Get ready to embark on an adventure and update your bucket list! You might be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t appreciate the pretty beaches in Thailand or isn’t interested in taking a quick trip to unwind, but if you’re tired of the same old tourist traps and are itching to explore some off-the-beaten-path destinations, we’ve got you covered.
This list of 12 unique countries to visit, will ignite your wanderlust and curiosity. We’re going to take you on a whirlwind tour of some truly unique experiences and places, so pack that backpack and let’s dive in!
12 unique countries to visit
Andorra is a tiny country between France and Spain in the stunning Pyrenees Mountains. It is pretty sparsely populated and a hidden gem, hence largely unknown for travellers with a bounty of scenic landscapes.
You can fly to Barcelona-El Prat Airport in Spain or Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France and then rent a car or take a bus to Andorra. The journey will take you around 3 to 4 hours and is full of breathtaking views.
May to September is the best time to travel to Andorra. The weather is warm and this is a great time for all the outdoor excursions. This is the perfect time for a relaxed vacation as the air is fresh and the landscape is stunning. You can also choose to visit in winter, i.e. December to March as Andorra is a winter wonderland. It is filled with thick snow which is great for all ski enthusiasts. This weather is perfect for a plethora of snow activities.
You can also visit Barcelona which is a short drive away and a Barcelona itinerary 5 days will help plan your trip.
Andorra has over 50 trail routes for hiking and the mountainous terrain makes it especially beautiful for trekkers from all backgrounds. Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a great hiking and walking trail, which is quite popular among hikers. Andorra is also a paradise for mountain bikers and the trails include traversing through lush green landscapes and stunning peaks.
In winter, skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular activities in Andorra and the thick white snow makes it for this. Grandvalira and Vallnord are the largest ski resorts here and they have a ton of slopes that you can choose from. You can also rent equipment and take lessons along with exquisite mountain views.
The Caldea Spa is Europe’s largest spa and is located in the capital city of Andorra la Vella. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a spa along with other facilities.
Andorra is a tax haven and known for its tax-free shopping. This is the place to be if you love shopping. You can visit Meritxell and Carlemany Streets for a great variety of duty-free items. You can also try some delicious local food and traditional dishes like trinxat, escudella, and crema Andorana, and don’t forget to visit the Casa Auvinya winery to taste delicious wines while soaking in the mountain views.
Make sure to check out the church of Sant Joan de Caslles which features beautiful medieval architecture.
Andorra has a lot to offer ranging from outdoor sports, and natural landscapes to shopping sprees. It is a beautiful location for a unique vacation.
The capital city is a great place to stay for easy access to all attractions. The Grand Plaza Hotel & Wellness is a great accommodation.
Contributed & photographed by Lavinia D’Souza of Continent Hop
Visiting Antarctica is a bucket-list adventure like no other, offering an unparalleled opportunity to explore one of the most pristine and untouched wilderness areas on Earth.
Getting to Antarctica typically involves joining an expedition cruise. Most trips depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile, and range from 10 days to several weeks. Expedition vessels, equipped with expert guides, comfortable cabins, and research facilities, are your gateway to this remote land.
The Antarctic travel season runs from November to March when the continent experiences its summer. Unless you’re a scientist, this is the only time that you can plan a trip to Antarctica. The optimal time depends on your interests:
November-December: Early summer offers pristine landscapes, penguin courtship, and the chance to witness humpback whales.
January-February: Peak summer months feature longer days, milder temperatures, and the opportunity to see chicks in penguin colonies.
March: Late summer is ideal for birdwatching, with seal pups often spotted on the ice.
While many think there isn’t that much to do on the ice continent, there are actually plenty of things to do. Wildlife spotting is the highlight of any trip to Antarctica. The continent is home to penguins, seals, sea birds, and whales. The untouched pristine beauty is a photographer’s dream come true.
You can learn about the unique geology of the continent while hiking with a guide. You can hike mountains and dormant volcanoes, as long as there isn’t wildlife in your way. The Antarctica guides will mark off safe places to walk to protect both you and the animals.
