10 Small World Cup Teams Whose Countries Are Well Worth Visiting
The World Cup officially kicks off today, and the Travel Lane office is buzzing with excitement, but for many of our readers, (namely our American ones), we can imagine that 64 matches of live soccer isn't the most appealing thing in the world.
But fear not unconverted soccer fans, we come in peace. While we aren't in the business of preaching the Beautiful Game to the uninitiated, we do want to spread the word about some of the lesser-known countries competing in Russia.
From Panama's golden beaches to Senegal's bombastic, coastal nightlife, here are 10 lesser-known countries competing at the World Cup that are well worth visiting.
Owing to its small geographic standing in the world, Panama's qualification ahead of the U.S.A. is a monumental achievement. Located on the isthmus linking Central and South America, Panama's febrile population know how to have a good time.
In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs decorate the coast, while those looking for a bit more culture can venture further inland and visit the colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district. The rainforest in the Natural Metropolitan Park also draws international visitors and is well worth a visit.
Much like their soccer team, Senegal is a nation synonymous with flair and swagger. Brimming with history from its French colonial heritage, the attractions in the capital, Dakar, include the ancient Médina district and the Musée Théodore Monod, which displays a wide variety of African art. As mentioned in the introduction, Senegal's nightlife is also one of the best in Africa, with many clubs and bars playing the country's native mbalax music.
Other areas of the West African nation include Saint-Louis which boasts a charming and idyllic old town brimming with colonial architecture.
Thanks to its mountainous regions and cheap accommodation, Serbia is fast becoming a go-to destination for European tourists, but few outside Europe have unearthed this gem of a country.
Located on southeast Europe's Balkan peninsula, there is a litany of ski resorts to the south while the capital city Belgrade is packed with Communist-era architecture. The old city of Stari Grad offers yet more culture, this time in the form of 19th-century mansions and a selection of world-renowned opera and ballet productions at Narodno Pozorište (national theater).
Peru may be known most for its ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, but there's a lot more to this country than people often overlook. As well as its ancient bemouth, Peruvian cuisine offers up some of the best dishes in the world, from its national ceviche dish to its delicious stir-fried beef and creamy chicken.
The South American nation is also home to a section of the Amazon rainforest, while the surrounding areas of Machu Picchu, such as the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail and colonial city of Cusco, boast archaeological sites of their own.