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The 5 Best Countries To Visit in 2021 That You Never Considered Before!

Take it from someone who has been to every country in the world, from Iraq to Afghanistan, China to Syria, real travel experiences are harder and harder to come by. Everyone flocks to Iceland, Thailand (where I once taught English), Australia and France. Sure, you’re guaranteed some big-ticket items, your guidebook can lead the way and you’re all set. But you’ve seen the sights a million times on Instagram, and you share each experience with tour buses full of Europeans, Chinese and Russians. The vendors are tired and grumpy, they’ve seen you before, a thousand times. That’s not real travel. It’s been destroyed. But fear not, you can still seek out amazing experiences, you just have to look a little deeper. Check out these 5 best countries to visit that you’ve never considered before:

Socotra, Yemen

Number 1 on my list, and the best place I visited on my journey to every country in the world! Yemen as a destination in general is outstanding, the mainland is full of history and culture, and Sanaa the Capital is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, with the proxy war between Sauda Arabia and Iran still ongoing, the mainland is too dangerous for everyone but the most hardcore of travelers.  Before it opened for tourists again, I spent 4 days on a cement boat, hitch-hiking, and entering the country illegally to get there. And it was still worth it! Read about my experience here

But that doesn’t mean we have to turn our back on Yemeni tourism. The true gem of Yemen, from a tourism perspective, is Socotra. A Yemeni island a couple of hundred kilometres off the coast of Somalia. Socotra is the spiritual home of adventure travel in my opinion. Even pre-war, few people visited. It’s in a scary location near Somalia, it belongs to Yemen and all the history there, you have to fly via Cairo, so it’s not cheap to get too. But if you can take all that on the chin, you’re rewarded with the most beautiful island in the world.

Socotra is home to the Dragon Blood Trees, they’re found no-where else on the planet. On top of that, they have mountains, sand dunes, cool towns, friendly locals, delicious local food AND perhaps the most beautiful beach in the world, Qalansia beach. 

So Socotra, Yemen is open for tourism. It’s still tough to get to, and there is only one flight a week to get there. But don’t worry. Since visiting there myself, I’ve taken 2 groups back to Socotra, and we had the trip of a lifetime! You can join my next tour to Socotra here, we’re going in January 2021, and it’s going to be EPIC! 

Tours to Socotra
5 Best Countries To Visit; Socotra, Yemen
Socotra Tours 2021
Socotra Tours 2021
Shoab Beach Socotra
Shoab Beach Socotra
Tours to Socotra
Tours to Socotra 2021, pic from Scott Wottrich from my last group!
Sand dunes Socotra
Sand dunes Socotra, it’s worth the effort!
Tour to socotra
Our group at Qalansia,

Russia

A famous country of course, but one that doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit for its tourism. First off, Moscow and St Petersburg. The Red Square, the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and the architecture across St Petersburg. All of that makes Russia a brilliant tourist destination. But there are even better things to see in this country!

For a start, everyone’s bucket list should include the most adventurous train journey in the world, the Transsiberian Railway. It was one of the top experiences of my life. Although I’d recommend not taking the whole Trans-Siberian, but in fact starting in China, and taking the Trans-Mongolian from Beijing to Ulan Bataar (Mongolia’s Capital), then on to Russia to Irkutsk, and join the rest of the Transsiberian there. That way you still get to experience over half the Trans-Siberian journey, but also China and Mongolia. 

And then you get the even MORE adventurous destinations that Russia hides. The 2 highlights I’d say are South Ossetia, a disputed territory only accessible from the Russian side, but that enters into Georgia. You need permits, but again you’ll be the only tourist in the whole region. Really cool. South Ossetia actually counts as one of my 215 countries in the world, but not on the 197 list of countries

The last highlight of Russia is certainly the COOLEST destination in the world, quite literally. Omyakon, the coldest place on earth outside of Antarctica! I’m hoping to plan a trip there this winter. It’s quite difficult to get to, and requires a lot of driving, but to visit the town of 500 people, where winter temperatures regularly meet -65 degrees would be something amazing. How many other countries can offer experiences like that?!