You can head out on the water and go kayaking with penguins and seals too! For the truly brave, get into your bathing suit and do a polar plunge! You’ll only spend a few seconds in the water – but how many people can say they got to swim in the Southern Ocean?
There are no hotels in Antarctica, the expedition ship is your accommodation while visiting. Be sure to choose a ship that specializes in polar travel due to the sea ice that you’ll travel to. A smaller ship with less than 500 passengers is important so that you have plenty of time to spend on land. Only about 100 people are allowed on land at a time.
Once you travel to Antarctica, you join the exclusive club of travelers that has visited this beautiful continent. If you continue to travel, then you can say you’ve visited all seven continents. This iconic island is one of the least traveled places and will continue to be for years to come.
Contributed & photographed by Pamela Drager of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Borneo is the world’s third-largest island and a tropical paradise in Southeast Asia that is still well off the trodden banana pancake trail. It’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in lush forests, incredible wildlife, and the culture of local tribes like the Dayaks and Iban.
Accessing this remarkable destination is relatively straightforward. The island is divided among three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and the tiny sultanate of Brunei with the Malaysian part being the most accessible for travelers. The primary gateways to Borneo are the international airports in Kota Kinabalu, Kuching (both in Malaysia), and Pontianak (Indonesia). You can book flights easily from major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Singapore. If you are coming from further afield can connect through these hubs. Once on the island, bus transport, boats, and domestic flights are available, however, some locations can only be reached by organized tours.
Borneo has a tropical climate which makes it a year-round destination. The best time to visit is during the dry season that runs from March to October however, the rainy season is equally pleasant with lower prices for accommodation and only an occasional shower.
Borneo is known for its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems which makes it one of the best places in the world to witness wildlife in their natural habitat. The main highlight is undoubtedly the lush rainforests, where you can see an array of exotic wildlife, including orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys. Must-visit parks are Bako National Park where you can see Proboscis monkeys and Tanjung Datu, a national park located on the border of the Malaysian Sarawak province and Indonesian Borneo.
Furthermore, Kinabalu National Park in the Sabah province of Malaysian Borneo is home to Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak, attracting trekkers and climbers from around the world.
River safaris can also be enjoyed on Borneo with the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo and Tanjung Puting in Indonesian Borneo being the most popular locations. Diving is also world-class in Borneo and can be enjoyed in the pristine waters of Sipadan Island. Also don’t miss the chance to visit the famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where you can observe these impressive creatures up close.
Accommodation options in Borneo can be found for various budgets and preferences. You can find luxury resorts perched on pristine beaches to eco-friendly lodges hidden away in the rainforest. For an immersive experience, consider staying in a traditional longhouse, like the Annah Rais Longhouse in Sarawak.
Remember when traveling to Borneo that you need to be prepared for the tropical climate and that hiking is one of the main things to do there. It is necessary to pack lightweight, breathable clothing, sunscreen, insect repellent, and comfortable hiking shoes. Also, while you are there, respect the local cultures and wildlife. Borneo is home to diverse indigenous communities, so it’s essential to be mindful of their customs and to be aware of the threats the natural environment in Borneo is facing.
Contributed & photographed by Annelies of Travelers and Dreamers
Mostar isn’t the easiest of places to access but the scenery is absolutely worth the trek. The easiest route to take is the train from Sarajevo which runs twice daily in both directions and takes just under 2 hours, with tickets costing 14BAM (approximately £6). There are also 3-hour direct flights to Sarajevo from London with Wizzair, or via Flixbus from Croatia. However, do be aware, it’s a 3-4 hour journey time direct from Dubrovnik. You can also travel from Zadar and Zagreb but these routes take 8-10 hours with changeovers.
Mostar is a year-round destination but you are more likely to get rained on during spring and autumn months so the best time to visit is between April and October. Temperatures vary between freezing and 36°C depending on the season. Even if you do get caught out with less favourable weather, there are plenty of restaurants to duck in to for shelter.
