- Maré, New Caledonia
- Mossman, Australia
- Hoi An, Vietnam
- Nha Trang, Vietnam
- Kaohsiung, Taiwan
- Jeju City, South Korea
- Khao Lak, Thailand
- Kagoshima, Japan
- Hainan, China
- Kosgoda, Sri Lanka
- Surabaya, Indonesia
- Malang, Indonesia
Maré, New Caledonia
The most unknown of the three Loyalty Islands of the archipelago of New Caledonia, Maré is still beautifully untouched by tourism.
The island is a raised coral atoll, so expect wild, rugged beauty that comprises steep cliffs, rocky headlands, grottos, deep sink holes and dense forest. Visit for its superlative natural aquarium: surrounded by coral, Maré offers divers unrivalled access to exotic sea creatures such as the rare dugong.
TIP: Hire a car to explore properly—and bring your own scuba gear or snorkels. Skip Tadine if you want to avoid the cruise ship crowd.
Just inland from the Great Barrier Reef in northern Queensland is the sprawling Daintree National Park, a natural synthesis of tropical rainforest, steep mountains and gushing waterfalls.
Make a beeline for Mossman, a historic sugar cane township that’s a nice stop off before jumping into the Mossman Gorge, on Daintree’s southern boundary.
There are a number of easy walks skirting the gorge, but the indigenous Kuku Yulanji natives also offer guided options where you learn about the rainforest’s ‘dreamtime’ stories.
TIP: Be sure to take a dip in one of the natural water holes formed by the Mossman River.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Certainly not a ‘new’ destination on a bucket list, this ancient Vietnamese colonial town just keeps gaining in popularity. You’ll never be short of things to see and do here, whether you’re after beaches, shopping (its skilled tailors are world renowned), canal trips or bike tours.
But the real reason to make it here is for the food—from street stalls to delicious restaurants and cooking courses, you’ll be eating non-stop morning to night.
Cao lau is Hoi An’s signature noodle dish: crucially, the rice noodles are cooked in water from the town’s centuries-old wells, so you won’t find this dish anywhere else. The noodles are served in a rich broth, and tossed with soy pork, bean sprouts, fresh lettuce and herbs, with a side of spicy chili jam.
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Hugging Vietnam’s south east coast, caught between tropical beaches and forested mountains, Nha Trang is an anomaly. Part high-rise party capital, part spiritual retreat, the city has spent the last decade catering to everyone and growing fast.
Boasting 300 days of sunshine throughout the year, the sandy tourist strip is a mecca for water sports fans, but it’s the city’s Po Nagar Cham Towers that are worth more of your time—a collection of beautifully vaulted Buddhist temples that date back to the 7th century—as is the specialty bird’s nest soup that’s served all over town.
The southerly port city of Kaohsiung is ready to rival the capital Taipei—especially if you’re a fan of street food. Night markets can be easily found in every district and the farther afield you venture, the fewer tourists you’ll come across.
The most famous (and busiest) is Liuhe Night Market, which specializes in seafood, but actually the larger markets of Ruifeng, Kaisyuan and its twin Jinzuan offer a more authentic Taiwanese night market experience. Expect hundreds of stalls touting everything from grilled skewers and live fish to clothes and games.
TIP: If you’re adventurous, just pick a stop on the MRT and explore on foot—you’ll be sure to find a night market nearby.
Jeju Island, South Korea
This tiny island off the coast of South Korea is earning itself quite the reputation for its quirky museums.
From the more serious offerings like the Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum or the Jeju National Museum, it then quickly becomes silly with sex, teddy bear and trick art museums (where you can take selfies with fun 3D images).
Topping the list is the Chocolate Museum in Seogwipo: the second largest in the world after Cologne and built out of volcanic scoria—unique to Jeju—to resemble a castle. The three-story building has a workshop, cafe, various exhibits, and, most importantly, a shop filled with chocolaty goodness.
Khao Lak, Thailand
Khao Lak is nothing new to anyone who knows Thailand—its beaches have long been a departure point for most scuba diving trips to the Similan Islands and its quiet, secluded resorts have always offered something that Phuket’s can’t.
But the region’s inland area, comprising the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, remains largely untouched since the devastation of the 2004 tsunami.
Hike the Ton Chong Fa waterfall trail to discover thousands of rare plants and animals and see a different side to Thailand’s Andaman coast.
Nicknamed ‘The Naples of The East’ for its culture, climate and giant, active volcano, Kyushu’s capital city has a lot more to offer than European comparisons.
Eat the famous kuroushi Wagyu beef, drink the sweet potato shochu and indulge in the hot springs.
But the best of Kyushu doesn’t reveal itself until it’s time to leave—riding the Hisatsu Line to Yoshimatsu and Hitoyoshi, the circular rail route takes you through one of the most spectacularly scenic river valleys in Japan.
China’s largest tropical island is full of tourists, but pretty much all of them can be found surfing on the east coast or crowded into the swanky boardwalk bars in Sanya.
More impressive but far less popular are the central highlands—with untouched shrines and secluded hot springs hidden amongst the valleys and mountains.
Rent a bike to get up to the hills and discover the real country—with an easy route between Wenchang and Qinglan taking you past coconut palms, mangrove forests and some of the best seafood in South China.
Kosgoda, Sri Lanka
A lot has changed in Kosgoda over the last few years. Going into 2017 as one of Sri Lanka’s fastest-growing tourist spots, the time to visit is now.
The beaches get the biggest crowds but the real draw is the wildlife—with bird watching boat trips running on Kosgoda Lagoon and Maduganga Lake, and a string of turtle hatcheries lining the coast that offer volunteers the bucket-list topping experience of helping to release newborn turtles into the sea at sunset.
Less popular than Jakarta and Semarang, Surabaya should be your Indonesian city of choice if you want something a bit more authentic.
The slower flowing tourist trade has so far kept the city developing quickly without unearthing its roots—a feeling like a modern metropolis without the gift shops.
Stay for the street food (try the rujak cingur peanut salad on any corner) but leave for easy excursions to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park—a raw, otherworldly landscape of smoking volcanoes and rugged mountain valleys with a lot of unbeaten paths.
East Java’s colonial city of Malang is the more charming and laidback cousin to the capital Surabaya. Yet it makes it onto our list for 2017 due to its close proximity to some of Indonesia’s best natural sights: it’s a gateway to Mount Semeru.
Often overlooked for the more touristy (and easier to scale) Mount Bromo, Semeru is an active volcano and is actually the highest on Java.
It’s no mean feat: 3,676 meters above sea level, the climb takes at least two full days to complete—but there are some beautiful camp sites en route. Bed down at Arcopodo base camp (2,912m) to make it up the steep final ascent for dawn.
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Photos for Mare, Nah Trang, Kaohsiung, Jeju, Hainan, Kagoshima, Surabaya: Alamy; Mossman, Hoi An, Khao Lak, Kosgoda: Shutterstock