Move over, Iceland! There are a range of top holiday places in 2019 that are just as mystifying, spectacular, and culturally-rich as the land of fire and ice.
We’ve got all the details you need to get ahead of the crowds these unique places are inevitably going to attract, so whether you’re a solo backpacker or travelling with the whole family, we’ve got some incredible destinations you probably haven’t considered.
Grab your hat and a sturdy pair of shoes – you’re going to need them.
We know what you’re thinking, but try and put everything you once knew about Iran to the side – it’s not the tumultuous place that once dominated the news headlines. These days, Iran is one of the safest and most stable places in the Middle East, and it’s nothing short of spectacular.
With a rich history, unique Islamic architecture, jaw-droppingly good food, more than 10 UNESCO sites, and famously fabulous Iranian hospitality, odds are you’ll know at least one person who has visited this unique country within the next few years.
Despite the US travel ban, it’s still perfectly legal for US citizens to obtain an Iranian visa. Getting a visa can take a few months for US, Canadian, and UK citizens and, like Myanmar, it’s a requirement for US travellers to have a guide with them for the duration of their stay, but it’s well-worth persevering through the bureaucracy – Iran is an underrated gem.
(Heading to Iran? Check out my What To Wear In Iran post!)
Nestled quietly between Iran, Georgia, and Russia, Azerbaijan tends to get overshadowed by its neighbours, but with a new three-day visa system in place and a legacy of excellent hospitality, great food, and a myriad of tiny villages, spectacular hikes, expansive lakes, vineyards, and ancient cities, tourism is on the rise.
The former Soviet republic is bound by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, and is home to a rather large amount of oil. As a result, the nation boasts a stunning arrangement of museums and monuments in the capital, Baku – a city also known for its cobbled streets, artist markets, cafes, and array of authentic restaurants.
The wonderful thing about Azerbaijan is that the country hasn’t given itself over to tourism, which means visitors can still visit this unique emerging destination and immerse themselves in the rich, authentic culture this nation has to offer.
This ancient Balkan nation is often overlooked by travellers to Eastern Europe, but there’s no reason not to visit this remarkable part of the world – Bulgaria is a wine lover’s paradise, a historian’s dreamboat, and a cheese-enthusiast’s idea of bliss.
With traces of Neolithic settlements, Bulgaria boasts one of the oldest-known European civilizations, and is the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet. More recently, the nation gained independence from the Soviet Union in the early ‘90s and, though the transition has been slow, this EU country is very-well connected with a range of train and bus lines running to just about everywhere. Plovdiv has also been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, and the nation has just met the requirements to join the Schengen Zone.
While the wintertime snow can make for a chilly experience, summer is undoubtedly the best time to visit, as the country springs to life in a sea of festivals, wineries, alfresco eateries, flowers, and Black Sea beaches. While you’re there, make sure you try some Bulgarian cheese! Locals are immensely proud of their cheese, which is so unique and sought-after that it’s exported all over the world.
(Heading to Bulgaria? Check out my Bulgaria Travel Guide!)
Comprising 115 islands just off East Africa, Seychelles is the tropical island paradise you didn’t know you needed in your life.
Surrounded by pristine waters, coral reefs, white powdery beaches, and private coves, Seychelles has often been labeled the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean. The ecosystem is so unique and diverse that almost half the country is protected, offering a range of diving, snorkelling, along with bird and tortoise-watching opportunities.
If you’re not in to ecotourism, you can spend your vacay selecting new beaches to visit for each day of your trip (there are no bad choices!), floating in the infinite pool at your luxury hotel, or visiting markets and talking to locals while staying in one of the many family-run guesthouses in the region.
Sparsely-populated Namibia is where the most extensive sand dunes on Earth pile high over much of the nation, meeting the shimmering Atlantic coast in a mesmerizing fusion of natural red and blue hues. Few African countries compare to this breath-taking natural beauty, and it’s a wonder Namibia isn’t bursting at the seams with tourists.
While most of the country is consumed by arid desert, this is anything but a deterrent – you’ll be driving alongside elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, and black rhinos in Etosha National Park, and gazing up at billions of stars in the darkest skies in the world, before watching the sun rise over the dunes.
Namibia won’t maintain its status as an emerging destination for long, so it pays to get in early to experience this spectacular country in its natural splendour.