COVID-19 Travel Resource Page: Travel Safety + Where Can You Travel Right Now? Get the latest.

Our Offbeat Travel List: 13 Destinations You’re Not Considering…But Should


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure and privacy policy for more information.

There is certainly no shortage of “Hot Travel Destinations” or “Best Places to Visit in 2020” lists circulating these days. But, we find that most of these lists include many of the usual or well-known travel destinations. As we field questions about our own favorite destinations, most memorable experiences and where we recommend people to travel, we thought we’d add a twist to the traditional travel destination lists and share some offbeat, unusual, lesser-known or unconventional destinations that might not be on your travel radar — but maybe should be.

In travel marketing speak, one might call these emerging, recovery or even under-discovered destinations. But in our experience, they are simply fascinating places that travelers are either unaware of completely or sometimes actively avoid from a travel perspective because of certain stereotypes or fears.

They are the sort of destinations that push you emotionally, sometimes physically, and always challenge you mentally — all with the result of returning you from your trip with a different view of the world, and quite often with a different view of yourself.

Offbeat Travel Destinations

Here's the caveat. These places are not for everyone; they are not a universal fit for travel goals and style. They are the sorts of destinations in which things may not always go as planned; hotels and transport can even be a bit rough. Much time is spent outside the proverbial comfort zone in attempts to immerse yourself in a new culture, comprehend challenging socio-economic circumstances and process the stimuli swirling about you. Some days can even feel difficult.

But there is a payoff. If you were to sit down with us over a beer and ask: “I want to go somewhere different from what I'm accustomed to. I'd like a place that will make me think, feel and question some of my assumptions about the world and myself. Someplace not very well touristed, with a bit adventure and the unknown. Where would you suggest I go?

Here's where we might suggest you go.

Note: This article was originally published on January 7, 2015, but was updated in January 2020 with even more offbeat destinations, travel recommendations and sustainable tourism advice.

Kyrgyzstan

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Mountains Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is filled with stunning mountain views like this one of Peak Lenin.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Kyrgyzstan Yurt
First snow of the season at a shepherd's village near Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan.

Why: To experience a country that is over 90% mountainous and littered with stunning landscapes. Add to that a taste of traditional nomadic culture with a bit of a Soviet hangover, and you have the makings of a unique yet approachable destination. This makes Kyrgyzstan a great fit for trekkers and outdoor types, as well as those interested in culture and off-beat experiences.

Additionally, there is a terrific community-based tourism (CBT) network throughout the country and Destination Management Organizations (DMO) in Karakol, South Shore of Issyk-Kul, Osh, and Jyrgalan that offer local experiences, guides and homestays that make it easy to connect and interact with locals. They can also organize and provide support for trekking and horseback riding in the mountains, including gear rental, yurt stays, and local mountain guides.

Even after visiting Kyrgyzstan seven times over a decade, both as regular travelers and as consultants on a regional tourism development project, it remains one of our favorite countries that we look forward to exploring even further.

More Kyrgyzstan travel recommendations and reading:

Iran

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Iran
Eye-bending Persian design at Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in Esfahan.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Iranian Mountains
Adopted in a village in northwestern Iran.

Why: To travel to a country where the on-the-ground travel experience couldn't be more different than impressions left by the news. Iran also features some of the most impressive historical sites we've ever seen (including 19 UNESCO sites). Visiting 2500-year-old Persepolis, once the capital of ancient Persia, is a lesson not only in the strength of the Persian Empire, but a perspective regarding how civilizations and power come and go. Eyeball-bending Persian design and architecture that holds the gaze can't be missed either.

In addition to Iran's Big Three (Shiraz, Esfahan and Yazd), expand your sense of the country with a visit to the northwestern part of Iran for even more surprises like fairy chimney villages, Armenian monasteries and the world's largest covered market in Tabriz. Then, close out your adventure by taking the train from Iran to Istanbul.

And again, it comes down to people. That's what may surprise you most about Iran.

Note: Obtaining a tourist visa for citizens from the United States, Canada and United Kingdom can be tricky, but it's not impossible if you know what you need and how to do it. Be sure to check out this article on how to get an Iranian visa (including the vast comment thread) for all you need to know.

RECOMMENDED TOUR TO IRAN: Discover Persia Tour

More Iran travel recommendations and reading:

  • Read what it's like flying into Tehran and entering Iran as an American citizen in: A Flight to Tehran: The Full Story
  • Lesser known western Iran is filled with cities like Hamadan, Kermanshan, and Ahvaz and nearby ancient sites like Bishapur rock, Tchogha Zabnil Ziggurat (UNESCO), Taq-e Bostan Reliefs. Learn more about this area in our Western Iran Snapshots
  • Taking the 60+ hour train from Tabriz, Iran to Istanbul, Turkey was more than just mere transportation from one country to the next. It was one of the highlights of our trip. Here's why: Midnight Express: Iran to Turkey by Train
  • We certainly ate and drank (non-alcoholic, of course) well during out travels in Iran. Here all you need to know about Iranian food.
  • Become visually inspired: Iran Photo Essays

Republic of Georgia

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Svaneti in the Republic of Georgia
A ride into the high Caucasus mountains (Svaneti) turns into an adventure.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Tbilisi in Republic of Georgia
Tbilisi reveals itself in layers, both architecturally and culturally. One of our favorite cities.

Why: Despite all the history and remarkable mountain landscapes, the Republic of Georgia, at its very best, comes back to the Georgian people. Cross hospitality-obsessed with crazy gregarious and you’ve got a sense of the Georgian people. Add to this beautiful mountain ranges, a culturally and architecturally eclectic capital city, some of the most spiritual churches we’ve experienced, and incredible food.

Then you'll understand why Georgia is one of our favorite places in the world. We joke that in Georgia, one doesn’t need to make plans as the people you meet seem to create the adventures for you.

More Georgia travel recommendations and reading:

Bolivia

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
Hot springs en route to the Salar de Uyuni.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Bolivia
A young Bolivian mother at a gathering in Tupiza.

Why: Stunning and often surreal landscapes blended with a strong indigenous culture. For various reasons, travelers often skip Bolivia in favor of its neighbors — Peru, Argentina, Chile — when making their way through South America. For Americans, some say it’s because of the visa fees and paperwork, but Bolivia is more than worth the extra spend and brief bit of bureaucracy. The Salar de Uyuni and in particular the journey from Tupiza features some of the world’s most beautiful and otherworldly landscapes with green lakes, Dali-esque rock formations and the mind-bending salt flats. And although you'll see tourists around the Salar, you see much less throughout the rest of the country.

We recommend stopping by Lake Titicaca and taking a hike around Isla del Sol, Tarija in the south for a taste of the Bolivian wine scene, Potosi to understand the realities of mining on people and communities, Sucre for a beautiful colonial city and La Paz for the capital with the most dramatic mountain backdrop. Personally, I'd love to return to Bolivia to take on some of these treks.

More Bolivia travel recommendations and reading:

Ethiopia

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Hiking in Ethiopia
Hiking down from cave churches tucked in Gheralta Mountains of northern Ethiopia. An incredible experience.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Lalibela Churches of Ethiopia
Church of St. George in Lalibela. Carved top-down from red volcanic rock in the 12th century.

Why: Ancient rock-hewn churches carved from below ground, remarkable mountain landscapes, castles, ridiculously large plates of delicious local food. Need we say more?

