Check out these off-beat locations where some intrepid adventurers are choosing to spend their vacations. Of course, proceed with caution and always check the government health and travel advisories before you go.
Since U.S. tourist travel is not allowed, it's not the easiest place to visit. But as the pop stars Jay-Z and Beyonce (at top) proved, it can be done. Under the Obama administration, the embargo with Cuba remains in place, but travel restrictions for cultural purposes have been loosened. Any trips to the Caribbean country must be licensed by the Treasury Department.
For U.S. citizens, tourist travel is banned. However, it is possible to go with a licensed cultural group. And with organizations like National Geographic and the Metropolitan Museum of Art offering tours, more and more are signing on to do just that.
The country's most high-profile visitor, Dennis Rodman, said he'll be back to vacation with his new bestie, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In 2010, North Korea began welcoming visitors from the U.S. on official guided tours any time of the year (before then, tourists could come only for the Mass Games). Tourists are kept on a short leash -- no wandering around without your guide, for example, and only to places on the tourist route.
Stick to the rules, and it is possible to see the closed-off nation. Keep in mind, all of North Korea sees about 2,000 tourists annually, and one-third of those are American.
Despite the new attitude, the U.S. travel advisory is pretty clear: Do not enter without the right paperwork. "The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens about travel to North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK). The North Korean government will detain, prosecute and sentence anyone who enters the DPRK without first having received explicit, official permission and an entry visa from its government," the advisory says.
The country has recently rolled out the welcome mat to tourists. As soon as President Barack Obama opened relations with the country, which has made strides from its repressive past, visitors began to plan their trips.
However, as CNN points out, it's not clear that the place can handle a huge influx of tourists: During high season there are already problems with not enough hotel rooms. But there are plans to upgrade the airport, for example. And more hotels are planned for 2013. Some sites within the country are reportedly barred due to military and ethnic conflicts. Plus, areas with government-owned poppy fields are restricted. (The country is a major opium grower.)
It is possible to travel to Iran. Although the U.S. imposes sanctions on the country, unlike Cuba, it does not bar tourists, and an estimated 1,000-1,500 Americans travel there annually. The catch -- the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs must approve all itineraries, and travel must be done through a private guide or a tour group. The government advisory, especially to Iranian-Americans, would give even the most adventurous traveler pause. But it can be done.
Travel blogger Audrey Scott documented her trip to Iran in 2011 with her husband, Daniel Noll, on their travel site, Uncornered Market.
She noted to Yahoo! Travel in an email, "The US government does not forbid travel to Iran, so no one is breaking the law by visiting there. However, American tourists do need to be on a tour or with a guide in order to get a tourist visa. This is slightly bureaucratic, but is easy enough to get through with the help of a local travel agent." Although the country has a reputation for anti-Western sentiment, the blogger said the two of them experienced "incredible hospitality from locals."