At the end of every year we see those travel lists come out, telling you the top 10 places that you just have to visit in the next 12 months. And while we don’t dispute that a destination’s popularity ebbs and flows over time (goodbye Costa Brava; hello Iceland), we suspect there’s not much basis to most of these claims.
That’s why we’ve dug into our data stacks to try to find something a little more fact-based. With more than 10 million people around the world planning and booking trips on Rome2rio each month, we have plenty of knowledge on where people are searching for and travelling to right now. And we’ve learned some pretty surprising things – including that the world still has many quiet corners to discover.
From an ancient Roman province to the shores of a huge inland sea, we’ve identified 10 ‘alternative’ locations that have seen huge spikes in search volumes over the last 12 months, up at least 25% (and sometimes as much as 108%). We know that Rome2rio users are often ahead of the curve when it comes to travel – so if you haven’t thought of visiting these places yet, we predict that you probably will do soon!
1) Corsica and Sardinia
When you think of the beaches of France and Italy, places like St Tropez and the Amalfi Coast spring to mind. But savvy travellers are heading away from the mainland crowds, with both Corsica and Sardinia enjoying a massive upsurge in searches over the last 12 months. Whether that’s due to overcrowding in popular European beach spots or simply the fact that people are starting to catch onto what locals have known for years, travellers to these two Mediterranean islands will be wowed by the incredible scenery, history and culture.
Just 11km apart at their closest point, French-speaking Corsica and Italy’s autonomous region of Sardinia were once united as an ancient Roman province, yet today feel a world apart. Corsica’s wild, rugged interior is a mecca for outdoor lovers, while stylish Sardinia offers food, festivals and history.
In Corsica, our users are travelling to the magnificent beaches of Calvi and mountain stronghold of Corte, while Sardinia lures with medieval beauty in Alghero and glamorous Porto Cervo. We also recommend Capo Testa on Sardinia’s northern coast for its dramatic rock formations and excellent swimming spots.
How to get there: Most direct flights depart from France to Corsica / from mainland Italy to Sardinia. We also love the idea of taking a ferry to the islands; boats leave from ports such as Marseille, Nice and Toulon to Corsica, and from Civitavecchia, Genoa and Naples to Sardinia (among others). You can also travel between Corsica and Sardinia by ferry. To learn more about travelling by boat in Italy, check out our guide.
Many people wouldn’t be able to find Armenia on the map, but this landlocked country in the South Caucasus deserves recognition. Not only is it one of the world’s oldest and most culturally inspiring countries, but it looks set to become the next travel hotspot. Armenia has a rich (and sometimes dark) history, awe-inspiring monuments, delicious food and mountainous landscapes. The friendly, down-to-earth locals are understandably proud of their heritage – at its height, the once-vast Armenian civilization extended from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea; and many significant firsts took place here: this was the first country to adopt Christianity, and (perhaps more importantly!), one of the first to make wine.
That’s why it has come up trumps with Rome2rio users, with a 50% increase in searches in the last 12 months. As Armenia’s ancient capital Yerevan prepares to celebrate its 2800th anniversary in 2019 – while the entire country is also teetering on the brink of positive change after this year’s peaceful Velvet Revolution – we say get there before everyone else does.
How to get there: Most travellers will fly into Zvartnots International Airport, about 15km west of Yerevan. Buses and share taxis (marshrutkas) are affordable ways to travel around the country, or hire a car (there are no domestic flights).
3) Coastal Turkey
Although this is not a ‘new’ destination by any stretch of the imagination, particularly for British holidaymakers, Turkey’s south-westernmost shore, known as the Turquoise Coast, is once again luring travellers to its staggeringly beautiful landscapes. Turkey’s tourism industry took a major hit after 2016’s terrorist attack and military coup. But now, with the ‘reopening’ of Turkey by many package holiday operators and budget airlines, we’ve seen a huge increase in travellers searching for destinations on this enchanting strip of the Mediterranean, where you can swim in blue-green waters and explore dreamy fishing villages scattered along the coast.
