10 Exotic Holiday Destinations to Visit This Year

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Forget the same old vacation routine. This year, cast your net a little wider and set your sights on the extraordinary.

If you’re looking for unique and extraordinary experiences, this hand-picked selection of 10 exotic holiday destinations will ignite your wanderlust. We’re talking about breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultures, and encounters with wildlife you’ll find nowhere else on the planet.

From the majestic Himalayas to idyllic island paradises, prepare to experience the world in a whole new light.

Top 10 Exotic Holiday Destinations to Visit

1. Bhutan: The Land of Happiness

Taktshang Goemba, aka Tiger's Nest Monastery, perched on a cliff in Paro Valley, Bhutan

Bhutan, a secluded kingdom cradled in the Eastern Himalayas between China and India, has to be one of the most exotic countries to visit in the world. Nicknamed the Land of Happiness, this Buddhist country prioritizes its citizens’ Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product and is renowned for its commitment to preserving the environment and cultural heritage.

Visiting Bhutan isn’t cheap, but there’s a reason! With the exception of India, Bangladesh, or Maldives nationals, everyone must be accompanied by a Bhutanese guide and driver. In other words, you must book a tour.

Unlock Bhutan: Find Your Tour

There is also a Sustainable Development Fee of $200 per night. This fee funds environmental protection, cultural preservation, and infrastructure development in the country, all in line with Bhutan’s focus on Gross National Happiness.

ⓘ PRO TIP: In September 2023, Bhutan cut the SDF in half to entice tourists to stay longer. This means the nightly fee is now $100 per person per night, instead of $200 (with discounts for children). This discount will be in effect until September 2027.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the vibrant capital of Thimpu and immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture.
  • Hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a breathtaking monastery perched on a mountainside.
  • Visit Punakha Dzong, a massive fortress-monastery that served as the winter capital.
  • Trek through stunning valleys adorned with prayer flags and colorful villages.
  • Experience a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath, a unique and relaxing way to unwind.

Places to Stay: The accommodations in Bhutan range from traditional farmhouses to luxury lodges.

Best Time to Visit: Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) offer pleasant temperatures for exploring.

Getting There: Bhutan regulates tourist arrivals, so booking a pre-arranged tour is mandatory. Flights arrive in Paro, the only international airport in Bhutan.

2. Maldives: Paradise on Earth

Over water bungalows next to a lagoon in Maldives Islands

If your idea of a perfect holiday includes turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and luxurious resorts, then the Maldives is your ultimate destination. This tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean offers overwater bungalows, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life.

Things to Do:

  • Dive into the crystal-clear waters and explore thriving coral reefs teeming with colorful fish.
  • Relax on pristine beaches and soak up the warm Maldivian sunshine.
  • Enjoy world-class snorkeling and witness the wonders of the underwater world.
  • Embark on a luxurious sunset cruise and witness breathtaking Maldivian sunsets.
  • Get pampered in a world-class resort and experience unparalleled relaxation.

Craft Your Maldives Dream Escape With These Ideas

Places to Stay: The Maldives is renowned for its overwater bungalows, which give you unparalleled luxury and direct access to the crystal-clear ocean. However, there are also island resorts with beach bungalows and guesthouses on inhabited islands if you want a more budget-friendly option.

Best Time to Visit: The dry season (from November to April) offers sunny skies and calm seas, perfect for diving and water activities.

Getting There: The Maldives is accessible by international flights arriving at Malé International Airport. From there, a seaplane or boat transfer will take you to your specific resort island.

Collage of "fun vacation destinations that go off the beaten path,: Top: llama at Machu Picchu Peru. Moroccan Men serving dinner in the Sahara. Bottom: Baobab trees and Tiver's Nest Monastery in Bhutan.

3. Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice

Two people hiking to Selfoss Waterfall, Iceland

For those seeking adventure in nature’s lap, Iceland tops the list of exotic European destinations. This is a dramatic Nordic island where fire and ice collide. Stunning glaciers coexist with powerful waterfalls and bubbling geothermal hot springs, creating otherworldly landscapes.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the Golden Circle route, a popular tourist trail featuring Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir geothermal area.
  • Take a dip in the milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa known for its therapeutic properties and unique setting.
  • Hike on a glacier or embark on an ice cave adventure to explore the frozen wonders of Iceland.
  • Witness the awe-inspiring Northern Lights dance across the night sky during the winter months.
  • Go whale watching and spot humpback whales, minke whales, and even orcas in their natural habitat.

