We all possess “Wanderlust”, or the strong desire to travel, to some degree. Travel is one of the noblest pursuits a person can undertake, it changes us as people. A journey is satisfying for the soul, and filled with unbridled enjoyment. For a lot of people, however, mainstream travel just isn’t that interesting anymore. Maybe they’ve seen all they could from France, Spain, Japan and the likes, and just want to broaden their horizons, and see some unique places, away from the contemporary. So for those unconventional travelers, here is a list of 10 Beautiful Countries, that certainly deserve more travel traffic-
10. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in South-Eastern Europe, with a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Its capital is Sarajevo, the cultural and scientific hub of the city. It has a chequered past, with a devastating war that led to its independence from Yugoslavia in 1995. However, at present, sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina, known as BiH or just Bosnia, informally, is a fascinating tourist destination.
It is brimming with rich cultural and historical sites, like the historical village of Počitelj; Višegrad, location of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge; Prijedor, featuring its Old City Mosque and Kozara National Park and, at Mrakovica, Bosnia’s largest World War II monument; Mostar: the “City on Neretva” or “City of Sunshine”; and Ostrožac Castle, a 16th-century castle built by the Ottoman Empire- for those of you who like to travel to soak in a little culture.
Bosnia, has a diverse terrain with both mountains and flatland, and boasts of some beautiful natural sights like- Banja Luka, the “Green City”, with sights such as the Kastel fortress and Ferhadija mosque; The Lower Tara river canyon, the deepest canyon in Europe; Sutjeska National Park, featuring the ancient forest of Perućica (one of the last two remaining primeval forests in Europe); The Neretva river and The Trebižat river and its waterfalls- quite the photo-friendly place!
Moreover, The Huffington Post named Bosnia and Herzegovina the “9th Greatest Adventure in the World for 2013”, adding that the country boasts “the cleanest water and air in Europe; the greatest untouched forests; and the most wildlife.” It’s a great place for skiing, white-water rafting and hiking. So add this exciting place to your travel list immediately!
Another seemingly hidden gem of South Eastern Europe, Romania is actually one of the top 10 most populous countries within the European Union! It has a temperate-continental climate and a gorgeous landscape, and it’s capital city Bucharest, is the centre of media, culture, and art in the country.
There are a variety of things that make Romania a tourist’s paradise- be it the Danube Delta where the mighty Danube River flows 1,788 miles from its springs in Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea, it is a very well preserved and beautiful delta, perhaps the best in Europe. And for all you wildlife enthusiasts, the Danube Delta is home to over 300 species of birds like white tailed Eagles, Cormorants, and glossy Ibises; aside from birds, wildcats, foxes, wolves, boars and deer are also seen here. Central Romania also encompasses the very interesting region of Transylvania, a region popular because of the legend of Count Dracula, and the medieval towns of this region are truly very intriguing for this reason, but also for the architectural brilliance of the monuments. These monuments including Bran Castle (or Dracula’s Castle, as it is popularly known), famous for it’s imposing towers and turrets, Corvin Castle– Romania’s largest gothic style monument and theDarjiu Fortified Church which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina in Northeastern Romania are a delight for art lovers, and are a treasure of the country.
Another fascinating aspect of Romanian tourism is the concept of Medical Spas. Today Romania’s 70 natural spas provide relief for many medical disorders and illnesses including rheumatism, endocrine, kidney, liver, respiratory, heart, stomach and nervous diseases as well as nutrition, metabolism and gynaecological disorders. Truly fascinating!
Vietnam is the eastern most country on the Indo-China Peninsula in South-Eastern Asia. Hanoi, is its capital, but Ho Chi Minh City is its largest city. In fact Ho Chi Minh City is known for its French colonial buildings and elegant boulevards. It is teeming with historical significance, with many museums such as Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History, the War Remnants Museum, the Museum of Southern Women, the Museum of Fine Art, the Nha Rong Memorial House, and the Ben Duoc Relic of Underground Tunnels. It also hosts a number of international sports events throughout the year.
