The lemurs of Madagascar, the penguins of Antarctica, and the breathtaking summit of Mount Everest await, because this world is a big one, and the possibility for adventure is endless. Whether you plan to look for the Loch Ness Monster in the Scottish Highlands or stand on the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, the world is full of exotic destinations, each one more exciting than the last. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
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The island nation of the Cook Islands is located in the South Pacific Ocean, and as a vacation destination it is often compared to the Hawaii of 50 years ago, before it was discovered by the masses of tourists who frequent it today. The 15 islands of this nation are largely untouched, with impossibly blue lagoons, stunning green tropical mountain ranges, and white sandy beaches. Visitors to the Cook Islands can stay at a resort on the island of Rarotonga and spend their days exploring the forests and landscapes of the islands or discovering just why the Cook Islands are a world-renowned spot for snorkeling and diving.
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Imagine climbing down into a cave and diving into the clear blue water at the bottom or cooling off in the spray of a jungle waterfall after a long hike. Fiji, an island nation comprising over 300 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, has all of this and more. It's a country personified by the swaying palms on its white sand beaches, the colorful coral reefs just off the coast from its blue lagoons, and the rugged landscape of jungles, mountains, and more which dominate the islands. National parks, resorts, spas, watersports, and more await visitors to Fiji. Things to Do in Fiji
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The South Pacific country of French Polynesia includes over 100 islands in five distinct archipelagos, only about half of which are actually inhabited. French Polynesia is a popular tourist destination, with islands like Tahiti and Bora Bora taking the lead when it comes to popularity due to the all-inclusive resorts, sandy beaches, and wide variety of activities these islands have to offer. But there's so much more to French Polynesia, and its many islands are full of green mountain peaks, sparkling turquoise waters, and a beautiful jungle landscape that is simply begging to be explored.
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The Seychelles is located off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, and it is an archipelago of over 100 islands. These stunning islands are home to beaches and resorts where visitors can go snorkeling and diving amongst the coral reefs, and perhaps even see a native giant Aldabra tortoise. On land, the Seychelles offers lovely nature reserves filled with tropical forests, waterfalls, and rugged green mountains as well as the mountainous rainforest of Morne Seychellois National Park, where visitors can explore on their own or take a tour through the wilderness.
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The word exotic usually evokes images of sandy beaches and palm trees, but when looking for a truly unique destination for a trip, Antarctica is truly about as exotic as it gets. The southernmost continent on the planet, which is pretty much entirely uninhabited, is a beautiful - albeit very, very cold - landscape of snow and ice. Visitors can reach Antarctica via plane or on a cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina, which will take them onto the continent's fringes, but for a more intense Antarctica experience, travelers may need to devote weeks, and sometimes over a month, of their time to visit the southernmost reaches of the world via chartered ship or on skis.
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The island of Borneo, in the Southeast Asian Malay Archipelago, belongs to three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. The island is rimmed with gorgeous tropical beaches perfect for diving, boating, or a day spent sunbathing in the sand. Inland, Borneo is famous for the stunning green rainforests that sprawl over the land, teeming with diverse wildlife such as clouded leopards and orangutans. Visitors to Borneo can see these rainforests and even more of the beautiful nature that the island of Borneo has to offer, including caves, cliffs, and breathtaking rock formations, or dive offshore to see some diverse marine life beneath the waves.
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The Corn Islands are a pair of islands located just off the coast of Nicaragua, in the Caribbean Sea. Visitors to the Corn Islands can stay in Nicaragua and take a boat ride to the islands for a day trip or choose to stay on the islands in a beachside cabana. Largely free from the swarms of tourists that dwell elsewhere in the Caribbean, the Corn Islands are very rustic, with few cars or roads on the islands, and a shoes-optional policy that many of the locals seem to permanently abide by. Fresh-caught seafood, untouched natural beaches, and some of the friendliest locals to be found anywhere in the Caribbean are just some of the other draws to the Corn Islands.
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The South American country of Ecuador, named for its geographic position straddling the equator, is a warm and lovely place. The country boasts a diverse landscape, including the South Pacific Coast, the highlands of the Andes mountain range, the breathtaking beauty of the Amazon jungle and, offshore, the tropical paradise that is the Galapagos Islands. At Galapagos National Park, visitors can see Galapagos green turtles, while on the island of Fernandina the volcanic landscapes are absolutely stunning. Local Ecuadorian food varies throughout the country but includes lots of seafood dishes like ceviche and encocado.
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The country of Greenland comprises a massive island (the world's largest, in fact!) in the Northern Atlantic Ocean where it meets the Arctic Ocean. Most of Greenland is covered in a thick permanent layer of ice, and its small population is concentrated along the rocky fjords of the coast. Visitors to Greenland can learn about Inuit culture and history at any of the country's fascinating museums, and they can also look for a massive array of wildlife there, including whales, polar bears, walruses, and reindeer. These animals, as well as many more natural sights, can be seen on boat tours or while diving, skiing, snowshoeing, or mountaineering through Greenland's rugged landscapes.
