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Luang Prabang, Laos

A view of Nam Khan river, Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo: Thinkstock

Sometimes, the road less traveled demands a detour. It may even be destination-worthy, thanks to a quieter, more interesting and less touristy surrounds. The next time you’re looking for stories to tell, forgo the obvious in favor of a tucked-away, small town adventure.

Sure, Europehas umpteen cities to add to a bucket list. But why not take a jaunt to the octadecagon-shaped, UNESCO World Heritage town of Palmanova, Italy, instead? Situated between Venice and Trieste in northeastern Italy, it’s a go-to for good Chardonnay, and its waters are chock-full of fresh fish, a bounty that informs regional dishes like baccalà.

In Southeast Asia, beauty is unquestionably at every turn. That makes it hard to settle on a single spot. However, Luang Prabang, Laos, may just win your heart. Bright blooms and cascading greenery are one thing, the mountain and river-fringed setting another. Adding to its beauty, the multi-cultural town is dotted with French provincial architecture, and buses and trucks are banned from its streets.

If you’re looking for something deserted, the beaches of Morro de São Paulo, Brazil, may be for you. The quiet town is reached by ferry from Mercado Modelo or a 20-minute charter flight from Salvador. Expect to explore the island by foot or by buggy taxi, found on roads fringing the beaches. In the evening, pop-up drink stands serve fresh fruit libations mixed with cachaça and the like.

Not to be overlooked, America has its share of cool, small-town spots. Historic Jacksonville, Oregon, is just one of many examples. Surrounded by forested mountains and rivers, it’s a world away from Napa’s pace. Therein lies the allure. This winery-stippled region is set amid the Applegate Valley, where boutique vintners take advantage of the area’s micro-climates. The town itself is intersected by quaint streets and woodland trails, and its eateries emphasize produce plucked from the verdant landscape.

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Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago. Find her on Twitter at @olverajennifer.
Jennifer Olvera

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