Syria

The most vibrant and dashing city I’ve ever been to.

Get lost in the narrow and twisting conduits of colors and smells and shops. Become wildly intoxicated with the periodic call of the muezzin–an exotic soundtrack of sorts, a strange, permeating presence you have to hear to really..well..feel. Take a trip to Damascus’ Old City, the oldest continually habituated place on Earth.

Syria is an enigmatic country, psychologically inaccessible to most of us Westerners. Hop off the beaten path and travel to one of the world’s most interesting places, bar none. Take it from me; the culture is overwhelming in the most pleasant of ways, the food (and sheesha) is ambrosial.

Click here for: my blog post on Syria

9 thoughts on “3 Best Kept Travel Secrets: Rwandan Safari, Chernobyl and Damascus”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! #7 on my life to-do list is go on a safari, and this seems like a better option than the tours I’ve been looking at.

    Also, I’m adding visit Chernobyl to my list. I remember when you first published that post and I’m surprised I forgot to add it back then.

    Awesome stuff, man.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..reclaim your weekend =-.

  2. We were just talking to a couple about Syria the other day. They said it was wonderful. It has shot to the top of our list. They told us that they actually serve tea and biscuits on the buses…for free!
    Great secrets. We haven’t been to any that you mentioned. they are such unique places!

  3. I have to agree that the best places are off the beaten path. It’s when you leave the crowds behind that you stumble across the most interesting stuff. I didn’t realize they gave tours of Chernobyl, that sounds fascinating – I wouldn’t mind visiting Syria either. If you haven’t been yet you should consider the island of Rhodes in Greece – I went last year and it was a trip to remember!

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