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Looking for a new and different, perhaps up and coming destination rather than the same spots everyone else seems to be heading to? While there’s definitely something appealing about places like romantic Dubrovnik, stunning Iceland and Scotland’s Isle of Skye, they’ve become so popular that it can be tough to avoid the crowds. Consider visiting one of this year’s under-the-radar travel destinations instead, before they end up on the top of countless bucket lists.
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Sumba Island, Indonesia
The remote island of Sumba is what Bali used to be 20 years ago. Less than an hour’s flight away, it’s twice the size of its well-known neighbor has only a sixth of the population. Often referred to as a “lost world,” it’s a place of wild adventure and striking beauty, located east of Timor, south of Flores and north of Australia with the turquoise Indian Ocean in between. There are a handful of resorts on this beautiful Indonesian island, including some very luxurious options, countless idyllic beaches, world-class surfing and snorkeling, and some of the most genuinely friendly people you’ll ever meet.
Southern Ireland’s Cork City has been giving Dublin a run for its money. It has a hip, youthful vibe, reinventing itself in recent years, posed to steal the spotlight from the country’s capital. It has a renowned culinary scene with lots of farm-to-table eateries whipping up creative dishes rooted in Irish heritage. Toss in waterfront views, historic architecture and friendly locals for the perfect trip. After a day exploring and dining on a gourmet meal, be sure to head to one or more of the lively pubs like the Long Valley Bar, a narrow and deep pub with a bar running its full length, doors taken from an ocean liner and staff dressed in white butcher coats as a throwback to Victorian custom. Filled with conversation and laughter, it’s a great place for a good pint and a great sandwich – on Thursday nights throughout the year, live traditional Irish tunes can be enjoyed here too.
Tasmania has long been popular among international jetsetters but it’s about to become of the world’s next hotspots among average travelers too. Not only will you find magnificent rugged wilderness with remote white sand beaches and lush mountains, but in Hobart, there’s a gastronomic renaissance happening thanks to the country’s top chefs who are creating dishes that highlight the region’s world-class produce. It’s the perfect way to feed your appetite after a day trekking the coast and soaring mountains. You might want to consider a cruise that will bring you to Wineglass Bay with its pink granite peaks of Freycinet National Park.
Valle de Cocora, Columbia
Most people visiting Colombia head to the same spots: Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. But there are many enchanting places to visit in this country, with the top arguably Valle de Cocora. This vibrantly green region dotted with coffee farms that are open to visitors is home to the world’s tallest palm trees. While it takes a bit more effort to get there, it’s worth the effort to enjoy this stunningly tranquil destination that’s especially ideal for nature and coffee enthusiasts.
Tonga is known as the best place in the world to swim with humpback whales. The area is part of the whales’ natural migration from the Antarctic and offers the unique opportunity to view them up close, so close you can look them right in the eye. Considered one of the most beautiful Pacific Islands, it is just 500 miles from Fiji and an ideal alternative for wildlife and nature lovers. Tour operators are available to take visitors out to see the whales, but if being that close to these large creatures makes you nervous, you can also book a boat tour to view their majestic beauty from a safe distance.
The remote Faroe Islands are slowly showing up on the radar among adventure travelers, home to remote places like Gasadalur which was nearly abandoned as it was so hard to reach. The tiny village sits at the edge of a dramatic cliff overlooking the sea, while a ring of towering mountains cut it off from the rest of its own island. Prior to a decade or so ago, the only way to get there was to hike over the mountainous terrain – the only connection to the outside world other than climbing up a cliff face. Today, this mostly untouched place is best known for its magnificent waterfall and its jaw-dropping views where lush green fields tumble toward steep drop-offs in the North Atlantic Gulf Stream. Come for the scenery, hiking opportunities, the puffins and the remarkable tranquility.
