15 Must-See Countries
Our top 15 countries from around the world that you can’t afford to miss.
It’s a big world out there. From natural wonders to cityscapes and concrete jungles, it can be a tough choice to narrow down the options for your next escape. Every year Lonely Planet releases its options for Best in Travel, so with that, along with our own experiences, we’ve compiled a list of 15 must-see countries from around the world. These are countries which will challenge you, excite you, and humble you. There are a few on this list that won’t be the easiest to navigate, or even to get to – but that’s half the fun. Pick one, or pick them all. As Mark Twain once mused, “So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.
A nation formerly known as Burma, this is a country with plenty to offer. And with the election of the first civilian government in half a century, Myanmar has all eyes on the future. The colonial charm of Yangon, the temples of Bagan and the sereneness of Inle Lake, are reason enough to why you’d want to get here before everyone else does.
Decades of civil war, drug cartels and violent crime have meant Colombia was once a place for only the wild-hearted. Skip forward to present day and it’s a woven tapestry of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality. Discover the innovative and buzzing Medellín, the enchanting Cartagena or explore the country’s lush coffee growing region.
The incredible landscape of this country is enough alone to put it on the list. A magnificent backdrop for any vacation, Iceland is a mysterious place of glaciers, geothermal baths plus much more. It’s home to one of the best sights to view the Aurora Borealis, one of nature’s most spectacular and beautiful phenomena.
Whether it’s the abundance of nature or the enamouring rhythms of village life and culture, there a few flaws in this beautiful country. Explore the hidden beaches along the Costa Vicentina, or hike the peaks of Peneda-Gerês National Park. The Douro Valley, the world’s first official designated wine region, has drawn people for not only its port, but its terraced vineyards carved into the mountains.
An absence of white-sand beaches has so far helped preserve the original landscape of this Caribbean island, with minimal resort development taken place. With coconut palms, prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, you’ll want to visit before 2018 when Dominica is set to get its first large-scale chain resort, which will bring on a wave of tourism.
Dubbed the rising star of the Middle East, Oman is a sanctuary compared to the towering luxury resorts of the UAE. Set out and discover this fascinating country, from lively souks to incredible architecture, explore the desert dues or traditional mountain villages. Marvel over the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, and visit the UNESCO-listed Bahla Fort.
One of the few African countries to have escaped European colonialism, Ethiopia as managed to retain much of its cultural identity. A place begging outdoor escapades, hiking and trekking in Ethiopia’s Simien and Bale Mountains are obvious choices. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better combination of nature and culture.
Cuba has quickly become one of the most exciting destinations on our radar. Step foot into the cobblestone streets and you’re amid washed-out colonial façcades with cigars, rum and rebellion at every turn. Miles of white sand beaches line the coast of Cuba, with clear blue waters and a sub-tropical climate it’s a breathtaking getaway destination.
Surrounded by the balmy turquoise water of the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda is lined with reefs that make it one of the world’s top diving destinations. Exploring the pink sand beaches of the South Shore is a must. Commonly mistaken for a Caribbean island (it’s British territory), Bermuda’s pastel-coloured houses and stately mansions in lush greenery make it feel like rural England in a much warmer climate.
Sri Lankans’ ability to overcome disaster and war while still remaining some of the most charming people on the planet is a testament to the beauty of this incredible place. Explore the tropical climate of the coast and lowlands, with beaches that ring the island. Then head for the hills for achingly green charms, verdant tea plantations and rainforests peaks that entice walkers and trekkers alike.
It’s not hard to fall for Brazil, with powdery white-sand beaches, luscious green rainforests and wild metropolises – it’s captivating. There are red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls, coral lined tropical islands and frozen-in-time colonial towns. Explore the nature in this country, with iconic species including toucans, scarlet macaws and pink dolphins.
Rugged and complex, Bolivia is superlative in its natural beauty. In the southwest is an unusual desert landscape, dotted with lakes as red as blood that home to several species of flamingoes. The Salar de Uyuni, a giant white salt pan, is covered with a thick crust of salt in hexagonal patterns. When the lake forms with the southern summer rains, it’s becomes a glassy, mirror-like surface.
An isthmus, home to some of Latin America’s most natural beauty, Panama has dense tropical rain forests, wide savannas, bursting coral reefs and deserted beaches. Explore the coffee farms and the cloud forests of Chiriquí. Listen to the conga drumming and sail through the immaculate and pristine islands.
The red pillars of Petra, an ancient city carved into the desert mountains, is what comes to mind for most when they think of Jordan. But this huge, majestic destination is full of wonder with coral reefs on the Red Sea, the dense Dead Sea, all surrounded by mountains and fertile hills. If you’re interested in history, explore the region of Amman – it dates back to 13th century B.C. Among all this, Jordan ignites a loyalty with it’s inhabitants with it’s opening its arms to strangers.
Canada’s allure is in its expanse of natural beauty, from soaring peaks and glaciers to secluded lakes and and remote wilderness. But Canada isn’t limited to only just the great outdoors, it has vibrant cities that are clean, safe and multicultural, and is home to some sensational food that varies from British Colombia in the west to Quebec in the east.