In a time of global travel, with tourists heading to every last part of the world, it can be tough to find a place that still feels pristine and untouched, a reminder of what the world was like before everywhere was conquered by tourists. Even relatively quiet and extremely remote corners of the planet have been reached by modern tourism, with off-the-beaten track guides delivering gap year travelers to places like the Andean highlands and the Karst Mountains of China. So to really discover uncharted territory tourists need to think outside of the box. Here is a look at the last places on earth without tourists.
Though one of the most popular locations in the region for work abroad positions, particularly in the lucrative oil and energy sectors, Saudi Arabia is generally free of tourists. This is because it is currently not permitted for non-Muslims travelers to enter the nation for leisure purposes. Of course, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most popular destinations in the world for Muslims travelling here to complete the Haj, an epic trip to ancient religious locations like Medina and, of course, Mecca.
Sao Tome and Principe
Even North Korea has become a bit of a tourist haven these days, with tour guides to Pyongyang all the rage. Amazingly, the totalitarian concrete wilderness, shut off from the rest of the world, receives more overseas visitors each year than beautiful Sao Tome and Principe, a small island nation off the coast of Africa. Amazing beaches, swaying palm trees, friendly locals and warm azure waters make this a real gem of a holiday destination, without the hassle of the crowds. But if you want to go, don’t wait around, as direct flights from Portugal mean that this could well be the next Atlantic hotspot, following in the footsteps of Madeira and the Cape Verde archipelago.
There’s been plenty of westerners in Iraq in recent years, though most have been wearing the military colors of NATO nations. Yet after a period of conflict, and troop withdrawals, Iraq is now a changed place. Still dangerous by global standards, Iraq is still far safer than it was a few years back. And despite negative press, the country is a haven of beautiful sights, from the marshlands of the south, to the fertile green valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, and historic walled cities such as Erbil in the north. One of Iraq’s most famous, and most beautiful, tourist attractions is perhaps the Malwiya, a spiraled tower in the city of Samarra, evocative of the ancient Tower of Babel. Built in 848, the mosque is one of the oldest in the entire world, and rises to an immense height of 52 meters. The view from the top is said to be the most magnificent in Iraq and, you can be pretty sure, will be free of western tourists even at the busiest of times.
One of the most beautiful and enchanting nations on the planet, with stunning mountains, idyllic Buddhist retreats and quaint, peaceful towns, visiting Bhutan is like stepping back in time. Yet despite the undeniable charms of this Himalayan country, only 28,000 foreign visitors come here each year. That’s because Bhutan has some of the strictest customs and immigration rules in the world, with restrictions limiting the number of outsiders who are allowed in every year. So if you want to visit this stunning and antique land you will undoubtedly have to use your imagination to manage to get in– think about voluntary work abroad here, offering a helping hand for language schools, landscape conservation and cultural exchanges, or search for specialized guided tours.