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The older I get, the more I realize that material things aren’t what bring you joy. True happiness comes from memories made with loved ones and, especially, living out extraordinary experiences. If there’s one special kind of experience that leaves a lasting impression and betters us, it’s travelling.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that the worst part of a trip is all the meticulous planning and months of prior research involved: deciding which spots are worth visiting, what the best restos are, where there’s cozy acommodation, which flights to book; the whole process can be overwhelming. Luckily for us dazed-and-confused (or just lazy? unseasoned?) adventurers, Contiki takes the hassle out of embarking on the perfect getaway.

Contiki’s all about catering to its exclusive demographic of 18- to 35-year-old thrill-seeking Canadians. They curate real local experiences, uncover lesser-known activities, and connect travellers to rich cultures that they can fully immerse themselves in. Unforgettable, authentic trips that change you forever. Epic escapades, baby - that’s what Contiki strives to deliver.

Check out these seven underrated destinations you should add to your 2019 summer vacay plans! 


1. South Africa & Zimbabwe

For those looking to be at one with nature, hitting up stunning South Africa is a must. In the port city of Cape Town, you can hop onto a cable car that'll take you all the way to the flat peak of Table Mountain. This soaring mountain doesn't just offer panoramic views of the boat-filled harbour and sparkling water, but it's also a hotspot for biking, hiking, and climbing. Zimbabwe's awe-inspiring Victoria Falls is home to the world's largest waterfall. Amazingly enough, you can also join in on some pretty spectacular experiences, like literally walking alongside young lions and spotting elephants on safari (say what?!)

These two countries are crazy underrated, especially when considering the ton of super soulful and life-changing wildlife activities that you can't get anywhere else. Brave wanderers can bungee jump, fly a microlight into the sunset, or take a dip in Devil's Pool, a natural infinity pool serving up the most dramatic views right at the waterfall's ledge. Trust, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will have your heart racing and your jaw dropping! 


2. Peru

Ahhh, home of the freshest OG ceviche and epic mountain vistas, Peru is an enchanting landscape brimming with longheld traditions and insane jungle lodges. Checking out historic sites and rugged hiking trails in the Sacred Valley and Cusco is a singular cultural experience - one for the books, for sure! Aguas Calientes' natural volcanic hot springs are ideal for relaxing after trekking through Machu Picchu.  

Peru isn't just exploding with historical significance and mountainous terrain; it's also a cuisine-lover's dream! Its big, bold flavours and spicy, hearty dishes include papa a la Huancaína
 (potatoes in a spicy cheese sauce), lomo saltado (stir fried beef), and aji de gallina (creamy chicken), just to name a few national favs. You're defs gonna want to eat your way through Peru!


3. Greece

Now, while Greece isn't necessarily “underrated,” I think that perhaps it’s become neglected as a travel destination because it’s so frequently gushed over. But, guys, I’m telling you from first-hand experience, there’s a thousand EPIC reasons why everyone raves about Greece! So I’m here to rekindle the love and throw some well-earned hype back at this impeccable country,

When it comes to European destinations, few rival Greece. Made up of 6,000 islands, there’s no shortage of different sights to leave you thoroughly shook. When it comes to beaches, they legit somehow get more magical from one to the next. The Greeks do things at their own leisure and bask in every aspect of beach life, as evidenced by their mid-day naps to escape the scorching sun and recharge during the summer. You can sip chilled ouzo and frothy frappés by the sea while scoring a serious tan, visit historic monuments, and enjoy a wildly entertaining nightlife. I can't even begin to describe the flavours and quality of Greek food. You'll be indulging in the freshest delicacies (homemade spanakopita, succulent gyro, ooey-gooey baklava – are you foaming at the mouth yet?) and SO much more!

Also, fun fact, Greece is made up of tons of tiny, Mediterranean islands that are basically a million different versions of paradise. Exploring Athens and Santorini is a fun adventure in and of itself, but exploring more hidden islands like Ios or Mykonos? That's priceless!


4. Croatia

Via Contiki

When you think of checking out Europe, the first thing that pops into your head is probably not Croatia. But that's a mistake. Nestled between Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and a literal boat ride away from Italy, Croatia is one of the most breathtaking spots in Europe!

Glittering sapphire waters and gorgeous beaches; beautiful cities that come alive at night; culture and history galore; Croatia truly has it all. One spot that's particularly magical, though, is Plitvice Lakes National Park. Its waterfalls cascading into pools of emerald water, walking paths and natural rock formations will really remind you just how beautiful nature truly is!