Ethiopia surprised us in so many ways, especially with its depth of history and culture dating back over 2,000 years to the Aksumite civilization and the adoption of Christianity in 330 A.D. (the 2nd Christian nation in the world). One could feel a direct connection between Ethiopia's past and present through its adherence to ritual. We also weren't expecting to be awed by its mountains and trekking options available in the Simien and Gheralta Mountains.

RECOMMENDED TOUR TO ETHIOPIA: Discover Ethiopia Tour

More Ethiopia travel recommendations and reading:

Bangladesh

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Bangladesh
Market day in Bandarban, Bangladesh (Chittagong Hill Tracts).
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Bangladesh Friendliness
Asking kids to imitate a tiger (name of the Bangladeshi cricket team) on the streets of Old Dhaka.

Why: To truly get off the tourist path and immerse yourself in a sea of humanity. We're certain there are more tourists now, but during our five-week visit there a couple of years ago, we saw a total of five tourists. Yes, five.

Bangladesh is funky. It’s intense. It’s Bangladesh. And the country actually offers more diversity in sights and experiences that you might first expect, from UNESCO pre-Moghul mosques and cycling through tea estates to tracking tigers in mangrove forests and visiting ethnic minority areas.

But it's the human interactions — and boy, are there a lot of them — that make visiting Bangladesh such a unique and fun experience.

More Bangladesh travel recommendations and reading:

Pamir Highway and Mountains (Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan)

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan
On their way home to Langhar in Tajikistan's Wakhan Valley. On the other side of the river is Afghanistan and in the distance, Pakistan's Hindu Kush mountains.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Pamirs in Tajikistan
Ruins of the 12th-century Silk Road Yamchun Fort against the backdrop of the Pamir Mountains.

Why: To enjoy a road trip adventure in a mountainous region that not only stands out for the severity and beauty of its landscape, but also shines for the colorful, hospitable and fascinating Pamiri people who live there. The Pamir Highway, roughly speaking, begins in southern Kyrgyzstan and winds its way through Tajikistan, passing by and through some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen on our around the world journey thus far. If you have time, stop off in the Alay Region and Alay Mountains of southern Kyrgyzstan for a few days of spectacular trekking on your way to the Tajik border.

Once you get into Tajikistan tourism infrastructure in this area ranges from little to none so you'll likely stay and eat with Pamiri families most of the time, one of the great joys of this journey.

Note: You can see even more about this region in our Pamir Highway slideshow for BBC Travel.

More Pamir Highway travel recommendations and reading:

Haiti

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Haiti Mountains and Coast
Mountains and coastline of southern Haiti.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Haiti
Shy sisters who live near the sugar cane plantations of northern Haiti.

Why: Because Haiti is surprising, complicated and fascinating. Sure, the country has some beautiful white-sand beaches, but it's the artists, musicians, waterfalls, hilltop fortresses, cave networks and the mysteries of Vodou that will likely leave the most lasting impressions on you.

Although Haiti is only 1.5 hours away from Miami by air and shares the same island landmass as popular vacation destination Dominican Republic, it only sees a relative handful of travelers each year. At least for now.

RECOMMENDED TOUR TO HAITI: Highlights of Haiti

More Haiti travel recommendations and reading:

Albania

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Trekking in Albania
Taking in the dramatic peaks of the Karanfil Mountains, Albania.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Albanian Beaches
A bit of relaxation along Vlora Beach.

Why: Whether you are a beach buff or want to immerse yourself in dramatic mountains, Albania has some incredible landscapes and experiences for both types of travelers. Or, you can combine both into one trip as we did.

For decades this southern European country was closed off to the rest of the world, but no longer. If you enjoy trekking and the outdoors, Albania offers some challenging climbs and stunning views through the Accursed Mountains (also known as the Albanian Alps) through the villages of Theth and Valbona. Mt Talijanka and the granite peaks of the Karanfil Mountains on the border with Montenegro offer even more incredible panoramas. Our modified Peaks of the Balkan Trek took us through these mountains while staying with local families and shepherds along the way.

When you've had your fill of the mountains then head south on Albania's Adriatic Coast for blue waters and relatively empty beaches at Sarandë, Vlora or nearby. The impressive UNESCO site of Butrint with Greek and Roman ruins reminds us of the layers of civilizations in this region over millennia.

More Albania travel recommendations and reading::

Colombia

Offbeat Holiday Destinations, Colombia
Walking amongst the giant wax palms and fog of the Cocora Valley.
Offbeat Holiday Destinations - Cartagena, Colombia
Wandering the streets of old town Cartagena.

Why: To enjoy three branches of the Andean Mountain Range and the Sierra Nevadas, the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, with rain forests, indigenous ruins, coffee plantations and colonial cities along the way.

Not too long ago Colombia was known for drugs, FARC rebels, Pablo Escobar, and violence. But, the country has been experiencing stability these last years and more areas have opened up to travelers to explore. The size and diversity of experiences in Colombia are far beyond what you may have ever imagined (or, at least what we had known about).

And then there are the Colombian people – friendly, fun and open – are also remarkably diverse from one corner of the country to the other. We visited for a month and left with an even longer wish list of places we'd like to visit.

RECOMMENDED TOURS TO COLOMBIA: Lost City Trek and Colombia Journey

More Colombia travel recommendations and reading:

Madagascar

Madagascar Travel, Lemurs
Getting up close with a ring-tail lemur in Madagascar.

Why: To get up close to playful lemurs and colorful chameleons while trying to get your head around the incredible diversity and uniqueness of Madagascar's nature, history and peoples. Often travelers think of traveling in Africa as going on safari to see the “Big 5” animals in the southern and eastern part of the content.

And although Madagascar doesn't have any of these “Big 5” safari animals, it does have something even more unique and fascinating: an estimated 80-90% of Madagascar's wildlife and fauna considered endemic to the island, meaning that it can be found nowhere else in the world.

Yes, the 110 species of lemurs are only the beginning. And, by deliberately choosing tours and activities engaged in conservation travelers can help support protecting Madagascar's endangered lemurs and other wildlife.

Madagascar Travel and Landscapes
Lush, terraced rice fields en route to our village homestay.

In addition, Madagascar's layers of history and blend of cultures are also surprisingly diverse. The first inhabitants arrived about 2,000 years ago from Austronesia (near Malaysia-Indonesia). This influenced not only the Malagasy language spoken today, but also the development of terraced rice fields across the country that are still used in present day. Layers of migration from Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, and Europe since then have all blended into what you see in Madagascar's people, cultures and cuisines today.

Then, you also have beautiful beaches to relax and process all that you've experienced.

RECOMMENDED TOUR TO MADAGASCAR: Highlights of Madagascar

More Madagascar travel recommendations and reading:

Ukraine

Offbeat Travel Destinations - Kyiv, Ukraine
Impressive 11th century St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.

Why: Although Ukraine sometimes makes the news headlines (as it was during our visit), don’t let that detour you from this surprisingly rich and diverse country. Kyiv, the country’s capital, had its heyday in the 10th-12th century as the center of the Kievan Rus empire and the city still has several impressive 11th – 12th century cathedrals like Saint Sophia and Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves) that remain (through several renovations) to this day. But the city also has an impressive street art and design scene with a young feel to its streets. Add to this the country’s Soviet past and brutalist architecture. It’s this contrast that makes the city so interesting. 

Offbeat Travel Destinations: Odessa, Ukraine
Odessa's Opera House is even more impressive on the inside than on the outside. Shows are still very reasonably priced, too.

