*This article was originally published on Elite Daily. View the original content here.*
If you’re a travel enthusiast, 2016 was a great year for you filled with cheaper airfare, a strengthened economy and lifted travel restrictions. Many Americans were able to travel more for less in the past few years, resulting in international travel boom for Americans.
The rise in the influx of American tourists looking to get their passports stamped is an achievement that should be celebrated — in an age of increased globalization, Americans are constantly scrutinized for being uncultured or lacking knowledge on worldly affairs, despite being known as “the melting pot” of the world. With the increase of tourism, however, comes an increase of tourists to popular tourist destinations, such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Cancun and so on. While these destinations have capitalized on their tourist attractions by becoming English-friendly and easily accessible, they can often lack the authenticity travelers look for when taking a trip.
Looking for an alternative getaway to American “tourist-trap” destinations? While it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to just nine, this year, pack your bags and head to one of these destinations for a relatively untouched travel experience:
1. Cartagena, Colombia
This gorgeous South American seaside city is quickly becoming an emerging travel destination. With increased safety measures by the Colombian government, Cartagena has been increasing marketing efforts to drive tourism, and it’s no wonder why. With cobblestone streets, colorful colonial houses and a tropical Caribbean climate, Cartagena is a Colombian gem that is not only affordable, but idyllic for those looking for white sand beaches, delicious food, vibrant night-life and the perfect blend of Caribbean and South American culture. Visitors to Cartagena can expect beautiful weather year-round, but those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience should consider going to Cartagena right before the famous annual La Feria De Las Flores, or Flower Festival, in Medellin, Colombia, which is a one-hour flight from Cartagena.
2. Mexico City, Mexico
This underrated, affordable metropolis is bursting with color and culture. Foodies, art lovers, history buffs and party-goers alike will find something to love in Mexico City. Its easy-to-navigate, dirt-cheap metro system and incredibly friendly locals make all of the attractions to the city within reach to travelers. From the beautiful canals of Xochimilco to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, Mexico’s largest city is a must-see for travelers looking for a mix of big-city feel with authentic Mexican culture. The best time to visit the city? Go for Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, when streets and plazas are decorated with sugar skulls and “ofrendas” or offerings for loved ones.
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nicknamed “the Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city known for its art, theater and fashion. With millions of annual visitors, Buenos Aires is no stranger to tourism, but its distinct culture and global-city status make Buenos Aires a “what you make of it city.” That means visitors can opt for a more local experience or live like a tourist if they wish. Visitors can marvel at the European-like architecture of streets such as Caminito or May Avenue, or escape the concrete jungle and head to one of the city’s many parks and plazas such as Parque Tres De Febrero. Come to the city that invented the tango, during the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, or go an hour north-west of the city to San Antonio de Areco during the town’s Dia De La Tradicion, a “gaucho” festival full of Argentine music, food and parties. A six-hour flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina’s north boasts the beautiful Iguazu Falls, a South American wonder frequently compared to Canada’s Niagara Falls. These enormous falls can be accessed from Paraguay, Brazil, though the majority of the breathtaking views are in Argentina.
4. Havana, Cuba
Long cut-off from American tourism, all major airlines now have routes to Havana from major US cities, including budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier, making travel to Havana more accessible than ever before. With this Caribbean city’s 1950s cars and art-deco buildings, Havana can feel like a time capsule. Its gorgeous beaches, eventful plazas and exciting nightlife make Havana a picture-perfect vacation spot. Visitors to Havana can enjoy the capital city’s mix of Latin and Caribbean cuisine at one of Havana’s many cafes and restaurants, some of which also double as salsa clubs at night. Art lovers can head to Fusterlandia for a distinctive look into Cuba’s eclectic art scene. With year-round beautiful weather, Havana is a must-see, even if its just for a long weekend getaway.
5. Lisbon, Portugal
Europe’s western-most capital city lies on the Atlantic Ocean and boasts a rich history, stunning sea-side views and striking architecture that makes simply walking down the streets of this Portuguese city into a tourist attraction. Lisbon visitors can walk through colorful streets and eat ample amounts of their famous national pastry, pastel de nata. With world-class food, an enchanting promenade of shopping and nightlife and easy day-trips to historical sites like Sintra or Belem, Lisbon is an underrated European city that is starting to gain more momentum as a premier tourist destination. When you’re finished with Lisbon, be sure to take a three-hour train ride or a one-hour flight to Porto, a gorgeous ocean city known as the culture capital of Portugal. Here, visitors can expect traditional Portuguese music, cuisine and unrivaled views.
6. Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakesh is a vibrant North African city that has served as a center of culture, religion and trade for hundreds of years. The city itself is a bustling hub with a mix of Arab, Berber and French influences, old architecture, hectic markets and eclectic streets. Visitors can enjoy Marrakesh’s rich historical sites such as the iconic Koutoubia mosque or the Saadian Tombs, or they can go straight to what has made the city an attraction for centuries: Marrakesh’s famous Medina. Named a UNESCO world heritage site, this loud, vibrant market area is packed with street vendors, food, clothing and hand-made artisan crafts. The center of it all, Jemaa el-Fnaa, is where visitors can find the best of Moroccan cuisine. Outside of the city lies the famous Sahara Desert, and the majestic, snow-capped Atlas Mountains, easy day trips from Marrakesh. To have the most unique Moroccan experience, visitors should come to the city during Festival National des Arts Populaires, a festival featuring music, dance and street performers, or during the Setti Fatma Moussem, an annual regional festival with street vendors, games and a decorated market.
7. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
A major commercial port on Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast, the thriving metropolis of Dar es Salaam is the perfect city to satisfy any traveler. Sunbathers can snorkel or relax in one of the city’s plentiful nearby beaches, while travelers looking for the culture of Tanzania can visit one of the many unique museums or busy markets. Tanzania is also known for its incredible wildlife safaris, which are also available in Dar es Salaam. Though there are many reasons to visit Dar es Salaam and Tanzania in general, tourists are often attracted to the city’s down-to-earth vibe and unique architecture, which has a mix of of African, Arab, Indian and German influences.
8. Port Vila, Vanuatu
Possibly the most beautiful place on the planet, Vanuatu is a hidden country that is almost completely untouched by tourism due to its remote location. Isolated in the Pacific Ocean, this gorgeous island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with crystal clear blue water and thriving marine life. Like a scene from a movie, Vanuatu’s villages, grocery markets and local way of life will make you feel as though you are completely removed from the 21st century (in a good way). The people are described as the most generous and kind-hearted in the world, and the nature is described as the most breathtaking. Vanuatu is unspoiled from mass tourism despite its perpetually beautiful weather and wide-spoken English. Though a plane ticket to Vanuatu may be a steep price to pay, it’s worth it for an unspoiled trip to paradise.
9. George Town, Malaysia
The colorful and multicultural capital of the Penang province of Malaysia, George Town, is a gorgeous Asian city of contradictions. While the old town serves as a reminder of the trading hub and traditional Malaysian culture that was prevalent in George Town hundreds of years ago, the modern city is full of towering skyscrapers, serving as a financial hub of North Malaysia. Tourists can enjoy streets full of beautiful Asian mosques and temples in one part of the city and various museums and upscale shopping the other part, making George Town a truly unique Malaysian city. With these nine locations just waiting for you to visit, there’s no reason not to start planning your 2017 trip now.