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Bangladesh is not necessarily known for being a popular tourist destination. However, this is exactly what makes the Bangla culture exceptionally warm and welcoming towards the few tourists that do decide to visit. Bangladesh is perfect for everyone who likes to venture where few have ventured before. Explore the Sundarbans National Park or travel Bangladesh, the land of rivers, by boat. Delve into an adventure and visit the lush green mangrove forests but be aware that this is tiger territory. Make sure to check the weather before you plan your trip to Bangladesh, especially from June to October, since this is monsoon season, where heavy downpours and occasional tornadoes are common.
Bhutan’s sustainable tourism concept is an approach the Bhutanese are particularly proud of. The number of tourists allowed to enter the country is limited and every foreign visitor must pay a daily $250 fee. This seems to make Bhutan one of the most expensive places to travel; however, the fee includes accommodation, food, transport and an official guide. The country itself stands as a unique blend of ancient and modern, with a deep Buddhist tradition, a focus on environmental protection and the happiness of the people as the government’s highest priority. The location of this safe haven seems as peaceful and serene as the place itself, tucked away in the magnificent mountains between India and China.
Despite its small size, the sultanate of Brunei is multi-faceted. It stands as the last remaining relic of a great naval empire and is now the site of the largest oil fields in Southeast Asia. This contrasts with the carefully protected natural environment with its lush forests, mangroves and rich wildlife that strengthen the image of Brunei as a well ordered ‘abode of peace’. The warmth of the people paired with Bandar Seri Begawan’s extravagant palaces, beautiful mosques and water villages that seem to transport you back in time all constitute to the unparalleled richness Brunei Darussalam has to offer.
The hectic but surprisingly sophisticated city life of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh with its cosmopolitan dining scene and bustling nightlife coexists with the tropical wilderness of the countryside. With ancient and modern colliding in Cambodia, the resulting blend feels like an authentic adventure. The Mekong River, home to some of the region’s last freshwater dolphins and rich wildlife, attract an increasing amount of ecotourism. Cambodia draws in visitors from all over the world. Learn more about the remnants of the mighty Khmer empire that can still be traced through the breathtaking temples of Angkor.
China is a vast land, with a climate ranging from tropical to subarctic. It is a demographic behemoth, with the world’s largest population and a staggering diversity of cultures and languages. It is the world’s oldest continuous civilization, with a rich history spanning millennia and endless potential for the future. It is one of the most fascinating countries in the world, and a traveler’s dream with some of humanity’s most recognisable and beloved landmarks (the Great Wall of China, of course, topping the list). With short-term visa-free stays available in a growing number of cities (for up to 144 hours in some cases), there has never been a better time to visit and try to tame the indomitable Red Dragon.
Georgia began to feature on travel bucket lists seemingly overnight, Tbilisi (the capital) topping all charts imaginable – its nightlife even compared to that of Berlin. And although the word is now well and truly out, Georgia’s riches entice like never before: Tsminda Sameba Church in Stepantsminda (also known as “Kazbegi”), set dramatically against Mt Kazbek glaciers, is the stuff of travel daydreams, and the entire country beckons with outdoor pursuits among the lush greens of pristine nature. The revamped Black Sea resort city of Batumi livens up with vacationers during the summer, beguiling with wine (in the drink’s alleged country of birth) and peerless cuisine.
India has a lot to offer in terms of nature, culture and cuisine. In between exploring the snowy peaks of Himalaya, discovering untouched tropical beaches and observing jungle cats on wildlife safaris, have a taste of Indian cuisine with its aromatic spices and flavors that subvert everything you thought you knew about the region's culinary offerings. The long religious history of the country is reflected in a variety of colorful festivals and the intricate architecture of its sacred sites and temples. Despite the recent economic upturn, poverty, sadly, persists, maintaining a tangible class gap and presenting today's India with major challenges, which by no means takes away from the indisputable pull of this fascinating country of contradictions, a land unlike anything you've experienced before.
Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, is hard to compete with in terms of diversity in landscape, people and culture. It offers an inexhaustible variety of experiences and spots to explore, with every island being vastly different to the next. It is home to the ancient beliefs of the Asmat people of Papua as well as the spiritual Balinese. You will find yourself immersed in the rich culture of Indonesia everywhere you go, be it on the white sandy beaches or whilst exploring one of the nearly 100 volcanoes. Mysterious Indonesia offers a potential for adventure like no other place on Earth.
