If you’re reading this it means you’re looking for something a little different for your next adventure. You’re an explorer at heart and because of this New York, Cancun, Spain are just not cutting it anymore. Read on as we zone in on four truly unique countries, on four different continents that aren’t swarming with tourists and would love to meet you…
1. Belize, Central America
With a population of only 300,000, perched on the edge (if there is such a thing) of Central America Belize is a Caribbean wonderland often overlooked.
Belize is perhaps most famous for Dean’s Blue Hole, a stunning underwater sinkhole that is best viewed from the air. The surrounding waters are tropical, largely safe and absolutely teeming with marine life. This is one of the biggest draws of visiting Belize. The opportunity to swim with whale sharks on the second largest reef in the world.
It isn’t just in the water that the wildlife impresses. Similar to it’s Costa Rican neighbours, Belize is a haven from exotic wildlife with toucans, monkeys, iguanas, tapirs and even jaguars all residing within the 23,000 sq km borders.
Belize has the lowest population density of any country in Central America so if it’s an escape from society you’re looking for and a journey into the natural world then it’s difficult to find a better country. What’s more, Belize is former colony settlement of the UK meaning that it’s the only country in Central America where English is the first language so the people you do meet will immediately warm to you.
Belize city is accessible via a number of US stopovers and with 24% off this 15-day throughout the country there has seldom been a better time to visit.
2. Tajikistan, Asia
This list is all about diversity and you’ll be hard pressed to cope with the fact Tajikistan and Belize exist on the same planet!
Tajikistan is a rugged, mountainous landscape that is a standout alternative to a much more expensive visit to Nepal or northern India. The majority of the country’s 143,000 sq km is situated up to 10,000ft above sea level. This is not a country to sit back and relax in, it’s an adventurer’s and hiker’s paradise absolutely full of breathtaking expanses and challenging climbs through the Pamir Mountain Range.
The Tajik Wakhan Corridor will really make you feel like you’ve becoming isolated by the modern world and for so many travellers, this is a tangible goal to their adventure. Another must do location, a half day’s drive from the capital of Dushanbe is Iskander-Kol, a stunning high altitude lake surrounded by mountainous terrain.
The capital itself is one of the cheapest anywhere in the world and a great hub from which to explore the Pamir and the Fann mountains ranges.
Flights to Dushanbe operate via Tashkent and while the journey is perhaps not the most straightforward, once you get there you’ll immediately feel it was worth it, especially with week-long tours available from only €564, that’s 24% off!
3. Madagascar, Africa
No longer an obscure land thanks to Pixar, Madagascar retains a deep sense of the unknown about it as a travel destination. You might be surprised to find that there are nearly 29 million people who live here, 1.6m of them living in the inland capital of Antananarivo. Madagascar is the definition of unique with almost 90% of the species living here found nowhere else on Earth.
The complete absence of monkeys on the island has meant that lemurs have found the perfect haven to flourish in – all 103 species! These adorable, fascinating and considered sacred creatures are protected by 47 national parks on the island. If we had to pick three for every visitor to explore they’d be Andasibe, Isalo and Ranomafana.
The Avenue of the Baobabs on the western coast of the island is another unmissable photo opportunity underneath some of the most bizarre trees on Earth. Oh and seeing as we were mentioning the second largest reef system in the world in Belize, guess who has the third? Yep – the Toliara coral reef skirts the southwestern coast and a hotspot for humpback whales and their calves.
Surrounding yourself in such a magical environment will do wonders for stress relief too and once you get accustomed to “Malagasy time” you might decide to adopt this chilled out lifestyle for good.
Antananarivo is surprisingly well serviced with direct flights via Abu Dhabi, Nairobi and the Seychelles (wouldn’t that be a nice couple of days to end your Madagascan adventure?!)
This 14-day Highlights of Madagascar tour is 19% off at €1,501 too.
4. Montenegro, Eastern Europe
Notice a trend? Don’t worry, we have too. While you might think it necessary to wrack up some significant air miles to find a place truly different, this doesn’t have to be the case. What if we told you that a ‘miniature Monaco’ exists in Europe, not only just as beautiful but at a fraction of the cost?
You might remember Montenegro as being the incredible backdrop to the high stakes poker game in Casino Royale. There was no CGI in those backdrops, they are very real, none more so than in Kotor Bay…
Having regained it’s full independence in 2006, Montenegro is becoming a very popular tourist destination so to a point it does make it a little bit more ‘common’ than the others but aside from Kotor you’ll find more glorious medieval towns like Perast, Cetinje and Sveti Stefan (this is now a private resort but you can get to the beach beside it!)
At less than 14,000 sq km, Montenegro is just over half the size of Belize and without any dense tropical jungles to deal with, renting a car makes the whole coast easily accessible.
Another absolute must visit while you’re here is Lovcen National Park and the Njegos Mausoleum. The Mausoleum tomb is perched on the second highest peak of the park – Jezerski and when you summit you can see 80% of the entire country on a clear day. Breathtaking stuff!
Direct routes via Dublin have not come online just yet but the most common, and more efficient way to get to the capital Podgorica is through Rome, Frankfurt or Budapest.
Need help getting there? We’ve been doing exactly that for Irish travellers of all ages since 1959. Just drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on (01) 602 1906 or drop into any of our stores nationwide.