When you’re thinking about vacation hotspots, you probably think of places like the Bahamas or Hawaii for some R&R or busy metropolises like New York City and Tokyo that require a little more get-up-and-go. Maybe places known for their natural beauty like Capri or Bali, or modern cities steeped in history like London or Cairo come to mind. But what about places that don’t quite have the same reputation? Let’s explore some of the world’s less-traveled tourist destinations.
In or around 985 AD, Erik the Red became the first Viking to discover this country. Despite its icy terrain, he decided to name it Greenland in the hopes of attracting visitors. Fast forward to today, Greenland now welcomes an average of 100,000 international visitors a year. This is roughly a 30% increase since 2015. Though it’s still quite low compared to its much greener counterpart Iceland, which is projected to receive 1.5 million visitors this year.
Greenland isn’t for the faint of heart. But the rough terrain and frigid climate might just be perfect for those looking for some adventure. In the capital city of Nuuk, thrill-seekers can chase waterfalls, spot humpback whales and hike the scenic Sermitsiaq mountain. The coastal town of Ilulissat offers natural-but-challenging beauty in the form of icebergs and glaciers. If you need a breather from the adrenaline rush, stop into one of Greenland’s many museums and explore the history of the truly unique country you’re visiting.
What to do in Greenland
Take a schooner on Scoresby Sund. This is one of Greenland’s largest fjord systems where travelers are treated to beautiful icebergs and unique arctic wildlife.
Explore Greenland National Museum and Archives. Greenland’s largest museum of cultural history is a history buff’s dream. Here you’ll find everything from centuries-old handicrafts to information on graveyards and ruins.
Take a Guided Boat Tour of Jakobshavn Glacier. The world’s fastest-melting glacier provides a unique experience. As you sail along, take in the natural beauty and see if you can spot a humpback whale or two.
Witness The Northern Lights. Most people think of Iceland or Alaska when they think of the Northern Lights. But Greenland provides some spectacular views of this wondrous display. Just don’t expect to catch it in the summer months, as your view will be obstructed by the midnight sun.
Explore Viking Ruins. With Erik the Red as its official founder, Greenland is steeped in viking history. What better way to learn about this unique culture than to literally stand in the places they once stood.
Travel tips for Greenland
Dress for the weather. Greenland is a big country and temperatures vary quite a bit depending where you go. Though, if you’re traveling in Summer, it’s unlikely that temperatures will top 70 degrees. Pack a windbreaker and a good rain jacket and if you plan to hike, make sure you bring protective gear.
Go in the winter or summer. Depending on your itinerary, the best times to visit Greenland are in either the winter or summer months, as that’s when the natural beauty of Greenland shines. Experience the midnight sun of summer or the Northern Lights in the winter. Of course, if you’re on a tighter budget, bookings for fall and spring tend to be cheaper.
Beware of wild animals. While it’s uncommon, you may encounter polar bears and rabid polar foxes. If you’re bitten, seek medical attention immediately to avoid a rabies infection.
Hire a guide. It’s not uncommon for tourists to lose their way in Greenland because the land is mostly uncultivated. Add to that, the country’s uneven terrain, and you have a potentially treacherous (but undeniably beautiful) environment. Take an experienced local guide with you so you can see everything you want to see as safely as possible.
Consider Travel insurance. Whether you’re planning on hiking on the icy terrain or taking a glacier tour, travel insurance can give you protections like adventure sports insurance and emergency medical evacuation coverage. You could save thousands of dollars.
Landlocked in central Asia, the Republic of Tajikistan was home to several ancient cultures dating back to the Bronze Age. Today, the country’s Fann Mountains, and other ranges are regarded as some of the best hiking destinations in the world. In the capital city of Dushanbe you’ll find a future-forward city center steeped in history. There are plenty of teahouses, cafes and parks for leisurely afternoons and beautiful lakes, rivers and greenery for some great nature photos.
What to do in Tajikistan
Take a Khujand Day Tour. It’s not often that you get a chance to stand in the same place where Alexander the Great once stood. So, if you’re in Tajikistan, spend the day in the ancient city of Khujand and do exactly that. Situated along the famed Silk Road, there’s so much cultural history to explore here.
Road trip along the Pamir Highway. Widely considered one of the best road trips in the world, the highway spans four countries along the Pamir mountains: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. While you can drive it yourself, it’s recommended that tourists hire a car and driver so they can sit back and enjoy the awe-inspiring views.
Celebrate the Navruz Holiday with the locals. Okay, so this is technically not a place, but if you’re in Tajikistan on March 21, you’ll witness the start of an incredible week-long celebration of the first day of spring. Navrus is a combination of two Persian words “nav” meaning new and “rus” meaning day. Games for children of all ages will be played, people in colorful clothes will be dancing and marching in the streets, and families will eat a traditional dish made from buckwheat groats and sweets. You’ll truly get a sense of Tajik culture.
Visit Rudaki Park. Take a stroll through this amazing park, where you’ll find colorful flowers, amazing fountains and trees from around the world. Don’t miss the stunning statue of the park’s namesake, the Persian poet Rudaki born in 880 AD during the Samanid Empire.
