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August 16, 2012

Travel to War-Stricken Countries: Thinking Outside the Tourist Box

By Guest Blogger

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When it's time to plan a vacation, most travelers tend to start with the usual, played-out suspects. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe your friend just got back from Italy, and she raved about the wine. Or your parents went to Australia and said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

France. Germany. Spain. These are the types of places that pop into most people's heads when they imagine where they want to spend their precious time off. But if you think outside the box, your next trip could truly be the adventure of a lifetime. For an escape that you'll never forget, look into some amazing countries that have fallen off the tourism map due to some sort of past turmoil.

In a lot of cases, war-stricken countries are relatively safe for tourists, have many incredible things to see and do, and can provide you with insight into unique and rich cultures that will astound you. And as a bonus, these countries tend to be much more affordable than those that are trampled by the masses.

Akakus (Acacus) Mountains, Sahara, Libya-120355687(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Sahara, Libya (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

If archeology is your thing, Libya might be the perfect destination for you. You can visit this unique country via an organized tour, which will help keep you on the right track and out of harm's way.

Though tourism in Libya is in its infancy, new hotels are being built all the time, and tourism is sure to ramp up. But for now, one of Libya's biggest draws is that you will be able to visit some of the country's great ruins before they turn into tourist traps.

A place you will certainly want to visit on your trip to Libya is the ruins of Cyrene. Founded in 630 B.C., this Greek colony eventually became part of the Roman Empire. It is home to the amazing Greek Temple of Zeus, rebuilt several times throughout the years due to enemy advances and nature's toll on the delicate rocks.

Another amazing ruin to visit is that of the Roman city of Sabratha. Located just 50 miles west of Tripoli, this city was established around 500 BC. Here you will see the remains of a 3rd-century theatre that still retains much of its original form.

And of course, no visit to Libya could be complete without traveling to the Sahara desert, which encompasses the vast majority of the country. Here you can visit a beautiful oasis or check out some historic arts.

Meroe pyramids,Sudan-118344388(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Meroe pyramids, Sudan (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, yet it's not often visited by tourists. A major reason for this is because of the various conflicts that are ongoing throughout the country.

But if you stay in the safer areas, you will find a culture filled with some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world. You may even find yourself invited into a local's home for a meal or a night's stay.

A great city to visit when you are in Sudan is Khartoum, the country's capital. Khartoum sits on the southern bank of the Blue Nile and is home to Sudan's National Museum, which contains some truly amazing pieces from throughout the country's interesting history. Believe it or not, the museum displays two full temples that have been reconstructed after an earlier flood.

You may also want to travel away from the city and visit some of the country's pyramids and other ancient places that dot the dessert landscape. Compared to its neighbor, Egypt, there is double the amount of ancient pyramids to explore.

Beirut Coastline,Lebanon-134082267(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Beirut, Lebanon (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Before the Civil War in Lebanon, tourism was a major part of its economy. In fact, the capital city of Beirut was once considered "The Paris of the Middle East."

Though war basically halted the tourism industry for a while, Lebanon has seen a recent increase in vacationers because of its tremendous cultural diversity, amazing cuisine, and gorgeous beaches. It is also the only Arab nation where you can participate in winter sports activities such as skiing.

One cool thing about Lebanon is that it is home to five different World Heritage sites:
1. Byblos is filled with ancient temples, mosques, and castles.
2. Anjar is a 1,300-year-old city that is surrounded by stone walls and filled with palaces.
3. Tyre is a city that has been home to the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the Phoenicians through the years. You can visit archeological sites and remains left by the Romans.
4. Baalbeck hosts the remains of the largest Roman Temple ever built, as well as many more temples.
5. Qadisha Valley and Cedars Forrest is the last site. Here, cedar trees are preserved alongside many interesting monasteries.

About the Author: Aileen Pablo is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia's leading providers of Hospitality and Toursim Courses and TESOL courses. When not working, Aileen blogs about travel, lifestyle, and beauty tips.

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I'd second Lebanon and its beautiful natural settings, but also add that at least US visitors don't need a visa to enter. Sudan is on my list, but getting a visa seems a bit taxing...I'd like to make it to Meroe, no doubt about it.

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