There’s a familiar few destinations that are very commonly visited today; Amsterdam, London and Lisbon are some of Europe’s hottest cities, while trips around Southeast Asia or New Zealand and Australia are commonplace for millennials.
It may therefore be hard to visualize a time when some of these 30 places were 'the place to be'. In some cases, we may still desperately want to explore these beautiful cities and countries but it is no longer safe to do so. For others on this list, you may well have never even heard of them because they’re so far off the 2018 tourist radar.
As time goes on, there will be a shift again and surely a day when overrun cities like Venice, Paris, and Barcelona make the list of places that “used” to be popular. If you ask your parents, your grandparents, or family friends where they chose to spend their holidays in their youth...the answers might surprise you. We have a concept in the present day of what a trip destination should include; typically it needs great food, great lighting, epic scenic backdrops and intriguing city streets that lend themselves to high grade photographs. Plus Wifi.
You could travel to some of these destinations now and feel like you’re going back in time to a long forgotten place, but some we can only hope will one day be accessible for us to explore safely, with the best kept secrets of these cultures just out of reach for most of the world.
30 Kolmanskop, Namibia - Left to the elements
This ghost town is located in the Namib Desert in south west Africa, and as it’s name would suggest, is no longer a popular place to visit.
Becoming, essentially, a German town in the early 1900s after diamonds were discovered as a plentiful resource here, Dailymail.co.uk paints a picture of a lively, frequently visited destination. When WWI ended and the value of the diamonds decreased, the industry moved south leaving it abandoned in 1954.
Today, its eerie empty buildings and dramatic sand dunes attract interest from those who stumble across its existence, but travellers are deterred by the requirement of a permit in order to enter the site.
29 Chacaltaya Glacier, Bolivia - The glacier just disappeared
Chacaltaya (Bridge of Ice) hosted the highest ski resort in the world at 5375 meters above sea level according to Snow-forecast.com, until climate change took its toll. The reason no one is skiing here nowadays is that in 2009, Chacaltaya glacier disappeared - six years earlier than scientists had initially predicted.
Located near La Paz, Bolivia, it is still possible to visit and if there’s large amounts of snow fall, skiing would still be possible, but sadly Chacaltaya glacier is gone from this Earth forever.
28 Orlando, Florida, USA - If not Disneyland, then avoid
It might be a stretch to say no one is visiting here anymore; Disney World attracted a record 150 million visitors in 2017 according to Disneynew.us, so tourism in Orlando can feel quite secure in knowing it houses one of the most popular experiences in the world.
Despite a record year at the park, Cheatsheet.com reports a 20% decrease in international tourism immediately following the 2016 US election, a statistic that was echoed in several cities across the country. Nevertheless, its biggest attraction remains a popular family vacation spot.
27 Ctesiphon, Iraq - advised against travel
A royal capital of the Persian Empire, this ancient city is now ruins that are seldom visited by international tourists. The iconic arch of the Great Palace of Sapor belonged to the Shah, and was nearly all that survived a flood in 1987.
Unrest is the main cause of concern for tourists though, preventing them from safely accessing historical sites such as this. With North American governments advising against all travel to Iraq, the chance to explore this country full of history does not seem visible on the horizon.
26 Washington, DC, USA - no more interest for the capitol
The capital of The United States of America, tourists have always come from all over the globe to visit the iconic Whitehouse, Washington monument and more. But this North American nation has become a different place in recent years and the statistics say that tourists are being put off.
With the current strength of the US dollar, it’s becoming very difficult for foreign guests to afford the cost of a stay in America, and political opinions and policies are raising eyebrows around the world. Thewashingtonpost.com reported in July 2018, that numbers of visitors from European countries as well as Brazil and Australia had declined roughly 14-25% in the last two years.
25 Pompeii, Italy - a bit too ancient
Located in the Campania region of Italy, this UNESCO archaeological site is the preservation of an ancient Roman city.
Receiving roughly 2.5 million tourists annually in the early 2000s, the rampant tourism has taken its toll on this valuable piece of Italian history. In an effort protect the site, Thelocal.it reported that in 2016 efforts were underway to divert visitors to other historical sites in the region like Herculaneum and Villa Poppaea. This once-popular location will only benefit from a decrease in tourism.
