Madagascar, divine encounter between Africa and Asia
Coming apart from the African continent at the end of the Jurassic age, the Madagascar island shapes a strong singular identity for itself at the contact of neighbouring Asia. As a sanctuary for flourishing fauna, it shelters turtles, whales, lemurs and chameleons. You'll see them dive deep into the ocean's blue waters, cover green prairies and rice fields, nestle in subhumid forests, spread over savannas and mangroves and climb up baobab trees planted in red soil. Floating off the coast of Mozambique, the island counts 25 million inhabitants. Forgotten by tourists, Madagascar exudes beauty, with eclectic landscapes and curious endemic species.
Iran's bewitching and faraway splendours
For a few years now, Iran has been opening its borders to travellers, under the impulsion of current President Hassan Rohani. Already during the 18th century, the country was a source of fascination for westerners who, like Montesquieu and Voltaire did, praised its exotic beauty and enlightened philosophy. Land of contrasts if ever there were one, set with deserts, tablelands and green forests, Persia unveils its thousand faces in front of your astounded eyes. Start your journey in Tehran and discover its numerous surrounding wonders: the Golestan Palace, Persepolis' ancient ruins, peaceful shores of the Caspian sea, Imam's place in the heart of Isfahan, the Nasir-ol-Molk mosque in Shiraz and so many others... The country's incredible cultural and architectural heritage is little known, but maybe not for long.
Cameroon, the adventurers' favoured destination
Still slightly undervalued by tourists, Cameroon abounds with equatorial forests and nature reserves where a few explorers venture each year. From the “dorsale” mountain chain to the Sahelian shores of the Lake Chad, the triangle of Central Africa reveals a multitude of breathtaking landscapes. During fast paced treks, a few trail-blazers invade the land to finally reach the isolated beaches of Limbe and Kribi.
The Ministry of Tourism has been praising the country's various assets: “Africa in a nutshell” is the summation they give of a rich and vast territory where hundreds of tribes and ethnic groups live together, where national parks are immense and biodiversity pretty much unequalled.
A few miles further south, Equatorial Guinea is a paradise still preserved from tourists. And yet, rolling countryside and volcanic landscapes share the scene with desert beaches that are well worth the detour from Douala. As you please!
Poland, sublimated by the course of history
You probably know Poland to have been the theatre of trials and tribulations imposed by bordering countries over the centuries. The landscape still bears the marks of this past, but in the most beautiful way possible. The Slav nation broke free from the Russian domination as it was influenced by the Catholic fervour of its own people. Whether in Warsaw, Cracow, Łódź or Wrocław, archaic architectural gems built under the rule of foreign powers delightfully mix with modernist trends and general vibrancy. In that light, travel across this unsuspected European gem, from the Marienburg Teutonic Castle to the Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa and the Bieszczady and Tatras mountain peaks. Venture into the Słowiński National Park, explore the Masuria blue lakes region and slalom between the mysterious pines of the Crooked Forest.
Even less touristic, nearby Belarus offers a travel back in time amidst the continent's very last old-growth forests.
French Guyana, a mosaic of landscapes and peoples
As France takes root in the heart of the Americas, it dresses up in a coat of lush and wild equatorial forests that actually form an entrance door onto the lung of the planet: Amazonia. The ruins of the leper colony turned penal colony give the willies to even the most daring. The Alfred Dreyfus, Marius Jacob and Henri – Papillon – Charrière cases are as intimidating as they intriguing. Most visitors here have special plans (professional careers, or activities linked to the space centre from which the Ariane rockets are launched), French Guyana and the beautiful capital Cayenne benefit many assets for whoever wishes to wander off the beaten track. The region's fauna and flora will please nature lovers. It is said that in 1617, explorer Sir Walter Raleigh launched an expedition in Guyana, confident he would find the mythical El Dorado!