An increasing number of people are ditching the usual package holiday in favour of more unusual destinations. Many are willing to travel further afield to avoid the crowds and experience a different culture or stunning scenery. I am a huge fan of this approach and it has led to some of my most exciting and memorable trips. If you are considering going somewhere a little more unusual but you’re not sure where to start, here are my top five suggestions. Some of these are quite touristy but they are a far cry from the Spanish Costas and make a great starting point for adventurous travelers. There are so many resorts in the world but so little time to choose from. Squeeze many Canada snow holidays into one by experiencing several resorts in a single trip.
1. Abel Tasman. If you are looking for a beach destination with a difference, there is no better place than the Abel Tasman National Park in South Island, New Zealand. I can only describe this as the most beautiful place in the world. It is an unspoiled area with native flora and fauna, stunning white beaches and secluded coves. The water is calm and clear and the area is full of wildlife from orcas to seals to unusual birds. Even in the height of the tourist season, you could find a deserted beach, swim in the sea and enjoy a picnic. The pace of life is relaxed but there is plenty to do if you want to.
Of course, if you are visiting the Abel Tasman, it should form part of a trip to travel around New Zealand. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, traveling to New Zealand is a big deal. It will take you a minimum of 24 hours to get there from the UK. I would recommend that two weeks is the absolute minimum amount of time you should stay, but to really make the most of the country you will need at least two months. I have spent a total of eight weeks there and there are still areas I haven’t made it to that I want to visit and of course, places like the Abel Tasman that it is my life’s ambition to visit again.
2. Whistler. As a winter holiday destination, Whistler in Canada is widely accepted as one of the best. Its popularity has increased further since hosting the alpine and Nordic events in the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. If you enjoy skiing or snowboarding or would like to give it a go, a trip to Whistler should certainly be on your list of things to do.
However if you are looking for an unusual summer destination, Whistler mustn’t be overlooked. Outdoor activities are available in abundance from summer skiing to bear watching, from mountain biking to relaxing spa days. For keen golfers, there are four championship courses in one resort. I don’t play golf but the idea of a stroll (ruined or otherwise) in the fresh mountain air, taking in the stunning scenery sounds fantastic. Water sports are also available, from white water rafting to relaxing canoeing on the calm lakes. The amazing mountain lakes also boast inland beaches where you can enjoy a picnic in the sunshine and the calm, inviting water is perfect for a dip.
3. Cape Town. In recent years, the popularity of South Africa as a holiday destination has increased. Certain areas are still somewhat unsafe and are best avoided. However, Cape Town, along with nearby Somerset West, Stellenbosch and the Cape Wine Route are all fantastic holiday destinations and as long as you are careful, they are reasonably safe. Cape Town’s most famous landmark is the unique and imposing Table Mountain. There are numerous walking and climbing routes up the mountain, but if that’s not for you, the Cableway will take you up there in just three minutes.
To learn a bit about Cape Town’s history, you could take a to Robben Island where Nelson Mandella spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration. You will be shown around the Island by a former political prisoner, who will give you an insight into what life was like for those imprisoned here. The whole island is now a World Heritage Site. A trip to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to the world famous Boulders Beach. Travel around the beautiful False Bay to just outside Simon’s Town and you will find yourself in the unusual situation of sharing a beautiful sandy beach with several hundred penguins.
4. Phuket. The popularity of Thailand as a tourist destination is increasing. Many people looking to escape the normal European holidays are looking further afield to beach destinations such as Phuket. In and around the area, there are plenty of activities on offer. You could take a bamboo rafting and elephant trekking tour in Khao Lak nature reserve, where you will visit a turtle-breeding farm, see water buffalo and tropical birds on the river and then ride through mountain paths on the back of an elephant. If you prefer to be on the coast, you could go island hopping by private speedboat, or try big-game fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling or sea kayaking.
Of course you also have the usual beach or resort holiday options of relaxing by the coast or the pool. If you are looking to experience the Thai culture away from a tourist resort, it is worth factoring in a few days in Bangkok into your holiday. Many airlines will fly you to Bangkok, where you transfer to your flight to Phuket. Bangkok is busy, bustling and exciting. It is also very hot and humid and would be hard work with young children so do take the time to research the city and decide whether a visit is right for you.
5. Venezuela. This is the least touristy and most unusual of the destinations that I would recommend for a holiday. If you are interested in experiencing unspoiled South America, Venezuela is definitely the place to go. Just off the mainland is Margarita Island. This is a typical Caribbean Island with sun, sea, sand and a great party atmosphere. Back on the mainland, the capital, Caracas is worth a visit and is the ideal place to link up with a tour of the country with a local guide. I can’t recommend the local guides highly enough. I traveled with a group of nine people and our guide even took us to his home town where we partied all night with his friends and enjoyed an afternoon barbeque with his family.
You can visit the famous and spectacular Angel Falls by boat or helicopter. Either way, it is a breath-taking sight. It is also worth visiting the more remote areas to the south of Venezuela on the border with Brazil such as Santa Elena de Uairén and the Canaima National Park. For a really authentic experience, take a trip down the Orinoco Delta. You can take a boat along the Delta and, hours from the nearest town, you will start to see the native tribes living at the water’s edge. Certain tribes welcome visitors and will even let you stay with them, sleeping in a hammock in the jungle. There is nothing more magical than waking up at dawn to the sound of howler monkeys calling nearby trees.
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