The city is small and very walkable, with everything from bazaars to swimming to War museums all centrally located. One thing you cannot skip a visit to is the famous Stari Most Bridge in all its glory. There are several spots ideal for snapping the perfect shot, including on the bridge itself, though you may have to wait your turn during busier periods. This area is also home to cobblestoned alleyways filled with bazaars showcasing artwork, teas, and handmade items as well as typical tourist trinkets. Ensure to wear shoes with good grip however as the cobblestones are very slippy.
Around a 10-minute walk away stands the Kriva ćuprija (“Crooked Bridge”) which was built as a ‘tester’ for Stari Most. The immediate area also provides some stunning photo spots, as well as riverside restaurants and another bazaar. Right next to the bridge is Villa Gunga which offers stunning views from the riverside balcony, all for a reasonable price. The Villa sits opposite a male Mosque (which obeys all daily calls for prayer) so do be mindful of cultural respect when in the area.
Villa Gunga and nearby accommodations are ideal for the pick-up spot for the “Blagaj, Počitelj & Kravice Waterfalls” tour. Several companies do variations of this tour but Mostar Travel & Tours have high-rated reviews, as does their main guide Esmer.
Mostar isn’t yet a well-frequented place for tourism and feels quite isolated from mainland Europe in terms of how easily accessible it is. You may also have difficulties with reception/internet even with an e-sim so it’s advisable to purchase a physical local sim card prior to arrival into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Popular transport services such as Uber/Lyft are unavailable and your only real private transfer option is Moj Taxi Mostar. There are also land-based Passport Control checkpoints and you may be made to leave your vehicle or show your luggage so ensure your ID is ready to show as they require.
Despite these difficulties, Mostar’s incredible landscapes, architecture and warm welcome are all well worth a stop, even if only for a day trip.
Contributed & photographed by Lois of Travels of a Solo Passport
Brunei may not be the first destination that comes to mind when it comes to traveling to Southeast Asia. However, this tiny monarchy in Borneo is definitely worth visiting.
Nestled between two districts in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Miri and Limbang, Brunei is an underrated country that tourists often skip for so many reasons.
Some may think it’s a boring country just because it’s tiny, while others don’t bother because of how Western media portrays the Islamic nation. However, I can assure you that Brunei is worth visiting, especially if you want to include it between your trip from Sarawak to Sabah in the Malaysian part of Borneo.
How to Get There
Brunei has an international airport, so you can easily fly to the country from various international hubs in other cities in Southeast Asia. They have direct flights daily from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
You can take a bus from Miri, and the journey won’t take longer than 2.5 hours. If you travel from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, you can take an 8-hour trip with the Jesselton Express bus to Bandar Seri Begawan. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from KK to Labuan before heading to Serasa in Brunei.
Best Time to Travel
January to April will be their dry season. While the chance of rain will be minimal if you visit Brunei during this period, be prepared for the extra heat since the weather in Borneo can be super humid and hot during the season.
I got a chance to visit Brunei in September and October, and I think it’s the best time if you want to travel to this tiny country in Borneo. This period is a transition between the wet and dry seasons, so you can still get sunny days without the unbearable heat that is quite common on the island.
Main Highlights in Brunei
Brunei is home to Kampong Ayer, one of the largest water villages in the world. The prominent traditional settlement can be reached around 15 minutes by boat from Bandar Seri Begawan, and you can explore a collection of stilted and colorful houses around the Brunei River.
Traveling to Brunei isn’t complete without visiting the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the city center. The iconic mosque is probably the most popular landmark in Brunei, with its stunning golden dome and intricate marble work. You can also stroll around the Eco Corridor Park in front of the mosque, where it will be surrounded by city lights during the night.
If you’re more into nature, Brunei is also home to Ulu Temburong National Park. This pristine rainforest is a paradise with numerous hiking trails, canopy walkways, and a chance to see diverse wildlife and indigenous Bornean flora!
