Travelers are always on the lookout for new destinations. Nowadays, however, the only untrampled gems are just too dangerous. While that doesn't stop some travel addicts —a few even come back alive — the rest of us admire from afar. Here, then, are the spots you'd most love to visit . . . if only you could
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: Libya sees tourism as its next growth business. And why not?It has a thousand miles of Mediterranean coastline, as well as hundreds of Greek, Phoenician, and Roman ruins, of which the second-century B.C. amphitheater at Sabratah is just one highlight. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Accused of sponsoring and training international terrorists, Libya—ruled for 30 years by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi—has long topped the U.S. list of pariah nations. THE FORECAST: Last April, Libya handed over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie; in return, the United Nations suspended the economic sanctions (dating to 1992) that had prevented any international flights into the country. Soon American tourists could be following the few thousand Italians who, so far, have the beaches to themselves.
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: At the gateway to the Sahara, some 300 miles south of Algiers, this ancient town could make even a Berber tribesman settle down. The city, an oasis in the M'Zab Valley—which UNESCO has designated a World Heritage Site—has a busy marketplace and a desert adventure tourism business waiting to explode. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Only 635,000 people traveled in Algeria last year—85 percent of them Algerians. That's because the country is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Since 1992, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) has been trying to topple the autocratic regime of the National Liberation Front (FLN). The GIA has waged a scorched-earth campaign against the civilian population; some 80,000 have died, including 120 foreigners. THE FORECAST: Don't pack your djellaba just yet. Algeria's dirty war is about as entrenched as any on the planet.
Tara Canyon, Yugoslavia
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: At 62 miles long and some 3,500 feet deep, the Tara Canyon—in Montenegro's Durmitor National Park—is one of the largest canyons in the world, renowned for both hiking and rafting. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Yugoslavia recently played host to the biggest military operation in Europe since World War II. THE FORECAST: Tourism prospects seem slim as long as current No. 1 international scourge Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. If you really want to see this part of the world, try enlisting.
Mount Bromo, Indonesia
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: The most popular tourist attraction in East Java, and a rewarding trek for adventurous travelers eager to see dawn break over this sacred volcano. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Though Jakarta and parts of Central Java have witnessed a resurgence in tourism since the collapse of Indonesia's economy, the eastern part of the island is still haunted by vigilante gangs that have murdered scores of outsiders they believed to be evil ninja sorcerers. THE FORECAST: Better wait until the Asian economic tiger rediscovers its claws.
San Agustín, Colombia
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: San Agustín would be just another South American hamlet were it not for the 500 mysterious stone statues, some more than 2,000 years old, that have baffled archaeologists for centuries. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: San Agustín is slap-bang in the middle of territory ruled by FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), Colombia's largest guerrilla army. The country is embroiled in a complex civil war involving leftist rebels, right-wing death squads, and the military. Did we mention that Colombia also has the world's highest kidnapping rate?Three people a day get nabbed. THE FORECAST: President Andres Pastrana Arango is in negotiations with FARC. But since Colombia is effectively controlled by two warring factions, no observer is willing to predict when the fighting will end.
Band-e Amir, Afghanistan
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: A hundred miles west of Kabul sits one of the jewels of central Asia, the crystal-clear blue lakes of Band-e Amir, looking like enormous back-yard swimming pools on the desert floor. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Afghanistan's Islamic rulers, the ultrafundamentalist Taliban, make even hard-core Iranian clerics flinch. Executions and beatings are commonplace (for what Westerners would consider insignificant trangressions), and most women don't dare leave home. Tourists are not permitted to enter Afghanistan, and it isn't hard to see why. Traditional Afghan hospitality aside, you'd have to be mad to go there. THE FORECAST: Afghanistan doesn't have a good track record when it comes to stable governments, but so far, the Taliban has an iron grip.
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: In the 1980's, more than half a million people flocked to Kashmir each year to hike, climb, and marvel at its beauty. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Kashmir is a time bomb. It's ruled by India, but much of the territory is claimed by Pakistan (with which the region's majority Muslim population firmly allies itself). In 1995, six Western tourists were kidnapped by Muslim rebels. One of them, Norwegian Hans Ostro, was murdered; the others were never found. Furthermore, both countries have recently tested nuclear weapons, and in May fighting broke out once again. THE FORECAST: As of mid-July, the area was in flux. Pakistan-backed forces had left Kashmir, but were still performing terrorist acts, which India says must stop before talks can continue.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: Tourism was once Rwanda's third-largest industry. The reason?Volcanoes National Park, where visitors get personal with some 100 endangered mountain gorillas, made famous by American researcher Dian Fossey in her book Gorillas in the Mist. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: In 1994, Rwanda imploded into one of this century's most vicious civil wars. More than half a million people have been killed in a genocidal war between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic factions. THE FORECAST: Amazingly, none of the gorillas were killed in the vicious fighting, and now the Tutsi government is anxious to win back the tourist trade. In July, the park reopened after being closed for two years. While the Rwandan government says the park is now safe, in March of this year Hutu rebels murdered eight gorilla-watching tourists in neighboring Uganda.
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: On the smallest of the major Hawaiian islands, the beaches are deserted, there's no telephone service, and the people speak pure Hawaiian. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Outsiders aren't encouraged. Niihau is the property of the Robinson family, descendants of a New Zealand clan who bought the island in 1864 from King Kamehameha V; the Robinsons zealously guard the privacy of the 200 Niihauans. In the past decade, however, the owners have begun to allow very limited day-trip helicopter visits from Kauai (808/335-3500). Before being whisked away again, tourists can see one of the beaches and buy shell leis. THE FORECAST: The Robinsons vow to keep the island closed for as long as they're owners.
WHAT YOU'RE MISSING: The two mosques at Karbala form the greatest religious site in all Iraq, and one of the most important centers of the Islamic world. One houses the body of Husayn ibn 'Ali, grandson of the prophet Mohammed, who was killed in the Battle of Karbala in a.d. 680. WHY YOU STEER CLEAR: Ever since the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq has been a no-go for tourists. Even the U.N. has had a hard time getting around—just ask former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. THE FORECAST: Saddam Hussein, previous U.S. international scourge No. 1, has ruled for 20 years, surviving numerous assassination attempts and plots to overthrow him.
Matthew Yeomans went rock climbing in Arizona for the April 1999 issue.