Then there is Odessa on the Black Sea, once a vibrant cultural and literary hub in the 19th century, and streets lined with a mix of Art Nouveau and Renaissance styles with both an old Russia and Mediterranean feel. Still considered a hub for Russian culture it’s likely you’ll hear more Russian here than Ukrainian. But not so when in Lviv near the western border with Poland, known for its Ukrainian nationalism and culture. Dating back to the 13th century its colorful old town squares and cobblestoned streets have more a Polish and Austro-Hungarian feel. 

Of course, these three cities are just the tip of the Ukrainian iceberg. But, they will give you a taste of the diversity and rich history throughout the country.

Bahia, Brazil

Offbeat Travel Guide - Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
View down Pelourinho square towards Carmo church.

Why: To immerse yourself in Afro-Brazilian culture, music, cuisine and diversity. Although Brazil is not an off-the-beaten path destination, the Bahia region is much less known than the country’s popular southern coastal areas between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. From the moment we arrived in Salvador de Bahia, the region’s colorful and vibrant capital city, we knew this place was special. You could just feel it.

Offbeat Travel Guide - Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Musicians take over the streets of Salvador de Bahia before Carnival.

Wander the bright streets of Salvador’s old town (Pelourinho), one of the oldest colonial cities in South America going back to the 16th century, and seek out city’s vibrant Afro-Brazilian music and cuisine. During our visit just before Carnival the city was literally filled with music as “blocks” (groups of musicians and performers) practiced throughout the city.

Brazil Travel Guide - Stella Maris Beach near Salvador de Bahia
Chilling at at Stella Maris beach near big city Salvador.

Then, when you’ve had a bit of sensory overload head out to one of Bahia’s famous white-sand beaches for a bit of quiet.

Responsible Travel and Sustainable Tourism Tips

We always advocate for and encourage travelers to try and travel in a way that benefits the local communities — through their decisions on where to go, which activities or tours to choose, and how to spend their tourism money. This is even more important to many of the countries listed above as they are still developing their tourism infrastructure. A sustainable tourism development approach can yield positive social and economic impacts to communities around the country, as well as support environmental and conservation efforts.

And here are a few ways you can help and support this through your travels:

So, what did we miss? Which destination(s) would you add to the list?

About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

142 thoughts on “Our Offbeat Travel List: 13 Destinations You’re Not Considering…But Should”

  1. Really glad to see Haiti made the list! And Iran too.

    Looks like I may be performing in a Storytelling Festival in Iran in early February (logistics are a bit crazy given the short time frame of getting everything together, but I am so incredibly honored to be asked and very much want to go.) Will read your other posts and links for Iran more closely. A Storytelling friend from Romania (and organizer of the festival in Arad, Romania) presented 2 years ago in Iran and said Iranians were some of the kindest most welcoming people she’s met. Of course, I believe this to be true. Love how you focus on the human aspect of travel. That has always been my experience as well.

    I can’t think of other places to add, perhaps Burma, I have heard from friends that again, the hospitality was truly amazing.

    I still would love to chat with you about Nepal. The book is coming together; publisher has contacted me and today we have found a Nepali illustrator too. 🙂 YAY to collaborations!

    Hugs until we meet again.

    Reply
    • Kristin, that’s fantastic news about the storytelling festival in Iran! Timing is tight, as visa logistics can be tricky for Iran but it helps that you’re being sponsored by a festival who can hopefully figure out all the bureaucratic hoops quickly. We had heard that Iranians were hospitable before our visit, but we were still blown away by the warm welcome we received everywhere that we went. I think you’ll really enjoy your time there!

      People in Burma are also incredibly warm and welcoming. I almost added it to the list, but since the country has opened up in the last few years (thankfully) I’ve seen it on many “top destination” lists and so didn’t think it still fit the “offbeat” category. Perhaps I’m wrong though. Highly recommend spending some time in Burma, especially in smaller towns and taking the trains.

      I’ll ping you on FB to set up a time to chat soon about Nepal. Sounds exciting!

      Reply
  2. Great list. Bolivia and Bangladesh look spectacular! The others have actually never been on my radar but also look really interesting.

    I’d add some of the lesser known Baltic States such as Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina- or are they sufficiently on the radar now?

    Reply
    • Brittany, glad we stoked your curiosity about some of the other places on this list!

      Thanks for the recommendations! We don’t have much experience in that part of the world, so I didn’t want to recommend places we didn’t know well. I almost added Bosnia & Herzegovina (perhaps I should), but as we spent such a short time there and only saw Sarajevo and Mostar I wasn’t sure if that was enough “expertise” on the place. We would love to spend some time hiking in Montenegro and Kosovo, as well as we’ve heard good things about Albania. Think they are all still not on the mainstream radar yet.

      Reply
  3. Wow, what an excellent list! I’m so keen to do some overlanding along the silk route, Kyrgystan in particular and I’ve heard such amazing things about Iran.

    I go to any of these places given half a chance!

    Reply
    • Rachel, so glad you enjoyed this list! If you’re going overland along the Silk Road, be sure to spend some time in Uzbekistan for Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva. These Silk Road cities are a bit more “discovered” than most places on this list, but they are still really interesting places. Just be sure to visit the market in each place – not many travelers go there and Uzbek markets are super fun.

      And yes, Iran. When people usually talk about Iran, they talk about Iranian people. A beautiful and fascinating place. Here’s to making these travels a reality!

      Reply
  4. Great list Audrey, I like visiting more hidden and still unspoiled from the mass tourism places, I found them more authentic if you know what I mean. I haven’t been to any of the country you mentioned, Iran, Georgia and Bolivia are the ones that appeal the most to me and I cannot hide that I’d love to make there this year.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Franca! Definitely know what you mean about less touristed place feeling more authentic and open. We love traveling through and exploring these areas – local people are usually so curious about visitors and really do want to be sure the visitors feel welcome and taken care of. As you are a European citizen, it will be cheaper and easier to visit Iran and Bolivia than it was for us as US citizens need visas and in Iran, need a guide/tour. So, take advantage of it for us 🙂

      Reply
  5. Great list! Actually, I have been looking into trips to both Caucasus and central asia for a while now. There are just so many places I want to go, that I don’t know where to start haha 🙂
    I am definitely looking more into Ethiopia. Looks amazing

    Reply
    • Evelina, you definitely can’t go wrong with trips to the Caucasus and Central Asia! We listed our favorite places here, but we visited all the countries in the region. You’ll have your share of adventures, in a good way!!

      And yes, Ethiopia is quite amazing. We had high expectations before our trip, but our experiences there far exceeded them. We’d love to return to explore the south. Happy travels!

      Reply
  6. Great list of countries. Some years ago I was planning to follow part of the silk route and visit countries like Kyrgystan and Iran, but unfortunately never made it there….yet…:)

    I would add Zimbabwe to the list. It’s a beautiful country that has a lot to offer, nature, scenery, wildlife and very friendly people. The country is recovering from a massive crisis, but is slowly rebuilding its economy again and tourist are slowly finding their way there again, which is good. 😉

    Reply
    • Fortunately, the Silk Route will still be there whenever you make it there next 🙂

      Thanks for the recommendation regarding Zimbabwe! We’ve heard really good things about the country — and especially the friendliness of its people — from other travelers. I can imagine that the tourist money spent responsibly can really help in the economic recovery and development.

      Reply
  7. Thank you for sharing that fairy tale in photos of the most wonderful places on our beautiful Earth!
    I would recommend Santorini as a must visit place 🙂

    Thanks and Best Regards,
    Lyubov

    Reply
    • Hi Lyubov,
      You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed the piece! We have heard great things about Santorini. Wouldn’t say it’s exactly “offbeat”, but a beautiful place all the same.

