20 unspoiled destinations you should visit ASAP
If you’re looking for T-shirt stands, miniature golf, and parking lots packed with tour buses, the travel destinations on this list will disappoint. However, if pristine nature and authentic culture are what you seek, these 20 countries, regions, islands, and preserves are the way to go.
The mandatory minimum tariff of $250 visitors must pay to explore this Himalayan kingdom limits tourism-industry competition and, in turn, rampant tourism development. It does this by covering all accommodations, meals, transportation, and an official guide, all of which makes it easier to marvel at Bhutan’s snow-capped peaks, mysterious monasteries, and colourful markets.
Although this member of the Caribbean Lesser Antilles island chain is visited by scores of cruise ships each year, these new arrivals rarely venture far from the ports of Prince Rupert Bay and Roseau. The rest of the island, therefore, has remained a hiking hot spot covered with lush tropical rainforest, gorgeous waterfalls, and geothermal wonders.
Having been an independent nation for just a dozen years—and part of socialist Yugoslavia before that—this Balkan country has had relatively little time to develop its tourism sector. Not that it doesn’t have plenty of material, with mountain peaks soaring above beautiful beaches and historic walled villages, and with Montenegro’s Adriatic Riviera culminating in the gorgeous Bay of Kotor.
Republic of Congo
The smaller (and safer) of Africa’s two Congos is home to the world’s second-largest rainforest, where elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas roam free. This burgeoning ecotourism destination is also pleasingly accessible, with three camps in Odzala-Kokoua National Park offering gorilla safaris, boat trips, and stargazing.
Kootenay Rockies, British Columbia, Canada
Home to four of B.C.’s seven national parks, much of this spectacularly rugged region has been preserved in a pristine state. This makes its four mountain ranges all the better for outdoor pursuits such as mountain biking, hiking, and backcountry skiing.
Having languished in a Soviet bubble for most of the 20th century, the untouched emerald steppes, azure lakes, dense pine forests, and snow-capped peaks of this remote landlocked nation are just waiting to be discovered.
Nicknamed the Apple Isle, Australia’s southernmost state has enhanced its culinary reputation by locally producing everything from wine, craft beer, and whisky to cheese, seafood, and honey. Tasmania is also home to an extensive network of hiking trails, which let visitors burn off the bounty upon which they have feasted.
One of the best ways to prevent destination spoilage is to cut down on motor traffic, and this mountainous South American country has achieved exactly that by pouring millions of dollars into its historic railway. Its lines pass Cotopaxi, one of the world’s tallest volcanoes, and link the lightly visited capital of Quito with the culture-rich port city of Guayaquil.
The world’s ninth-largest country ranks 44th when it comes to international tourism arrivals, which means there’s plenty of room to explore alluring attributes such as the spectacular mountains and valleys of the Tian Shan, the abundant wildlife of the lake-dotted steppes, remote underground mosques, and the warm hospitality of village guesthouses.
With less than two percent of this Central American nation having been urbanized, natural and historic attributes such as stunning Mayan temples, glorious Spanish-colonial architecture, lush jungles, volcano-ringed lakes, and deep caves take center stage.
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Despite the fact that there are plenty of ways to admire it—from kayaks and cruise ships to helicopters and hiking trails—this breathtaking cliff-lined fjord in New Zealand’s aptly named Fiordland National Park remains refreshingly unspoiled.
Take the Philippines’ most sparsely populated region, add natural wonders such as remote tropical islands, exquisite beaches, subterranean rivers, and lush jungle, and this 269-mile-long archipelago’s fame among paradise-seekers makes perfect sense.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, USA
Towering sand dunes and Caribbean-caliber waters meet pristine beaches and secluded islands in this national park on Lake Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. No wonder the place is renown among hikers and paddlers.
With nearly 12 percent of its territory protected as parkland, Gabon’s African rainforests and open plains still teem with mandrills, hippos, elephants, and other exotic wildlife. The uncrowded white-sand beaches of its Atlantic coast, meanwhile, are prime places for some serious R&R.
Since emerging from the shadow of the Soviet Union, this Central Asian nation has developed an appealing homestay network and introduced visa-free travel. And why not? After all, its pristine mountainscapes, verdant pasture lands, and picturesque lakes deserve to be shared.
Think every Greek island has been overrun? Think again. Despite being connected to the mainland by a causeway, Lefkada remains surprisingly unaffected by tourism, with pretty villages and wild olive groves dotting its hilly interior, and picturesque bays and inlets lining its southeastern coast.
The largest U.S. state is also big on places-less-travelled, from unclimbed mountains and crevasse-riddled glaciers to Russian cemeteries and national parks that get fewer annual visitors than the International Space Station.
The remoteness of this 18-island archipelago in the North Atlantic keeps it off Europe’s tourism track, despite the fact that it’s beautifully decorated with colourful cottages and grass-roofed churches, many of which are linked by cairn-marked footpaths skirting craggy mountains and dramatic fjords.
Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada
This island in the Bay of Fundy is so peaceful that not a single traffic light disrupts the flow of its extremely light traffic. Some of those drivers have come to explore Grand Manan’s dramatic rugged coast, frolic in its sandy coves, and admire its historic lighthouses.
Covered as it is by a vast ice sheet, it’s not surprising that the human population of the world’s fifth-largest continent numbers in the mere thousands. With so few people around, there’s certainly no danger of crowds forming around Antarctica’s massive ice shelves, glacier-clad mountain ranges, flocks of penguins, and pods of whales.
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