How many countries in europe
How many countries in Europe? In Moscow, Russia
Best Countries to Visit
On the Trans-Siberian Railway
Best Countries to Visit
Best Countries to Visit; Russia!
Best Countries to Visit
Best Countries to Visit; South Ossetia, Russia

Ethiopia

Wow. You need at least 2 weeks here. Ideally a month, and that’s still rushing. Firstly, a bit of honesty. No doubt your trip will start in Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa is an awful city. Dirty, lots of pickpockets, lots of sex tourism, and very little to see. Moving on though, I’ll need to include a list of all the highlights of Ethiopia, so here we go:

  1. The Danakil Depression: The hottest place on earth, and one of the best places to visit in the world. It’s the 2nd lowest place on earth too, so the minerals have created an electric yellow landscape like something on Mars. You have to see it to believe it.
  2. Lalibela: The 8th wonder of the world. Chruches built INTO the ground/stone so Islamic invaders couldn’t see it when they invaded. Lalibela should be world-famous. 
  3. Harar: The only place in the world you can feed wild hyenas mouth-to-mouth, also Africa’s oldest Islamic city. 
  4. Simien Mountains: There are mountain ranges, and then there are mountain ranges. This is the latter. So beautiful. 
  5. Omo Valley Tribes: National Geographic stuff. This is the ancient, beautiful African culture you dreamed about as a kid. And it’s still ongoing. 

This list is by no means definitive, but it’s the 5 highlights of the country. You can also add Gondar, Bahir Dar, Lake Tana amongst other places. But if you have 2 weeks or so, hit these 5. Unreal.

Best Countries to Visit
Best Countries to Visit; Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Best Countries to Visit
Lalibela, Ethiopia. What should be the 8th Wonder of the World!
Best Countries to Visit
Best Countries to Visit; Stupidly feeding the hyenas in Harar
Best Countries to Visit
Best Countries to Visit; Omo Valley, Ethiopia

The Faroe Islands (Denmark)

After I finished my journey to every country in the world, I started visited ‘countries’ that aren’t quite countries. 7 days in Greenland, travel to Svalbard, and then I traveled to the Faroe Islands (check my Faroe Islands itinerary out here). The Faroe Islands blew me away to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I found was a destination just waiting for people to discover. The Faroe Islands are probably in my top 10 destinations ever.

They were kind of a mix between the Scottish Islands (the Faroe Islands themselves, despite belonging to Denmark, are just north of Scotland) and Iceland. So expect dramatic views, cliffs, mountain tops, waterfalls, greenery and lots of sheep. It’s an outdoorsy type of destination. You base yourself in the capital Torshavn and then rent a car, each day exploring a different section of the nation. And each night checking your photos and being astounded by the beauty of it all. It’s really easily accessed from Copenhagen (perhaps Europe’s best city?), so there’s no excuse NOT to go!

how many countries are there in europe
how many countries are there in europe? The Faroe Islands

 

Best Countries to Visit
Best Countries to Visit, The Faroe islands
Best countries to visit
The Faroe islands

Georgia

Georgia is making the same tourism moves as Iceland did 10 years ago. I can feel it in the air within the travel industry. And more and more of my travels friends are suddenly finding themselves in this beautiful little country. Not just traveling there, but moving there. It’s that nice! Anyway, as a country to visit Georgia is one of a kind. First off, it’s the country where wine was invented!!! So that means rolling hills, vineyards, and endless excuses to go wine-tasting.

I actually took my mum to Georgia to celebrate her 50th country, we had a great time traveling all over the country. It’s super-safe, really quite cheap, and if you want to get even further off the beaten track, you can visit Abkhazia from Georgia, a disputed territory between Russia and Georgie. It’s fascinating. 

Best countries to visit
Best countries to visit; Georgia
Countries to Visit
Countries to Visit
Is Georgia in Europe?
I went back to Georgia last year to take my mum

Cheap Travel Insurance You Can Switch on and Off As and When You Travel?

