Long lines, overbooked flights, sold-out hotels, and a photo album full of a couple hundred people you don’t know obscuring the tourist-riddled global hotspot you’ve waited your whole life to visit.
There are great reasons to visit bucket-list cities like Paris, Rome, Venice, and London, but in your hurry to hit the big-name attractions, it’s easy to overlook some of the world’s most beautiful, off-the-beaten path locales. Here are the 10 countries with the lowest visitor rates in 2013 – book a trip and enjoy discovering the undiscovered without crowds of strangers affecting your long-awaited experience.
Landlubbers can certainly find any number of ways to amuse themselves in the tiny island nation called the Republic of Palau, but the true draw here is underwater. Palau is one of the most incredible spots for diving and snorkeling in the world, with numerous coral reefs, submerged wreckage, and mysterious caves just begging to be explored. Adrenaline junkies will be drawn to the more than 60 drop offs that promise untold adventures, but even sane snorkelers will find inner bliss bobbing along and admiring the sea life going about their business in the crystal clear water. Bonus: with only 21,000 inhabitants spread over the 250 islands that make up the western portion of the Caroline Islands, you’re not exactly going to be fighting for fin space.
Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, the land-locked country of Moldova may not have the name recognition of its more high-profile neighbors, but it still has plenty of interesting attractions on offer. While most oenophiles pack their bags and head off to blow a fortune exploring the vineyards of Burgundy, Tuscany, or Bordeaux, ingenious imbibers know that Moldova’s up-and-coming wine industry is well worth a visit. Teetotalers will enjoy the sunflower-strewn fields and whimsical watermelon farms, but there is also a deeper, more sobering feeling emanating from this country and its uber-friendly people; decades of bloody civil war have left their mark on this land, and the economy isn’t exactly robust. Even more reason to come and share your vacation dollars – or should we say Moldovan leu – and leave enlightened, heartened, and with your share of some truly delicious vino.
Only a sovereign state since May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste is a country that has had more than it’s share of struggle. Years under first Portuguese (still the preferred language spoken in the region) and the Indonesian rule have left scars both visual and long buried, but the ethnic mix has also created a unique landscape completely unlike anywhere else in the world. Relax in the clear lagoons surrounded by jagged cliffs and drink in the beauty of the many islands surrounding your oasis, go diving or whale-watching, trek through the mountains and survey the valley below – whatever you do, you’ll be treated to scenery unspoiled by commercialism and crowds. Oh – and since coffee is the local cash crop, your mornings will be especially fantastic.
Tell friends you’re headed to the Caribbean and they’re likely to assume you’re off to St. Martin, Aruba, or the Bahamas, but your travel-savvy self has a new secret vacation spot. The island of Dominica is the epitome of a hidden paradise, and unlike it’s popular counterparts, you’ll actually be able to score a seat on the beach here. Imagine picking your way through the rainforest, parrots overhead and a tangle of hundred-year-old tree roots at your feet. Imagine natural stone basins filled with hot, steamy water, just waiting for you to sink in and indulge in a soak. Imagine black sand beaches, giant waterfalls, lush fauna and colorful flora, whale watching, scuba diving, and a welcoming committee armed with leis and fruit cocktails overflowing with luscious local mango, banana, pineapple and watermelon. This is Dominica. Need we say more?
One idyllic destination, 32 gorgeous islands, no reason in the world more people shouldn’t be visiting! St. Vincent and the Grenadines may sound like a a really cool band perfect for your annual end-of-summer barbecue, but this niftily named country is what dreams are made of. Sitting on the pristine white beach with nothing but the soft, lapping of the waves and the occasional tweet of a happily soaring bird as your daily soundtrack, it’s truly hard to fathom why more people haven’t discovered this idyllic destination, but be glad they haven’t. Unspoiled by mass tourism, this funky island nation’s combination of cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and pristine beaches will captivate you instantly.