As normalcy begins to timidly permeate the daily goings-on of Baghdad, the ravaged Iraqi capital, it seems too soon still to speak of the region as a travel destination – a profound shame, for these lands are no less than the cradle of civilization itself. Ancient Babylon and Assyria take root here, to which the remnants of Assyrian Ashur, Parthian Hatra and capital Ctesiphon, and the Sumerian city of Ur serve as testament. While the country’s central and southern parts go on being overwhelmingly off-limits, the north, taken over by the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, boasts surprising many attractions and is relatively secure, safeguarded by its own army and strict border checks, putting the minds of visiting adventurers and volunteers at ease.
Although much has changed in Israel in the last twenty years, travelers will certainly still get a feel for the country’s complex politics. Nevertheless, Israel is a safe place to visit and has many things to offer, from ancient Bedouin culture to diverse landscapes, marked by the exceptional aura of the Dead Sea and the colourful canyon of Makhtesh Ramon. Learn more about this country’s turbulent past and explore the cities of Nazareth and Jerusalem that are steeped in history. Try the abundance of local foods and delicacies like hummus and mezze or experience a modern Israel in one of Tel Aviv’s bars and nightclubs.
Set so firmly in tradition in so many aspects of life, yet always reaching towards the future, Japan manages at once to conform to your expectations, subvert them, and surpass them, surprising you at every corner. The most diverse activities can be considered typically Japanese, from soaking in a countryside onsen to testing your skills at multi-story video arcades, tasting delicacies at Michelin-starred restaurants or cheap street eats, Noh theater, pachinko parlors and karaoke. With endlessly fascinating cities, spectacular natural beauty and a unique cultural landscape, Japan makes for unforgettable travel.
Witness how East and West intertwine in a blend of ancient and modern that is reflected in the culture, values, and traditions of Lebanon. Its capital city Beirut shines as a Mediterranean jewel with its glamorous cosmopolitan city life, beach resorts and the golden architecture around Nijmeh Square. With an abundance of delicious dishes, the cuisine of the country speaks for itself and provides every traveler with another major reason to travel to Lebanon. But this is also a country marked by conflict, devastated by decades of civil war and home to many Syrian and Palestinian refugees – a troubled history that still pulsates through Lebanon's veins. Nonetheless, its people remain hospitable and friendly, and the natural surroundings defy the violence of the past with breathtaking mountain ranges, ancient ruins, and unspoiled landscapes.
There are two sides to the kaleidoscope of cultures that is Malaysia: the uncharted jungle of Malaysian Borneo is home to amusing monkeys and wild orangutans, along with some of the world’s finest diving spots, whereas mainland Malaysia is marked by lively cities – not least the surprisingly futuristic capital of Kuala Lumpur – along with colonial architecture, lush forests and tea plantations, and calm islands not far off the coast.
After almost half a century of military rule, the National League for Democracy won a landslide election in late 2015 (the first democratic election since 1990, which result was overturned by the military), and as the country slowly opens up to the world after the dropping of numerous sanctions, it will soon be hailed as a traveller’s dream. Isolated for so long, Myanmar is a relic of a more traditional Asia, preserved in time and with little in the way of tourist infrastructure. But that will soon change, which makes your visit urgent if you wish to beat the crowds, to take a lazy river cruise, to meander through forests of pagodas, to appreciate the staggering ethnic diversity, and to engage with the country’s kind, curious and generous inhabitants before everyone else gets there. It can be a challenging place for travel, but also an especially rewarding one.
After the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country in 2015, killing thousands and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as historical sights and vital infrastructure, Nepal has endured great hardship. But Nepal is getting back on its feet, successfully reconstructing homes and roads and restoring important temples and monuments, and as a travel destination, the country has lost none of its appeal, none of its charm, and none of its magic. With unrivaled trekking and climbing in some of the world’s most stunning settings, vibrant and colourful cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara and Patan, and abundant historical and spiritual sights, there are few better and more rewarding places to explore. Keep in mind also that money well spent by travellers in Nepal is money that helps to rebuild and preserve the future of the country for locals and visitors alike.
