18 Under-The-Radar Destinations You Need To Visit In 2018
Ah, it’s that time of year again: New Year, new me. But instead of trying to find yourself in new fitness goals (guilty!), why not plan a trip to an under-the-radar destination to start your 2018 off right!
Although I am a sucker for the big tourist destinations, it’s nice to get off the well-beaten path. After all, these are the places are rich in culture and lacking in massive tourist crowds! I reached out to top travel bloggers to ask what under-the-radar destinations they’d recommend visiting in 2018, and here they are!
18 Under-The-Radar Destinations You Need To Visit in 2018
Recommended by Meghna Malhotra and Pushkaraj Mahajan of Trailing Abroad.
While Tanzania is synonymous with Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti National Park, few head to this magnificent country for its beaches. Of those who do, most end up in Zanzibar. But for our first wedding anniversary getaway, we decided to explore Pemba.
Pemba is a relatively unheard of island off the coast of Zanzibar. Think of vast stretches of chalk white beaches, endless greenery to soothe your soul and heartwarming locals. That’s Pemba in a nutshell. Known for its spectacular and pristine dive sites, this hidden gem is frequented by all those bitten by the scuba bug.
We spent a week in this paradise and loved the idyllic and relaxed state of affairs. During our sojourn, we sampled fresh spices at a local spice farm, visited the Ngezi rainforest, enjoyed a picnic on a private beach, spotted tons of jellyfish, learnt some Swahili and went on a sunset cruise aboard the Ngalawa (a local boat built from naturally sourced, environment friendly material).
Pemba is the ideal under-the-radar destination for those looking to indulge in nature’s bounties while detoxifying from the digital world. It only takes a short visit to this island to realize how beautiful life can be.
Recommended by Yariella Coello of The Beauty Backpacker.
When you think of Brazil, you think beaches, caipirinhas and the wildlife of the Amazon. But there is so much more to explore in this vast country beyond the sunshine and samba. As the largest country in Latin America, its sheer biodiversity will blow your mind.
But there is one destination that has flown under-the-radar: the Pantanal. Instead, its big sister – the Amazon – seems to get all the limelight.
Let’s hope this changes soon because these incredible wetlands are the largest in the world! They’re 10 times larger than Florida’s Everglades. Half of the year they are submerged in water, but when they disappear, the most beautiful savannah and jungle emerge. And with that come the jaguars, the tapirs, the deer, the capybara (the largest rodents on earth), the caiman and the anacondas. With the area being so flat, wildlife spotting is much better than in a traditional rainforest.
So go! Get there soon, before the Insta-crowd arrives and savour the magic of this under-the-radar destination all to yourself.
Southern Oregon, USA
Recommended by Leigh Wilson of Campfires & Concierges.
Southern Oregon is a great under-the-radar destination in the Northwest United States. With over 200 days of sunshine per year, Southern Oregon and the Rogue River Valley has something for everyone!
Medford, Oregon is the heart of the Rogue River Valley and makes a great base for exploring this region for a few days. Ashland and Grants Pass are smaller towns in the region that also offer tourist facilities. Ashland itself is home to a very popular Shakespeare festival in the summer.
Wine drinkers will find dozens of vineyards and tasting rooms, with guided tours available. Beer drinkers will also be happy to know there are many breweries in the region, many of which can be found along the Medford Ale Trail.
For nature lovers, Crater Lake National Park is a must for any Southern Oregon itinerary. Of course, there is an endless amount of hiking in the region as well.
Lastly, the Rogue River is an attraction of its own! You can take a jet-boat tour for the day, or join a multi-day whitewater rafting excursion. Backpackers can follow the river on the Rogue River trail.
Recommended by Campbell and Alya of Stingy Nomads.
Botswana is one of these countries people don’t know much about. But it’s an amazing country to travel and has so much to discover! Botswana is all about nature. There’s the Okavango Delta, Moremi, Chobe National park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier park, Makgadikgadi Pan.
What kind of animals can you see in Botswana? The famous African Big 5: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Plus there’s the chance to see cheetahs, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, hippos, foxes, meerkats, all sort of deer and many birds, especially in the Okavango Delta.