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Madagascar is an island nation located just off the eastern coast of Africa. The island was isolated for almost 90 million years of its history, and so its landscape and wildlife are incredibly unique from the rest of the world. Roughly 90% of the plants and animals found in Madagascar are endemic and cannot be found naturally in any other part of the world. Animals such as the lemur, which can often be seen leaping through the trees of Madagascar's jungle, are iconic of the country, and visitors will love exploring the exotic nature that is truly one of a kind.
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Historically, the Mongolian people have held fast to their nomadic culture, moving across the rugged landscapes of their region with their livestock, their families, and all their belongings strapped to their carts and their backs. Today, Mongolia is just as ruggedly beautiful, with stunning, empty expanses of mountains, plains, and desert that are wonderful for exploring, but the country also features many large and modern cities. In Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital, visitors can learn a lot about Mongolia's most famous icon: Genghis Khan, who is featured in a number of museums and monuments.
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Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa, is a diverse nation with lots of beautiful wildlife. Distinctly separated into several different landscapes, it included the South Atlantic coast, the Namib Desert, and savannah. Namibia has more than 300 days of sunshine a year, so visitors will have ample opportunity to get out and explore some of the greatest wilderness in the world. Lucky explorers will have the opportunity to spot some black rhino, zebra, puku antelope, wildebeest, and African elephant. At night, visitors will be stunned by the sheer number of stars in the sky, as Namibia has been named one of the top destinations in the world for stargazing.
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The Asian country of Nepal is much smaller than its Chinese neighbor to the north and its Indian neighbor to the south, but this little country still packs a major punch. The mountainous nation is a hiker's paradise, set into the Himalayas, and is home to the southern slopes of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. In the country's capital of Kathmandu, visitors can explore ancient temples and stupas, while out in the Nepalese wilderness, there are mountains to be climbed and explored via zipline, horseback, sky diving, or on foot.
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There's little on this earth that can be considered more exotic than a land that was chosen to depict one of the most iconic fantasy worlds of all time: Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings series. New Zealand's massive spectrum of landscapes include snow-capped mountains, icy glaciers, flat, grassy plains, fjords, rainforests, volcanoes, caves, and sandy beaches, making it a veritable wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts looking to go hiking, camping, kayaking, climbing, and so much more. Trips to the outlying islands, traditional Maori seafood dishes, and even more adventure awaits in New Zealand.
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The Terrestrial North Pole is the geographic point where the Earth's rotational axis meets its surface. Technically, it's just a bit of frozen ocean, but this spot has inspired the imagination of humans for centuries, from the race to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic to the letters sent each year to Santa Claus by millions of kids. Aboard an icebreaker ship like the 50 Years of Victory, travelers can take a 2-week journey from Murmansk, Russia, to the very top of the world, where they can hop in a helicopter or a hot air balloon to see it from above, and perhaps spot a polar bear, walrus, or other form of Arctic life.
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The ancient city of Petra, located in Jordan, was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2000, and it's easy to see why. This beautiful city, carved into the red sandstone of the cliffs behind it, is often called the Rose City, and was once the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. It dates back to around 300 BC and contains a number of tombs and temples, which are available for exploration by visitors. The Siq, a narrow canyon pathway, will lead travelers to the ancient city, where they will find impressive structures such as The Treasury, a 130-foot-tall temple with an intricate facade.
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The country of Rwanda is most renowned for its beautiful African rainforests, and in Nyungwe National Park travelers to Rwanda can explore the jungle to find primates such as chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Inside the forested Volcanoes National Park, visitors may see five beautiful volcanic peaks, including massive Mount Karisimbi, whose summit reaches well over 14,000 feet in elevation. Volcanoes National Park is also home to many species of animals, including golden monkeys and the critically endangered mountain gorillas. In Akagera National Park, which has more of a savannah landscape, there are hippos, giraffes, and African elephants.
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18.Salar de Uyuni
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In Bolivia, amid the Andes mountains, is a massive stretch of flat land where a peculiar phenomenon occurs. A thick crust of salt in conjunction a thin layer of water on the ground turn Salar de Uyuni into a breathtakingly unique mirror, one which reflects the sky in such detail and accuracy that to stand in it is to feel like you're floating in midair. The salt flat of Salar de Uyuni was formed millions of years ago when a prehistoric lake dried up and left a desert-like plain of crusted salt and rock. Salar de Uyuni is only reflective at certain times of year, after the flooding of nearby lakes leaves a layer of water on the ground of the flats, so careful planning for this trip is a must.
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The mountainous northern region of Scotland is one that will always maintain an aura of romance and fantasy. From Celtic legends of fairies and magic in the area to the real-life history of the Highland clans who once dominated the region, the Scottish Highlands are a land filled with history and beauty at every turn. Visitors can hike, bike, or ride on horseback through the green, rocky, mossy landscapes, under a stunningly big sky, or visit old castles that once belonged to prominent clans. For more of an air of mystery, there's Loch Ness and its legendary monster or the ancient stone circles of the Celtic druids.