Vietnam also boasts of natural landmarks such as the Paradise Caves, Surrounded by forested karst peaks, this remarkable cave system extends for 31km The scale is breathtaking, as wooden staircases descend into a cathedral-like space with colossal stalagmites and glimmering stalactites; Van Long Wetland Reserve is the largest wetland natural reserve in Red River Delta and is considered as “Waveless bay” with tranquil water surface like a giant mirror reflecting spectacular natural sceneries, boat tours with spectacular views of the Limestone Mountains are also available. Vietnam is also known for its fun beaches.
A very important tourist destination in Vietnam is the Halong Bay. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ and legend tells that this seascape was created when a great mountain dragon charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouging out valleys and crevasses. It is known for its ethereal beauty and spectacular islands. Vietnam is also a known for its magnificent temples, capturing the essence of Asian temple architecture, including- the Temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius (Khong Tu), Ngoc Son Temple, meaning ‘Temple of the Jade Mountain’ which is Hanoi’s most visited temple. Vietnamese Cuisine, is what The Lonely Planet calls “Asia’s best kept secret”. For the Vietnamese, a meal should balance sour and sweet, crunchy and silky, fried and steamed, soup and salad. Soul satisfying in every way!
Croatia is a sovereign state at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. Croatia has a moderately warm and rainy continental climate. Its capital city is Zagreb, which is the seat of the central government, the largest Croatian companies, media and scientific institutions. It is home to architectural marvels like Lotrščak Tower,from where a cannon has been fired every noon for the past 100 years, and the Mirogoj Cemetery. But what distinguishes Zagreb from the rest, is the presence of perhaps the quirkiest museum of all “Museum of Broken Relationships”, which houses mementos from past relationships.The museum also has a lovely adjacent store – the ‘bad memories eraser’, which holds jazz nights twice a week, and has a quaint cafe as well.
Croatia is known for its glittering waters. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia is Dubrovnik which is known for its marble streets, baroque buildings and the magnificence of the Adriatic Sea. Many tourists engage in a walk along the ancient city walls which give a sense of rich and vibrant culture and history.
Croatia hosts some wonderful relics of Ancient Rome; Diocletian’s Palace is a salient attraction. It is an imposing Roman Ruin, with a spectacular structure, and one fascinated with ancient history would love to spend time there. The roman amphitheatre at Istria is another such attraction.
In terms of natural landmarks, Croatia boasts of the awesome Paklenica National Park, with vibrant varieties of wildlife and glittering streams. The exceptionally scenic Mljet Island has dense vegetation, and saltwater lakes. Croatia is spellbinding indeed!
6. SIERRA LEONE
Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa. It has recently been declared Ebola-Free by the World Health Organization, and has started to attract hordes of tourists just as it did before the outbreak. The Lonely Planet calls Sierra Leone, “West Africa’s secret beach destination”. And there is definite truth to this statement. Sierra Leone is a treat for beach lovers everywhere. Its capital Freetown is bustling with energy, and while a certain part could seem chaotic and messy, the other part is so idyllic, it’s almost perfection! It is known for its busy beaches, eating joints, and exciting nightlife. When you think of Africa, you think of rich wildlife, and Sierra Leone does not disappoint in this department. The Outamba-Kilimi National Park, offers you a feel of the real savannah, with watering holes for Elephants, and rivers for Hippos. The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, is an educational wildlife institution to help humans learn more about the species in its natural habitat, and it’s visitors can stay overnight in tree houses that overlook the sanctuary.
Sierra Leone is renowned for its Banana and Turtle Islands. The Banana Islands are a group of islands that lie off the coast in the Western Area Sierra Leone. Three islands make up the Banana Islands: two Dublin and Ricketts are linked by a stone causeway. The third Mes-Meheux is uninhabited. Dublin Island is known for its beaches, while Ricketts Island is best known for its forests. Turtle Islands are a group of eight remote and scenic islands in Sierra Leone’s southwest peninsula. Soft white sand, palm fronds and turquoise water characterise this island. There’s a sort of freedom in this island that sings to its own tune. Beyond this, you can also check out Sierra Leone’s highest peak, Mount Bintumani, if you’re excited about mountaineering. Be ready to broaden your horizons with Sierra Leone!
Finland is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. The climate is characterized by warm summers and freezing winters. Helsinki is the small bustling capital, with a coastal position. It has the Suomenlinna naval fortress which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Summers are spent at the Hietaniemi beach (often simply called Hietsu). Helsinki is also the home of the Linnanmäki amusement park, with many fun and exciting rides.