      Reply
  8. We just love, love, LOVE your list of countries! Some of them are on our bucket list for ages, but waiting to do them as an overland trip…. Should take a while, but you never know what can come up 😉
    Maybe one more country, which is not on normal travel radar, but should defenitely not stay unnoticed – Oman. Amazing landscape, people, history and adventure!

    Reply
    • Hi Nina,
      An overland trip through Central Asia and Iran would be quite incredible. Although, some of our best (or more like funniest) experiences in the ‘Stans were on public transport so even if you can’t take time off for a big overland trip it’s still worth trying to make a shorter visit.

      Oman has come up quite a bit these last few weeks. It’s a place that I know very little about, but now my curiosity is piqued….

      Reply
      • Using local transport has its up and downs, but you are right, meeting locals always is a wonderful thing 🙂 We’ve already looking into flight ticket for Kyrghyzstan 🙂 Wish us luck!
        p.s. Oman is becoming pretty popular lately…one more reason to visit it asap 😉

        Reply
  9. I Want to go to all of these places (except Bolivia since I’ve already been). Mongolia and Turkmenistan are high on my list as well. I’d love to visit Iran but I have heard it’s close to impossible for Americans to get a visa.

    Reply
    • Katrina, we highly recommend Turkmenistan as well. Visas can be a bit of a pain as you usually need to be on a tour if you want to stay more than 72-hours. But, we really enjoyed the 10 days we spent in Turkmenistan – people were incredibly friendly and the archeological sites are fascinating, as is crazy Ashgabat (like Las Vegas collided with Pyongyang).

      A visa to Iran for U.S. citizens requires a few steps, but it’s certainly very possible to manage (and not that much different than for Turkmenistan). The main thing is to book a group tour with an authorized agency or organize a private tour with an authorized tour guide. The local Iranian tour company will apply for the visa for you. You’ll find lots of information on how to do this in this article. We went to Iran on a group tour with G Adventures and then extended our time in-country with a private guide. Let us know if you have any questions on traveling to Iran as Americans – happy to help!

      Reply
  10. It’s like you’ve read my mind! ALL of these places are on my list – particularly the ‘Stans. I’d love to visit Mongolia someday, too, and plan on doing a road trip around sub-Saharan Africa at some point in the next couple of years. I think the appeal with these countries is the mystery and intrigue – no one really knows much about them (plus they look absolutely beautiful!).

    Reply
    • Lizzie, we also would love to visit Mongolia, especially as it sounds like the country is changing quite quickly and it’s interesting to see how it adjusts to technology while keeping traditions (have seen some cool stories of how it is so far). And, we’d like to spend more time in sub-Sarahan Africa, especially in the west and south.

      One of the fun things about traveling in countries like this is that you really don’t know what to expect most days, and often you’re put in situations you could have never imagined (in a good way). Also, local people are usually curious and excited to have visitors. It’s not always easy travel, but we have found it some of the most enriching.

      Reply
  11. Great list, all very interesting places. Bolivia, Ethiopia and Kyrgystan rank very high on my wish list so… Hopefully soon.
    I’d love as well to visit Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Reply
    • Hi Simon,
      Glad you enjoyed the list! Given what I know of your sense of adventure and interest in engaging with local people, I think you’d quite enjoy Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan and Bolivia. Georgia, too 🙂

      Yes, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These places have some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen (through photos) and I’ve heard stories of incredible hospitality from ordinary people. I too would love to visit one day, but I will wait until there is a bit more stability. Hopefully soon…

      Reply
  12. Georgia and Haiti have been on my list for a couple years now – I hope to make it to at least one of them this year!

    Reply
    • Hope you do, too! We’ll be publishing soon (next week) a Haiti Beginner’s Guide so be sure to check back in case that travel information is useful for planning a Haiti trip.

      Reply
  13. So happy to see Central Asia, Georgia and Iran on this list – some of my all time favorite destinations that seem bizarrely overlooked! I’ve been thinking about Bangladesh a lot recently and now definitely will be adding it to my wish list!

    Reply
    • Silvia, couldn’t agree with you more about Central Asia, Iran and Georgia being overlooked by so many travelers even though they offer a great mix of culture, history, landscape and food (well, Central Asian food isn’t so great, but Georgian & Iranian food is tasty.)

      Bangladesh is like no other place 🙂 People are so incredibly curious and friendly – they are the highlight of traveling there! One piece of advice is to travel by train as much as you can – roads can be crazy!!

      Reply
  14. Wow, amazing list! I want to go everywhere,, but Ethiopia and Iran are high on my bucketlist! 🙂 I will love to visit Lebannon this year as well…
    Cheers and happy travels!

    Reply
    • Ani, thanks! Lebanon has been high on our travel wish list for years. We were thinking to rent an apartment in Beirut for a few months, but we never were able to organize it. Thanks for putting it back on the brain! Happy travels to you as well!

      Reply
  15. you’re teasing me with two first countries – I was supposed to go to Kyrgyzstan last April and I was supposed to be in Iran right now… but I will go there, soon!!

    I have a small problem with Georgia. I loved it there, it was one of the best countries I’ve ever visited and one of my best trips. But it was over 3 years ago and I’ve heard lots about how the country is changing and how it goes into the commercial direction, pictures of modern Tbilisi bother me too. I’d love to go back but at the same time I don’t want to go as I don’t want to ruin my amazing memories… but well, I hope to get to Abkhazia this year so I will have to visit Georgia then…

    Reply
    • Kami, sorry about being a tease! Even though you aren’t in Iran now, the country will be there to welcome you whenever you do go 🙂

      I definitely understand what you mean regarding Georgia. We talked about this when we met in Berlin last year and I had/have similar concerns about the country changing and not being as open/fun to travelers.. But then I spoke with someone recently who just spent some time there and she made me feel confident that although Tbilisi may have modernized a bit, it still has its original spirit. Her crazy stories from Svaneti also were great (although that area is also developing). I believe that Georgia still is an incredible place even if it isn’t as “undiscovered” as before. We hope to return to visit some of the areas we didn’t get to the first trip.

      Reply
  16. I was always a bit curious about Georgia, but then I learned they give US citizens 360 days on a tourist visa, and I was sold! lol Definitely looking forward to visiting there.

    I wish Iran was easier for us. I would like to experience it without a handler.

    The Stans are quite intriguing to me as well.

    Great list!

    Reply
    • Talon, I didn’t realize that Georgia now offered 360 days on a tourist visa. Wow. We did joke when we visited that we had never received a more hearty welcome from a passport control officer…especially for 3AM!

      Traveling in Iran as a U.S. citizen does require jumping through a few hoops with the requirement for a tour or private guide. But, we still had lots of free/independent time even with the tour/guide requirement.

      Reply
  17. Wow! I must agree that this is not the conventional ‘where you should visit’ list, but I absolutely love it. All the destinations seem fascinating and different. Kyrgyzstan’s landscapes looks very special. Iran and Bolivia have been on my mind lately. Hope I make it to one of these places soon. I admire you guys; great job with this collection of lovely countries!

    Reply
    • Hi Nita,
      Thanks for your kind words about this post and the countries we suggested! If you like mountains and alpine lakes, it’s hard to beat Kyrgyzstan. A really special place. I keep reading about other treks you can do there, so perhaps we’ll find our way back there again soon 🙂

      Reply
  18. What a great list … and I want to see all those places! I’d add Malawi to the list. Incredibly friendly people, a lovely lake, Nyika plateau in the north is like the Scottish highlands but with zebras, etc. Livingstonia is a flash back to the colonial period, with amazing views over the lake. And its tourism industry is in its infancy.

