As the European Union continues its expansion, the eastern countries of Europe are slowly being integrated. The Cold War is over, and the entire region is shifting direction and countries are now looking to determine their own destinies. This means some adventurous and untouristy travel destinations for those willing to take a chance on their comfort and safety levels.

There’s a wide range of culture, religion and corruption among the countries of Eastern Europe. New EU members Romania and Bulgaria have shed their mafia images to join the club, though they remain slightly risky. Transylvania, the land of Dracula, lies among the sublime mountains of Romania, and Belgrade is one of the rising stars of the post-Soviet era capitals.

Indeed, the shadow of the Soviet Union hangs over most of Eastern Europe. Ukraine and Georgia broke ranks to the public dismay of Russia, but they are now gaining notice as interesting cultural destinations. Kiev is regarded as the new face of Eastern European chic, and Georgia produces some of the best wine outside of France.

Smaller countries like Estonia, Latvia, Moldova and Lithuania remain a bit of a mystery for most travelers. They are still in the process of creating themselves, but if you’re looking for somewhere completely off the beaten track, these rugged backwater countries are easily accessible from mainstream Europe. Soviet influences can be seen in Belarus, as in the rest of these nations, but the level of corruption varies widely.

Many of these ex-Soviet republics are run by crooked dictators posing as presidents, and have a lawlessness that can prove dangerous to travelers. Armenia and Azerbaijan feel more Asian than European, but are fascinating cultural spots that have histories stretching back millennia. Here the climate can be severe in the mountains but mild along the Black Sea, where new spas and resorts continue to spring up.

The Baltic States are one of the fastest developing regions of Eastern Europe. The Dalmatian Coast of Croatia is on course to become a hot spot and if it continues to expand its infrastructure, the Baltics may end up becoming a major travel destination to rival neighbors like Hungary and Turkey.