Photo courtesy of Wilderness TravelGreenland instead of Iceland
Everyone's talking about Iceland. With its dramatic otherworldly landscapes, amazing outdoor activities and short overseas flight from U.S. cities like Boston and Washington D.C., it makes perfect sense.
However, you can find similar striking scenery and adventure just as far away from home in Greenland... except without the crowds. Here, sled dogs outnumber people.
Wilderness Travel began offering a new trip to Greenland last year after they saw interest surge in travel to the northern realms. Take their nine-day Expedition to Greenland, where you'll sail through icebergs, see humpback whales and hike Greenland's vast ice cap. Offered only in July and August.
Photo courtesy of AdventureWomenSri Lanka instead of India
Leave the crowded streets of India behind and head to the exotic beauty of Sri Lanka, a tropical Indian Ocean island filled with picturesque beaches, lush tea plantations and a vast diversity of wildlife.
Once a part of the ancient Spice Trail, Sri Lanka is filled with leopards and elephants, jungles, and even the Temple of the Tooth, which is said to house one of Buddha's teeth.
AdventureWomen is a women-only tourism group that offers a 13-day Sri Lanka Expedition. This trip explores the island’s natural and historical sites and enables women to interact with the Veddas, or "forest dwellers," the island’s indigenous inhabitants who are direct descendants of the Neolithic community dating back to 16,000 B.C.
Photo courtesy of James Blank, SanDiego.orgLa Jolla instead of Los Angeles
This stunningly pretty town is dotted with fashionable boutiques and hip restaurants, upscale hotels like the Mediterranean-style La Valencia, winding streets and waves crashing against sea cliffs.
Get up close with sea lions and seals, kayak through sea caves with Everyday California and even walk down into a sea cave from inside a souvenir store - all while barely bumping into a soul.
Photo courtesy of Curaçao Tourist BoardCuraçao instead of Aruba
The Caribbean is a gorgeous and iconic vacation destination. Azure waves and cocktails with little umbrellas, what could be better?
Unfortunately, that's what everyone else thinks, too. This popular region can be downright suffocating with crowds, especially during peak season.
If you're seeking a relaxing time in the Caribbean, look to undiscovered Curaçao.
Curaçao’s hotels and attractions are scattered throughout the island, rather than centralized in one main street, creating a walkable city where tourists blend into local crowds. You'll find a rich cultural heritage, outstanding European architecture, natural beauty and fantastic scuba diving.
Photo courtesy of smarToursColombia instead of Brazil
The world's eyes are on Brazil as it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. That means hundreds of thousands of attendees, all crowding into the same few venues.
If your idea of South America includes a few less tourists, consider Colombia. Brazil's northwestern neighbor has a very similar geography but fewer visitors. (Plus, Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, making its waters a major draw.) There are plenty of direct flights to the coastal city of Cartagena from the U.S., and the plunging peso makes Colombia a good value.
Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours describes the country as a "spectacular, up-and-coming destination." Geronemus recommends their 11-day Discover Colombia tour for hiking, biking and SCUBA diving.
Photo courtesy of Visit Greenville, S.C.Greenville instead of Asheville
When you need the solace of the mountains, many people in the Eastern U.S. head to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee or the busy Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina.
But pretty little Greenville, South Carolina, which is set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and located halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte, offers the same mountain landscapes along with a funky urban metropolis unknown to many outside of the state.
The great outdoors is a way of life in Greenville, with numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, lakes, state parks and its iconic suspension bridge that hangs over the town's falls.
Before you leave, be sure you grab yourself some southern boiled peanuts and sample South Carolina's mustard-based BBQ sauce.
Photo courtesy of © Gary Arndt/Everything EverywhereMontenegro instead of Croatia
Croatia has been a hot up-and-coming destination for the last few years, so expect bustling crowds during peak season. If you like cerulean seascapes and Old World European feel, but crowds aren't your thing, look to neighboring Montenegro.
Sarah Pavlovic, publisher of the Montenegro Pulse, recommends Montenegro's coastal city of Kotor for stunning urban travel.
"Kotor is drop-dead gorgeous from every angle. Within the city walls, locals sip strong coffee at pavement cafes and queue for warm bread at the bakers amid a dreamy maze of alleys and plazas; beyond them, the mountain-encircled, fjord-like bay of the same name is one of the most photogenic spots in all of Europe."
If you'd like a taste of both Montenegro and Croatia, try G Adventures' 12-day Discover the Balkans trip from their new line of National Geographic Journeys, which offer insider access, greater exploration and more time on your own.
Photo courtesy of Wilderness TravelSudan instead of Egypt
Interest is once again growing in travel to Egypt, so expect traditional long lines in the hot desert sun.
If you want pyramids and camels, but without the crowds, look to neighboring Sudan. (Don't tell anyone, but Sudan actually has more pyramids than Egypt does - and you won't have to wait so long to charter a camel!)
Channel your inner Indiana Jones as you explore the ancient archeological sites in Sudan and take in its unbelievable landscapes, including black volcanic mountains, orange desert dunescapes, red sandstone mountains and more than 200 pyramids.
On Wilderness Travel's Expedition to Sudan, adventurers can even explore the Nile south of Egypt, visit the ancient Kingdom of Kush (a rival to the ancient Egyptians) and tour several World Heritage Sites with ties to ancient Egypt.
Photo courtesy of Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa ResortNicaragua instead of Costa Rica
Everyone loves Costa Rica. And for good reason. Its eco-friendly jungle adventures are indeed awesome.
But everyone knows about it, so you should expect higher prices, bigger crowds and longer wait times. Adventure seekers in search of a less-discovered jungle thrill can find similar options in nearby Nicaragua.
Visitors can see the country's many coffee farms, hike volcanoes, kayak its lakes and rivers, or traverse the Spanish Colonial cities of Granada and Leon. Mukul Beach Golf & Spa, the first luxury resort in Nicaragua, is set on the country's Emerald Coast and offers visitors accommodations complete with ocean views, pool, 18-hole golf course and butler.
Steven Crutchfield runs an agritorismo in a historic Pugliese villa, offering stayovers, cooking classes and local tours, says the area is an affordable, quieter version of Tuscany and Umbria.
"This gem of southern Italy is really unknown to most travelers, yet it has some of the most delicious food in all of Italy," says Crutchfield. "You may never see another tourist during your entire stay; it is that off the beaten path."
Puglia has coastlines on both the Ionian and Adriatic seas. Visitors love the crystal clear waters, olive trees and vineyards aplenty. Enjoy phenomenal local foods and cultural history together in Puglia - ancient Greek artifacts have been discovered here, leading to the creation of no less than three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Soak it all in.