Every year, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) tracks travel trends to predict the newest up-and-coming destinations.
The organisation tracks international visitors and presents information about which countries are spiking interest. And over the past year, some unlikely countries have emerged as front-runners.
Despite long-standing conflict in the Middle East, more visitors are venturing to countries like Palestine, Egypt and Tunisia. South American destinations, like Uruguay and Chile, have also seen impressive growth over the past year.
If you’re looking to travel to the coolest destinations before everybody else, consider this list your guide.
1. Palestinian Territories
Over the past year, international tourist visits to Palestine increased almost 58%. The West Bank sees the most visitors around Christmas when Bethlehem hosts a midnight mass.
As violence in the country decreases, tourism numbers increased 51% in Egypt last year. Tourists can visit ancient monuments like the Pyramids of Giza or something more modern, like a screaming room at this bookstore.
3. Northern Mariana Islands
This US territory saw a 37% tourist growth over the past year. The tropical archipelago, northeast of Guam, is known for its casinos and beaches lined with palm trees.
Since 2010, tourists in Iceland have tripled. And trends continued last year, with a 35% increase. Visitors tend to go between June and August, when the weather is kinder and there are more hours of daylight.
Tunisia is recovering from its 2015 terrorist attack fairly quickly. The country had a 33% increase in tourists last year. Tourists are heading back to the country for its resorts, beaches and preserved ancient history.
Vietnam showed the most tourism growth in Asia this past year, with a 31% growth in arrivals. The country is equally beloved by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and students on their gap year.
Some people are calling Uruguay South America’s latest hot spot. Over the past year, 3 million people visited the country — a 30% increase from the previous year, according to UNWTO. Be sure to visit the capital of Montevideo and attempt some celebrity spotting on the beaches of Punta del Este.
An estimated 1.5 million people visited Nicaragua in 2016, a 28% increase year-over-year. It’s an affordable Central American destination that’s less crowded than its neighbour, Costa Rica.
Tourism to Mongolia increased 28% last year. Tourists are drawn to Mongolia’s secluded resorts and the surprise overnight growth of the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Israel received 2.9 million visitors last year, a 25% increase over the previous year. Despite the fact that the country is only the size of New Jersey, it packs a historical punch. Tourists flock to the Dead Sea, the Western Wall and the nightlife of Tel Aviv.
Despite the fact that one of Malta’s most popular tourist attractions, the Azure Window, crumbled into the sea earlier this year, visitation increased 23 percent. It’s become a popular location for shooting feature films, including Gladiator, Captain Phillips and even The Da Vinci Code.
When explorers first discovered the 115-island archipelago of Seychelles, they believed they had come across the Garden of Eden. Its popularity is growing, with a 20% increase in tourist visits over the past year.
Montenegro could be giving its popular neighbour, Croatia, a run for its money. Over the past year, the Balkan country saw a 20% rise in tourism.
Another quickly-growing South American country is Chile, which also received 20% more tourists over the past year. Its diverse landscapes and environment make it a great destination for the outdoorsy types.
This Middle Eastern country is cementing itself as bona fide luxury destination. UNWTO says that over the past year, it’s seen a 19% increase in tourism. Oman has only been open to tourists since the 1980s, so it’s still relatively unspoilt. Although, go quick: A new resort seems to open there every day.
Cyprus had an 18% increase in tourists over the past year. They’re likely all discovering the island’s treasure trove of beaches and ancient artefacts.
Throughout its long history (over 3,000 years), Armenia has been plagued with conflict. However now, in more stable times, the country had an 18% growth in tourism over the past year. Because it was the world’s first Christian country, many of the most popular tourist attractions are monasteries that date back thousands of years.
Maybe it’s partially because of the popularity of Narcos, but Colombia had 18% growth in tourism last year. In recent years, the country (and specifically the capital of Bogota) has become world renowned as a foodie destination.
Finland is often overlooked in favour of other, more popular Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark. However in the past year, it’s seen a 17% boost in tourism. Go to experience a traditional sauna, dine on reindeer meat and gaze up at the northern lights in Finnish Lapland.
Ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan is busy preparing for tourists. This past year, 17% more people visited the country. And tourists are venturing far outside of Tokyo; Osaka and Kyoto both saw increased tourism in the past year, too.
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