Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Ten surprising holiday locations


Thailand? Everyone's got a Moon Party photo album. Half the office seem to be going to Croatia this summer - and don't even mention Ibiza.

If you dream of finding an undiscovered holiday gem, you'd do well to consider the destinations on this list. From former war-torn nations to recently opened boarders, the following locations have been recommended by the destination-obsessed minds of Lonely Planet's destination editors and Expedia.co.uk's managing director Andy Washington.

Pack your bags and prepare for something a little bit different.


1. Ethiopia

Live Aid and that Christmas song have done this African nation no favours when it comes to courting British tourists. "Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa's most successful, still fields calls asking if food will be served on board," says Lonely Planet's Matt Phillips. "In fact Ethiopia is a lush, mountainous and very proud country with an incredibly rich history." Explore ancient tombs, marvel at 16th-century castles and marvel at dramatic rock-hewn churches - and that's just in the nation's north.

Find out more


2. Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar hasn't been the easiest country to get into in the past, but as Andy Washington explains, 2014 is set to be an important year for the nation's tourist trade. The government has recently decisided to open its boarders to the wider world, giving you the opportunity to explore its ancient temples, rich wildlife and meet friendly locals. "Anyone needing inspiration for potential holiday ideas to look no further than this emerging South East Asian gem."

Find out more


3. Papua New Guinea

A bad reputation for security has put many off visiting this Pacific island, but as Lonely Planet's Tasmin Waby tells us, sticking to local guides or tour routes will reward holiday makers with one of the most diverse wildlife locations on the planet. "With some of the highest diversity of tropical marine life and coral in the world, and WWII wrecks lying off shore, PNG is heaven for divers. The main places where travellers head for diving are New Britain Province (Rabaul, Walindi & Hoskins), New Ireland Province (Kavieng) & Madan."

Find out more


4. East Timor

No, we didn't know where East Timor was either - we had to find out from Lonely Planet's Sarah Reid about this unspoiled paradise that's a must for anyone looking to escape the crowds. oasting idyllic empty beaches, delicious food and smiley Southeast-Asian hospitality, the tourism industry of this forgotten country is slowly finding its feet.

Find out more


5. Sierra Leone

It's been a decade since Sierra Leone's brutal civil war came to an end, yet few know this West African nation for what it's got to offer backpackers and explorers. As a result, you'll find you have miles of incredible tropical beaches, idyllic islands and verdant rainforests all to yourself.

Find out more


6. Oslo, Norway

Looking for the perfect long weekend break? You'd do well to bag a stay in Oslo, according to Andy Washington: “With a former reputation as one of the most expensive cities for holidaymakers to visit, Oslo has become an increasingly popular weekend retreat. With the recent fall of the Norwegian Krone against the pound, now is the time to go to get the best value.” In which case, you can treat yourself to a night at their rather swanky opera house (pictured above).

Find out more


7. Nicaragua

We were surprised by the choice of Lonely Planet's James Smart - Nicaragua went through a violent revolution only a generation ago. Apparently the nation is now one of Central America's safest destinations. "You can experience the Caribbean on the cheap with a stay on the Corn Islands, go volcano boarding and enjoy one of the best-priced and most chilled-out regions on the continent." When can we leave?

Find out more


8. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Google Sarajevo and you'll find plenty of articles about the bloody siege that took place there between 1992 and 1995 - not an ideal advert for its tourism trade. Since then the city has undergone a rejuvenation, with a vibrant café scene and eclectic nightlife. For anyone with an interest in all things historical, this year sees the city gain notable attention as it commemorates of the centenary of WWI and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (which prompted the start of the Great War, but you knew that).

Find out more


9. Kazakhstan

No, really. Forget everything that Borat might impressed upon you, Kazakhstan is a success story among Central Asian countries, grown wealthy on oil and gas reserves yet maintaining its unique collection of cultures and vast unspoilt landscapes. Lonely Planet's Megan Eaves highly recommends it: "Sipping a strong tea on the leafy European-style streets of the former capital Almaty, or photographing the strange, post-Brutalist architecture of the shiny new capital, Astana, you could easily forget that this misunderstood giant was not long ago a Soviet dumping ground."

Find out more


10. Kosovo

Kosovo was flung into the public conciousness in 1999 when NATO forces began bombing the region - but what you might not know about this southern Serbian province is that it's recognised by the USA and most of the EU as a country. "Those who venture off the beaten track in the Balkans will meet welcoming locals and the youngest population in Europe," explains Branislava Vladisavljevic, Lonely Planet's destination editor for Eastern Europe. Great for hiking and skiing opportunities around quiet mountain villages, the nation holds several World Heritage–listed medieval monasteries.

Find out more


(Images: Rex)

(Thanks to: Lonely Planet's Tasmin Waby, Matt Phillips, Branislava Vladisavljevic, James Smart and Anna Tyler; Expedia's Andy Washington)



The best man treatments in St Lucia


Video game travel guide

heartbreak kid.jpg

The 10 worst movie holidays ever



Six reasons you should run an ultramarathon

Our writer on why you should take on this superhuman challenge

by Howard Calvert
13 Sep 2016

How to negotiate a life-changing salary rise

Baby we got your money

by Nick Pope
13 Jun 2016

How to make your cat more affectionate

Fiercely independent or just fierce, this is how you make them love you

by Emily Badiozzaman
19 Feb 2016

TFL Could Push Uber To Extinction With New 'Unfair' Regulations

30 Sep 2015

These Chat-Up Lines Will (Apparently) Make You Great At Online Dating

28 Sep 2015

Brick-Lane's anti-gentrification protesters are their own enemy

by Joe Ellison
28 Sep 2015

Syria Crisis So Bad A Food Vault Meant For Apocalypse Has Been Opened

24 Sep 2015