The world is full of great places to visit. But some are more popular than others. The characteristics we judge a country by are: cost, infrastructure, culture and natural beauty. The exchange rates have to be in your favor, there has to be a good way to get around the country, plenty of history should have occurred there and it should have at least one nice beach to relax by. These factors are usually what lead to a travel destination, the key is getting there before everyone else. Here are three countries to visit in 2014, before the rest of the world does.

panama travelPanama is just south of famed travel destination, Costa Rica. This Central American country has beautiful beaches, tropical rainforest, and rich inner city culture. Some of the world’s purest artesian water comes from the Acai Rainforest, a short car ride from the capital. Visit the colonial ruins just outside Panama City, pet a sloth at the Punta Celebra Smithsonian National Museum on Amadar Causeway, or head to one of the many beaches in the Carribean Sea. The island Yuna Cala is especially beautiful.

jordanJordan is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Petra, as well as other ancient sites, such as where John the Baptist ministered in Bethabara. Across the stone bridge from the modern city of Gerasa is the ancient city of Jerash with temples, Forums, columns and arches. The Dead Sea and the Red Sea are both destinations, the latter by visiting Aqaba at the nation’s southern tip. For those intrepid travelers who want access to the rest of the Middle East, Jordan is a great jump-off point to visit other nearby countries.

CroatiaCroatia: One of the countries that had a lot of difficulty defining itself in the 20th century, the beaches here are beautiful are some of the world’s best. Croatia has a rich ethnic history, with most Croats claiming their ancestry from Slavs and Iranians. During its tumultuous history, this region has been ruled by the Turks, the Hapsburgs, and the Russians as part of the Yugoslavia and before that as part of Hungary. Today this Adriatic country is a prime tourist destination because of their blue waters, verdure-rich mountains and vast expanses of karst fields. Zlatni Rat beach is especially popular, as is Dubrovnik, a walled medieval city on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

UzbekistanUzbekistan may not have great beaches, but what they lack in sun they make up for in adventure. The city of Samarkand was once the capital of the Timurid empire, a transitional culture in Central Asia led by Tamerlane, today known as Timur, who modeled his rule on Genghis Khan’s hordes. His rule stretched all the way to Delhi, which he sacked and left in ruins. By the sixteenth century, this Silk Road country had given way to the Mughal empire. Today, the people of Uzbekistan share a diverse lineage of Turkic, Mongol, Persian and Russian background. Nearby Shakhrisabz is the home of Timur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site also worth seeing, partly because it was where Alexander the Great used to summer. Camelback rides and intense trekking in the Ugam Chatkal National Park are other fun activities. The very heart of the Silk Road is worth seeing, but be careful not to pay too much when visiting bazaars. It can also be tricky to get a visa, so apply in advance and then buy your plane ticket. And to be on the safe side stay away from tap water–only drink bottled water.

Depending on the vacation you want–whether it’s relaxation, culture, beach-going, or adventure– four countries have something for the traveler in each of us.

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The world is full of great places to visit. But some are more popular than others. The characteristics we judge a country by are: cost, infrastructure, culture and natural beauty. The exchange rates have to be in your favor, there has to be a good way to get around...