Hidden holiday gems for every type of traveller
Popular destinations are popular for a reason: the weather, landscape, culture and accessibility are just too good to pass up. Unfortunately, sticking to your annual beach destination or typical nature getaway means you might be missing other great places, spots that might be even more suited to you and your tastes. Instead of following the flock to “top ten” holiday destinations, take a peek into some less-known places that are sure to please, regardless of your travel style.
For nature lovers…
From the opening to the fjords, through rocky slopes and into the towering mountains behind, Norway is surprisingly accessible natural paradise. You can take a cruise to the shores of Bergen, and one of the most breathtaking train routes Europe has to offer, around the picturesque seaside town and into the rugged landscape. If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, or experience the strange majesty of the midnight sun, you’ll forge a connection with nature to last a lifetime.
For beach lovers…
If you like beaches, why not sample hundreds of them in one go? The 7000 islands that make up the nation boast beautiful and exciting tropical surroundings alongside the myriad white sand beaches; you can divide your time between the turquoise shorelines, the lush waterfall-laced flora, and the bustling shopping cities. You can pick and choose which islands you visit based on your interests, since there are lots of spots for divers, surfers, sailors and sunbathers alike.
For wildlife watchers…
Head to Canada’s eastern shores for an up close and personal wildlife experience. This maritime province at the mouth of the Atlantic is a haven for moose, lynx, bears, and birds of all sorts, given its spectacular forests and untouched shores. Hike along one of the wooded trails that line the cliffs of Cape Breton Island, and you could see a pod of whales, as well. To top it off, Nova Scotia offers some of the most welcoming hospitality and most delicious seafood you’ll find on the continent.
For culture hounds…
Riga, Latvia’s capital city, is a UNESCO heritage site, and is home to the largest concentration of German Art Nouveau architecture in the world. Many foreign powers have claimed ownership of this trading hub since it was founded in 1201, and although there have been many changes over the centuries, the charming old town still coaxes travelers from across Europe. Dozens of churches and cathedrals and many interesting museums are laced with historical monuments to tell the tale of Riga’s past, and just outside the city limits you’ll find an impressive and interactive open-air Ethnographic Museum filled with relocated historical buildings, and recreated artisanal workshops.
For art lovers…
Travelers tend to bypass this midland Scottish city, but they’re missing out. It may lack the grandiose terrain of the highlands and the medieval majesty of Edinburgh, but Glasgow is host to some of the UK’s finest art galleries, museums, historic buildings and music festivals and events. When you’re ready for a break from the city, pop out to the surrounding Clyde Valley for a scenic hike or a picnic in the meadows.
Paris is known for its world-class cuisine, but Brussels is actually home to more Michelin-star rated restaurants per capita. Seafood, French, and Flemish cuisine are the specialities of the city, but Brussels’ international character (it is the capital of the EU, after all) means you could find almost any sort of restaurant along the cobbled streets and alleyways – and it will probably be a meal to remember. Belgium likes to celebrate their history, beer, and culinary culture often, so you can easily plan a visit around one of the many festivals or culinary events in and around Brussels.
The Grampians Park, Australia
Australia is a natural amusement park, and The Grampians is a star attraction. If you’re up for adventure in amazing surroundings, pitch a tent (or rent a cottage) in Victoria’s best kept secret, and lace up your hiking shoes. Or, see the incredible landscape from the water in a kayak or canoe, and when that gets tired, head up to Ararat Airfield to paraglide off a cliff and over the stretching scenery below. Few parks can boast such beauty, history (you’ll find an impressive amount of indigenous rock art), and variability.
Island hopping certainly has its charms, but river cruises are a fantastic way to experience the heart of a culture with the comfort of cruising. The Rhine, Rhone and Danube rivers are well-travelled waterways, but floating down the Douro will introduce you to a whole other side of Europe. With less crowds, fewer boats, and a whole lot of culture and history, anyone interested in a sunny, laid-back, trip of culinary delights through steep, rocky slopes will enjoy ta Douro cruise, which ends at the UNESCO-designated city of Porto.
The world is wide and diverse, and there’s no reason to stay in one place. In fact, the travelers who get out of their comfort zone every once in a while are often rewarded with a uniquely eye-opening perspective. The next time you plan a holiday, consider the possibilities of a new place rather than the probabilities of an old favourite.