24 Reno, Nevada, USA - too tacky for us
The Ying to Las Vegas’ Yang, Reno, Nevada has been called the “Divorce Capital” of the world. In the 1930s when divorce was not easily accomplished in most parts of the USA, Reno was the escape route for many unhappy couples, allowing them to legally divorce regardless of reason as long as the plaintiff had lived in Nevada for six weeks.
March of 1931 saw gambling become legal in Nevada which drew even further attention to the town but in 1941, the rise of the Las Vegas Strip stole its thunder. Now a second choice to gamblers and couples alike, Reno remains unknown to many.
23 Tunisia - Bad news for the industry
Due to tragic events in 2015, Tunisia’s tourism industry took a big dip, with CNN.com reporting a decrease of 25% (5.4 million visitors) and this number continued to drop.
While still lower than it was prior to 2015, the number of tourists in Tunisia is growing again in 2018, with Alaraby.co.uk reporting 2.3 million tourists visiting within the first 5 months of 2018. Slowly but steadily, perhaps the spicy, rich foods and versatile landscapes can draw visitors back in.
22 Haiti - cruises only
The once idyllic vacation destination has been impacted by government travel advisories suggesting North Americans avoid non - essential travel.
Still recovering from the earthquake in 2010, Port Au Prince does cause safety concerns for visitors, but the natural beauty of Haiti’s blue waters and historical structures remains pristine. Civil unrest is currently a major deterrent for tourists to visit the capitol, but many are still finding a Caribbean retreat at Labadee, a port where Royal Caribbean Cruises docks to let travellers ashore for some sun and sand.
21 Turkey - advised to think twice about booking
Turkey has much to offer in the way of scenic cities and exciting dishes, but it’s not being as avidly explored by foreign travellers these days as one might hope.
North American government travel advisories following events in Turkey in 2016 made visitors think twice before booking a ticket here, along with disputes between Turkey and the United States, Germany and the Netherlands according to the Nytimes.com. The Week.co.uk records that the number of tourists visiting the country decreased by 50% from 2014 to 2016.
Now beginning to make its comeback with travel warnings lifted to “Exercise a high degree of caution” (Travel.gc.ca), West and Central regions of the country are deemed fairly safe for tourists though the southeast and border with Syria remain unstable.
20 Pyramids Of Giza, Egypt
In 2016 the number of visitors to Egypt dropped from 14.7 million to 5.4 million annually (Aljazeera.com) on the heels of the air disasters and other instability within the country.
With warnings issued to avoid all travel for safety reasons, it’s no wonder that the once crowded sands of the Great Pyramids are now virtually empty. Some travellers will see this as the prime time to visit though, due to reduced rates and the chance to experience this wonder of the ancient world without being surrounded by a crowd.
19 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
Northern Ontario is known as cottage country, most commonly in the Muskoka region. But there is forgotten beauty hidden away amidst the dense forests northwest of Toronto. Boasting charming train travel and quaint diners, it’s a wonder that so much of a generation has ignored this town in favour of visiting bigger cities like Montreal or Toronto.
Sault Ste. Marie has been seeking to draw the attention back to itself through improvements to its Agawa Canyon Tour Coach Train in 2011. 2018 marks the 350th anniversary of the first European settlement in the Sault back in 1668 (according to Sootoday.com) attracting many more international tourists than usual for the celebrations.
18 Beirut, Lebanon
Once a booming tourist attraction that was referred to as the “Paris of the Middle East”, Beirut, Lebanon has seen an unfortunate decline in popularity in recent years. A major blow to its economy, the civil war in Lebanon that took place from 1975-1990 may be largely to blame, with further decreases following events in 2015.
Perhaps with resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, Lebanon can once again rise as a tourist hotspot to benefit both its economy, and travellers worldwide who have yet to experience the beauty and delicious food of this country.
This stunning Mediterranean paradise has struggled to keep up with its competitors in previous years. Higher costs of accommodations and food along with concerns about what climate change is doing to the island have been deterring travellers as far back as 2006.
Malta steadily made a come back with Travel-gazette.com reporting its tourism was up 15.7% in 2017 from the previous year, but a recent accident with a city tour bus is cause for concern in the way of interest from international travellers.
