Top Travel Destinations 2018
Adventure travel couldn’t be more exciting this year! Plenty of off the beaten track destinations are becoming more accessible for the would-be traveler. If your looking for adventure, then look no further. This kind of travel is not for everyone, but if you enjoy traveling where locals outnumber tourists, and culture is abundant then take a trip to the parts unknown. Uncharted Backpackers top 12 Obscure destinations is your guide to the unusual, but completely enthralling destinations this year. Forget travel trends, and join me on my adventure away from the tourist trail.
Making the top of my list is the Sultanate of Oman. This traditional Arabian land is tucked away near to Iran and Saudi Arabia. As instability surrounds Oman its hard to believe that such a tranquil paradise in the Middle East exists. Here instead of building massive feats of engineering like UAE, Oman focuses its oil wealth on maintaining the culture of its people. This is demonstrated in all walks of life, buildings must be constructed in Omani fashion, and locals tend to wear the traditional Dish Dash and Abiyah instead of western clothing.
Oman’s stunning nature is also not to be missed. Gorgeous dramatic mountains with canyons reminisce of the Grand Canyon in the USA, hidden oasis’s that can be found through epic hikes, and shimmering sand dunes in one of the world largest sand seas! Oman is an adventure waiting to happen.
Papua New Guinea
When it comes to rough and tough places I have traveled, Papua New Guinea takes gold. Tourism has not quite made it to PNG making it one of the least visited countries on earth! When it comes to adventure travel I can honestly tell you Papua New Guinea is incredible!
Think remote uncharted jungles, lost tribes who still live the way they have for centuries and some of the best tribal festivals on the planet. Papua New Guinea rewards those travelers brave enough to venture to this far flung island nation with true authentic traveling experiences.
Papua New Guinea can be visited on a low budget as well. I spent over a month in the island of Papua and I can tell you that there are many ways to keep your costs low and experiences high. With a few guest houses opening up, and many churches opening their doors to tourists, budget travel is actually quite simple. Unfortunately, excursions and flights are still pricey, but that just means you will have to endure overland travel!
Sure Indonesia has ultra touristy spots like Bali, and Java, but there is so much more to see! With over seventeen thousand islands its easy to find yourself lost and far from any tourist’s radar. Each inhabited island has its own language, culture and customs making travel through Indonesia feel like multiple smaller countries.
My personal favourite island is Borneo. Borneo technically is divided into three smaller countries, with Indonesia taking up the largest chunk called Kalimantan. Here dense jungles are inhabited by shy orangutans and tribal head-hunters known as Dayaks.
I also love traveling to the bizarre funeral processions in Sulawesi, and the culturally rich Irian Jaya for hiking and tribal strays.
This far eastern region of Africa is home to some of the worlds most fascinating tribes, epic landscapes and ancient sights. Whatever direction you turn Ethiopia provides you with a complexly different experience.
In Northern Ethiopia you will find the rock hewn church’s of Lalibela, said to have been built by angels. Further up field you will also find the remnants of ancient Axum an empire that once rivalled Egypt.
Head to southern Ethiopia and you will be shocked by the nomadic tribes of the Lower Omo Valley. Here, tribes adorn themselves with lip discs, scarification, and preform ceremonies where young ones are required to leap along the backs of angry bulls.
The Eastern Muslim regions of Ethiopia are another complete contrasts. Here fortified towns welcome Hyenas from the desert and befriend them in the city of Harar. You will also find some of the most inhospitable, but geologically amazing deserts here featuring active volcanoes and bubbling sulphur lakes.Cathedral of Saint George, Lalibela, Ethiopia
The great Steppe, home of Genghis Khan and countless nomadic minorities. Mongolia’s landscape is barren, but the eerie openness makes it decisively beautiful. Life on the Mongol Steppe is hard, with such harsh weather and bleak resources Mongolia’s people have found ways to prosper.
Here you can visit Nomadic tribes that still hunt with eagles, ride reindeer, and make homes in some very remote places. Travel in Mongolia is reserved for those travelers who like the rougher side of travel. On the Steppe there’s no sign of western comforts, but those who brave it here will tell you they love it!
Mongolia also has great opportunities for the outdoorsmen. Here you can fish in the pristine lakes, hike with Kazaks in the western mountains, ride horses in the footsteps of Genghis Khan on the Steppe, and off road through the Gobi Desert. Mongolia is for the outdoorsy traveler!
Tibet, known as the roof of the world. Tibet occupies the highest regions of the Himalaya in China, and features the majority of the world’s highest and most spiritual mountains. Tibet is also famed for its ancient Buddhist and Bon traditions, which can be found in every aspect of Tibetan culture.
Tibet has an amazing array of rich cultural sights and outlandish outdoor opportunities. Tibet has many fortified cities that will make you feel as if you have stepped back into medieval times. Walk these cobble stone streets to see monks murmuring Buddhist chants, wafting juniper incense filling the air, and trumpets blasting from the nearby temples. Enter the monasteries and see pilgrims from all regions of Tibet coming together and lighting butter lamps, it’s a deeply spiritual experience!
