Happy New Year’s, y’all! 2021 has come and gone. It has been both the most challenging and rewarding year that I’ve had as a full-time travel blogger. Weaving my way around the globe and trying to travel responsibly during the pandemic was an endless puzzle. The ever-changing restrictions made it difficult, but also brought about unexpected and unforgettable moments. From getting involuntarily stranded in Pakistan to getting voluntarily stranded in Turkey, it’s been one heck of a year.
But now, it’s time to look forward to new adventures. If there’s one thing that I became good at while traveling during COVID, it’s figuring out what’s open and what’s worth visiting. As I traveled through Europe, my travel plans pretty much came down to whatever country was open at the time. That led me to off-the-beaten-path destinations that I might otherwise have never considered.
I’ve included a good mix of countries from every continent in this list (except Australia because y’all are never going to open at this rate), so you’re bound to find a destination that suits your fancy. Most of these destinations, I’ve visited personally. The others, I plan on visiting in 2022, so hey, maybe we’ll run into each other there! Without further ado, here are the top 22 travel destinations for 2022.
Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy whenever you’re out adventuring. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels.
Let’s start with an all-time favorite country of mine. Mexico has remained open for pretty much the entirety of the pandemic. After living out of my car in the U.S. for the first few months of lockdowns, I booked a flight to Mexico. It was a desperation attempt to rekindle the travel blog, one that worked out better than I could have imagined. I ended up spending six months in Mexico, divided between nearly two dozen of its 32 states. Mexico has become a haven for travelers and remote workers. Warm weather year-round plus a lower cost of living has attracted people from all over the world to Mexico. Most people flock to the beaches of Mexico, but there is so much more to this country.
From the colorful calles of Guanajuato and Oaxaca, to the mountains of Monterrey and the jungles of La Huasteca Potosina, do not restrict yourselves to the coastline. Mexico is a country that I truly believe has it all, from snow-capped peaks to vast deserts and everything in between. All of this, plus its lax entry requirements make it a top travel destination for 2022.
Colombia was the first country I ever solo backpacked to. For that, it will always hold a special place in my heart. Lately, the nostalgia has been real as travelers have been flocking by the hundreds to Colombia’s Caribbean coastline. It’s a great escape for these cold winter months. Like Mexico, Colombia has much, much more to offer than just sun and cervezas. Medellin is one of my favorite cities in the world, and the neighboring town of Guatape can’t be missed. The Valle de Cocora is a one-of-a-kind travel destination, as is the trek to Colombia’s Lost City.
And of course, if you’re looking for a good time, there is no better place to party than Colombia. From Cali to Cartagena, you’ll have no shortage of options for a good fiesta.
There are no shortage of amazing destinations in Latin America that are currently opening up to be explored. For those of you that have followed me for a while, you know that Peru is one of my favorites. How many countries can boast having the Amazon Rainforest, Pacific Ocean, the Andes Mountains, and countless ruins of millennia-old ancient civilizations? Peru is a tried-and-true destination in South America. You can never go wrong with a trip to Peru.
Sandwiched between Colombia and Peru is Ecuador. What this smaller country lacks in size, it makes up for in immense natural beauty. Ecuador is famed for being home to the Galapagos Islands, but there’s much more to the country. You’ve got beautiful cities like colonial Cuenca and lush Baños, surf towns like Montanita, and mountain getaways like Chugchilan and Vilcabamba. Feel like hiking? There’s Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, two of South America’s most challenging summits. The Amazon Rainforest also extends into Ecuador, and one can have an authentic Amazon experience in the jungles of Ecuador.
I planned on visiting for two weeks and ended up staying for nearly two months. And I still have to come back for the Galapagos. Don’t underestimate Ecuador as a travel destination. This country is amazing, and it’s currently open to tourists.
Costa Rica is a bit of an enigma. Although it’s located in Latin America, it is lightyears ahead of its neighbors when it comes to sustainability, infrastructure, political stability, and other environmental issues. That makes it an excellent introductory destination for travelers wanting to dip their toes into Latin America. Costa Rica has stunning cloud forests, monstrous volcanoes, and an abundance of surf towns to choose from. It’s also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, which is wild considering how small the country is. Despite its size, Costa Rica packs a punch. Be sure to put it on your 2022 travel bucket list.
