I really thought I was handling this lock down situation quite well. I’m reading more, eating and sleeping well. I’m even spending quality time with my husband and genuinely quite enjoying a slower pace. That was until my calendar pinged with a reminder that online check-in was open for my now-cancelled trip to Poland. I suddenly realised how much I have missed travel. Not just weekends away and the giddy excitement of long-haul trips but also travelling around the UK visiting my family. With wanderlust daydreaming the best we can hope for at the moment. Here are 21 fabulous destinations that should be on your list when things get back to normal.
1. Azerbaijan: Baku
Azerbaijan first came to my attention in 2011 after a historic win in the national institution that is, the Eurovision Song Contest (A guilty pleasure!). Celebrations from the capital brought Baku into the spotlight. Baku is a gorgeous tapestry of old and new. Skyscrapers rub shoulders with ancient architecture providing a juxtaposing backdrop for a city break with a difference.
Baku offers travellers excellent value for money and a host of incredible experiences. Notable sights include the Old City, The Maiden Tower and my personal favourite Yanar Dag or the ‘burning mountain.’ Something about this untamed natural fire burning for millennia at the base of the mountains outside Baku really appeals to my sense of adventure. Flames rip through the landscape and dance through the sky feasting on the natural gas escaping from the ground below. A true natural spectacle.
If you’re looking for a luxurious base whilst in Baku, I would recommend the Fairmont Baku, Flame Towers. A 5* hotel situated on the Absheron Peninsula, with its sumptuous city and sea views, what more could you want?
2. Canada: Yukon
A true wilderness. Many travellers today are seeking a more remote and disconnected travel experience. Something a little more in tune with the natural environment. If this sentiment rings true in your heart then small Canadian territory of Yukon might be everything you’re looking for.
Yukon is Canada’s most westerly territory. Sharing a border with Alaska, Yukon has an Arctic coastline with a wild tundra climate. If you’ve ever fantasised about the aurora, midnight sun and husky sledging through wide snow-covered expanses then move over Norway!
But, the Yukon is so much more than a giant winter sports adventure playground. Glorious wildlife from arctic foxes to elk and bison call the Yukon home and can be spotted on hiking trails and making the most of this remarkable natural environment. The Yukon also holds a rich depth of culture of the territories First Nations. With almost a quarter of all Yukoners having Aboriginal ancestry First National history, culture and traditions are a celebrated part of Yukon life today.
3. Canada: Newfoundland & Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada’s most easterly province. Sitting in the frigid Atlantic Ocean is the island of Newfoundland and section of mainland Labrador. This spectacular province should be topping your list if you’re seeking close encounters of the aquatic kind. The waters surrounding Newfoundland Labrador is prime whale-watching territory. With the world’s largest population of humpback whales returning each year to feed on the superior fish stocks, you are guaranteed an awe-inspiring experience with these majestic mammals.
Newfoundland and Labrador aren’t just known for its phenomenal wildlife, the hospitality and friendliness of locals are well renowned. Coupled with world-class seafood and the infamous East Coast hiking trail, Newfoundland Labrador has plenty to offer any type of traveler.
Georgia is stunning, yet despite being a clear European gem it attracts a relatively limited number of tourists. According to the World Tourism Organisation Georgia welcomed only around 7,000 tourists in 2018.
Allegedly Georgia is the birthplace of wine. But, if fabulous vino and food aren’t enough to get you booking your ticket then Georgia plays host to a spectacular landscape. Sweeping vineyards, luscious green valleys, stone carpeted beaches, snow-capped mountains, and that’s just the scenery.
Georgia has a brilliant depth of history, culture and architecture, evident in the vibrant capital city of Tbilisi.
My recommendation is Moxy Tbilisi. This cool quirky hotel is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/tbsox-moxy-tbilisi/
5. Germany: Passau
Tucked away in the heart of Europe, sitting on the German Austrian border sits the town of Passau. Due to its location at a point where three rivers merge Passau is also known as The Three Rivers City. This uniquely located city with its picturesque landscapes, Italian style architecture and centuries of history makes this Bavarian Venice a hugely underrated European destination.
