Thursday, 30 April 2020

4 “second cities” you never thought to visit (but really should)

Second-city travel is set to be a major trend this year. A 2019 survey by found that 51% of global travellers would swap their original destination for a similar alternative to reduce their environmental impact.

“Second-city travel relieves the effects of overtourism, such as pollution and stresses on public infrastructure, in popular destinations,” explains Angel Llull, the company’s APAC VP. “It also enables smaller communities to gain from tourism.”

Travellers benefit, too. “You’ll get to contend with fewer crowds and enjoy cheaper prices,” Llull says, “and gain new experiences from going off the beaten track.” Luckily, this part of the world is packed with exciting second cities, from Cambodia to India. Here are some top picks.

Blitar second cities
Penataran temple in Blitar is a must-visit. Photo credit: Aleksandar Todorovic/

1. Blitar

Three hours from Surabaya, this small city in East Java is surrounded by numerous ancient temples.

Where to play
Penataran Temple is the largest Hindu temple in East Java. Located on the slope of an active volcano, Mt Kelud, it was built in the late 12th century, during the Kediri Kingdom. The restoration work is impeccable – showing off detailed stone carvings of scenes from the Sanskrit epic poem, Ramayana.

Where to stay
A restored colonial mansion with tasteful antique furnishings and old photographs, Hotel Tugu has spacious suites that carefully blend Javanese design with contemporary fittings. Its largest, Sang Fajar, comes with a hand-carved Javanese bed.

How to get there
You can drive from Surabaya or take the longer but more picturesque five-hour train ride through lush forests and rural Javanese villages.

Hussain Sagar second cities
A Buddha statue in the middle of Hussain Sagar Lake. Photo credit: Joe Ravi/

2. Secunderabad

Founded in 1806 as a cantonment for the British forces, Hyderabad’s twin city offers bustling bazaars and fascinating historic buildings.

Where to play
Hussain Sagar Lake is a heart-shaped lake built in 1563. In the middle of the lake is a 16m-high Buddha statue, which can be reached by boat.

Where to stay
Minerva Grand Secunderabad is a centrally located boutique stay with spacious rooms that offer picturesque city views.

How to get there
Secunderabad is 20 minutes by train from Hyderabad.

Lenggong second cities
The lush rainforest of Lenggong Valley. Photo credit: Takashi Images/

3. Lenggong

Lenggong Valley is Malaysia’s fourth Unesco World Heritage site, and the town is where archaeologists found the 11,000-year-old Perak Man, the oldest and most complete skeleton unearthed in Southeast Asia.

Where to play
Malaysia’s Mini Amazon fishing camp at Kampung Beng offers boat explorations and angling trips on the Perak River and Chenderoh Lake.

Where to stay
Rumah Tiang 16 is a traditional Malay kampung house transformed into a boutique homestay. It offers an immersive programme that includes preparing local dishes and visiting a village of kite-makers.

How to get there
From Penang, it’s a two-hour drive to Lenggong.

Greenhouse Kampot second cities
Stay at Greenhouse for splendid views of the river. Photo credit: Nicolas Honore

4. Kampot

Despite its go-slow vibe, this sleepy riverside town in Cambodia has plenty to offer, from architecture to nature.

Where to play
Kampot is famed for its namesake pepper, so consider a visit to La Plantation, an organic farm that conducts free guided walks. Or simply wander the streets to admire the faded grandeur of its colonial-era buildings, perhaps picking up a num pang (pork baguette) from a roadside stall.

Where to stay
GreenHouse, on the banks of Kampot River, offers rustic bungalows replete with swinging hammocks.

How to get there
A mini-bus ride from Phnom Penh takes about three hours.

Words by Rusmailia Lenggogeni (Blitar), Lakshmi Prabhala (Secunderabad), Marco Ferrarese (Lenggong) and Delle Chan (Kampot)

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SEE ALSO: The growth of grassroots tourism in Malang, Surabaya

This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of Silkwinds magazine

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