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Do International, Outside the Box

Maybe you’ve already been there several times and are ready to try something new. Perhaps economic, political or social factors make it an inopportune time to visit. It could be that you prefer to steer clear of large crowds, or maybe your travelers just love finding hidden gems.

If your group travels abroad, there are numerous reasons why you might consider opting out of trips to high-traffic international hot spots and choosing to explore less-traveled destinations instead. Though these places may not boast as many iconic sites as many of the world’s most famous countries, they often offer similar cultural and historical experiences, often in more intimate settings and at more affordable prices.

As you plan your group’s international travel schedule for 2017 and beyond, consider some of these destinations as exciting alternatives that will surprise and delight your travelers.


If your group has taken faith-based trips to Israel but not to Jordan, you have only experienced half of the Bible.

Israel may hold the title of the world’s most popular religious pilgrimage destination, but many events recounted in the Bible took place on the eastern side of the Jordan river in the country that is now Jordan.

Beyond its credentials as a religious destination, Jordan also boasts numerous significant historical and cultural attributes. It has numerous ruins of former Roman cities and offers a chance for travelers to experience famously warm hospitality in a predominantly Arab and Muslim country.

Signature Attractions: Faith-based groups will want to pay a visit to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site where historians believe that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Visitors see archaeological evidence of early churches built at the site and can even take a dip in the river themselves. Mount Nebo, another popular religious site, is where Moses overlooked the Promised Land.

Groups shouldn’t leave Jordan without spending a day in Petra. This world-famous city was carved into the faces of rose-red stone cliffs by Romans before the time of Christ and was lost to the Western world until the 19th century.

Hidden Treasure: In the gorgeous Wadi Rum desert, visitors can have an immersive cultural experience by spending an evening under the stars with local Bedouin tribesmen.

Luxury Experience: Jordan has world-class resorts on the banks of the Dead Sea, where the water is famously salty and the mud makes for world-class skin treatments.


Germany, Austria and Switzerland are perennially popular destinations with American tour groups. Often overlooked, however, is Poland, a country that boasts all of the storybook beauty and fascinating history of these other destinations, all the while being more affordable and less crowded.

Warsaw, the largest city in the country, is a modern metropolis with a fascinating past. And the picturesque town square in Krakow is among the most impressive in Europe. The country also has beautiful mountain parks and other one-of-a-kind sites.

Visits to Poland also give groups compelling lessons in history. Travelers see first hand remnants of World War II and learn about the country’s inspiring escape from Communist dictatorship in the latter part of the 20th century.

Signature Attractions: The Old Town in Warsaw illustrates two different times in history. Though this section of the city dates back to the 1300s, many of the buildings throughout this historic district were destroyed during bombing raids in World War II. Visitors today see modern reconstructions sitting next to structures built in the Medieval period.

Many groups touring Poland make time to visit Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp made famous in the film “Schindler’s List.” Tours of the site are deeply emotional; they serve to memorialize the 1.5 million Jews who were killed at the camp and tell the story of its eventual liberation.

Hidden Treasure: Not far from Krakow, the Wielickza Salt Mine takes travelers into caverns deep underground where salt was mined beginning in the 14th century.

Luxury Experience: High-end tour operators can arrange amazing group experiences; among the wide-ranging options are overnights in historic castles, meals in monasteries and private art-gallery tours.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.