As global tourism hit record high this year, here are 10 incredible trips you don’t want to miss before they become too popular and overcrowded! Make 2020 a year to travel and visit some of these off the beaten path destinations.
Known as one of the most remote places in the world, the mysterious Moai statues have put Easter Island on the map. Located nearly 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, there is still little known about the origins and the history of the inhabitants. Landing on the single airstrip and stepping into the tiny town, it feels more like a movie set than reality with the lush background and endless ocean stretching out to meet the horizon in every direction. The massive monolithic Moai carvings that are scattered around the island are obviously the biggest attraction, but there are plenty of other things to discover. Rent a bicycle and peddle to some of the hidden beaches, hike around the crater in the center of Rano Kau the extinct volcano, or dive down to see the sunken Moai Statue.
The white sand beaches in the Seychelles are one of the most iconic locations for Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit edition photoshoots due to the idyllic weather, lack of crowds, and perfect sandy beaches. Windy roads around the island make it easy to explore numerous beaches that would easily grace the cover of any travel magazine. This tropical paradise consists of over a hundred islands in the archipelago, many of which are easily accessible from the main island, Mahe, by a quick ferry ride. The exotic sea life makes it a world class destination for snorkeling and scuba diving as well!
On Portugal's southern coast, the Algarve region is famous for its unique rock formation and the litany of adventure activities offered. The Benagil Sea Cave is the most notable spot on the coast, which is only accessible from the sea meaning kayaking, SUP, swimming, or a boat tour are the only way in! Afterwards cruise around the mountainside in a dune buggy, sunbathe on one of the long stretches of golden beaches, or explore one of the local small towns and pick up a fresh pastel de nata from a local bakery.
A relatively unknown country in Africa, Namibia has some of the cheapest safaris and unique desert landscapes. Namibia is an overwhelmingly peaceful and welcoming country, making it even more appealing to explore. At the airport several friendly tour guides offered assistance in planning trips and within minutes of leaving, I spotted giraffes casually walking by the road. Some of Namibia’s most iconic sights include the unique dead trees surrounded by red sand dunes in Deadveli, climbing Dune 45 in the Namib Desert, feeding cheetahs in one of the nature preserves, camping in Etosha National Park to see Rhinos and Giraffes, or going stargazing in the Kalahari Desert.
The legendary beauty of Patagonia with its easily recognizable Torres Del Paine makes this UNESCO World Heritage site one of the most scenic mountain ranges in world. A variety of trails for varying skill levels and timeframes are available to hikers, but they must book reservations at the camping site in advance as the park rangers prevent too many guests from entering at one time. Around every corner there is a view more incredible than the last. Each campsite offers a different vantage point to sit and quietly soak in the incredible mountains and the lakes hues of aqua and turquoise blues. Most of the hiking is not overly strenuous and even the famous "W" can be completed within a few days. Maps are provided at the ranger station which give accurate time predications between locations for most active individuals.
Old Bagan, Myanmar
The gorgeous and unique temples in Myanmar are open for the public to explore freely yet lack the horde of tourists usually accompanying such a rare and beautiful destination. Perhaps because there is not an over abundance of tourists, the people are very welcoming, friendly, and helpful in recommending where to eat and what to do in each city. Although it seems unlikely that there will be any significant increase in tourism in the next few years due to the political situation, this country and its welcoming people are truly one of the best kept secrets in Asia. The temples of Old Bagan have gained notoriety over the past few years after being featured in National Geographic, as well as on numerous travel shows and websites, but the area fully lives up to its spectacular reputation.
Over two thousand temples fill the 40 square miles in the Bagan region making it easy to visit a lot of them in a short period of time. Since the area is not yet over run by tourists, visitors are still allowed to explore the inside of the hollow gu-style temples and climb the exterior of the pagoda style temples. The tops of the pagodas offer wide panoramic views of the Plains with mountains and the Irrawaddy River framing the image. One of my favorite travel memories was sitting atop one of the temples watching the brilliant hues of pink and gold fill the sky at sunset behind the temples dotting the landscape below.
Although Cappadocia has become famous through social media over the last few years, it is not yet overcrowded and truly is a magical place to explore! The Sultan Cave Suites rooftop offers the most iconic view in Cappadocia to greet the sunrise and watch the dozens of massive hot air balloons bobbing up and down over the city. It is the perfect place to see the unique landscape and the staff caters to the crowds by setting up a breakfast table and bringing out their adorable dog to pose for pictures with the guests. While a bit pricer, the experience was more memorable to take a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. This once in a lifetime experience is simply incredible and provides sunrises views that can be found nowhere else in the world. After an early morning pickup, guests are escorted to nearby fields where giant balloons are already being prepared for the mornings flight. While it is still dark out everyone loads up into the massive baskets and the pilot begins working on filling up the balloon with hot air via the burners in the center. Soon the balloon fills and lifts off to join the growing number dotting the early morning sky. Looking down, the town gets smaller as the balloon rises higher until finally the sun peeks over the horizon.
A recent uptick in tourism has caused concern for the local government and resulted in a proposed ban on visitors in order to protect the wildlife and eco system, but the government revised the plan and will still welcome a limited number of guests to Komodo Island. The restriction is designed to prevent a massive expansion of the tourist industry and keep negative consequences to a minimum which is important to maintain the balance of the eco system. Here it is possible to meet the famous Komodo Dragons up close and personal, relax on Padar Island's famous pink beach, go for a dip in Rangko Cave, or simply relax on one of the abundant beaches. Now is definitely the time to go before more people discover this slice of bliss!
Seeing the Northern Lights is one of the most challenging yet rewarding chases for natural phenomenon. Photos of the magical vibrant green and multi-colored aurora borealis have circulated around the world making this a bucket list item for many people. However, temperamental weather, limited visibility during certain times of year in remote locations, and the general unpredictability makes being in the right place at the right time to see them rather difficult. Even if all planning is done to make the probability high, they are never guaranteed. However, Tromsø offers one of the best chances and the first glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights makes all of the effort of trekking and the bitter cold instantly worth it.
Morocco is filled with beautiful historic cities with bustling medinas and ornate architecture. However, Marrakech stands out from the others with it's ancient medina that is a labrinyth of narrow alleys leading to beautiful riads and shops filled to the brim with delicacies and trinkets. From Marrakech, it is easy to launch adventures out into the Sahara. After two long days of driving, the flat sands began mounding up to form massive dunes in the distance. Buses are traded for camels and the trek begins out to a Berber camp situated in the desert a few miles off the Algerian border. The views along the ride out of the impressive dunes with the shadows of our camels shifting along as they trudged on in silence were simply incredible. Arriving just before sunset, everyone was welcomed to sit down for a large meal before retiring to the fire for music and dancing. We were then welcomed to hike up one of the massive dunes where the whole desert sprawled out below lit only by moonlight, providing a transcendent moment straight from the pages of the Alchemist.