Explore the National Museum of Tajikistan. If you’re in Tajikistan you might want to know a thing or two about the country’s ancient history. This museum is the perfect place to learn about the culture and understand the past of Tajikistan .
Travel tips for Tajikistan
Understand the risks. In certain parts of Tajikistan, there’s a potential threat of terrorism. So it’s important to understand what areas in Tajikistan should be avoided before you go. Equally important to know is that along the country’s borders there may be landmines.
Be wary of crime and perilous roads at night. During the day in the capital city of Dushanbe is bustling with couples dining at outdoor cafes and families enjoying the parks, but at night, things are a little different. Drag racing is popular, making crossing the street at night potentially dangerous. Parks are generally vacant at night, which makes them more susceptible to crime.
Always carry a photocopy of your passport. It’s not uncommon for police and other government authorities to stop tourists and ask to see passports. You can show them a photocopy of your passport. You’ll want to keep your actual passport either hidden on your person or in the hotel safe.
Follow cultural etiquette. Women will want to keep their legs and arms covered and men will want to avoid wearing shorts unless they are cycling. Read up on local cultural norms and accepted behavior and do your best to be respectful of it while you are there.
Travel medical insurance is not mandatory but is recommended. Tajikistan is relatively stable but the medical care infrastructure can be poor. Having travel medical insurance will make it easier for international visitors to get the care they need without suffering huge medical debt.
Located on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Estonia, the Republic of Latvia offers plenty of ways to customize your vacation. Looking to soak up the sun? Head to one of Latvia’s many beaches. Hoping for something more active? Explore one of Latvia’s dense forests. The capital city of Riga is the cultural hub of the country, with plenty of museums and concert halls mixed in among Art Nouveau architecture and Medieval structures. For more adventure, Kuldīga has a lot of places to hike or take in the country’s rich wildlife.
What to do in Latvia
Tour the House of the Blackheads. This museum is unlike any other you’re likely to see. In addition to the Latvian cultural history and artifacts it holds, the building itself has its own story to tell.
Shop the Riga Central Market. This unique bazaar with over 3,000 trade stalls was built by repurposing German Zeppelin hangars and incorporating a mix of neoclassicism and art deco architectural styles.
Explore the Dārzu ceļš (the Garden Route). From lush vegetation and diverse wildlife to tranquil lakes and rolling hills, you’ll find out what exactly makes Latvia so beautiful along this route.
The Freedom Monument. This memorial was built in the 1930s to honor the soldiers who
died during the Latvian War for Independence between 1918 and 1920. But you don’t have to be a historian to appreciate this amazing tribute.
Hike the Gauja National Park. There aren’t many places in the world where you can witness natural riverbed beauty and cultural monuments and ruins from centuries past in the same breathtaking view.
Travel Tips for Latvia
Visit in the spring or fall. Winters in Latvia often come with sub-zero temperatures and in the summer temps can get up to an average high of 86 F. So, spring and fall are the Goldilocks seasons for Latvia. Of course, the flipside of this is that it would be cheaper to visit during the off-peak seasons.
Store your valuables in a secure place. While Latvia is generally safe for solo travelers and group vacationers alike, petty theft is common. Don’t leave your passports and other valuables in plain sight in your hotel rooms and don’t flaunt your money in public. If you go to bars or restaurants, be wary if a stranger starts talking about a cool new club they can take you to. This is a scam thieves will sometimes use to isolate tourists and rob them.
Budget-conscious travelers should check out LIDO cafeterias. These aren’t exactly Michelin-rated restaurants, but they provide a full meal complete with dessert at very low prices. If you need to stay on budget, these eateries might be the perfect way to do it.
Check prices before you order. Speaking of staying on a budget, make sure you check the prices before you order food or drinks. Tourists are often overcharged for these items.
You may need a visa. Latvia is a member of the Schengen Area. Whether or not you’ll need a Schengen visa depends on your home country. So, before you leave make sure you verify if you need a visa and give yourself plenty of time to procure one. If you’re required to get a Schengen visa, then you’re also required to get travel insurance with specific coverage for the Schengen area.
Bordered by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, which run from Europe to Asia, Azerbaijan is one of the world’s few transcontinental countries. As the capital city, Baku is a modern cultural hub that has managed to preserve its past. History buffs can tour the walled, medieval Inner City, home to the Palace of the Shirvanshahs that dates back to the 15th Century. For adventurers, the city of Ganja is widely considered the top backpacking destination in the country, from monuments to mountains, there’s a lot to explore here.
What to do in Azerbaijan
Explore Icheri Seher. Known as the “old city” located in Baku, this centuries-old fortress city boasts architecture dating back to the twelfth century and modern shopping consisting of handicrafts, rugs and traditional Azerbaijani clothes.
Watch the Garasu Volcano erupt. Azerbaijan has the most mud volcanoes in the world. This is one of its more famous. It’s known to spew mud more than half a mile into the air.
