We get it. You have a list of countries you want to visit that’s like three pages long. We do too! But, we have a feeling you’re also always adding to that list... so why not add a few more?? It won’t hurt, right? With the right blend of mystery, natural beauty, and noteworthy experiences, these unique destinations are definitely worth considering as you search for that perfect vacation.
Karst mountains on the NamsongSandwiched in between mega destinations Vietnam and Thailand, Laos seemingly has limitless opportunities to get out and explore it’s rugged and rustic countryside. With beautiful karst caves to spelunk, mountains to trek, and rivers to kayak, there is plenty to do for any adventurer.
A novice near Luang Prabang
When you want a more low-key day, there are two UNESCO heritage sites, the ancient city of Luang Prabang and the Pre-Angkorian Vat Phou temple complex. In the delta of the Mekong there are many small island villages. One notable village is Si Phan Don, which will gladly host you and your friends for a splendid few days of simply chilling out on in the middle of the Mekong. There’s also Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall, the Khone Phapeng, only a 45 minute bike ride away.
A boat traveling down the MekongAccording to its tourism board, Laos is aiming to position itself as the definitive ecotourism hub of Southeast Asia. They're hoping to make it a more environmentally conscious alternative to the surrounding countries. This is a shift we definitely endorse. And while we're endorsing things, make sure to try Beerlao too. It's the best of all of the Southeast Asian lagers. Don't worry, you'll find it everywhere.
Like most countries in Southern Africa, the highlight in Botswana is the wildlife tours. With the Okavango delta and Chobe National Park, it offers two world-class parks filled with all of the animals any Lion King diehard could ever dream of.
The Okavango Delta
Botswana may be overshadowed by highly trafficked places like Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, but this is part of a calculated effort by Botswana to conserve its natural environment. The flipside is that the tours may cost more than some other South African countries, but they aren’t out of control and there are always options for travelers on a budget.
Over 50,000 Saan people, an indigenous hunter gatherer tribe, live within Botswana’s borders. With a cultural tour you can spend some time with a tribe and see what it means to work and play in an entirely different way of living than what you’re used to.
Chobe National Park
Back to the wildlife though. Besides the Okavango Delta, which serves as a water source for many of the animals residing in the Kalahari, and Chobe National Park, which has a large population of elephants, there are also many other wildlife parks that are a bit less touristy. There’s the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Northern Tuli Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Transfrontier park. All mix beautiful African landscapes with a diverse population of animals, which is sure to give your camera quite a workout.
The first place with beaches on the list, so if that’s your jam I know I already have your attention. It's situated on the Caribbean right next to Mexico, yet the crowded beaches of Cancun have never felt so far away. Once you’re in Belize, ancient Mayan ruins, the jungle’s amazing biodiversity, white sand beaches, and colorful coral reefs are all opportunities to fill up your travel scrapbook. And since the country is quite small, they’re all easily accessible. It’s just up to you what you want to do first.
We’ve written in the past about some of Belize’s Mayan ruins and scuba diving, but it can’t be said enough that Belize has some of the world’s best, and at a great price. The population is a mix of Afro-Caribbean and Mayan people and the official language is English, although the engaging accent may take some getting used to. Their friendly and laid back demeanor will make Belize’s vibes easy to understand - it’s all good here, just enjoy.
The Castle of Trakai from above.This one’s for the history buffs. Sitting on the Baltic sea in Northeastern Europe, Lithuania, with a legacy of a powerful military, once had borders stretching across Europe. It’s much smaller nowadays, but the evidence from its military past still remain. WWII sites, fortresses, and castles, including the stately Trakai Castle, dot the scenery.
Former Officer"s Clubhouse To me, the real intriguing aspect of Lithuania lies in its 50 years spent as a member of the Soviet Union. With many abandoned military bases with overgrown terrain and decaying buildings, Lithuania is ripe for urban exploration. You can also go underground to check out a Soviet missile silo. For those who want a taste of Soviet art, there's a park of sculptures dedicated solely to statues of Soviet leaders lying not too far from the capital city Vilnius.
The Gates of Dawn in Vilnius Of course, Lithuania’s present is pretty cool too. There is seemingly a festival for every occasion, and many of the cities have very well preserved Old Towns that mix culture and commerce. Activities like kayaking and rafting are popular, and there’s 5 gorgeous national parks worth of wilderness to frolic through.
The Hill of Crosses For more unusual activities there is a tour that places you in dark, cold Lithuanian forest with a small group and challenges you to find your way home, completing tasks along the way. Sounds like your favorite eastern European horror film. I did promise unique experiences!
Yeah, Mongolia. Cold, desolate Mongolia, why would anyone want to go there? Exactly - all those reasons. Experience the harsh environment (sans feudalism) that molded Ghenghis Khan into the brutal and legendary leader he would come to be. Sit and contemplate in the Steppe. Break bread with the nomads who call the Steppe their home. The Steppe! It even sounds amazing. Let me just hit you with some pictures so you can see what I’m talking about.
Okay, we’ll have to stop there. All of these unique destinations promise adventure, culture, and moments both large and small. Best of all, they all promise small crowds too. That might not always be the case, so there’s no better time than now to get going. Been to any of these places? Are they already on your list? Let us know in the comments.