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Ever dreamt of exploring exotic destinations but didn’t fancy the long flight? The UK might have just what you’re looking for!
From quaint villages that echo the charm of the French countryside to rugged landscapes reminiscent of New Zealand’s dramatic scenery, there are loads of places right here in the UK that look like famous destinations abroad.
Ready to discover them all?
1. The Cotswolds ➡️ South West France
The rolling hills and limestone villages of the Cotswolds could easily have you thinking you’ve stepped into South West France.
As you probably know, France is full of cute villages with narrow cobblestone streets and the Cotswolds are very similar.
All the fields with cows and sheep are also very similar to the landscapes you find in South West France.
Finally, there are a lot of water streams that (even though smaller) reminds me of the Dordogne and Lot river.
Villages like Castle Combe for example are very similar to Saint-Cirq La Popie, Sarlat or even Autoire.
2. Northern Quarter, Manchester ➡️ New York City in the USA
Manchester is famous for its industrial background and the Northern Quarter, with its red brick buildings and vibrant street art, channels a distinct NYC vibe.
The area’s cool cafes, vintage shops, and bustling atmosphere might just make you feel like you’re wandering through the streets of New York (especially Brooklyn).
When I first moved to Manchester, that’s one of the things that striked me the most and clearly I’m not the only one since the Northern Quarter is often featured in series and movies that are set in NYC.
For example, in the 4th season of the Crown, you can see Princess Diana going to Harlem Hospital in New York City.
This scene was actually filmed on Dale Street in the Northern Quarter. And that’s not all, a lot of other movies like Captain America were filmed there.
3. St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall ➡️ Mont Saint-Michel in France
Just like its French twin, St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall is a breathtaking sight, perched on a tidal island and accessible via a causeway at low tide.
The similarities between the two are uncanny, from their historical buildings to their strategic coastal positions.
If you’ve ever seen photos of Mont Saint-Michel and wished to visit, then St. Michael’s Mount will surely fill you with the same sense of wonder.
It’s a magical place where you can wander through mediaeval halls and gardens, feeling like you’ve crossed over to France without leaving the UK.
To get there, you’ll need to go to the town of Marazion and can walk to the island. Please note that this is a National Trust property and you can buy your ticket online (it’s free if you are a member).
4. Durdle Door ➡️ The Arch on the Great Ocean Road in Australia
Durdle Door is located in Dorset. It’s an iconic limestone arc which reminds me a lot of the Arch on the Great Ocean Road in Australia.
Both are stunning natural arches carved by the power of the ocean. They also look so similar that it’s almost hard to say which one is what when you look at the photos side to side.
Walking down the beach towards Durdle Door at sunset, you could easily imagine yourself on the other side of the world, exploring the rugged coastlines of Australia.
Also, it’s free to visit so what’s not to like?
5. Royal Pavilion in Brighton ➡️ Taj Mahal in India
Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, with its distinctive Indian and Asian inspired architecture, could make you think you’ve been transported to India and are staring at the Taj Mahal.
Of course, it’s not quite a wonder of the world yet but it’s still a beautiful place to visit.
This exotic palace was built as a seaside retreat for George IV when he was Prince of Wales and has a very opulent design.
The intricate details and lavish interiors are reminiscent of India’s Mughal architecture, making it a unique sight in the heart of an English seaside town.
6. Traigh an t-Suidhe Beach on Iona ➡️ Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba
Of all hidden gems in the UK, the island of Iona near Mull is by far my favourite.
It’s tiny but it truly makes you feel like you are in the Caribbean!
If you go to Traigh an t-Suidhe, you will discover a beautiful beach with white sand and turquoise waters.
Obviously the water is a lot colder than it would be in the Caribbean but the colours are very similar to the beaches of Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba.
It’s secluded and offers a peaceful escape, with crystal-clear waters. The tranquillity and beauty of this Scottish beach provide a perfect slice of paradise, minus the long-haul flight to Cuba.
7. Minack Theatre ➡️ Tarragona Roman Theatre in Spain
The Minack Theatre is by far one of the most unique landmarks in the UK and no matter what, it should be on your bucket list!
It was carved into the cliffs of Cornwall, and bears a striking resemblance to the ancient Roman Theatre of Tarragona in Spain.
Both theatres offer dramatic ocean backdrops.
While Tarragona’s history dates back over two millennia, the Minack Theatre was the vision of Rowena Cade in the 20th century. Attending a performance here, under the stars and with the sound of the waves below, is an unforgettable experience, echoing the grandeur of Roman entertainment.
8. Snowdonia National Park in Wales ➡️ Mount Cook in New Zealand
Located in North Wales, Snowdonia is one of the most beautiful national parks in the UK.