5. Bosnia and Herzegovina

East-meets-West Bosnia and Herzegovina has a few fairy tale, off-the-beaten-path places that'll leave you gobsmacked. Mostar's Old Town, for example, is a scenic location with the iconic Stone Bridge arching over the gorgeous emerald-green Neretva River. The charming town's most sensational vantage point is atop the Mosque Tower. History buffs will absolutely be in their element while exploring the Ottoman museums, war-photo exhibitions, and mosques depicting the area's war-torn past. Plus, they'll most definitely  appreciate how Bosnia and Herzegovina is also richly populated with picturesque castles. Just outside Mostar, Blagaj Tekija is a Dervish monastery that has truly stood the test of time. Combining Ottoman architecture and Mediterranean style, it was built in the 16th century right in the cliffs. This mystical place is something to behold, so make sure not to spend your whole time looking at it through a lens!

Richly flavoured traditional Bosnian coffee never fails to hit the spot and wake you up for a day of strolling through Sarajevo's Old Bazaar, the city's historical and cultural apex. There, you can snag unique antiques and score souvenirs handcrafted by local coppersmiths before indulging in authentic treats. Travelling to Bosnia and Herzegovina also means you can revel in some incredible waterfalls and impressive mountains, plus enjoy some river rafting and inexpensive skiing!


6. Australia

Close your eyes and imagine this: 74 pristine islands overflowing with sandy, jaw-dropping beaches, each hugging the gorgeous tropical coast of Queensland. Sounds unreal? Well, it isn't. Why haven't we heard of it before? I truly can't comprehend, but I'm here to preach the Whitsunday's utter GLORY! I'm guilty of planning a trip based on one mesmerizing photo I saw a couple of years ago, and I legit feel like I'm about to do it again and land myself smack-dab in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

That's not all that Down Under has to offer. Nay, friends, Australia is ripe with treasures to feast your eyes upon, sand to dig your toes into, and beauty to behold in utter awe. Fraser Island, stretching over 123 km, is the world's largest sand island. This lovely ecotourism and camping site boasts endless amounts of freshwater pools, cliffs, and breathtaking views. For all the surfing lovers out there, you can be sure that the Gold Coast is an absolute must! Wide open spaces as far as the eye can see, fresh air, incredible Outback wildlife - Australia is a prime destination for those seeking to soak up the sun and reconnect with the elements (and themselves).


7. Austria

Via Contiki

One of Eastern Europe's biggest hidden gems, Austria boasts stunning alpine scenery and super cute towns. Surrounded by colourful houses and lush foliage, Austrian lakes are honestly like something out of a storybook, and they offer tons of lakeside activities. Yup, Austria is definitely a go-to for the outdoorsy, active types! If you're really seeking a dose of adrenaline, head to Innsbruck and try ski-jumping, mountaineering, or mountain biking. Whether winter or summer, you can ski on the stunning Alps year-round. Foodies will rave about Austria's authentic apple strudel, Viennese coffee, and Wiener Schnitzel. Its obsession with traditional food results in thoughtfully crafted meals made from the freshest locally sourced ingredients. It serves up tons of tasty organic and vegan options, too. In fact, green and white asparagus are literally one of its springtime specialties, prepped in tons of yummy, creative ways! 

The country's capital, Vienna, is known as one of the cities with the highest quality of living. If you're into high culture and fine art, rest assured that Vienna's vibrant art scene is one of Europe's top contenders. You can stroll through tons of amazing galleries and museums at your own leisure and uncover the capital's history in the MuseumsQuartier. Even just walking outside, you can admire lovely street art and public art structures. Music also abounds in lavish concert halls and music festivals. In terms of aesthetics, Vienna boasts some of the most resplendent architectural visions, ranging from Gothic, Art Nouveau, Baroque, and literally every eye-catching (and, sometimes, head-scratching) thing in between! 


Wanderlust is real, y'all, and our planet is full of wonders that we've yet to discover. There’s no better time than right now to set sail and visit these underrated beauties! Until April 14, Contiki is knocking $250 off an amazing selection of 28 worldwide trips. To celebrate, they’re also holding a 7 Wonders contest. Choose your Contiki SEVEN from their top vacay picks, and tell them what you’d choose as your 8th for your chance to win a trip plus airfare! So you can finally stop wondering and start wandering...

@jileileenembedded via  

For contest details and to book your next adventure, visit Contiki's website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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