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Tibet, an autonomous Chinese region in the Himalayas, is often referred to as the Roof of the World for the tall, imposing mountains in the region, including Mount Everest, which it shares with Nepal. There is no independent travel allowed in Tibet, so any visitors to the region must arrange their travel through an agency at least 6 weeks ahead of time, and they must have a tour guide for the entirety of their stay in Tibet, who will be with travelers for around 3 to 5 hours each day. Once in the region, visitors to Tibet can explore temples, monuments, and parks, as well as some of the stunning nature in the region like the Himalayas.
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Geographically, Turkey is unique in that it has land on both the European and Asian continents. This Middle Eastern country is home to some of the oldest parts of human history and also boasts some beautiful scenery. In the city of Istanbul, visitors can see the beautiful Hagia Sofia, which was a built in the 5th century AD and has been used as a basilica, a mosque, and now a museum. In the Central Anatolia Region, often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization, there are the remnants of many of the empires and civilizations that have called Turkey home over the millennia, including the Greek, Persian, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires.
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Turkmenistan is a Central Asian country located on the coast of the Caspian Sea. Historically, Turkmenistan was a major part of the ancient trade network known as the Silk Road. The capital city of Ashgabat has a record-breaking number of white marble buildings and a massive number of fascinating historical museums and monuments. The country is also home to many other archaeological ruins as well as some truly lovely nature such as underground lakes and the Door to Hell - a continuously burning crater filled with natural gas. Visitors to Turkmenistan will require a visa and a letter of invitation in order to enter the country, which can be obtained 4 to 6 weeks before their visit from a licensed travel agency.
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The Southeast Asian country of Vietnam is located on the South China Sea, and its massively long coastline is home to many beautiful beaches. The country's rivers, dotted with rocky limestone islands and lined with impossibly green jungles, are gorgeous to say the very least, and Vietnam's cities, like the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, are filled with historic temples, Buddhist pagodas, and some delicious local food opportunities. Exploring nature in Vietnam is fantastic: In Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park there are some of the most beautiful and expansive cave systems in the world, while on the Hai Van Pass visitors can rent a motorbike and drive up the mountainous roads for a spectacular view.
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Abu Dhabi's name means "Land of the Gazelle," and according to legend, comes from an antelope that brought a thirsty tribe to fresh water at the site that has now grown into the capital of the United Arab Emirates. This cosmopolitan high-rise city now bustles with activity, and visitors can explore the streets of Abu Dhabi for shopping, food, and sightseeing, such as the 82 domes of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of Abu Dhabi's most recognizable and impressive buildings. For a taste of the seaside, there are the beaches, paths, and cafes along the Corniche, the waterfront road that runs parallel to the coast of the Persian Gulf.
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The North African country of Algeria certainly fits the bill when it comes to exotic. The country, which is the largest in Africa, has a northern border that forms part of the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, with a mountainous terrain that is often capped with snow. Further inland, visitors will find the hot, sandy expanse of the Sahara Desert, where travelers can take a tour and ride a camel across the massive dunes of the world's largest non-polar desert. In Algeria, history buffs will find ruins from the Roman Empire in Tipaza as well as Ottoman buildings in the country's capital city of Algiers.
25 Best Places to Visit in the World
- Cook Islands, Photo: Courtesy of emperorcosar - Fotolia.com
- Fiji, Photo: Courtesy of Martin Valigursky - Fotolia.com
- French Polynesia, Photo: Courtesy of 18042011 - Fotolia.com
- Seychelles, Photo: Courtesy of lucky-photo - Fotolia.com
- Antarctica, Photo: Courtesy of bummi100 - Fotolia.com
- Borneo, Photo: Courtesy of boule1301 - Fotolia.com
- Corn Islands, Photo: Courtesy of LMspencer - Fotolia.com
- Ecuador, Photo: Courtesy of jkraft5 - Fotolia.com
- Greenland, Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth - Fotolia.com
- Madagascar, Photo: Courtesy of Duleyrie - Fotolia.com
- Mongolia, Photo: Courtesy of flocu - Fotolia.com
- Namibia, Photo: Courtesy of Winfried Rusch - Fotolia.com
- Nepal, Photo: Courtesy of Ingo Bartussek - Fotolia.com
- New Zealand, Photo: Courtesy of Stephane Pothin - Fotolia.com
- North Pole, Photo: Courtesy of MrPhotoMania - Fotolia.com
- Petra, Photo: Courtesy of bgspix - Fotolia.com
- Rwanda, Photo: Courtesy of simoneemanphoto - Fotolia.com
- Salar de Uyuni, Photo: Courtesy of Kseniya Ragozina - Fotolia.com
- Scottish Highlands, Photo: Courtesy of Franco Bissoni - Fotolia.com
- Tibet, Photo: Courtesy of Fotoimp - Fotolia.com
- Turkey, Photo: Courtesy of seqoya - Fotolia.com
- Turkmenistan, Photo: Courtesy of michalknitl - Fotolia.com
- Vietnam, Photo: Courtesy of gnomeandi - Fotolia.com
- Abu Dhabi, Photo: Courtesy of Alexmar - Fotolia.com
- Algeria, Photo: Courtesy of Marine26 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Simon Dannhauer - Fotolia.com
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