Monday, 27 December 2010

10 countries worth exploring

I was recently given a couple of books from Lonely Planet. The first one, 'The Traveller's Guide to Planet Earth,' is an amazing photographic journey through all the nooks, mountains and crannies that make up our awesome planet. It's based on a BBC series with the same title, and it's definitely a lesson in that our wonderful world consists of so many mysteries and places to marvel at, once we learn to look beyond the surface.

Overall, it's an awesome read, and if there's any travel fanatics out there, I highly recommend you add it to your collection.

The second book is what inspired this blog post. Lonely Planet's 'The Travel Book - A Journey Through Every Country In The World' covers 229 countries, with over 800 images. The book itself is something to marvel at -- it weighs about six lbs and is what I'd call an XXL size. But try not to let the overwhelming look scare you. The book is a feast for the eyes with amazing photographs and factoids from every country, and it's sure to sate any wanderlust's dreams of visiting and exploring faraway places. And even if traveling is not in your current budget, this book will allow you to discover our lovely planet from the luxury of your own living room.

After spending the weekend getting lost in the pages of this wonderful treat, I decided to choose 10 places that I'd personally like to explore. They're not necessarily countries you'd think of when considering a vacation, but I'd like to think of them as hidden gems worthy of a visit.


1. First on the list is Andorra. A beautiful little principality nestled between the borders of Spain and France, in the eastern Pyrenees mountains, Andorra is one of the few countries in the world that still treasures its old world feel. With cobblestone paths and sleepy villages, it's the perfect playground for explorers looking to stumble across hidden squares and quaint gardens.

Andorra, Europe

2. Next on the list is Guatemala. Natives to this lovely South American country speak almost 20 separate languages (that itself is quite fascinating). But if it isn't reason enough to visit Guatemala, then consider the beautiful blend of Mayan ruins and colonial houses that remain, to this day, immaculate and worthy of a visit.

Guatemala, South America

3. Montenegro emerged as an independent nation in 2006. Home to ancient Orthodox monasteries and Albanian mosques that co-exist in good company, Montenegro also has a scenery to be rivaled. Coasts stretching along the Adriatic Sea and Mountains covered in lavender make the perfect playgrounds for wanderers from all over the planet.

Montenegro, Europe

4. Nestled in the Atlantic and along the western coast of Africa lie the islands of Cape Verde. Easily one of the the most complex and fascinating archipelagos on this planet, Cape Verde is home to active volcanoes, beaches and deserts, which all exist together in a fascinating mix -- a perfect treat for any wanderer looking for adventure and relaxation. Did you know Cape Verde has the highest adult literacy rate of any West African country? Fascinating -- and beautiful!

Cape Verde, Africa

5. Rounding up number five on the list of 10 countries worth exploring is San Marino. Known to have the oldest constitution to date, San Marino is an independent republic nestled on all sides by Italy. A lot of tourists are drawn to this fascinating place to check out traces of the old San Marino Grand Prix, but there's so much more to discover in its historic landscape. I'd go just for the amazing views from the Castello della Guaita (pictured).

San Marino, Europe

6. Macau can easily be compared to Las Vegas, except that it's nestled comfortably in Asia. A hub of activity and not short of blaring neon lights, Macau is Asia's answer to a complex blend of luxury and post-colonial ambiance. And as one of the world's last Portuguese colonies, Macau only became part of China in 1999, and is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. A desire to bungee jump from the top of the Macau Tower already has me itching to book a ticket.

Macau, Asia

7. Who wouldn't want to visit a kingdom? And Polynesia's Kingdom of Tonga seems fascinating and inviting enough to drop everything and spend endless days exploring this southern Pacific gem. It is the only island nation within this region to have never been colonized, and it has a culture that sways to the relaxed pulse of an island beat, while still remaining quite progressive. Wanderlusts take note -- This kingdom consists of 176 islands, so Tonga may just be the answer to a picturesque escape from city life.

The Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific

8. I would head over to Ghana for the simple fact that they produce one-fifth of the world's cocoa beans. And for self-proclaimed chocoholic, this would be paradise! But another great reason to explore Ghana (besides the awesome fact that you can do it all in English), is that it's a complex blend of old and new -- you can get lost in ancient castles one day, and go on an adventurous African safari the next. Not to mention the music from Ghana also carries a catchy beat and can become quite addictive.

Ghana, Africa

9 . The Falkland Islands, located off the coast of Argentina, may seem pretty isolated by the looks of it on the world map. However, I think visitors might be pleasantly surprised by all that's available to explore this stretch of islands. Many explorers have described the area as 'otherworldly' because of its fascinating wildlife and natural beauty. From amazing sights of shipwrecks, to Rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatross, the Faulkland Islands are a gift to nature-lovers everywhere.

Falkland Islands, South Atlantic

10. Rounding up this list of 10 countries worth exploring is Uzbekistan. Considered an essential stop on the Silk Road and a hub of activity for markets filled with silks, carpets and embroidery, Uzbekistan is also a gem for lovers of architecture. With towering structures (like Samarkand's Registan Square) and ancient mosques with intricate designs, it's no wonder this country is on every 'off the beaten path' explorer's radar.

Uzbekistan, Asia

So there you have it, folks -- 10 countries worth exploring. Thanks to 'The Travel Book -- A Journey Through Every Country In The World', my list of places to explore just grew tenfold... and now, so must my bank account.


Images courtesy of Google Images

1 comment:

  1. I can definitely vouch for Macau. It's definitely worth a visit, especially if you're planning to go to neighboring Hong Kong anyhow. (In addition, Macau and Hong Kong are the only places in China where a pre-arrival visa isn't needed, since they operate as separate political entities.)

    You just have to be aware that while Macau has its own currency, the overwhelming majority of businesses there accept Hong Kong dollars instead (due to their close political and economic relationship with Hong Kong).


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