Now that 2017 is well underway, this means that many people are trying their best to cling to their New Year’s resolutions. And while certain resolutions, like getting fit, require actual hard work, there’s at least one resolution that is fairly easy to attain — traveling more.
According to statistics compiled by Nielsen and Google, traveling more is consistently among the 10 most popular New Year’s resolutions people set for themselves. But if you’re going to do it, you should do it right: While it might be easy to book a quick flight to a tried-and-true destination like Miami or Las Vegas, it’s always more fun to explore a hidden gem that you’ve never even considered before.
So read our list of five under-the-radar locales across the globe and start planning your next trip. Trust us, it’ll be worth it.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Generally speaking, the terms “island vacation” and “Norway” don’t often go together in a prospective travelers mind. And that’s exactly why the Lofoten archipelago in Norway remains such an unknown spot. While Scandinavian countries are notorious for bitterly cold temperatures, due to a convergence of the Gulf Stream with two underwater currents, Lofoten is incredibly moderate. In fact, despite its position in the Arctic Circle, it’s home to one of the largest positive temperature anomalies anywhere in the world. And that’s good because that temperate climate means it’s never too hard to stay warm while hiking, fishing or simply enjoying the inimitable views of the Northern Lights on the islands.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Do you ever feel like you want just to get away from everything? Like really, really get away? Then you should try heading to the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
The country’s second-largest national park is also one of its most remote — the entire 8.4 million acres of the park lies within the Arctic Circle. That remote factor ensures that the park is never overly crowded: Gates of the Arctic averages roughly 10,000 visitors a year, compared to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which draws around 10 million. You’ll need to know how to set up your own campsite and be okay with being as far removed from society as possible, but Gates of the Arctic will provide a once-in-a-lifetime camping experience.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
With the scores of snowbirds that flock to it every winter, it might seem like a bit of a stretch to call anywhere in Florida “under the radar” but somehow Dry Tortugas National Park has managed to maintain a low profile. Located 70 miles to the west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is far removed from the hustle and bustle you’ll find along much of the South Floridian coast. It’s accessible only by ferry or seaplane — which the park operates daily out of Key West — and camping spaces on the tiny island are limited, but if you reserve one in advance, you’ll get to experience some of the best beach camping of your life. Outside of camping, you can explore Fort Jefferson — a massive 19th century, unfinished military fortress — or dive at the world-class Loggerhead Reef, named for the scores of loggerhead turtles that call the reef home.
Rotorua, New Zealand
While tourist destinations like Wellington, Auckland and Queenstown might be known travel spots, none of them provide the unique cultural and geological experience that Rotorua does.
A hotbed of Maori culture and — quite literally — geothermal activity, Rotorua offers beautiful scenery and scores of natural hot springs for you to enjoy on New Zealand’s North Island. You can enjoy a soak in the bubbling mud baths and take in the geysers in Whakarewarewa Valley, or hike and mountain bike amongst staggering redwood trees in Whakarewarewa Forest. Or, if you want a more mellow time there, you can relax on the shores of Lake Rotorua, the second-largest lake on the North Island
Hainan Island, China
Hainan, China’s southernmost province, is home to the only tropical climate in the People’s Republic but has remained largely unknown to western travelers. And that’s just fine because its obscure status just means less-crowded beaches and waves. Known to some as “China’s Hawaii,” Hainan possesses all the lush, beautiful fauna you’d expect to see in Hawaii, while Sanya — the island’s southernmost island — has a number of picturesque surf breaks that hardly draw a crowd. Outside of its surf breaks, explore one of the island’s many Buddhist temples, or pay a visit to the Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya statue — the fourth-largest statue in the world, which depicts the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara overlooking the island.