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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.

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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."

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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).

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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."

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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.

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(Images: Rex)

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



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