More Ways to Witness Iceland’s Wonders

Places to Stay: Iceland’s variety of accommodation options range from charming guesthouses and cozy cabins to luxury hotels with stunning views.

Best Time to Visit: Summer (June-August) offers pleasant weather for exploring the country. On the other hand, winter (December-February) is ideal for Northern Lights viewing.

Getting There: Iceland is easily accessible with direct flights from many major cities around the world. Reykjavik’s Keflavík International Airport is the main gateway to the country.

Where to See the Northern Lights: 2024 Aurora Borealis Guide

4. Galapagos Islands: Wildlife Paradise

Tourist sitting by sea lions in Galapagos Islands Ecuador

If you embark on a journey to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll discover a wildlife paradise unlike any other. This volcanic archipelago, located off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, is home to unique wildlife species found nowhere else on Earth, and best of all, they’re not afraid of humans!

Things to Do:

  • Spot marine iguanas basking on the lava rocks, watch giant tortoises graze in the highlands, and observe playful sea lion colonies along the shores.
  • Snorkel or dive with colorful fish, sea turtles, and playful sharks in the crystal-clear waters.
  • Hike through volcanic landscapes and spot unique bird species like the Blue-footed Booby and the Waved Albatross.
  • Learn about the islands’ fascinating history and conservation efforts.
  • Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and witness the living laboratory that inspired his theory of evolution.

More Ways to Experience Galapagos Wildlife

Places to Stay: It’s easy to find a place to stay in the Galapagos—there are four inhabited islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. That said, many visitors prefer to stay on small expedition ships that cruise around the islands, so they can visit multiple islands during their trip.

Best Time to Visit: The islands can be visited year-round. Although it’s located on the equator, you can expect warmer and drier weather from December to May and cooler, but sometimes wetter, weather from June to November. Water temperatures are coolest from August to September.

Getting There: Flights to the Galapagos Islands typically connect through Guayaquil, a city on Ecuador’s mainland. (Airport code: GYE)

5. Japan: Land of Tradition and Innovation

Two women in traditional Japanese garb walking down an old street in Kyoto Japan

Prepare to be captivated by the harmonious blend of old and new in the land of the rising sun. Japan is a feast for the senses, a world where anime and manga pop culture contrasts beautifully with the elegance of a woman draped in a vibrant kimono.

This is a place where you can immerse yourself in the serenity of a tea ceremony one moment, then lose yourself in the electrifying energy of a karaoke bar the next.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the vibrant metropolis of Tokyo and marvel at its cutting-edge technology and futuristic architecture.
  • Immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural traditions of Kyoto, visiting ancient temples and serene gardens.
  • Witness the breathtaking beauty of Mount Fuji, an iconic landmark and symbol of Japan.
  • Experience a traditional tea ceremony, a meditative practice steeped in Japanese culture.
  • Take a bullet train, a marvel of Japanese engineering, and travel between cities at lightning speed.

Also Try These Unique Japan Experiences

Places to Stay: Japan’s unique accommodation options ranging from traditional ryokans (inns) and apartments to capsule hotels and modern high-rises.

Best Time to Visit: Spring (March-May) offers beautiful cherry blossoms, while autumn (September-November) boasts vibrant fall foliage. Shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) provide comfortable temperatures.

Getting There: Major international airports in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya offer easy access to Japan.

6. Madagascar: A World Apart

Lemur on a tree in Madagascar

Escape to the African island of Madagascar, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Separated from mainland Africa for millions of years, Madagascar boasts unique ecosystems teeming with endemic wildlife.

If you’re a nature lover, the playful lemurs, vibrant chameleons, and grand baobab trees on this island paradise will captivate you. You’ll find all sorts of diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests to vibrant coral reefs.

Things to Do:

  • Spot lemurs, the iconic primates of Madagascar, at the Black Lemur Sanctuary.
  • Go on a wildlife safari in national parks like Isalo National Park or Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.
  • Dive or snorkel along the coral reefs teeming with colorful marine life.
  • Hike through the spiny forests and marvel at the otherworldly baobab trees.
  • Explore the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, a labyrinth of razor-sharp limestone pinnacles.

