Bhutan Taktshang Monastery Tigers Nest


5 former no-go zones (that are now OK to visit)

Published April 20th, 2015

If Phuket is feeling a bit ‘same-same not different’ and you’ve ‘been there, done that’ in Bali, it may be time to switch things up a bit. While Phuket and Bali are massively popular for a reason, there’s a lot to be said for exploring countries that few people have visited, let alone locate on a globe. With a sketchy past or a dangerous reputation, many travellers have steered clear of certain countries but are now discovering the natural beauty, hidden ruins and unique experiences to be had. Remember, situations can change so it’s always a good idea to seek Australian Government travel advice before you book your holiday, and if you’d prefer some expert guidance there’s heaps of guided tours to make sure you have easy access and safety. Here’s five former no-go zones to consider for your next overseas trip.


Sidi M'Cid Bridge in Constantine, Algeria.


Located in North Africa and sandwiched between Morocco and Tunisia, Algeria is in close proximity to Portugal across the Mediterranean as well as being Africa’s largest country. The threat of terrorism and regional volatility from a civil war in the 1990s has prevented mainstream travellers from discovering the mix of urban cities and ancient citadels with the massive Sahara Desert making up 90 percent of the country.

Tour to try: Take the 15-day Intrepid Expedition Algeria tour that takes in ancient Roman and Islamic ruins, markets, mountains and famous cities like Algiers and Constantine.


Takshang Monastery a.k.a. Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan.


Closed to the outside world until 1974, Bhutan is an enigma hidden in the clouds. The cloistered Himalayan kingdom sits between China and India and the high altitude takes some adjusting. A constitutional monarchy since 2007, Bhutan charges visitors an all-inclusive daily fee to ensure low-volume, high-value sustainable tourism. It’s also ranked as Asia’s happiest country with ‘Gross National Happiness’ considered more important than GDP.

Tours to try:  Intrepid Travel offers a nine-day Dragon Kingdom tour that includes sightseeing in the capital, Thimphu, and trips to glacial peaks and lush valleys.


La Ciudad Perdida - The Lost City - in Colombia.


Conflict, cocaine cartels and corruption meant Colombia was a no-go zone in the 1990s but in a rebranding worthy of Angelina Jolie, the security situation has improved to the point that the travel advice for many areas has been lowered.   This massive South American country boasts ruins that rival Machu Picchu (Ciudad Perdida – ‘the Lost City’), adrenalin activities that keep Queenstown on its toes (San Gil) and Caribbean beaches that are just like being in the, well, Caribbean.

Tours to try: Whether you’ve got a week or three weeks, there’s heaps of Colombia tours to get you in the thick of it. Jump on the Contiki Hola Colombia tour for an 11-day trip through coffee plantations, colonial towns and clubs.



Persia was once a great world power, but Iran’s proximity to regional hotspots such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (all countries that share borders with Iran), coupled with an intense political history, has meant only the adventurous have ventured east of Turkey or south from Armenia. Politics aside, the bazaars, teahouses, deserts and soaring mountains make this Middle East nation a real hybrid.

Tour to try: Intrepid will transport you from Tehran to the Ancient Persian cities of Shiraz and Esfahan via stays in the desert at a caravanserai and in a nomadic dwelling for serious bragging rights on their 15-day Iran Adventure tour.


Sri Lanka

For such a small country, Sri Lanka has had one rollercoaster ride of shifting colonial powers, a tsunami and a certain civil war that lasted 26 years. Situated south of India in the Indian Ocean, the 2002 ceasefire agreement has meant travellers are now rediscovering the beauty and bounty of Sri Lanka with terraced tea plantations, rainforests and elephants, temples and even surf beaches. This affordable little gem won’t stay undiscovered for long, so get on it!

Tours to try: Foodies won’t want to miss Intrepid’s specialised Real Food Adventure – Sri Lanka – a 12-day tour where you can sample the sights and tastes.


Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.