Perhaps my favorite country in Central America, Guatemala is starting to get noticed after being in the shadow of neighboring Mexico. Antigua is fast-becoming a digital nomad hotspot, almost as quickly as Lake Atitlan has become a hub for hippies. Elsewhere in the country, you have Semuc Champey, Flores, and the ruins of Tikal made famous as the Rebel base of Yavin IV in the Star Wars trilogy.
Guatemala is a paradise for adventurers, with the grueling hike up to Acatenango being one of my top bucket list experiences I’ve ever done.
Poland is arguably the premier destination of Eastern Europe. It is beautiful, historic, and budget-friendly. While Western Europe has no shortage of tried-and-true travel destinations, Poland is an excellent country to begin your forays into Eastern Europe. Poland is a great mix of modern and historic. It is as safe and modern as any Western European country, but maintains its own unique charm. All of that, along with relatively relaxed COVID restrictions make it a top European travel destination for 2022.
The small country of Albania is one of Europe’s top hidden gems. I hopped over on a ferry after peak season prices in Greece started to drain my wallet. I had no idea what to expect, and admittedly, had a rough first few days in Sarande. However, it didn’t take long for Albania to start winning me over. What it lacked in tourism infrastructure, it made up for in authenticity. The charm of Albania lies in the kindness of their people and the rawness of its beauty and nature. It was a shock adjusting from Greece, where everything was super photogenic and easy to figure out. Once you learn to go with the flow in Albania, it will definitely win you over.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Another Balkan country that won me over this past year was Bosnia and Herzegovina. The capital, Sarajevo, is my favorite city in all the Balkans. Sarajevo is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever visited, with enough history to keep you both entertained and heartbroken for weeks. The city’s got a lot of character to it, and the kindness and hospitality of Bosnians despite everything they’ve been through stood out to me.
The rest of Bosnia is filled with stunning natural beauty and adrenaline-inducing adventures. Make sure to visit the small town of Mostar and its iconic bridge.
Croatia is one of Europe’s fastest growing tourist destinations. For my fellow travelers looking for a good time, look no further. With sparkling Mediterranean waters, historic cities, and no shortage of party islands to choose from, Croatia is a young backpacker’s paradise. It is more expensive than the other Balkan countries, but still a good, budget-friendly alternative to Italy or Greece. The quintessential Bacchanalian sailing trip can’t be missed, of course, but don’t ignore inland Croatia entirely. With beautiful national parks, quaint villages, and the unique capital city of Zagreb, there’s much more to explore in Croatia.
As timeless of a travel destination there is, it’s hard to leave Italy off of any travel bucket list. This summer was my first time truly exploring the country, and if my bank account would only cooperate, I would have never left. Italy is pure magic, and it’s still very possible to go off-the-beaten-path and avoid tourists. It’d be criminal to skip the tourist hotspots of Venice, Florence, and Rome, but there is so much beyond those cities that Italy has to offer. Italy is also one of the easiest countries to travel around in, with a fast and reliable train system to take you all over the country.
Of all the countries I visited in 2021, I might have fallen in love with Turkey the most. Istanbul catapulted its way to possibly my favorite city in the world. What a shame, because there was so much more of Turkey I wished to explore and I ended up spending two months in Istanbul. My small glimpses at the rest of Turkey confirmed to me that this would be a country that I would return to time and time again. The magical region of Cappadocia was breathtaking, and proved to be so much more than just hot air balloons and influencers. The Mediterranean coast of Turkey is absolutely stunning.
A Turk once told me that Turkey does everything better than Greece, except marketing. And hey, he had a point. Turkey is a huge country with history dating back tens of thousands of years. It is a crossroads of civilizations. The mix of European, Asian, and Middle-Eastern cultures, cuisines, and traditions makes Turkey a uniquely exciting travel destination.
On the border of Eastern Turkey, you’ll find the small, mountainous country of Georgia. It has been open to tourism for most of the pandemic, and while I never made it there myself, quite a few of my travel blogger friends did. They had incredible things to say about the country, and if I didn’t fall in love in Istanbul and stay for months, then I would have undoubtedly made my way to Georgia. There’s always next time.