Oman provides travelers with the rare opportunity to experience the Arab world without the distorting filter of flaunted wealth and excessive tourism. At the same time, Oman is a pioneer of a modern Arabia that seems to have found the perfect balance between tradition and innovation. Located on the Arabian Peninsula, surrounded by a breathtaking landscape of hot deserts, with a beautiful coastline along the Persian Gulf and overwhelming mountain ranges, lies Oman: an up-and-coming destination that has much to offer.
Due to serious political instability and major conflicts, Pakistan has been off the radar of most travelers in the last years. Although many visitors have pointed out that the state of the country is painted to be more dire than it really is by Western media, there have been repeated attacks on travel groups and visitors in recent history. As soon as the well-deserved peace for Pakistan comes to its incredibly hospitable people, its vast deserts, ancient ruins and impressive mountains will be accessible to tourists again. To the country’s north, this includes the western part of the Himalaya Mountains, and thus the K2, the second highest mountain in the world.
In recent years, the Philippines have become a popular destination for travelers of all kinds, be it backpackers or families. The over 7000 tropical islands are a paradise for beach lovers, island hoppers, divers and snorkelers. But not only the islands offer a sheer endless range of outdoor and leisure activities. With its trekking and mountain biking routes and the title of 'ziplining capital of the world' the Philippines are the ideal destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Although the megacities of the Philippines will remind you of other metropolises in Southeast Asia, a contrast to the rest of the continent is clearly noticeable due to Spanish and American influences. The only thing that could hinder the success of your trip to the Philippines is the annual monsoon, so keep an eye on the weather forecast when planning.
The often overlooked Qatar is a burgeoning spot for world-class tourism, and its traditional Bedouin roots contrast perfectly with its modern cutting-edge skyscrapers. Located on a small peninsula that stretches out into the Persian Gulf, the tiny country of Qatar prides itself on its particular blend of tradition and modern life. Gawk in amazement at the skyline of Doha from the city’s waterfront promenade, admire the 14 centuries-worth collection of artistic creations at the Museum of Islamic Art or take a stroll around one of the traditional Qatari markets called ‘souqs’. Alternatively, you can feed your need for adrenaline by going on an off-road desert safari across the mighty sand dunes that can be found just south of Doha. If that’s a bit too much, how about heading down to check out The Pearl, a man-made island that snakes out into the sea, complete with luxury villas, themed residential areas, a port and some very particular homes almost entirely surrounded by water.
There has never been a better time to visit Saudi Arabia, and with the eVisa now quick and easy to obtain, planning a trip is finally within the realm of possibility. Going to Saudi Arabia means adventures in the desert, staggeringly pretty beaches, dazzling metropolises, internationally known holy sites and sky-high snowy mountain peaks. Though it is the cradle of Islam and the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad, Saudi Arabia is far from being only a pilgrimage destination. The capital city, Riyadh, nicknamed ‘Queen of the Desert’, is like a polished diamond in a vast sea of rough pebbles. Its futuristic and sophisticated buildings make for a truly interesting contrast with the traditional ways the city is rooted in. Jeddah, the country’s second largest city, boasts an idyllic position on the coast of the Red Sea. Visit Masjid Al Rahma (Jeddah’s floating mosque), admire the old city gates and stroll along the Jeddah Corniche, a 30-km long promenade bordering the seafront, where King Fahd’s Fountain jet the height of a skyscraper shoots up into the warm Saudi air.
One of the world’s top players when it comes to technological innovation, South Korea is constantly evolving, at the cutting edge of fashion, pop culture and entertainment. The capital, Seoul, is a 24-hour megacity abuzz with eclectic shopping, fiery street food, the latest in high-tech gadgets and the pulsating sounds of K-pop, and is the very embodiment of the nation’s unrestrainable nature. But Korea is more than just Seoul, boasting astounding natural beauty and diversity, centuries of fascinating history and a warm and always welcoming population.
