Why you need to go: Namibia is known for Sossusvlei's red dunes, genteel seaside towns, and a sparse population. But if you really want to get away, head northwest for Damaraland, a rugged expanse of craggy mountains, plunging ravines, car-free roads, and open plains where wildlife really do roam free. Highlights include Namibia's highest mountain, your ancient ancestors' cave art, and a petrified forest.
The one must-do thing: The black rhino may be on the road to recovery after a close call with extinction, but don't miss this opportunity to catch them in the wild. Your best bet is the Desert Rhino Camp, which offers rhino-tracking by car or foot.
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Lauren Everitt is a contributing writer who's traveled Africa extensively and lived in Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa. She was particularly pleased to discover that lava pits exist outside of Indiana Jones. Follow her on Twitter: @LaurenEveritt.