Revealed: the world’s top hidden gems (just keep it to yourself)

The world’s best-kept travel secrets are out – but they won’t stay secret for long.

Why? Because a leading tour firm have listed their top 20 following a survey when found that, when we find somewhere exclusive and special, we tend to keep it to ourselves.

Little-known destinations such as Jaffna in the North of Sri Lanka, El Nido Pangalusian Island in the Philippines and Mexico’s ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilan are among everything from tiny towns to palm-flecked beaches named in a list of the world’s top 20 hidden gems.

Bukchon Village in Seoul, South Korea

They were revealed in a study which found that eight in 10 British holidaymakers were more interested in escaping the usual tourist traps than the more well-known destinations on their next holiday.

Just one per cent of the UK has heard of Indonesia’s Gili Meno Island, selected by Kuoni due to its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. While its neighbouring island Gili Trawangan is now a hotspot for backpackers, the island of Gili Meno remains firmly off the beaten track.

View of the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh, India

Three quarters said they wanted to go somewhere none of their friends have been and a fifth of them thought it would make them appear more worldly.

When asked for examples, a tiny 0.1 per cent had heard, for example, about the tranquil garden complex of Mehtab Bagh, which sits on the banks of the Yamuna River in India behind the Taj Mahal, according to the survey by Kuoni.

No surprise given that many people admitted that, while they enjoy visiting lesser-known places friends have recommended, they were less likely to tell others about them.

Kuoni’s spokesman Rachel O’Reilly said:

While the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal attract thousands of visitors per year between them, a generation of travellers are now seeking more secluded beauty spots.

Six in 10 of our respondents said they’d never share a travel secret with anyone else, suggesting that hidden holiday gems are very personal.

Global travel is accelerating, and many well-known sights have a huge volume of visitors, while other equally beautiful places provide seclusion, with jaw-dropping beauty and in some ways create stronger personal experiences.

People’s travelling lifespan has expanded – from a very young age people are used to travelling to new places with their families and continue to explore the world as they seek new experiences well into their seventies and eighties – so people want fresh perspectives and new inspiration which, is what our new list is all about.

And we are happy to pay for privilege. UK holidaymakers said they’d be happy to pay an average of £300 extra for their holidays, if it included an unforgettable secret sight.

The hike between OIA and Imerovigli, Santorini, Greece

The top 20 best kept travel secrets in the WorldViews of the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh, IndiaThe island of Gili Meno, IndonesiaEl Nido Pangulasian Island, PhilippinesJaffna, north Sri LankaCon Dao Island, VietnamThe hike between OIA and Imerovigli, Santorini, GreeceThe island of Bequia, the GrenadinesTirimbina Rainforest Reserve, Costa RicaThe Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, Virginia, USASalar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats), BoliviaThe town of Matera in the Basilicata region of Italy (find out more: Matera – from shame to chic in 50 years)The koalas of Kennet River on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, AustraliaFarewell Spit, New ZealandBukchon Village in Seoul, South KoreaLake Atitlan, GuatemalaOmodos Village, CyprusKwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South AfricaYaxchilan, the ancient Mayan city in the state of Chiapas, MexicoMargaret River, Western AustraliaZebra migration in Botswana


Do you have a hidden gem you discovered during your travels? Leave a comment (or will you keep it to yourself?)

24 Hours in San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Port and Mount Urgull, San Sebastián (c) Guillén Pérez

It’s no longer a secret: San Sebastian, European Capital of Culture in 2016, is a gastronomic gem in a land of spectacular food. If you’re planning on spending 24 hours in this city you’ll need to loosen your waistband.

Sure, Spain has a glut of fantastically picturesque cities and some of the best food on the planet, but San Sebastian known as Donostia in the Basque Country, might just be the jewel in the crown.

The city is also very compact so you will be able to walk from one side to the other relatively quickly. If nothing else, bring your swimming gear and comfy walking shoes.

Must Visit

Playa de la Concha (c) Thomas Julin

La Playa de la Concha beach, with its golden crescent sweeping from Parte Vieja (old town – the heart of the city) in the east to Monte Igueldo in the west, is a wonderful feature of this city.

It is probably one of the finest city beaches in Europe, probably the world, you’ll want to spend a while splashing in the sea or people watching. And let’s not forget Playa de Gros (also known as Playa de la Zurriola), a favourite with surfers.

But to get the picture postcard view you’ll need to head to the funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo. A €3.15 ride takes you to the antiquated but charming funfair on top of the hill which offers views that can accurately be described as ‘breathtaking’.

We also went for a ride on the rickety roller coaster and climbed ‘The Tower’ for even better views. All the attractions are about €3 each for adults.

Must Eat

pintxos (c) José Porras

Food wise, San Sebastian is akin to a culinary sweet shop. The old town (Parte Vieja) is studded with wood-panelled bars sporting unpronounceable Basque names such as txepetxa and etxberria. Passing each one you’ll spy little gastronomic works of art lined up along the bar.

These are pintxos (pinch-os), the local variety of tapas and it is these that give the Basque region their rep for quality food. Each one costs around €2-3 and it can be tempting to get stuck in and spend a fortune.

Our favourite pintxos bars were Bar Zeruko, where everything on the bar looked picture perfect and Bar Azkena, which is down a flight of stairs hidden in a market near the local Lidl.

