In 2017, why not travel down the path less taken? Here are seventeen suggestions about places that you rarely see in tourism commercials, but offer an amazing opportunity to get down off the beaten track. Be warned, though: after reading this article, your wanderlust will be unleashed in all its fury.
1. South Korea
South Korean city Pyeongchang will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, but this country’s wondrous nature and bustling urban centers offer much more than stare of the art ski resorts. Try the famed Korean barbecue in capital Seoul or chill out in the coastal city of Busan.
Seoraksan National Park has stunning jagged rock formations as well as hot springs and Buddhist temples
Jeju Island is famous for its beaches, outdoor spas and lava tube tours
The Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul dates back to the XV century and is a UNESCO world heritage site
In Deogyusan, you can finish off a day on the slopes by relaxing in one of the many hot springs
This tiny island nation is located in the Indian Ocean, eastwards from Madagascar. Mix swimming in endless turquoise waters with wind and kitesurfing. If you would like to absorb some culture, you can take in Mauritius’ churches, temples, mosques and lighthouses stemming from its colonial history. And you cannot afford to leave out sampling the country’s top notch rum.
Le Morne Brabant is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as “an exceptional testimony to… resistance to slavery”
The Seven Colored Earths in Chamarel dunes
The capital of Port Louis. On its streets you will hear a mix of English, French, and Mauritian Creole
The oil rich ninth-largest country on the planet was initially offended by Borat, but some people believe the mockumentary actually boosted its tourism. From shopping and high-dining in the former capital and largest city Almaty, to the sacret forests in the Tian Shan mountains, Kazakhstan is nothing like what is portrayed in the Sasha Baron Cohen movie.
Astana was nothing but stepped only a couple of decades ago. The capital futuristic skyline was built from scratch before it was inaugurated in 1997
Almaty’s wooden Ascension Cathedral, constructed without nails between 1904 and 1907. It offered no service during Soviet times, before being given back to the Russian Orthodox church in the 1990s
The Almaty Lake in the Tian Shan mountains. The Tian Shan range that stretches into China is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site
Aktau, a popular swimming spot, sits on the Caspian Sea coast
More than four decades after a bloody dispute between Greece and Turkey, Cyprus is bustling with life. The Mediterranean island’s landscape is a monument to its past as a prized possession of several empires. Byzantine monasteries, Roman tombs and mosques stand side-by-side, not far from pristine beaches.
The harbor of Kyrenia, a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling
Limassol is the second-largest city, famous for its nightlife
Kourion is a well-preserved former coastal city-kingdom
A pub-crawl and a horse ride through the picturesque Cypriot village of Pissouri in walking distance from the coast? You just have to try it!
Latvia is a hidden gem on the Baltic Sea which was a part of the USSR until 1991. The capital, Riga, was the European Capital of Culture for 2014. Historical old towns, castles and churches sit in the midst of pristine, accessible natural ecosystems.
Riga’s most famous landmark is the House of the Blackheads dating back to the XIV century. It was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1999
The Gauja River flows along the border between Estonia and Latvia. More than 500 cultural monuments are located inside the Gauja National Park
One of the white Baltic Sea beaches across the coast of Sweden.
Traverse the Great Kemeri Bog by boardwalk inside the Kemeri National Park
This gem lies on the Pacific coast between Colombia and Peru and has it all: from beaches and rainforests, to mountains and volcanos – even the world famous Galapagos Islands with their unique marine life. The territory of Ecuador used to be part of the Inca Empire, and this heritage is mixed with its colonial history. The country uses American Dollar as its currency and its UNESCO-protected capital Quito has been called “the colonial jewel of South America”.
Bartolome Island is one of the Galapagos Islands. Its endemic species inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution
The Chimborazo volcano – Ecuador’s highest mountain
Cuenca is another UNESCO World Heritage Site
Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus, or la Compañía, has Inca and indigenous motives weaved in its golden interior
American Samoa has given us Saul Goodman’s law degree, but its neighbor Samoa offers 10 islands full of beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and waterfalls, with almost no modern resorts in sight.
Trek to the To Sua Ocean Trench, an area famous for its natural rock pools and blowholes
The Upolu Island paradise
Papapapaitai Falls tumbling down into a giant gorge also rich with swimming holes and smaller waterfalls
Book one of Upolu Island’s many ecolodges or sustainable beachfront hotels
With 3,4 million inhabitants, the Republic of Uruguay finds itself between Argentina and Brazil on the Atlantic coast. The combination of its European charm brought by its mostly old continent settlers with its Gaucho traditions makes it a unique place in South America.
The capital Montevideo is located across a bay from the Argentine capital Buenos Aires
The eccentric Casapueblo resort in Punta Ballena, inspired by the mud nests of native hornero birds, was designed by late Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró
The beaches of Punta del Este are a well-known party spot
Take in Uruguay’s amazing countryside on horseback, as a real Gaucho should!
