08/13/2014 09:46 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2016

The Comeback Kids: 5 Former Danger Zones That Are Ready for Travel

You know the feeling: daydreaming of traveling to some exotic destination, only to realize that political instability, crime, and civil unrest have landed your dream destination on the naughty list. Travel warnings and restrictions are a traveler's worst nightmare, and a sobering reminder that the world is a complicated place, but you can take solace in knowing that a once-dangerous area can make a comeback. In fact, these five places have not only bounced back from their grim pasts, but also become some of the world's most exciting spots to visit.

1. Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia (Photo: DavidPLP)

Medellin used to make headlines more for its connection to one of the world's most infamous drug cartels than for its beautiful climate and thriving cultural scene. Today, the "City of Eternal Spring" delights visitors with stunning views, friendly locals, bustling parks and museums, and dance-till-your-feet-fall-off nightlife.

2. Serbia

Serbia (Photo: Courtesy of D. BOSNIC - ARCHIVE NTOS)

A cloud of war and political turmoil kept many tourists at bay for decades, but with democracy and stability, Serbia has finally begun to shine. From the modern urban hub of Belgrade in the north to the historic villages and alpine backdrop of the south, this country is poised to become one of the next great European destinations.

3. Ayacucho, Peru

Ayacucho, Peru (Photo: Lorena Flores Agüero/Flickr)

One of Peru's most devastating civil conflicts had its roots in Ayacucho, a city high up in the mountains. For decades the area wasn't safe for locals, much less for visitors, but the city has spent the better part of this millennium recovering from its violent scars. Now, tourists will find a tranquil Andean city with beautiful colonial architecture, highly skilled textile and handicraft producers, and the county's -- and perhaps one of the world's -- best Holy Week festivals, all with an authenticity that its isolated location has helped to preserve.

4. Cambodia

Cambodia (Photo: flydime/Flickr)

The people of Cambodia have suffered through not one but many devastating conflicts throughout their history, but despite centuries of hardships, they continue to spring back to life with verve. In addition to the fabled temples of Angkor, the country is also home to a tropical coastline, a swiftly developing eco-friendly adventurer's paradise in the mountains, and a capital city in the midst of a culinary and cultural renaissance.

5. Panama

Panama (Photo: Amit Merla/

The 1980s were not a great decade for this Central American nation. With a corrupt military regime, a U.S. invasion, and urban displacement on its plate, little energy went into developing a tourism market. Today, a relatively transparent democracy is in place and Panama's economy has become one of the most competitive in Latin America, a fact that is evidenced in the rate at which Panama City is practically sprouting high rise apartments, skyscraper office buildings, and luxury shopping centers. Now visitors pour in to relax on white-sand beaches, explore the country's spectacular biodiversity, and dive wallet-first into the world-class entertainment scene in the cosmopolitan capital.

Wondering how accessible some of the destinations on your bucket list are? Check your government's travel warnings and then get tips from fellow adventurers (about safety in certain locations or about anything else travel-related) by asking a question on