As a new year begins, we’re dusting off our travel tour itineraries and considering some new locales for adventuresome travelers. We’d also like our readers’ input on these suggested destinations. Each of these countries is somewhat off the beaten path when it comes to tourism, whether due to a history of civil strife, remote location, or lack of public awareness. While they may be diamonds in the rough, each locale is also a real gem for the discerning world traveler.

Let’s take a look at five of our favorite nominations for new Deluxe Kosher Tours destinations:

Sri Lanka – This teardrop-shaped island lies off the shoes of India. A vividly beautiful and lush country, it has been battered by both manmade and natural disasters in recent years. Over 25 years of civil war had a devastating impact on the country and its tourist industry. Then the 2004 tsunami struck, causing thousands of deaths and incredible damage to the countryside.

The good news is that Sri Lanka has shown encouraging signs of recovery from both events. Today it is drawing visitors to its shores again. Its tropical offerings, from exotic wildlife to white sandy beaches, entice tourists looking for unique adventures. Whether you wish to “rough it” in the more rugged areas that team with eco-tourism riches or enjoy a more luxurious stay at a newer beachside resort, you can find an itinerary that suits your interests. With its 2000-year-old culture and a total of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, cultural and historical tours are another intriguing option.

Montenegro – Lying on the Adriatic Sea in the midst of the Balkans, Montenegro has been called the pearl of the Mediterranean, and one visit there will convince you that this designation is not hyperbole. What strikes many visitors first is how colorful the landscapes of this country are – clear aqua sea waters, bright blue skies, striking white beaches, and deep green mountainsides. Although a small country, Montenegro offers a wide diversity of natural features – beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains – as well as cultural and historical wonders. Its national parks contain some of the last untouched forests in Europe today, and its picturesque fishing villages and cliffside monasteries take visitors back to earlier centuries.

Montenegro was both a victim and beneficiary of Yugoslavia’s civil war during the 1990s. Some of the country’s infrastructure remains unpolished. However, its independence as a separate country has led to its re-discovery by international tourists, and we predict that this country’s rough edges will continue to be smoothed.

Iceland – Located in the north Atlantic, between North America and Europe, this mountainous island is considered part of Europe. Potential tourists often assume that the country’s name describes its environment, but this is surprisingly untrue. Only about 10% of Iceland is covered in glaciers, and it is home to a relatively mild climate. The country’s tourist season peaks during the summer, but there is plenty to do throughout the year, and travel prices are significantly lower in the “off” seasons.

Iceland offers tourists the benefit of its dramatic scenery – huge national parks, volcanic craters, glaciers, waterfalls, and lagoons –and opportunities for outdoor activities ranging from snowmobiling to visiting one of its many spas built around its plentiful geothermal hot spots. Many visitors come to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, which are most easily seen in winter. For visitors wanting a city vibe, Reykjavik offers an active nightlife and lots of cultural activities.

Madagascar – Located in the Indian Ocean right off the coast of southern Africa, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. Famed for its remarkable biodiversity, the country is proud of the fact that 5 – 10% of its animal and plant life species cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Madagascar’s beauty is found in its lush rainforests, national parks, and thousands of miles of coastline, including remarkable barrier reefs.

In 2009, the country was rocked by civil unrest, and some political instability continues. The threat of terrorism to visitors is low, however, and usual travel precautions should keep tourists safe. Parts of Madagascar are still largely undiscovered and unspoiled. Some national parks, for example, receive less than 100 visitors per year. While travel infrastructure may be less than ideal, the country’s incomparable scenery and unhurried pace more than compensate. Madagascar is the perfect travel spot for a vacationer who wants a leisurely vacation. There are opportunities for relaxation in hidden coves, snorkeling and wreck diving, and whale watching along the coasts. Head inland, and the island’s deciduous forests and grasslands offer wonderful opportunities for bird watching and spotting everything from rare orchids to roaming lemurs.

Tanzania — Situated on the eastern coast of Africa, Tanzania is a land noted for its geographical superlatives – the highest peak (Mount Kilimanjaro), the largest lake (Lake Victoria), and the lowest point (Lake Tanganyika’s lakebed) on the African continent. While some of its attractions are deservedly famous, such as the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro, the country is largely unexplored by tourists.

 

Tanzania is a largely peaceful country with huge natural abundance, so it is an excellent travel destination for the traveler looking for an out-of-the-way vacation spot that is both exotic and tranquil. Those looking for relaxation in the sun will appreciate Tanzania’s spectacular beaches, particularly in the Zanzibar islands, where palm-shaded sands stretch out near coral gardens. For the adventure vacationer, Mount Kilimanjaro offers a challenging trek to its snow peaks. Wildlife enthusiasts can experience a photo safari in the Serengeti National Park, where zebra and wildebeest are plentiful, or enjoy bird-watching in the Selous, the world’s largest game reserve. Historical enthusiasts can explore ancient rock paintings, historic villages, and remnants of the region’s days as a major spice trade center.

 

So there you have it: Five diverse destinations to consider for 2013 What they have in common are both the diversity and relative purity of their landscapes and wildlife and their status as relatively undiscovered gems.

We would love to add any or all of these countries to our 2013 tour itineraries. But what are your thoughts? Tell us which of these destinations would get your vote. Or share your own nominations for additional new tour destinations.

The world is waiting for discovery still, in out-of-the way locales around the globe. Which ones will you discover in 2013?

Stuart Katz

January 1, 2013

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