Rome2rio users are heading to the hubs of Fethiye, Marmaris and Antalya, all of which are rich in culture, history and food – but also open up a plethora of other opportunities. Travel to Oludeniz to paraglide over its beautiful Blue Lagoon, spend the day turtle-spotting near the gorgeous town of Kalkan or marvel at the sunken ruins of an ancient city off the coast of Kekova. You can charter a traditional gulet and drift past idyllic empty bays and crystal clear coves, or, if you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, hike part of the Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance trail, which follows the Turquoise Coast and takes in a treasure-trove of ruins along with some truly sublime scenery.
How to get there: The main airports on the Turquoise Coast are Antalya and Dalaman. Once you’re there, it’s easiest to hire a car to get around, although travelling by bus is also an option.
Bali (and to a lesser extent the Gilis and Lombok) is Indonesia’s main calling card, with millions of international tourists visiting the island in 2018. And that looks set to continue, despite the disruptions caused by Mt Agung. However, we’ve spotted a huge upsurge of searches on Rome2rio into the Indonesian hubs of Jakarta and Yogyakarta, suggesting that people are starting to look further afield for their next Indo beach holiday.
Just a short hop from Bali, Sumba offers laidback luxury amid swirling surf and tropical forests, while Komodo island lures with its Jurassic-like giant lizard. Further afield, adventurous travellers flock to the Mentawai Islands off West Sumatra’s coast for big waves and pristine beaches, or the scuba diving mecca of Borneo’s pristine Derawan Islands. With more than 17,000 islands making up Indonesia (of which just 6,000 are inhabited), there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for you.
How to get there: Indonesia has hundreds of airports, but international visitors will likely have to connect through the hubs of Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta or Surabaya, among others.
5) The Black Sea
As the beaches of Western Europe get increasingly crowded, it’s unsurprising that sun-lovers are looking for other options. And one region that seems to be capturing the imagination of many travellers is the Black Sea, an inland sea surrounded by six countries including Russia, Georgia and Ukraine. Despite its foreboding name and reputation for cheap package-holidays, there’s a lot to love here, from ancient cities to ocean views, empty beaches to fantastic seafood – all at bargain prices.
In particular, we’ve seen huge increases in search volumes for Nessebar, a charming Unesco World Heritage site in coastal Bulgaria; the popular Georgian seaside resort of Batumi; and Sochi in Russia, best known for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, but fun for a snow or sun holiday. Intrepid travellers should also look to Turkey’s relatively unknown Black Sea coast or the many islands within the Black Sea, such as Dzharylgach (Ukraine) and St Anastasia (Bulgaria).
How to get there: International flights serve destinations all around the Black Sea; for example, fly into Bulgaria’s Burgas Airport and take a bus or drive the 29km to Nessebar; while Batumi has its own airport 2km south of the city, or fly into Tbilisi and connect via bus or train. Within the region, you can travel by bus, train and ferry or hire a car.
6) The Philippines
It seemed like suddenly, out of the blue, everyone you knew was holidaying in the Philippines – and then Boracay happened. Once considered the most idyllic island in the world, an overabundance of tourists and mounting sewage problems caused Boracay to close in 2018 for a six-month period of repair and restoration (it has now officially reopened, but many say the island still needs time to recover). However, the good news is that with more than 7500 islands, there are many more places for travellers to explore (just please don’t ruin these too).
Coming up top for Rome2rio users is the island of Bohol, home to the unique landscape of the Chocolate Hills as well as white-sand beaches and excellent diving. Also ranking highly are Sibuyan Island, known as ‘The Galapagos of Asia’ for its extraordinarily rich range of endemic wildlife and pristine forests; and Coron Bay and the Calamian Islands, 100+ islands and islets that offer wreck diving, lagoon swimming and sublime scenery that you’ll likely have pretty much to yourself.
How to get there: Although there are ferries between the Philippines islands, it’s usually easier (and much quicker) to fly. For example, it’s a 1h 15min flight from Manila to Bohol, from where you can catch a bus/drive to the Chocolate Hills. A ferry from Manila to Bohol can take upwards of 25 hours.
As Colombia continues to open up after years of violence, we’ve seen thousands upon thousands of Rome2rio users searching for destinations in this South American nation, including Cali, the capital of salsa that moves to its own beat, and the heady world of Colombian coffee around Salento.
