Some of us are the wanderlust-filled type. Always heading down the not-so-well-trod track rather than joining our fellow sun seekers over garish cocktails topped with paper umbrellas. And we are not exactly typical. A recent survey from Lastminute.com revealed that 62% of us seek the same holiday year after year, with sunshine-addled beach breaks holding the ‘most popular’ crown.
But for those who do want to explore, the study also shows that 70% of people have unfulfilled travel dreams. So it is time to get started on your global exploration. Check out these up-and-coming destinations still untapped enough to be affordable.
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Georgia is an atmospheric country – a Eurasian crossroads with a deep, strange history. Travel writer Rick Steves says of Tbilisi old town: ‘Decay becomes beautiful in this charming Tbilisi neighbourhood. Abandoned churches and crumbling foundations blend handsomely with ornately carved balconies, grapevines and a buzz of life’.
A country of rugged mountain landscapes with plunging valleys, vineyards and hilltop watchtowers, Georgia is far removed from the Chiantishire crowds. You’ll receive the warmest hospitality from the resilient and proud Georgians, whether you’re sampling excellent local vintages in funky wine bars or buying walnuts from a babushka at the metro station.
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Once upon a time, mysterious, closed Albania ruled by King Zog was the stuff of legends. Gradually, only brave backpackers ventured within her borders to discover… an absolute delight.
Lisa Eldridge of GirlabouttheGlobe says: ‘Albania. What do I love about it? It has mountains, it has beaches, UNESCO sites, and it has a very colourful capital city with great bars and restaurants.’
You no longer have to be intrepid to visit Albania, but travelling around still feels like an adventure.
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Previously a war-torn, no-go country even as late as the 1990s, Vietnam is resurging as a must-visit destination. It’s inexpensive once you’re there – £35 a day covers decent accommodation, food, travel and sightseeing. If you love cities, head to Hanoi. Its yellow French colonial architecture backdrops the frenetic sensory-assault from yelling hawkers, beeping mopeds and scents of lemongrass and garlic from the street food vendors. Little pools of calm include the old quarter and Hoan Kiem lake where both the young and elderly play chess and practise t’ai chi.
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Serbia’s party scene is not to be underestimated. As one of the world’s top clubbing destinations, Belgrade rivals even Berlin, and hosts the EXIT Festival
in Novi Sad. If you’re not into underground techno, you’ll find more diurnal delights outside Belgrade. The art nouveau architecture of Subotica echoes Gaudi’s Barcelona. Multicultural, medieval Novi Pazar with its Ottoman minarets and Serbian Orthodox domes hints at Serbia’s complex history, and the mountainous region of Zlatibor is Alpine in all but name and price tag.
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Prices for accommodation, food and transport are low in this seldom-travelled gem. The capital, Tallinn, has one of Europe’s loveliest medieval walled cities at its heart, all winding streets, cobblestones, gabled houses, as well as the domed St Mary’s Cathedral. Rummage in the Russian flea market opposite the train station for vintage crockery, enjoy some avant-garde performances at the Von Krahl Theatre and see the Museum of Contemporary Art, as much for its stunning glass and limestone building as for the exhibits.
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Often overlooked in favour of the more high-profile South American destinations (Peru and Brazil), Bolivia is cheaper (get by on £30 per day) but no less exciting. La Paz, the bustling capital city ringed with snow-capped mountains, is an eye opener, while nature lovers can tour the Amazon Rainforest and the Pampas, looking out for howler monkeys and capybaras. Oh, and don’t miss the Bolivian Salt Flats – an eerily silent, blinding white lunar landscape, dotted with flamingos.
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The surreal, parched New Mexico desert was as much the star of Breaking Bad as Walter White, but don’t let all that malarky put you off. Everything in volcanic New Mexico is big, hot and deep – from the 80ft-deep warm Blue Hole pool, brilliant gypsum White Sands to the huge starry night skies, clear enough to see the Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye. Outdoor types love New Mexico’s forests, natural hot springs, limestone cave systems, intriguing rock formations and troglodyte dwellings dotted with mystical petroglyphs. And when you’ve had your fill of natural phenomena, fill up on New Mexico’s cheap and idiosyncratic cuisine.
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Everybody thinks they know Spain, but there are still little pockets of undiscovered Iberian loveliness. Galicia is one, and it’s cheaper than the Costas of the south because of its popularity with Spanish families.
The main reason to visit Galicia is its seafood, widely recognised as the best in the country. Tapas bars here are some of Spain’s most exciting. Sample razor clams, squid, cockles, and Galicia’s national dish, boiled octopus.