I completed my entire journey to every country in the world, and did it all without travel insurance. It was stupid and I paid the price with hospital visits in the US, Australia, Burkina Faso, South Korea and in Thailand. I recently, FINALLY, took the plunge and researched about cheap travel insurance so I’m covered everywhere. I now exclusively use Safety Wing. It only costs me $9 a week, and with 1 click I can pause it when I’m stationary, and click again to start it again when I travel. It’s amazing. And it covered all these countries, in fact it covered EVERY country apart from North Korea and Iran. I reviewed it in-depth here, but you can sign up for it here. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. $9 a week is an investment well spent.

Thoughts on the 5 best countries to visit in 2021?

I strongly considered adding Uzbekistan to the list too, but these 5 stand alone as the best countries to visit that people don’t generally consider. Omyakon, in Russia, is so high on my bucket list I really can ‘t wait for that, and going back to Socotra, Yemen in January will be amazing too. Let me know your thoughts about these 5 places, would you consider any of them? Have you been yourself before? Any other places to add?

 

 

 

Remember, never travel without travel insurance! And never overpay for travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing at $9 a week, and it's amazing. Also, it has great digital nomad insurance for people who are constantly travelling too! You can read my review here, and you can sign-up here

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Also, if you want to start a blog, and start to change your life, I'd love to help you! Email me on johnny@onestep4ward.com. In the meantime, check out my super easy blog post on how to start a travel blog in under 30 minutes, here! And if you just want to get cracking, use BlueHost at a discount, through me.

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90 thoughts on “The 5 Best Countries To Visit in 2021 That You Never Considered Before!

  1. I have been kind nervous for the safety at some place but through your photo, I have seen other side of those place. Thanks a lot, your blog really inspire me a lot.

  2. Replying to Lea’s comment. I agree with her. I’m living here in Manila and I went to Siargao for 1 week but that 1 week is one of the best memories in my life. You will not regret it I’m pretty sure. I’m planning to travel there again.

  3. Hi Jhonny!
    It’s soo great to see my country(Sri Lanka) on the list.You have almost mentioned every popular place in the country.I just like to add few places you have missed here!Sigiriya Lion rock,
    Dambulla Cave temple and Ella are also some awesome places you must not miss in Sri Lanka.

    Also, love to visit Kenya and Philippines one day!Thanks for Sharing!
    If anyone interested in visiting Sri Lanka this might be helpful

  4. I lived in Jordan for a summer (also took a short trip to Israel during that time), teaching English, and it is truly amazing! Don’t forget the capital though! That’s where the real heartbeat of the country is. Though Wadi Rum is a close second 🙂 And Petra is magnificent, of course.

    And I am going to Iceland this April! I cannot wait! I will say, it is still very expensive because you can’t see much without renting a car. Unless you want to shell out loads of money for tours. Or at least that is what I’m finding.

    I’m glad I found your blog, I adore it!

  5. Kenya lol load of shit. Worst place on the planet. Your reviews are bull. Been to 124 different countries. If you want advice I can give.

  6. Fantastic list. I’ve heard much about Kenya, so it is on our list. I had never thought about Sri Lanka, but not it’s on my radar.

  7. Great list- loved the write-up on Iceland. I would put Croatia on that list too, but that might be because I just finished blogging about our EPIC road trip there 🙂

  8. Great article about your personal insight on 5 TOP destinations to travel. On this list I only visited Kenya, Iceland and Jordan. All 3 are unforgettable and I actually want to go back again. thanks. Greetings from MOROCCO!

  9. Interesting selection. I would add the tiny Isle of Saba and the equally enchanting isle of Malta. Saba is in the former Dutch Antilles and is a true delight, small, intimate and wildly tropical.

  10. Hey Johnny!

    Thanks a lot for featuring the Philippines. You are right! The country is the most underrated destination, and I think it does not deserve that. As a Filipino, I am hoping that we will be a top-of-mind destination in Southeast Asia, but I also hope the onslaught of mass tourism won’t affect much of what makes the Philippines an attractive place to visit–it’s being unspoiled.

    Love reading your articles buddy!

  11. Hai john.

    I love reading your travel blog! I wish i could travel like you.