There’s so much untapped adventure in Colombia that it’s hard to know where to start. You’ll find a treasure trove of pre-Columbian sites, including the huge, mysterious stone statues of San Agustín in the country’s west. Or make a pilgrimage to Caño Cristales, Colombia’s astonishing ‘river of five colours’ that was once deep in the heart of FARC guerrilla territory. Then there’s the stunning Caribbean island of Isla Grande, the vast deserts at the country’s northern tip and the wild jungles of Colombia’s Pacific Coast. This really is one where you need to choose your own adventure.
How to get there: The main entry point into Colombia is Bogota’s El Dorado airport, but the country has a number of other airports, including in Cartegena, Cali and Medellin. Travellers can take domestic flights within the country, or opt to travel shorter distances by bus, taxi or shared colectivo.
8) Japanese Alps
While Japan is likely best known for its neon-lit urban scene, in-the-know travellers are flocking to the Japanese Alps, which stretch across Japan’s main island, Honshu.
With spectacular peaks and dramatic scenery, skiing is the obvious draw here, and Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen are two of our top resort tips. Winter is also perfect for paying a visit to the infamous snow monkeys of Yudanaka and relaxing in one of the many onsen (hot springs), while summer brings hiking among the region’s mountains and lakes. Rome2rio users are also visiting the charming riverside town of Takayama with its shrines and museums; and Matsumoto’s brooding temple and spectacular vistas. Coastal Kanazawa is another hot tip: this history-packed city is beloved by Japanese travellers, who explore the geisha and samurai districts, stroll the wonderful gardens and feast on some of the best seafood and sushi in the country.
How to get there: One of the beauties of the Japanese Alps is their proximity to major urban hubs on Japan’s excellent bullet trains. Tokyo to Matsumoto is just 3 hours, Tokyo to Nagano is under 1h 30, and Kyoto to Takayama is less than 4 hours. Read our guide to find out our top Japan travel tips.
9) North Vietnam
This Southeast Asian nation has long been a favourite of ours – and many other travellers – for its superb coastline, exquisite food and vibrant culture (plus this year it extended its visa-waiver scheme, making it easier for many travellers to visit). While most people travel the much-loved coastline between the bustling urban centres of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, some of the country’s most impressive treasures lie further off the beaten track. That’s why many Rome2rio users look to be shifting their focus a bit higher.
North of Hanoi, where the country fans out towards the China and Laos borders, you’ll find superb trekking and road tripping opportunities. This is a rural world of vivid green rice paddies and craggy peaks, remote hill tribes and colourful markets. Our users rate Mu Cang Chai for its exquisite cascading rice terraces and Hmong tribes, although there’s a wealth of other things to do, from trekking in the Sapa region to exploring the caves and waterfalls of Ba Be National Park to marvelling at Halong Bay’s lesser-known (and less crowded) sibling Bai Tu Long Bay.
10) The ends of the earth
Rounding out our list isn’t a specific location, rather a calling to the extremities of the planet. With a huge spike in searches for remote destinations towards both the North and South Poles, it seems that people are increasingly looking to find a quiet corner of the world, whether they’re exploring independently or travelling on a cruise ship.
Northern Norway’s Lofoten Islands are a photographer’s dream for dramatic scenery, spectacular fjords and colourful fishing villages; while the city of Kiruna in Swedish Lapland is the gateway to many Arctic adventures, from dog-sledding to Northern Lights-spotting to exploring the indigenous Sami culture (the city is also, oddly enough, being moved to prevent it from being swallowed up by a chasm).
Down south, Patagonia is another hot favourite with travellers, who are flocking to El Calafate and the massive Perito Moreno Glacier, whose ever-shifting icy landscape is popular for hiking and sightseeing. And San Carlos de Bariloche is set in some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see; nestled on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi and surrounded by soaring peaks, this is an outdoor-lover’s dream.
How do I get there: You can fly from Stockholm to Kiruna in 90 minutes. To get to the Lofoten islands, fly direct from Oslo, or fly to Bodø and take a ferry or speedboat. Another (extremely scenic) alternative is to fly to Tromsø and take the Hurtigruten ferry to Svolvaer. From Buenos Aires, Bariloche is a 2h 20 min flight (or a 23-hour bus trip), while El Calafate is just over 3 hours.