Traveling is one of the most fun things you can do. You get to explore new places, meet new people, and experience different cultures. Best of all, you get a break from your regular life! But instead of visiting the same places as usual, or being caught up in a tourist trap, check out some of the most underrated places in the world.
Even though Bolivia is near the equator, there is still diversity in its climate, which means you can experience many different things as you travel from the Andes Mountains to the country’s portion of the Amazon basin. Indigenous people make up 80 percent of Bolivia’s population, which means there is still a strong sense of culture. A variety of festivals are celebrated, and it’s easy to find traditional food and listen to traditional songs and stories. The history is still very much alive as well, so while you’re there you’ll get a good overview of the country’s past and how it has changed. Bolivia has the most preserved land in terms of forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes. This makes the views even more spectacular, and you can hike the mountain trails or go on safaris. Best of all, traveling to and within Bolivia is very affordable – you’ll spend about a third as much as you would traveling in the United States!
2. Sao Paulo, Brazil
If you want to explore a monster of a foreign city, check out Sao Paulo – with over 20 million residents, it’s the third largest metropolis on earth! The city is known for its food, markets, architecture, and museums – not to mention it’s pulsing nightlife. The city is spread out so it’s hard to stay in just one area to do all you want, but Sao Paulo boasts 30 kilometers of car-free bike paths to make getting around a little easier. Hundreds of different ethnic groups call Sao Paulo home, including the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so you’ll have no problem finding a variety of cultures to explore to enrich your time in the city. Regardless of your interests, make sure you visit a few of the city’s 150 museums and cultural centers, 420 experimental theaters, and 12,500 (yes, really!) restaurants that serve over 52 different cuisines. Oh, and the nightlife I mentioned? There are over 15,000 places! The city stays awake around the clock, so you’ll certainly find things to do.
3. Zhangjiajie, China
Zhangjiajie is a national park in the Hunan province of south-central China. Three ethnic groups make up 70% of the local population, so there is still a lot of traditional culture to explore, including language, festivals, clothing, and architecture. The locals are very friendly and love sharing their history with tourists, which makes this park a favorite place to visit. Because it is in a subtropical climate, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has a unique “micro climate of forest,” meaning it is cool in summer and warm in winter. There are gorgeous lakes, streams, and waterfalls, along with a wide variety of rare species of animals. Fun fact: a mountain peak here was the inspiration for the visual setting of the world of Pandora in the movie “Avatar”!
Iceland isn’t as far away as you might think – just a five-hour flight from major cities in the northeast US. As a bonus, Icelandair offers you a layover in Iceland on your way to other cities in Europe, which means you can get two trips in one! As far as what to do while you’re there, you’ll have a lot to cram in. You can visit the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. It’s naturally heated water where you can bathe and indulge in massage treatments. If you time your visit right, you’ll have a great view of the Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis. There are a lot of museums about Icelandic history, including the Vikings. If you prefer the city life, you can visit Reykjavik, the capital city, which has a great nightlife, shops, good food, and a big arts and music scene. As a bonus, everyone in Iceland speaks English, so you’ll have a bit of an easier time getting help and information with anything else you might need.
5. The Philippines
The Philippines is one of the largest island groups in the world, with over 7,000 islands. You know what this means? Beaches! Gorgeous beaches with white sand overlooking turquoise waters. These beaches often make a variety of “Top 10 Beaches” lists. There are a lot of rare species of animals in the Philippines, not to mention beautiful nature scenes like waterfalls, lakes, and caves. You can even see Taal, the world’s smallest volcano! The temperature is always even and comfortable, so you won’t have to worry about packing for extreme temperatures, or even layers for changes from day to night. And if you love shopping, the islands boast some of the largest malls in the world. They don’t just have chain stores, either – the Philippines are known for their handicrafts.
Albania is quickly building itself up as a tourist destination after a checkered history of dictatorship and riots, so it’s a good idea to visit now, before it gets so popular you’ll feel overcrowded. While it’s being built up, the exchange rate between its currency, the lek, and American money is the best it can be – less than one cent! That means a hotel room overlooking the beach that costs 1,800 lek is actually less than $17! Your money will go so much further in Albania that you’ll get to see and do it all. You’ll want to spend most of your time relaxing on Albania’s 362 kilometers of coastline, which stretches through the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Some areas near the beaches are isolated, but if you like a busier scene, then you can find some coastal cities with hotels and restaurants along the sand. The cities have great museums, and also some of the best cafés and bars on tree-lined streets with outside patios, so you can enjoy the view. Though it has great beaches, the country is known for gorgeous mountain ranges you’ll want to photograph, along with historic castles and ruins that aren’t even roped off – climb in and explore!
7. Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone was known in the 1990s for having a decade-long civil war, but peace was declared in 2002 and the country is now is one of West Africa’s safest destinations. It has great beaches lined with palm trees, or you can visit Outamba-Kilmi National Park to see some amazing wildlife. You can visit an assortment of island groups, like the Turtle Islands or Banana Islands, or the Gola Forest Reserve, located in a rainforest tract. Check out Mt. Bintumani, the highest peak at 1,945 meters, for an amazing view from the summit. If you’re craving the nightlife, check out Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
Are you tired of hearing about beaches yet? I hope not, because Mozambique boasts over 2,500 kilometers of spectacular, secluded beaches, as well as clear dive sites to see rare marine life while snorkeling and scuba diving. There are also channels along the coast that offer some of the best fishing for marlin and sail fish. Mozambique is known for its traditional music and arts, which depict the struggle for independence as well as traditional beliefs. As far as Mozambique’s history goes, you’ll want to learn about their decades-long civil war and struggles with pirates, slaves, and gold and ivory hunters. Make sure you have time for some good meals, too – Mozambique has some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever find!
Featured photo credit: fdecomite via flickr.com