The Namib desert is the oldest in the world and almost completely uninhabited. Namibia’s cities have a distinctly German feel to them as the country was one of Germany’s rare African colonies. European restaurants and colonial architecture together with its national parks, wildlife, shipwrecks and dunes make Namibia one of the most unique places in Africa.
Zebras having a drink in Etosha National Park
Lüderitz, a colonial harbor with German roots, as proven by its name and the Luteran church
The quiver tree – a symbol of Southern Namibia – in a natural park affectionately called Giant’s Playground
It’s not the moon, just a regular off-road trip in the Namib
Guatemala has a rich Mayan history. Deep into its jungles, you will find a film-like landscape of Mayan ruins older than a millennium – the Tikal National Park. All this in the vicinity of wondrous lagoons, lakes and active volcanoes.
From the 6th to the 10th century B.C., Mayans inhabited the plazas, temples and dwellings of the what is today the Tikal National Park
Antigua is a historic city in the Guatemalan highlands; here, its popular Parque Central
Petén Itzá is a lake whose turquoise waters make it look like the seaside
A hike above an active volcano? No biggie.
11. Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is the third largest island state in the world, after Indonesia and Madagascar, and it is practically untouched. Its stunning diversity is just waiting to be explored, which means little western comforts, but perhaps that’s what you want? Catch one of the local festivals where the tribal past of the island is presented through song and dance.
The New Ireland Province is known for its pristine, white sand beaches
A bird’s view of the capital, Port Moresby
A sing-sing in the Highlands. 836 indigenous languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, but most of them by less than one thousand speakers
You can dive and snorkel then do a trek on one of PNG famed trails
12. Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
In the most easterly province of Canada you can kayak between icebergs and 22 species of whales. 200 walking trails are spread along the 18,000 miles of untouched coastline, some of which comprises of stunning, glacier-carved fjords. Take your time!
An iceberg arriving at Trinity Bay from the Arctic in spring
Gros Morne National Park, where neon jellyfish float inside towering fjords
Fort Amherst in the province’s capital of St. John’s. It commemorates Colonel William Amherst recapturing the area from the French in 1762
The Humber River during fall
The land of Dracula has it all: Black Sea coastline, Bucharest’s wild nightlife, medieval castles, wooden churches and even a merry cemetery. If that’s not enough for you, you can book daring alpine hikes through the towering Carpathian Mountains or tour the largest non-military building in the world.
The Black Church with an interior adorned with Turkish carpets in Brasov, at the foot of the Carpathians
The Gothic Corvin Castle in Transylvania holds 50 rooms draped in medieval art
It might not look like it, but you can bike down the Transfagarasan Road, which connects the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia
Bucharest, is a landmark of wild Eastern European nightlife, and the food is not too shabby, either
Laos is the new promised land for backpackers, even more so than Cambodia and Thailand. Criss-cross the emerald rice fields, gaze at the waterfalls or climb the soaring mountains, then recuperate with the amazing Lao cuisine. There’s also cave kayaking, yoga retreats and organic farms always on the lookout for volunteers.
A hot air balloon flying over Vang Vieng, a town in the middle of the jungle
You can swim in the Kuang Si Falls… if you can take the cold!
Terraced rice fields are one of the most unique (and oldest) food growing methods in the world
Siddhārtha Gautama sculptures in the Buddha Park in Vientiane
Azerbaijan has a lot of untapped oil, and even more untapped tourism potential. This Turkic nation lies between Iran and Russia, at the foot of the Great Caucasus mountains. In the capital of Baku you will find a UNESCO-protected Old Town surrounded by recently-spawned futuristic architecture.
Baku, a port on the Caspian sea, was one of the most important spots on the planet during World War II due to its rich oil reserves
The historic Government House in Baku
The Azeri capital also offers museums, theaters, libraries and an opera house
The mountains are hiding numerous quaint villages such as Xinaliq, populated by friendly, welcoming shepherds ready to give directions or offer some hospitality
It’s not by accident that this country has LOVE in its name. It has a portion of the Alps and one of Europe’s most picturesque lakes: Bled. If you are a winter sport’s fan you shouldn’t miss Maribor – home to World Cup skiing and ski-jumping events, while the capital Ljubljana has both the mid-European class and southern hospitality. Slovenia has a rich cultural scene and has given the world some unique artists and intellectuals, such as the band Laibach and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
The famous Triple Bridge leads to the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Ljubljana
Lake Bled in summer
A boat tour on the Ljubljanica River in the capital
The town Piran on the Adriatic Sea.
17. The Seychelles
Some call this archipelago in the Indian Ocean a ‘beach theme park’. A former British colony that became independent in 1976, The Seychelles are made out of 115 islands coming in all shapes and sizes.