Why Travel There
Contrary to popular belief, Brunei offers a blend of cultural, historical, and natural attractions that make this tiny country a fascinating destination for travelers interested in exploring the off-the-beaten-path destination in Southeast Asia. As the country itself is so small, you can just spare around 2 to 3 days to explore all the must-visit places in Brunei.
Where to Stay
I highly recommend staying in one of the hotels near Gadong Mall in Brunei. One of the best hotels nearby is The Centrepoint Hotel where it can take around 10 minutes by car to the city center.
Contributed & photographed by Marya Sutimi of The Beautraveler
El Salvador emerges as a hidden treasure for adventure explorers and relaxing vacationers alike. El Salvador is a vibrant country that remains mostly untouched by mass tourism and offers a genuine travel experience. This is a country filled with rich history, picturesque landscapes, and delicious food making it a great travel destination for any type of traveler.
El Salvador is located in the tropics of Central America allowing it to have a dry season and a wet season. The best time to travel to El Salvador is during its dry season which runs from December to March. This is when the chance of downpours is less, however, prices and crowds may be higher. Alternatively, consider traveling to El Salvador in the shoulder months of November or April where the weather is still pleasant and crowds are less.
Getting to El Salvador is very easy by plane. El Salvador has one international airport located 45 minutes outside of the country’s capital, San Salvador. From the airport, there are shuttles going to most major cities, including El Tunco and Santa Ana. In addition, Uber is also widely used throughout El Salvador, making some areas much more accessible.
Two of the biggest tourist destinations in El Salvador are Santa Ana, a city in the northwest of the country located in the coffee region, and El Tunco, a picturesque surf town. Most travelers and backpackers will be traveling between these two areas, however, you should also consider traveling through the northern highlands, Suchitoto, San Miguel, and El Cuco if you have the time.
Santa Ana is a lovely town in the coffee region of El Salvador and is also a great place to start your trip. Santa Ana is home to the Santa Ana volcano, an active volcano that makes for a great hiking experience. The hike is fairly short at around 2 hours and not too strenuous. From the top of the volcano you are able to see Lake Coatepeque in the distance and a beautiful, turquoise crater lake within the volcano itself.
Santa Ana is also in close proximity to Ruta de Flores, making it a great day activity to do with a rental motorbike. The Ruta de Flores takes you through several small towns, each very colorful and picturesque. Most popular is Juayua, which hosts a food festival every weekend where you can try a variety of local dishes.
Nearby Juayua is the Siete Cascadas hike which takes you through a series of waterfalls in the jungle. Some waterfalls you may need to climb over, others you are able to swim. This was one of my favorite activities to do around Santa Ana and I can’t recommend it enough.
Next on your trip can be El Tunco, a laid back surf town on the Pacific coast. Nearby El Tunco is El Zonte, also known as Bitcoin beach. Both towns offer great beach bumming and relaxation. Surfboard rentals are available all around the area for those travelers interested.
Don’t sleep on El Salvador, it is truly an untouched gem that is ready to share its beauty with the curious adventurer. Check out this 1 week El Salvador itinerary to further fuel your wanderlust.
Contributed & photographed by Shreya Rane of Where is Shreya
Kyrgyzstan is a fantastic unique destination for anyone who loves the outdoors and has a keen sense of adventure. The locals are friendly, it’s super safe and a straightforward country to travel in.
Getting to Kyrgyzstan is relatively easy, with many flights arriving daily into Bishkek’s Manas International Airport. The biggest transit points are Istanbul and Dubai, so if you’re coming from Europe, it’s convenient and affordable.
The best time to travel to Kyrgyzstan is from June to September. This is during Kyrgyzstan’s summer and is when the weather will be the warmest. Outside of these months, the weather in Kyrgyzstan can be quite cold, and in winter there will be lots of snow.
What to do in Kyrgyzstan? Well, Kyrgyzstan is brimming with highlights and exciting experiences.
