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Tired of Paris? How about an Iraq vacation?

TODAY travel editor Peter Greenberg reports on way-off-the-beaten-path destinations

Tired of the beach scene in Miami? Bored in Hawaii? Seen enough of the Louvre? Worry no more. We have some trips that go way beyond mere adventure travel. These trips are to destinations you either think you can't visit, or your friends and family think you shouldn't visit. But where there's a will, there seems to be a way. There are dozens of travel companies and organizations offering trips to once — and current — forbidden destinations. Here is a sampling:

Please note: While we are not encouraging travel to any of these locations, Americans are making their way to some of these destinations. For each destination below you will need to do a lot of homework, pack a lot of common sense and know what you're getting into.

Like most things in this hermit kingdom, travel is tightly controlled by the government.  Certain windows are available for international tourists to visit, usually coinciding with the “Mass Games,” which are like North Korea’s national holiday, arts festival, and athletic competition all rolled into one.  Traveling to North Korea without a registered tour group is practically impossible and definitely NOT advisable.  
Air China and Koryo Air service the two-hour Beijing to Pyongyang flight several times weekly. Pyongyang’s airport, Sunan International, is approximately 20 minutes away from the city by car. Because most U.S. travel is legally allowed during the Mass Games only, travel dates for U.S. citizens often depends on the months that the Mass Games are held.

  • offers group and independent tours for U.S. and other citizens. Most tour costs cover transportation from Beijing to DPRK, most meals, hotel accommodation, entry fees and tour guides.
  • is a U.S.-based travel agency that specializes in luxury, first-class North Korea travel. Tours range from $2,000 to $5,000 and don’t include airfare into the country.
  • offers group and independent tours within North Korea.
  • is another tour company that offers group and independent tours as well as information about general travel within North Korea.

The U.S. State Department has issued a warning about traveling to Iran but if you still feel the need, here are some places to check:

  • offers various themed, guided tours.
  • is an Iranian-based travel company that offers adventure and customary tours specializing in interests such as climbing, nature and various regions of the country.
  • is a tour travel company that specializes in tour packages, visa services, hotel services, transport and ticketing.
  • is a tour company that specializes in historical, cultural, custom-made and themed tours in Iran.

IRAQDaily bombings, sectarian violence, rampant corruption, spotty services, frequent kidnappings, and rising anti-Western sentiment make Iraq one of the least hospitable countries in the world at the moment.  But, apparently, it all depends on where you go.There's at least one part of Iraq that claims it offers a notable exception to the don’t-go-to-Iraq rule. The northern third of the country, popularly called "Kurdistan," is comparatively peaceful.  Bombings and violence are relatively rare in cities like Sulaimany and Erbil, which are controlled by an autonomous Kurdish government. Erbil, in fact, receives regularly scheduled flights from a number of Middle Eastern and European cities. And here's the fun part — check out the Web site to see their tourism commercials, encouraging Americans to come — and in at least once commercial, the Iraqis claim that one of the reasons to visit the region is that there are "less than 200" coalition troops based there. Now, that's a reason.

  • The offers travel packages to press and business travelers. Additionally, they provide services on airline travel, security advice, visa requirements and activities in the region.
  • operates tours in North Iraq Kurdistan year-round. Generally, all but flights to and from the country, insurance and visas are included.

After Kabul International Airport reopened, air travel to Afghanistan is the most convenient method of getting into the country. Airlines that fly into Afghanistan include: KamAir, Pakistan International Airways, Indian Airlines, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways to name a few.

  • operates tours central and north Afghanistan. Three or more weeks tours are scheduled for the 2007 season throughout the year.
  • operates numerous tours and thinks Kabul is the emerging travel destination of the year.

In 2004, the U.S. lifted the travel ban to Libya. (For the latest rules on travel to Libya, visit the U.S. State Department website: Nowadays, travel to Libya is less risky and complex then reputed to be. In fact, airlines such as British Airways, Royal Jordanian, Lufthansa and others have increased flights to the perceived off-limits country.

  • is a Libyan tour company with various customizable tour options. Most tours begin in Tripoli and are full escorted from there. Services include assistance with entry formalities, customs and passports, transportation and tours.
  • Theassists travelers with airport, hotel and transportation booking as well as tours and activities. Established tour itineraries are also available.
  • is an adventure travel company that services Libya. Four 17-day trips are scheduled for 2007, starting at $5,795 from the U.S.
  • is a tour company with packages available from London.
  • U.S.-basedoffers five to 39 day trips to Libya, some of which are combined with other countries in North Africa and Egypt.
  • is an adventure travel company that offers an eight-day Libya tour for $3,999, not including international airfare.
  • is a luxury travel company that runs tours throughout Africa, including combination trips through Libya, Egypt and Jordan.

CUBAMost Americans assume that Cuba is off-limits — and technically, with the American embargo still in place, it almost is.  However, there are loopholes that allow the average American, in many cases, to visit Cuba with relatively few problems. Be aware that because of the sanctions, the easiest way to take a trip to Cuba is to essentially commit perjury by omitting the fact that you went to Cuba to do.  It should be pretty easy to do — Cuban authorities generally know not to stamp your passport and there aren’t a lot of ways the government can tell you’ve been to the island.Note that if you do indicate that you’ve traveled to Cuba, you will be required to deal with the U.S. Treasury Dept.’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.For the government’s official sanctions policy at this time, go here:
Travel from the United States to Cuba is precarious and often restricted to journalists, researchers and specialty groups. U.S. citizens or those within the US wanting to travel to Cuba need a specific license to enter the country. Visit for more information on how to apply for and acquire the license. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to visit Cuba from Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Europe. It’s generally easiest to visit the country with a tour group or through travel agency booking.

  • lists tourist offices worldwide, resources of travel to the country from almost everywhere but the U.S., hotel accommodations and other vacation resources and information.
  • offers all-inclusive travel packages to Cuba. A two-week, escorted vacation package in February 2007 from Canada starts at $2,999 and includes airfare, tourist card, hotel accommodations, all meals and activities.
  • is a travel agency that offers international and domestic flights to Cuba with hotel accommodations, tours and activities. Two- to eight-day packages are offered from $164 to $824 and include hotel accommodations and tours.
  • offers resources for flights from Nassau, Grand Cayman, Canada and Mexico City to Cuba and hotel accommodations in Cuba.