Are you a trendsetting traveler? We show you the next up-and-coming trending destinations, so you can get there before the crowds do
2016 was the year of Cuban beaches flooding your Instagram and all your friends posting about their amazing trips to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Each year has its own top destinations that everyone seems to be talking about, but wouldn’t you like to know which must-see countries to go to before they become more crowded, more expensive and arguably less authentic and “cool”?
We’ve analyzed countries around the world to see which destinations have seen a steady increase of visitors and will likely be the next “in” destinations in the coming years. According to a recent UNWTO study, these must-see countries have seen a constant spike of international arrivals since 2010 and are only expected to become more and more popular each year.
So before the word gets out, we suggest you add these to your 2017 travel plans. See what all the hype is about and go before everyone else gets the same idea.
Tourism to Myanmar, or Burma, has been slowly building since it opened its doors for tourism in 1992. Curious travelers are increasingly making their way to this sprawling Southeast Asian county, which has seen a nearly 500% increase of international visitors from 2010 to 2015*.
One of the richest archaeological sites in Asia is the enchanting city of Bagan, home to the largest collection of Buddhist temples and ruins from the 11th and 12th centuries. Traces of Myanmar’s history can also be found deep underground in the Pindaya Caves, a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site where thousands of glimmering Buddha figures line the walls from floor to ceiling.
Myanmar also has its fair share of beautiful beaches, each with its own charm. Said to be named after Italy’s famous Napoli, Ngapali Beach’s turquoise waters and white sands make it the premier beach destination. Further south you’ll find Ngwesaung Beach, known for its laid-back lifestyle, where you’ll often see locals fishing along the secluded shores.Learn more about Myanmar (Burma)
Often considered by many travelers as the lost paradise of the world, the mesmerizing scenery of Sri Lanka is covered in lush rainforests, rising mountains and vast plains. Just off the coast of neighboring India, this tear-drop shaped island is a world of its own and a unique melting pot of people and denominations.
The restored remains of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, the first established kingdom of ancient Sri Lanka and one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, is one of the most sacred cities of World Buddhists.
Outside of its historic temples and palaces, Sri Lanka’s bustling capital of Colombo is a secret hot spot for designer shopping and late night clubbing. A bit chaotic at times, the Petah Market has everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to wholesale clothing. As a quiet alternative, Colombo’s only large-scale public park, Viharamahadevi Park, is a nice place to stroll and get your daily dose of nature.Learn more about Sri Lanka
Landlocked between Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, Paraguay is a hidden gem often over shadowed by its more popular South American cousins. What it lacks in beaches and surf spots, it makes up for in history, exuberant wildlife and it’s own cultural identity.
Known as the “Mother of Cities,” Paraguay’s capital city, Asunción, was one of the first cities to be established by European explorers, and was a base for future colonial expeditions throughout South America. Today, it has become a contemporary art hub with local artists’ pop art and surrealism represented throughout the city’s museums, galleries and independent institutions.
Paraguay’s remarkable UNESCO-listed Jesuit Missions were once thriving centers built to integrate the indigenous Guarani populations with the Christian faith. The ruins are renowned as some of the world’s most impressive religious creations, and are surprisingly not very crowded, even though tourism to Paraguay has gone up 161% compared to 5 years ago*.Learn more about Paraguay
Fans of hiking and climbing should look no farther than Tajikistan, a nature lover’s dream covered in dramatic mountains, turquoise lakes and timeless rural villages. After trekking up the Fedchenko glacier, the largest glacier in the world, get to know the locals during a homestay in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt, where you will likely be warmly welcomed with kind hospitality and a sampling of some authentic cuisine if you’re lucky.
Traces of Chinese, Arabic and Russian influences can be seen throughout the country. Although the present day Republic of Tajikistan is just 23 years old, its rich history and culture come alive through its medieval mosques, castles, and soviet-style buildings. Tajikistan also boasts one of the oldest Neolithic cave paintings dating all the way back to 6500BC that is almost impossible to find without a helpful guide or driver!Learn more about Tajikistan
Japan’s blend of historic shrines and temples alongside cutting edge technology and innovative architecture make it a fascinating country that is equal parts tradition and future. It’s no wonder that tourist arrivals have gone up almost 130% since 2010 – Japan is a country full of exciting contradictions, from navigating through the hectic crowds of Tokyo’s subways to finding complete inner peace strolling among Kyoto’s zen gardens.
No trip to Japan is complete without a journey on a high speed Shinkansen bullet train. However, if you are looking to escape the major cities and explore the less-touristy countryside, renting a car is always a great option. The Road of Laputa is a famous route located in the southern part of Kyushu, known for its scenic, winding paths.Learn more about Japan
Just southwest of the Philippines lays the island nation of Palua, made up of hundreds of smaller islands completely surrounded by pristine blue waters. Palau’s most famous attraction, the Rock Islands, are a world-class destination for diving, snorkeling and kayaking.
