Break your holiday habits! Embark on the road less traveled with these 10 alternative destinations around the world
‘Fess up, we’re all guilty of getting stuck in a travel rut. You know exactly what we mean: Yearly pilgrimages to heavenly Bali, gal-pal Aussie roadtrips, Christmas spent hopping across Europe. Vacationing where you’re familiar sure is comforting, but with the world so vast and full of swoon-worthy secret spots, it’s high time for a change. From the secluded, paradisiacal island of Siargao in the Philippines, to the breathtaking Roman ruins in Tunisia, we’ve rounded up 10 of the world’s best under-the-radar destinations, according to the travel maestros from ZUJI. Bonus: If you’ve got a Visa card , boy have we got a major travel deal in store for you – cheaper flights and hotels when you book with your Visa card on ZUJI.com.sg!
Forget the tourist-tainted beaches of Bali or Phuket. Asia’s true tropical paradise lies further south. Described as Nirvana for sun worshippers, Sri Lanka is a haven of pristine palm-fringed shores, coral reef studded waters, and spectacular coastlines, with water sports and beachside bars aplenty. Seductive seaside activities aside, the island also boasts a staggeringly rich history – ancient ruins of cities, temples, and fortresses are dotted across the island, with the jaw-dropping Anuradhapura city being the most legendary of them all. And if you’re looking for adventure, there’s plenty to do, with hikes up lush mountains, hot air ballooning, and even caving available for all types of travellers.
Fly to: Colombo. Flight options range from budget airlines like AirAsia to top-tier ones like Emirates. Prices range from $330 to $1999.
Where to stay: Take your pick from gorgeous seaside villas like Reef Villa and Spa to plush, forest retreats like Kalundewa Retreat.
Think you’ve been there, done that on the Thai island circuit? Sure, we’ve all been to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui and even Koh Chang. But Koh Lipe still remains a hidden gem, unknown to regular island hoppers. Located in the Andaman sea, this scenic paradise is all about crystal clear waters and gorgeous reefs. Beaches range from the developed to the deserted, with the busiest being Pattaya Beach (boats arrive here) and the mellow Sunrise Beach.
Fly to: Hat Yai via Tiger Airways, Thai Airways or Bangkok Airways. Take a 90 minute minivan trip to Pak Bara before hopping on a ferry to Koh Lipe.
Where to stay: Lucky you – hotels here are hugely affordable. Idyllic Concept Resort boasts a swish beachside pool and cosy rooms while Serendipity Beach Resort‘s beachside villas are the perfect locale for seaside siestas. Click this way for a money-saving hotel and flight package.
Reykjavik isn’t the only Icelandic city worthy of your Northern Lights hunt. The small city (population: 18,000) also hosts Mother Nature’s most spectacular light show in between the months of September to April. Despite its tiny size, the city offers a plethora of natural sights – waterfalls and gorgeous hills for trekking included – and one of the best locales in the world for whale-watching.
Fly to: Reykjavik via Finnair, KLM, Lufthansa and more. Then, hop on a domestic flight to Akureyri.
Where to stay: Accommodation ranges from apartments in the suburbs to minimalist boutique hotels in the city.
Remember when Lombok’s Gili Islands weren’t smothered in luxury resorts, swish restaurants and cheap bars? We don’t either. While we love the stunning clusters of Gili Trawagon, Gili Air and Gili Meno, it lacks the total serenity needed when you’re in dire need of a quiet retreat. Seek out Gili Asahan instead; still largely undeveloped, this secret island calls for visitors to switch off from the real world, with nothing but cerulean waters for swimming and snorkelling, and sun-kissed shores for spectacular beach lazing. Wifi is limited (hallelujah!) so rest assured that pesky emails and social media updates won’t get in the way of divine relaxation.
Fly to: Lombok via Garuda Indonesia or Silkair. Then hop on a boat to the island.
Where to stay: Staying true to its secluded identity, Gili Asahan has no-frills eco-lodges and tranquil bungalows for low maintenance stays.
