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Large Cities You've Probably Never Heard Of

We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.

For every New York City there's a Chengdu, China. For every Paris there's a Kinshasa, Congo. In other words, there are plenty of large cities out there that somehow fly below our collective radar. Here are three large cities you've probably never heard of that are well worth a visit.

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Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand

Garden with mountains and clouds in background
Credit: tawatchaiprakobkit/ iStock

The eponymous capital of the Chiang Mai Province is the largest city in Thailand's northern region. Founded in 1296, the city is currently home to about 131,000 residents. With balmy temperatures that rival those of sunny Southern California, you will most likely spend time outside.

Walking and biking tours are excellent ways of getting to know this ancient city. Because the city administrators are actively combating climate change, visitors benefit from the prolific availability of non-motorized transport. Besides that, the city has developed excellent walking paths to many of its most sought-after attractions.

Tour operators invite visitors to explore Chiang Mai at sunrise on the Mae Ping River, and the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a Theravada Buddhist temple. That said, you could make do without the organized tours simply by soaking in the local culture and walking or biking virtually anywhere. For a unique experience, take a rickshaw.

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San Sebastián, Basque Autonomous Community, Spain

View of all of San Sebastian
Credit: sunsinger/ Shutterstock

Most people outside of Europe do not know about this Basque city. But in Spain, it is a much sought-after vacation destination. Some stumble upon it while driving out of France. After all, it is a stone's throw from the French and Spanish border. Currently, the picturesque city has about 186,000 residents.

If you are a gourmet, you know that Spain is famous for its tapas. San Sebastián has those, too. However, here you would refer to them as pintxo. Moreover, you would see the portions placed on fresh-baked bread. When you consider that there are 11 three-Michelin-star restaurants in all of Spain and 3 of them are right here, you know you're in a culinary hotspot.

Visitors to the city can delight in the many walking tour opportunities. You do not have to go with a group. Instead, enjoy some sightseeing in the city's Old Town, which includes the Plaza de la Constitución. Although there are plenty of attractions such as the aquarium or the beaches, it is the perfect venue for daily exploration without any pre-made plans.

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Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Abidjan, Ivory Coast, at sunset
Credit: Ayotography/ Shutterstock

Abidjan never really took off as a tourist destination in the Ivory Coast, which means that you have the advantage of getting a much more authentic experience. The city, which is home to about 4.7 million residents, offers plenty to see and do.

Moreover, because there is plenty of international business travel going to the area, it has hotels and amenities that appeal to tourists. Plenty of tour operators offer excursions to nearby attractions. You can even specify if you prefer French or English.

One of the best-kept secrets in Abidjan is the Ivoire Golf Club. Next Golf refers to it as a "nice walk" that attracts even non-golfers to the facility. After hitting the greens, dance the night away at one of the many jazz clubs, discos, and similar establishments that the suburb of Marcory offers.

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