Top tip! Order from the specials board. We had slow-cooked veal cheek with foie gras and a lobster morsel served in a shot glass with dry ice (don’t drink the dry ice!).

But our advice is treat the pintxos like an appetizer and head to one of the many Michelin starred restaurants in town. There is a splendid selection.

Arzak is the most famous of the three Michelin starred restaurants on offer. But you’d be hard pressed to choose between them, Akelarre or Kokotxa.

We sampled the fare at Narru for their exquisite lunch menu. Bookings are recommended at all the restaurants.

Must Drink

The Basque’s are a proud lot and they’re justifiably proud of their unique booze options. Just ask any barman what he recommends and the answer will be one of these.

Txakoli (cha-ko-lee) is a tangy apple wine which is poured with a flourish – a cascade from a great height into a small glass. Don’t try and do it yourself!

The local cider (cidra) is also a must try. If you’re not a cider drinker then if you only try once, do it in San Sebastian.

Must Stay

A literal stones throw from La Concha beach, Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra is a grand and palatial looking building in the heart of the city centre. The rooms are cool and light with a chic modern finish, despite the classical exterior. The location is ideal for the 24 hour visitor, with the old town a 10 minute walk, the beach barely 2 minutes and the main shopping area on the doorstep.

The bar in the hotel also overlooks the beach so you can watch the world go by over breakfast.

Search more hotels in San Sebastian:


Booking.com

Getting There

San Sebastian’s airport is small and only flies internally between Madrid and Barcelona. The nearest international airports are Bilbao (around an hour by bus) or Biarritz in France (just under an hour).

Tickets can be bought at both airports directly to the bus station in San Sebastian.

Link between common prostate cancer treatment, dementia detailed in new study

The team compiled data from four different global databases looking at studies on ADT patients and dementia and Alzheimer’s. An analysis of more than 50,000 patients worldwide showed a consistent statistical link between men who underwent ADT for prostate cancer and men who developed dementia. Nead says the numbers show correlation, not causation at this point, but that there is evidence of a direct connection.

“Research shows androgens play a key role in neuron maintenance and growth, so the longer you undergo this therapy to decrease androgens, the more it may impact the brain’s normal functions,” Nead said.

The analysis was less conclusive on the question of Alzheimer’s. While there was still a connection, it was not as clearly defined as the link to dementia. Nead says evidence for a link between ADT and neurocognitive dysfunction is growing and should be part of the conversation between doctors and patients.

“There’s enough evidence of these links that patients should know about them when considering their options,” Nead said.

Digital relay baton enables remote crowd cheering of athletes

A prototype digital relay baton has been developed by computer scientists at Lancaster University to allow friends, family and other interested viewers to offer encouragement to weary athletes undertaking challenging events — such as long-distance charity fund-raising runs.

Sporty types, such as runners and cyclists, are used to digital fitness trackers and apps (such as Fitbit and Strava) that enable them to document their activities and allow them to share their exploits with others. However, so far they are predominantly used for performance analysis after the event.

The digital baton, which is detailed in a research paper ‘Embedding a Crowd inside a Relay Baton: A Case Study in a Non-Competitive Sporting Activity’, which will be presented this summer at the ‘CHI17’ conference, contains sensors which broadcast information such as location, speed and distance data to a webpage, allowing people to follow the action on their phone, tablet or PC.

In response to the information displayed, which can also include a live map and gradient profile showing upcoming hills, followers are able to click on a cheer button which makes the baton vibrate and also calls out the name of the person cheering so it can be heard by the athlete — spurring them on.

The baton was tested by a team from Lancaster University’s Running Club who ran the 170-mile ‘Way of the Roses’ long-distance route across England from Morecambe, Lancashire, to Bridlington, Yorkshire, in less than 24 hours. This event, in which 13 athletes took turns running five-mile legs, was challenging in physical terms, but also mentally due to periods of loneliness while running across isolated Pennine moorland and in the dark.

Novel genes identified that help suppress prostate and other cancers

Reported in Nature Genetics, this research sheds light on new pathways involved in cancer development — these could be possible drug targets for cancers with a faulty PTEN gene. The methods developed could also identify other genes that cooperate to suppress cancer growth.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the UK with around 47,000 men diagnosed each year. More than half of prostate cancers have an altered or missing PTEN gene, as do many other cancers, including brain tumours, and endometrial cancers.

Tumour suppressor genes such as PTEN help prevent cancer development in healthy people. PTEN regulates an important cell pathway for growth and division. However, little is known about which other genes and pathways cooperate with PTEN to prevent cancer.

In this study, researchers designed a new method in mice in which part of the Pten gene was converted into a mobile DNA element known as a transposon. When this was mobilized from the Pten gene it was inactivated. Importantly the transposon carrying a piece of Pten would land randomly throughout the genome, damaging genes into which it inserted. Cancers would grow when the transposon damaged a tumour suppressor gene that co-operated with Pten.

Dr Jorge de la Rosa, the first author on the study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “We developed a new method that coupled Pten inactivation with mobilization of the transposon. We inserted the transposon directly inside the Pten gene, so that whenever it jumped out and inserted into another part of the genome, it inactivated Pten at the same time. By analysing which genes were disrupted in the cancers that grew, we were able to pinpoint genes that cooperate with Pten in suppressing tumours.”