The Azore archipelago is part of Portugal but lies 900 miles west. These lush, volcanic islands make for an ideal off-the-beaten-path location, at least for now. Here you can enjoy the timeless, tranquil beauty, driving empty roads fringed with millions of azaleas and hydrangeas, and, everything from some of the best whale watching on the planet to breathtaking hikes, fantastic cuisine and more. The island of Flores is not only renowned for its flowers but notable for tranquil lagoons, cliffs carved by grottoes, hot springs and volcanic remains.
One of Spain’s best-kept secrets, despite its dramatic beauty with towering jagged mountain peaks, glistening lakes, crowd-free beaches and a fantastic culinary scene, the Asturias region is unlikely to remain hidden for much longer. For now, it makes for an ideal destination where you’re very unlikely to find yourself bumping elbow other tourists. Walk the miles and miles of scenic hikes, visit the famous holy Cave of Covadonga and the stunning Covadonga Lakes. You can also enjoy relaxing on pristine white sandy beaches framed by clear turquoise waters.
The Puglia region is not on most tourists’ radar, but it’s home to many spectacular places, from the coast along Polignano a Mare with its spellbinding sea caves to hilltop Ostuni, a White City that lies about five miles inland from the Adriatic Sea. The medieval walled city’s buildings were built right on top of one another, while archways support the houses they connect, making up for a lack of strong foundations. At its highest point is the cathedral, built in the 15th century in Gothic style, rare in this region where most of the churches are austere Romanesque or ornate Baroque. Nearby, streets are lined with boutiques and souvenir shops selling all sorts of fashions at a bargain price, local olive oil, bottles of wine, and all sorts of other goods.
While many people think of places like Kenya, Egypt and South Africa when visiting the African continent, you might want to consider Malawi. It’s surrounded by Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, and Mozambique, and is home to magnificent national parks with swatches of dazzling white sands. Lake Malawi is a snorkeling hot spot, and if you’re looking for exotic wildlife, head to Liwonde National Park where you can embark on a walking or vehicle safari for close up views of everything from hippos and elephants to crocs, baboons and endangered black rhinos.
Yaeyama Islands, Japan
The Yaeyama Islands are the westernmost and southernmost inhabited islands of Japan, two of the three main island chains in the Okinawa Prefecture. Its coral reefs provide idyllic habitats for a wealth of marine life, including dugongs and whales. Of course, it also boasts some of the most spectacular white sandy beaches and beautiful clear aquamarine hued waters. Escape the city and enjoy relaxing and taking part in all sorts of water sports.
Raja Ampat Islands
The Raja Ampat Islands may not be easy to reach but they’re some of Indonesia’s most magical isles. They sit atop a coral atoll covered with white sands while encircled by brilliant aquamarine seas and reefs that are jam-packed with colorful fish and other marine life, ideal for snorkeling. It’s the perfect place to enjoy your days in tranquility at the beach and look forward to some of the most jaw-dropping sunsets on the planet at the end of every day.
Kazakhstan is no longer considered a dangerous country to visit and it has lots to offer without the crowds. The capital city of Nur-Sultan offers lots of great eateries and museums along with the Ascension Cathedral and a cable car you can ride to the top of Kok Tobe mountain. Outside of Nur-Sultan, there’s some gorgeous natural scenery like Altyn-Emel National Park and Lake Kaindy.
Paraguay is another fabulous destination for those who love the outdoors, and it can be enjoyed at a budget-friendly price too. It’s filled with impressive waterfalls like Monday Falls and Guaira Falls, along with glistening lakes like Ypacaraí Lake and the Itaipu Dam, which hosts nighttime light shows. History enthusiasts won’t want to miss the country’s historic sites like the impressive La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná, an 18th-century mission, and Asuncion’s the National Pantheon of Heroes.
Bhutan sits at the eastern edge of the Himalayas, one of the most remote destinations on the planet, characterized by Buddhist temples, soaring mountains and valleys. Explore Jigme Dorji National Park and check out cities like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Trongsa which host impressive monasteries, fortresses and markets.