The 10 next must-see countries: Destinations just about to go mainstream

These 10 countries are now mixing it up with the big kids on the block for your attention.

RUSSIA

Though Russia has never quite cracked the tourism mainstream, thanks in part to general global distrust, watch for its popularity to grow over the next 10 years. The country is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018, allowing it a showcase for its wares in front of the world's largest sporting audience. What those fans will see is a huge nation with a fascinating history, a country of high culture, of ballet and art and literature, of endless open spaces, of bustling, beautiful cities, and of numerous semi-autonomous republics. The growing popularity of the Trans-Siberian train trip, as well as river cruising, is sure to further boost interest. See russiatourism.ru

See also: What it's like to travel in Russia

INDONESIA

Leave Bali aside for a second, as it's so clearly a major destination for Australians already, and focus on the rest of Indonesia. After all, there's much to discover in this nation of more than 17,000 islands, much to explore, and as the Indonesian government rolls out its plan to build 10 "new Balis" in the next 10 years, the popularity of the country is set to skyrocket. The first of those new Balis, Lombok, is already well on its way to completion. Two others – Lake Toba in North Sumatra, a lush, cool area; and Borobudur, an historic site in Central Java – will also soon be prepped for large-scale tourism.  See indonesia.travel

See also: Beyond Bali: Why you should visit Indonesia's biggest island

MADAGASCAR

Baobab trees in Madagascar.

Baobab trees in Madagascar. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Tourism in Madagascar is already booming: visitor numbers jumped 20 per cent from 2015 to 2016, and that trend seems likely to continue given the island nation's considerable natural drawcards. An incredible five per cent of all known animal and plant species are unique to Madagascar, a product of terrain that varies from deserts to rainforests, from mountains to ocean. The island's 5000 kilometres of coastline encircle vast tracts of almost untouched land, including numerous national parks, seven of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Tourism here is a little rough and ready, but for those who love adventure, Madagascar is heaven. See madagascar-tourisme.com/en

See also: Unforgettable: The magnificent 'badlands' of Madagascar

CAMBODIA

Anyone who has visited Siem Reap in the last few years would understand that tourism in Cambodia is already booming (visitor numbers skyrocketed in the early 2000s, and have been rising every year since), thanks in large part to the popularity of the Temples of Angkor. However, the country has a lot more to offer than seeing dawn at Angkor Wat, and its myriad attractions – the capital, Phnom Penh, is a modern city with a great riverside location; the south coast is dotted with fishing villages and tropical islands; the Mekong hosts river cruises; Battambang is all colonial charm – are sure to be discovered as tourism infrastructure improves. See tourismcambodia.com

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See also: Maldives? Tahiti? No, this luxury island is not where you'd expect

CHILE

Supermodel-slender Chile is a country of wildly varying landscapes. In the south is Patagonia, with its vast tracts of rugged beauty, jagged mountain peaks and windswept plains; above that is the Lakes District, a beautiful area of rolling hills and sparkling stretches of water; in the country's centre there are wine regions, plus Chile's three larges cities – Santiago, Valparaiso and Concepcion – as well as the mighty Andes mountain range; while in the north there's the Atacama, the world's highest and driest desert. All of these regions offer something different for tourists, and are a large reason why Chile's star is on the rise. See chile.travel/en

NAMIBIA

Waves and the coastline of Swakopmund German colonial town, Namibia satsep23cover - THE NEXT 100 GREAT THINGS IN TRAVEL Countries (Ben Groundwater) Credit: Shutterstock

The coastline of Swakopmund, a German colonial town in Namibia. Photo: Shutterstock

Namibia has so much going for it – stunning desert landscapes in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, fields of towering red dunes that dip and rise like a raging, frozen sea; world-class game reserves such as Etosha, filled with wildlife; Germanic seaside towns like Swakopmund, as bizarre in their isolation as they are enjoyable in atmosphere; plus unique tribal culture in the form of the Himba and Herero people – that it's only a matter of time before it's discovered by the masses. That this is one of the safest and mostly sparsely populated countries in Africa only adds to the appeal. See namibiatourism.com.na

NEPAL

Nepal was once a tourism hotspot, and it will be again. Though the earthquake of 2015 destroyed plenty of infrastructure, as well as the country's standing as a "get there now" tourist destination, Nepal is already bouncing back, with visitor numbers shooting up almost 40 per cent in 2016, and still rising. What keeps people coming back? It's Nepal's mix of the adventurous and the spiritual: the Hindu and Buddhist religious sites, the laidback atmosphere, and the towering Himalayas, those spectacular mountains that dominate the skyline. There's more to the Himalayas, too, than the classic trek to Everest Base Camp, with fantastic alternatives in Annapurna and Lantang. See welcomenepal.com

JORDAN

Desert camp at Wadi Rum, Jordan.

Desert camp at Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo: Shutterstock

Jordan is a small country blessed with several world-leading tourism experiences, from exploring world heritage-listed ruins in Petra, to spending a night in the desert at Wadi Rum, to floating in the Dead Sea. That you can enjoy all of these in a safe, friendly environment, while still soaking up the exoticism of Middle Eastern culture, only adds to its appeal. Jordan avoided most of the tension during the Arab Spring, and has been politically stable for some time now, making it the perfect jumping off point for those keen on a Middle Eastern adventure, but slightly intimidated by the region. See visitjordan.com

SLOVENIA 

With its small slice of Adriatic coastline, its snow-capped mountain peaks, its stunning rivers and lakes, and its charming cities and friendly villages, Slovenia is the little country that could. There's so much to love about this nation of only two million people, tucked as it is between established tourism hotspots like Italy and Croatia. Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, is beautiful and relaxed, but it's the country's natural attractions that will have the visitors pouring in over the next few years: Lake Bled, with its famous island church; the Julian Alps, snow-capped and stunning; the Adriatic coast, sparkling and beautiful. Come here to hike, bike, or just relax. See slovenia.info/en

See also: Slovenia's 'jail' hostel that's all for hedonistic behaviour

ECUADOR

With airfares from Australia to South America hitting all-time lows in recent years, plenty of people have already discovered what this amazing continent has to offer: they've been to Machu Picchu, they've explored Patagonia, they've hit the beach in Brazil. Now, they're after something new, and that's where Ecuador comes in. The country might not have mainstream recognition just yet, but when you're home to vast tracts of the Amazon, to the high peaks of the Andes, to colonial cities such as Quito, to unique indigenous culture, and, of course, to a small island chain called the Galapagos, it's only a matter of time before people find you. See ecuador.travel

See also: Best cities to visit in 2017: World's best destination rankings

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