5 unusual destinations that should be on your 2014 travel bucket list

I’m quite a keen traveller and when it comes to the main ‘must-visit’ holiday destinations, there aren’t many I haven’t covered.

I’ve taken pictures of Central Park from the Empire State Building, I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and I’ve thrown a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome (with my right hand, over my left shoulder, of course).

But now that I’ve ticked so many mainstream holiday spots off my list, I’m even more eager to explore places that are off the beaten tourist track. Places that most people would never think to go to on holiday.

So using British Airways’ list of top destinations for 2014, I’ve compiled my own travel bucket list of more unusual places to visit this year.

The only problem is I can’t decide which one to visit first.

South Korea

Often overshadowed by China and Japan, South Korea is not usually considered a holiday destination. But believe it or not, this Far East country has a lot to offer its visitors.

Experience a buzzing urban metropolis – Seoul

With all its neon lights, think of Seoul as the Far East’s answer to Times Square in New York or Leicester Square in London.

Seoul has come a long way since the end of the Korean War in 1953 and it’s now home to millions of high-tech devices and the world’s fastest and cheapest internet connections.

Visit the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea

Once you’ve spent time enjoying the bright lights of the city, my advice would be to visit the demilitarised zone (also known as the DMZ) between North and South Korea.

North and South Korea have been separated since the end of the Korean War in 1953 and the DMZ is fascinating to so many visitors because it’s not just part of Korea’s history, it’s part of its present too.

The DMZ is the 2km wide border zone between the two countries and the closest any foreigner can get to North Korea. Although it is heavily occupied by the military, safe guided tours take place there.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is another country that’s often overshadowed by its neighbours – in this case, Costa Rica.

But the ‘land of lakes and volcanoes’ in Central America has plenty to offer tourists if they’re willing to explore a country that’s off the beaten tourist track.

One thing I’d love to do in Nicaragua? Go volcano boarding down the Cerro Negro. Think snowboarding or sledging, but down the side of a volcano.

Austin, Texas

If you’re planning a trip to Texas, the top places on your itinerary are likely to be Houston or Dallas.

But to me, it sounds like Austin is where it’s at.

Believe it or not, Austin is the capital city of Texas, although it’s not as much of an obvious tourist trap as some of its neighbouring cities.

I’m actually really keen to go there – flights from London take just over ten hours and British Airways promotional codes make it that bit cheaper to get there.

And at the heart of America’s largest state, Austin has it all – a vibrant music scene, top festivals and even relaxed bike trails around the town lake, Lady Bird Lake.

Sounds pretty perfect to me.

Central Australia

Since Australia is so vast and hot, it’s natural for most of its population to live along its gorgeous coastline. And completely understandable that visitors to the country flock to coastal tourist hotspots like Sydney or Melbourne.

But what I’m most interested in is the Outback. This beautiful and rugged landscape seems to stretch on forever and takes you back to the true history of Australia.

With a British Airways discount I’ll be able to afford the long-haul flight down under and maybe even spend the money I save on a hire car for travelling around.

I can’t wait to visit Lake Eyre – just north of Adelaide this breathtaking natural oasis is the lowest point in Australia and covers an astounding 1 million square kilometres.

Bansko, Bulgaria

While the Alps or the Pyrenees would be my normal ski destination of choice, next time I want to give the slopes in Bansko, Bulgaria a try.

Located in the Pirin mountain region in south eastern Bulgaria near the Macedonian and Greek borders, Bansko is now dubbed the best place to ski in Eastern Europe.

It’s got the longest ski season of all the Balkan ski resorts and you can even cram in some culture as the medieval town of Bansko is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are the five unusual destinations I’ll be adding to my travel bucket list this year – which ones will you be adding to yours?

And remember, my top tip is to look for British Airways promotional codes online to help you get there for less!

