Photograph by MAURICIO HANDLER, Nat Geo Image Collection
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Nestled in "Chilecon Valley," Santiago's thriving startup scene benefits from government support—and from stunning mountain landscapes only a few hours from the Pacific Ocean.

Photograph by MAURICIO HANDLER, Nat Geo Image Collection
TravelValley of the Boom

Beyond Silicon Valley: Visit these vibrant cities on the rise

Startup ecosystems, vibrant lifestyles, global diversity—these seven new boomtowns are worth the trip.

Boomtowns—places that undergo rapid growth due to sudden prosperity—took hold during the Gold Rush and Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, when communities blossomed after discovering valuable resources in their backyards.

Today’s boomtowns—rather, boom cities—are enjoying transformations of their own, from increasing globalization and diversity to technological and economic development. Visit these seven spots on the rise around the world.

Lagos, Nigeria

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If Lagos were a country to itself, its economy would be Africa's fifth largest. Known as a hub of creativity, fashion, and commerce, it offers tourists a vibrant nightlife and cultural scene.

Known for its burgeoning creative scene—trendy fashion designers, contemporary artists, and vibrant movie industry (“Nollywood”)—Lagos continues to boom. With over 21 million residents, Lagos is West Africa’s largest city and strongest economy, receiving an influx of investors in telecommunications and mobile tech from its Co-Creation Hub to its “Yabacon Valley” suburb.

Travelers to this vibrant city can use powerhouse startup to find the perfect home base from which to explore Lagos’s nightlife and cultural scene.

Toronto, Canada

When it comes to artificial intelligence, this vibrant Canadian metropolis—one of the most culturally diverse cities in North America—may have the advantage. The top-notch Universities of Toronto and Waterloo boast leading STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs and research centers. The city has birthed pioneering companies, such as Blackberry and Shopify, and hosts research centers for the likes of Uber, Samsung, and Google. It’s also home to the world’s largest innovation hub: the 1.5-million-square-foot coworking space MaRS Discovery District.

Beyond its digital prowess, Toronto is known for its globally varied food scene—tourists can travel around the gastronomical world within a single neighborhood.

Beijing, China

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One of the world's largest cities, Beijing houses the second highest number of unicorns after Silicon Valley. With the Great Wall of China and other historic attractions nearby, visitors can enjoy a taste of the ancient alongside the modern.

According to a 2018 report on global startups, Beijing hosts more than 40 companies known as unicorns (startups valued at over $1 billion). The city of 22 million continues to flourish: its SOHO Modern City and business districts boast cutting-edge technology and avant-garde architecture. The Chinese government has even prioritized artificial intelligence to develop its capital’s profile. And e-commerce is growing exponentially with the likes of Baidu and Alibaba.

Amid this boom, visitors can also enjoy Beijing’s skillfully-preserved, 3,000-year-old history—from the nearby Great Wall of China to the home of its ancient astronomers at Beijing Ancient Observatory.

Sydney, Australia

You’ll find most of Australia’s innovation in this iconic, waterfront city, home to over 1,300 startups. Sydney has even established a Visiting Entrepreneur Program to mentor budding local companies. From finance tech startups to digital media companies, Sydney remains an attractive business hub in the Pacific region—meaning immigration is increasing and diversifying its 4.5 million population.

Pair this boom with top-tier museums, a lively nightlife, some of the world’s most scenic beaches, and a cultural history that spans thousands of years—plus the classic Opera House—and Sydney shows no sign of slowing down yet.

Tel Aviv, Israel

When over half of Israel’s roughly 4,300 startups are in or near the capital, it’s no surprise that Tel Aviv makes our list of boomtowns. Known for scientific research, logistics, and security, Tel Aviv has the highest number of startups per capita in the world, including giants like freelance marketplace Fiverr and website host Wix.

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A Mediterranean beach stretches beneath the urban skyline of Tel Aviv, where world-class startups mix with tourist-friendly contemporary art and culinary scenes.

As Israel’s second largest city (after Jerusalem), Tel Aviv is also known for its contemporary art and culinary scenes, plus miles of pristine beaches and almost year-round sunshine.

Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden’s photogenic capital is the perfect mix of sustainable living, innovative startup companies (ever heard of Spotify?), a booming music scene, a diverse population, and an unflinching love for nature. Despite its comparatively miniscule size, Stockholm has produced more unicorns per capita than any other startup ecosystem outside of Silicon Valley. A hotbed for gaming giants such as King (think Candy Crush) and Mojang (think Minecraft), it also has one of the highest concentrations of video game studios in the world.

Entrepreneurs and travelers alike enjoy Stockholm’s reliable infrastructure, flatter organizational structure, and the Swedish tradition of fika, or breaking several times a day over coffee and pastries.

Santiago, Chile

Stunningly situated within an Andean valley, it’s no wonder Santiago is fondly known as “Chilecon Valley.” The capital’s thriving startup scene is one of the most dynamic on the continent: Fostered by the government’s Startup Chile incubator program, it supports between 250 and 300 companies each year.

With a rich cultural history and access to nature (it’s a two-hour drive to the Pacific Ocean, and outdoor activities abound in the nearby mountains), Santiago is a cosmopolitan boomtown worth exploring.

Stockholm-based Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning author and photographer with National Geographic Image Collection. Follow her at her website or on Twitter @LolaAkinmade.