Lonely Planet calls Jyväskylä as “a Mecca for architecture lovers around the world” because of the Alvar Aalto buildings; UNESCO World Heritage site Petäjävesi Old Church is also located here.
For scenic natural beauty, one must go to the Linnansaari National Park, which consists of Haukivesi Lake and hundreds of uninhabited islands; seals, rare birds, including ospreys, can also be seen here. The Linnansaari islands are also good for ice-fishing, snowshoe walking and ice-skating in the winter; and kayaking, rowing and canoeing in the summer. The Karhunkierros Trek & Oulanka National Park has the best trekking routes in Finland, with some amazing scenery.
Another unique tourist attraction of Finland, is the Jätkänkämppä, which is a giant Savusauna (smoke sauna). It’s great for relaxation, and has some adjoining restaurants which provide traditional Finnish meals. A refreshing European experience!
Andorra is a mini-country wedged between France and Spain. Andorra has an alpine climate and continental climate. Andorra is a winter paradise, and is quite quaint and beautiful. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, and offers some beautiful alpine scenery. Andorra is known for the hiking and skiing experiences it offers,
Shrines and festivals are also key attractions to tourists. Romanesque churches and old houses of interest are located in Andorra. The best known is the shrine of Our Lady of Meritxel, Andorra’s patroness, between Canillo and Encamp. If you want some hassle free time away from big cities, Andorra is the perfect solution.
3. FALKLAND ISLANDS
The Falkland Islands (known as the Islas Malvinas in Argentina) have been an overseas territory of the UK since 1833. The islands have a small population, and when you visit, it’s like a world of its own, with a majorly rural character. Its popular tourist spots include The Christ Church Cathedral, with its stain glass windows, and corrugated metal roof. Plaques on its walls honor the memory of local men who served in the British Forces in World War I and World War II, as well as the great and good people of the Falklands; Falkland Islands Museum and the Maritime History Trail offers a rich dose of history; Carcass Island, East and West Falkland Islands, offer some ethereal scenery.
Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked German-speaking micro-state in Central Europe, between Switzerland and Austria. Its proximity to these two tourist favorites truly makes it worth a visit. With pretty streets and neighborhoods and awe-inspiring castles; this place is tucked away from mainstream tourism, but very important indeed. The Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum, and Walsermuseum, provide a burst of culture and history.
Liechtenstein provides one of the best mountain sceneries, and activities like skiing, hiking and snowboarding. Mitteldorf, Fürstensteig, Malbun, are great neighbourhoods for sightseeing.
Colombia is a country situated in the northwest of South America. The capital, Bogota, is where all the action happens. Cradled by the peaks of The Andes, and the historical downtown with cobbled streets, is a major tourist attraction. The churches of Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia Museo de Santa Clara are beautiful landmarks in the city. The city is also known for it’s all gold museum-Museo del Oro.
Cartagena boasts of an old city which is its principal attraction, particularly the inner walled town, consisting of the historical districts of El Centro and San Diego. It is a real gem of colonial architecture, packed with churches, monasteries, plazas, palaces and mansions with their overhanging balconies and shady patios.
One of Colombia’s most popular national parks, Tayrona grips the Caribbean coast, and is a thick expanse of jungle at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The park stretches along the coast from the Bahía de Taganga near Santa Marta to the mouth of the Río Piedras. It covers about 12,000 hectares of land and 3000 hectares of sea.
The scenery consists of sandy beaches along the coast in the north; arid, light-brown hills plant species such as cacti in the extreme west, the easternmost part is largely covered by rainforest. The park is home to at least 56 endangered species, deep within the forest.
The Lonely Planet calls Barichara , “the kind of town that Hollywood filmmakers dream about.” A Spanish colonial town, it has those wonderful cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings with red-tiled roofs that are very well maintained, even though they are about 300 years old. Many Spanish-language films and Telenovelas (Spanish soap operas) are shot here. The town was even declared a national monument in 1978.
Reserva Natural Cañon de Río Claro, is another spectacle of nature. Here the river has carved a stunning canyon from its marble bed. You can visit a spectacular cave, go kayaking, white-water rafting, canopying, or just swim and hike along its banks. Look no further than Colombia for a fantastic Latin American experience!