    Have you ever been to brunei? You should! I would love to read your post about brunei. Have agood dy john 😀

  12. Inspiring! so much to see and explore…

    Thank you for including Philippines! When you come back – explore more North Luzon from Banaue go straight to Sagada (if ur keen for a mountain life),Zambales – beach/islands. Palawan (Coron is amazing!) don’t missed it.

    Happy travel!
    @jadeyjungji

  13. great stuff there. I am a Filipina lone traveler travelling around Philippines. I read the tread about Philippines, and it makes me feel goosebumps with the pride you are stating about Philippines. I guess for a champion traveler like you, I recommend to experience the Southern part of Philippines- Camiguin a small island with hot springs, falls and great white sand beach, Siargao- the surfing capital, Bukidnon with the rich cultural heritage, and tawi-tawi with its pinkish powdery beach. Don’t worry mate, Mindanao is a safe place, pretty much far from what’s in the news. By the way, try Batanes as well, it is located in the northern tip part of Pinas. Enjoy your travels. 🙂

  14. Awesome list Johnny. Kenya seems to be an interesting place to be. And thanks for including Philippines, you are correct about Philippines being an underrated destination for travelers. I’ve seen lot of backpackers blog and most of them haven’t been to Philippines yet, maybe because of the archipelago. Banaue is slowly disappearing, visit it before it disappear!

    1. i loved Banaue, i can’t wait to come back to Philippines actually 🙂 Kenya is cool too, completely different to most backpacking spots

    1. yes Sri Lanka’s attributes are many. Few places have as many Unesco World Heritage Sites (eight) packed into such a small area. Its 2000-plus years of culture can be discovered at ancient sites filled with mystery. Legendary temples boast beautiful details crafted by artisans through the centuries
      Best in Travel 2013 – Top 10 countries ‘ number 1 Sri Lanka

      Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/best-in-travel-2013/top-10-countries/#ixzz2C6r6bcKW

      Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/sri-lanka#ixzz2C6qsxf2a

  15. Having lived in Nairobi for a month so far (2 more to go) I can’t recommend it enough! The Giraffe Centre, Elephant & Rhino Orphanage, Mamba Village, Ostrich Park, Snake Park, National Museum, Carnivore restaurant (to name just one of the thousands of great restaurants in the city), safari walk in the national park (only national park where you can see skyscrapers in the background), Karen Blixen museum & cafe, walking tour of the kibera slum (largest slum in Africa), visit the bead factory and bargain for gorgeous jewellery, the Maasai markets held weekly .. It goes on an on! I am in shock that Lonely Planet says Nairobi can be done in 2 days! Been here a month and am yet to be stabbed, raped, knifed or murdered and actually honestly feel safe here. Not that I want the place flooded with ‘mzungus’ (white people)I honestly think more people should come!

      1. Am actually yet to go – Other volunteers at the Home are planning to take me on my A-level results night … Which could be great if I have got what I want, and could result in me crying into a plate of crocodile meat all night long!

  16. Hi Johnny.. Yeah i went to the Philippines about 3 years back and yeah loved it as much as Thailand last year! went to hundred Islands stayed in Lucap but didnt think it was that cheap to stay there! but drink sure is! lol would love to go back and also se other parts of the country!

      1. No not as such yet! sadly! But i hope to return to Thailand, maybe with luck later this year.. And it would be nice to go over from there! would also like to get over to Macau to see my mate who just got a job there, and maybe see something of Hong Kong!

        1. good plan, macau and hong kong are so easily accesible from each other and they’re both great places to backpack in 🙂

  17. Interesting list. I never would have guessed Iceland. I was wondering about the costs now after the crash. If you’re into landscape, it seems out-of-earth. Great shot of the Northern Lights.

    1. hey mike, i thought it’s good to promote other awesome countries instead of the same old South East Asia malarkey!

  18. I stumbled upon your blog after googling backpacking to Zimbabwe and Zambia, I’m inspired next to you I’ve clearly haven’t done much travelling but am inspired. Your tales on your trips are also quiet funny though educational as well thanks.