The magical Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan isn’t for everyone – but if you’re desperately in need of recharging your spiritual batteries with a side of adventure, keep reading. In a country without high rise buildings, busy roads and shopping malls (well, with the exception of one), the spiritually drained will be well sorted. Make a trek to the sacred temple of Tiger’s Nest (also known as Paro Taktsang) in the Paro Valley your priority – though strenuous, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the picturesque mountain scenery. Also make it a point to visit the grand dzongs littered across the country, and plan your schedule accordingly in time to experience the riotous, colourful festivals.
Fly to: Kathmandu, Nepal via various airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Malindo Air. Then, hop on a quick flight to Bhutan.
Where to stay: Accommodation here ranges affordable hillside hotels to luxury, opulent ones.
Since the Australian Outback edition of Survivor, we’ve been not-so-secretly obsessing over the idea of traversing the vast, arid land while marvelling at the wildlife and rugged mountain ranges. Top of our Outback hitlist is Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, located in the center of Down Under. With its stunning, ancient landscape, indigenous culture, and the spectacular Ayers Rock, the park is prolific, but remains deliciously under-the-radar for mainstream tourists. Watch as the magnificent rock changes colour when sunset strikes – it’s truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Fly to: Uluru via Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and more.
Where to stay: Stay comfortable in the desert with these sweet packages (inclusive of hotel and flight) at Sails in the Desert or Emu Walk Apartments.
Isolated from the rest of the Italian Peninsula, the port city of Trieste is a wonderful alternative to tourist-trodden Venice. It’s a city that enchants with its understated, old world charm; opulent piazzas, majestic medieval buildings, and dazzling boulevards line its scenic streets without the hindrance of camera-clicking tourists. Stop for photos along the Canal Grande, people-watch over wine at the Piazza Unità d’Italia, and gape at the Museo Revoltella: a palatial modern art gallery decked out with sumptuous silk, grand chandeliers, and plush furnishings.
Fly to: Trieste via China Eastern with this package.
Where to stay: Hotels range from quaint apartments in the medieval core to luxury resorts.
Can Tho, Vietnam
Next to throbbing cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s fourth largest city is constantly overshadowed by its larger siblings. But don’t doubt its importance – the canal city is the epicentre of the Mekong Delta and fondly referred to as Vietnam’s rice basket thanks to its dedication to agriculture. Famous for its floating markets, visitors stream to the Ninh Kieu Wharf, where they can travel to Cai Rang Floating Market. Here, hundreds of boats congregate, plying wares from the Delta region – truly an arresting sight. Floating markets aside, the city also offers a lively riverside atmosphere, buzzy night markets and temple trails.
Fly to: Ho Chi Minh. Once you’ve soaked up enough sighs from HCMC, hop on a bus to Can Tho.
Where to stay: Hotels may not be the plushest here, but they’re comfortable, cosy and cheap.
Pristine white beaches? Check. Gorgeous lagoons? Check. Spectacular caves for exploring? Check, check, check! Nope, we’re not talking about Boracay. Or El Nido, the once hidden islands of the Philippines. Escape the tourist hoi-polloi with a getaway to the teardrop-shaped island of Siargao. A famous surf spot, it’s located at the northeastern tip of Mindanao and makes a great base point for island hopping to too-gorgeous-to-be-true islands with sparkling waters and untouched greenery. But the beaches of Siargao on their own are works of art: untouched, raw, and absolutely tranquil.
Fly to: Cebu, via Philippine Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Silk Air. Then, fly to Surigao City and board a ferry to Siargao.
Where to stay: Siargao Paraiso Resort features gorgeous pools, sprawling lawns and adjoining kitchens.
El Djem, Tunisia
Visiting the Roman ruins in Rome is a no-brainer, but your experience can easily be ruined by the other masses of tourists. Fret not – the Romans made sure to spread their architectural prowess, including in Tunisia’s small town of El Djem. Similar to the Colosseum in Rome, El Djem’s monumental amphitheatre is the largest in North Africa and is built entirely of stone blocks. Don’t forget to stop by the El Djem Museum – it boasts an impressive variety of mosaics, housed in a reconstructed Roman villa.
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This article is sponsored by Visa and ZUJI.