40 of the best holiday destinations

V&T is celebrating four decades of producing beautiful travel content with the ultimate list, 40 of the best holiday destinations, gathered from all around the globe to whet your travel appetite. From ancient cities harking back to empires of old, to emerging places attracting travellers who want to get off the beaten track, here are our picks of some of the world’s most magnificent holiday destinations.

Wyoming, USA: Ski Western style at Jackson Hole

Idyllic ski or snowboarding holiday destinations need several things, terrain that suits various levels, great food and beverage outlets, and a wide selection of other things to do when the lifts have stopped turning or you just need a break. In a nutshell, that is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. This Wyoming treasure, with direct flights from 14 cities, has two mountains – Rendezvous and Après Vous – with runs for beginners, intermediate and advanced snow lovers. Off the mountain, do a wildlife tour, visit the National Elk Refuge, shop at the boutiques and galleries in Jackson, or go snowmobiling, ice skating and snowshoeing. With a limited capacity ticketing model in place, there’s plenty of room on the slopes, and if you book through a preferred Australian tour operator, you can save by buying a seven-day lift pass and get three days free.

Read more: The ultimate ski adventure at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Jackson Hole Mountain resort.
Jackson Hole Mountain resort.

Tokyo, Japan: Food, culture and tradition

Just minutes from the neon lights and manic energy of the heart of Tokyo is a trendy, artistic neighbourhood that could be the city’s best-kept suburban secret. Shimokitazawa, or ‘Shimokita’ as it’s fondly known by locals, has onsens, ryokan and traditional food, mixed with trendy coffee shops, theatres and hip clothing stores. Known as the ‘town of plays’, start your local theatre experience at Honda Theater, one of the most well-known drama and live theatre venues. The annual Shimokitazawa Curry Festival is held in September/October, and in 2022 saw 117 curry restaurants on the food ‘trail’. Each restaurant created traditional Japanese cuisine infused with curry. Think spicy burgers, soba noodles, takoyaki, taiyaki cakes and gyoza. Stay at ryokan Yuen Bettei Daita, where you can soak in an open-air bath in the soothing, mineral-rich waters from Hakone hot springs. Afterwards, pull up a chair at the teahouse for homemade sweets and Japanese tea.

Read more: A guide to the trendiest neighbourhoods in Tokyo

The dining room at Yuen bettei Daita
A premium corner guestroom at Yuen Bettei Daita.

Japan: Expert guidance and unique experiences

Japan is one of the most popular holiday destinations among Australian travellers. From the northernmost tip of Hokkaido and its Ainu culture to the southernmost island of Okinawa with its colourful subtropical vibes, JANESCO has become synonymous with exceptional Japanese trips. With more than 35 years in the travel industry, its extensive knowledge and deep understanding of Japan bridge the gap between the Australian and Japanese cultures. Look no further than its series: Dreams, Platinum and Elysium, and special gourmet tours, including the Japan Culinary Tour with renowned cook Adam Liaw. 

The Dreams Series is designed to turn your wildest Japan travel dreams into reality. Whether you’ve always wanted to witness the breathtaking cherry blossoms in full bloom, immerse yourself in the vibrant city life of Tokyo; traverse the ancient trails of the wilderness areas of Hokkaido, or visit the remote villages on the Nakasendo post trail – these are meticulously crafted itineraries to suit every traveller’s desires. For discerning travellers seeking the epitome of luxury and exclusivity, the Elysium Series offers unparalleled access to some of Japan’s most exclusive destinations, accommodations, and experiences, catering to the traveller who craves the finer things in life. From private tours of historical landmarks to stays in luxurious ryokans, every aspect is curated to provide an indulgent and unforgettable travel experience. Gourmet Tours take you from Michelin-starred restaurants to local gems where chefs have spent decades mastering dishes.

Read more: The ultimate guide to the best food experiences in Japan

Mount Fuji
A view of Mount Fuji.