    Reply
    • Rachel, your description of Nyika plateau as being like the Scottish highlands but with wildlife really piqued my curiosity. Sounds amazing. I’ve added Malawi to the travel wish list. Thank you!!

      Reply
  19. Wow, such stunning places! I have been wanting to visit Svaneti in Georgia ever since I saw a picture somewhere on the internet a couple of years ago. In fact it was probably from your blog!

    Reply
    • Ashleigh, that would be quite funny if the photo from Svaneti that you saw several years ago was from us 🙂 I’ve heard that the trekking trails and such in Svaneti have been improved a bit since our visit a few years ago, so you’ll probably have more choices in trekking routes and activities now. It’s a beautiful area and the Svan culture is quite fascinating.

      Reply
  20. Thanks for writing my bucket list, so I don’t have to! 🙂 Just left country no. 5, Ethiopia. A truly awesome country, in all aspects!

    Reply
    • Ha!! You’re very welcome! Glad to hear you had such a great experience traveling through Ethiopia recently. We did not make it to Danakil during our visit, but after talking with our guide about it and reading articles on it I’d love to return to go there. I’d also like to spend some time in the south – did you visit there? Our guide was explaining that with current industrial development there that things are changing rapidly and suggested we visit soon. Ethiopia exceeded our expectations on so many fronts. Fascinating place.

      Reply
      • Totally agree that this country exceeded the expectations so much!

        Had a busy schedule with the north for 3.5 weeks, so I didn’t go to the south, but will for sure go back to see that part. And you should definitely go to Danakil if you go back to Ethiopia. It was an amazing 4 day trip with desert, salt mines, afar people, out-of-this-world scenery and of course Erta Ale – the active volcano with a lava lake! 🙂

        Love your photos of the people btw, was thinking of doing a gallery just like that myself, as the Ethiopians are very photogenic! 😀

        Reply
  21. Thank you very much for sharing!
    I have lived in Ethiopia for seven years when I was a child 40 years ago. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen – even though it was in very bad state at that time due to the revolution and the civil war in the country.
    At the age of 52 now, I prefer the easy traveling to the Algarve in the south of Portugal – and visit the most hospitable people I have met in my life.

    Reply
    • Alexander, that must have been quite an experience growing up in Ethiopia. One of the women that we traveled with there was born in Addis, but her family left when she was very young so she doesn’t remember it too much. My aunt lived in Ethiopia during parts of the civil war, so she had similar experiences to you.

      Yes, people’s travel preferences do change over time and with different travel goals. Glad to hear that you’ve found your new favorite travel spot!

      Reply
    • Thanks, Eric! Glad that you found our blog and hope you continue to enjoy it! If you have any questions for your upcoming trip to Iran, just let us know.

      Reply
  22. If you were to rank these in terms of most affordable to most expensive (once you’re there), how would you rank them? I’d love to do all of these, but I wonder how much it costs to travel around in them once you’re there.

    Great article though – thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Reply
    • Scott, very good question. For some of these we traveled completely independently and in other places we traveled a combination of on a tour with G Adventures and independently. If you were to travel independently here’s how I’d rank them.

      Most affordable -> Most Expensive
      1. Bangladesh – incredibly cheap food if you’re eating in local joints (e.g., $2-$4 for 2 people). Transport and accommodation (basic) are also quite inexpensive.
      2. Bolivia
      3. Kyrgyzstan – we use Community Based Tourism Kyrgyzstan for accommodation in smaller towns
      4. Pamir Mountains – Tajikistan – accommodation and food is inexpensive, but you need to hire a jeep and driver as public transport doesn’t really exist. Although, if you had a lot of time you could hitchhike.
      5. Ethiopia
      6. Iran – as US citizens we were required to take a tour in order to visit. However, if you were to travel there independently it would be a lot cheaper as you could use couchsurfing and public transport.
      7. Georgia – accommodation is what’s expensive here, but more budget hotel options may have opened since our visit.
      8. Haiti – accommodation is the big expense right now, but hoping that more competition will reduce prices.

      Hope this information helps!

      Reply
  23. In the Caucasus, in addition to Georgia I would certainly add ARMENIA The mountains are wonderful and all the food is fresh from the garden. AZERBAIJAN -imagine standing on the shore of the Caspian Sea!. In the Stans, I would add UZBEKISTAN. MONGOLIA is spectacular! I felt I was privileged to be there in the Gobi. I also agree that ETHIOPIA is unique, a bit challenging but worth the effort, especially towards the east and the colorful markets. YUNNAN PROVINCE in China – great place for hiking at high altitudes.

    Reply
    • Great additions here, Jan! It’s always tough to make choices on what to include in a list like this so we went for the places that really moved us the most. Although we did like Armenia and Azerbaijan, I have to admit that it was Georgia that stole our hearts 🙂 We have a similar relationship with Uzbekistan vs. Kyrgyzstan.

      We have not been to Mongolia, but have heard such wonderful things about its vast landscape and people. Hopefully soon!!

      Reply
  24. This must be like the fourth or fifth time this year that I have seen Haiti on a list for “Top Travel Destinations for 2015.” I’m glad to see that, but what’s going on here? Are they finally experiencing some form of political stability in decades that’s making it a bit “safer” to come here now?

    Reply
    • Ray, know what you mean. It’s funny how travel trends work. For us, Haiti came on the horizon because one of our partners – G Adventures – was asked by Inter-American Development Bank to do an assessment of Haiti’s tourism potential which resulted in G Adventures deciding to create a tour there. Once we heard about this, we asked to get involved and went on a test trip.

      As for the other publications picking up Haiti I think it has something to do with the fact that 5th anniversary of the earthquake was coming up (meaning, there was time for recovery), a bit more stability, and that some big movie and music stars were investing in homes and resorts there raising its profile. Some good PR might have had something to do with it too I suspect 🙂

      Haiti has been experiencing a bit more stability, but I’m afraid that in the last few days there have been political protests as there are tensions between the president and parliament over holding elections. Keeping fingers crossed this passes soon…

      Reply
  25. Hi Audrey,

    Nice to visit your blog. I have travelled about 5 to 6 countries in Europe, and then visited the US for about 5 times, Singapore, the UK, UAE and Malaysia. I have visited the US mostly on work but I got to travel a lot of places across. Rest of the countries was on vacation. I would like to know if you have visited Iceland and if so, how was the experience. I intend to visit such off beat places like Iceland, Morocco and Malta which I believe are equally exotic. Kindly share your thoughts.

    Thanks,
    -Ajith

    Reply
    • Hi Ajith,
      Sounds like you’ve done quite a bit of travel with your work and for fun. The US has some incredible landscapes and places. We have not yet been to Iceland (or Morocco or Malta), but everyone that I’ve talked to who has been ranks it as one of their favorite countries. They have recommended renting a car and doing a road trip with perhaps some hiking or time out in the middle of nowhere stunning nature. From what everyone has told me I think you’ll very much enjoy Iceland. Happy travels!

      Reply
  26. What a good timing as we are heading to the Caribbean next month! We haven’t consider Haiti but we might pop over there after all! Thanks for the post!
    As we are organising our trip to the West Indies, we realised that there are not much direct flights from an island to another. Look like the boat is the best option so far. Any insights?