Just off the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula, between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, lies the island country of Sri Lanka. Blessed by a tropical climate and deeply rooted in its Buddhist traditions, Sri Lanka is a country whose rich heritage and scenic landscapes have the power to enchant each and every visitor it receives. The country’s commercial capital and largest city, Colombo, is a spellbinding blend of its British-Dutch colonial past and its Buddhist ways, although this is a city of many faiths, with mosques, Christian churches, and a synagogue to vouch for it. Visit the fabulous National Art Gallery, drop by at the welcoming Seema Malaka Buddhist Temple or embark on a Colombo City Tour aboard an open-top double-decker bus with live commentary. A welcome respite from the fast pace of the city awaits at Viharamahadevi Park, a green area with birds chirping from amongst the eucalyptus trees and a large golden Buddha atop a plinth surrounded by spurting jets of water. Alternatively, head down to the waterfront at the Galle Face Green. Here, you can stroll down the promenade and soak in the sweet Sri Lankan sun.
Taiwan is blessed with surprisingly diverse landscapes and climate for such a small landmass. The island nation is a combination of fascinating cities with non-stop entertainment and highly respected cuisine, and natural landscapes of staggering beauty, with lush forests and picturesque mountains and beaches. The western side of the island is an almost uninterrupted chain of cities and urban settlements (one of the most densely populated stretches of land in the world), while the east is largely uninhabited mountains boasting picture-perfect cliffs, gorges and dense tropical forest, each side offering plenty of wonders to discover. It’s not hard to see why the Portuguese dubbed it ‘Ilha Formosa’ (‘Beautiful Island’).
Prized cuisine, sandy beaches, gleaming Buddhist temples and paradisiacal islands all make up Thailand, the quintessential Southeast Asian destination for travelers of the most contrasting passions. Those seeking seclusion and relaxation will relish the spas and resorts, nature-lovers – gawk at steep, lush cliffs of Andaman sea islands, sports enthusiasts will try out surfing and kite-boarding, and absolutely anyone will take pleasure in visiting Chiang Mai, the country’s spiritual capital.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country located in the Arabian Peninsula facing out into the Persian Gulf. Cities in the UAE have certainly come a long way from the humble fishing villages they once were. After the discovery of petrol under the hot sandy soil during the mid-20th century, the city of Dubai decided to team up with six other neighbouring emirates to secure the region’s prosperity. Today, the UAE boasts luxurious metropolises such as Sharjah and Dubai, as well as its dazzling capital, Abu Dhabi. Make your way along the capital’s seafront Corniche as you saunter towards the Emirates Palace, a truly mesmerising gem of a building that dominates the Abu Dhabi coastline. Further up the coast is Dubai, a blend of beach, city and desert. Down by the water there are a number of adrenaline-packed activities to partake in, such as jet-skiing or flyboarding at JBR beach. Out in the desert you can go sandboarding, quad biking and even rent out a hot air balloon for a special occasion. The nearby city of Sharjah is so close to Dubai that the two are adjacent. Although Sharjah is Dubai’s often overlooked neighbour, it truly has very much to offer. Admire the Al Noor Mosque in all its splendour by the shimmering waters of the Persian Gulf or head to the Al-Qasba area and go for a ride on the Eye of the Emirates Wheel.
Vietnam is a true masterpiece of a country in Southeast Asia. From the lively urban centre of Ho Chi Minh City to the stunning beauty of internationally renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites, visiting Vietnam makes for a truly life-changing experience. The capital city, Hanoi, displays a curious mix of Chinese and French influences that come together in a large urban area with a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere. On the northeastern coast of the country is the ever-popular Ha Long Bay. Picture a sea of shimmering turquoise waters within which impressive rock formations stand tall, crowned by the greenest of vegetation and hiding secret grottos decorated with ancient stalactites. Further south is Hoi An, a coastal city of bright yellow houses, endless rice fields and white beaches. Its gorgeous and well-preserved Ancient Town shows off the region’s particular brand of foreign-influenced architecture. In southern Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, a city like no other in the country. With so much to see and do, it is hard to get bored here. From the Museum of Vietnamese History (Bao Tang Lich Su) to the Emperor Jade Pagoda, the Notre Dame Cathedral and ‘Cho Lon’, or Chinatown, Vietnam’s largest city truly is an exciting and diverse cultural hotspot.