For a perfect riverside stay, I would recommend The Hotel Residenz, an imposing salmon coloured icon right on the banks of the Danube. Sitting atop the foundations of a four-hundred-year-old merchant house, the hotel provides the ideal balance between historic restoration and contemporary luxury. https://www.residenz-passau.de/index.php/en/
6. Italy: Florence
Florence has been sat on my travel wish list for years! After reading Dan Brown’s Inferno his vivid imagery has kept my desire to visit this Italian gem alive.
Whether you’re a history, art, food or architecture aficionado Florence has something for every type of traveller. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, every street, gallery and piazza have an abundance of artistic and architectural treasures to immerse yourself in.
Florence is the perfect spot for a long romantic weekend getaway. Unlike other, popular city breaks like Rome or Paris, Florence has a small-town charm and a slower pace. I can imagine nothing better than strolling down cosy backstreets, leisurely gorging on gelato.
I would recommend booking a room at the Art Hotel Villa Agape. Surrounded by an eight-hectare park of olive and cypress trees this is an idyllic place to retreat to after a long day exploring the city.
7. Japan: Hokkaido
Japan has been firmly etched onto my bucket list for forever (hence why I’m recommending two incredible destinations). Hokkaido is Japan’s most northerly island and has been somewhat overlooked by travellers who often opt for the well-known cities of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.
Hokkaido is a winter paradise. Hot springs, thrilling skiing and the glorious Ice Waterfall festival just to name a few must-do items.
To take in everything this Japanese Island has to offer I would recommend a tour from North to South. For some inspiration check out this sensational twelve-day itinerary https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2400_hokkaido_winter.html
8. Japan: Kyushu
Japan is a land of contrast and while the island of Hokkaido is a winter nirvana, Kyushu is a temperate volcanic wonderworld.
Japan’s most southerly island is best known for its active volcanos, hot springs and the destruction of Nagasaki in 1945. With such a vast range of things to do and see any traveller should make a beeline for this less explored island.
Kyushu is the optimal location for getting up close and personal with live volcanos then unwinding on the beach with a cocktail. In my mind, all adventures to Kyushu should finish on Tomori beach.
9. Jordan: Intrepid Tour
If you’ve ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark then you will have marvelled at the lost city of Petra. An entire city complex carved into the distinctive russet Jordanian rock. Whilst the 2,000-year-old city of Petra should rightfully be on your list, Jordan has more to offer the savvy traveller. Jordan is littered with incredibly well preserved ancient monuments. Remote desert camps of the nomadic Bedouin and coral laden shores. Jordan has so much to offer than simply the lost city.
To experience all this beautiful country has to offer, I would recommend starting your journey with Intrepid Travel’s Jordan Discovery trip. This luxury group tour could be the perfect starting point to ignite your passion for travel in the Middle East.
I’m pretty sure I have a thing for mountains, and there is no more majestic display of dramatic craggy peaks than in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan is a historic point on the Silk Road where ancient peoples from all parts of the globe would meet to trade.
A stark contrast to the expansive mountain ranges which cut across the sky is the vast summer pastures dotted with yurts of the nomadic shepherds. Kyrgyzstan offers a unique and wild travel experience in the heart of central Asia. True adventure seekers will feel as though they are the only travellers to hike the mountain paths and delight in this Asian wonder.
For a fully immersive central Asian experience, I would recommend the Central Asia Explorer Trip with Intrepid Travel https://www.intrepidtravel.com/uk/uzbekistan/central-asia-explorer-126379
It wasn’t until I was on a boat trip in Croatia late last year that Macedonia firmly planted itself on my must-visit list. After chatting with our fellow travellers that day, they couldn’t have given Macedonia a harder sell for those who enjoy a more active type of holiday. White water rafting, unpopulated hiking trails, glorious mountains and glittering waterways are just a slice of what’s on offer.
Even if an outdoor adventure trip isn’t for you, Macedonia offers a rich history with Ottoman and Soviet influences. The capital Skopje and a UNESCO World Heritage site at Ohrid are particular highlights.
Whilst tourists have been flocking to Mexico’s beach resorts for many years, Mexico is harbouring an incredible travel opportunity. The El Chepe train. Covering six hundred and fifty kilometres the El Chepe train works its way through the Copper Canyon from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. Significant attractions along the line include awe-inspiring scenery, particularly when travelling towards Los Mochis.
