Last updated on January 10th, 2015 by Audrey Scott
There are plenty of “2015 Hot Travel Destination” lists circulating, even though the dust has settled a bit on looks forward. As we field questions about our own favorite destinations, most memorable experiences and where we recommend people to travel this year, we thought we’d add a twist to the traditional 2015 travel lists and share some places that might not be on your travel radar — but maybe should be.
In travel marketing speak, one might call these emerging, recovery or even under-discovered destinations. But in our experience, they are simply fascinating places that travelers are either unaware of or actively avoid from a travel perspective. They are the sort of destinations that push you emotionally, sometimes physically, and always challenge you mentally — all with the result of returning you from your trip with a different view of the world and quite often with a different view of yourself.
Here’s the caveat. These places are not for everyone; they are not a universal fit for travel goals and style. They are the sorts of destinations in which things may not always go as planned; hotels and transport can even be a bit rough. Much time is spent outside the proverbial comfort zone in attempts to immerse yourself in a new culture, comprehend challenging socio-economic circumstances and process the stimuli swirling about you. Some days can even feel difficult.
But there is a payoff. If you were to sit down with us over a beer and ask: “I want to go somewhere different from what I’m accustomed to. I’d like a place that will make me think, feel and question some of my assumptions about the world and myself. Someplace not very well touristed, with a bit adventure and the unknown. Where would you suggest I go?”
Here’s where we might suggest you go in 2015.
Kyrgyzstan is filled with stunning mountain views like this one of Peak Lenin.
First snow of the season at a shepherd’s village near Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan.
Why: To experience a country that is over 90% mountainous and littered with stunning landscapes. Add to that, a taste of traditional nomadic culture with a bit of a Soviet hangover, and you have the makings of a unique yet approachable destination. This makes Kyrgyzstan a great fit for trekkers and outdoor types, as well as those interested in culture and off-beat experiences. There is a terrific community-based tourism network throughout the country that makes it easy to connect and interact with locals. These networks can also organize mountain treks on horseback, homestays, and overnight yurt experiences.
Eye-bending Persian design at Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in Esfahan.
Adopted in a village in northwestern Iran.
And again, it comes down to people. That’s what may surprise you most about Iran.
Note: Obtaining a tourist visa for citizens from the United States, Canada and United Kingdom can be tricky. Be sure to check out this article on how to get an Iranian visa (including the vast comment thread) for all you need to know.
A ride into the high Caucasus mountains (Svaneti) turns into an adventure.
Tbilisi reveals itself in layers, both architecturally and culturally. One of our favorite cities.
Why: Despite all the history and remarkable mountain landscapes, the Republic of Georgia, at its very best, comes back to the Georgian people. Cross hospitality-obsessed with crazy gregarious and you’ve got a sense of the Georgian people. Add to this beautiful mountain ranges, a culturally and architecturally eclecticcapital city, some of the most spiritual churches we’ve experienced, and incredible food. Then you’ll understand why Georgia is one of our favorite places in the world. We joke that in Georgia, one doesn’t need to make plans as the people you meet seem to create the adventures for you.
Hot springs en route to the Salar de Uyuni.
A young Bolivian mother at a gathering in Tupiza.
Hiking down from cave churches tucked in Gheralta Mountains of northern Ethiopia. An incredible experience.
Church of St. George. Carved top-down from red volcanic rock in the 12th century.
Market day in Bandarban, Bangladesh (Chittagong Hill Tracts).
Asking kids to imitate a tiger (name of the Bangladeshi cricket team) on the streets of Old Dhaka.
On their way home to Langhar in Tajikistan’s Wakhan Valley. On the other side of the river is Afghanistan and in the distance, Pakistan’s Hindu Kush mountains.
Ruins of the 12th-century Silk Road Yamchun Fort against the backdrop of the Pamir Mountains.
Mountains and coastline of southern Haiti.
Shy sisters who live near the sugar cane plantations of northern Haiti.