16 Goa, India
2014 was a remarkable tourist season for the enticing beaches of Goa, with Thewire.in reporting that 40.5 million people visited, a 30% increase from 2013. However, these numbers are largely domestic tourists, and the European tourist numbers don't match up.
Flights into Goa from places like the United Kingdom, Russia, and Germany decreased significantly and in December 2017, Thehindubusinessline.com reported that holiday arrivals were down 30% internationally, and domestically. Lack of tourist infrastructure has also contributed to beaches becoming dirty and therefore, unappealing to prospective visitors.
15 Tehran, Iran
A stunningly beautiful land of exquisite foods and intricate architecture, many Westerners have never considered traveling here, though it may come as a surprise that it was once a sought after destination.
Even in 2015 the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (The Nuclear Deal) which was signed by Iran, the US, United Kingdom, China, Germany, Russia, and France brought about an increase in the country’s tourism numbers, before a decrease in 2017, as reported by CNBC.com.
However, following the United States absolving its signature on the deal and imposing sanctions on Iran in 2018, visitors are not likely to be attracted anytime soon. With European airlines like Air France, KLM and British Airways pulling their direct flights in the fall of 2018, there is little incentive for travellers to journey to the historical gem that is Persia.
14 Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Following an air disaster of a flight from Sharm El Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia on October 31, 2015, Britain implemented a ban on all flights to Sharm El Sheikh.
Of course British nationals can still travel to the Egyptian airport via an indirect flight, but there are no direct flights available from the UK, decreasing the number of vacationers to resorts here significantly.
Despite this, Ft.com reports that tourist numbers had increased 30% in early 2018, which is largely put down to the decreased rates that resulted from a few years of slow tourism.
13 Moscow, Russia
Russia is a city of unique buildings and beautiful colours; its rich history and international intrigue should make it a tourist hotspot, which seemed like it could happen following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Cnn.com reports that Ukraine was the largest source of international tourism for Russia, but due to its political situation, arrivals from Ukraine declined by 43% in 2014. Taking into account the lengthy process required for most citizens of North America and Europe to get a visa for entry to Russia, its tourism industry is not currently booming.
Cyprus embodies all the beauty imagined when you dream of a Greek Island paradise; crystal blue waters, endless sunshine and plenty of beachside towns to explore.
But a number of factors are contributing to plummeting tourism rates in this once sought after escape. As the value of the ruble plummeted in August 2018, it is suspected that the number of tourists from Russia, who made up a large percentage of visitors, will continue to drop from the 5.4% decrease in March 2018, reported by Cyprus-mail.com.
Despite this, Knews.Kathimerini.com.cy reported that overall, tourism was up by 7.6% in Cyprus in May, so perhaps this island will do just fine despite the lack of Russian visitors.
Since 2014, unrest in Ukraine has been a major turn off for travellers concerned with the safety of visiting the country. This is extremely unfortunate considering the delicious hearty cuisine and breathtaking landscapes it has to offer.
Kyivpost.com reported a 50% drop in tourism in Ukraine from 2013 to 2014, but now says the figures are back on the rise despite the unstable situation with 14.5 million people visiting in 2017. Though it may be back on the tourist radar, a full recovery for the industry here is likely to take some time.
10 Verona, Italy
Made famous as a city of love in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona has taken a back seat as far as Italian tourist destinations go. Charming Piazza’s, a Roman Amphitheatre and of course, Juliet’s balcony are all reasons travellers should be considering Verona as an alternative to overrun cities like Venice and Rome.
While you are still sure to encounter tourists in the high season, swapping out your time in Venice for a trip to Verona could put this city back on the radar.
9 Acapulco, Mexico
The destination of John F. Kennedy’s honeymoon with Jackie, this once romantic holiday destination is now one of the most dangerous places in the world.
With the US and Canadian governments issuing warnings to avoid all travel here, illegal activity within Acapulco means the streets are now full of police rather than tourists.
Luckily, there are plenty of other beautiful resort towns in Mexico where you can enjoy a safe and relaxing vacation in the sun instead; Cancun saw a 14.5 % increase in visitors in March 2018 from the previous year and Tulum boasts over two million visitors annually according to Medium.com.