British Columbia, Canada: Ski and snowboard

From poutine to powder snow, Canada’s British Columbia is a snow lover’s dream. The air is fresh, the snow perfect under your skis, and the buffet of runs beckons. It’s not just the skiing and snowboarding that BC does so well, it’s the pretty-as-a-picture villages, the welcoming mountain culture, the off-snow activities and the vibrant après scene in bars, restaurants, unique breweries and quirky distilleries. And, with this peak-filled province boasting more than 14,000 hectares of skiable terrain for all levels, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to resorts, such as Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Peaks Resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Panorama Mountain Resort, SilverStar Mountain Resort, and more. Try CMH Heli-skiing to open up a world of untouched powder on pristine terrain, with cat-skiing another option. There are many other ways to get out amongst the stunning snowy scenery of this holiday destination, with snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, cross-country skiing and dog sledding just a sample of what is on the BC menu. Visit Travelplan Ski for more information.

A bluebird powder day at Revelstoke. Photography by Tom Poole.

Lord Howe Island, Australia: A paradise of natural wonders

Explorers, adventurers, sailors and tourists from around the world, all have had their breath stolen by Lord Howe Island. A two-hour flight from Sydney, it’s one of the lesser-known holiday destinations in Australia. Mt Gower oversees every aircraft landing on this tiny strip of land, 800 kilometres off the East Australian coast. Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird are the island’s sentinels and will feature in nearly every scene of your visit to this World- Heritage-listed island and marine park. The treasures on Lord Howe Island are found nowhere else on the planet. It has bragging rights for the world’s rarest ferns, trees, mosses and orchids and millions of seabirds that reckon it’s a great place to lay an egg. Walk, bike or hike – you have 11 kilometres by two kilometres to work with, ranging from easy to the vertigo-inducing ascent of Mt Gower.

Read more: Lord Howe Island, the ‘Galápagos of Australia’

Lord Howe Island
Aerial of Lord Howe island.

Colorado, USA: Mountain delights in Telluride

Telluride is one of those holiday destinations that makes you swoon with its beauty. The colourful town at the base of a box canyon and scenic mountain village offer a fantastic range of accommodation from which to go adventuring. Telluride shines all year round, known for its exceptional skiing and snowboarding, along with other winter delights such as snowmobiling, lavish alpine dining experiences, and hot springs. Then there is summer! Coated in verdant greenery, Telluride’s mountains are calling with climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and fly fishing, as well as live music, festivals and the chance to just soak up what is beautiful.

snow covered slopes
Telluride Ski Resort

Uzbekistan: Storied Samarkand

Renowned for its marvellous mosques, monuments and minarets, Samarkand, nestled in a large oasis in the valley of the Zerafshan River, is a shimmering jewel of the ancient Silk Road with almost mythical appeal. One of the oldest cities in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was founded in the sixth century BC and is adorned with architectural wonders. Visitors can wander through labyrinthine bazaars crammed with vibrant colours and fragrant spices and marvel at turquoise-tiled madrasas. Or lose yourself in the grandeur of the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum, the final resting place of Timur the Great, founder of the Timurid Empire and the 600-year-old Ulag Beg observatory, one of the earliest Islamic astronomical observatories.

© Pexels/ AXP Photography

Colombia: Coffee and cloud forests 

From the vibrant streets of Bogotá to the lush Amazon rainforest and the beaches of the Caribbean coast, Colombia has something for everyone. History buffs can explore the colonial charm of Cartagena, with its well-preserved old town. Food lovers are in for a treat with a cuisine influenced by indigenous, Spanish, African, and even Middle Eastern flavours, and coffee that’s famed worldwide. There are beautiful beaches, and adventure lovers can paraglide in Medellín or trek through the cloud forests of the rugged Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

A woman holding a bowl of fruit
© Unsplash/Zan Ges

Costa Rica: Wild at heart 

Costa Rica is one of the most ecologically diverse countries on Earth, and its commitment to conservation is evident in its extensive network of protected areas. Traverse the Tortuguero National Park, or venture into Corcovado National Park, where you can spot elusive jaguars and tapirs. Look for sloths in the dense jungles of Manuel Antonio National Park, and traverse the mystical cloud forests of Monteverde, home to the strikingly coloured quetzal, the sacred bird of the ancient Mayas and Aztecs.

Read more: The best souvenirs to buy in every country

a yellow toucan
© Unsplash/ Zdenek Machacek

Cambodia: Temple run

The architectural marvels of Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap are Cambodia’s star attraction. The headliner is Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, with its intricate carvings, towering spires and reflective moat that leave visitors mesmerised. Other showstoppers include the delicate pink sandstone carvings of Banteay Srei; The Bayon, a labyrinthian complex of staircases, narrow paths and doorways leading to stunning bas – reliefs with 200 imposing giant stone faces; and atmospheric Ta Prohm, a breathtaking temple largely left to the clutches of the living, breathing jungle. Cambodia is among the best holiday destinations for engaging with history and culture.

