TRAVEL

10 Places You Wouldn't Have Gone 10 Years Ago

05/04/2015 10:20 am ET | Updated May 08, 2015

Of all the exciting developments that have occurred in the last decade, the new travel landscape is definitely high on the list. Certain countries have opened up to tourism, some cities have become safer for visitors and a handful of new nations have even been born. Travel destinations that are popular today wouldn't have even been considered a decade ago.

Here are 10 places you wouldn't have traveled to 10 years ago.

  • Cuba
    SHUTTERSTOCK
    In January of this year, the Obama administration loosened travel restrictions for Cuba that have been in place for 54 years and in an instant travelers all over the U.S. jumped on the opportunity. While travelers still must be part of a designated group -- like a humanitarian mission or educational trip -- to get into Cuba, these travelers don't need to apply for a license anymore. Direct flights from Orlando to Havana are starting July 8, Airbnb is open for business in the country, and you can now find travel information to Cuba on Kayak. Cuba, we've been waiting for you.
  • Myanmar
    GETTY IMAGES
    After 50 years of isolation due to an oppressive regime, Myanmar is finally opening up. Once called the "second-most isolated country in the world after North Korea," the country has seen significantly more foreign visitors and attention in the last three years. After the military junta relinquished control of the government in 2011, and after Obama's visit to Yangon in 2012, tourism has increased. Visiting the country is still complicated: many areas are off-limits to tourists, and there is much to be desired in the way of infrastructure and transportation. But people aren't shying away from exploring this beautifully diverse country -- nor should they. Visiting Myanmar feels like taking a trip back in time, and the time to go is now.
  • Montenegro
    DANIEL ALEXANDER / DESIGN
    Montenegro became a country in 2006, so 10 years ago in 2005, you definitely weren't going there. The Balkan country that sits between Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country, "about the size of Connecticut," Fodors says. While its coastline is short -- only 183 miles -- it's rugged and romantic, bordered by dramatic mountains and dotted with Venetian homes. Travelers are already clued in to the relatively untouched beauty of this small country. According to the BBC, the year after Montenegro gained nationhood, it saw 7.3 million visitors. Today tourism is a thriving industry.
  • Sri Lanka
    ISHARA S.KODIKARA VIA GETTY
    Six years after a brutal 25-year civil war ended in 2009, Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the world's "it" travel destinations. Thanks to its incredible but largely unexplored beaches, wildlife and heritage sites, Sri Lanka is one of the trendiest, most sought-after destinations for travelers who want to explore new terrain. In 2013, 1.27 million foreign tourists visited Sri Lanka. That number is supposed to reach 2.5 million by 2016, up from just 549,308, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), in 2005.
  • North Korea
    © ROBERT HARDING WORLD IMAGERY / ALAMY
    North Korea lifted its travel restrictions on Americans in 2011. Since then, the number of visitors to the still very closed country has been few. The U.S. State Department warns against traveling there, you're only allowed to tour with an approved guide, and you should be prepared for a highly curated view. Still, curious travelers are making the trip in increasing numbers. According to the LA Times, travel agencies estimate anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 westerners visit North Korea every year now, compared to the estimated 700 who went 10 years ago. The newspaper also says that most tourists to the country are Chinese; in 2012 237,000 Chinese tourists visited. A previously off-limits country is the ultimate holy grail of dedicated travelers, which means North Korea will probably continue to see more tourists, even if they're not quite getting the full picture.
  • Papua New Guinea
    © HEMIS / ALAMY
    Papua New Guinea is famously remote and notoriously difficult to reach. In 2005, the country saw just 69,251 international visitors. By 2013, however, the tourism in the country was increasing rapidly, thanks in no small part to the docking of a 2000-passenger cruise ship that year. By 2014, the number of visitors jumped to an estimated 187,000 international tourists. This dramatic increase will likely only continue to grow as travelers discover how robust, dynamic and beautiful the country is, and as Papua New Guinea in turn builds the necessary infrastructure to meet the demand. The New York Times reports that this year, P&O Cruises is "expanding its Papua New Guinea fleet," and new lodging is being built in remote areas around the country.
  • Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
    © AURORA PHOTOS / ALAMY
    Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the biggest cave in the world. The cave is situated in Central Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and before the cave's first exploration in 2009, the national park wasn't exactly a tourist attraction. All that has and will continue to change rapidly with the exploration of not only Son Doong, but other massive caves around the national park. The enormous underground caves are practically otherworldly in their size and shape, to say nothing of the bizarre structures, the rivers and in the case of Son Doong, the forests that dwell inside them. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park will only see more travelers as these caves become more accessible, so get there fast!
  • Downtown Los Angeles
    ALAMY
    Ten years ago if you had asked where the hottest restaurants and bars were in L.A., you'd be surprised to hear"downtown" as a response. In the last decade, however, downtown L.A., has gone from "cultural wasteland" to one of the coolest places to eat, shop and hang out in the country. With hot eateries like Grand Central Market and Alma, the neighborhood is a paradise for food-lovers. The area has gotten so trendy that it even has its own abbreviation now: DTLA. According to The Wall Street Journal, "in the past five years, the area has seen more than 500 new restaurants, bars, nightclubs and retail shops spring up." People aren't only visiting, they're moving in.
  • Iran
    GETTY IMAGES/VETTA
    While the State Department still warns Americans about the dangers of visiting Iran, the country is quietly positioning itself to become a big travel destination. Gogobot calls it an emerging travel hotspot, and in Rough Guide's "Top 10 Countries" to visit in 2015, Iran is first on the list. According to the travel website, "Iran recently reported a two hundred percent rise in the number of tourists arriving from Europe –- the result, perhaps, of thawing relations with the West." That's quite a jump for a country that many Westerners were staying away from in 2005. At the time, it had only recently been called part of the "axis of evil." From ancient ruins to ski slopes outside of Tehran, Iran boasts a range of tourist-friendly sites and activities. NPR reported in February that Iran just launched an international tourism exhibition with the slogan, "You're invited." It looks like travelers are already accepting the offer.
  • Brooklyn
    MICHELE FALZONE / ALAMY
    It's hard to believe that Brooklyn wasn't always the iconic destination for tourists that it's become. But 10 years ago, Brooklyn wasn't the global brand that it is today -- the one that induces as many eye-rolls as it does imitators. Restaurants like al di la and Diner that helped put Brooklyn on the map opened in 1998. It wasn't until almost a decade later, however, that tourists really started tuning in to the borough and the hotels to house them started springing up. Today, not only are people flocking to the hipster Disneyland that neighborhoods like Williamsburg have become, but they're also able to experience the borough from afar, as the "Brooklyn brand" travels the globe.

Where do you think we'll be traveling 10 years from now?

Correction: This article originally stated that Cuba lifted travel restrictions, while in fact it was the Obama administration that did so.

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