Travelling to far-flung destinations was once the exclusive domain of the privileged few. However, the advent of the internet and a highly competitive airline industry has lead to a million more people visiting destinations that, even two decades ago, were off limits to most.
Just over a century after the dawn of commercial aviation, almost 4 billion passengers travel by plane each year - that's over half the world's total population. Accessibility is not just determined by the affordability of travel but is also dictated by geopolitical events, a destination's reputation and trends in the travel industry at large.
Despite the gargantuan surge in international travel, there are plenty of places which remain elusive to mass tourism and should be explored now when you can enjoy them at their most authentic. Here are some destinations to add to your list. Maybe put them to the top?
The recent civil conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government thankfully came to an end in 2009, once again leaving the door open to this stunning country in Southern Asia. While tourism is growing rapidly it's still a long way behind its Asian counterparts such as India and Thailand. Highlights of Sri Lanka include Kandy, the country's gateway to the lush, mountainous interior and Ella, an authentic Sri Lankan heartland on the peripheries of the Hill Country. This island nation also has plenty to titillate history and culture buffs with its former colonial buildings in Jaffna and the epic frescoes of Pidurangala Rock.
China might be one of the largest countries on the planet but it's not considered a tourism hotspot-particularly outside of East Asia. The China National Tourism Administration recently launched a campaign called 'Beautiful China' in a bid to increase visitor numbers and one should really take heed. Beijing and Shanghai are metropolitan heavyweights. They boast stunning museums, designer shops and skyscrapers sitting alongside authentic street food cafes and temples dating back 200 years when the Han Dynasty ruled the region. Away from the countries heavily populated eastern coast, terrains as wild as you can imagine wait to be explored.
While tensions between Israel and Palestine are very real, conflict and violence, especially towards foreign visitors, is incredibly rare and isolated. The Arabian Peninsula, also known as the cradle of civilization, is the location of some of the world's oldest structures and fortifications and is teeming with historical significance. Its largest city, Tel Aviv, is a cosmopolitan heavyweight. It offers visitors the heritage of Marrakech with the urban delights of New York or London. The food is world-class, the beaches are excellent and the long hot summers and mild winters make Israel the ideal all year round place to visit.
Frequented by the biologists Charles Darwin - the beguiling biodiversity he discovered here was the catalyst for Origin of the Species. Their isolated location has lead to the islands being plagued with extortionate flight prices, however, in the past decade they have become significantly more affordable and are a must- visit for every intrepid traveller. There is very little development here but the sheer number of animals to see and learn about is nothing short of astounding. You can explore the smaller islands by boat cruises and there are plenty of walks clearly marked. The animals here are very tame and ubiquitous, it's certainly not a struggle to get up, close and personal with them.
Due to its socialist government, Cuba has been off-limits for certain countries for many decades. While never an unsafe destination, embargos were in place to prevent, for example, free travel between the United States and Cuba. While it's unlikely that Cuba will adopt a model of rampant neoliberal capitalism anytime soon, it is opening its doors to foreign investment and Cuba's landscape will undoubtedly change in the coming years. Whether this is good for the country or not is a decision for the citizens of Cuba to make. However, one thing we can be sure of is that, to experience the magnetism of Cuba, laden with its range of provocative iconography, now is the time to visit!
This blog was written for OutOfOffice.com by Craig Crowther from MyGayGlobe.com.