While some travel destinations manage to stay off the radar for years, oftentimes, the hidden gems are quickly ousted, resulting in an influx of visitors. If you’re hoping to experience some of the best before all of the crowds start arriving in droves, plan to visit these fast-growing travel spots sooner rather than later.
Iceland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Tourism contributed very little to Iceland’s economy, that is until 17 years ago. The number of foreign visitors had never exceeded 80,000 in a single year up until the 1980s, and around the turn-of-the-21st-century, it hit about 300,000 for the first time. The boom hit soon after, and by 2010, that figure hit 2.1 million – just four years later, it more than doubled, thanks to Iceland appearing in films like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and the hit HBO series, “Game of Thrones,” allowing the world to get a glimpse of just how spectacular this small Nordic nation truly is. Today, visitors are still on the increase, coming to visit Iceland’s dramatic landscape, thundering waterfalls, pristine glaciers, geothermal lagoons, and perhaps a display of the colorful northern lights across the night’s sky.
Myanmar (Hotel Prices & Photos)
In 2010, only around 300,000 visited the country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, but just a few years later, that number skyrocketed to more than two million – and it’s expected to continue to grow. Before prices catch up, visit to experience its numerous attractions, including an abundance of stunning temples and pagodas as well as historical sites, and to enjoy spending time on the picturesque, often isolated beaches. While beach tourism is fairly developed in Thandwe and Ngapali, it’s still just slowly catching up in Chaung Tha, Ngwesaung and areas near Dawei, with beaches that offer lots in the way of solitude and scenery.
Paraguay (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Adventure travelers have begun to discover Paraguay, a country that experienced an 87 percent increase in visitors from 2014 to 1.2 million. This large nation is home to vast areas of swampland, subtropical forests and gorgeous rivers like the Paraguay River, while Asuncion, its steamy capital, is set on the river’s left bank. For now, tourism here is still a rarity, but the city offers enough inexpensive, low-key pleasures to make spending a few days very worthwhile. The majority can be explored by foot, explore downtown and browse the numerous shops and market stalls or stroll the two-mile riverfront walkway, La Costanera. If you’re looking for vibrant nightlife, you’ll definitely find it here – when the sun goes down and temperatures cool, things really get kicking.
Niue, South Pacific (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Nieu is a tiny island country in the South Pacific that few travelers have even heard of, but that’s beginning to change as it had an increase of nearly 63 percent more visitors in 2015, more than doubling the population of people that live there. While it’s world’s apart, the island is easily accessible via a nonstop flight from Auckland, New Zealand, and offers the chance to snorkel or dive among colorful tropical fish, swim with dolphins and enjoy close encounters with whales. Plus, with few tourists (yet), you’ll often feel like you’re the first one to discover the many secluded coves, caves and pools while you’re exploring.
Tajikistan (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This central Asian nation recently experienced the greatest rise in visitors, an increase of 94 percent to 414,000, but at the same time, it brings in the lowest number of tourists among all the world’s countries. Bordering Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, it’s an outdoor adventurer’s playground, with soaring mountains for climbing and hiking – Tajikistan is 93% mountainous, making it one of the most mountainous countries in the world. It’s also home to countless nature reserves and pristine lakes, along with incredibly welcoming people who will stop at nothing to show visitors unrivaled hospitality. While many come for the nature, most leave feeling the warm hearts of the people were the true highlight.
Osaka, Japan (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Osaka is a popular business hub, but visitors outside the Asia-Pacific region have been on the increase in the last few years thanks to its many cultural sights like Osaka Castle Park and Shitennō-ji temple, as well as the striking Floating Garden Observatory and a wealth of fantastic eateries ranging from cheap street food to upscale steak houses. The city’s nickname, tenka no daidokoro (the nation’s kitchen), originally referred to its Edo Period status as Japan’s rice-trade hub, but today it refers to its reputation as a gourmet lover’s paradise where visitors can sample its most famous dish: okonomiyaki. Falling somewhere between an omelet and a pancake, it’s customized with a choice of meat, seafood or noodles. Visitors can also explore one of the largest public aquariums in the world, the Kaiyukan Aquarium which hosts walk-through displays of marine life, and ride the over 369-feet-high Tempozan Ferris Wheel for fabulous views of the city.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Hotel Prices & Photos)
A former Yugoslavian state, Bosnia-Herzegovina doesn’t get a lot of attention, but travelers are beginning to discover its charms, with visitors increasing by over 28 percent in 2016. Cosmopolitan cities like Sarajevo are a big draw. Nestled in the Miljacka River valley and surrounded by the mountains which played host to the 1984 Winter Olympics, Sarajevo is considered a true link between East and West, and is renowned for its warm and hospitable people as well as a fledging music, arts and dining scene. In the historic town of Mostar, visitors can watch daring locals that jump off Stari Most Bridge, gaze up at beautiful old Turkish houses and enjoy a refreshing swim in the nearby Kravice waterfalls.
Oman (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Oman isn’t even on the radar for most travelers, but it’s quietly becoming a more popular destination, with visitors increasing 17 percent to 1.78 million last year. After it was featured in an episode of Anthony’s Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” that number is likely to skyrocket soon. It was also recently listed as one of the top 10 safest countries to travel to in the world by the World Economic Forum. Jutting out into the Sea of Oman, the Arabian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, it’s friendly and welcoming to westerners and is ideal for those looking to experience diving in the Middle East. Visitors also have the opportunity to explore the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world and even go on a camel trek.