It’s another year and another set of lists by Lonely Planet of the best places to travel in 2019. As usual, the guidebook has selected locations that have recently become easier to go to or are showcasing some special event that will draw crowds from around the globe. But what about those who want to escape the shackles of mass tourism and experience the world as it should be? To be fair, this year’s Lonely Planet selections are overall better than in previous years with a country or two that I wouldn’t shy away from recommending. But, for what it’s worth, here are five alternative destinations that should satisfy the hardcore traveler in you without compromising safety.
There is something special about this island that goes beyond its chaotic annual carnival. Yes, the steelpans are reason enough to visit, but Trinidad is so much more than North America’s largest street party. Unspoiled by beach tourism, Trinidad offers a look at a different type of Caribbean, where culture not relaxation is the main attraction. An amalgamation of African, Indian, indigenous, and Lebanese traditions (to name a few), Trinidad is the epitome of the new world melting pot. And besides, the food is tremendous.
4) Rinca, Indonesia
Despite the natural disasters that have struck the region, this Indonesian island remains a viable and often overlooked destination. Just a short plane trip and boat ride from Bali, Rinca is the only other place you can find the Komodo dragon beyond the island of its namesake. And while you may spend several days looking for dragons on Komodo, at Rinca, you are almost guaranteed to spot a few in a couple of hours. Combine it with a snorkeling or diving cruise, and you will see why Rinca and its surroundings are one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.
3) Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade has come a long way since the dark days of communism and the Yugoslav Wars. Once a desolate wasteland of Brutalist apartment blocks and crushing poverty, today it’s providing Europe with a sorely needed alternative vibe. Often described as Berlin in the 1990s, a lot of the city’s charm comes from its authentic grittiness. But beneath this layer of true grit is an emerging gentrification, and now is the time to catch this city before it succumbs to the hordes of invading hipsters.
2) Loango National Park, Gabon
I wouldn’t recommend Gabon’s Loango National Park for first-time visitors in Africa. You simply won’t see the wildlife that is available in the Eastern or Southern parts of this continent. There are no herds of wildebeest, no long-necked giraffes grazing by the roadside, heck, even their elephants are smaller, but for those who really want to experience the wild untouched by man, there is no better place. Even though expensive and difficult to reach, Loango really is an experience of a lifetime.
Countries are often ignored because of security issues. Rarely, though, is an entire country dangerous. Case-in-point, Iraq, which while on the whole can be extremely risky, also contains a few areas that are completely safe. Kurdistan is one of those areas. What makes Kurdistan special? Well, for starters, its home to some of the most welcoming people in a region known for its hospitality. But it also boasts one of the oldest continual occupied cities in the world and incredible natural landscapes. Untainted by mass tourism, Kurdistan is the Middle East’s best-kept secret.