9 of the best 'back on the map' countries to visit now

Off the travel radar for a variety of reasons, these countries are back – and ready to reward travellers with epic landscapes, vibrant culture and crowd-free attractions. Here are their top trips...

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1. Lebanon

Kadisha Valley, Lebanon (Shutterstock)

Kadisha Valley, Lebanon (Shutterstock)

Visit majestic ancient ruins and experience the best of Middle Eastern hospitality and cuisine on this unique trekking holiday in the region’s best kept secret, Lebanon.

Emerging from a troubled past, Lebanon is ready to greet the world and this journey along it's mountain trails is the perfect introduction. You’ll walk along the most beautiful sections of the trail, exploring the Roman temple ruins of Baalbek and Crusader sea castles and climbing Qurnat as Sawda', the highest summit of Lebanon at 3088m.

Along the way you’ll sample fine wines at one of Lebanon's vineyards, feast on Levantine cuisine and relax in the 9000-year-old Mediterranean seaside town of Byblos.

Trip: Mountain Trails of Lebanon

Who: KE Adventure Travel

When: Departures May to Oct

How long: Nine days

How much: From £1,075 (exc. flights)

2. Dominica and Antigua

Soufriere village, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Soufriere village, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Having dusted themselves off after the impact of hurricanes Maria and Irma, the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Antigua are back on their feet and welcoming the world to their lush jungle interiors and sugar white beaches. This 14-day adventure with Ramblers Walking Holidays is the best way to experience them, as well as the islands of Martinique and St Lucia.

Hopping from one island to the other by local ferry, you’ll enjoy a series of treks that reveal the unique scenery and culture of these very different islands.

In St Lucia, a fusion of French, British and African traditions await. Martinique has a French Caribbean vibe, as well as a trail that will take you from the Atlantic to its Caribbean Coast. Dominica is famous for its rugged mountains, lush rainforests, rushing rivers, and sparkling waterfalls. Antigua offers rains forest hikes and a beach for every day of the year.

Trip: Caribbean Explorer

Who: Ramblers Walking Holidays

When: Departures Nov, Jan and Feb

How long: 14 nights

How much: £3,995 (inc. flights)

3. Rwanda

Akagera National Park in Rwanda (Shutterstock)

Akagera National Park in Rwanda (Shutterstock)

In 2019, Rwanda marks 25 years of peace as one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Africa. Already famous for the mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park, this stability has opened up new parts of the country that you’ll explore on this 8-day tour of Rwanda with Evaneos. 

This safari will take you through one of the most interesting and off-the-beaten-track places in Rwanda. You’ll encounter wildlife in the rocky highlands and wet plains of Akagera National Park, home to big African game, walk along the shores of Lake Kivu and explore the famous Congo-Nile Divide watershed.

Finally, you’ll visit Virunga and track the endangered mountain gorillas that live on the slopes of the dramatic volcanoes here.

Trip: Rwanda: Akagera And Congo Nile Trail

Who: Evaneos

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Eight days

How much: From £1,170 (exc. flights)

4. Ethiopia

Karo tribe in Omo Valley (Shutterstock)

Karo tribe in Omo Valley (Shutterstock)

With a progressive new government and a massive injection of foreign capital, Ethiopia is moving forward in leaps and bounds. The capital Addis Ababa is buzzing, but for canny travellers it represents a great opportunity to discover the country’s overlooked nature reserves and diverse tribal communities in the Omo Valley.

This journey through untouched Ethiopia with Intreped will take you to the remote home of Omo Valley tribes and Lake Chamo, where crocodiles bask on the shore and hippos wallow within. You’ll visit the Dorze people, famous for their unique bee-hive houses and colourful woven fabrics, and Hamer villages, made entirely of mud. A boat trip across the lake will reveal an abundance of birdlife and a lifestyle that has not changed for centuries.

Trip: Ethiopia Untouched

Who: Intrepid

When: Departures Oct to Apr

How long: Seven days

How much: From £1,200 (exc. flights)

5. Turkey

Kars in eastern Turkey (Shutterstock)

Kars in eastern Turkey (Shutterstock)

Explore a part of Turkey that is only just opening its doors to the world, on this journey along the country’s Black Sea coast and into its north-eastern interior with Peregrine.

Starting in Kars, near the Armenian border, you’ll explore the ancient ruins of Ani, before travelling back along the Black Sea through the historic towns of Amaysa and Safranbolu.