  19. Hundred Islands sighted! I am from Pangasinan and i’m glad to read your comments about my beloved country 😀 If you want to go in a mysteriously beautiful place, i suggest you go to Camiguin on your next trip to the Philippines 😀

  20. Awesome! 😀 Thank you for featuring my home country, the Philippines. New Zealand is beautiful, too, especially the South Island. I’m sure it will be a good addition to your list. Happy traveling!

    1. Hey April, I can’t shout about my love the Philippines loud enough! It’s such an awesome country 🙂 NZ, i’m planning on going next year, so i may add it to the list after that. Thanks for the tips!

  21. Awesome! I was just thinking of Philippines. The flights there are really cheap. Sri Lanka was amazing. I visited it last summer. They use coconut in pretty much every dish. lol.

    It was of great help. Thanks!
    Happy Travelling, wherever you are now.

    Cheers

    1. hey Usha, i LOVE the philippines and you’re based in malaysia right? KL to Clarke is always a cheap flight 🙂

  22. it gives me goosebumps that you’ve advertised the Philippines as one of the top 5 countries one should visit, and that you’ve described the country and the people with so much positivity. I completely agree! I do wish that our country’s department of tourism can really sell the country well just like Thailand did. “Amazing Thailand” is an awesome slogan that lasted as far as I can remember, but “WOW Philippines” only lasted for 8 years (I think) then they changed it to something forgettable.

    Anyway, thank you! Something like this coming from you (who saw more than 50 countries already) is already an honor.

    1. no probs mate, i love the philippines so much i might live there one day! Hopefully see you there in the near future 🙂

      1. Tell me when you’ve decided to live in my home country, Philippines! I might go home too! 🙂 Hahahha… Thank you for advertising it this way, very much appreciated! Philippines is pretty much isolated from the usual track that backpackers go through.. But yes, there’s so much more in the Philippines that has yet to be discovered! 🙂 salamat!

  23. hey just found ur site earlier today

    just want to say great site and ur living a great life

    im currently saving my money and looking to do something like u

    have almost 2k saved already

    thinking of either starting in Philippines or somewhere in central america or mexico

    not sure yet 19 american btw

  24. Nice article dude. I met Adam Ramsbottom while in India and he recommended your site to me. Anyway, thanks for the recommendations.

    For me, Indonesia is a country of real mystery.
    They don’t even know how many islands make up the country. There are so many parts that haven’t been explored, and a couple of years ago they found new species of animals and birds up in the Foja mountains of West Papua. There is always an adventure to found there!

    1. i love Indonesia Alex, one of my favourite countries for sure. I spent a month or 2 backpacking from Java all the way to Timor – Sumatra up next i think. U spent much time there?

      1. I spent a month there back in 2009. Sumatra is fantastic mate, definitely go. Lake Toba and Bukittinggi, unmissable. I spent time in Java too, a few volcanic encounters here and there, followed by an epic ferry over to Sulawesi for the 4-day funerals. Bar two days on Kuta Island, it was an awesome part of me trip!

        Cheers,

        Alex

        1. Yeah Kuta is AWFUL! Sumatra is right up my list on places to visit tho, can’t get wait to get there. I was in Kalimantan too, but not for too long – I could stay i indo for 6 months solid and still see cool things every day!

          1. I agree, Kuta just BAD! I love Bali, but the place I really enjoyed a lot is Ubud and Amed. Amed, isn’t populated at all. Maybe becoz it’s not white sand, but man, snorkeling and diving is amazing! And you can pretty much call it your own, specially at low season, as there’s barely people there. I just went backpacking in Bali for a month last April.. It was amazing! 🙂 I wanna go to Java next.

          2. Bali, as an island, is awesome but Kuta is a sh*thole! We need to spread the word, thanks for helping!!

  25. I’ve been to the Dead Sea, but from Israel, back in 2009. So as you’ve seen, there’s a sign that getting water in your eyes, or even swallowing it is dangerous…well, after frolicking in the water, guess what happened? yeap. got water in my eyes, and burned like the pits of Hell…after some struggle getting to the shore, and washing my eyes, I felt I deserve a cold brew, and suddenly everything was alright 😉
    I really want to see Petra, but I wouldn’t refuse the chance to see the other places either!

    1. the water is a killer mate – gotta be careful eh!? once is enough for me i think 😛 Petra is something else tho, amazing!

