With the promise of a vaccine in the near future, individuals across the globe have set their sights on their next vacation, with many nations anticipating a surge in tourism as travel becomes feasible once again. Some countries – France, Italy, and the Netherlands, to name a few – have been popular destinations for decades, but certain others are severely underrated when it comes to tourism. While these five nations tend to fly under the radar, each one is equipped with abundant natural beauty, a fascinating culture, and a rich history that will turn any visitor into a lifelong fan.
Located on the eastern edge of South Africa, this tiny nation gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1968 and is one of the few remaining countries on earth to be governed with an absolute monarchy system. Despite the country’s small size, Eswatini is home to a surprisingly diverse array of landscapes, ranging from the highlands of the northwest to the wildlife-laden southeastern grasslands. For those hoping to spot native African species in their natural habitat, few destinations can compare to Mkhaya Game Reserve, a protected region that’s rife with indigenous Nguni cattle alongside antelope, hippos, buffalo, and a surprisingly large amount of white and black rhinoceroses.
Dominated by towering volcanic peaks and lush rainforest, this Caribbean nation was once known as the “Helen of the West Indies” thanks to its spectacular beauty. While the island’s interior is largely pristine wilderness, the perimeter of Saint Lucia is lined with blissful sandy beaches and fascinating settlements, including the capital city Castries as well as the former French capital, Soufrière. An ideal destination for those in search of fine drinking and dining experiences, Saint Lucia is home to a blended food scene that incorporates British, French, and Caribbean elements as well as a booming rum industry.
A former Yugoslavian nation, this country draws its name from Macedonia, a historic region that’s best known as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. The national capital, Skopje, is a particularly interesting destination thanks to its high concentration of historic relics, ranging from the 6th-century Skopje Fortress to the Skopje Aqueduct. For a truly idyllic experience, pay a visit to the western reaches of North Macedonia, where Lake Ohrid lies in wait for eager travelers. One of the oldest lakes in all of Europe, this scenic body of water is lined with traditional architecture, picturesque beaches, and a wealth of opportunities for hiking and wildlife spotting.
A nation dominated by water, roughly one third of this African state consists of Lake Malawi, the fourth-largest freshwater lake on earth by volume. This titanic body of water is a particularly prominent tourist destination, coming equipped with idyllic beaches as well as a spectacular snorkeling scene thanks to the lake’s large number of colorful endemic fish. After spending time lounging lakeside, visitors should make the trek south to Liwonde National Park, a prominent reserve that was established back in 1973. Though the park is best known for its high concentration of elephants, there are also opportunities to spot buffalo, rhinoceroses, cheetahs, and a vast array of native bird species as well.
Home to roughly eighty volcanic islands, the Pacific nation of Vanuatu gained independence from both France and the United Kingdom in 1980. This idyllic archipelago is rife with incredible snorkeling experiences, allowing visitors to spot sea turtles, tropical fish, colorful reefs, and even the elusive dugong, a close relative of the manatee. Be sure to spend an ample amount of time on land as well – Vanuatu is packed full of steaming jungles and jagged peaks, with many ambitious hikers choosing to trek to the ridge of Mount Yasur, an active volcano located on Tanna Island.