Siem Reap
Siem Reap. © Unsplash/ Giulia Brochetto

The Ghan: The outback track 

Traverse the South Australian plains, rusty red MacDonnell Ranges and the tropical landscape of Katherine and Darwin on one of Australia’s most legendary train journeys, The Ghan. Regarded as one of the world’s greatest rail journeys, The Ghan began in the 1850s when Afghan cameleers traversed the inland desert loaded with goods. Now, it takes around 204 passengers, stopping at Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy on the north-south route, a 2,979-kilometre journey from Darwin through the Red Centre to Adelaide. As holiday destinations go, this is one of the most quintessentially Australian.

In Katherine, opt for a Nitmiluk Cruise and settle in an open-air boat, taking in the ancient scenery and the gorge with red high cliffs which contrast strikingly with the green foliage. Back on board, dine in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. Alice Springs offers five off-train experiences including the Simpsons Gap Discovery Walk, where there are explanations of Aboriginal Dreaming in a red cliff setting. Another favourite is the Standley Chasm Cultural Walk with its red-rock gorge and the ‘Uluru’ Fixed Wing Scenic Flight. In Coober Pedy, explore opals and underground houses, or see the Painted Hills and Lake Eyre from a scenic heli-flight.

The Ghan traverses the MacDonnell Ranges.
The Ghan traverses the MacDonnell Ranges. Photography by Andrew Gregory

Mexico: Sunken treasure

Hidden beneath the lush jungle canopy of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lies an ethereal realm where sunlight dances on turquoise waters as stalactites dangle gracefully overhead. Yucatan’s cenotes are a series of stunning freshwater sinkholes, scattered across the peninsula in their thousands, that hold sacred significance as sources of life and spirituality. Tulum, nestled along the stunning Riviera Maya, is home to the popular Gran Cenote, which enthralls visitors with its blend of caves, caverns, and an open-air cenote. You’ll also discover the captivating Cenote Dos Ojos, an irresistible magnet for divers, and Cenote Carwash, an awesome underwater world full of rocks, critters and plants, promising unforgettable adventures for those who dare to venture into their depths. The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the world’s most magical holiday destinations, perfect for travellers looking to experience nature in a new light.

Read more: The best restaurants for authentic Mexican fare

Yucatan cenotes, Mexico
© Unsplash/ The Free Birds

Jordan: Ancient Kingdom 

Embark on a mystical journey through the ancient city of Petra. Dating back to the fourth century BC, nestled between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in Jordan’s Wadi Musa, the once-great capital of the Nabataean Kingdom served as a critical trade route between Arabia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea. Today, what remains is a cornucopia of ancient tunnels, tombs and mighty temples. Step through the Siq, a narrow gorge of towering sandstone cliffs to Al Khazneh aka The Treasury, a 45-metre-high temple carved into the pink sandstone. Venture deeper into the Petra Archaeological Park to the Royal Tombs, the Monastery and for stunning views from the High Place of Sacrifice. Stay overnight in a Bedouin camp for the ultimate immersion.

Read more: Where the Middle East meets the West: Jordan

the historic site of Petra
© Unsplash/ Alex Vasey

Belfast, Ireland: Ship shape

There are few holiday destinations around the world whose fame is built upon a single ship, but it happens to be the number one attraction in this vibrant city. Belfast’s Titanic Experience has reopened after a multi-million-pound refurbishment. The reimagined attraction has four new galleries and a priceless display of 15 extremely rare artefacts from the ship. This is the site where the Titanic was built and launched – it is spine-tingling to be there. Elsewhere in Belfast, do a Black Taxi Political Murals Tour to learn about ‘the Troubles’, have an ale in a ‘snug’ at the beautiful Crown Liquor Saloon, and stroll around the Historic Linen Quarter.

