1. Saudi Arabia
For decades Saudi Arabia was largely off the international travel
circuit and the only visitors it attracted were religious pilgrims to
Mecca, but all that changed in 2019 when the Islamic country adopted an
open approach to tourism. The newly opened country has since 2019
introduced a new tourist visa, offering travellers access to some of its
best-kept secrets – think the ancient ruins of AlUla; mud-brick palaces
of At-Turaif; diving in the Red Sea and wondrous cliffs of the Edge of
the World. Hospitality heavyweights from Waldorf Astoria to Rosewood and
Four Seasons have set up luxury outposts in the country, and soon
visitors can expect astounding attractions like Neom to become modern
marvels in this intriguing destination.
The yellow taxi cabs are a widely recognisable symbol of New York City. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Juli M.
2. New York City
Few cities on the planet can compete with New York City, the stuff of
countless novels, movies and songs. Thanks to its bustling 24-hour
vibe, high energy and great diversity, the city offers infinite
possibilities for first-rate dining, cultural activity, and unparalleled
shopping. First-time visitors gravitate towards Manhattan, but repeat
travellers will find a lot more to explore in the other boroughs of
Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island – each with its distinct
character and offerings. But the city is not all glass and steel;
bountiful parks, museums and an ever-evolving hotel and dining scene
keep people coming back.
Spectacular aurora borealis, or northern lights, over winter landscape in Finnish Lapland. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/AkuAku
Visitors are attracted to this Scandinavian country, the world’s
happiest, for its abundance of nature, fresh air and natural phenomena.
Each of its four distinct seasons offers visitors unique things to
experience – think cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in winter or
witnessing the midnight sun in summer. The Finnish Lapland is one of the
world’s best destinations to spot and admire the northern lights, or
Aurora Borealis, while visitors can get upclose to Santa Claus in his
official hometown of Rovaniemi, right on the border of the Arctic
Horses grazing near yurt tents amid the towering mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Pavel Svoboda
There’s a reason why this tiny nation is often dubbed “the
Switzerland of Asia” – its natural beauty is pristine, untouched and
wild. The nomadic way of life remains pretty much alive in Kyrgyzstan,
so a stay in a yurt, horse riding and eagle hunting will offer
fascinating insights in the Kyrgyz culture. There are over 88 major
mountain ranges in the country, most of them around Tien Shan, giving
rise to dramatic alpine lakes, snow-covered peaks and gorgeous passes.
Kyrgyzstan is a young nation, having achieved independence from the
Soviet Union in 1991, and its tourism industry is still nascent (read:
Prince Palace and the old town of Monaco. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Boris Stroujko
The world’s second smallest country has a lot more to offer than just
Formula 1 races, casinos and glamorous residents. Tucked between a
sun-kissed stretch of coastline between France and Italy, Monaco state
packs a mighty punch within its two square kilometre confines. Monaco’s
Hôtel de Paris, the stuff of hotel legend, is graced by celebrities
aplenty; the majestic Oceanographic Museum is perched on the cliffside
overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, while Elsa lures diners with
impeccable farm-to-table food, and is the world’s only Michelin-starred
restaurant that is 100% organic.
The Treasury through a cave opening at Petra ruins in Jordan. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/mindstorm
Ancient architecture, desert adventures and spectacular holy sites
are what beckon travellers to Jordan. The most popular attraction in the
country, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra – also known as the
Rose City – is home to breathtaking archaeology sculpted out of rock.
Dana Biosphere Reserve, the largest of its kind in Jordan, is one of the
best places in the world for stargazing, while the Dead Sea, with its
high salinity levels, allow swimmers to float on the water. The capital
city of Amman, dating back to 13th century BC, is where visitors truly
get to experience the Middle Eastern arts and culture.
The old town of Mostar and its iconic bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Freesurf
7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
While Croatia is overrun with tourists in summer, neighbouring Bosnia
and Herzegovina remains one of the least visited destinations in
Europe. Immense beauty is packed within the country: Its lakes come in
mesmerising shades of blues and greens, towering mountains and gushing
waterfalls are juxtaposed against quaint villages, and bridges and
cobbled streets give way to spectacular architecture dating back to the
ancient Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire era. Despite its
turbulent and tragic recent history, the people of Bosnia are incredible
warm and welcoming. This Balkan nation clearly warrants more attention.
Paro Rinpung Dzong in Bhutan. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/UlyssePixel
This small Himalayan kingdom reopened to the world in September 2022
with a renewed focus to keep the country as a “high value, low volume”
destination, with international visitors now required to pay a
sustainable development fee of US$200 a night, up from US$65 previously.
Also reopening last year after extensive restoration work is the Trans
Bhutan Trail, a 400km historic route that weaves through the country’s
spectacular tapestry of deep valleys, lofty mountains, lush vegetation
and 400 cultural sites from Haa in the west to Trashigang in the east.
International tourists on the trail are required to go with a local
People swimming at Kayangan Lake in Coron Island, Palawan, the Philippines. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Maxim Tupikov
Boracay, Palawan and Cebu are probably the Philippines’ most famous
beach destinations, but with 7,641 islands travellers can be assured
that their own slice of paradise surely await this island-blessed
country. Above water, breathtaking gems can be found in the Rice
Terraces of Banaue, Bohol’s Chocolate Hills and Coron’s Kayangan Lake.
Plus, its incredibly warm and friendly people, delectable food culture
(sizzling sisig anyone?), and astounding festivals and street parades
clearly are vital reasons why, as the country’s tourism slogan goes,
‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’. Travellers will never run out of
things to do in the Philippines.
Aerial View of Mala Mala Island in Fiji. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Marcin
This archipelagic nation of 333 islands in the South Pacific ticks
all the boxes of an idyllic tropical paradise, but it’s so much more
than that. Fiji has everything to offer every type of traveller:
honeymooners and couples will find luxury in the romantic getaways and
overwater villas; families will delight in the array of exciting
activities amid its lush rainforests, cerulean waters and rich Pacific
island life; while underwater Fiji is an unsurpassed wonderland teeming
with vibrant coral reefs and marine life. And did you know that both
Cast Away and Survivor were filmed in Fiji?