After a few pandemic years of fantasising about where you’ll go once the world reopens, the list of places has become absurdly big. Should the next trip be to a favoured tropical beach or an international capital? Has seeing Emily in Paris made you yearn for a trip back to France, where you can spend your days eating croissants and drinking copious amounts of wine on a terrace?
We’re all for familiarity and sticking to places we know and love, but if you’re searching for a new kind of adventure (because you’ve already checked off so many on your bucket list), why not visit somewhere you’re less likely to see on all of your friends’ Instagram posts?
So here we bring you 11 countries that not enough Americans visit:
In an ironic twist, the “hub” of Central America is also the least visited when it comes to holiday destinations. Panama, at the physical crossroads of two oceans and two continents, is a tropical beauty brimming with steep cliffs, stunning beaches, and rich culture. It’s enough to take your mind off the famous canal.
Panama is frequently compared to – and overlooked for – Costa Rica, its sought-after neighbour to the north.However, Panama outperforms CR in a number key categories. It offers even more distant mountain and island retreats—the San Blas Archipelago alone contains approximately 400 outlying islands, virtually all of which are unidentified, deserted, and/or totally made of coral. And, unlike Costa Rica, Panama maintains a greater degree of internet connectivity as Central America’s business epicentre (cough, Panama City!).
Cape Verde, which appears to be adrift 350 miles off the coast of Senegal, checks all the boxes for an exquisite tropical beach paradise: sweeping mountain panoramas, beautiful beaches, and historic villages on land, as well as shipwrecks and whales in the crystal-clear waters. On a purely visual level, this should be on the bucket list of any traveller. However, the island nation’s multicultural elements earn it a place at the very top of that list.
Over the previous two decades, neighbouring Peru and Colombia have accelerated their tourism efforts, the former with award-winning restaurants and the latter with powdery beaches. But Ecuador, situated between the two and roughly one-fifth the size of them both, should not be overlooked. Ecuador’s benefit is that it’s incredibly easy to explore, with its unique brand of ceviche (with popcorn!) and swimmable shoreline. The dollar is the national currency. Slow and clear Andean Spanish.
This beautiful little Himalayan monarchy, wedged between India and China, is more than simply a brief halt on the world’s circuit. The dollar goes a long way, attitudes toward Americans are largely good, and about half of the residents know English, which helps to alleviate the culture shock of being dropped in a city as wonderfully chaotic as Kathmandu. Though the country is largely Hindu, Buddhist pilgrimage sites abound, allowing visitors to connect with the country’s strong spiritual feel.
The chirps of vivid birds interrupt the calm in your Belize bungalow, providing the ideal wake-up call in a destination where every day is a choose-your-own-adventure. Do you want to swim in secret waterfalls? Do you want to put your diving talents to the test in the Great Blue Hole, an undersea sinkhole visible from space? Explore deteriorating Mayan ruins? A shaman’s blessing? Hiking with jaguars and monkeys? Belize has it all, and because everyone speaks English, these experiences may be had on a short or extended stay.
Although neighbouring Croatia receives the majority of the attention these days, Montenegro is just as beautiful—without the cruise ship throng. This tiny Adriatic country feels enormous, and despite being slightly smaller than Connecticut, you can do a lot in a short amount of time. Its beaches are among Europe’s most stunning and rowdy, with an oceanfront party culture that can be elegant like Ibiza or sloppy like Cancun. Hop between old Venetian villages with 15th-century defences, lovely red-tiled roofs, and excellent coastal eateries, such as Budva, Kotor, and Perast.
If Iceland is too expensive for you, or you’re sick of watching the endless Instagram parade of Blue Lagoon images (which, to be fair, is fantastic), consider another Nordic haven: Finland. You can get your spa on regardless of the weather thanks to the country’s love of saunas—the only Finnish word to make it into normal English usage.
The country offers a variety of natural remedies. Fly north to take in Lapland’s breathtaking scenery, which is enhanced by a good amount of snow in the winter and hours of uninterrupted sunlight in the summer. Head to Helsinki for a city-country balance, where meticulous city design guarantees you’re never more than a 15-minute bike ride from nature. Expansive open space and ocean waves are nearby, as are the top eateries in the country.
The old-school ’60s backpack culture is alive and well in Laos, where starry-eyed hitchhikers learned to meditate with monks and lived in dollar-a-day beach cottages. Look no farther than the “4,000 islands” of the Mekong River, particularly Don Det, where hostels spill out on stilts into the tranquil water, or the stunning limestone mountains surrounding Luang Prabang. Many consider Luang Prabang to be Laos’ cultural (and historically royal) centre, and it is an electrifying fusion of the spiritual, natural, and modern.
Wales, the United Kingdom’s fourth country, is a jewel in the Celtic crown of the United Kingdom. It’s home to some of the most stunning and well-preserved ruins in the world, from Tintern Abbey’s eerie Gothic cloisters (William Wordsworth, anyone?) to the 13th-century Caerphilly Castle, which rises above the mists of the moat that surrounds it.
But Wales is more than just a collection of mediaeval rocks. Snowdonia National Park encircles stunning glacier lakes and mountains, including Snowdon, the country’s highest peak. A grand old-fashioned railway runs all the way to the top, and the park has miles of paths to explore if you’re looking for more adventure. Cardiff, the capital and location of Doctor Who, is a cosmopolitan metropolis with a salty, maritime background. It’s also an excellent venue for two of Wales’ most prominent traditions: opera and rugby.
North Macedonia, sandwiched between Greece and numerous popular Balkan countries, may not be the “cradle of civilization” it claims to be, but don’t dismiss it just yet. Skopje, the previously sleepy capital of the former Yugoslav republic, is now peppered with massive monuments and huge faux-classical structures. It’s as if North Macedonia transported Caesars Palace from Las Vegas and dropped it in the middle of town. Around 50 additional monuments have been added, including 100-foot sculptures of Alexander the Great and his father, Phillip. The historic Turkish bazaar, home to tea shops, mosques, and modern museums, competes for attention with marble triumphal arches and sculpture-lined bridges.
Georgia has remade itself in the last decade, cracking down on crime, paving roads, creating new airports, and promoting itself overseas. What is the most hazardous thing in Georgia right now? Chacha is a zillion-proof moonshine that locals will try to sell you at outdoor marketplaces. Don’t be fooled by Georgia’s small size—everything here is dazzlingly over-the-top, from the epically cheesy khachapuri to the whirling folk dances to the Alps-shaming Caucasus mountains that tower over the landscape.