Read more: 16 fascinating places in Ireland’s Ancient East

Sri Lanka: Adventure and serenity

Sri Lanka is a holiday destination with pristine beaches, cultural treasures and gastronomic delights, a tear-dropped paradise that’s equal parts adventure and serenity. Relax on the golden shores of Negombo or bathe in the turquoise waters of Mirissa, where palm-fringed beaches invite relaxation, and awe-inspiring sunsets paint the sky. Marvel at the intricate murals and centuries-old statues in the ancient cave temples of Dambulla or climb the many stairs up to the Sigiriya rock fortress. Nature lovers can embark on a wildlife safari to view herds of protected, free-roaming Asian elephants, or explore the island’s palm-fringed beaches. Intersperse your adventures with the tantalising flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine, an irresistible fusion of aromatic spices and fresh tropical ingredients.

The lush plateaus of sri lanka
© Unsplash/ Dylan Shaw

Macquarie Island, Tasmania: Subantarctic sojourn

Some 1,500 kilometres south-east of Tasmania lies Macquarie Island, a remote subantarctic location on the itineraries of many an expedition ship. The rugged landscapes, abundant wildlife and pristine beauty invite travellers to enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience. Known as the Galápagos of the Southern Oceans, armies of Royal, King and Gentoo Rockhopper penguins, as well as enormous Southern Royal Albatross and Northern Giant Petrels, and a host of marine mammals such as sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals await.

© Shutterstock/ Agami Photo Agency

India: Forts and festivals

Embark on an unforgettable adventure through a land of maharajas, medieval forts and kaleidoscopic festivals in India’s sun-dappled state of Rajasthan. From sharing a meal with a local family in Pushkar and strolling through bustling markets to searching for elusive Bengal tigers and exploring massive forts and opulent maharajas’ palaces, this northern Indian state offers extraordinary experiences. Udaipur, known as the ‘Venice of the East’, is a romantic city of shimmering lakes and exquisite marble palaces that will steal your heart. Immerse yourself in the culture of the sacred city of Pushkar, nestled on the border of the serene Pushkar Lake and the evocative Thar Desert. And for those seeking adventure, Ranthambhore National Park beckons with its thrilling tiger-spotting safaris.

Read more: How to spot the elusive snow leopard in India’s Ladakh

the steppes of Rajasthan
© Unsplash/ Rowan Heuvel

Holy Land: Spiritual marvel

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is an encounter with profound spirituality and timeless wonders. Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River, with Jerusalem’s centuries of history and spiritual significance at its heart, ancient narratives come alive. From the iconic Western Wall to the sacred Dome of the Rock, every corner of Jerusalem tells a tale. Traverse the narrow streets of the Old City, where vibrant marketplaces beckon with tantalising aromas and colourful wares. Walk in the footsteps of Jesus along the Via Dolorosa and find solace in the serene Garden of Gethsemane.

Read more: The legends of Jaffa, Israel

the golden domes of Jerusalem
© Unsplash/ Jorge Fernandez Salas

Seychelles: Sailing in paradise

Island hopping on a charter yacht is a great way to explore the Seychelles, which has 115 tropical islands in the sparkling Indian Ocean. Spend a few days exploring the glorious beaches and verdant forests on Mahé, before sailing to some of the Inner Islands, including Praslin – home to the UNESCO World Heritage Vallee de Mai. On La Digue, visit Anse Source D’Argent beach, often voted the most beautiful beach in the world, drop into Curieuse Island to see the ancient Aldabra giant tortoises, and spice up your trip with a visit to Félicité Island, where you can have lunch at the luxurious Six Senses Zil Pasyon Resort.

Read more: Sailing the Seychelles

White sand beach and aqua waters of seychelles
© Unsplash/ Christian Cacciamani

Salzburg, Austria: Music and history

There is no shortage of things to do in this elegant, historic place, with its crowning glory the Hohensalzburg fortress that has been standing sentinel over Salzburg since 1077. Walk up, or ride the funicular, to visit the museums and take in the incredible Old City views. Stroll down the beautiful Getreidegasse stopping in at Mozart’s birth house, and get your ‘do re mi’ on by visiting some of the Sound of Music locations, including Hellbrunn Palace to see the rotunda, and to have fun with the trick fountains.