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  1. says: Ed

    Austin originated the motto “Keep Austin Weird” and then Portland, OR adopted it for their own. Aside from Weather and terrain, the cities are very similar. Very laid back, very active, very liberal (if you can believe a Texas city can be), lots of alternative healthy food. If you ask a local about a festival they’ll roll their eyes because there are so many even they can’t keep track. The great thing about South Korea (particularly Seoul) is that you can go back there every few years and it will be completely different. Oh, and I too was enamored with the Outback. I “dipped a toe in the pool” so to say and pushed into the outback from the Cannes side of the continent and found some interesting landscape, some incredible caves, some awful food and water (the expiration date on a yogurt in a store was over a year old) and a bit of sadness over the conditions of some of those that live out there. I think I’m drawn to your Nicaragua pick as I missed them and went to Costa Rica instead, hence your whole point to the post. Good list though!

    1. I totally agree with you Ed about Seoul. I went to show a friend around Itaewon, having been away for several years, and literally everything I had planned on doing that afternoon had either relocated or shutdown.

  2. says: Claudia

    Very pleased to see Nicaragua on your list. Ometepe, San Juan del Sur, Granada and yes volcano surfing in the north are all top destinations within the country.

  3. says: Ross

    The outback of Australia is one place I really want to go. I have been to both the east and west coast but the heat, open expanse and the rawness of the outback I have always been fascinated by without ever being able to go.

  4. Since the bulk of my best traveling experiences has been long term backpacking I never get to really isolate destination spots. Places usually just come in to frame as I snake my way around a region.
    That said some places do stand out for me in the world. Austin, Texas as you mentioned in particular. Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez are two of my rolemodels. Notable for bucking the the Hollywood system and developing top notch movies instead at their Austin doorstep. Then of course there’s SXSW for fans of music, comedy and tech (umm everybody). Definitely a must.

  5. Great list! Love getting ideas of new and off-the-beaten places to visit because one of my problems with travel is deciding where to go…and I would love to see all of these places!

  6. Great list. We are hoping to head to Nicaragua in January and travel around central America for 3-4 months. Just had friends come back and they had nothing but great things to say about Nicaragua. 🙂

  7. says: Marsha

    I would definitely consider Bulgaria and South Korea. I’m holding off on South Korea for the next winter Olympics but I’m getting excited already. Bulgaria would be quite interesting to visit.

  8. says: Ryan

    I’ve definitely heard great things about Nicaragua! And while in Texas I was super bummed I couldn’t stop in at Austin to see that weird city everyone loves. Great recommendations!

  9. Oh man I would love to go to Austin too – mainly for the food trucks! Nicaragua is amazing, we only had 8 days to spend there and my favourite place was the beautiful Playa Maderas near San Juan del Sur. My brother is a tour guide out of Alice Springs so I am hoping to do his tour to Uluru and Kings Canyon in the next couple of months. I will definitely check out Korea too. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  10. says: Greta

    I definitely second the Seoul, South Korea thoughts! It is so different from any other place I’ve traveled- and so clean in spite of the population (and don’t even get me started on the food :c)) A great list encompassing lots of unique places!

  11. says: Hamish Healys

    South Korea, Australia, Austin, Texas, Nicaragua & Bulgaria. No doubt these are all fascinating places to visit and to get to know its people and culture. I’d opt for Nicaragua first, if only because I speak Spanish because of my Dad’s Spanish forbears coming from Spain. I’d like to think there is some sense of affiliation there somehow.

  12. says: AJ @TheBlondeTravels

    Great list! Visiting the DMZ has been on mine for a while as well, and I’m really hoping to go to Austin City Limits Festival in Austin this year.

  13. I did a little travelling in Bulgaria back in 2007 but it is definitely somewhere I would like to explore more, particularly how it has changed since joining the EU. Thanks for the recommendations!

  14. All of these look like great locations to visit. Thanks, Samuel! I’ve been wanting to go to Austin and South Korea for a while now. Looks like I’ll have to make those trips sooner than I anticipated.!