There are a number of beautiful tourist stops along the route, the most significant of which is the town of Divisadero. Upon arrival in Divisadero, you’ll want to have your camera at the ready for the panoramic views over the Copper Canyon. Four times the size of the USA’s Grand Canyon, the Copper Canyon is a true natural spectacle.
13. Norway: Lofoten Islands
Having made two trips to Norway previously, there is something about this Scandi beauty that has wormed its way into my heart. Norway’s Lofoten Islands is a rugged archipelago suspended above the Arctic Circle.
Norway is renowned for its incredible mountainous scenery and deep placid fjords. But, the Lofoten Islands push this to a whole new level. For the adventure traveller, there is no more unique place than the Lofoten Islands to hike up soaring peaks, pitch your tent and watch that midnight sun.
My recommendation for a perfect Lofoten base is Hattvika Lodge. https://www.hattvikalodge.no/accomondation
The beauty of Africa’s skeleton coast is not a new travel destination, but Namibia’s growing popularly shouldn’t put you off. We’ve all seen the images of burnt ochre sands with blackened emaciated trees silhouetted against the desert. But, what’s behind this stunning collision of earth, sky and sea?
Namibia is one of the safest African countries and one of the most favourable places for a family safari. In addition to dramatic game drives Namibia offers a host of other activities. Hot air ballooning, sand dune skiing or hiking in the Fish River Canyon are just a few of your options.
15. Portugal: Sintra
Portugal’s Algarve is a synonymous holiday destination with the British public but, take a journey into the pine swathed hills to discover the town of Sintra.
Easily accessible from Lisbon, Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With palaces galore, miles and miles of charming views and exquisite Moorish architecture Sintra is quite possible the perfect day trip.
If you do want to extend your visit to Sintra then you’ll need to book in advance as accommodation books up fast. My top pick for a luxurious stay in Sintra is the Penha Longa Resort. http://www.penhalonga.com/en/
I’ve never spoken to anyone who had a bad word to say about Singapore. The clean, friendly, world-class food and unparalleled hospitality this city-state is the ideal backdrop for any visit to the far east.
Singapore has an incredible mix of colonial grandeur, sky-scraping luxury, innovative architecture and is a brilliant stop gap for further travels to Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines or Thailand.
If you’re looking to break up a long-haul trip then you can’t go wrong with a few days in Singapore. Take a walk through the opulent and ornate botanical gardens. Sip afternoon tea at the world-famous Raffles. Indulge in sundowners on top of the world and be dazzled by the evening light show in the bay. A short layover in Singapore could provide just the right amount of glitz and excitement on a long-haul journey.
At the start of 2020, I started planning an epic trip to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Whilst other islands on the Indonesian archipelago like, Bali and Java are fabulous holiday destinations. I’ve been feeling the need for something a little wilder and a path less trodden.
Sumatra is the largest of the Indonesian islands. Sweeping lustrous tropical terrain, active volcanos, orangutan strongholds and lakeside tranquillity, Sumatra might just be the most exquisite cocktail of adventure and holiday chill.
As with many locations off the main tourist thoroughfare, top-end luxurious accommodation isn’t always available. I think a trip like is all about fully immersing your self in the environment and really sinking a little deeper into the culture of this beautiful island.
Every now and then I am completely captivated by an idea, most recently it has been to discover the old cities of the Silk Road. Turkmenistan is located in central Asia, bordered by the Caspian Sea, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. If you are a traveler looking for a destination off the beaten path then Turkmenistan could be your ideal location. Ancient cities, deserts, mountains and even the infamous door to hell Turkmenistan has something for all types of traveler. If you are looking for the ultimate remote travel experience Turkmenistan might just be worth it.
If it’s the island life you’re after then look no further than the South Pacific jewel that is Vanuatu. Pristine alabaster sandy beaches, blissfully blue sea, world-class diving and volcano trekking. Vanuatu has the optimal balance of blissful holiday retreat and ultimate travel experience.
For superior relaxation and island vibes, I recommend Tamanu on the Beach. A private peaceful 5* resort and spa would be the perfect couples’ getaway or honeymoon destination.
I hope these beautiful destinations have given you some travel inspiration. I’d love to know where you plan to visit when travel is unrestricted and coronavirus is confined to the archives of 2020.