Intrepid travelers looking for their next, offbeat adventure are advised to consider Colombia, Iran and North Korea next year, which made Afar magazine's list of most provocative trips for 2015.
In their selection of where to go in 2015, experts at the travel magazine challenge readers to delve beyond sensationalist headlines and preconceptions and consider the trio of enigmatic countries as future vacation destinations.
Unlike its Latin American neighbors Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, Colombia's tourism industry is still in its infancy, perfect for travelers who seek out unsanitized, authentic travel experiences, experts say. Recently, Colombia strengthened its reputation in sustainable travel at the Chinese World Travel Fair, where it was named the world's best eco-tourism destination. Nature lovers will also appreciate Colombia- which has the highest biodiversity on the planet after Brazil- for its Andean mountains, Amazonian rainforests and Caribbean coast. Popular activities for adventure seekers are diving, paragliding and rafting.
In naming North Korea as one of the top destinations to visit in 2015, editors at Afar acknowledge that they're going against the advice of the US State Department, which has issued an advisory against travel to the hermetic kingdom. At the same time, "curiosity is a powerful motivator," they say. While visits to the country remain highly supervised- the easiest way to enter the country is with a certified tour group- for travelers who've already traipsed the world, North Korea remains one in a handful of final frontiers. Aside from joining a tour group, another way to gain entry is to join the Pyongyong Marathon, perhaps one of the only times visitors are allowed to be unaccompanied by a designated guide.
Described as one of the most "misunderstood countries in the world," editors vaunt the merits of Iran as a travel destination for its treasure trove of national heritage sites including the UNESCO-certified ancient Persian ruins of Persepolis, its fine Islamic architecture in Isfahan, and the beaches around the Caspian Sea. A trip to Iran teleports visitors to a place which, at its height, was the epicenter of the world, boasting the greatest empire on the planet, the Persian empire. "Foreign tourists are still relatively rare in Iran, and the locals are keen to prove how wrong many of the stereotypes of their country and culture are."