From sampling regional specialities like saffron-flavoured Turkish delight to relaxing on the Black Sea’s coast, history buffs, food lovers and sun seekers will all enjoy this Turkish trip, a unique taste of traditional Turkey in a country that is changing rapidly.

Trip: Northern Turkey Explorer

Who: Peregrine

When: Departures Sep to Nov & Feb to May

How long: 12 days

How much: From £960 (exc. flights)

6. Russia

St. Basil's Cathedral and Spassky Tower on Red Square (Shutterstock)

St. Basil's Cathedral and Spassky Tower on Red Square (Shutterstock)

After the success of the World Cup, Russia is well and truly back on every traveller’s radar. This one week journey between the country’s two most exciting cities with Tucan Travel is the perfect introduction to Russian culture.

Your first stop is Moscow, where you’ll explore Lenin’s mausoleum, wander the Kremlin’s red brick towers and gaze over the city’s iconic onion domes, including the flamboyant St Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square.

By contrast, St Petersburg offers a ‘window to the west’, with a Venetian-style canal network, neo-classical architectural style and European-influenced sophistication. You’ll never look at Russia the same way again.

Trip: Russian Highlights

Who: Tucan Travel

When: Departures May to Sep

How long: Seven days

How much: From £509 (exc. flights)

7. Pakistan

Hunza River in northern Pakistan (Shutterstock)

Hunza River in northern Pakistan (Shutterstock)

Despite the negative images painted by the press, some areas in Pakistan – particularly around the mountains of the north – are warm and hospitable and a great place to travel. Offering amazing treks, interesting historical sites and plenty of interaction with the locals, this mountain adventure with Wild Frontiers is guaranteed to change perceptions.

Journeying from the plains through the mountains of the north, you’ll walk the Babusar Pass and Kaghan Valley to the high-altitude Deosai Plateau. You’ll experience the surreal landscapes of Skardu, the towering Nanga Parbat at Fairy Meadows and majestic Rakaposhi in Hunza.

You’ll clamber across the forts of Baltit, Mastuj and Chitral and enjoy fresh apricots in the otherworldly valleys of the Kalash. With departures timed to include the Uchaw Summer Festival or the Shandur Polo Festival, this trip has it all.

Trip: Pakistan: Summer Mountain Explorer

Who: Wild Frontiers

When: Departures Jun & Aug

How long: 22 days

How much: From £3,395 (exc. flights)

8. Bosnia

Mostar (Shutterstock)

Mostar (Shutterstock)

What a difference 20 years makes. With its glorious countryside, hearty cuisine and historical monuments (both ancient and modern), Bosnia and Herzegovina should be a destination on every traveller's wish list.

On this tailor-made tour with Regent Holidays, you’ll experience everything that makes this part of the Balkans so special. With your own private car and driver-guide, you’ll tour Sarajevo’s Old Town, enjoy a hearty meal at a family home in Bosnia’s most isolated village, and explore the Franciscan church and monastery of Kraljeva Sutjeska.

You’ll also see Jajce’s impressive city centre waterfall, admire Mostar’s famous bridge and discover Blagaj’s 15th century dervish monastery, beautifully situated at the source of the River Buna beneath a 200 metre cliff.

Trip: Bosnia in Depth

Who: Regent Holidays

When: Jun

How long: 10 days

How much: From £1,595

9. Nicaragua

The cathedral in Granada, Nicaragua (Shutterstock)

The cathedral in Granada, Nicaragua (Shutterstock)

With a beguiling mix of colonial cities, tranquil countryside and indigenous culture, Nicaragua is fast becoming Central America’s hottest destination. You’ll experience everything that it has to offer on this 10-day adventure with Journey Latin America.

Following a history of political and economic upheavals, Nicaragua is now enthusiastically receiving visitors. You’ll explore the cobbled streets of the continent's finest Spanish colonial cities, Granada and León, sail across Lake Nicaragua to the volcanic island of Ometepe, and discover the bucolic countryside with its cattle farms and coffee plantations.

Add a side trip to the little-visited Caribbean gem, the Corn Islands, and you’ll understand why Nicaragua is fast becoming a favourite with discerning travellers.

Trip: Signature Nicaragua: Fire, Water And Revolution

Who: Journey Latin America

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: 10 days

How much: From £2,141 (exc. flights)


This article was first published in April 2019. Consult and follow the UK Foreign Office's travel advice (or your country's equivalent) before booking your trip.

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