    Reply
    • Sounds like you have an exciting trip ahead of you! I’m afraid I don’t know too much about traveling by boat in the Caribbean, but once you get on the ground I’m sure the information will flow much easier than now with your internet research. One thing to keep in mind for Haiti is that there are likely more flights to Dominican Republic so you could fly there and then take a bus over to Haiti (or a short flight). Good luck with your trip!

      Reply
  27. Wonderful list! Quite a few of those places are on my personal to-visit list, actually! But how about Belarus, guys? Will Belarus ever make it on anyone’s “offbeat” list, you think? 🙂

    Reply
    • Sergey, we’ve wanted to visit Belarus for quite a few years now, and have heard good things about traveling there from friends who have been. Just need to navigate the visa process and go!

      Reply
  28. Iran looks awesome. I meet a bunch of people from Iran at work and they are always friendly. That bending picture looks unreal too. Thanks for the great travel ideas!

    Jack Johnson

    Reply
    • Yes, Iran is quite a fascinating place. I also used to work with a group of Iranians when we lived in Prague and they welcomed us into their community and made us really want to see their home country with our own eyes. And yes, the fisheye lens does amazing things in Iranian mosques!

      Reply
  29. With these 8 destinations you suggested I like add 2 more which are also amazing to travel. First is Myanmar, which is known as God’s place due to its holy monasteries and beautiful places like Mandalay, Irrawaddy River, Yangon, Inle Lake and many more. Second is Thailand which is known for Land of white elephants. The exotic beaches of Thailand are simply breath taking. Chiang Mai, Khao Sok National Park, Phuket and Samui are some places which you can’t afford during the Thailand trip. In addition Bangkok’s night life is another attraction to attract travelers all around the world .

    Reply
    • Anna, completely agree with you that Myanmar is a beautiful place and has incredibly welcoming people. I almost added it to the list, but since the country has opened up in the last few years (thankfully) I’ve already seen it on many “top destination” lists. Therefore, I didn’t think it still fit the “offbeat” category. The same goes for Thailand – we love its beaches, national parks and cities — but most people look at Thailand as a “safe, regular” destination rather than offbeat.

      Reply
  30. I’m glad to say I’ve been to one of these destinations, Bolivia! I’d love to visit the others, although I’m sure some of them have slightly difficult visas too. Great post!

    Reply
    • Hannah, you’ve picked a great country to start with! The two countries on the list with slightly difficult visas are Tajikistan and Iran (depending upon your nationality). But, Kyrgyzstan is visa-free now and it’s easy to get visas upon arrival for Ethiopia, Haiti and Bangladesh.

      Reply
  31. I made the same type of list this year. Rather than going to the old standbys, we should consider going to similar, but different locations that are often overlooked, like Sri Lanka instead of Thailand and The Cook Islands instead of Hawaii. Or how about Montenegro instead of Croatia? There are so many wonderful places in the world to see. We need to stretch our travel imaginations once in a while.

    Reply
    • Laura, can see that we’re thinking along the same lines here 🙂 Agree that we need to stretch our travel imaginations to keep exploring new places. Personally, I’d love to go to Albania sometime this year as an alternative to Croatia. It’s a big, beautiful world!

      Reply
    • Jerri, thanks for the recommendation! We met a few people from Lesotho when we were in South Africa a few years ago. They were incredibly warm and welcoming, making us want to return for a visit.

      Reply
  32. Hi! This is a great list. We recently came back from long term travel, and a re itching to go again! We can’t leave for an extended period of time right now, so I thought Cuba would be a great destination for 2015. Its bound to get a lot more visitors in coming years as US lifts travel restrictions, and Cuba will change. I would love to see it before it does. Have you been?

    Reply
    • Jenia, I definitely agree with you that Cuba will get a lot more travelers in the next five years so if you have the opportunity to go now you should. We visited Cuba a while ago in 2003 so I’m sure it has changed since then, but most things are still similar. It’s a fascinating place with a surprisingly diverse culture and fabulous music. Incredibly entrepreneurial and resourceful people, too. Hope you get to visit soon!

      Reply
  33. Kyrgyzstan is top of my list for 2015 too! Did a great trip last year travelling round some of the lesser known parts of the Balkans, and particularly loved Albania, so planning on getting even further off the beaten track this year… 🙂

    Reply
    • Tom, great to hear that Kyrgyzstan is at the top of your list for the year! We did a very brief trip in the Balkans last fall, but we’d love to return and to spend more time and do some multi-day treks. Everyone keeps telling us wonderful things about Albania. Safe travels!

      Reply
  34. Such a mind blowing travel post! Thanks for sharing those beautiful pictures and your own experience! I am just wondering if you got a chance to visit Cox’s Bazaar ( the longest unbroken sea beach in the world ) in Bangladesh. I can share my experience there- the bay of Bengal is incredible from that part of the country. The sandy sea beach is perfect for a long walk and surfing is more than amazing in the sea. You can see making of fresh fish fry and grab them immediately at local vendors. And a lot more local things are there.

    Happy travelling!

    Reply
  35. Nice to see that you loved my Country (Bangladesh). I hope you got to taste some of the traditional foods in Old Dhaka and it wasn’t too spicy! 😉

    Reply
  36. Hey Audrey,,
    Great Piece,,Seeing as i Hate Flying with a Passion Now,,Im Planning to do a Big European and Beyond Trip on Trains and Buses and Such like,,Id Love to do East Europe and Beyond,,A Strange Request i Know but as ur Well Traveled would u Have any Links to Sites that Would Have Info on this Sort of Thing..
    Bit of a Long Shot i Know.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Justin, we love train and bus journeys as well so understand the desire to avoid flying. It’s easy to get around Eastern Europe by train and bus. The Man in Seat 61 is a great online resource for planning train travel anywhere in the world.

      If you want to head further east into some of the places we mentioned above my suggestion is to take the train to Turkey and then you could go to Georgia or Iran (we went the other way from Iran to Turkey by train) easily from there.

      Reply
  37. I have heard wonderful things about Georgia and it seems really easy to travel too! I am already compiling a list for next year as I think this year is full!

    Reply
    • Glad that this list is helping you in next year’s planning! Georgia is a fun place to visit – try to get into the mountains and do some trekking, too.

      Reply
  38. Excellent post! We’re headed to Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Tajikistan, and your stories and photos from this part of the world is giving us some wonderful inspiration. Can’t wait to finally experience Central Asia for ourselves. Thanks guys!

    Reply
    • Glad to hear that our stories from Central Asia have been inspiration for your upcoming journey there. It’s a fascinating part of the world — although it’s not always easy — so I know you’ve got some great adventures ahead of you!

      Reply
  39. So happy to see that Georgia is appearing on a lot of must visit lists.

    We spend a month there and loved every second of it. Very untouched and beautiful!!

    Reply
    • Glad to hear of your good experiences spending a month in Georgia! Since you’ve been there, you know all the great reasons to travel there so we’re also happy to see it appearing on more people’s travel radar.

      Reply
  40. Hi, Audrey really nice selection for offbeat travel destination. People who want to enjoy their trip without much chaos of crowed tourists would spend merry time. Each destination comes with different flavor. In that list Iran is my personal favorite. I loved the culture. The blue-tiled mosaic of the mosques is a pleasure to watch and their culture is a complete different thing to experience. I wish you luck with your exploring of various exotic locations in the world.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed this and that you had such a good experience traveling in Iran. The mosaics and design of the mosques are very special and it’s a rich and deep culture that goes back several thousands of years. Happy travels to you on your next journey!