8 Brussels, Belgium
This Western European destination has been a stop on many backpacker's routes for years as they interrail around the continent. Speaking Dutch, French, and German in different parts of the country, it's culturally enriching with delicious food to boot. Moules frites and Belgian waffles are just two dishes that immediately jump to mind.
But recent years of unrest in Brussels has left the safety of travellers in question, with a 19% decrease in people staying in the capital in 2017, according to Tourism-review.com. Hopefully the quaint charm of Belgium will be enough to sustain international interest.
Events in Gaza in 2014 left the world with the impression that Israel was not a safe place to explore. The number of European visitors in 2015 decreased 4% from 2014, an already poor year for tourism (Haaretz.com). A large portion of Israel’s tourism comes from Russia, which brought 26% less visitors to the country in 2015.
Despite this dip in Israel’s tourism and warnings of instability in the country, in 2018 reports from Jpost.com say that tourism is up 46% from 2016, suggesting the country is making a comeback in the travel sector.
6 Puerto Rico
This once welcoming paradise was hit hard in the fall of 2017 by Hurricane Maria, which effectively shattered the tourism industry. Though the island amazingly was announced to be open for tourism just three months after the storm, in 2018 Skift.com reports that 27% of hotels are still closed for renovation and repairs.
Nevertheless there is an optimism that the return of tourists to Puerto Rico will only increase as this Caribbean island continues to rebuild its industry and rallies in the face of adversity.
2018 has seen Venezuelans struggling with hyperinflation while their economy is in shambles and BBC.com reports that 2.3 million people have left the country since 2014 due to these issues, as well as political unrest.
What does this mean for this once sunny getaway destination? According to Tourism-review.com, occupancy rates were as low as 45% during the 2018 season for tourist accommodations, reflecting the severe decline in visitors. Additionally citing lack of promotion and currency exchange as factors contributing to the decline, the low tourism numbers are only adding to the issue of hyperinflation.
4 Yangon, Myanmar
Conflicts within the gorgeous country of Myanmar have been the cause of an ethics debate for tourists in the past few years. Questions about where money put into tourism is being funnelled has deterred some travellers, but the counter argument is that many parts of the country depend on the tourism industry for their livelihood.
The result is a decrease in tourism particularly from European countries, with Mmtimes.com reporting a 40% decrease in visitors from the United Kingdom in 2018. The country is working to improve the numbers by making it easier for travellers from Japan, China and South Korea to obtain entry visas.
The crisis in Nicaragua has led to a steep decline in visitors in 2018, with many countries warning their citizens not to risk travel here at this time. Theguardian.com reported an occupancy rate decrease from 85% to 15% in April of this year, and speculates that this is not likely to improve anytime soon.
This is an unfortunate step in the opposite direction for what Nicaragua’s tourism industry had the potential to be. With gorgeous beaches, jungles and volcanoes, it was a place that tourists were able to relax and embark on exciting adventures into the wild all in one visit.
2 Hashima Island, Japan
Strangely, the fact that no one could stay in this ghost town anymore, has become a tourist attraction in and of itself. “Battleship Island”, as it is sometimes called, was a mining city, where workers unfortunately dealt with unsafe conditions. With the collapse of the industry in 1974, the island’s population slowly dispersed and left it the ghost town we know today.
While it was closed to the public for several years, it became a UNESCO world heritage site in July 2015, and since then, has ironically attracted visitors due to its status as a ghost town.
1 Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Following the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, the future of tourism in Brazil appeared to be exceptionally bright, but Riotimesonline.com reports a $320 million loss in tourism revenue in 2017's first quarter. With numbers from the games impacting the increased revenue in 2016 this may not come as a total surprise, but they also report a 6.4% increase in crime between 2016 -2017. Is this keeping tourists away?
Even with security concerns and words of warning, telling travellers to exercise a high degree of caution, 2018 has seen an 8% increase in travellers from the previous year.
References: Cheatsheet.com, Cnn.com, History.com, Nytimes.com, Euronews.com, Cnbc.com, Travel.gc.ca, Telegraph.co.uk, Independent.co.uk, Travelagentcentral.com, Tourism-review.com, Bbc.com, Disneynews.us, Huffpost.com, Theguardian.com, Dark-tourism.com, Travel-gazette.com, Washingtonpost.com, Quora.com, Earthtrekkers.com, Dailymail.co.uk, Travelationship.com