If you want to check out some of the coolest up-and-coming travel destinations before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, here's where you want to go according to recent travel trends!
1. Sierra Leone
Every year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) records travel statistics and predicts trends, and this year, they recorded a surprising destination with the biggest uptick in visitors: Sierra Leone.
From 2015 to 2016, the number of visitors to this small West African nation increased by 310%, perhaps partially due to the fact that the country was declared Ebola-free in 2015, but also due to the fact that it's a spectacular destination with a lot of wonderful attractions on offer.
Between the beaches, friendly locals, and peaceful villages, Sierra Leone is a great destination for travelers seeking an out-of-the-way vacation.
South Africa is a prime competitor of Sierra Leone, and it drew over 10 million travelers in 2016 while Sierra Leone drew in only 75,000. It's got a long ways to go, but we think it might continue to grow in popularity with more adventurous travelers! It's just... you know, tough to shake Ebola.
Egypt has sadly earned the reputation of a dangerous destination in the past few years, since the fallout of the Arab Spring effectively swept a military junta into power. But under this admittedly repressive regime, violence has continued to decrease and tourism has started to pick up once again.
There's no doubt that there's a lot to see and do in Egypt -- the Great Pyramids or taking a camel ride -- and with a 51% increase in tourism last year, it seems like the tide is finally turning in Egypt's favor.
It might be time to consider this as a viable option once again, especially since so many of us have the Pyramids on our bucket lists.
3. South Korea
Despite the nearby dictator in the north, South Korea has seen a 30% increase in visitors in recent years, reaching a grand total of 17.2 million in 2016.
Much of South Korea's modern splendor has escaped notice for years. But with secret paradises like Jeju, a Hawaii-like island with breathtaking beaches, hiking, underground cave exploration, and majestic volcanos, it's no wonder that tourism has continued to thrive. The capital, Seoul, is one of the most happening cities in the world, packed full of exciting activities, luxurious lodging, and fine dining.
Get on board with South Korea and you'll be part of a rising wave of savvy travelers that see the next big thing coming. And, hey -- with Kim Jong-un making friendly noises in the North, this may soon be an even safer and more attractive destination than it is now!
Moldova received the third-fewest visitors out of all European countries in 2016, but it has actually seen significant increases compared to its past numbers. For some, the fact that it still has a relatively low tourist count is actually a selling point.
There's some really interesting Soviet-style architecture to be seen in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, and history buffs will also appreciate the over 2,000-year-old monastery complex, Orheiul Vechi. Bird-watchers will also have their hands full, with upwards of 300 species to admire.
Wine culture is growing rapidly in Moldova, which hs some of the largest wine cellars in the world. And, really: do you need a better reason than wine to go for a visit?
If you're on Instagram or Facebook, you've likely seen at least a few posts from friends or friends of friends who have visited Iceland recently. It's still in the minority compared to major tourist destinations, but the number of visitors increased by 35% from 2015 to 2016. In fact, Iceland has become so popular with travelers that the government hasinstituted a tourism tax in an attempt to stop the tide.
June through August are the most popular times of year to visit Iceland with more daylight hours and warmer weather, but the year-round hot pools are always a treat. Reykjavik is a lovely city with great (albeit often expensive) dining and there are lots of activities to fill a well-priced Iceland trip, and there are still many deals to be had!
Kiribati is a diamond in the rough, and one that few have even heard of. Only 5,000 people traveled to this South Pacific island chain in 2015, but that's an increase from the previous year. And there are many reasons we'll likely see that number continue to increase in the coming years.
One reason is the micro-nation's plentiful coral atolls, islands encircled by coral reefs, which make Kiribati a diver's paradise. Visitors might have to string together activities on a few of the islands to fill out a week or longer trip, but there's plenty to do and see in Kiribati, and not many people competing for the views... yet!
If you've seen the movie of the same name, perhaps you have an idea of the plentiful wildlife to be found on this island nation of the southeast coast of Africa, and that is indeed a big selling point for visitors. Dozens of lemur species and more than half the world's chameleons are to be found here. Madagascar is considered "megadiverse" by Conservation International.
It's the fourth largest island in the world, and you'll likely spend the majority of your time exploring all the natural splendor it has to offer.
You might be surprised by some of the places that made this list. Some may be worth your time, and some may not. But the larger point is that there are always new and exciting destinations catching the imaginations of travelers the world over. This time next year, the list may look completely different. It's a big and beautiful world after all!