Outside the cities looming in the distance are deserts, emerald blue lakes, ancient forests, and the world’s highest altitude peaks. Head into the wilderness on a traditional Tibetan journey to superfy your Karma, and find inner peace, Tibet really has it all!
See Tibetan Highlands Tours for real Tibetan run trips!
Mention you just came back from Uzbekistan to your friends and you’ll be sure to get looks of confusion. This however should not be the case. Uzbekistan is full of incredible cultures, gorgeous scenery, and a rich Silk Road culture teeming with some of the fanciest mosques I have ever seen.
Uzbekistan before was know for its difficulties obtaining the visa, now its becoming easier and easier. The ATM’s now accept foreign credit cards in the ATM’s meaning you do not have to bring in USD or Euros to exchange (you still should bring some!).
The best thing about Uzbekistan is tourism has not quite flourished here yet. The majority of the amazing sights I had all to myself. The Uzbek people are also known for their hospitality. Often you will be invited in for tea or given a free tour!
Pakistan is now seeing tourists trickle in to its northern areas. With high altitude Himalayan hikes that rival Nepal, and deep rooted tribal cultures hidden in the remote Hindu Kush valleys, Pakistan should be set on your traveler radar.
Most travelers to Pakistan focus their journey on the Karakoram Highway. This highway starts from the Northern border with China and cuts through the Himalayas all the way to the capital Islamabad. This highway is popular for its death defying roads, incredible valleys of Passu and Hunza, and Himalayan scenery that is so jagged and beautiful it will keep you coming back.
My visit to Pakistan I followed Karakoram highway and turned off to Chitral. Chitral is for the adventurous. Here tribes of Greek decent occupy the valleys claiming Ancestry to Alexander the Great.
As I travelled through Chitral I ventured into the buzzing bazaar city of Peshawar, the tribal regions of the Khyber, the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Swat, and the Punjab capital of Lahore. Pakistan is one of my favourites.
Beautiful white sand beaches, colourful colonial Spanish cities, and a cool revolutionary history. The Caribbean nation of Cuba makes it on the list for obvious reason. Now with tensions between Cuba and the new president of the USA things are getting more interesting.
Cuba is now restricted for American citizens, but Cuba itself is not implementing any restrictions so travel is not impossible. For everyone else Cuba’s doors are wide open. The country is also a dream to backpack. For such a touristy and resort filled country, Cuba actually doesn’t see much for independent travel. Many places you will find all to yourself.
With Cuba’s government allowing its people to open independent business the nation is going through a culinary and guest house boom. This makes for great home stays, and what used to be known as a country with bland food now has a complete culinary makeover.
Riding scooter is now becoming available in the majority if Cuba’s hot spots. Having your own wheels lets you explore the unknown areas of Cuba, and trust me there is plenty of Uncharted territory here! Get to Cuba before the crowds do!
Iran has been seeing travelers for a few years now, but with embargo’s making travel bans for American, Canadian and British nationals, Iran has seen a plunge in tourism. Luckily late last year much of these embargos have been lifted as has the ban on tourism, accept Americans, you still need a tour.
Getting a visa is not as complicated as you think. Just go through an online agency or go directly to your nearest embassy. Try Iranvisa, I used it to get my visa in Istanbul.
Iran makes the list for its ancient Persian ruins, great outdoors opportunities, and its rich culture tracing roots to its ancient origins. Much of Iran that was closed off to foreigners is now completely open up! Including those erm propaganda based sights.
The hermit nation of North Korea is believed to be an impossible destination to travel, this is entirely untrue. Yes, you must go on a government run tour, but these tours are pushing the boundaries more than ever before! No longer do you have to stick to the tourist trail, more and more interesting new places and experiences are becoming readily available making it easier to peer into this closed society.
My latest trip to North Korea I bounced from one beach to another up North Koreas remote Northern coast learning and teaching North Koreans how to surf. We ventured deep into the remote mountains of the Northern regions, stopping in small villages and fabled rivers of stone.
Many opt out of traveling to North Korea due to the ongoing political strife, but don’t let this stop you. The chance to see such a closed nation is not only an amazing opportunity for you, it also breaks the barriers between North Koreans and the outside world.
Check out some of Uri Tours Trips to North Korea!
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is tucked neatly in between India, Nepal and Tibet. Only opening its doors a few decades ago to outsiders, this kingdom has kept more traditional than almost anywhere else on earth. This is because of the king’s strict rules to outside businesses, and keeping things Bhutanese.
Bhutan has also kept its tourist impact low. This makes things expensive, but great for those who decide to venture here. Bhutan is also the first carbon neutral country on earth, making it one of the cleanest and freshest destinations I have ever been to.
With such a rich and vibrant culture, clean nature and non touristy sights, Bhutan is one of the best destinations for travelers at anytime of the year!
Check out some off the beaten track tours with Druk Asia, the company I went to Bhutan with!