Underrated travel destinations: Travel writers’ secret places revealed

Traveller’s writers – with more than a little arm-twisting from our editor – have agreed to share some of their most special, cherished places; the secret spots we don’t want the world to know about. Just this once, we are willing to share (as long as it stays strictly between us).

The Rock Islands of Palau.

PIGNETO, ROME

In Rome it can feel as if no one actually lives there – a city populated entirely by tourists. However, there’s succour. Whisper it, but if you jump on a bus or hail a cab and head to the up-and-coming suburb of Pigneto, suddenly everything changes. The tourists are gone. In their place are the normal residents of Rome, the working class, the middle class, the hipsters, the students, the families. Pigneto was once pretty rough, but these days is home to Rome’s coolest little bars and restaurants, places like Spirito, a speakeasy that’s only accessible through an unmarked door in a shabby sandwich shop. You pick up a phone, press a button, and all of a sudden you’re in hipster heaven. Then there’s the world’s best porchetta and meatballs at Trattoria Pigneto. There’s not a single tourist attraction around; and not a single tourist. Whisper it. BEN GROUNDWATER

MOSSMAN RIVER, QUEENSLAND

Most visitors to Tropical North Queensland have one thing on their mind – the Great Barrier Reef – and that’s fine by me. For those that do seek out the magnificent Daintree Rainforest – the world’s oldest living rainforest and the inspiration for the movie Avatar – their endpoint is typically the fabulous $20 million Mossman Gorge Centre, or the awe-inspiring Cape Tribulation. That’s more than fine by me too because, most likely, it means I’ll have a secret swimming hole on the glorious Mossman River pretty much to myself. To reach it takes some effort. It’s located off the road to the famed Silky Oaks Lodge, via the friendly sugar cane town of Mossman. Pull over at Anich’s Bridge and make your way down to the rushing fresh water river. Float downstream on the rushing currents and gaze up in wonder at the ancient canopy entwined with strangler figs. Enormous butterflies flit and kingfishers swoop looking for lunch. See cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.auSHERIDEN RHODES

MANONO, SAMOA

Electricity only came to Manono in 2003 and you won’t find a single car on the island (or a road). And yet Manono’s just a 20- minute boat ride from Samoa’s most populated island, Upolu. I first heard of Manono in Paul Theroux’s South Pacific odyssey, The Happy Isles Of Oceania, and knew I had to visit. Few visitors ever come and even fewer stay overnight. Those who venture across stay in simple villas by the sea run by families who prepare each meal . But the views are stunning – clear vistas from your balconies across an empty blue lagoon. There’s not much to do except walk around a track that encircles the island – stopping to talk with locals tending tiny plots of farm land, or finding another private beach to swim at. I’m the only palangi (foreigner) on Manono when I stay. But even so, no one takes any notice of me as I walk among  them, sipping warm Vailima  beer bought from the island’s only store. See samoa.travelCRAIG TANSLEY

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