Why you should go: “Until recently there were strict quotas on tourist numbers per year, and although it is opening up slightly more now, this country feels like you have stepped back in time,” Asquith said.
“There is a Gross Happiness Index that ranks Bhutan as the happiest nation in the world and it’s easy to see why. Everyone smiles here and the Buddhist religion is entrenched in daily life. You already know this visit will be special as your plane weaves through the hills to the landing strip (there is little flat land here) and the weather changes at a moment’s notice with thunderstorms passing through the valleys.”
What to do: “A trek up to ‘Tiger’s Nest’ is incredible with all the colourful prayer wheels.”
Where to stay: “The Taj Tashi Bhutan — a simply beautiful hotel and very authentic.”
Why you should go: “Tonga is more developed, but I love the culture of people — so cool and laid back.”
What to do: Try the local food. “Everything grows in Tonga, so they’re well fed.”
Where to stay: “Fafa Island Hotel, which is on its own island away from the mainland. You are given a gaslamp at night — it’s stunning and very homely.”
Why you should go: “Colombia in general is an amazing country, but Cartagena on the Caribbean coast is just beautiful. Horses and carts trod along the old, cobbled streets. It’s just a really romantic city.
What to do: Take in the “real flavour of Latin American and Caribbean culture mixed together with great, varied food and amazing music and people.”
Where to stay: “Sofitel Santa Clara. It’s in an old convent with stunning grounds right in the heart of the old town.”
Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil/Argentina.
Why you should go: “There are four spectacular waterfalls in the world in my opinion — Iguaçu Falls, Niagara, Victoria Falls, and the very inaccessible but tallest Angel Falls in Venezuala. Avoid the crowds and over development at Niagara Falls and visit Foz do Iguaçu.”
“Although there are still crowds in summer particularly, the accessibility to stand beneath the falls here is unrivalled. You will almost always see multiple rainbows due to the vast nature of the falls and spray, and the multitude of pathways on the Brazilian and Argentinian side provide for some incredible hikes. Wildlife is abundant here, but the intrinsic pathways in and around the thundering falls are the real draw of a visit to Foz Iguazu.”
What to do: “Take a helicopter flight over the falls for a fraction of what you may pay elsewhere and gauge a perspective of the surrounding rainforest.”
Where to stay: “To make that visit extra special, stay at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas which is actually inside the national park and has a colonial feel.”
Why you should go: “Everyone is talking about Iceland, but I would say if you can, do Alaska instead. They’re not necessarily the same, but the glaciers in Glacier National Park are breathtaking.”
“Go to Juneau and Ketchikan, places where you can get above the easier, more accessible places that you see from the towns. The mountains and scenery there are incredible and there are brown bears everywhere. It’s actually quite accessible to everyone and anyone — it’s one of the places that took my breath away, straight away.”
What to do: “Go off the beaten path and get involved with trekking and hiking, or do an easy cruise finishing in Vancouver or Seattle.”
Where to stay: “Alaska is best seen cruising, which allows you to reach Glacier National Park, Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and more with the most ease.”
Why you should go: “This South Pacific Island has such a friendly population of people who love to smile and are very welcoming.”
What to do: “There are beautiful beaches and scenery, and some spectacular restaurants, especially if you like fresh sashimi.”
Where to stay: “Ever dreamed of staying in one of those over-the-water villas but not breaking the budget? At the spectacular Holiday Inn, staying in a private over-the-water villa will not cost thousands of pounds a night like it will in the Maldives.”
Why you should go: “Tehran is an amazingly cosmopolitan city. It’s obviously been a warily-named place for decades, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with what the media say on it. The people, particularly the young people, are so open-minded, and probably some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
“They love everything about all different cultures, and they all want to have conversations with you.”
What to do: Explore back alleys where you’ll find cool milkshake and pizza shops.
Where to stay: “Laleh International Hotel, because of the exceptional hospitality that I received. I turned up at the hotel and the owner told me to wait in the lobby, then his son turned up and said he’d show me around. He dragged me around for about five days.”
Why you should go: “The water, the sashimi, the people — it’s an incredible little country.”
“The runway has one flight a week, but it takes up about half the country. Once this one flight leaves, it becomes a big communal space used for everything. In the day they play football or volleyball up and down the runway, and at night, pretty much the whole country drags their mattresses onto the runway and sleep in the open because it’s flat and you get a cool breeze — in their houses it’s too hot.”
What to do: Hire a motorbike to explore the island. “I hired a motorbike straight away and was driving around the tiny little country which is gorgeous. It’s just an incredible sight.”
Where to stay: “Vaiaku Lagi Hotel — it’s the only hotel, but there’s a beautiful restaurant on the water where you see the sashimi being caught fresh with a spear each day. The advertising on its website says it’s 50 metres from the airport terminal, and it is actually 50 metres from the airport terminal.”
San Pedro de Atacama and the Bolivian Salt Flats.
Why you should go: “This is a three to four day trip in a four by four. Some areas are as much as 5,000 metres above sea level, and the temperature can fluctuate from 20 degrees in the day to -10 or colder at night.”
What to do: “The scenery is incredible and makes for some great pictures using perspective with the seemingly endless salt flats and occasional islands of cacti.”
Where to stay: “Several of the nights are spent staying in a hut made of salt. A very bizarre experience — it’s like an igloo but made entirely salt, from the toilet to the bed!”
Why you should go: “Hawaii is one of my favourite places in the world — somewhere I could see myself living. It’s an amazing mix of proper beach and nature destination and it’s beautiful.”
What to do: Visit Honolulu. “It has everything you could want — all your home comforts.”
Where to stay: “The Royal Hawaiian, a luxury collection resort. It is right on Waikiki beach but feels like it’s own oasis with a beautiful bar for sundowners, gorgeous manicured grounds, and a very noticeable salmon pink facade.”
LONDON — Even for someone trying to break a record for visiting every country in the world, travel is about more than just ticking places off a list.
Planning a trip is an opportunity to see something unique, and to discover people, places, cuisines, and scenery you didn’t know existed.
From back alleys in Iran to Salt Flats in Bolivia, scroll down to see his picks of the most incredible under-the-radar places around the world — including what to do and where to stay in each location.