Top 10 countries

1. Ethiopia

This culturally rich East African nation has always been an enticing destination, and though it remains poor, independent travel around the country is becoming easier thanks to a boom in small hotels and restaurants. Take your pick of spell-binding attractions: untouched national parks, the ancient cities of Aksum, Harar and Lalibela, the world’s first coffee plantations, the largest cave in Africa at Sof Omar and the continent’s largest concentration of UNESCO sites.

The Rough Guide to Ethiopia
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2. Madagascar

Madagascar has a fauna entirely of its own- creatures that live nowhere else in the world. Creatures with strange name like Aye-Aye and Sifaka. – David Attenborough (broadcaster and naturalist)
The Rough Guide to Madagascar
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It’s tough to find somewhere more exotic than this former French colony in the Indian Ocean, the world’s fourth largest island. For starters over ninety percent of Madagascar‘s wildlife is found nowhere else on the planet (yes, including the majestic baobab trees, scary fossa and cutesy lemurs portrayed in the DreamWorks movie), and tourism is – as yet – undeveloped, meaning blissfully untouched forests and empty beaches. The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, four hours from the capital Antananarivo, is the best place to meet those mischievous primates.

3. Brazil

How can I say I've seen the world when I haven't seen Brazil? – Michael Palin (actor, writer, and explorer)

Brazil is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, while the Olympics are coming to Rio in 2016, and the nation’s extended “coming out” party means that infrastructure, hotels and amenities are being upgraded as never before. There’s a lot more to Brazil than sports, of course; the Iguaçu Falls blow Niagara away, old mining towns like Ouro Preto drip with colonial history and the dynamic city of Salvador is a gorgeous mélange of samba, Afro-Brazilian culture and crumbling Portuguese architecture.

The Rough Guide to Brazil
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4. Turkey

Happy is the one who says, "I am a Turk." – Kemal Atatürk (the first President of Turkey)

Despite the unrest in 2013, Turkey is booming – ancient Istanbul retains its historic allure, but is increasingly a city of soaring skyscrapers, and the country is the sixth most popular tourism destination in the world. Most visitors have traditionally stuck to the seaside resorts of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, but it’s the landscapes and historic sights of the interior that offer the most surprises: the ruined cities and “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia, Pamukkale’s terraces, Konya and the thought-provoking Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük.

The Rough Guide to Turkey
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5. Georgia

Georgia is currently untouched by mass tourism, but things are changing, so go now to enjoy the unspoiled hiking in the Caucasus mountains, the historic taverns of Tbilisi, the Black Sea resort of Batumi and the gorgeous old towns of Svaneti and Kazbegi. Visiting is easier than ever before; citizens of all EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and South Africa can now enter the country visa-free for up to 360 days.

6. Rwanda

In 2014, it will be twenty years since the Rwandan genocide, a sobering anniversary but one that emphasizes just how far the country has come; the economy has rebounded and peace has, by and large, been restored. Today, Rwanda’s dizzying natural assets are pulling in visitors once more: the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, of course, but also the rainforests of Nyungwe National Park and wildlife of Akagera National Park. Check with your embassy for the latest advice if you’re travelling near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

7. Japan

It’s been a tough few years for Japan, with the devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear meltdown having a damaging effect on tourism. Things are expected to rebound in 2014, especially as Tokyo has been selected to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Expect a host of special deals and projects to liven the capital city in future months, while Japan’s excellent train system can whisk you to the temples of Kyoto in a couple of hours.

The Rough Guide to Japan
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8. Bulgaria

Fabulous beaches, balmy weather, low prices, pretty historic towns and friendly people – Bulgaria is an intriguing destination. A sort of cheaper alternative to Croatia it is currently far less touristy. The Black Sea resorts pull in the most visitors, but skiing, hiking and mountain biking are becoming increasingly popular, especially on the mountain massif of Vitosha outside Sofia, the Rhodope Mountains in the south and the towering granite peaks of the Rila.

9. Macedonia

This hotchpotch of Ottoman rule, Yugoslav domination, orthodox faith and Albanian influence represents one of Europe's most varied society. – The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget

Budget flights (on Wizz Air) now link Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, to London, opening up travel to this landlocked Balkan nation as never before. The hugely controversial Skopje 2014 project should be complete next year, littering the capital with statues, fountains, bridges and museums, while mesmerizing Lake Ohrid, straddling the border with Albania, is set to become a real magnet for travellers – visit while you can. The good news? Macedonia is (for now at least), incredibly cheap.

10. The Philippines

In the wake of the terrible devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan, tourism has become even more important to the Philippines, bringing crucial support to the economy. An estimated 97% of the country remains unaffected, including Boracay and the southern parts of Cebu. Though the Philippines boasts a dazzling array of pristine reefs, volcanoes, sleepy backpacker islands and the famed rice terraces, the country mostly remains off the beaten path, despite being relatively safe for travellers – flare-ups of political violence (mainly in Mindanao) are easily avoided. New direct flights from London to Manila mean that it’s now even easier to get there from the UK.

The Rough Guide to the Philippines
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