    1. hey, of course it does 🙂 it offers so many things to so many people – i just wanted to hit the mainstream public and raise awareness to one of my favourite countries and a quick google image search on Boracay or Cebu will have people flooding in! Hence its inclusion 😛

  26. I love this list and am happy that 2 of those countries are on my RTW list. I plan on going 2 the Philippines and Jordan for sure!

  27. Hi,

    Gullfoss – Goldenfall – are NOT found in the south of Sweden. Gonna be a h… of of busride to get from Sweden to Gullfoss… 🙂
    /hans

  28. Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan.

    Sure, the visa is pricey, the country is landlocked in the center of Eurasia thus hard to get to, and there are bloody conflicts once in a while, but then:
    – 70% of the country covered by mountains;
    – virtually no tourists;
    – awesome friendliness and hospitality displayed by the Kyrgyz cow-boys;
    – so cheap it is hard to believe (especially compared to almost equally awesome Kazakhstan);
    – an underrated capital, Bishkek, with numerous parks, cafés, and a mix of influences from East Asia, Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East;
    – hot chicks;

    … go. Don’t be gay, just go.

    1. awesome response and one im seriously interested in – how long would u recommend mate? How about getting there and visas? I’m very very interested, could maybe go next month for 2 or 3 weeks cos i have some free time between other trips!

      1. I wholeheartedly recommend you make your way there at some point. Kyrgyzstan IS amazing. However, since the country is so far inland, with very poor (and expensive) air connections there, it would be more worthy going as part of a long overland journey through Central Asia (China Xinjiang, and the ‘Stans, and then maybe continuing to Russia or something).

        Alternatively, if you are a power-tourist like I am and can live 5 days in 24 hours, three weeks could do it. You could try to fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan (also a really cool city), enjoy the city a bit, and then go to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan from there, an easy and cheap 3-hour bus ride.

        If you do so, make sure to get visas in advance. Mine cost 100$ (for KG) and 60$ for a double-entry (for KZ). Prices may vary, I paid express. Not cheap, but worth every cent. Let me know if you have more questions!!

        1. ok mate – looks like it may have to wait until next summer then, gonna make my way home from Korea through that way. Cheers for the tips, I’ll hit you up when I’m going through the area if that’s cool?

  29. Oh Johnny, the Northern Lights. When I see them I think I would like to sneak up on the artist that catches no one looking and paints the sky in all that awesome beauty.

    Happy Traveling….

    1. i know, they’re are crazy. This should be on the top 10 of everyone’s list, really. I don’t think any natural beauty can genuinely compare (apart from maybe Scarlett Johansson!!)

  30. Do you ever fear that the world is running out of places that tourists aren’t flocking to?
    After watching ‘The Beach’ for the first time last week, I’m beginning to wonder if there is a place that we haven’t touched and shared with everyone.
    But I digress. Great recommendations, particularly Sri Lanka. I always hear about how dangerous it is there. Wonder if it’s inexpensive to hop on a ferry boat or plane and go to the Maldives from there.

    1. i like your thinking fidel, i always look to boats for the first option. Alas, i have no answer for you :S I’m sure we could always head there and find out… 😛

  31. awesome post man!! well ‘cept for the philippines part… i mean boracay is overrated. there are other gorgeous beaches that’s cheaper and more apt for backpackers (coron, calaguas, bohol, pagudpud).

    you opened my eyes to the beauty of sri lanka and iceland!

    1. I agree; Boracay looks a lot like Ko Samui and Bali. I recommend Palawan, the long island on the West side. My favourite beach there was Sabang.

      1. thanks guys 🙂 and i’m in total agreement, Boracay isn’t my favourite place at all BUT it’s massively popular so thought I’d whack it in for the general public! can’t wait to get back to the Philippines, i might even move there next year for 6 months or so

        1. Thank you for including the Philippines in your list. 🙂 I suggest that you visit Davao City, Samal Island and the East Coast. Amihan in Davao Oriental has white sand beaches and is a great place for surfing. Also, try Siargao Island in Surigao. 🙂 You will not regret it. Thank you.

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