For the 21st Annual Wanderlust Travel Awards, we asked our readers to vote for the places around the world that have captured their imagination and inspired their wanderlust.
From sustainability hotspots to some of the most impressive heritage attractions in the world, these are the top ten most desirable countries in the world, outside of Europe.
If there was a country that captured the essence of Wanderlust, it would have to be Jordan, so we’re pleased to see this Middle Eastern nation make it into our top ten. The UNESCO-listed site of Petra is its main attraction, but its many other historic ruins should not be dismissed. Meanwhile, the Wadi Rum desert is a natural landscape often called 'otherworldly', and calls out to adventurers wanting to enjoy an authentic Bedouin experience, discover ancient art and seek out the extraordinary rock formations. And this is all before you hit the cities.
South Africa has many sides worth exploring. From safaris in search of the Big Five in Kruger and other lesser-known national parks, to exploring the vibrant cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg. There’s also plenty of indigenous experiences help you to immerse yourself in the life of local tribes. And for wine lovers, the Rainbow nation is the number one place to come to sip on chardonnay in a luscious vineyard setting.
South Korea has often been overlooked by travellers heading to Asia, but not anymore as the country of contrasts is becoming better known. From the futuristic metropolitans of Seoul to the more traditional icons of Jeonju (with its unmissable hanok houses and a UNESCO-listed gastronomy), the cities here are abuzz with something for everyone. Away from the crowds, South Korea’s mountains and forested national parks call out to those seeking more natural settings.
With more archaeological sites than any other South American country, Peru has some of the world’s greatest adventures. Sure, Machu Picchu is great, but don’t stop there, as there are many more Andean attractions less visited by tourists. For city exploring, head to Cusco and find streets still filled with local mountain people wearing their traditional colourful costumes.
Only opening to international travel in October 2022, our readers have been dreaming of Japan for a long time now, and we are so excited to get back! The country needs little introduction, with Tokyo being known for its fast-pace, bright lights and futuristic attractions, while cities like Kyoto have a more traditional charm. Whether you’re visiting for temple touring, mountain hiking, food devouring or scenic soaking i(n an onsen), you’ll leave Japan desperate to return.
Squeezing into the top five Most Desirable Countries (Rest of World) is the United States of America, and we don’t think it’s necessarily for the big hitters such as New York City and Los Angeles. We know our Wanderlust readers are seeking the road less travelled, and the USA has plenty of that. Discover the secrets of New England, the Deep South’s musical delights, rail journeys through the Colorado Rockies and epic hikes on the Pacific Coast. Travelling in the USA is nothing short of spectacular, it’s just choosing where to start.
A long-time favourite of a travellers searching for an outdoor adventure, New Zealand (or Aotearoa) usually makes an appearance as a finalist at our awards. With its North and South islands offering mountains, fjords, beaches, starry skies and spectacular wildlife, it’s no surprise people find it difficult to leave this paradise on Earth. We strongly suggest being guided by local Māori to appreciate this sacred land from an indigenous point of view. While here, don’t forget to explore New Zealand’s fantastic urban side, too.
Beating its South Pacific neighbour into bronze position is Australia. Last year’s winner is still continuing to inspire our readers with its endless adventures, from its ancient aboriginal culture and vast outback, to the colourful coral reef systems and cool coastal cities with growing cultural scenes. Let’s not forget the weird and wonderful native wildlife that can only be found here too. Australia is an epitome of a bucket list destination.
Another vast land with more spectacular travel experiences than you can shake a stick at, Canada’s varied provinces just keep us coming back for more. Atlantic Canada boasts coastlines full of beaches, various cultures and plenty of lobster, while regions further west have dream-like national parks with moose, bears and indigenous communities. Head to the northern territories to get really remote, searching for northern lights and polar bears.
Is there anywhere quite like Costa Rica? We don't think so, and that's why this Wanderlust favourite has taken the top spot for our readers' Most Desirable Country (Rest of World). This Central American gem is a pioneer of sustainable tourism, with its extraordinary rainforest, volcanoes and paradise shores home to more than 500,000 species, including sloths, toucans and sea turtles. So, how about booking that eco lodge and having a trip of a lifetime?
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