Young woman in the pool - File photo

When most people think of traveling, their mind usually focuses on countries, synonymous with popular tourist attractions. Countries such as France, Italy, England, India, Spain, Japan, etc. And with good reason, they guarantee a good time, with plenty of interesting things to see, delicious food to try out, and unique local customs to observe. But focusing just on the tried and true can leave us unintentionally ignoring the rest of the world and all the wonders other countries have in store.

So here is a list of 5 countries you should visit this year.

1) Estonia

This Northern European country is one of the most digitally-advanced countries in the world. Formerly a part of the Soviet Union, Estonia doesn’t shy from exploring this dark chapter of history, and several tours that highlight all the Soviet-era architecture and monuments are on offer.

Tallinn, the capital and largest city, features a vibrant nightlife, with plenty of nightclubs, parties, bars, pubs, and cafes.

Nature lovers will undoubtedly find a lot of scenery to enjoy and take part in, as three-quarters of Estonia is covered in forests.

 

2) Serbia

A country situated in the Balkans region of Southern Europe, this country is known for its tasty foods and beverages, friendly people, historic sites, and temperate weather.

No matter if you are visiting some of Serbia’s metropolitan areas, such as Belgrade, its most populous city, or smaller towns and villages, each area has a rich history behind it, and many places to discover.

Of particular note are the local delicacies: pljeskavica – a type of meat patty, burek – pastry with a sweet or savory filling, and, of course, rakija – a fruit brandy that is often served as an aperitif, to name a few.

3) Mongolia

Located between China and Russia, this Asian country has plenty to offer even to the most discerning tourists. Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, allows you to stay in both conventional accommodations such as hotels, as well as the traditional gers, or yurts, as they are more commonly known.

Given the opportunity, you shouldn’t miss camel riding in the vast Gobi desert, and if you are feeling really adventurous – try airag, Mongolia’s national beverage. Made from fermented mare’s milk, it’s definitely something of an acquired taste.

4) Kazakhstan

Known to the majority of the Western world thanks to Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy character Borat, Kazakhstan is in actuality a beautiful place to visit.

The famous Singing Dunes on Atlyn Emel, known for the whistling sound the wind makes there are something that has to be heard to be believed. The Eurasian Steppe, which covers a large portion of Kazakhstan, is ideal if you are looking to get away into the wilderness.

And for space exploration buffs, no visit should be complete without a trip to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the place where Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, was launched way back in 1957.

5) Ethiopia

With a population of over 100 million people, Ethiopia is one of the most populous countries in Africa. Boasting a rich culture and a history that spans several thousand years, it is a country that is immensely proud of its traditions.

One of these customs pertains to drinking coffee, which is a big deal there. No wonder, since Ethiopians claim that coffee was first discovered there around the IX century.

Religious tourism is also big in Ethiopia, with many Orthodox Christian monasteries, especially around Lake Tana, and the famous “Church of our Lady Mary of Zion” in Aksum, where the locals claim the Ark of the Covenant is stored.