Read more: The best Austrian castles and palaces to visit in summer

Salzburg at night
Images courtesy of Salzburg Tourism

Thailand: Snorkel, dive and swim

Thailand has a variety of holiday destinations for nature lovers and adventure seekers, such as Krabi’s turquoise waters, limestone cliffs, and lush forests beckon. Dig your toes into the pristine sand of Railay Beach, known for its rock climbing. Take a long-tail boat to the sublime Phi Phi Islands for snorkelling and diving. Hike through the jungles to uncover hidden waterfalls and caves and take a dip in the Emerald Pool and Hot Springs.

Read more: 10 of the best things to do in Thailand

The green coast and blue waters of Krabi coastline
© Unsplash/ Miltiadis fragkidis

Greenland: Journey into the ice age

A realm of untouched natural wonders and cultural richness, Greenland will leave travellers in awe. Surrounded by a vast network of glaciers and glittering fjords, one of the most immersive ways to explore the world’s largest island is on a Hurtigruten Greenland Expedition Cruise. Discover ancient Viking settlements, experience the tranquil beauty of Evighedsfjord, sail to Greenland’s photogenic capital, Nuuk, and explore Ilulissat, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed fjord known as the ‘birthplace of icebergs’, and embrace the vibrant Inuit culture that still thrives here. Whether your day sees you hiking along the rugged coast, partaking in the ancestral art of kayaking, or relaxing in the hot tub on board your expedition vessel, Hurtigruten ensures that travellers enjoy the utmost comfort and convenience.

Read more: Greenland: everything you need to know before you go

the icy waters of Norway
© Unsplash/ Visit Greenland

Norfolk Island, Australia: Slow down

The ruggedly beautiful Norfolk Island is a breath of fresh air a few hours’ flight from the East Coast of NSW. Unlike other holiday destinations in Australia, it has a rich history from Polynesian explorers to a convict settlement and bounty mutineers. Things are different on this island, it even has its own language, and rules – for instance, animals have right of way on the roads and it is considered rude not to do the Norfolk wave when driving past every car. As for things to do, soak up the beauty of Emily Bay, swim laps at Slaughter Bay, take in the sunset at Kingston, join the locals at the fish fry and just relax in what is a surprising destination that will win your heart.

Norfolk Island National Park
Photography by Norfolk Island National Park

Croatia: Hiking, biking and waterfalls

Croatia is not short of visitors in Dubrovnik, or on the island-hopping trips to places like Hvar, Brač and Korčula. For something a little different, sign up for a hiking and biking tour around Krka National Park and Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice is out of this world, with its 16 searingly blue lakes tumbling into each other amid the lush forest, and on a three-day ‘Detour Mini Adventure’ with Contiki, you’ll get off the tourist track with a local host. Hike the Plitvice Loop to chase waterfalls, explore by bike, and marvel at the Great Waterfall of Krka National Park.

Qatar: Souqs and sand dunes 

So much more than just a stopover, dazzling Qatar beckons with its hypnotic melding of ancient traditions and futuristic marvels. Steeped in tradition, this Arabian jewel, perched on the coast of the Persian Gulf, casts a spell on visitors with its architectural wonders, labyrinthian souqs, and caravans of camels crossing vast golden sand dunes. As the gleaming skyline of Doha rises, it mirrors the nation’s ambition and vision. From the silhouette of the incomparable Museum of Islamic Art to the graceful arches of the Imam Abdul Wahhab Masjid mosque, Qatar embraces progress as eagerly as it guards its rich heritage.

Read more: The ultimate guide to travelling Qatar solo

National Museum Qatar
The National Museum. © Qatar Tourism

The Cook Islands: The Jewel of the Pacific

The Cook Islands offers a captivating blend of remoteness, breathtaking beauty and an unwavering warmth of hospitality. This archipelago is home to the world’s most spectacular lagoon, Aitutaki Lagoon, which is regularly voted the most beautiful lagoon in the world. Expect to be immediately captivated by the hypnotic power of its mesmerising colours. Hop aboard a private cruise with Platinum Cruising to spot dolphins, a cornucopia of colourful fish and turtles swimming alongside. Stop for a snorkel and see coral gardens, enormous trevally, and giant clams with purple lips that quiver as clownfish swim by. At One Foot Island, enjoy a barbecue lunch on the white sand beach.