Find Madagascar Tour Ideas

Places to Stay: Madagascar offers diverse accommodation options, from luxurious beach resorts to eco-lodges nestled within national parks.

Best Time to Visit: The dry season from April to October provides comfortable temperatures for exploration. However, the specific ideal time depends on your desired activities (e.g., whale watching is best from July to September).

Getting There: Major airlines offer flights to Antananarivo, the capital city. From there, you can connect to other destinations within Madagascar by domestic flights or scenic boat journeys.

7. New Zealand: Nature’s Playground

Bungee jumper in New Zealand

New Zealand is a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers. With dramatic landscapes ranging from snow-capped mountains and glaciers to geothermal wonders and pristine beaches, New Zealand offers endless opportunities for exploration.

Things to Do:

  • Bungee jump from the Kawarau Bridge, the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping.
  • Hike the Milford Track, a world-renowned trail through breathtaking fiords and rainforests.
  • Kayak through the luminous glowworm caves of Waitomo.
  • Experience geothermal wonders like Rotorua’s geysers and mud pools.
  • Visit Hobbiton and explore the stunning scenery of the Lord of the Rings filming locations.

Discover NZ’s Most Epic Holiday Adventures

Places to Stay: New Zealand offers a variety of accommodations, from luxury lodges and eco-friendly cabins to campsites and backpacker hostels.

Best Time to Visit: Summer (December-February) offers warm weather for outdoor activities but be prepared for crowds. Shoulder seasons (March-May and September-November) provide pleasant temperatures and fewer visitors.

Getting There: Major airlines offer flights to Auckland and Christchurch, the two main international airports in New Zealand.

8. Peru: Land of Ancient Wonders

Female tourist gesturing a love sign to the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

If you’re looking for exotic cheap vacation destinations, Peru offers a kaleidoscope of experiences for adventurous travelers. Wedged between the Andes Mountains and the vast Amazon rainforest on South America’s west coast, it’s an exotic destination that blends the legacy of the Inca Empire with vibrant colonial cities.

Things to Do:

  • Hike the Inca Trail and marvel at the breathtaking ruins of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas.
  • Visit the Nazca Lines, a series of mysterious geoglyphs etched into the desert, and ponder their origin.
  • Sail across the majestic Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, and visit the unique floating islands of Uros.
  • Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, and shop for colorful textiles and handcrafted souvenirs in bustling local markets.
  • Visit the Amazon rainforest and encounter the rich cultures of indigenous communities.
  • Sandboard down the dunes of the Huacachina Oasis, a desert oasis known as the “Oasis of America.”

See More Authentic Peru Experiences

Places to Stay: Peru offers a wide range of accommodation options. You’ll find everything from luxurious resorts to charming guesthouses and comfortable hostels catering to backpackers.

Best Time to Visit: The dry season from May to September offers pleasant weather for exploring the highlands, while the shoulder months (April and October) provide comfortable temperatures for coastal regions.

Getting There: Major airlines offer flights to Lima, the capital city of Peru. From there, you can connect to other destinations within the country by bus, train, or domestic flights.

Is it Difficult to Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

9. Seychelles: Tropical Paradise

A person sitting on a beach at one of the most exotic holiday destinations on the planet: Anse Source d’Argent La Digue Island Seychelles

If you’re more in the mood for a secluded tropical getaway, the Seychelles islands offer pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush greenery. This archipelago, nestled in the Indian Ocean, is a haven for relaxation and adventure.

Things to Do:

  • Snorkel or dive amidst vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful fish and marine life.
  • Kayak through turquoise waters and explore secluded coves.
  • Hike through lush rainforests and discover the unique flora and fauna of the islands.
  • Go island hopping and discover the distinct charm of each island, from the vibrant Praslin to the laid-back La Digue.
  • Relax on pristine beaches and soak up the warm sunshine.

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Places to Stay: Choose from luxurious beachfront villas with infinity pools, charming guesthouses, or secluded eco-lodges nestled amidst nature.

Best Time to Visit: The dry season from May to October offers sunny skies and calm seas, perfect for beach lounging and epic water sports.