Georgia is amazing for lovers of the outdoors. The natural beauty of Georgia can’t be overstated. It’s not super established as a tourist destination, so if you’re looking for raw and real travel experiences, look no further than Georgia.
The island of Cyprus is one of the largest in the Mediterranean. It’s also one of the most beautiful. With Turkish and Greek influence, Cyprus has the best of both worlds. It’s a pretty overlooked travel destination, but one of the most rewarding for those who do make it here.
Looking to get a taste of the Middle East? Jordan is a wonderful place to start. I mean, Petra alone makes Jordan worth visiting, but there’s much more to this country than its World Wonder. The cuisine is amazing, the people are friendly, and the natural wonders will make you feel like you’re on another planet entirely. You’ll probably recognize some of Jordan’s most iconic attractions because you’ve seen them in some movie that takes place on a far off world.
Ahh, my current top bucket list country. From Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti to Zanzibar, Tanzania has been calling my name for a long time. It’s got everything I desire in a travel destination. World-class hiking, stunning natural beauty, wildlife, culture, and of course, a laid-back beach town to vibe and relax in following some hectic adventures.
I carry a copy of The Alchemist with me everywhere I go. Whenever I’m feeling burnt out, it’s a good reminder to trust the journey, even if it may be riddled with challenges. I’ve read it a dozen times, so it’s honestly a miracle that I haven’t followed in Santiago’s footsteps and made it to Egypt yet. It’s one of the top destinations on my radar for 2022. Beyond the Pyramids, a Nile River Cruise, the beach town of Dahab, and the countless temples and archaeological sites make Egypt a world-class travel destination.
Morocco is another North African destination that has been on my radar for a while. It’s been a popular getaway during the pandemic due to its lax entry requirements, and people have been taking advantage. Morocco is filled with breathtaking natural beauty, historic sites, and some of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever lay your eyes on.
At long last, Thailand is starting to open back up to tourists. It doesn’t matter what kind of traveler you are, you can’t go wrong with Thailand. The islands and beaches of the south are rightfully world-renowned. The lush mountains and mouthwatering cuisine are a huge draw to the north of the country. And I don’t care what anyone says, Bangkok is an amazing city. It’s the liveliest big city I’ve ever been to. There’s just so much character and chaos in Bangkok that you can get an adrenaline rush just from walking down the street.
Thailand is a timeless travel destination, but is especially great for backpackers and young solo travelers. The hostels in Thailand are world class and the country as a whole is very budget-friendly. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of solo travel and backpacking, Thailand is an excellent choice.
Indonesia has started opening back up to tourism, and the digital nomads and hippies have started making their way back to Bali. Bali is far and away Indonesia’s most famous island, but don’t limit yourself solely to Bali. Indonesia has treasures beyond your wildest dreams. Neighboring Lombok rivals Bali in every way, with a fraction of the tourists. Komodo Island is a bucket list destination. The island of Flores offers a glimpse into humankind’s wild past. And of course, the island of Java is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural beauty.
Of all the trips I’ve ever taken, Pakistan ranks as the most unforgettable. There’s no other place like it. From the madness of its big cities, to the raw, untamed beauty of its mountains, Pakistan will leave you breathless in every sense of the word. It’s not quite as easy to get to as the other countries on the list, but if you make the effort, you won’t be disappointed.
And hey, shameless self-plug, but if you want to come along on an expedition on Pakistan in 2022, look no further than this blog. Our first round of dates has filled up, but just register your interest on this page, and we’ll keep you updated on if we launch a second round of dates for this year.
Sri Lanka is the pearl of South Asia. This island off the coast of India is one of the most spectacular countries I have ever visited. Few countries this small can claim to have such a variety of activities. Whether you’re a history geek, wildlife enthusiast, surfer bro, or nature-lover, Sri Lanka has much to offer. You can be hiking up a mountain for sunrise, seeing elephants on safari by noon, and then make it to the coast in time for sunset. What more could you ask for?
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