WHAT LIES BE­YOND

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL TRENDS - LISA MAYOH

For­got­ten des­ti­na­tions – think Ethiopia, Zim­babwe and Kaza­khstan – are mak­ing a come­back, with over­tourism forc­ing trav­ellers off the beaten track and on to roads less trav­elled. Leonie Clay from Hel­loworld Travel part­ner My Travel Ex­pert in Nowra, NSW, says Cen­tral Asian coun­tries that Aussies re­fer to as “the Stans” – Kaza­khstan, Turk­menistan, Kyr­gyzs­tan, Ta­jik­istan and Uzbek­istan – are at­tract­ing more trav­ellers than ever, and for good rea­son.

She points to nat­u­ral won­ders such as Bro­ken Heart Gorge in Kyr­gyzs­tan, the desert land­scapes of East­ern Turk­menistan and rock trans­for­ma­tions of Uzbek­istan. Her­itage­listed Uzbek sites such as Shakhris­abz, Bukhara, Khiva and Sa­markand are some of the world’s old­est in­hab­ited ci­ties, where you can dis­cover the cul­tural growth of lo­cal tribes and their an­cient her­itage.

“Orig­i­nally the ma­jor­ity of vis­i­tors were Rus­sian, sim­ply be­cause dur­ing the days of Soviet Rus­sia, trav­el­ling in­ter­nally was eas­ier for them than ex­ter­nally,” Leonie says.

While Aus­tralians have trav­elled there for some time, dif­fi­cul­ties with ac­cess to flights and visas have kept num­bers low, she says. But with Uzbek­istan now al­low­ing E-visas, and the abil­ity to get visas on ar­rival for oth­ers, and some waiv­ing them en­tirely – the re­gion is go­ing to open up like never be­fore, bring­ing a di­verse, an­cient, cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant and nat­u­rally stun­ning area to the fore­front.

Leonie rec­om­mends see­ing these places now. “For a truly unique ex­pe­ri­ence, a taste of what these des­ti­na­tions are, see them while the in­fra­struc­ture is be­ing de­vel­oped, while the num­bers are low, while things are still raw and unedited and free of the fil­ters that mass tourism tends to pro­duce.”

In­trepid is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a rise in travel and trip searches for Ethiopia, Zim­babwe, Moldova, Green­land, Kaza­khstan and Hun­gary, while global book­ings to Hun­gary are up 155 per cent and book­ings to Moldova in East­ern Europe up 80 per cent. In­trepid Group CEO James Thorn­ton says 2019 will be the year Aussie trav­ellers ven­ture to more re­mote places, for trips that take on a deeper mean­ing.

“Where and how you travel is now a so­cial marker, it iden­ti­fies who you are,” he says. “The trav­eller of 2019 will be de­fined by their strong so­cial con­science and a height­ened sense of ad­ven­ture. This year will be a ‘com­ing of age’ for trav­ellers as we see sig­nif­i­cant changes to how, why and where they hol­i­day.”

In­trepid has also seen a rise of 121 per cent in trav­ellers vis­it­ing the Mid­dle East in 2018.

Aus­tralians on a bud­get are go­ing to Tur­key, Sri Lanka, In­dia and Mo­rocco, ac­cord­ing to Hostelworld. The hos­tel book­ing plat­form says the 2018 World Cup proved there is never a des­ti­na­tion too far for Aussies when it comes to watch­ing live sport, with Soc­ceroos’ sup­port­ers swarm­ing Rus­sian hos­tels dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, re­sult­ing in a 134 per cent year-on-year in­crease in to­tal book­ings.

“A re­cent study by Hostelworld showed Aussies feel trav­el­ling plays an im­por­tant role in de­vel­op­ing life skills and per­son­al­ity,” the com­pany’s Ca­tri­ona Flood says.

PIC­TURE: ISTOCK

Aussies are seek­ing out re­mote places for their travel ad­ven­tures such as Sa­markand, Uzbek­istan.

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