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This summer, most tourists will head to well-trodden destinations like Rome, Paris and Tokyo. To escape the crowds, consider venturing instead to these lesser-known, but equally compelling countries.


Situated in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of East Africa, Madagascar is a land of lush jungles and baobab trees. Spy lemurs and other wildlife in Ranomafana Rainforest or check out the jaw-dropping rock formations in Isalo National Park. The island is a paradise for hikers and nature-lovers.


It may be tiny, but this South American island packs in plenty of charm. Colonialism and trade shaped Guyana’s history, which is why English remains the dominant language and cricket is a national obsession. Groove to the sounds of calypso music or dine on exceptional local cuisine in the capital city of Georgetown.


While years of travel advisory warnings have caused most tourists to shy away Iran, those who fly into Tehran will discover a culturally rich nation and a warm, hospitable people. From the lavishly mosaics of Esfahan to the ruins of Persepolis, there is much to see here. Persian cuisine is also some of the most sophisticated in the world, making nightly feasts an essential part of any trip.


One of the most sparsely populated nations on Earth offers travellers an experience truly unlike any other. Travellers looking for five-star creature comforts may not find Mongolia to their taste, but for the adventurous at heart, its appeal is enormous. Roam the vast windswept plains or stay with a local nomadic family to connect with this ancient, enigmatic culture.


Although Albania barely registers with most travellers, this country on the Balkan Peninsula is geographically similar to Italy and Greece. Unlike in those über-popular destinations, here you can have gorgeous stretches of coastline all to yourself. History-lovers can also explore the area’s many archeological sites or wander the scenic streets of Tirana.


With its palm-fringed beaches and a wealth of biodiversity, this southern African country is a pleasure to discover. Journey to the Bazaruto Archipelago, where wild dugongs swim, or soak up the solar rays on the sugar-sand shoreline of Tofo. The Portuguese left a trail of picturesque colonial architecture in their wake and whale sharks often ply the waters just off the coast.


Oh, Canada. While it sometimes languishes in the shadow of its bigger, brasher southern cousin, travellers should not overlook this northern nation. Not only does it boast vast expanses of unspoiled wilderness populated by grizzly bears, wolves, moose and other charismatic megafauna, but it’s also incredibly culturally diverse. From the breathtaking scenery of Vancouver to the vibrant nightlife of Montreal to the phenomenal French-Canadian food of Quebec, there’s truly something for everyone here.

The Philippines

Consisting of a sprawling archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is a dream for scuba-divers, snorkellers and sun-worshippers. Party like a rockstar on hedonistic Boracay or head to Palawan for superlative natural bliss. Best of all, while shores in other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand suffer from overcrowding, many of the white-sand beaches here are still under the radar.


This South American nation is blessed with otherworldly beauty. The Salar de Uyuni, also known as the Bolivian salt flats, consist of a 11,000-sq.-km salt-encrusted expanse as barren as the surface of the moon. When it rains, shallow pools gather on the ground, transforming the whole landscape into a surreal mirror of the sky.


Question: where can you swim in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and trek through ancient Mayan ruins? This tiny Central American country is home to the Belize Barrier Reef, a treasure trove of marine biodiversity, not to mention lush rainforests teeming with life. Belize is also remarkably safe, reasonably affordable, and largely free from the hordes of tourists that swarm all over popular Caribbean isles like St. Barts.



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