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Obscure Countries - The Ultimate Backdoor Trip?

I was thinking - there are so many countries and places that no one talks about. Perhaps now would be a good time to research places on the map that never get attention of any kind. Could it be there are safety issues with some of these countries? High costs? Lack of infrastructure for travelers? Lack of sights worth traveling to see?

Please feel free to share the names of countries that get overlooked that could make good travel destinations. Bhutan is on my dream list - but, is not easy to travel to. Interesting, but requires a fair chunk of change and some heavy planning.

Posted by
726 posts

I think there are many reasons why most people stay on a well-traveled path and hit the big European sites. But In recent years, many of those places became so saturated with tourists, that people were already starting to look further afield. However, It takes more research, money, and a deep sense of adventure to go to less familiar places. I for one am not interested in going to many countries outside of Europe for all the reasons you stated above. Additionally, as we get older and in this time of COVID, we also worry about the state of the local health care and what would happen if we got sick. When I return to Europe, I will certainly be looking for locations that are away from the maddening crowds. I like the tranquility of the Channel Islands and I would like to explore Sardinia.


Posted by
7990 posts

i have friends who have been to Bhutan several times, their favorite place, very spiritual.
For me , perhaps the“ stans.” We were very close to them in western China and it piqued my curiosity.

Posted by
6877 posts

I don't think any of these are obscure per se, just not popular or well-trodden by Americans. I bet Lonely Planet covers each one. I would go to any one of them if I had the chance.
- Georgia
- Iran
- Uzbekistan
- Mongolia

Posted by
1954 posts

I don't even need to leave Europe or the front of the alphabet to name the ones on my mind:

--> Cyprus

---> Corsica

--> Aisle of Man
(see what I did there)

Posted by
28108 posts

wake up with a case of the grumps, Ufkak?

Posted by
3329 posts

Ha, ha. I had the same reaction to ufkak. Upon reflection, however, I think it a blessing that people eschew the well-trodden places in western Europe for more obscure destinations. It leaves more room for me in France, Spain, and Italy.

Posted by
3350 posts

Ufkak has a point, social media as well as travel shows have led to many destinations being overcrowded with tourists while other lovely places go virtually unnoticed because the right instagrammers or guide book writers have not been there yet. E.g. Germany, a country that is almost littered with small charming towns. But it seems like everyone has to go to Rothenburg o.d.T., you rarely see people asking on this forum how to get to Zittau, Görlitz, Ansbach or any other of the small interesting towns in Germany.

There are probably no overlooked countries in western Europe, but plenty of overlooked regions. Like nothern Germany, Jutland, most of the Netherlands outside Amsterdam, Czech republic outside Prague and Český Krumlov, as well as many other regions. But if you look behind the former iron curtain you can find countries that you might call overlooked. The Baltic states for example.

Posted by
5704 posts

I agree with Badger that in Europe, it’s more likely to be backdoor regions than countries for Europeans. On this forum, Wales has few queries compared to Scotland and the scenery is as stunning.

I know more people that have been to Bhutan than have holidayed in Switzerland (other than skiing holidays).

Most people from the U.K. will have holidayed in Cyprus at some point and wouldn’t consider this to be backdoor travel, but the perception maybe different to Americans.

One of the most interesting holidays I have been on recently was to Sri Lanka, which wasn’t backdoor travel, but we visited some remote regions and came across few Americans.

Posted by
3350 posts

On this forum, Wales has few queries compared to Scotland and the
scenery is as stunning.

True, but is there any haggis in Wales? :-)

Most people from the U.K. will have holidayed in Cyprus at some point
and wouldn’t consider this to be backdoor travel, but the perception
maybe different to Americans.

Not only people from the UK, but in the summer there are charter planes from all over Europe landing in Cyprus.

That's the point I am trying to make, you don't hear about them
because the feedback loop doesn't talk about them, and therefore
people don't go. And it's not just social media, though the problem is
definitely worse now because of it.

I think you managed to make your point, I just wanted to say that I agree. I try to suggest destination not "in the loop" on this and other fora sometimes but I don't know how much impact a forum post has.

Posted by
272 posts

One place I found to be quite to relatively overlooked, at least by western tourists was Taiwan, especially the southern parts of the island. The capital, Taipei does get more foreign tourism, but once you head away from there it seems that there is less tourism. It also means that some places like Kaohsiung the second biggest city do not have a lot of obvious tourist attractions or infrastructure. But Kaohsiung is still an easy city to get around with a good metro system. But it is also a port city, and the harbour is a busy working harbour, not prettified like Sydney Harbour.

Taipei does have some genuinely busy attractions such as the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101, and it is in these places that you see more foreign tourists. But in the rest of the country, foreign tourists are a lot less common.

Posted by
13718 posts

Sticking with Europe ... go East. Some of the tourism in Eastern Europe has become very much like the West. Prague and Budapest are good examples of that. But there is a lot of wonder out there in not often visited by US tourists; places like Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. I just returned from Albania ..... amazing.

