8 Underrated Destinations You Haven’t Visited Yet—But Should
Already checked off the world’s most visited countries—France, the U.S., Spain, China—and not sure where to go next? Consider planning a trip to overlooked gems like Slovenia, Uganda, Belize, and Bhutan, where less-crowded cultural attractions and a slew of luxe new hotels has made them more appealing than ever.
An avid Italophile, Laura is always on the hunt for the next great travel trends, luxury hotels, best places to eat and drink, and hidden gems. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications. She also co-wrote "New York: Hidden Bars and Restaurants," an award-winning guide to the city's speakeasy scene.
Ever since chef Ana Ros (whose appearance on Chef’s Table, among the likes of Enrique Olvera and Massimo Bottura, helped solidify her international acclaim) took over her now-famous restaurant Hiša Franko in Slovenia's alpine Soca Valley, travelers have been flocking to this idyllic corner of Europe. Today, Slovenia continues to evolve as one of the world's great culinary hubs. Visitors can now stay at the luxurious new InterContinental Ljubljana—the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the Hapsburg architecture and tree-lined riverbanks of Slovenia's capital city before venturing out to its village-dotted countryside.
When people think about a typical African safari, they often picture Kenya à la Out of Africa—flat plains, baobab trees, and wildlife roaming the savannah. However, recent political unrest has many travelers turning their eyes (and travel plans) to its southern neighbor, Tanzania. This is where you'll find Serengeti National Park, which, at 5,700 square miles, is so massive that the landscape changes from one part of the park to the next. Get a taste of both areas on a trip with with tour operator Extraordinary Journeys, which might start at Roving Bushtops in the Central Serengeti (famous for its prime wildlife viewing and typical flat plains) and advance to Serengeti Bushtops in the north (which is hillier and broken up by rock formations).
If you've already backpacked your way through Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia and are ready to dig deeper into Southeast Asia, a trip to Laos might be right for you. While you won't find any white-sand beaches, this landlocked nation offers everything else you'd hope to see in this part of the world, from elephant sanctuaries, waterfalls, and caves to Khmer ruins and ancient Buddhist monasteries. Base yourself at the new Rosewood Luang Prabang, opening this month, which offers a whole new level of luxury with 22 glamping tents and villas built along a river surrounded by a lush forest. In addition to combining traditional Laotian with French colonial style in both design and cuisine, the property has partnered with the only non-riding elephant sanctuary in the country.
You’ve probably been to Mexico, but what about its southeastern neighbor, Belize? Despite its small size, the Central American nation has it all: tropical jungles, Mayan ruins, beautiful Caribbean beaches, and, for avid divers, the largest coral reef in the northern hemisphere, known for some of the best scuba diving in the world. The country has recently begun experiencing a boon in tourism, with several new resort openings including Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club (a member of Hilton’s Curio collection) and Itz’ana. Prefer to stick to the classics? You could easily combine a stay in the jungle at the eco-chic Belcampo Lodge, which grows 70% of the food it serves on site, with some beach time on the Caribbean coast at Las Terrazas Resort and Residences, a beachfront hotel on Ambergris Caye with apartment-style suites.
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For decades, Rwanda has been the go-to destination for gorilla tourism, but last year's dramatic increase in park permit costs has begun convincing travelers to choose neighboring Uganda (which offers many of the same attractions at a fraction of the cost) as a more affordable alternative. Award-winning outfitter Volcanoes Safaris—pioneers in setting up camps around the great ape parks—has three lodges in Uganda including the newly refurbished Bwindi Lodge, whose picture windows and terraces overlook Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Prior to your arrival, Volcanoes will help organize your gorilla trek (including securing permits and visas); follow up your encounter with naps in your private standalone banda and a complimentary massage at the lodge's new spa.
After being closed off for decades, the country that prides itself on measuring Gross National Happiness instead of GDP is slowly opening itself up to the rest of the world. Among the most devoted visitors to this Himalayan nation are hikers and mountain climbers, whose bucket lists include treks to some of the country's most beautiful sites such as Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which is precariously perched on the edge of a cliff. (Leading tour operator Abercrombie & Kent can get you there with expert guides.) Prefer a less arduous experience? Wellness-focused brand Six Senses is planning to open Six Senses Bhutan, a collective of five small resorts in separate locations, later this year.
If you—like us—have been dreaming of visiting the African island of Madagascar ever since the Disney movie came out, you’re (finally) in luck. Last year, Time + Tide opened Miavana, a luxury lodge on the pristine island of Nosy Ankao just off Madagascar’s northeast coast. This is the place to come when you want to get truly off the grid: unless you splash out on a trekking excursion to see the island's endemic lemurs, there’s not much to do at the resort besides relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, and jet skiing. Pack a good book and get ready to unplug.
With higher security and new tourism regulations in place, it might be time to give Iran a chance. Intrepid Travel has launched a new women’s only journey through Iran aimed at breaking down cultural barriers, which includes incredible sightings like blue-tiled mosques, grand bazaars, and secret gardens during stops in places like the seaside city of Shiraz, the capital of Tehran, and the ancient city of Persepolis. Bonus: because the trip is female-only, attendees will be able to access places and communities that are off-limits to men, including a women’s-only yoga class, beauty salon, and park.
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