The best way to experience Botswana is to do a mokoro (local canoe) river tour where you can spot hippos, elephants, crocodiles and many water birds. If you’re not on a tight budget, you can do a helicopter tour. It will give you a chance to appreciate the size and beauty of the Okavango Delta, with hundreds of water ways forming it.
So if you like wildlife, camping in the nature, watching animals and birds and want to get unforgettable travel experience Botswana is the under-the-radar destination to visit!
Recommended by Matilda of The Traveling Sisters.
Although Vientiane is the capital and largest city in Laos, it’s often unfairly overlooked by some visitors to Laos who head to the more popular cities of Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang instead.
Unlike many large cities in Southeast Asia, this under-the-radar destination has a relaxed vibe without all the noise, chaos and crowds. That doesn’t mean that Vientiane is boring with nothing to see or do! Vientiane is a charming, pleasant and historic city easily explored by foot, bike or tuk tuk. Wandering around its tree-lined streets rewards you with magnificent Buddhist temples, beautiful French colonial architecture, street markets and monks going about their daily routine.
Vientiane is not the type of destination experienced with a to-do list. It is best explored leisurely and with an eye out for its charms. In fact, one of the top things to do in Vientiane is to watch the sunset along the river with friends and some beer!
Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Recommended by Lisa of The Hot Flash Packer.
Ethiopia is generally overlooked by most. But one of the fastest growing tourist destinations of this country is the Danakil Depression, a desert sandwiched between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It’s home to the 6th lowest place and the hottest inhabited place on earth.
Due to border disputes, the only way to visit this place is by tour group with armed Afar guards. The tours of 2-4 days visit some of the most unusual locations on earth.
First up is the salt lake, a shallow lake of salt with amazing reflections and sunsets. Watch the camel trains go by with their daily load of salt, mined by local men. The following day you’re off to Dallol, home to incredible shapes and yellow and green mineral deposits.
The most incredible site in the Danakil Depression is the Erte Ale volcano. One of only six active lava lakes in the world. It’s an adventure just to get there – first driving a bumpy 1.5 hours over 12 km of dried lava to base camp, then a hike of 10 km over sand and lava to reach the rim. Another 20 minutes hiking over sharp, fresh lava from a January 2017 eruption gets you to the view of the molten hot lava below!
With hardly another tourist in sight, the Danakil Depression is a great under-the-radar destination to explore in 2018!
Dawson City, Canada
Recommended by Kati of Queensland And Beyond.
Unless you’re into fossicking and gold panning, you probably haven’t heard of Dawson City. The Yukon capital was the epicentre of the Klondike gold rush in the 1890s. With a population of 2,000 people in the summer, it’s still an under-the-radar destination even for most Canadians!
To experience a bit of gold rush for yourself, you’ll need to head into Canada’s far north: Yukon territory. You’re not far from the Arctic Circle so pack some things to keep you warm at night!
Yukon itself is incredible: It’s raw, wild and beautiful, and there’s tons to do. But no visit to Yukon would be complete without visiting Dawson City. It’s the perfect place for soaking up that gold rush fever and feeling like you’ve stepped into times gone by. Despite tourism, it’s kept its otherworldly charm with carefully restored buildings and sights all around.
For a small, dusty town, it’s full of places to explore and will keep you busy for at least two or three days, even if you’re not into history or the crazy gold rush. You could wander the streets by yourself or join one of the excellent walking tours offered by Canada Parks (seriously, they are fabulous). Poke around Jack London’s cabin, head up to Midnight Dome to see Dawson and the Yukon River, pan for gold along Bonanza Creek, learn more about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nations, or paddle the Yukon River for outdoor fun.
Summer is the best time to visit, but book ahead as the few accommodation options (including RV parks) fill up quickly. Winter would be incredible too. Although you’ll need to plan ahead a bit more, as most hotels and RV parks are closed for the season, not surprising with temperatures below -40°C.
