2017 may have only begun but the team at SheBrisbane is already looking for mid-year holidays to keep us inspired!
If you are lucky enough to have travelled to the world’s most popular destinations, maybe it’s time to try someplace you’ve never thought to visit before?
Suzie Strutner of The Huffington Post lists her top 17 epic places you never thought to travel but should. Here they are…
1. South Korea
Don’t let its northern neighbour scare you off: South Korea is full of adventurous travellers’ delights like national parks, mountains and islands. Ski resorts here are top-notch, as some are preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For a more urban feel, try Korean BBQ in Seoul or chill out in Busan, a coastal city.
Mauritius is delicious. This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean offers up a low-key vibe and endless turquoise waters perfect for sports like wind and kitesurfing. You can also sample local rum and street food or explore churches, temples, mosques and lighthouses from Mauritius’ rich history as a colonial trade hub.
SAPSIWAI VIA GETTY IMAGES – Le Morne Brabant is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as “an exceptional testimony to… resistance to slavery.”
The world’s ninth-largest country is not just for Borat: Fans of architecture, city tours and wilderness explorations will feel right at home in this little-explored corner of the earth. Start in Almaty, the biggest city, for clothing markets and upscale restaurants. Then, venture out to the Tian Shan mountains and hike sacred forests where many modern fruit crops were first cultivated.
This lush Mediterranean island sat under the rule of many ancient empires, and it shows: A trip here might include visits to a Byzantine monastery, a mosque or the tombs of high-ranking Hellenistic and Roman officials, which are part of a larger UNESCO world heritage site. Oh, and did we mention the island’s postcard-perfect beaches?
ROSITA SO IMAGE – In the port town of Kyrenia, you can take a boat cruise to swimming and snorkelling spots or visit a castle for a charming bird’s-eye view of the harbour.
Did you know Latvia has white sand beaches? This Baltic Sea gem, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is full of little surprises and a slight Scandinavian flair. The capital, Riga, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014, and roughly half of the country is made up of pristine, accessible natural ecosystems. Historical Old Towns, churches and castles abound.
Perched between Colombia and Peru on the Pacific, Ecuador has everything: mountains, beaches, rainforest, volcanoes, hot springs, and the famous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Once part of the Inca Empire, this dramatically beautiful land is steeped in both pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial culture and is perfect for cheap travellers, trek-happy adventurers and history lovers ― after all,Quito’s sprawling UNESCO-tapped city center is the colonial jewel of South America. (Bonus: Ecuador is on the dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.)
DC_COLOMBIA VIA GETTY IMAGES – Above is a photo of Bartomole Island in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
This island nation ― not be confused with its equally awesome neighbour, American Samoa ― includes 10 islands brimming with volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, swimming holes and beaches. Journeying to a natural ocean blowhole or diving deep into a cave pool is just the beginning. Down-to-earth travellers will enjoy its lack of fancy resorts, too.
Uruguay doesn’t get as much attention as neighbouring Argentina and Brazil, but this polished, progressive paradise on the Atlantic has a pinch of European flair and is well worth a visit. Experience gaucho culture on a ranch of rolling hills, take to the surf at Punta del Diablo, or party the night away in the clubs at Punta del Este.
RICHARD I’ANSON VIA GETTY IMAGES – Stroll the cosmopolitan streets of Montevideo, including the famous Plaza Independencia.
First-time visitors to Africa should start here, in the world’s oldest desert, to experience the thrill of feeling like the last tourist on Earth. Considering its vast selection of wildlife, national parks,shipwrecks and larger-than-life sand dunes, Namibia somehow remains awesomely uncrowded. Many cities and towns have a distinctly German feel ― complete with German restaurants and colonial architecture ― due to years under European rule.
Mayan ruins play a starring role in Guatemala. Deep in the jungle, Tikal National Park is a lush playground of plazas, temples and dwellings that are well over 1,000 years old. Equally gorgeous are Guatemala’s active volcanoes, cascading lagoons and the Caribbean-blue Lake Petén Itzá. Even with all these natural wonders, a historic hotel-museum tops the list of places to visit nationwide.
SIMONDANNHAUER VIA GETTY IMAGES – From the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D., Mayans inhabited what is now Tikal National Park. Current residents include jaguars, howler monkeys and more than 60 species of bats.
11. Papua New Guinea
One look at the water should make it, ahem, clear that this is a paradise. The U.S. State Department cautions that due to crime, an organised tour booked through a travel agency is the best way to explore this stunningly diverse and practically untouched country. (There’s little luxury involved, but it’s a trip of a lifetime.) Try a trekking tour along the rugged, mountainous Kokoda Track or journey to a sing-sing festival, at which Papua New Guineans display their many unique tribal cultures through music and dance.
12. Newfoundland, Canada
Why Newfoundland? Here, east coasters can kayak with icebergs without taking a long flight to Greenland or Alaska and beyond. Then there’s 18,000 miles of unspoiled coastline with some 200 walking trails, plus the 22 species of whales that pass through Newfoundland and Labrador between May and September. Add in dramatic, glacier-carved fjords, and this part of Canada is truly a dream for nature lovers who prefer their international travel over-easy.
THOMAS KITCHIN & VICTORIA HURST / DESIGN PICS VIA GETTY IMAGES – Icebergs arrive from the Arctic each spring to places like Trinity Bay, above.
Dracula’s homeland oozes eeriness and intrigue: The country has emerged from its Communist past to the delight of travellers who come to explore its medieval towns and ornate castles, including the one where fiction’s scariest bloodsucker once lived. Beyond the charming cobblestone streets, you’ll find adventurous alpine hikes through the towering Carpathian Mountains and all-inclusive beach resorts on the Black Sea coast.
Even backpackers who have “seen it all” in Thailand and Cambodia will be awestruck in Laos. Stunning waterfalls, soaring mountains and blazing green rice fields are best enjoyed at the Laotian locals’ decidedly slow pace of life. Take a break from zip-lining and cave kayaking to join a yoga retreat or help out on an organic farm. The cuisine ― think sticky rice, papaya salad and fresh fish ― is worth savouring, too.
ELMVILLA VIA GETTY IMAGES – A hot air balloon flies over Vang Vieng, a jungle town and magnet for backpackers.
“Untapped” may be the best way to describe this coastal country between Iran and Russia. Start in the capital of Baku, whose Old City has UNESCO world heritage status as a rare example of ancient architecture. Then, move out to explore quaint rural villages at the base of the Great Caucasus mountains. Former Peace Corps volunteers have set up a network of local home stays to help visitors enjoy the country’s outer fringes, where paved roads are scarce but the land is lush.
Croatia’s been a hot travel destination for a few years now, but don’t overlook its charming neighbour to the north. The snowy peaks of the Julian Alps are the dramatic backdrop for Slovenia’s storybook Lake Bled, while outdoor restaurants line the river walk in the friendly capital city Ljubljana and the sprawling Postojna Cave is a dramatic diversion. (Pro tip: You’ll likely save a few dollars by flying into Venice, Italy, rather than Ljubljana ― it’s not far over the border.)
MATTHEW WILLIAMS-ELLIS / ROBERTHARDING VIA GETTY IMAGES – The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooks Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge, a lively spot at night.
17. The Seychelles
Will and Kate honeymooned here, so you know the views are fit for royalty. This collection of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is basically a beach-y theme park, with inlets of every size and type. It could take weeks to see them all. Thank goodness there are both private island villas and casual B&Bs to stay in.