Check in to the Pacific Resort, set on a long stretch of sand and backdropped by rolling green volcanic hills. There are 27 beachfront plantation-style villas with expansive decks, from which the ocean is glimpsed through a flickering curtain of coco palms and casuarinas. The hotel’s Rapae Bay Restaurant is open-air to catch the island breezes. The menu speaks to the setting: think grilled scallops, ika mata (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), perfectly cooked mahi mahi, coconut and mango panna cotta. Everything is fresh, flavourful and wonderfully surprising. 

The 15 atolls, volcanic and limestone islands and sand quays of the Cooks are surrounded by waters home to more than 130 species of coral, 600 different types of fish, numerous species of threatened turtles, as well as engendered reef sharks, whales and dolphins. In Rarotonga, the capital, join Ariki Adventures for a ‘Sea Scooter Safari’ along the Avaavaroa Passage, a marine reserve where the Pacific and hawksbill turtles are so unfazed by humans they actively come to swim beside you while you potter around in the water.

A woman swimming with a turtle
Photography by Charlotte Piho

Norway: Love in the fjords

‘Friluftsliv’ means love of the outdoors in Norwegian, and the heart will be full after witnessing the bedazzling beauty of the fjords. Some of the best-known are Trollfjord, Geirangerfjord, Sognefjord and Lysefjord – with the dizzying Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) lookout far above not for the faint of heart. A wonderful way to meander through the fjords is on a Hurtigruten cruise, a Norwegian company with a rich history sailing these waters. Devour more scenery on the legendary Flåm Railway, or the Bergen Railway.

The cliffs of Norway
© Unsplash/ Valdemaras D

Paris, France: City of light 

Paris is undeniably one of the most famous holiday destinations in the world. Begin your exploration of the ‘City of Love’ at its architectural marvels such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre Museum, then discover the real magic of Paris in its bustling neighbourhoods. From the elegant shops and cafés of the Champs-Élysées to the trendy boutiques and art galleries of Le Marais and the bohemian ambience of the Latin Quarter, each area has its distinct character and allure. Paris will most definitely enchant you.

A view of the eiffel tower and a cafe in Paris
© Unsplash/ Ole Witt & Celina Ylmz

Western Australia: Wine and waves 

Margaret River is very well endowed when it comes to world-class wines, but it also has some of the best surf breaks in the world. This fertile region boasts more than 90 cellar doors, with headline acts like Vasse Felix, Leeuwin Estate and Cullen Wines, which is the first winery in Australia to be certified 100 per cent carbon neutral. To work off some of the fine food and wine, go for a surf at one of the 75 breaks, take a dip at an idyllic beach, go on a kayaking tour or sign up to hike the legendary Cape to Cape Track.

The Cape to Cape Track showcases incredible coastal views Margaret River.
The Cape to Cape Track, Margaret River.

Mongolia: A haven for nature enthusiasts 

With its raw beauty and rich cultural heritage, Mongolia is one of the best holiday destinations for nature enthusiasts, with breathtaking landscapes that range from the shifting dunes of the Gobi Desert to the soaring peaks of the Altai Mountains. Visitors can delve into Mongolia’s history, from the dynamic modern capital of Ulaanbaatar to the ancient ruins of Karakorum. Stunningly beautiful Altai Tavan Bogd National Park also unveils historic treasures, including rock carvings of stone men and encounters with Kazakh and Tuva nomadic traditions. Stay in a traditional ger camp, ride horses across vast steppes, and share in the warm hospitality of local herders. Don’t miss the awe-inspiring Golden Eagle Festival, where eagle hunters demonstrate their traditional skills.

An eagle landing on a man's arm
© Unsplash/ Lightscape

Samoa: Pacific island escape 

With its emerald ocean, lush jungle and dramatic waterfalls, nature abounds in Samoa. Spend your days hiking, biking, fishing and swimming, or laughing with the locals – it’s a pastime here. Visit To Sua on the island of Upolu to be the envy of your friends. The colours at this 30-metre swimming hole are so vibrant it’s as if a child has taken to it with textas. Once you’ve filled your phone with photos, dive into the pool’s cave which leads to the sea, where you’ll find a small beach known as Fagaoneone. For those who prefer to be on the water rather than in it, go paddle boarding or kayaking, and when the surf’s up, take out a board. When rest calls, head to the adults-only Seabreeze Resort Samoa on the southeast coast of Upolu nestled in a small, sandy bay. Choose a beachfront villa with waterfront decks and views of the lagoon. Tropical holiday destinations never looked so good.

