The next big things

There are five des­ti­na­tions you need to visit right now, says glo­be­trot­ter Ben Ground­wa­ter.

The Press - Escape - - DESTINATIONS -

Re­mem­ber when no-one would go to Cambodia? Or if you did, peo­ple would think you had some sort of death wish. The coun­try was known only for Pol Pot, landmines and geno­cide. No-one re­ally wanted to go for a hol­i­day in Cambodia. But ob­vi­ously things have changed – the demise of a regime led to a boom in tourism. Only 10 years ago the tem­ples of Angkor were get­ting about 270,000 for­eign visi­tors an­nu­ally. Last year, that num­ber swelled to more than two mil­lion.

That’s how things of­ten work – one day a coun­try is a no-go zone, the next it’s in re­cov­ery mode, and pretty soon the back­pack­ers have turned up to forge the path for tourism.

Among the trav­el­ling set now, ev­ery­one wants to go for a hol­i­day in Cambodia. Croa­tia, too, is at the top of many peo­ple’s lists. Laos is pop­u­lar. Viet­nam is huge.

But what are the next big things? Which coun­tries are you soon go­ing to be wish­ing you vis­ited now, be­fore ev­ery­one else ar­rived? Th­ese are my picks.

UKRAINE

De­spite its years be­hind the Iron Cur­tain, and re­cent un­rest over en­try into the Euro­pean Union, the Ukraine could be­come the next Croa­tia, or the next Czech Repub­lic, that Euro­pean coun­try with beauty and ad­ven­ture in spades. From the party scene in Odessa to the charm of Lviv, all of the qual­i­ties are there.

COLOMBIA

The word is out on Colombia. The coun­try for­merly known for drug-re­lated vi­o­lence and, well, drugs, has changed, and the tourists are ar­riv­ing. With good rea­son, too. You have Caribbean coast­lines in Colombia, you have Ama­zon jun­gle, you have nightlife in Medellin, you have surf beaches in the south and lit­tle fish­ing vil­lages in the north. Soon enough, it will be amain­stream desti­na­tion.

IRAN

The signs are good for Iran. With a new gov­ern­ment less likely to in­vent fake fighter planes but more likely, it seems, to open up a di­a­logue with the West. The coun­try is go­ing to be seen in­creas­ingly as a vi­able tourism op­tion. It’s cheap to travel in Iran, plus it’s safe, it’s friendly and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing. It won’t stay quiet for long.

MEX­ICO

Even­tu­ally, the vi­o­lence will stop. It has to. And when that time comes, when the drug car­tels loosen their grip on this amaz­ing part of the world, the trav­ellers are go­ing to come flood­ing back, prob­a­bly in far larger num­bers than be­fore. Mex­ico is one awe­some desti­na­tion – for food, for his­tory, for cul­ture, for nightlife . . . just wait­ing to open up again.

SRI LANKA

Civil un­rest in the north and the dev­as­ta­tion of the Box­ing Day 2004 tsunami in the south have slowed the progress of tourism here, but things are rapidly im­prov­ing. This is an af­ford­able desti­na­tion with beaches, moun­tains, tem­ples, great food and fan­tas­tic lo­cals. Once peo­ple re­alise it’s also safe, they’ll come pour­ing in.

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