Want to check out the next hot travel destinations before the crowds arrive? Travel bloggers make it their business to travel the world — they can spot travel trends before anyone else. So I reached out to some of them to ask them to tell us about the best emerging destinations around the world. You know, the overlooked places that are still a bit off-the-beaten track, but are poised for a big tourist boom in 2018 and beyond. These are the sort of trending travel spots you’ll want to visit before they become popular tourist spots. So here it is: a list of 17 travel bloggers favorite emerging travel destinations:
While neighboring Saint Lucia and Barbados are well-known for their luxury hotels and resorts, Dominica hasn’t experienced such development yet. However, the island is becoming more popular among hikers and adventurers. It’s probably the wildest Caribbean island, with thick rainforests, high waterfalls, milk-colored rivers, smoky volcanoes and pristine coral reefs. The island is trying to become a solid, eco-friendly destination for nature lovers, and it looks like the effort is succeeding. Hotels are basic as compared to other islands, but the prices are more affordable.
Highlight: The boiling lake. Hidden in the heart of this mountainous paradise, the boiling lake offers a unique and surreal landscape. This amazing lake is constantly boiling. Take a hike and watch the powerful, dramatic eruption of steam and water with your own eyes!
-Miguel from Travelsauro
2. Timor Leste (East Timor)
Hard to pigeon-hole, this small quiet nation in South-East Asia is finally finding its feet. UN peace-keepers left in 2012 and now Timor Leste’s natural beauty, rich culture and spectacular underwater life are getting attention. Think colonial Portuguese buildings, dramatic mountain ranges, lush Asian jungles, brilliant weather, white beaches and gorgeous cuisine. Right on the Coral Triangle (the most populated marine environment on earth) hump-back whales breach just off-shore and you can dive straight from the beach. With easy connections in from Bali or Australia, Timor-Leste won’t be quiet for long.
Highlight: Drive inland into the mountains and stay at evocative old colonial hotels, eat Portuguese-Asian influenced food and meet the locals. Favorite pick, the Pousada Maubisse. Where it seems like it is still 1920 and the owner has gone on a long holiday and simply forgotten to put anyone in charge.
–Paula from Out on the Sea Alone
If you’re seeking out of this world beauty, spirituality, and tranquility…don’t go to Tibet. Instead, go to Tibet, the world’s snowy rooftop, to experience firsthand the compassion the exiled Dalai Lama espouses. Under Chinese rule since 1959, the autonomous region has some of the world’s most openhearted and welcoming people confronting the challenges of modernity, antiquity, and political restriction. Here you’ll find yourself wondering aloud and smiling with locals, as you stand amongst its monasteries, turquoise lakes, nomadic herdsmen, police force or even Mt. Everest. Tibet won’t be the retreat you’re expecting, but it will open your heart and mind.
Highlight: Ani Tsankhung Monastery in Lhasa. This bustling group of nuns run a clinic, a restaurant, and two shops, all while still finding time to meditate and pray for the rest of us. Treat yourself to some momos before heading into a 1400 year old royal meditation cave.
-Alicia from Photos and Potatoes
On the southeastern corner of Africa is the beautiful and underrated country of Mozambique. Mozambique is still emerging from many centuries of Portuguese colonization, slavery and a civil war that lasted from 1977 to 1992. However, the country has been politically stable since 1992 after democratic and peaceful elections. This stability has fostered a growing tourism trade. I have no doubt that as the word gets out regarding Mozambique’s charms more and more travelers will put it on their “must-visit” list.
Highlight: Inhambane, a beautiful province where the beaches are exceptional. This area has a string of mid-range hotels catering to travelers that just want to enjoy a beautiful beach experience and sample the fresh seafood. The backwaters of Inhambane are also ideal for a motor boat ride to explore the villages deep in-country and get to know the local people or explore abandoned fortresses from the colonial era.
-Talek from TravelsWithTalek.com
Just above the equator in Asia, tucked between India and Thailand, most of this country was preserved in time for the past century under an isolating military rule. Now, there’s a gold rush on: former capital Yangon is exploding in size and old ways are disappearing quickly. Go right away, and enjoy the stunning unspoiled greenery in the countryside, and clean and orderly streets in the city and villages. It won’t last much longer. Expect tropical weather, welcoming locals, and food that’s part Indian, part Asian. [note: if you plan to go, check out our guide to backpacking Myanmar]
Highlight: In the Northeast, Inle Lake fishermen with giant conical nets and gymnastic abilities row with one leg while standing in wooden canoes. Lake villages suspended from stilts rise far above the water, surrounded by floating farms. At the lake’s far end, Long-Necked Kayan women with neck rings up to 15” (40 cm) high visit with tourists.