Its rugged beauty, peaks and sometimes snowy tops make it very similar to the landscapes you would find in New Zealand’s Mount Cook National Park.
Both places offer breathtaking views, challenging hikes, and the serenity of nature in its rawest form.
Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales and the ultimate place to visit in the area. It’s a challenging hike but definitely worth it.
Alternatively, you can get the tramway to the top.
9. Clovelly ➡️ Cadaques in Spain
The quaint fishing village of Clovelly in North Devon, with its steep cobbled streets and whitewashed cottages, is very similar to Cadaques in Spain.
Both villages have a timeless charm, with their narrow lanes winding down towards crystal-clear waters.
You have to drive on windy small roads to get to Clovelly as well as Cadaques and can then explore on foot.
Cadaques is quite a bit bigger and is known for its connections with Salvador Dali which obviously is not the case of Clovelly but it’s still a beautiful place to visit, especially if you love cute villages.
10. Craigievar Castle ➡️ Sintra, Portugal
Craigievar Castle is located in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. It’s known for its pink colour and fairytale-like look.
It honestly seems to emerge from a storybook, similar to the colourful and eclectic palaces of Sintra in Portugal.
Of course, Sintra’s Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira are a lot bigger and colourful but they share this fairytale feel.
Please note that Craigievar Castle is a National Trust of Scotland site and free to enter.
11. Portmeirion ➡️ Manarola in Italy
This is by far the most famous Italian village in the UK. Located in Wales, Portmeirion will make you feel like you’ve landed in the middle of the Cinque Terre.
Designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was intended to replicate the feel of an Italian village, and it does so with remarkable success.
Walking through its streets, you can enjoy the vibrant architecture and lush gardens. It’s beautiful and will really make you feel like you are on holiday.
If you want to visit, you will need to book a ticket online or by phone. Unfortunately, Portmeirion is not dog-friendly though so you can’t bring your pup.
12. Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island ➡️ Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland
Staffa Island is located near the Isle of Mull and Iona. You can get there with a boat tour and explore the stunning Fingal’s Cave.
It’s entirely made of basalt columns and is such a unique sight!
When you first lay eyes on Staffa Island, you could easily be convinced you’re standing on the shores of Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland.
These naturally hexagonal columns, a result of ancient volcanic eruptions, create a stunningly symmetrical pattern that is as beautiful as it is awe-inspiring.
A boat trip to Staffa not only offers the chance to explore Fingal’s Cave but also provides the opportunity to see the puffins since there is a colony there.
13. Coral Beaches on Skye ➡️ Sardinia in Italy
The Coral Beaches on the Isle of Skye are a hidden treasure!
If you visit on a sunny day, with their white sands and crystal-clear waters, they will make you feel like you’ve just landed on one of the idyllic beaches of Sardinia, Italy.
Despite the cooler climate, the visual similarity is impressive!
You can easily get there by car from anywhere on Skye. The carpark is quite small and has a lot of pot holes though so make sure you get there early.
Pro tip: There is a hill behind the beaches, make sure to walk up to the top. It’s a bit windy but the views from there are fantastic.
14. The Isles of Scilly ➡️ The Maldives
The Isles of Scilly, are located near Cornwall and have loads of beaches that could easily be mistaken for the Maldives.
The one that would truly make you feel like you are in the Maldives is in St. Martin’s. The sand is so white and the water so blue. It’s incredible!
It used to be a complete hidden gem but it was put on the map in 2020 because Prince William and Kate Middleton went on holiday there.
To get there, you can take a flight or the ferry from Penzance.
15. Lynton and Lynmouth ➡️ Aguas Calientes in Peru
Nestled in the heart of Exmoor National Park, in Devon, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth are incredibly cute and a great place to visit during your holidays.
Here you will find a lot of houses, pubs and restaurants with stone walls as well as the river flowing in the middle.
Not only is it pretty but it really reminds you of mountain towns. While a lot of people ould argue it looks like a Swiss village, I actually thought it was very similar to Aguas Calientes in Peru.
Aguas Caliente is the nearest town to Macchu Picchu and of course it’s nowhere near the sea but everything else is very similar.
There even is a Cliff Railway in Lynton and Lynmouth that reminded me of the station in Aguas Caliente where you take the Machu Picchu train.
Each of these destinations within the UK offers a glimpse of the wider world, proving that you don’t need to travel far to experience the beauty and diversity of our planet.
Whether you’re standing atop a mountain in Wales, exploring a Scottish island, or wandering through a village in Cornwall, these places remind us that the UK is home to some truly magical landscapes that rival those found anywhere else on Earth.
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