Want to avoid the crowds? Head to a city or country on the State Department watch list. Want to avoid crowds and stay safe? Head to a city that used to be.
History moves faster than the travel industry and the best places to visit are often yesterday's war zones. The main reason the pendulum swings so far so fast is that tourists are a tremendous boon to struggling economies and are generally welcomed with open arms in places where unrest has led to instability. That makes traveling to formerly dangerous places smart for both selfish and humanitarian reasons.
Why You Didn't Want to Go: In the nineties the Israeli capital was rocked by regular suicide bombings that made traveling to the holy city a nervy affair. The completion of the West Bank separation barrier twelve years ago, seems to have cut the number of attacks. The wall has been fiercely criticized and loudly lauded by political opponents, but the Old City is safer than ever.
Why You Want to Go Now: Jerusalem is mind-boggling thick with history and religious import. Visiting the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock, and Yad Vashem is an emotional experience even for the agnostic and provides perspective on the whole of human history. Also, the city has some amazing hotels. Plan ahead so you can get a room at the David Citadel overlooking the Jaffa Gate.
Credit: John Silver / Getty Images