Samoa To Sua Ocean Trench
© Samoa Tourism

Dunedin, New Zealand: Beaches, art and wildlife 

Dunedin’s gothic-style urban landscape is reminiscent of Edinburgh. There’s eye-popping street art that could leave even New York (spray-painted) green with envy, and the beaches are so blue you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the tropics – if the wetsuit-clad surfers weren’t already a giveaway. Add a wealth of gob-smacking wildlife and a culinary scene that’s all class, and the second-largest city in New Zealand’s South Island has beckoned me back for yet another taste of its many delights. 

Flanking Dunedin’s stunning harbour, Otago Peninsula is a natural sanctuary for endangered species – it was described by David Attenborough as a “unique and very special place”. Visit the Royal Albatross Centre, Penguin Place and Orokonui Ecosanctuary. While Dunedin’s natural offerings are undeniably awesome, the city’s heritage treasures are equally captivating. The grand Dunedin Railway Station stands as a testament to the city’s Victorian and Edwardian past, with its intricate architecture and elegant façade. Stroll through the charming streets to discover an array of historic buildings, including the spectacular St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Read more: The best things to do in Dunedin

Larnach Castle, Dunedin
Larnach Castle © Enterprise Dunedin

Lake Bled, Slovenia: Castles, history and natural beauty 

There are few holiday destinations that can match Lake Bled for jaw-dropping beauty. From the moment you see the pure, blue-green-hued freshwater lake, with its crowning glory of Bled Castle sitting high on a cliff, and tiny Bled Island, with its church atop a pimple of green, you can’t stop looking at it. Located in Slovenia, Lake Bled is a postcard for this green country. Take in the views from the historic castle, go in a traditional pletna boat out to the island to climb the stairs to the church, swim in the crystal clear waters of the lake and enjoy the classic sweet of Lake Bled, the kremšnita – Lake Bled Cream Cake. Similar to a vanilla slice, it was invented at Bled’s Hotel Park in 1953, where you can still buy one. A tip – visit Bled in June before the summer rush.

Read more: 25 slow travel experiences to transform your journey

Aerial view of lake bled, Slovenia
© Unsplash/ Arnaud Steckle

Madagascar: Animal planet

If you’ve ever seen the animated series of Madagascar movies, you’ll already love this wild island. While the lemurs you come across won’t be the singing, dancing kind, there are 110 species of tree-dwelling lemurs on the island. One of the best places to see the brown lemur is at Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, most easily accessed from Morondava, a town worth visiting for its incredible Avenue of the Baobabs, a stretch of road lined with gigantic Grandidier’s baobab trees.

A lemur swinging through the trees
© Shutterstock/ Martin Mecnarowski

New York, USA: Big Apple bites 

Ah New York, there is nothing like it. This big, beautiful metropolis heaves with people from all over the globe and has an energy that is palpable. From the glittering lights of Times Square to the quiet of The Ramble in Central Park and the pizzazz of one of the many Broadway shows, there is something for everyone in this city. Take in the views over Manhattan from the traditional observatories or add an adrenaline rush to the vista at the new City Climb at The Edge – the highest outdoor building ascent in the world at 102 storeys high. To avoid crowds, go in winter, when you can skate on the Wollman Rink in Central Park, gaze at the mesmerising holiday lights, go museum hopping, and visit the new Broadway Museum.

New York city skyline
© Unsplash/ Hannah Busing

Oklahoma, USA: The heritage highway

To feel truly connected to a place, you need to understand its culture. And in Oklahoma, nurturing the rich heritage of 39 First American Nation tribal headquarters is something it takes seriously. Hit the road and you’ll not only be able to take in its varied, breathtaking scenery, but you’ll have a whole new understanding of what defines this incredible state’s identity. Begin your cultural journey at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City. Here, you can step inside a magical ‘pop-up book world’ where you’ll discover hands-on activities, physical challenges and media-rich interactive displays. An hour and a half drive south in Davis is the Chickasaw Cultural Center, one of the largest tribal cultural centres in the United States. Drive another 90 minutes south to Calera and you’ll find the Choctaw Cultural Center. Dedicated to exploring, preserving and showcasing the culture and history of the Choctaw people, exhibits are immersive and told from the perspective of this tribe.