The mountains in Kyrgyzstan are the star attraction, with multiple major mountain ranges intersecting the country. Amongst hikers around the world, Kyrgyzstan is quickly gaining legendary status as a world-class trekking destination. The most popular hiking options are in the Tian Shan mountains in the northeast, bordering China, but there are plenty of incredible adventures to be found in the southern Pamirs too.
Scattered around these towering mountains are hundreds of beautiful lakes to explore. Of them all, Ala Kul Lake is the star gem. This high-altitude lake sits in a mountain bowl and is famous for its brilliant turquoise colour. To top it all off, there’s a glacier that goes all the way down to the lake’s shore.
Experiencing Kyrgyzstan’s rich nomadic culture is another real highlight in this Central Asian country. Visitors can stay in a yurt, try khumis (fermented mare’s milk), go on a horse trek or play a round of kok boru (i.e., headless goat polo).
Finally, Kyrgyzstan has a fascinating history to discover, dating all the way back to the ancient Silk Road. For those interested in more recent history, Kyrgyzstan’s inclusion in the former Soviet Union means there’s incredible brutalist architecture and relics as well.
There are many places to stay in Kyrgyzstan, depending on where you explore and what you’re looking for. There are some great boutique hotels in the capital, Bishkek and a couple of fun hostels too. When you’re out in the mountains, your best bet is a yurt camp – it’s a real experience!
It’s worth noting that English is not widely spoken in Kyrgyzstan, so it really pays off to learn the Cyrillic alphabet before going. This way, you can read menus at restaurants and the destinations on minibuses.
Contributed & photographed by Dotti of Explore Travel Oasis
Lombok is a lesser-traveled island in Indonesia that offers stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and ancient temples. It’s the perfect place to relax on the beach, go hiking or biking, or explore the island’s many cultural attractions.
Getting to Lombok Island from Bali is super easy. Take a quick 25-minute flight or choose to enjoy a boat ride over.
The best time to visit Lombok is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. During this time, the weather is sunny and warm, with average temperatures ranging from 80-90°F (27-32°C) and humidity is relatively low.
There are many incredible things to do in Lombok. Some of the main highlights of Lombok include Gili Islands which is a group of three small islands off the coast of Lombok. The Gilis are known for their white-sand beaches, clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs which are perfect for those who love to snorkel or dive.
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano and also the second-highest mountain in Indonesia that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. If you love to be active when on holiday be sure to hike Mount Rinjani. This is a challenging hike, but the views from the summit are well worth it.
Head to the Tetebatu Nature Reserve and explore the lush rainforest. Tetebatu is home to a variety of plant and animal life, including monkeys, birds, and butterflies. A great way to see the local plant and animal life of Lombok is to bike or hike in the Tetebatu Nature Reserve.
For a cultural experience, a visit to the Senaru Village is a must. This traditional Sasak village is a great place to learn about the local culture and see traditional Sasak dances and performances.
Other reasons why a holiday to the lesser traveled destination of Lombok is well worth it – the people of Lombok are warm and welcoming, and they are always happy to help visitors. Lombok is a relatively affordable destination, making it a great value for travelers.
And lastly, Lombok is still a relatively unknown destination, which means that you can enjoy the beauty of the island without the crowds.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, affordable, and off-the-beaten-path destination, Lombok is the perfect place for you.
Contributed & photographed by Jolene of Wanderlust Storytellers
Madagascar is one of the most underrated countries in Africa and being an island, it is less accessible than other nations on the continent. It is also generally undeveloped with roads in bad condition and old buses making it hard to get around. It is safe to say that Madagascar is a travel destination for adventurers!
You can fly Air France to Antananarivo, the country’s capital city. From there, you can fly to most cities or take the bus. It is also popular to rent a 4WD (the only logical vehicle to drive) and either self drive or travel with a driver. The flights have flat rates no matter where in the country you travel.
