Believe it or not, there are still some countries in the world that have been barely touched by tourism yet which offer a wealth of beauty, history and nature. We bet you've never even thought of holidaying here...
Unlikely holiday destinations
Bet you've never thought of holidaying here...
Isolated until recently, and dominated for decades by a post-war Communist regime, Albania is quite unlike any other European country. It boasts a rich and varied history, from colonisation by the Ancient Greeks to Ottoman (Turkish) domination in the Medieval period. Many of the archaeological sites are set in lovely, unspoilt landscapes, where the ancient ruins lie surrounded by wildflowers. Pictured is a 14th century Byzantine Berat Church built by Emperor Andronicus III overlooking the valley at Berat. Who goes there? Andante Travels offers an eight-night tour for £1900 per person. Visit andantetravels.co.uk.
The mountains and lakes of the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, along with its Nomadic traditions, make the tiny country an attractive destination, but lack of investment has meant that tourism is still in its infancy. Who goes there? In the Saddle offers a horseback adventure along part of the ancient silk route: 16 nights cost from £1,395 pp full board. Suitable for intermediate to experienced riders. Flights extra. Visit inthesaddle.com
To date, South Korea is little known among western tourists - most visitors come from Japan and Asia. Attractions include the ancient capitals of Seoul, Gyeongju and Buyeo, as well as the beautiful peaks of the Baekdudagean mountain range. You can now also visit the Demilitarized Zone to see the barrier separating North and South Korea and Jeju, the ‘Island of the Gods’. Who goes there? Explore offers a tour of South Korea from Seoul to Gyeongju. From £2,607pp B&B for 12 nights, including flights Visit www.explore.co.uk.
Nearly half of this Eastern European country, which borders Russia and the Ukraine, is covered by forests. With more than 11,000 lakes and large tracts of marshland, the untouched landscape is perfect for wildlife lovers and twitchers. You'll spot European Bison, eight species of woodpecker, plus raptors and owls. Who goes there? Naturetrek runs a bird watching and natural history trip to the primeval oak forests and wetlands of Belarus, based in the Pripiatsky National Park. Seven nights cost from £1,595pp, including flights. Visit naturetrek.co.uk.
Algeria offers no infrastructure for tourism, and it's one of the least-visited countries in the world. The empty, desert landscapes are home to some spectacular classical sites, such as Djemila and Tipasa and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Timgad (pictured), a Roman town whose entire layout still survives. Who goes there? Andante Travels offers a nine-night tour for £2,590 pp including flights. Visit andantetravels.co.uk.
Papua New Guinea remains a mystery for most travellers, but its unique indigenous culture, remote villages, smouldering volcanoes and ritual music and dancing of colourful festivals make it a fascinating choice for adventurers. Who goes there? Explore offers a new tour for 2012, Papua New Guinea Revealed: 17 nights for from £4,999pp including flights. Visit explore.co.uk.
Recent investments in new hotels in Armenia indicate a mission to increase tourism, and Armenia certainly offers plenty for adventurers and history lovers. The Lesser Caucasus mountains of Armenia have 5th and 6th century stone-carved churches, prehistoric standing stones, ruined forts, carved stone crosses and remote monasteries scattered throughout. Who goes there? Kudu Travel has 11 nights for £1,990pp full board in four-star hotels. Flights extra. Visit kudutravel.com.
Mongolia is one of the world's last great frontiers, with ancient nomadic cultures virtually untouched by Western influence. North-west Mongolia's alpine meadows, clear lakes, dense forests and rugged mountains provide a wonderful landscape to explore by horse. Who goes there? Ride Worldwide offers a riding holiday in the Terelj and Khentii region, homeland of Genghis Khan. Ten nights from £1,310pp. Flights extra. Visit rideworldwide.com.
The laid-back 'land of a million elephants' has yet to be taken over by mass tourism. In the meantime, it offers a rich tapestry of traditional culture and wondrous scenery, including the magical Vang Viengs river and the Kuang Si Waterfalls. Who goes there? Gecko's Adventures offers a Highlights of Laos tour: 13 nights cost £707pp. Flights extra. Visit geckosadventures.com.
One of the smallest countries of the Americas, El Salvador is frequently overlooked by travellers who head instead for the better-known resorts in Costa Rica and Belize. Rich in natural wonders, including El Imposible National PArk, a 9,000 acre forest which ranges from 900ft to 4,300ft above sea level. Who goes there? Responsible Travel offers seven nights from £982 excluding flights. Visit responsibletravel.com.