Eil Malk island is one of the largest Rock Islands and home of Jellyfish Lake, an isolated body of saltwater that gradually became entirely cut off from the ocean centuries ago. Brave swimmers can get a glimpse of a rare alien world and snorkel among the lake’s thousands of translucent, stingless jellies.
Off the main island of Koror is the Milky Way lagoon, where you can treat yourself to a therapeutic and 100% natural mud bath. Some say the healing powers of the mud can make skin look 10 years younger, so you can often see swimmers covering themselves from head to toe in the soft, milky white mud.Learn more about Palau
With an eclectic mix of Chinese, Western and Japanese influences, Taiwan is a country full of pleasant surprises. Due to its location along the western edge of the Rim of Fire, Taiwan’s dramatic landscapes range from majestic peaks and rolling hills to far-reaching valleys and scattered offshore islands.
Arguably the coolest and most underrated capital of Asia, Taipei is buzzing with life. From rowdy karaoke bars and themed restaurants to night markets filled with pop up stores and street food carts, there is something new to discover around every corner. Taipei’s top-notch food scene revolves around Taiwan’s traditional snacking culture. Delicacies like piping hot gao buns filled with moist pork, crispy fried chicken, steaming bowls of fresh beef soup, spicy hotpots and creamy bubble tea can, and should be, tried in one sitting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for seconds.Learn more about Taiwan
One of the largest kingdoms under Alexander the Great, the Republic of Macedonia was once the most powerful state in the world. In 2014, Macedonia’s capital Skopje went under a complete renovation aptly named “Skopje 2014” in an effort to highlight the country’s unique history and culture. Newly constructed neo-classical buildings and hundreds of statues have popped up all over the city, but the Old Bazaar quarter is still one of the most beloved places to visit in town.
During the summer months, locals head to Ohrid, a serene resort town surrounded by mountains and lined with cobblestone streets and lakefront cafes. Besides being one of the oldest and deepest lakes in all of Europe, Lake Ohrid is also home to several impressive monasteries and churches from the Byzantine era.
Another local-kept secret is the Demir Kapija region, the gateway to wine country and the heart of several of Macedonia’s 80 registered wineries.Learn more about Macedonia
From charming villages and vibrant cities to mountainous regions and sunny beaches, Romania’s diverse landscape offers something for every type of traveler.
A short bus ride from Sibiu, one of the most visited cities in Transylvania, is the Astra Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization. One of the largest open air museums in Europe, visitors can explore centuries old traditional Romanian homes and authentic buildings for a glimpse into Transylvania’s past. Home to numerous museums and a famed nightlife, Sibui is also the perfect starting point for a day trip to Alba Iulia, the largest and most impressive citadel in Romania.
Little do travelers know, Romania is a hot spot for natural thermal waters and spas. Close to the Hungarian border in Bihor County is Baile Felix, currently Romania’s largest health resort open year-round. The therapeutic and mineral rich waters are known to ease the effects of certain ailments and promote a healthier well-being.Learn more about Romania
Miles of spectacular white sandy shores and relatively affordable beach front accommodation are just a few reasons why tourist arrivals to the Philippines have gone up 50%*, drawing visitors from all over the world each year.
Hanging coffins are one of the most mysterious sights in Sagada, a town almost nine hours north of Manila in the Cordillera Mountains. These coffins, a mix of old and new, are said to have been nailed high in the rocks in order to bring the deceased higher to heaven. At ground level, towards the famous Sumaguing Cave, you will find the Kapay-aw Rice Terraces, a lesser-known alternative to the famous Banaue Rice Terraces and equally as beautiful.
One of the few remainders of the 16th century in the Philippines is the Spanish colonial town of Vigan. It’s picturesque cobblestone streets and whimsical horse drawn carriages often make it hard to believe that this UNESCO world heritage site was once an important trading post and the center of Spanish political and religious power.Learn more about the Philippines
With its rugged mountains, plunging canyons, pristine beaches, and one of the few remaining rainforests on the continent, the small Balkan country of Montenegro is postcard perfect from every which way you look.
The crown jewel, of course, is the Bay of Kotor. Its cobalt blue fjord is encircled by steep mountains and lined with charming storybook villages. The terracotta-roofed houses of Kotor are best seen from the top of Saint Giovanni castle, where you can take in the beauty of the bay in its full entirety.Learn more about Montenegro
There is no time like the present! Don’t miss out on the chance to see these destinations in 2017, otherwise you’ll be waiting alongside everyone else who decided to wait until 2018 and beyond.
*According to data from 2010 to 2015 published in the UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2016 Edition report