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.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Why You Didn't Want to Go: During the Bosnian War, the city's name became synonymous with violence and unrest. Serb and Yugoslav forces besieged the city from 1992 to 1996, wreaking havoc on its people and infrastructure.
Why You Want to Go Now: Prior to the war, Sarajevo was a beautiful city known for its lovely old quarter and bustling downtown. The city was picked as the host of the 1984 Winter Olympics largely on the strength of its beauty and mountain access. Today, travelers to Sarajevo can stay in the revamped, welcome Hotel Central and go skiing on Bjelsnica Mountain just outside of town. Many of the city's most beautiful buildings are scarred or gone, but much remains. The city is currently serving a term as "European Capital of Culture," which doesn't mean much in and of itself, but is indicative of how much has changed over the last 20 years.
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