Ten new nations worth a visit
Pay a visit to bustling, beautiful Prague, less than 20 years after Czech independence. (Christer Fredriksson/LPI)
Turbo boost your passport by venturing to these recently minted destinations. It's also a good chance to increase your collection of miniature national flags.
Following Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Czech Republic and Slovakia finally sealed their Velvet Divorce in 1993. Less than 20 years later, Prague neighbourhoods, like elegant Vinohrady and energetic Žižkov, are buzzing and a country full of emerging microbreweries proves there is more to Czech beer than Pilsner Urquell or Budvar.
Add virtue to these delicious liquid vices by cycling and hiking through the idiosyncratic landscapes of Bohemian Switzerland or the Český ráj region. Away from bustling Prague, discover quieter provincial gems like Olomouc, Telč and Loket, all still retaining the essence of Bohemian and Moravian culture.
The 21st-century's newest nation finally achieved independence in 2002, 27 strife-torn and tragic years after initially declaring independence from Indonesia in 1975. Check travel advisories on the country's security situation before leaving home, but most visitors are met with an intensely warm welcome from the locals.
The easygoing capital Dili is a hub for thirsty UN and NGO staff looking for new drinking buddies, and across on sleepy Atauro Island, a fledgling ecotourism scene supports hiking and diving. Explore East Timor's Portuguese heritage amid the faded colonial architecture of Baucau.
A 30-day travel permit ($30) is issued to most nationalities on arrival at Dili airport. See the Immigration Department of Timor-Leste for the latest.
How far would you go for a really, really good coffee? What if it was a superb macchiato served in an art deco cafe in an exotic country in the Horn of Africa? The Eritrean capital of Asmara combines sleepy African vibes and an Italian colonial past with cubist, expressionist and futurist architecture. In nearby Massawa, centuries-old Islamic buildings linger in narrow, labyrinthine streets, and the port is the departure point to diving amid Red Sea corals in the Dahlak Archipelago.
Tensions are still rife between Eritrea and Ethiopia - and for now, the border between the two countries is closed - so be sure to check current travel advisories carefully. Visas are required by all visitors and should be obtained in advance from an Eritrean embassy or consulate before entering Asmara.
In a region crammed with dramatic castles, Slovakia's Spiš Castle trumps most with an audacious hilltop location, craggy towers and gloomy dungeons straight from a Hammer horror flick. Visit in summer for a full program of events including concerts and mock battles.
Following Slovakia's independence in 1993, Bratislava seems in no hurry to become a bustling Central European metropolis, and the cool cafes and bars of the capital's beautifully preserved old town are still largely tourist free (take that Prague)! Look forward also to being continuously surprised by the funky street art lurking around every corner.
How many jellyfish is just enough? How about 10 million, especially when you are swimming with them in Palau's renowned Jellyfish Lake? (Do not worry, the local species have evolved with an absence of stingers).
With a population of about 20,000, one of the world's newest countries is also one of the smallest. The tiny island nation of Palau showcases some of the Pacific's best diving opportunities with more than 60 vertical drop-offs punctuating locations like Blue Corner, Shark City and Turtle Cove. In 2001, the Palau Shark Sanctuary was established to further protect Palau's sharks from the Asian shark-fin industry.
As Palau only achieved independence from United States trusteeship in 1994, you will need to come equipped with US dollars.
Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1990, Serbia has been less open to travellers than neighbouring Croatia or nearby Slovenia. Now Belgrade's gritty cityscape and Europe's most energetic nightlife scene are attracting a vanguard of curious expat residents and intrepid visitors. It is probably your best chance to experience what Prague was like following the fall of communism in 1989.
Essential musical thrills include the annual Exit Festival - recent acts have included the Chemical Brothers, Patti Smith and Kraftwerk - and the wildly frantic Guca Festival, drawing 600,000 visitors annually for the best in manic Roma (gypsy) trumpet playing.