-Jo from She Escapes
If you’re looking for an epic and unparalleled adventure, then Bolivia is the place for you! Prepare to see some of the world’s most imaginative landscapes as you bike alongside the jaw-dropping cliffs of Death Road, the world’s most dangerous road; play with perspective on the never-ending salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat; and test your trail skills overlooking Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest lake. Hurry up and book your ticket to Bolivia while it remains one of South America’s cheapest (and untouched) tourist destinations.
Highlight: Tour the exotic landscape of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. A 3 day tour will also explore flamingo-filled lagoons, deadly geysers, tranquil hot springs, active volcanic landscapes, mind-bending rock formations, and a picturesque train graveyard. BONUS: You’ll sleep in a salt hotel too!
-Max from Max Pankow Adventures
7. Merida, Venezuela
Located in an often overlooked, misunderstood country, Merida is a charming university/mountain town. One of the safest cities in Venezuela, Merida is the perfect starting point for outdoor activities, heart-racing adventures, and immersing yourself in the Spanish language. This off-the-beaten-path destination is perfect for travelers looking to interact with locals, or for those who want to get their next adrenaline fix by paragliding or jumping off bridges.
Highlight: Tours to Los Llanos, or the plains region of Venezuela, leave frequently from the city of Merida. These multi-day tours take visitors right into the middle of the wilderness; allowing them to find wild anacondas, go piranha fishing, and more.
-Erica from Treading Wander
A tiny forgotten country locked between Europe and Asia, Georgia has everything a traveler could want — stunning mountains, incredible history, vibrant nightlife, pebble beach resorts, friendly people, mild weather, and delicious cuisine. Oh, and prices are a fraction of what you’ll pay anywhere else in Europe. Finally recovering from a 2008 conflict with Russia, Georgia (the country, not the state) is pulling closer to the EU every year has been focusing heavily on increasing its tourists numbers. I think it’s one of the top emerging destinations in the world. So now’s the time to go before everyone else does.
Highlight: Svaneti, a region locked high in some of the most dramatic mountains you’ll ever see, has long been isolated from the rest of Georgia. Hundreds of ancient watchtowers still guard the only two narrow passageways through the mountains. Go for incredible hiking or to experience the unique Svan culture.
-Me (Nate) from Travel Lemming
9. Yekaterinburg, Russia
Yekaterinburg, straddling Europe and Asia, has experienced many significant events throughout Russia’s colorful history. From Imperial times, to the Russian Revolution, to the Soviet Era and finally to contemporary times, these different periods have left their mark on Russia’s 4th largest city through quirky monuments, distinct architectural styles and incredible stories. As the city undergoes a dramatic transformation to get ready for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, you can expect more of the city’s gems to become more accessible to public.
Highlight: Take a day trip from the city center to Ganina Yama, on the outskirts. In 1918, during the Russian revolution, the deposed royal family was executed in the city of Yekaterinburg. Their bodies were found in Ganina Yama, a mine at that time. This site was later declared a holy site, and a monastery with seven beautiful wooden chapels was constructed on it (each for a member of the royal family).
-Aaron from AaronTeoh.com
Israel may only be the size of New Jersey but it packs in about as much as any traveler can ask for: a dramatic change in culture, a walk through some of the worlds holiest sites, a landscape consisting of mountains, beaches, and deserts, as well as some of the best hummus you will ever have in you life, ever. The ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians remains but should not dismay a potential traveler. You will only find the friendliest of people here. This is a country rich in passion, controversy, beauty, and history that should be at the top of every travelers bucket list.
Highlight: The Dead Sea. Defy gravity and feel weightless in one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. Bring a book; you can float there for days.
–Jennifer from The SoFull Traveler
11. Zagreb, Croatia
Visitors to Croatia often stick to the country’s coastline, overlooking its capital city. Although Zagreb lacks the coast’s stunning beaches and views over the Adriatic, Zagreb still offers plenty to do. This lively city has a charming medieval town, colorful buildings, Austro-Hungarian style architecture, lots of museums, great food and a vibrant nightlife. Zagreb recently became more popular in winter, after its Christmas market was crowned the best in Europe.
Highlight: Tkalčićeva Street was formerly a river separating the districts of Kaptol and Gradec. In the 19th century it was converted into a street, which is now lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. During the day it’s a great place to experience Zagreb’s “coffee culture”. Take a seat, order an espresso, and watch the world go by. At night Tkalčićeva Street bustles with tourists and locals alike who head there for cheap beer and a good time.