Kingdom of Tonga
Recommended by Amy Alton of Out Chasing Stars.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a hidden gem of the South Pacific. Tonga receives a scant 50,000 visitors a year, compared to neighboring Fiji’s 700,000. It’s easy to see why – flights into the country are limited and there are no big-brand resorts or hotels.
With those sacrifices comes the untouched beauty of Tonga’s nature. And the biggest draw to Tonga is the annual humpback whale migration. Tourists can swim with the whales if they’ve hired an appropriate tour company. The tour companies and the guides have all gone through a training program with the Tongan government to ensure the whales are treated properly and their natural routine is not disturbed.
Whale swims are offered in the peak season, August and September, when the whales come to the warm waters of Tonga from the Antarctic regions to give birth to their young. The calves spend time in the waters growing and learning how to be a whale, and are playful and curious enough to provide an amazingly rare opportunity for tourists to interact with the whales.
Beyond the whales, Tonga’s culture, paired with the beautiful clear water and sandy beaches, makes Tonga an under-the-radar destination that should be on your list for 2018.
Recommended by Jeanine Romo of Le Wild Explorer.
Along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and just south of Croatia lies Montenegro. An under-the-radar destination and a Balkan gem, this is a place everyone should visit. It has beautiful beaches, medieval towns, and lush landscapes. It is also one of the more budget-friendly countries in Europe.
With the popular Old Town of Kotor, the beach cities of Sveti Stefan and Budva, and the stunning natural beauty of Durmitor National Park, Montenegro is not to be missed!
Montenegro has a little something to offer everyone! So if you want to soak up the sun, hit the slope, explore the history or have a culture feast, you won’t be disappointed. With two international airports, and many train and bus options, it is easy to get to. And since Montenegro is still off the beaten path, you won’t be bombarded with major crowds of tourists! Instead, you’ll enjoy a more local experience with memories that will last you a lifetime.
Recommended by Patrick Muntzinger of German Backpacker.
Kazakhstan is often overlooked by travellers, and therefore the country is full of surprises. I traveled through northern Kazakhstan and can say its a top under-the-radar destination to visit in 2018!
Before visiting, I’ve never heard anything about Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. And I certainly didn’t expect to find myself in such a futuristic and modern city! Astana’s architecture is surreal. I was impressed by all the beautiful buildings in the city center.
After spending a few days in Astana, I moved on to Semey, a smaller town in Northeastern Kazakhstan. This area isn’t touristy at all. While there isn’t much sightseeing, it was a very interesting contrast to futuristic Astana.
Kazakhstan is still very undiscovered and I barely met any other visitors. However, locals are very nice and welcoming. I also felt very safe traveling around the country.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had any time to visit southern Kazakhstan, but I’ve heard great things from other travellers about the former capital Almaty and its surrounding nature. I can’t wait to be back soon and explore more of this huge, off-the-beaten-path country!
Recommended by Rebecca Edington of Tattling Tourist.
Helen, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, is a Bavarian Alps replica city with much to do in its small vicinity of 3.4 kilometres. The German culture of the town provides stunning architecture, different kinds of bratwursts and foods, and plenty of beer. There is something for everyone to do in Helen!
Whether it be relaxation or adventure that is desired, this under-the-radar destination has it all! The city has several hiking trails, such as the Anna Ruby Falls hike to two beautiful waterfalls. Take a carriage ride through the city or visit one of the 21 wineries in the immediate area. Wine tasting tours along the Unicoi Wine Trail are available. There are over 200 shops that offer candies, glass designs, wood work, quilts, and other handmade items.
There are plenty of activities for children in Helen. Kids, or those young at heart, can enjoy mini golf, panning for gold and gems, slides at the waterpark, and water tubing down the river. One of the top toy lands in the world is located just down the road, the Cabbage Patch Babyland. Here you can see old dolls worth up to $50,000 or watch a new “baby” be born. There is even a nursery and birthday room!
Helen is a unique town with lots of culture and fun that should not be missed in 2018.
Durban, South Africa
Recommended by Verushka Ramasami of Spice Goddess.
Pilsen, Czech Republic
Recommended by Savannah of Savvi Scouts.
