How do you like the idea of traveling to cutting-edge destinations? You'd be joining a growing group of courageous travelers seeking out the unusual and uncharted. More developing nations are welcoming foreign tourists and increasingly stable political climates in some areas now boast a market of niche tour operators. Browse our top emerging destinations for 2014 and beyond.
By Anisha Shah
Anisha Shah is a luxury and emerging destinations travel journalist. Her background as a BBC TV and radio news reporter, combined with a longstanding love affair with travel, sees her first on the scene of new and exciting travel hot spots. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Fodor’s, and Yahoo Travel. Follow Anisha on Twitter: @anishahbbc.
The geographically diverse country of Ethiopia has emerged in recent years as a popular destination for those seeking incredibly well-preserved art and ancient architectural sites. Traverse Lake Tana to visit the Simien Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before heading south to Omo Valley to visit some of Africa's last nomadic tribes.
Insider Tip: Small group travel is preferable in Ethiopia. Intrepid tour operator Travel The Unknown offers immersive itineraries such as hugely popular North Ethiopia in small groups of up to 12 led, by a guide. All details are prearranged leaving you to absorb the fascinating history and culture.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Tourism Ethiopia
A vibrant and bustling country, Myanmar has become a popular and safe choice for tourists seeking local culture and color. Buddhist influences pervade here, as saffron and pink-robed nuns and monks glide through the streets.
Insider Tip: Cultural itineraries are a speciality of India Travel Centre. Travel with a private guide and indulge in unique highlights such as Myanmar-style afternoon tea in a disused monastery on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Myanmar Guide
Descend the unexplored Moa River on packrafts, trek the Guinea border, and meet clans on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Sierra Leone is an exquisite country with brilliant beaches and wildlife-laden rainforest.
Insider Tip: Starting next year, Secret Compass, a niche agency run by former British military officers, is offering Sierra Leone on a 16-day itinerary. You must apply to join the expedition with a clear aim to push your limits.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Sierra Leone Travel and Tourism
This untouched corner of Africa offers a fascinating blend of Portuguese, Arabic, and African cultures in a country pleasantly devoid of tourists. Mozambique's buzzing cities are a good place to start before you head out to the white-sand beaches to visit the protected marine reserves teeming with sea life.
Insider Tip: Combine a visit to Mozambique with a trip to Kenya and Zambia. Tour operator Sunset Faraway Holidays has crafted a trip-of-a-lifetime that includes Victoria Falls in Zambia, a Kenyan safari in the Masai Mara, and a trip to the beach at Mozambique's Azura Quilalea.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Mozambique Tourism
While Mongolia has invested heavily in new infrastructure around the capital in Ulan Bator, the country still boasts a large nomadic farming population and huge tracts of undeveloped plains. Snow-capped mountains, dramatic gorges, and numerous Buddhist temples all add to Mongolia's appeal.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Mongolian National Tourism Center
A mix of traditionalism and modernity makes a visit to this small country along the Mediterranean Sea a fascinating experience. Israel is home to historic Christian, Jewish, and Islamic sites, as well as a smattering of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Insider Tip: There are countless historical sites to see in Israel, but make time to see the stunning beaches in the upscale Tel Aviv as well. Guided tours are best for exploring the historical monuments. Gate 1 Travel has a well-reputed Classic Israel escorted tour.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Israel Guide
Because of limitations on the number of visas issued each year, Bhutan has not previously been a particularly accessible destination. Fortunately for travelers, the world's happiest country, known for its impressive Buddhist temples in the Paro valley, has now positioned itself at the forefront of adventure tourism and has begun issuing more visas.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Bhutan Guide
Emerging from political turmoil, Rwanda has long been rewarding audacious travellers with spectacular scenes. Visitors to the country will have the chance to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.
Insider Tip: Independent travel to Rwanda is easy, with flights frequently in and out of Kigali. Lodges such as Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge transfer guests from the airport to base camp, ideally positioned for gorilla tracking. From there, Nyungwe Forest Lodge provides transfers to its stunning setting for chimpanzee trekking. Group trips are best with Audley Travel's immersive and engaging itineraries.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Rwanda Tourism
The country that often features in pub quizzes—it is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world—Uzbekistan is a fascinating place to explore post-Soviet architecture. The strictly Islamic nation features one of the most famous spaces in the world, Registan Square, known for its iconic madrassas and mosques.
Insider Tip: Neighboured by five “-stan” countries, take your pick and combine a few on your trip. Wild Frontiers offers a whopping 27-day private Five 'Stans' itinerary. Renowned for adventurous and cultural trips, Wild Frontiers also offers tours for small groups.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Welcome Uzbekistan
Unspoiled natural beauty and a diverse cultural history make Bangladesh an immersive trip of a lifetime. Despite suffering many natural disasters, Bangladesh has proven resilient and visitors will be rewarded with trips to Buddhist temples, ship graveyards, and a cosmopolitan capital.
Insider Tip: Small groups are led by Wild Frontiers , who have created tours with unique experiences. Safety is a consideration, but the tour operator has a proven track record of successful trips in the region.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Bangladesh Tourism Board