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Back on the Map

Back on the Map

Tourism has a way of finding certain destinations, losing them, and then putting them back on the map.  It might be a natural disaster, political turmoil, improved infrastructure, or even a culture shift.  As countries resurface to welcome adventurers once again an infusion of tourism can be vital in helping a country recover from times of hardship and provide the means to rebuild for the future.

The media portrayal of certain destinations often only tell one side of the story and that can result in a whole country being deemed ‘unsafe’ when intact it might be a very small area where travel is unadvised.  Safety should of course be a priority but by doing your own research, taking heed of FCO advice and speaking to experienced, knowledgeable tour operators using local guides you can plan the right trip.

Investing in the local economy is a great way to get back to destinations that have previously been off limits. We’re delighted to see tourism flourish again in the following countries:

West Africa

First popular with small group travel in the 1970’s, this fantastic region has relatively few visitors compared to the safari destinations of  south or east Africa, but what it lacks in big game it makes up for in truly dramatic and beautiful landscapes, unspoilt and deserted beaches, incredible music and nightlife, superb hiking opportunities, an unrivalled arts and crafts scene, and some of the most colourful and hectic markets anywhere in the world.

Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire are great beach destinations,  the latter is not only a tropical paradise, but also a growing – and soon to be booming – country.  Cities like Abidjan and Yamoussoukro are also not to be missed.  Cameroon is for the beachcomber with a taste for the outdoors.  Here you can explore active volcanoes, deep green rainforests, and the other worldly rock formations of the Sahel.

History buffs will love english speaking Ghana with its rich culture, castles, and fortresses. Most visits also comment on the energy and vibrancy of the country as well. For a little extra excitement, try Benin, the birthplace of voodoo.  Perhaps the perfect mix of beach, history, colour, and culture.

Iran

Sanctions on Iran have recently been relaxed, allowing tourism to resume once again. Though some of its gorgeous culture have been destroyed over the years, archaeology and history are still big draws for adventurers.  Iran has no less than 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Many of the heavy hitters from history – Alexander the Great, Cyrus, Genghis Khan, and Darius – once visited and left their mark. Your must-see list should include Persepolis, Isfahan, and Bam.

You can ski in northern Tehran, watch turtles hatch on the beach in Qeshm, and go rare mountain goat watching in Kolah Ghazi National Park. The colours in Iran are fantastic and you get a wide variety of landscapes to visit – from the mountains to the dessert. You’ll love the bazaars, mosques, domes, and minarets that populate the country.

UK and US Citizens are required to join an organised tour in order to get a visa to travel to Iran. There are a number of UK tour operators offering both active adventure and cultural small group tours to the country. Using local guides these trips offer a great way to explore the country and its unique cultural history and dramatic landscapes.

Pakistan

War and a major earthquake have taken their tolls on magnificent Pakistan.  But the tides are turning again, and tourism is on the rise.  Almost one million people visited the country in 2016 and the top destinations were undoubtedly the Khyber Pass, Karachi, Peshawar, and Lahore. For most, it’s the magic and irresistible call of the mountains that attracts travellers to Pakistan. The Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Jehangir’s Tomb in Lahore, and the Buddhist Monastery in Takht-Bahi will stun you and bring a deep appreciation for this country’s history. If you’re lucky enough to be traveling near the winter solstice, don’t miss the Kalasha Valleys festival known as Chaumos.  Be prepared to participate!

Colombia

Colombia is a country that is half Latin and half Caribbean.  It’s also 100% a treasured gem. Infrastructure improvement, a booming economy and political stability in the last 10 years have allowed tourism to grow and its now firmly on the trail for many travellers to South America.  In just 2 or 3 weeks you can take in the warm highlands of the coffee country, the beaches and tropical jungle of the Caribbean Coast and the resurgent cities of Bogota and Medellin where you’ll find a cosmopolitan vibe with new hotels, boutique shopping, and delicious restaurants.  Colombian’s are a warm and welcoming people with a fierce love of music, something thats in display at the carnival of Barranquilla, considered to be ‘the best party in Colombia’!

Many parts of Colombia are still untouched and offer wonderful wilderness opportunities  – For example Chocó is the only department of Colombia that is lapped by the waves of both the Pacific and Caribbean ocean. Its jungle backdrop, dark sand beaches,  mangroves in a canoe, waterfalls, hot springs make it an outdoor lovers paradise.

Sri Lanka

Because Sri Lanka has been off the radar for so long, northern parts of the country are once again pristine and calling to travellers.  Jaffna is emerging as the city to visit and the infrastructure is developing nicely. Uda Walawe National Park offers stunning scenery and the spectacle of Elephants bathing in the river. Travelling by train is a great way to explore the country and the route from from Haputale to Ella is considered to be one of the world’s most scenic train rides. And of course if you’re looking for relaxation, well then Tangalla is the gateway to the wide-open spaces and wide-open beaches of southeast Sri Lanka. Soak up that sun.