You may be saving your money for that dream vacation to the Bahamas, Mexico, or another popular retreat for some rest and relaxation in the sun. If that’s the case you can expect to be joined by thousands of other tourists as well. But maybe you’re looking for a place with a few thousand fewer people for a vacation that feels more private. If you’re getting tired of crowded beaches, hiking trails that are loaded with other travelers, and sky-high prices on food and drink near your resort, then it’s time to think outside of the box. There are beautiful countries to explore that are off the beaten path, meaning you can explore new lands without the typical tourist traps you’ll find while vacationing elsewhere. Here are five countries to visit that you’ve probably never heard of.
Make this African country one of your top destinations for your next vacation, as its beauty surely will not disappoint. Located in the middle of Indian Ocean, this island is home to white sand beaches, beautiful mountains, and welcoming people, explains CNN. Mauritius is also incredibly diverse in terms of culture — it’s home to people of Indian, Creole, Chinese, English, French, and South African descent, and you’re sure to hear languages ranging from English to Hindi just about every day.
For food lovers, Mauritius has it all — featuring delicious fusions. You can try chutney and curry, stir-fried noodles, and plenty of fresh seafood. For those of you who love sports, be sure to rent a mountain bike for heading up the mountain trails or visit a horse trail for riding the mountains. Kayaking and deep-sea fishing are also popular for water lovers, with Mauritius having some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world. There’s even golf.
The most beautiful spot in Mauritius has to be the Seven-Colored Earth of Chamarel, says Thrillist. These dunes are made of sand that’s red, brown, violet, blue, purple, green, and yellow in color, making the dunes look like a rainbow.
There’s no shortage of excellent places to stay, either. Mauritius has five-star hotels and resort packages available to fit any budget, which all offer fantastic views of the gorgeous landscape. If you’re traveling all the way to Africa from the U.S., then expect to shell out for airfare, though. A round-trip flight to Mauritius can cost you upwards of $2,000.
2. Brunei Darussalam
If you’re looking for clean air and a peaceful, tropical atmosphere, look no further than the nation of Brunei Darussalam in Southeast Asia. World Travel Guide explains this small country that borders the tip of Borneo is known for its incredibly high standard of living. Home to some of the most well-kept rainforest habitats in the world, its lush greenery is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. You also won’t find any cigarettes in this country, as the use of tobacco has been widely banned.
The literal translation of Darussalam is “abode of peace,” and that’s exactly how this country feels. Relaxed and laid-back, you can enjoy the water villages either by boat or on foot, visit the museums nearby to learn about the interesting culture and the Sultan of Brunei, who is one of the richest individuals in the world. Or eat the local Malay cuisine at one of the open-air markets. And don’t forget to visit the Ulu Temburong National Park to see the Borneo rainforest before you leave.
If you’re the outdoorsy type and love trekking through the wilderness, then Kyrgyzstan may be the perfect destination for you. Located in the middle of Central Asia, what this country is lacking in touristy hangouts, it makes up for in beautiful mountains. Wanderlust explains that more than 90% of Kyrgyzstan is higher than 1,500 meters (over 4,900 feet), making it a dream for those who love mountains. The Celestial Mountains have snowy peaks and beautiful meadows, so pay this mountain a visit while you’re there.
This country certainly loves their horses for travel, and you can ride one, too. To get the true Kyrgyzstan experience, try staying in a yurt during your vacation. These circular tents collapse down so you can take them wherever you please, meaning you can set up camp near the shores of a lake for beautiful scenery.
Even if you’re visiting this country during summer, be sure to bring plenty of warm layers with you as well as a waterproof jacket, as the higher altitudes can be chilly. The money you’ll be saving by staying in a yurt will be spent on your flight. Most ticket prices are well over $2,000.
Even if you’ve been on a European vacation before, we guarantee a trip to the mountainous country of Andorra, which is also the sixth smallest nation in Europe, offers beauty and fun. This tiny country is in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, and it’s perfect for those looking for some snowy outdoor adventure. Daily Mail explains that the majority of tourists who visit Andorra go for the winter sports. With two main ski areas that are challenging for even the best winter sports lovers, you’ll find runs that are long and scenic through the mountains, no matter which resort you visit. If skiing isn’t your thing, then try husky sledding at the dog tracks, which are located near the ski resorts as well. If you go during the summer months, check out the hiking and mountain-biking trails instead.
There’s plenty of good food in Andorra as well. In Andorra La Vella, there are tapas restaurants that are upbeat and delicious. If you’re looking for something outside of the main drag, then the restaurant El Bon Raco resides in a former barn, and offers a fantastic wine selection along with a rustic atmosphere.
The one difficult part about Andorra is that it can be tough to get there. This tiny country has no airport of its own, meaning you’ll most likely have to travel to Barcelona first, then take a shuttle from there. If you’re up for an adventure, however, the scenery is beautiful — you’ll most likely get to see the sun peaking through the Pyrenees Mountains.
5. The Republic of the Maldives
Located in South-Central Asia, this beautiful destination is ideal for sun, sand, and relaxation. With crystal-blue waters, sunsets overlooking the sea, and local citrus to munch on before you hit the tasty local eats, the Maldives is a complete parardise. U.S. News & World Report explains this country is located between the Arabian and Laccadive seas, which are about 500 miles southwest of Sri Lanka.
Aside from a relaxing time on the beach, you can explore the unique culture that the Maldives has to offer. This country is an Islamic nation, with plenty of mosques to see. Be sure to bring some very conservative attire when visiting a mosque, though, as you will be stepping into a religious tradition.
It’d be great if this country was an easy destination to get to or was on the cheaper side, but this is sadly not the case. Both flights and hotels are expensive, so this destination will take a bite out of your savings.