      Reply
  41. Wow, what an excellent list! I’m so keen to do some overlanding along the silk route, Kyrgystan in particular and I’ve heard such amazing things about Iran.

    Reply
    • Thanks, JC! An overland trip along the Silk Road would be quite a beautiful adventure – the scenery and changing cultures are impressive. And yes, Iran is a fascinating place. Hope you get to it soon!

      Reply
  42. All excellent suggestions!

    Might I add: Kampong Ayer (Water Village), Brunei Darussalam

    This country is quite westernized and wealthier then the list above but there is still a sect of its population who choose to live above the water on stilt-housing. Its unique and worth a mention.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Mike, for the suggestion for Brunei Darussalam. We haven’t traveled in Brunei yet, but didn’t know about this particular area of it. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  43. These are a really interesting mix of countries. I haven’t been to any of them but I wouldn’t mind going to any of the “‘stans” as they are still quite frequently unknown. I’d also like to do the Transiberian silk road route either in 2015 or 2016. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
    • Yes, the ‘stans are quite interesting and still not very well traveled. If you’re looking for something very different than what you’re used to, that’s a great place to go. And, they make a good combination with the Trans-siberian railway 🙂

      Reply
  44. On my bucket list is a bike tour along the silk road but I’d also like to do a tour of South America. Those would cover several from your list.

    Reply
    • Jules, these both sound like epic bike trips. when we traveled through Central Asia we met a few people who were biking the Silk Road from Xi’an to Istanbul. They had great stories and experiences, although the mountains were rather challenging 🙂

      Reply
  45. Excellent list! It’s refreshing to see ‘off the beaten path’ destinations. All of these places are at the top of my list for future travel.
    I’d love to see more info and recommendations for more countries, which suffer from dangerous reputations (which may no longer be accurate).
    So much better that the usual Bootsnall list of western European cities.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Noel! Glad you enjoyed this sort of alternative destination list. We usually find that once we start doing our research the places with dangerous reputations are not so bad for the traveler after all. But it takes some work to find that out.

      Reply
  46. Bolivia is FANTASTIC. I had been dreaming of it for a long time and I have finally made it there in 2015 – only to understand that now I want to go again. Iran is definitely a destination I am to visit in 2016. Fingers crossed I have enough money for that.

    Reply
    • Agree with you on Bolivia. It’s such an interesting place culturally, politically, historically. And, it also has such incredible physical beauty as well.

      I do hope that you are able to make it to Iran this year. If money is an issue, there is a pretty strong Couchsurfing community there (as you are non-American this would be allowed), which would cut down on some of the costs.

      Reply
  47. I keep seeing more and more suggestions to visit Iran. The US news system certainly attempts to instill fear into people about Iran, and unfortunately does a pretty good job. But I’m really starting to consider visiting there, the architecture looks stunning and everyone says the people are very friendly.
    The views of the mountains in Kyrgyzstan from your pictures look like they make the trip worth it alone! I just got back from my 2nd visit to Colorado a few weeks ago and love mountain ranges. I think you’ve helped me seriously consider 2 more destinations to add to my bucket list!

    Reply
    • Great to hear that you now have two more places on your travel bucket list!

      We definitely understand what you mean about the news coverage of Iran and it giving you reservations. Before our visit to Iran a few years ago the media cycle was one where it seemed like every day there was something “anti-American” happening in Iran. Fortunately, we were able to talk with an Iranian-American living in Tehran who gave us perspective of the story that wasn’t being told, including the experiences of American travelers there. And when we did go, we found that this latter story was more the norm. We were welcomed everywhere we went by ordinary Iranians we met on the street, including offers for tea, gifts, etc. And when it comes to architecture, art and ancient history Iran is certainly hard to beat. If you have any other questions about Iran, feel free to ask or take a look at this post: https://uncorneredmarket.com/american-travel-iran/

      Yes, the mountains in Kyrgyzstan are worth the journey. Then add to that the yurts, nomadic culture and a strong dose of hospitality and it’s even more attractive.

      Reply
  48. Pleased to say I have knocked off quite a few on your list. Iran and Georgia were fantastic. I wasnt as enthusiastic with Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan would be a great inclusion, and have many fond memories from their. Central asia as a whole including Xinjiang in China is a remarkable part of the world to travel.

    Reply
    • Glad to hear that you had such good experiences in Iran and Georgia! And yes, Xinjiang is rather fascinating. This was our starting point for exploring China, so we enjoyed this unusual first taste of the country. We also liked Uzbekistan for the Silk Road cities, but still have a soft spot for Kyrgyzstan and its people and mountains 🙂 But, it’s that we all have different preferences and experiences that makes things interesting in travel!

      Reply
  49. That is a great list. Heading on a road trip soon from Ireland through Iran and into Central Asia so hitting a few of these. Great to know we are going the right direction

    Reply
  50. Wow. What a list and such gorgeous pictures! I have been so intrigued by Albania, Kyrgyzstan, well really all the places you have on this list! Thanks for showing these off beat places and how beautiful they look! 🙂

    Reply
  51. Loved your Central Asia blog, lot of these places are on my bucket list for a long time, specially Iran and pamir highway, just wondering can these both be done together as one trip and can the pamir highway be a self driven itinerary rather than hiring a driver…. Love doing offbeat places my favorite are drives around less know roads in turkey ( underground cities) , offbeat driving Rajasthan ( India) seeing lesser known forts and palaces, off beat destination in Spain (tereul) etc etc.

    Reply
    • It might be a bit challenging to fit both Iran and the Pamir Highway into one trip, but it would be possible if you are traveling overland and go through Turkmenistan to get to Iran. Otherwise, there are likely flights from Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan to Iran. I’m not sure of your nationality, but if you are American/British/Canadian you’ll need an official tour/guide in Iran and a land border crossing might be tricky.

      As for self-drive, I imagine it is possible, but we don’t know anyone who has done this. By doing a quick search online it seems that there are options to pick up cars in Bishkek/Osh or Khujand/Dushanbe. However, I’d only undertake this as a self-drive experience if you are very familiar with auto mechanics as the roads can be pretty brutal on vehicles. Stunningly beautiful landscapes, but hard roads.

      Reply
  52. Awesome list! I have always wanted to visit the Sundarbans, Bangladesh and after reading your post I even want to travel more and maybe stay at a village home stay. Hoping to work an itinerary to Dhaka early next year. Thank you again for the wonderful post.

    Reply
  53. We have been living in Tbilisi, Georgia for 4 months. Can’t really say anything about this country when doing short tourist visit (we don’t do any tourist stuff), but it definitely rocks for long-stay. With EU passport you get 12 months hassle free stay with just an entry stamp that can be renewed indefinitely by exiting to Armenia (also visa-free) and coming back. With our diet and consumption habits this has been the cheapest country in the world where we have so far lived. The total cost of living including everything has been been less than US $200/person/month. The only major annoyance has been excessive traffic, oftentimes air quality is really and cars are trying to kill pedestrians. When you learn not to trust green lights,run over zebras crossing and use underground passages whenever possible.

    Reply
    • Santeri, I do remember the driving and traffic in Georgia to be some of the craziest we have experienced, But, as you say, the quality of life, friendliness of people, deliciousness of food, and low cost of living more than make up for it. Glad you’re enjoying it so much!

      Reply
  54. This was such a fun list to read – and I love how much information you included (and additional resources) for each destination. I have heard so many people discuss how beautiful Iran and the Balkans area are, but Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were definitely not on my radar!