Read more: Unmissable stops on an Oklahoma road trip

Red car driving route 66
© Oklahoma Tourism/ Lori Duckworth

Italy: Authentic food and flavours

For an authentic Italian experience away from the tourist throngs, say ciao to Piedmont. Pedal through the picturesque Colli Tortonesi region, cycling in the footsteps of Fausto Coppi. Explore Lago D’Orta’s tranquil beauty and the historic villas on Lake Maggiore’s Borromean islands. Tour the stunning museums of Torino or ski the piste of Monte Rosa. The home of Nutella and Lavazza coffee, Piedmont is also the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement. Pop into historic cafés around Turin’s elegant squares and grand palaces to savour the velvety richness of bicerin, or venture into the vine-laden hills of Langhe to enjoy fragrant treasures, truffles, foraged straight from the forests of Pedemontis. As far as holiday destinations go, this is by far the most delicious!

piedmont island
© Unsplash/ Fabio Fistarol

Botswana, South Africa: Safari in style 

Experience the breathtaking beauty and bountiful wildlife of Africa’s best-kept secret, Botswana, with Safari in Style’s expert African guides. View Southern Africa’s incomparable wildlife on game drives and guided bushwalks through the country’s vast savannahs and the Kalahari Desert, and scenic river safaris through the remarkably biodiverse Okavango Delta by traditional dugout canoe. Gaze in awe at the thundering might of Victoria Falls and glide along the Zambezi River past pods of bathing hippos on a relaxing sunset cruise, sundowner in hand. Safari In Style’s small group tours offer accommodation that ranges from classic luxury tents to a lavish tree house built into the riverside canopy.

Two giraffes in Botswana
© Unsplash/ Thomas Evans

Milos, Greece: The island of lovers 

From the absurdly blue waters of the Aegean climbs a cluster of white houses tied up in a tangle of vivid pink bougainvillea. Consider skipping the crowded islands of Santorini and Mykonos for Milos, an island so beautiful you might think it was a gift from Greece’s gods. Known as the Island of Lovers, its white moonscapes are scattered with domed Byzantine churches, charming tavernas, colourful fishing huts and fairytale windmills. Venture to Sarakiniko, a lunar-like beach with captivating white cliffs that tumble into luminous blue waters. Explore ancient catacombs and marvel at the Venus de Milo statue at the Archaeological Museum. And don’t forget to leave time to linger on fresh seafood and traditional Greek cuisine.

Read more: A guide to Milos, Greece

Island of Milos, Greece
© Shutterstock/ Sven Hansche

Washington State, USA: Sweet escape

Tucked into the northwest corner of the USA in Washington State, Seattle is surrounded by natural beauty, wine country and myriad experiences. In the city, visit sights such as the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Puget Sound, Lake Union, the Museum of Pop Culture, and Chihuly Garden and Glass. Beyond Seattle, visitors will find three national parks: the Olympic National Park and its UNESCO Heritage-listed Hoh Rain Forest, the North Cascades National Park, and Mt. Rainier National Park. Discover the rainforests, the highest mountain peaks in the lower 48 states, and kilometres of rugged beaches and quiet waterways. For those who appreciate a fine drop, Washington happens to be the USA’s second-biggest wine region and biggest producer of hops. Yet, Washington State still has that glorious best-kept secret feel. And then, there are the islands.

seattle skyline

A 20-minute ferry ride (or a couple of hours’ drive) away, Whidbey Island is a weekend playground for Seattleites. Often described as ‘the shortest distance to far away’, it’s the type of place people gaze longingly into real estate windows. Think rolling hills dotted with red barns interlaced with tracts of primeval forests tumbling onto driftwood-laden beaches, and villages lined with one-off shops and art galleries. Home to a thriving foodie culture, it’s a matter of pointing the car in any direction and exploring. Further afield, Friday Harbor is the central hub of the San Juan Islands, a chain of more than 170 named islands dotted across the northern most reaches of Puget Sound. Accessed by ferry or light plane, it’s one of the best places in the world to see orcas in the wild and a magnet for nature-loving travellers. Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island and Camano Island are also dotted across Puget Sound and Salish Sea, and are easy to reach from Seattle by ferry.

Read more: How to see the film locations from Sleepless in Seattle

whidbey island road

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