Visit Gobustan, Azerbaijan’s Stonehenge. Learn about the country’s ancient civilization by exploring this prehistoric cromlech (a circle of stones positioned vertically), and over 6,000 rock drawings.
Relax in Nabran. Located on the banks of the Caspian Sea, Nabran offers a variety of water-based activities ranging from lounging in pools to thrill-seeking in water parks. There’s also plenty of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
View Yanardag, the burning mountain. These hills are literally on fire, burning continuously due to gas deposits under the sandstone. For optimal viewing, visit after dusk when the fires can be easily seen.
Travel tips for Azerbaijan
Staying longer than 10 days? Remember to Register. The country’s government requires all tourists who stay longer than 10 days to register themselves. For tourists staying at a hotel, it’s likely that they will handle registration without you even having to ask. But it’s still a good idea to double check. If you’re staying at an Airbnb-type place, you’ll have to register yourself. You’ll want to do this sooner rather than later. If you fail to register yourself you’ll face a hefty fine upon departure.
If you require a visa for Azerbaijan, you’ll need travel insurance. The country’s government has made it mandatory that international tourists who require a visa also obtain travel insurance. They’re looking specifically for travel medical insurance that covers Covid. Even if your stay doesn’t require you to get a visa, travel insurance is still recommended.
Dress conservatively when visiting religious sites. Although Azerbaijan is considered a muslim country, it is also fairly secular. This means that there aren’t any particular dress codes for either men or women. There are just two considerations. Neither women nor men should dress provocatively and ensure that you dress respectfully when visiting holy sites.
Book Uber or Yandex taxis to avoid scams. When traveling from the airport to your hotel, you’re particularly vulnerable to taxi scams. Don’t use a taxi outside the airport. While these taxis will take you where you need to go, they will grossly overcharge you.
Avoid littering. While this is just good etiquette no matter where you go, Azerbaijan takes littering very seriously. You’ll notice this as soon as you set foot on the spotless streets of Baku. If you’re caught littering you’ll risk being fined. Instead, use one of the many trash receptacles, and if for some reason you can’t find a trashcan while sightseeing, hang on to your trash until you can properly discard it.
Located in Southern Africa, Botswana offers many rewards for intrepid travelers. The diverse landscape is defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta. But in Botswana, the real star of the show is the wildlife. In the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, tourists are treated to sightings of many of the world’s most amazing creatures, including giraffes and cheetahs. For more ways to experience Botswana’s diverse wildlife, there’s always safaris in Chobe National Park.
What to do in Botswana
Explore the Tsodilo Hills. Here you’ll find rock art and shelters, depressions and caves with a history that spans many millenia. Be reverent as you take it all in though. This is a place of religious significance for the local people.
Visit Chobe National Park. As you might expect, Botswana hosts many national parks and wildlife reserves, but Chobe was the very first. You’ll see lions and elephants and plenty of other natural beauty.
Camp out on Kubu Island. This ancient dry-granite rock island is a sacred monument for Botswana’s indigenous people. Prepare for an unforgettable experience when you pitch a tent on the island and rest under a star-filled sky.
Take a sight-seeing Safari at the Moremi Game Reserve. This could have been a national park but the country decided to give it a Game Reserve designation so that the BaSarwa people could continue living there. Here you can spot lions, elephants, buffalos and more.
Meditate at the Iskcon temple at Gaborone. This three-story Hindu temple offers anyone who enters a nice calm space to meditate and enjoy an Indian meal. The temple also hosts an annual food festival in the summer.
Travel Tips for Botswana
Be prepared to spend. Traveling to Africa is not a cheap adventure but this is especially true for Botswana, where the government aims to preserve and protect the country’s beauty while still keeping it open for tourists willing to pay a high cost. This is not to say that Botswana wouldn’t be well worth it.
Drink bottled mineral water. Though the tap water in Botswana is widely considered safe for tourists to drink, many who aren’t used to it may find it upsets their stomach. For this reason, it may be best to drink bottled mineral water, which you can bring with you or easily find at a local restaurant or shop,
Make sure your meat is cooked through. Similar to the tap water, Botswanan food is generally safe for tourists of all kinds to eat. So, everyone should feel free to try the country’s national dish, seswaa, a meat-heavy stew. Just make sure your meat is thoroughly cooked before you eat it.
Be vigilant. This is a good tip for anyone going literally anywhere. Botswana is one of the safest places for tourists in Africa. But petty theft can be common. So, keep your valuables out of view and don’t let yourself get too distracted.
Consider travel medical insurance for Botswana: Travel medical insurance is recommended so that you’re covered for any emergency medical care if you need it. This is particularly important if you’re spending time in the desert where summer temperatures regularly reach 115 F. Due to the remoteness of the desert emergency medical evacuation coverage is also recommended.
As the travel continues to rebound from the pandemic, more and more people will begin plotting out their next trips. Most will be headed to hotspots and tourist traps. But there will be many travelers who will take the trip less traveled and head to one of these five countries or many other unexpected places like Saudi Arabia, Tuvalu, and American Samoa. And they will be richly rewarded with unbelievable scenery, unique city centers, enchanting wildlife, and remarkable cultures.
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