Posted by
1262 posts

A lot of the Pacific Islands suffer from multiple problems that keep them off the tourist track, even for World War II buffs. And it’s kinda for some of the same reasons the pacific theatre was such a challenge in WW II. Fairly remote islands, long distances between them and a lack of infrastructure. That all adds up to an expensive trip and a fairly time consuming one.

Posted by
1578 posts

Just to comment on what you posted. Sometimes, I wonder how indigenous peoples managed to end-up in such remote locations in the first place.

Posted by
5630 posts

I agree with James about great places in Eastern Europe. These countries are more inexpensive, the people are friendly and there is lots to see. Hungary is special. Croatia is amazing. Poland is one of my favorite places. Ukraine is very interesting.

Posted by
13718 posts

Absolutely. Christmas? Budapest is amazing. Then you can do it a second time in Kyiv or Lviv (Orthodox Christmas is January 7).

Beaches? Hard to beat Croatia or Montenegro or Albania ... yes, Albania.
Mountains? Some of the most beautiful are in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania
Historic Cities? Pick your period in history; from ancient Prague to Budapest to Istanbul (i'm stretching a bit to include Istanbul in this list but because of its proximity and easy connections it is easy to pair with Eastern Europe) to Sarajevo one of the most culturally diverse cities I have stumbled in to.

Ancient Greek and Roman sites, think Albania or Turkey
Churches and Cathedrals... well, yes, but you get the added 13th century mosques in parts of Eastern Europe and the fascinating Orthodox churches in others....
Villages and Towns (small cities)? Nessebar, Plovdiv, Sibiu, Sighisoara, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Gyor, Sopron, Gjirokaster, Kruje, Banská Štiavnica, Banská Bystrica
Castles? I was amazed by the beauty of the castles in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and by the sheer numbers in Albania.

You can do it through the back door in Hungary and the Czech Republic or through the Basement Window on the back side of the house in Albania, or Bosnia or North Macedonia...... So, so many choices. And cost? You have a choice in the lesser known countries. You can either have a vacation at Western standards at half the cost or you can use the savings to increase your reach and enjoyment.

Posted by
3329 posts

There is quite a bit of research more recent than the Kontiki, which uses dna to track the spread of humans all over the globe. One book on the topic is, “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived,” by Adam Rutherford. I also recall that public television ran a program, several years ago that followed researchers as they sampled dna all over the planet to that end.

Posted by
1240 posts

Obscure countries get overlooked because most North Americans don't have the luxury of time or money to make numerous trips abroad. Honeymoon or retirement trip, you have two choices: Iran combined with Bulgaria, France combined with Italy. I know which nearly all people would choose and it's not a bad choice either.

I can step off the western edge of Rothenburg and walk for a couple of hours without bumping into hardly anyone. Old Manfred is usually walking his Eurasier in the woods, and he makes for pleasant company.

Posted by
4164 posts

Love Wales. Because so many people go to the large cities others have mentioned, we tend to seek out the medium size cities and small towns that don’t make it onto most people’s radar. Not that we haven’t been to some large cities, but tend to shy away. Until COVID, we made annual trips to London for 5 years, and took day trips from it. The back door trips we’ve taken have been to S. America’s Santiago, Chile; Quito, Ecuador; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Came across very few people from the U.S. We enjoyed Cuzco, Peru and Machu Picchu, but even when we were there it was a huge tourist destination.

Emma - As a side note, I was in Djibouti in March 1978 when Heyerdah’s Tigris was in port. Having read about Kon-Tiki, It was very interesting to see the Tigris in person.

Posted by
1578 posts

Hey Rosalyn,
I understand DNA. What amazes me is how ancient people physically traveled to remote locations that are difficult to those of us who have access to modern transportation. I saw a TV show about islands in the Pacific. I think the islanders were called the Aneta people or something like that. (Been a while. I would have to look it up.). How did they get on the remote islands?

Posted by
3329 posts

I think speculation is that they went in their boats/canoes. It is mind-boggling that they would set off into the great unknown on such unprotected vessels. And why?

Posted by
1578 posts

Your post was interesting. Thanks!
I don't think ancient peoples, in general, get enough credit for their accomplishments due to lack of historical records. My mother who is a retired librarian once told me that it was an enormous loss to the human race when the ancient great library of Alexandria, Egypt was burned down. I agree.

Your insight about Polynesian history helps expand my views.

Posted by
149 posts

I think convenience is a huge factor. When there’s multiple choices for affordable, direct flights from North America to major cities like London and Paris, people are less likely to spend more money and time making several travel connections to more remote locations.

So often, there are queries on this forum as to whether something is “worth it.” Inexperienced travellers are going to go where their friends acquaintances have raved about their vacations. It takes a certain degree of courage to take the road less travelled and have faith that it will be “worth” the effort.

I am more inclined to reject the clichés and seek out quieter places but that’s my personality. Although some of my favourite European adventures include hiking in the Faroe Islands and cycling through farmland and charming villages in the Netherlands, I also loved Paris and Cesky Krumlov.

Posted by
1578 posts

Time and money are definitely huge factors here. I also went cycling in SE Netherlands many years ago. Still remember it and the small towns. We had relatives staying there and took advantage and went. Great to have an off-the-beaten path experience. But, it was definitely made possible by the relatives.