If you fancy stepping into largely uncharted waters for your holiday or gap year, we profile some of the most inspiring destinations that offer a break from the norm. These are places that aren’t yet tourist hotspots but offer their own unique charm, beauty and people to beguile the intrepid traveller.
Here is our Top 10:
This is the hidden treasure of South East Asia, currently enigmatic and isolated in terms of tourism and politics. It remains authentic and untouched by outside influences, boasting all of the cuisine, culture and climate of pre-tourism Thailand. If you prefer a slower pace of life, but with plenty of interesting diversions, this could be the country for you. Highlights include:
- Uncrowded world-class dive sites
- Trekking in the hills and forests surrounding the former British hill station of Kalaw
- Floating villages at Inle Lake
- 4000 Buddhist monumental stupas at Bagan
This hidden gem of the Caribbean has numerous draws for the discerning traveller. Highlights include:
- The secluded beach complex of Caye Caulker
- Intriguing archaeological sites, including two ruins hidden in the jungle – Altun Ha and Lamanai (dating back to 2000 BC)
- The longest coral reef in the Americas boasting turquoise shallows and underwater caves, catering for snorkelers and divers
- Trekking through jungles and rainforests
Many travellers flock to the hotspots of Bali, Lombok and the Gill Islands, but the country has lots of other special places to tempt the traveller who ventures away from the well-worn tourist trail. Highlights include:
- Hiking to the top of volcanoes in Sumatra or exploring sunken ships at Palau Weh
- The relaxing shores of Sulawesi
- The religious ceremonies so integral to daily life, become accustomed to the sound of prayer bells and the scent of incense
Neighbouring Croatia and Greece, it has all the natural attractions and culture of Croatia, but without the accompanying crowds, and it is less expensive too. Highlights include:
- Swimming between the four Ksamili Islands just south of Sarande in the southwest of the country
- The two Unesco cities of Berat and Gjirokastra, which include rare examples of architecture from the Ottoman period.
- White sandy beaches, amazing landscapes and crystal clear waters
- The capital Tirana offers a more lively experience, with lots going on, including a good nightlife
What this land-locked South American country lacks in beaches, it more than makes up for in the huge range of other scenery, including mountains, savannahs and rainforests. Highlights include:
- A warm welcome from the diversely ethnic groups that make up the population. They are open, honest and welcoming generally.
- The renowned salt flats and Lake Titicaca
Home to the ultimate climbing challenge – Everest, this country is a winner because it is cheap, quiet and easy to move around. Nepal is situated between the cool and mountainous Himalayas and the hot Indian plains, so the higher you climb, the cooler you will get. Highlights include:
- An established destination for trekking, from day-trips to more arduous week-long expeditions, there’s something for all abilities.
- World-class white-water rafting, kayaking, mountain-biking and bungee-jumping
- The famous hospitality of the Nepalese
Trying to shake off its turbulent past and emerge as a bona-fide and safe destination for tourists is Libya. Here are the highlights:
- It has warm weather, beaches and antiquities
- The vast majority of the landscape is desert (including the Sahara), and a trip to a village like Ghat allows you to experience and see for yourself, a completely different way of life. There is also desert-trekking and sand-boarding on offer.
- There is lots of evidence of the Greek and Roman history, including the well-preserved ruins of Leptis Magna
A country that is relatively unheard of and a challenge for the prospective traveller. It is a former Soviet Republic and suffered civil war in the 1990’s, but it is open and ready for tourists with an open-mind about this beautiful country.
- Travel the Pamir Highway in a 4×4 for an amazing road-trip
- Stay in a yurt and be at one with nature
- Ride a horse cross-country and see things from a different perspective
- The Pamir Mountains are an awe-inspiring alternative to the Himalayas
Another country to draw comparisons with Thailand in terms of its amazing weather, cuisine and culture. But Malaysia remains idyllic, as it doesn’t have the throngs of visitors that flock to Thailand. Highlights include:
- Some of the best snorkelling in the world
- The Perhentian Islands offer gorgeous beaches
- A quieter and more relaxing vibe
This Tropical wetland in South America includes Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. It is a lesser known alternative to the Amazon, but offers much to those who want to find some exotic nature. Highlights include:
- The huge amount of animal life that can be found here. There are jaguars, alligators, anacondas, piranhas, capybaras, otters and numerous other species of birds and fish.
Due to the uncertain and changeable political status of some of the countries profiled, and for peace of mind, it is always wise to consult the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to find out if there are any traveller warnings or restrictions in place for the country you want to visit as if you travel against FCO advice you may not be covered under your travel insurance.
Once you are prepared and suitably excited, enjoy blazing your trail through one of these hidden gems.