Head off the typical tourist trail to explore these surprising destinations. (Full story: http://on.natgeo.com/263KC6T)
  1. Armenia
    Armenia’s ancient churches—massive, sprawling complexes of ruins nestled into the wildly green canyons and mountaintops of the countryside—are among the world’s best preserved. And Armenia’s churches aren’t the only attraction of its countryside. The wildflower-dappled hills and valleys here—far more accessible than the vertiginous mountain paths of Georgia—are full of pagan temples. (Photo by Florian Neukirchen, Alamy Stock Photo)
  2. Nicaragua
    While Nicaraguan’s two coastlines—the country borders both the Caribbean and the Pacific—have long made its shores a haven for beach- (and bacchanal-) minded travelers, recent government investment in infrastructure, including a new highway, in the lesser known, largely rural Río San Juan region has opened up the province as a prime eco-tourism destination. (Photo by Pablo Castagnola, Anzenberger/Redux)
  3. Nepal
    While the 2015 earthquake has damaged Nepal’s man-made structures, its mountain trails—including the legendary Annapurna Circuit through the snowcapped shadow of the Himalaya—remain accessible. Only two of Nepal’s 35 listed trails have been rerouted as a result of earthquake damage. (Photo by Tyler Metcalfe, National Geographic Creative)
  4. Iran
    Since this year’s landmark nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, the country's 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites—from the staggeringly massive ruins of Persepolis, once the capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, to the intricately carved 18th-century Golestan Palace in Tehran to the rose gardens and meticulously painted tile facades of 16th-century capital Isfahan—are more accessible than ever. (Photo by Sylvain Dossetto, Alamy Stock Photo)
  5. Kosovo
    While much has been written about the thriving café culture of Pristina, Kosovo’s relentlessly bohemian, if aesthetically dreary, capital, Kosovo’s real draw is in the country’s south. The medieval city of Prizren—a castle-topped hill town of Ottoman hammams and 14th-century basilicas—is a perfect base from which to hike (or ski) in Kosovo’s Šar Mountains, or to simply wander the city’s forested riverside behind the fortress hill. (Photo by Benny Islami, The New York Times/Redux)
  6. Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan’s main historic centers—the extraordinary blue-tiled caravanserai complexes at Bukhara and Samarkand—have undergone extensive renovation in recent years. While critics decry what they see as over-restoration, Bukhara and Samarkand remain two of the most outstanding examples of urban architecture from the Islamic world. (Photo by Thomas Linkel, LAIF/Redux)
  7. Albania
    While Adriatic beaches in nearby Italy and Croatia have largely been transformed into crowded, hypermodern resort complexes, Albania’s coastal beaches, dotted with ruined Greco-Roman amphitheaters and whitewashed, icon-filled Orthodox churches, are among the few in Europe where it’s possible to stretch out on the shoreline, even during high season. (Photo by Age Fotostock, Alamy Stock Photo)
  8. Timor-Leste
    Newly stable, East Timor is attracting intrepid travelers drawn to its staggering natural beauty: particularly its 100-plus miles of wildly colorful coral reef networks right off its extended, still undeveloped coasts: a rarity in a part of the world where frenetic building development threatens most coral life. (Photo by Design Pics Inc, Alamy Stock Photos)
  9. Georgia
    The winding dirt roads and collapsed fin de siècle palaces of early 2000’s Tbilisi may have given way to a far more cosmopolitan and polished city, but Tbilisi’s anarchically bohemian spirit still suffuses its historic districts, where repurposed 19th-century chandeliers hang over finger paintings in speakeasy-style apartment bars like Café Linville. (Photo by Mikhail Japaridze, Tass via Getty Images)
  10. Tunisia
    With its ruined imperial cities and Islamic pilgrimage sites like Kairouan, Tunisia’s seventh-century capital of Sunni Islamic learning under the illustrious Umayyad dynasty, Tunisia remains the undiscovered cultural and historical capital of North Africa. Its combination of UNESCO World Heritage sites and seafront resort towns like the walled Sfax and Hammamet make it an ideally balanced travel destination for the more intrepid traveler. (Photo by Andrey Kekyalyaynen, Alamy Stock Photo)