Smart travelers always seem focused on the future. What’s next? Where’s the next cool destination I can explore? We’re constantly searching for a place to go that’s special, extraordinary and challenging to find in the best possible way. The same old “offbeat” places that have graced just about every viral Top Ten list just won’t do. We have five destinations that maybe you’ve never even heard of, let alone thought of planning a trip to. Our list includes a haven for hikers in Central Asia, a deserted island, two European countries where you won’t have to elbow through crowds of tourists, AND the coldest place on earth. Now there’s just one question left; which one will you visit this year?
Clipperton Island can be found approximately 700 miles off the coast of Mexico. Sitting in the Pacific Ocean, this small, ring-shaped atoll is totally off the grid and uninhabited by humans. This desert island isn’t for the faint of heart, but rather the uninhibited smart traveler. You won’t find a hotel, or even a cute beach shack. You’ll have to pitch a tent and fend for yourself. But for adventurers who love wildlife, you can camp amongst crabs, birds and other locals. Come prepared with supplies, or snorkel and fish for your next meal. This isn’t for those seeking the white-sand resort experience, but rather those curious and willing to have a semi Tom Hanks in castaway-esque one.
Nothing can compare to Antarctica. With it being the farthest continent south, the largest desert on Earth, and home to temperatures that dip to an average of -49°C, it’s safe to say it’s definitely the most extreme destination we can dream of. That being said, what a trip it would be. These environmental factors make getting to Antarctica a bit more difficult than average, but this also means it remains largely untouched by humans, and therefore, its unique, pristine beauty is very much intact.
Despite the challenges involved, adventurous smart travelers still find ways to traverse the unspoiled antarctic, take in the scenery and experience its unique wildlife. Stunning destinations to add to your itinerary include Port Lockroy, South Georgia, Deception Island and Paradise Harbor. This is truly one place on Earth where the cost, effort and inevitable uncomfortability would be 100% worth it. Think of the penguins!
If you ask most people if they’ve ever been to Central Asia, they probably wouldn’t know what countries the region even encompasses. But for smart travelers, the “Stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are definitely bucket list worthy.
Breathtaking natural beauty: mountains, pastures, lakes. This is what makes up Kyrgyzstan, a land still roamed by yurt dwelling shepherds. Hikers, adventurers and lovers of the outdoors, this destination off the beaten path is perfect for you. Getting in is fairly easy as well. If you hail from these 45 countries, any visit less than 60 days does not require a visa. Once here, you’ll be welcomed into hospitable home stays, where you can truly dive into local life.
Macedonia has a little bit of everything going for it: geographically, historically, and culturally. Tourists have slowly begun to discover the lakeside town of Ohrid, but there’s much more to this country that’s part Balkan and part Mediterranean.
First, the incomparable cities. Skopje has the largest bazaar in the Balkans outside of Istanbul. It also has amazing bars and restaurants for wetting your whistle and trying local specialties like tavče gravče (a traditional bean dish). Walking through Bitola, you can easily mistake it for a well-known European city, with its shopping, busy pedestrian streets, ancient ruins and wild nightlife.
Outside of urban life, gorgeous landscapes for hiking and lakes for swimming and kayaking are everywhere, even if traditional infrastructure for travelers isn’t. In Macedonia you may find it slightly more challenging than rocking up to a Marriott. Luckily for us, locals are warm and happy to point you in the direction of their favorite trail, delicious meal or a warm bed to spend the night in. So much of Europe has been crisscrossed by tourists, but here you can truly get off the beaten track.
Considered the “last dictatorship in Europe”, Belarus only sees around 150,000 foreign visitors per year. Compare this to a nearby destination like Lithuania which sees almost 2.5 million tourists. Despite being stuck in the 20th century in many ways, the country has gone to great lengths recently to allow travelers in without a complicated visa process.
Because of its history of isolation, it has remained authentic, ostensibly untouched and not influenced by the rest of the world. The capital city Minsk is a flutter of people and activity. For locals and visitors alike there is plenty to do, from museums to nightclubs.
Outside the capital there’s even more to explore. Discover ancient castles and temples, take advantage of the area’s pristine natural wonders, and visit little villages where famous painters and authors were born.