When most people visit the Czech Republic, they go to Prague. Prague is an awesome city, but you beer-lovers are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t “Czech out” (see what I did there?!) this smaller Czech city: Pilsen (Plzeň).
Just over 80 km west of Prague, Pilsen is the second largest city in Bohemia. In 2015, Pilsen was chosen as the European Union’s “Cultural Capital” because of its town square, historic underground tunnels, and rich history of beer.
This historic city is home to the Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first and finest lager beer. “Urquell” is German for “original source.” (The same is “prazdroj” in Czech.) Pilsner lager was actually invented here in 1842. Because of this, while you’re in Pilsen you may want to check out the Brewery Museum. It’s located in the original brewing house from the 15th century! No Brewery Museum tour would be complete without also seeing the Historic Underground. Here you can find a 20 km labyrinth of underground passages dating from the 14th century.
You may be adding all of this up in your head thinking that it must cost a fortune. Well, you’re wrong! The Czech Republic, as a whole, offers cheaper prices than other European neighbours, but Pilsen is even cheaper (and far less touristy) than Prague. Come for the beer, stay for the budget in this under-the-radar destination!
Recommended by Talek Nantes of Travels With Talek.
Recommended by Isadora Koller of World By Isa.
Cusco is known for being the gateway for one of the Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu. But the heavy cultural and historical weight of the ruins sometimes overshadows the beauty of this old city.
Cusco is known to be the most beautiful city in Peru. But this is not only what Cusco is about! It’s also the second-oldest continuously inhabited city in South America, founded in the time of the Inca Empire. Despite the Spanish invasion and looting, many ruins, walls and avenues built by the Incas can still be seen and visited around the city.
Visit some of Cusco’s museums where you can learn more about the life of different Peruvian tribes, and the history and culture of the Inca Empire. You can also take to the streets and check out the buildings! After the Spanish invasion, the city expanded and adopted a Spanish colonial architecture that gives an extra charm to Cusco.
All in all, there’s a lot more to Cusco than just Machu Picchu. So come check out this under-the-radar destination before everyone else discovers this too!
Recommended by Tara Kenyon of Nutrition Abroad.
Most travellers to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula flock to the well-known resort destinations of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Some may make side trips to Tulum, Chichen Itza or Medida. But few travellers take the time to seek out the small colonial town of Valladolid! (Even though it is right on the way to these other attractions.)
This Spanish settlement has one of the oldest churches in the Americas. It was also built upon an ancient Mayan town in the early 1500s. Just strolling around, admiring the brightly coloured buildings and historical architecture alone makes Valladolid worth a stop! Not to mention the ridiculously cheap food and drinks, friendly locals, and the laid back vibe of the city!
Since the Yucatan has so many attractions, Valladolid is an ideal under-the-radar destination to slow down and get a taste of true Yucatecan culture. While you are there, check out the Catedral de San Gervasio. Take the stroll down Calle 41A, past the beautifully painted homes and businesses, to the Convent of San Bernandino de Siena. On the way back, take a different route and get lost!
Every street has a unique blend of crumbling colonial architecture with bright coats of paint that make for some stunning photos. Plus, Valladolid is such a small, quiet and safe town you might find yourself wandering for hours! Or, if you’re like me, you might find yourself in love with Valladolid and have a hard time pulling yourself away.
Recommended by Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World.
Sri Lanka definitely is a country that should be under any traveler’s radar in 2018.
Sri Lanka is blessed with beautiful archaeological sites. Anuradhapura and Sigiriya are a must see! There are some interesting cities; Kandy is rich in cultural heritage, but Galle is the real jewel of the country with its lovely cobbled streets, a Dutch fort, and the lighthouse.
Nature is lush in Sri Lanka: the word “tropical” was surely invented with Sri Lanka in mind. The country has a wealth of mesmerizing national parks with protected wildlife. And there are some gorgeous beaches which are perfect for surfing.
Nova Scotia, Canada
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Where are you planning to go in 2018? Share your travel plans in the comments below!
Thank you to all the travel bloggers who participated in this under-the-radar destination round-up! And let me know if I’ve missed an under-the-radar destination you plan to visit in 2018!
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For more of my 2018 adventures, click here.