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed this list and resources, Alison! Central Asia often doesn’t come up high on people’s travel radar, but countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have some of the most incredible mountain landscapes we’ve ever seen. And, the people and culture are also really interesting and welcoming. We’ve written quite a bit on Kyrgyzstan recently, if you want even more resources: https://uncorneredmarket.com/travel/kyrgyzstan/

      Reply
  55. Hi Audrey and Daniel,
    I have never been to Kyrgyzstan but a similar destination I fell in love with and would like to return to is the ancient Tibetan province of Amdo (Gansu, Qinghai). As it’s the “open” part of Tibet, I could walk alone without any problem and go everywhere, surrounded by the high mountains, the most famous Buddhist monasteries of the Gelugpa sect and above all the Tibetan pilgrims wearing their traditional attire.
    And in a popular destination like India, my favourite would be Central India for its Tribal festivals!

    Reply
    • Hi Stephanie,
      Your description of Amdo reminds me of our visit to Xiahe (also in Gansu Region) a few years ago when we arrived during a Tibetan Buddhist festival at Labrang Monastery. It was quite an incredible experience being in the midst of all the Tibetan pilgrims.

      Interestingly, there have been some stones found in Kyrgyzstan with Buddhist chants/prayers engraved on them in Sanskrit. So, at some point many centuries ago Central Asia also had Buddhist influence.

      Reply
      • Labrang is one of the places where I have seen the most of pilgrims during this trip. But I was there when they were totally “rebuilding” the city. I had a strong time when a Muslim man took me around his district. I understood he wanted me to witness the last moments of the houses, shops and mosque. I could feel how people were sad… At that time, there was a lot of very old traditional shops – noodles fabric, traditional bread, etc – along the new big road they were building close to the monastery. I guess it doesn’t exist anymore. At the opposite of the monastery, there was the Tibetan area. And there, it was the exact opposite. There was no comfort, the houses were like ruins but it was let outside of development. But I loved the atmosphere there.
        My favourite place in Amdo has been Langmusi. I really felt as if it was the end of the road and I could see a celestial funerals site. Amdo has such a special atmosphere <3

        Reply
  56. I really enjoyed seeing your travel timeline and having a little roundup! I’ve only started to follow you recently and I’ve only started travelling out of the UK in the past few years. I’ve recently been to North Sweden and oh my I loved it so much! I’m excited to see what 2019 has in store for you 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you, Linda. Hopefully we can provide a bit of offbeat travel inspiration as you make your way about the world.

      Reply
  57. I love how much information you included (and additional resources) for each destination. I have heard so many people discuss how beautiful Iran and the Balkans area are, but Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were definitely not on my radar!

    Reply
    • Thanks for letting us know, Lisa. Then we did our job. Glad we could turn your attention to alternative travel destinations like those in Central Asia (e.g., Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

      Reply
  58. Wow! What an awesome list! You’ve certainly given me something to think about. I’ve been on the road for almost 8mo with no end date in site. I’m a new travel blogger (who isn’t ??!!! ) and am dedicated to making a living with my blog and helping others travel.
    Thanks for such an off the beaten path list of places to go see.
    Cheers,

    Reply
  59. Nice list and info. From personal experience, Bangaldesh tops this list for off beat places IMO. Definitely not a relaxing place (as a Caucasian) but so worth it. Spent a month there and only met 3 other tourists, all on the same river cruise hah.

    I can’t say I agree with Colombia being included though. I absolutely love it and everyone should go, but it’s definitely not off beat. It’s rampant with tourists country wide. As you mention, Colombia had a troubled past and is well known for that, so some of that stigma remains deterring a few, but not many. It is actually quite impressive to go and see how fast the country, and the attitude of the locals has changed in such a short span of time. But still doesn’t deserve a spot on an off-beat list IMO. I would also say Bolivia is a borderline inclusion, though once again definitely a must-see destination.

    Reply
    • Marc, glad you enjoyed this! We had a similar experience in Bangladesh, meeting only 5 travelers in 5 weeks and most of them on our Sundarbans trip.

      Colombia has become more “mainstream” the last few years, especially Cartagena. But we’ve still kept it on this list as we still meet people who are still think of the country as dangerous or off limits because of drug wars. And, there are still many areas of the country that are offbeat that most travelers never get to as they stick to the same traditional routes. For example, when we return we’d like to spend time exploring the Pacific Coast.

      Reply
  60. Hi Audrey

    A very inspiring post that has given us lots of ideas for our forthcoming travels. We’re planning another European road trip for this summer and whilst we’d talked about Albania were not 100% convinced. You’ve helped us make it a must visit country!

    Thanks again

    Reply
    • Hi Paul,
      So glad this article was useful in planning your upcoming European road trip. Do try to spend some time hiking near Theth or Valbona (villages with road access) during your trip as the Albanian mountains are beautiful!

      Reply
  61. I visited Tbilisi and Kyiv last year and loved them both. I’m so happy to see them included as the sights and the people in both were really fantastic.

    Reply
  62. Nice one guys!

    I went to both Georgia and Ukraine last year, they were great!
    Ukraine was a whim as I was already travelling to Poland and decided to merely “pop next door” and spent a week there!

    I really want to do more of Central Asia / Caucasus very soon, as I strongly believe they’ve got lots to offer and they’re far easier to get to these days than they were 10 years ago lol!

    Reply
    • That’s one of the great things about traveling in Europe, that you can just pop across the border on a whim. Good choice to explore Ukraine for a week. We’d like to go back ourselves to see some places outside the big cities.

      We’ve been advocates for Central Asia/Caucasus for over a decade so highly recommend visiting! You right that it has become easier to get to them these days with more flights and options. Plus, it’s a bit easier once you’re there as the tourism infrastructure has been built up a bit so you have more information available and transportation, accommodation, and tour choices.

      Reply
  63. I traveled to Bangladesh and Colombia back in 2018 and I must say they are truly a travelers paradise from every aspect. Also, the food, transportation, and cost of living are affordable for tourists. Iran is so close to Dubai and I still haven’t had the opportunity of visiting it but now after reading your blog, I will definitely visit it but only when this COVID-19 situation gets better. Kyrgyzstan also has been popping up in off-beat places in recent times because of its outdoor activities, mountains, and lake Issyk Kul.

    Reply
    • Sana, I do hope that you have a chance to visit Iran and Kyrgyzstan at some point. Both are fascinating and beautiful places, but for very different reasons so you’ll experience something completely new in each place!

      Reply
  64. Amazing list Audrey! I’ve only visited 1 of these so far – Colombia.
    I really want to get to Madagascar. I’m excited to explore the rest.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Todd! Highly recommend visiting Madagascar when it’s possible to once again. Same with these other destinations 🙂

      Reply
  65. Amazing list guys!

    If you like hikking I totally recommend The central zone chain of summits in Chile at the Andes, Alzo Dientes de Navarino which is close to Torres del Paine but even more south and less known for foreign people.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the suggestion, Pablo! We have visited Torres del Paine and areas along the Carretera Austral in the northern part of Patagonia. But, haven’t been further south.

      Reply
  66. Great list, certainly gives the reader some great travel ideas. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the opportunity to visit any of these destinations but would like to in the future. Thank you for your list of interesting ideas!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Barbara! Glad this list provided some travel inspiration! Although we can’t travel much at the moment these places will be waiting and welcoming travelers when it is finally safe to travel again.

      Reply
  67. I recently saw Colombia on Jim Belushi’s new show on Discovery. It definitely looks like a country worth a trip to. Between the jungles and cities there seems to be alot of places to explore.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.