The best time to travel to Madagascar is the dry season between July and December, that is when the Lemurs have their babies and if you go on a wildlife safari you might see cute baby Lemurs. Besides, you might see turtles hatching from December – just make sure it is an ethical place you go to see it and never interact with the baby turtles as it interrupts their life cycle. You can experience this ethically in the eco resort of Ankazoberavina island, a beautiful natural reserve where you can go scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching, dolphin watching, and go on boat trips to nearby islands. This is right off the popular holiday destination Nosy Be in northern Madagascar.
For a more remote experience exploring one of the most impressive national parks in Madagascar, head to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in western Madagascar. It is only reached by a day’s travel by 4WD from Morondava which is the closest city (and has a domestic airport.) Once in the nature reserve you can get a guided tour of both the Small Tsingy and the Big Tsingy where you can walk on top of needle-sharp limestone forests. For the most adventurous, the Big Tsingy has an option to hike a via ferrata to the top which is loads of fun, but not for the faint hearted.
Alltogether, Madagascar is a great travel destination for anyone that wants to explore untouched nature and experience wildlife. Note that there are many things you can not book in advance unless you join a group tour or a private tour via a travel agency. If you travel individually, watch up for scams, watch your wallet and shop around for prices.
Contributed & photographed by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers
If you’re looking for a unique destination to visit in Malaysia, add the historical town of Malacca to your itinerary. This UNESCO Heritage Site, is a captivating historical town that offers a glimpse into Malaysia’s colonial past.
Malacca is located south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. The best way to reach Malacca from Kuala Lumpur is by car, which takes approximately 2 hours via the North-South Expressway.
While you can visit Malacca on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, it is recommended to stay a couple of nights to take in the cultural and culinary experiences.
December to February is the ideal time to visit Malacca with temperatures between 22 and 30 degrees celsius and little to no rain.
Among the best things to do in Malacca are:
Dutch Square: This is where you should begin your journey. Here you can admire iconic buildings like the Stadthuys, a red-painted colonial-era building, Christ Church, and the Melaka Clock Tower. These landmarks, along with the windmill and colorful cow statues across the street, evoke the Dutch influence in the town’s history.
Melaka River Cruise: Take a leisurely cruis along the Melaka river to appreciate the town’s picturesque scenery. The 45 minute boat ride offers a wonderful view on Malacca’s architecture and street art scene.
Jonker Street: You should visit Jonker Walk at least twice: during day and during the night. It’s here where you’ll get a great taste of Malacca’s art and culture. It’s famous for its vibrant night market, antique shops, and delicious street food.
St. Paul’s Hill: Climb St. Paul’s Hill to visit the ruins of St. Paul’s Hill Church and enjoy panoramic city views from this historical vantage point.
Shore Sky Tower: To get a 360° bird’s eye view of the city, you can climb the 43-story Shore Sky Tower.
If you decide to spend more than a day in Malacca, you can also consider the following attractions:
Alor Gajah: Just a short drive away, Alor Gajah boasts the A’Famosa resort, home to various theme parks and a golf course for family-friendly fun and relaxation.
Masjid Tanah: Adventure enthusiasts can explore outdoor activities and relax on beautiful beaches in Masjid Tanah, adding a touch of nature to their trip.
As you can see, Malacca offers a unique opportunity to explore history from the colonial times and indulge in some of Southeast Asia’s best street food.
Malacca offers a range of accommodation options, from charming boutique hotels to international brands like the Holiday Inn, ensuring a comfortable stay.
Contributed & photographed by Marlieke of Kuala Lumpur with Kids
Northumberland is a County on the North East coast of England that shares its borders with Scotland. Spanning nearly 2000 square miles, Northumberland is best known for stunning landscapes, varied wildlife, excellent shopping and welcoming locals, you’ll find something to do no matter what you enjoy.
Just as there is a wide range of things to do when visiting Northumberland, there are also plenty of places to stay. For somewhere vibrant and central stay in Newcastle City Centre and you’ll be surrounded by shops, restaurants and nightlife. If you’d rather stay somewhere peaceful and away from crowds then head to one of the small Northumberland towns like Berwick-upon-Tweed or Alnmouth. Here you’ll find a slower pace but you’ll still be within reach of local amenities, shops and restaurants.