-Cindy from Free Two Roam
12. Minca, Colombia
The charming Colombian village of Minca, located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, provides travelers a perfect escape to nature. Blessed with beautiful waterfalls, hikes with incredible views and a variety of colorful bird life including Toucans and Macaws, Minca is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Colombian cities like Bogota and Medellin. Until recently, Minca was closed off to tourists due to the presence of paramilitary forces but as these circumstances have changed, travelers are beginning to discover the natural beauty found there. Visit now before the word spreads too far!
Highlight: Imagine having a waterfall in your back garden! Hidden among Minca’s forest trails, you can find the beautiful Marinka waterfall – which is located on private property. There’s a small entrance fee but it’s well worth it to cool off in the waterfall’s pool while keeping an eye out for some of the area’s fascinating bird life!
-Natalia and Sam from Something of Freedom
13. Bosnia and Herzegovina
This incredible country has often been overshadowed by its tourist loving neighbor, Croatia. But within Bosnia and Herzegovina you’ll find a rich and diverse culture with just as much beauty. Stunning waterfalls, varied cultural influences, intense history and a people ready to welcome those willing to embrace their beautiful country. This sun-kissed spot floating between European and Middle Eastern cultures has something for everyone, with less of a crowd. All of this matched with their interesting architecture and low prices will keep you coming back for more.
Highlight: Exploring the city of Mostar with a day trip to the incredible Kravice Falls. Mostar is home to traditional cuisine, medieval towers, and a 24m high bridge sitting over turquoise waters – that the locals love to show their diving skills from. Kravice falls is a 40km trip from Mostar and well worth spending the day.
–Alysha from Adventurous Alysha
This coastal Balkan country, formerly known as the Black Hole of Europe to be skirted around and hidden in a shroud of Communism until 25 years ago, is working feverishly to lift the shroud, showing the world a bright progressive tourism showcase. It’s displayed from the capital city of Tirana’s traditional and international restaurants, theatres, malls, and nightlife to ancient towns telling stories of turbulent history. Water lovers will find unspoiled and uncrowded coastline cliffs and beaches, while hikers can trek into thick forested mountains. You’ll pay ridiculously low prices as the country builds its tourism industry & applies for EU membership. Service people are typically multi- lingual and anxious to please.
Highlight: Don’t miss the Bunkers to Beaches tour, learning the influence of the Communist years from inside a bunker, then escaping to a local beach where umbrellas now guard one of 173,000 bunkers throughout the country.
-Maureen from Nomad Dancer
15. Lviv, Ukraine
Just now beginning to show up on many traveler’s radars, Lviv is known as the “Little Paris” of Ukraine. The city has cobblestone streets, fountains and a much more Western European feel than much of the rest of the country. One of the most visited tourist attractions in town is the cemetery, which has been around since the 16th century.
Highlight: The city is full of interesting (if maybe a bit touristic) themed restaurants. For instance, you can visit the First Lviv Grill of Meat and Justice, which is a torture themed restaurant. Or you could visit a bunker restaurant which you’ll need a password to enter, but once inside you shoot BB guns at portraits of Putin.
-Nathan from Foodie Flashpacker
16. Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Nuwara Eliya lies at the very heart of the Sri Lankan tropical bed. It’s a paradise of its own with a string of waterfalls, temples that are synonymous with Hindu mythology and breathtaking botanical gardens. Nuwara is the perfect spot for someone who wants to live like a local and experience everything on foot (or a ‘Lost’ fan).
Highlight: For explorers, visit the waterfalls of Eliya as the main attractions because they are truly majestic. For historians, you need to pin the Seetha Amman Temple on your travel checklist. According to Hindu mythology, this was where Sita, wife of Ram was held captive by King Ravana. Believe it or not, just standing in the midst of this temple, surrounded by tall trees sends shivers down your spine because there’s really no escape unless you get dragons. For trekkers, there’s World’s End at Horton Plains and Adam’s Peak backed by its own history.
-Sweta from Namas Stay
Bulgaria is a gem of Eastern Europe. Rolling fields of flowers, mountains, and turquoise waters are just some of the beautiful nature spread out through this country, home to most of the famous Balkan Mountains. Of particular interest to travelers looking for a cheap beach getaway is the stunning Black Sea coast. 5 star beaches and cuisine are offered at shockingly low prices compared to central and western Europe. Fertile soil means that fresh and juicy fruits and vegetables are available for pennies: sometimes you can even just pick them off the trees growing on the street!
Highlight: You can have a “Dead Sea experience” without leaving Europe, for the Black Sea possesses therapeutic mud and salt pools that will heal joint conditions, skin wounds, diseases, and more. This area of the world is still very raw and bursting with local flavor, untouched by the mass tourism industry, and definitely worth a visit.
-Genie from Genie Overseas