Now that the health crisis has subsided and the world has reopened for business as usual, all of the top global destinations are once again awash with tourists.
From France's gorgeous Mediterranean coast to Italy's most iconic cities, overtourism is back to haunt the travel industry, so much so that these exact hotspots are now limiting the number of visitors.
Luckily for crowd-wary travelers, particularly those who are keen on escaping the price surge resulting from overdevelopment in some of the world's most popular markets, these 4 lesser-known, yet super-trendy countries have not been affected by this worrying phenomenon… for now.
Here's why you should visit them before the Instagram and TikTok hordes get wind of them and they become too popular:
Perhaps the least-visited nation in the Caucasus, the natural border between Eastern Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan sits on the shores of the Caspian Sea, with its distinct Turkic origins and Muslim-majority populace setting it apart from neighboring Georgia and Armenia.
Last year, only 1.6 million foreigners visited Azerbaijan, roughly 50% below pre-pandemic levels, despite the country's unmatched tourist offer, which comprises modern, futuristic metropolises, a bucolic countryside dotted with ancient ruins, and astonishing nature.
The capital city of Baku is easily Azerbaijan's main attraction, famous for its UNESCO-listed walled Old City, originally settled in the 7th century AD, a trio of skyscrapers designed to resemble dancing flames housing a Fairmont Hotel and Soviet architecture.
The flame symbolism is not purposeless: Azerbaijan is nicknamed the ‘Land of Fire', and outside Baku, visitors can marvel at the Burning Mountain, or Yanar Dagh, where a natural gas fire has been blazing incessantly for decades.
Americans can obtain Azerbaijani e-Visas online for visits of up to 30 days.
On the Mediterranean coast of North Africa lies a historic country graced with unruffled sandy beaches, aqua waters, a rich Arab-Berber cuisine, and quaint little towns a majority of Americans might not have even heard of: welcome to Tunisia.
Tunisia has recently dropped all health-related entry restrictions, enabling U.S. passport holders to travel requirement-free within the country for up to three months, though you will certainly wish they'd allow visitors to stay longer:
There is so much to see and do in Tunisia that you may struggle to put together a comprehensive itinerary, though our top picks include Tunis, the exciting capital, where the traditional Ancient World clashes head-on with the fast urban spread of the 21st century, the UNESCO-protected medina of Sousse, and the blue-and-white resort town of Sidi Bou Said.
Tunisia is rising in popularity in 2023, and it won't be long until it is no longer an untarnished, cheap alternative to other Mediterranean powers on the European side of the basin:
UK-based airline easyJet has revealed demand for travel to the country has risen the most out of all destinations they serve since 2019.
Southeast Asia's only landlocked country, Laos is often overlooked by tourists who expect tropical beaches, otherwordly karst formations, and ocean vistas traveling in the subcontinent, but as you're about to find out, it doesn't need the sea to be awe-inspiring.
Cut through by the Mekong River, Laos has a scenic mountainous terrain bestrewn with Buddhist monasteries, rice paddies, and hillside settlements that may well be a portal to 19th-century rural Asia.
Due to its underdeveloped, largely unexplored lands, it is the perfect location to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Vientiane, the capital straddling the border with Thailand, is effectively the only major urban center in the entire territory, providing urbanites some relief from the greenery and cicada sounds with its French colonial architecture, quirky cafes, and a handful of leisure centers.
Laos is also open for tourism without any entry curbs, unlike the far more popular vacation spots of Indonesia or the Philippines.
Americans can apply for an e-Visa in advance or obtain a Visa On Arrival (VOA) at authorized checkpoints and will not be made to disclose their vaccination status nor undergo testing.
One of the most promising Digital Nomad hubs in Europe, the Balkan nation of Bulgaria is renowned for its ancient History spanning more than six millennia, majestic Eastern Orthodox churches, high affordability, and amazing summer weather.
In Sofia, the capital and largest city, tourists will find an improbable combination of Roman ruins and Communist-era Brutalism, numerous cafes oozing with character, a lively nightlife, and the country's best museums and art galleries.
Further afield, Plovdiv is Europe's criminally underrated oldest continuously-inhabited city, predating Athens, Rome, and the like by thousands of years.
Full of charm, it features a Roman theater in a near-perfect state of preservation and a cobblestone Old Town jam-packed with colorful wooden houses and craft markets.
Veliko Tarnovo, in North Central Bulgaria, is the former imperial capital, spanning three hills and housing two medieval fortresses that stand among the continent's largest and most monumental.
On the Black Sea Coast, the sandy beaches are lined with budget hotels and guesthouses, and temperatures can easily hit the 86°F mark between the months of June and August.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
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