When you stop to think about it, the world is huge. Overwhelmingly huge. There are 196 officially recognized countries in the entire world and thousands upon thousands of cities and towns to choose from, to explore, live, visit for a few days, even stay long-term. When many of us think of traveling, however, our minds wander across the Atlantic over to the fifty countries that make up Europe. It’s time to stop focusing just there and start expanding our horizons to the other parts of the globe. Here are a few non-European destinations worth considering instead.
San Jose, Costa Rica
There’s a reason why Costa Rica bears the name that it does. In English, it literally translates to “rich coast.” With some of the most beautiful rainforests, beaches, mountains, volcanoes and one of the highest densities of biodiversity in the world, this small and natural country in Central America is becoming more and more attractive to environmentally conscious and adventurous travelers. If staying in a treehouse with howler monkeys roaming about sounds like something you’d be into, look no further. Pura Vida!
It is surprising how often Canada is overlooked as a travel destination, especially to us as Americans living right under it. Toronto and Montreal are two major cities that draw in numerous tourists a year, but over on the West Coast of Canada, a hidden gem awaits discovery. The province of Alberta, which includes cities Edmonton and Calgary, encompasses diverse landscapes that could provide enough photo opportunities to last a lifetime — from the mountains to the forests to desert badlands. Some travelers may be deterred by the north’s infamous frigid temperatures, but exploring Alberta is an all-year round possibility that involves skiing in the winter, canoeing in the spring, and relaxing by the lake in the summer. See for yourself in this video by filmmaker Ben Brown.
Over 6 million people make up Thailand’s capital city’s population. Quadruple that number, to 24 million, which is roughly the number of international tourists that visit the IndoChinese peninsula each year, making it Asia Pacific’s most popular tourist destination. The glowing city is known for its vivacious nightlife, the Thai’s friendly behavior, hospitality and the plethora of markets and shops that dominate the city center. Visiting one of the many historic temples and shrines is also a must, with no need to be religious to enjoy. The frequent Full Moon parties (every month from April to December) are also a “can’t miss” when visiting.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Where else in the world can you go that is both a city and a beach both at the same time? Enter the United Arab Emirates’ most populous city — Dubai. In recent decades, Dubai has emerged to be one of the Middle East’s major business and transport hubs. The nightlife, luxurious shopping and sleek modern architecture also make the city one of the richest and most expensive in the entire world, so if you’re planning a trip, be sure to book far in advance and plan accordingly. And make sure to include a camel ride around the desert while you’re at it.
Cape Town, South Africa
Off the southwest coast near the tip of the African coast is a port city known for its harbors and gorgeous mountain ranges. Over the past few years, Cape Town has become one of the most multicultural cities in the world, bringing in thousands of expatriates to bask in its all-natural bays and beaches. Table Mountain, a flat-topped mountain overlooking the city, is one of Cape’s most popular attractions, offering visitors the choice to either ride an aerial cable-way up or hike your way to the top. Talk about #views.
I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience Cuba in its most authentic form, only a year shy of the restoration of ties between both of our countries. Havana is Cuba’s most populous and capital city, one that looks and feels like it is perpetually stuck in the 1960s. The art deco, beautiful architecture, rich culture and history are indeed some of the highlights to a trip to Havana, situated only 200 miles off the coast of Miami. Yet, the highlight of a Cuban adventure remains in its people. Their generosity, humility, and optimistic approach to life regardless of circumstance is an amiable quality that warms any visitor. A ‘paladar’ experience — restaurants self-made and run by families — is also a great way to help the local culture all while directly immersing yourself with the Cubans and their cuisine. Check out Conan O’Brien’s experience.
Known for its volcanoes, rice fields, and coral reefs, Bali is no stranger to visitors. Its diverse art scene is too, a major attraction to the island, with the Balinese specializing in sculpture, painting, metalworking and traditional music and dance. The white-sanded beaches and marine life also offer visitors the choice of either relaxing by the shore or diving headfirst into the sea for a day of snorkeling. Bali offers the perfect blend of chilled vacation and adventurous escapade. A win-win!