Northumberland offers plenty of opportunities for some shopping, either in the form of quaint independent souvenir shops in the villages of Northumberland to a full day of shopping in Newcastle City Centre. If you’re already visiting Newcastle upon Tyne then add on a visit to the Angel of the North. Sitting at around 10 miles south of Newcastle City Centre, the Angel of the North is a 66 ft tall statue and is the most iconic symbol of Northumberland.
If you love an outdoor adventure holiday then Northumberland has some of the best hikes in the UK, including exploring Hadrian’s Wall at the Northumberland National Park and trekking through the forest at the Kielder Water & Forest Park. If you’re a history buff you can find rich history in the many museums and castles across the County. Three of the best castles to add to your visit to Northumberland are Lindisfarne Castle, Alnwick Castle and Bamburgh Castle. Each of these offers great halls filled with dramatic history, artefacts and tapestries.
Northumberland is easy to get to no matter where you arrive in the UK and is just 3 hours from London or Edinburgh by train. While it’s easy enough to get to Northumberland from most major UK airports, try to plan your travel so that you fly into Newcastle International Airport, the main airport in Northumberland.
A top tip to consider when you’re visiting Northumberland is to hire a car. A lot of the County is rural countryside so you’ll end up spending more time trying to navigate on buses and a limited train service than seeing the beautiful sites. The best time to travel to Northumberland is between March and October when you can expect milder temperatures and longer days. In England you can never guarantee the weather but you’re more likely to experience rain, cold winds and even snow if you visit between November and February.
Contributed & photographed by Louise of Travel with the Whitrows
Sao Tome and Principe
The island nation of Sao Tome and Principe is one of the smallest, and remotest countries in the world. Far off the beaten tourist trail, the archipelago lies off the coast of west Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea. Thanks to its location, the islands remain little-visited, which just adds to the appeal.
While Principe is considered to be the more beautiful and rugged of the two islands, do make sure you spend a couple of days in Sao Tome too. Both places have so much to offer, from dramatic volcanic shorelines and dense rainforest to historic ruins and tasty foodie experiences.
Most people travel to Sao Tome and Principe via Lisbon with TAP Air Portugal. You’ll make a short stop in Accra enroute but won’t need to get off the plane. The flight lasts around 7 hours. If you want to explore Principe as well as Sao Tome, there are short, domestic flights running on several days of the week between the two islands.
You can visit at any time of year – it’s best to consider what you want to do whilst you’re there. Temperatures are pretty constant all year round, so it’s the rain you really want to consider. The wet season runs between October and November, as well as March through to May. Yet it doesn’t rain all day, and the skies are often bluer at this time of year, which makes for great photos. Hiking can be difficult during the wet season, but this is a good time to see the turtles hatching on the beaches, and the whales frolicking in the bays.
You’ll spend your time on the islands visiting atmospheric cacao and coffee plantations, hiking in the jungle and discovering secluded beaches. Praia Banana – Banana Beach – is a highlight, with picture-postcard golden sands lined with coconut palms. Take a boat trip around one of the islands and enjoy a bit of snorkelling, fishing and a picnic on a remote beach. This is the sort of place where you won’t come across many other tourists, and the whole experience feels virgin and authentic.
When it comes to accommodation, luxury hotels in Sao Tome and Principe are easy to find. In northern Principe, Sundy Praia is an idyllic beachside retreat while Roca Sundy offers an authentic plantation stay surrounded by history. Over on Sao Tome, Omali Lodge is a stone’s throw from the ocean and is conveniently located near the airport. There are budget options too, with a range of guest houses and lodges dotted around the islands. It’s best to book ahead as the islands are small, and places do get booked up.
Contributed & photographed by Heather of Conversant Traveller
Sao Tome and principe concludes this list of unique countries to visit, stay tuned for part two!