Getting There: Several airlines offer flights to Mahé, the largest island in the Seychelles. From there, you can connect to other islands by ferry or scenic helicopter rides.

10. Morocco: A Tapestry of Culture

Dan & Linda on camels near the Morocco's border with Algeria.

Venture into the vibrant and colorful country of Morocco, where ancient medinas, bustling souks, and stunning landscapes await. Morocco boasts a rich tapestry of cultures, influenced by Berber, Arabic, and European traditions.

Things to Do:

  • Get lost in the labyrinthine streets of Marrakech. It’s a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells.
  • Explore the unique blue-washed buildings of Chefchaouen, a picturesque town nestled in the Rif Mountains.
  • Embark on a thrilling camel trek to watch the sun set over the Sahara Desert, then stay overnight to experience the magic of a starry night sky.
  • Haggle for treasures in the vibrant souks, where you can find spices, handcrafted goods, and unique souvenirs.
  • Learn the art of traditional Moroccan cooking and savor a delicious tagine, a slow-cooked stew with meat, vegetables, and spices.
  • Visit the imperial cities of Fes and Meknes, with their historic palaces, intricate mosaics, and bustling medinas.

Find Fun Things to Do in Morocco

Places to Stay: The accommodations in Morocco vary from traditional riads (courtyard houses) in the medinas to luxurious beachfront hotels and desert camps.

Best Time to Visit: Shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) offer the most pleasant temperatures and are ideal for exploring. You might expect extreme heat in the summer months, but the desert can get surprisingly cold in winter.

Getting There: Major airlines offer direct flights to Marrakech, which is the primary travel hub in Morocco.

How to Take a Sahara Desert Tour from Marrakech

Things to Consider When Choosing Which Place to Visit

When selecting an exotic vacation destination, several essential factors should be considered to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Costs and Budget

Financial considerations play a pivotal role in determining the feasibility of your exotic holiday.

Begin by establishing a clear budget, including expenses for airfare, accommodation, transportation, meals, activities, and miscellaneous costs.

Research destinations that align with your budgetary constraints, considering factors such as exchange rates, cost of living, and seasonal fluctuations in prices.

Be flexible with your travel dates to take advantage of off-peak rates and special deals. Additionally, look for budget-friendly accommodations, such as hostels, guesthouses, or vacation rentals.

Lastly, allocate a contingency fund for unexpected expenses to ensure a stress-free and financially manageable holiday experience.

Safety and Security

Safety and security are paramount when planning an exotic holiday,so don’t neglect this when you’re deciding where to visit. Political situations can change, so begin by researching the current situation of your desired destination, You’ll need to know the crime rates, political stability, and any travel advisories issued by government authorities.

Consider purchasing insurance travel online to provide coverage for unexpected events such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or lost luggage.

Ensure that your accommodation choice offers adequate security measures, such as secure locks, surveillance cameras, and well-lit premises.

Additionally, familiarize yourself with local customs and laws to avoid inadvertently engaging in activities that could compromise your safety or legal status.

Cultural Experiences

Additionally, delve into the cultural experiences available, such as local traditions, cuisine, and festivals.

Accessibility and transportation options play a significant role in your overall convenience. Lastly, prioritize destinations that promote environmental sustainability, minimizing your ecological footprint while immersing yourself in nature’s wonders.

Immersing oneself in the local culture is a highlight of any exotic holiday, so begin by researching the cultural offerings of potential destinations. Are there any historical sites, traditional festivals, or culinary experiences you want to participate in?

Engage with local communities through guided tours, cooking classes, or homestays to gain insight into their way of life. Embrace opportunities to learn about indigenous customs, languages, and arts, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

Participate in cultural exchanges such as dance performances, music concerts, or handicraft workshops to enrich your travel experience.

By prioritizing cultural immersion, travelers can create meaningful connections and lasting memories in exotic destinations.


Whether you crave tranquility, natural wonders, cultural immersion, or thrilling adventures, these 10 exotic holiday destinations promise unforgettable experiences.

Start planning, prepare your bags, and embark on a journey that will create memories to last a lifetime. Let the allure of these exotic destinations captivate your spirit and ignite your sense of wanderlust.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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