For every Paris and New York, there is a special city that flies under the radar, on the cusp of becoming an international playground. These are the cities that have experienced a surge in tourists and tourist driven economies.
Consider these four destinations for your next vacation.
Siem Reap, Cambodia – Siem Reap is Cambodia's jewel crown, a French colonial inspired mecca with tree lined streets with no streetlights and tuk tuks (motorcycle cart taxis) jostling for position. Its main claim to fame is the Angkor Wat temples, an architectural park of temples that was also the site for the Tomb Raider movies. In its vicinity is the floating village of Chong Kneas, housing restaurants, homes, orphanages, and a bustling community in the middle of a vast lake. What's more, Cambodia is arguably the cheapest country to vacation in Southeast Asia, with $3 meals, $18 a night 3-star stays, and $2 t-shirts in the Old Market, the cities largest shopping center.
Guayaquil, Ecuador – Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, has undergone a transformation from squalor city to international, led by a thriving city life capped by the Malecon 2000, a waterfront/boardwalk riverfront park area with cobble stone streets lined with 4 and 5-star restaurants and shops. Here, you will find colonial architecture in Las Penas, colorful neighborhoods in Cerro Santa Ana with fantastic views of the city from lighthouses, and the Parque Historico Guayaquil with 100-year-old buildings and home to a zoo.
Merida, Mexico – Merida is the answer to congested Cancun, a sleepy city that houses the oldest cathedral in the country and a thriving art scene. Visit Uxmal, the archaeological site of a Mayan city that rivals Chichen Itza with its maze of pyramids, the Adivino and the site of a large ball field where Mayas bet life and limb. Don't let Mexico City and Cancun dominate your thoughts on your next Mexican trip.
Riga, Latvia – Latvia's capital is a German architectural paradise and party connoisseur, arguably the Baltic region's busiest city. Its Old City center is a World Heritage site. Check out the center's art nouveau architecture, Riga Central Market, and the sheer number of pubs and bars in the Old Town for arguably the best nightlife scene (rivaling Tallinn, Estonia) in the Baltic region.