Skip the usual tourist hot spots for one of these cooler places off the beaten path.
1. Komodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo Island is a go-to retreat for those who can’t stand over-commercialised tourist spots, as the Indonesian island is uninterrupted by corporate hotel chains and tourist traps. The island, which is the natural habitat of the Komodo dragon (aka the largest lizard on Earth), is filled with beautiful pink beaches, untouched coral reefs and picturesque views. Whether you dine on some incredibly fresh fish, quench your thirst with raw coconut water or explore the island on a hiking trail, one thing’s for sure – this will be an incredible experience you won’t forget.
(Source: jon hanson from London/Wikipedia)
2. Redang Island, Malaysia
Located near the Malaysian state of Terengganu, Redang Island is famous for its crystal clear waters and endless white beaches. As the island lies in protected marine waters, it is a paradise for divers who want to explore the untouched marine life in the area. Not many flights fly directly to the island, but you can take a ferry there from Kuala Terengganu – sure, it may be a bit more troublesome, but that only means the island won’t be overrun with noisy tourists no?
(Source: The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort Facebook)
3. Karuizawa, Japan
The next time you are in Tokyo, schedule a few days in Karuizawa for a different sort of experience. The upmarket mountain resort town is located about 170 km from Tokyo, and often provides city dwellers with some respite from the hustle and bustle. Besides exploring the town’s many nature-related attractions, visitors can also enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, tennis, hiking and cycling. Skiing and soaking in one of the many hot springs are also popular activities during winter.
(Source: UNIQ Hotels Karuizawa)
4. Taupo, New Zealand
The cozy town of Taupo, which is located in New Zealand’s North Island, is perfect for those in need of a nature retreat. The lake town is known for its ridiculously fresh air, dramatically beautiful waterfalls and unique hot springs. Adrenaline-seekers can go skydiving, rafting or even hop on a boat to explore the Maori rock carvings. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, be sure to catch the helicopter tour of filming locations in the area (we hear this is where they shot the Mordor scenes at).
5. Busan, South Korea
Known for its colourful beaches, cultural villages and historic temples, Busan is an interesting alternative to its more well-known counterpart Seoul. The seaside city, which is located in the southeastern tip of Korea, has a more laid-back vibe and is home to many of the country’s best cultural attractions and historic landmarks. From bustling markets with fresh seafood to unintentionally hipster villages, Busan has plenty of options to satiate your wanderlust.
(Source: Ten Slides YouTube Channel)
6. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Despite being the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is often overlooked for its more well-known cousin Dubai. However, the city exudes a refined glamour with its upscale galleries, world-class amusement parks and beautiful architecture. Art lovers will love the Etihad Antiques Gallery, Louvre (yes, there is one there!) and the Etihad Modern Art Gallery, while shoppers will love the traditional coffee shops, spices, abayas and perfume in the souks (local marketplace). If you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of Abu Dhabi, hit up the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace for some truly Instaworthy photos.
(Source: Visit Abu Dhabi Facebook)
7. Vienna, Austria
You may not be able to hear the Sound of Music, but you sure can experience the beauty of this old Austrian treasure – especially if you’re a history buff or museum geek. Explore the history of post-Impressionist art at the Secession Building, then work your way back in time at the Kunsthistoriches Museum and Albertina for some great throwbacks to early 20th century classical Greece.
You can also realise your childhood dream of being a princess at the Schonbrunn Palace, which is…what’s the term that kids use these days? Oh yes, extra. The Schonbrunn Palace is very extra.
If you happen to visit between mid-November to Christmas Day, be sure to check out the Christmas market, which is a chock-full of festive fun.
8. Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, which means “the Five Lands”, is located on the coast of the Italian Rivieria. The quaint town, which used to consist of five fishing communities, boasts a quiet isolation that is rare in today’s modern cities. The architecture of the buildings and roads remain mostly unchanged, while the surrounding waters are almost too perfect to comprehend. Perhaps this just might be paradise on Earth?