PJ O’ Rourke’s subversive Holidays in Hell has a rather hilarious account of the famous gonzo journalist trying to get to then war-torn Lebanon in 1984 – by claiming he wanted to study the tourism industry there. He was half earnest in his attempt, wryly noting that despite the risk of looking down the barrel of a gun, Lebanon was “noticeably free of tour groups”, that hotel rooms were plentiful, the beaches were not crowded and no reservation was needed in the city’s most popular restaurant.
Things are decidedly different in Lebanon these days, of course. While the country now faces a large refugee crisis and houses at least a million Syrian refugees, its capital of Beirut is now enjoying a return to its former moniker as the Paris of The East. With that comes another set of issues—the typical thronging of tourists in Summer. The hotel rooms are fully booked, the beaches are crowded and yes, reservations are now needed in the best restaurants.
The more things change, the more they seem the same? Well, to a point. The seasoned traveller looking for an unfettered holiday destination will still have to get creative like O’ Rourke, though through far less risky circumstances. The real fear would be the social media-savvy tourist armed with a mobile phone and bragging rights for a favourite secret spot to be exposed to 200,000 eyes wide open and ready to follow suit.
At the risk of having the same happen to our own favourites, we now reluctantly hand over a selection of far-flung destinations that you would love for its smaller tourist footprint. Yes, some are harder to get to and can be rather unconventional. Tongues will wag ceaselessly. But the moments gained from being the true elite few to have experienced these places, are well worth the effort.