Pang Ung, Thailand
Hidden away in the mountains of Mae Hon Song province lies a small alpine lake and hill tribe village often called the “Switzerland of Thailand”. The road to reach Pang Ung is steep and windy keeping Thai tourism to a minimum let alone foreign tourism. I’ve been to over 70 countries and Pang Ung is my favorite spot in the world. The peace and tranquility of being isolated in the Thai mountains is incomparable. If you visit, the best thing to do is to rent one of the tents located along the lake and get up early to watch the sunrise.
Isalo National Park, Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world partly due to its isolation and lack of strategic significance. With poor infrastructure, it can be extremely difficult to get around, but the untouched natural beauty of is worth the journey. I spent a night camping in this national park, and I’ve never seen so many lemurs in my life.
Playa Nosara, Costa Rica
I stumbled upon Playa Nosara by meeting a girl in a bus station in San Jose who told me about this little known beach on Costa Rica’s west coast. Because there are no paved roads, Playa Nosara can be difficult to get to, but that makes it that much worth it to visit. A beautiful sand break along the beach makes for perfect easy surfing on many of the longboard for rent throughout town.
Budzludja Monument, Bulgaria
An abandoned Soviet UFO-shaped building at the top on a mountain in Bulgaria is not the first thing that comes to your mind as a tourist destination. Frequently appearing on those lists of top abandoned places, Buzludja monument is an urban explorers dream. When the Soviet Empire fell in 1991, they left relics of their existence throughout Eastern Europe and this rotting building still filled with communist iconography is like a look into the past of a defeated ideology. Read about my epic trip to Buzludja here.
I love Kiev. Whether it’s the beautiful churches, friendly people, or delicious (and cheap) food, Kiev is just a great city to visit. But for more adventourous travelers, Kiev is a jumping off point for tours to Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Certainly its cool to see the abandoned buildings of Chernobyl, but what struck me the most was that this city was abandoned at the height of the Soviet Empire. It’s like going back in time to a real city in Soviet Russia preserved in time.
Uzbekistan is a place not many people visit, and that is what makes it so unique. The acient Silk Road ran right through Uzbekistan leaving stunning mosques and mausoleums in its wake. From visiting the Star Wars-like city of Khiva to my taxi driver getting arrested and having to hitchhike alone in the desert, every day in Uzbekistan was an adventure.
Whether eating camel, chewing chat, or feeding wild hyenas at night, visiting Harar is a place apart for even the most seasoned travelers. The ancient Islamic city of Harar allows travelers to truly feel lost in time among the spice markets and winding streets of this city located deep in the Horn of Africa. Read about my recent trip to Harar here.
Thoeng Pha Phum, Thailand
Does sleeping in a luxury treehouse sound awesome or what? Ok, luxury might be a stretch, but the treehouses in Thoeng Pha Phum, Thailand come with electricity and running water, and – man – are they cozy. I spent a night here up in the trees, and it was something I will never forget.
Queenstown, New Zealand
I love Queenstown simply because there is SO much to do. Having grown up in New Zealand, I will always have a fondness for this beautiful country. Queenstown itself isn’t the main attraction, but rather a jumping off point for hikes like the Milford and Routeburn treks or my personal favorite, the Shotover Canyon Swing.
Maafushi Island, Maldives
I always thought I could never afford a visit to the Maldives until I heard about Maafushi Island. Most of the Maldives is expensive luxury resorts, but in the past few years several smaller islands have started opening guesthouses to cater towards budget and mid-range travelers. One of the closest islands is Maafushi where a hotel was only $20 a night and I was able to scuba for $25 a tank. You can’t beat those prices. The Maldives is also NOT over-hyped. In fact, I think it’s under-hyped. All that natural beauty you heard about looks even better in person. Read about my trip here.