In the age of air-travel, the “World is Yours” has gone from a vague, good-intentioned promise to a fact. This time tomorrow morning, you could be waking up among the chattering birds of Costa Rica, by a serene Ecuadorian Lake, or in north-west India, where dazzling temples and mighty fortresses compete for attention. Look at the far-flung locations you could be visiting (on a discount), if only you broadened your horizons…
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, which means that wherever you go, you’re likely to encounter some incredible wildlife. In a country where you’re almost always surrounded by volcanoes, tropical rainforests, dry plains, sandy beaches and giant forests, every day really is an adventure. Head to the coffee plantations if you fancy the sort of gourmet coffee money can’t buy, or ascend into the canopies by the Arenal Hanging bridges, where you can walk eye-level with monkeys, sloths and exotic birds.
Stay at a 17th century hacienda (once owned by King Phillip III of Spain), fill up on local treats like Llapingachos (cheesy potato cakes), or try your skills on a handmade Equadorian flute – there’s plenty to do in Ecuador. Especially in the UNESCO World Heritage capital city of Quito, which straddles both northern and southern hemispheres. But beauty-seekers should head towards either Limpiopungo Lake or board the Devil’s Nose Train, which snakes its way around the country’s dizzying topography – a real engineering feat!
Home to the largest number of billionaires in the world, Moscow and St Petersburg combine beauty and power in the most magnificent ways. Go to The Hermitage if you want to experience one of the world’s largest museums; visit Red Square for an iconic cityscape; or stop by the Kremlin for a royal citadel that today doubles as the beating heart of Russian politics. Elsewhere, the ballet, the opera and folk music are all world-class. In fact, everywhere culture and creativity froths and bubbles away, leaving visitors spoilt for landmarks.
With bustling cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, as well as the beautiful islands of Halong Bay, Vietnam is one of the most photogenic countries in the world. See water puppets, drive through green rice paddy fields or board a traditional Junk sailing boat – the options are endless. Some of the country’s architectural highlights include the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Thanh Chuong Palace and the Thien Mu Pagoda. And to relax after a day’s sightseeing, why not practice some T’ai Chi with an expert to bring a sense of poise and equanimity into your life.
Enjoy traditional Japanese sushi, visit a temple (like Kinkakuji) or see one of the most gorgeous mountains in the world (Fuji). This fascinating country offers enormous eclectic cities, fascinating museums and countryside that leaves all its visitors enraptured. A technological hegemon on the one hand, but also full of people who are polite to a fault and generous too, Japan hits almost every button. Therefore, if traditional villages, snow-capped mountains and coastal beauty tops your wish-list, the Land of the Rising Sun is one of the few places that offers it all.
From the colonial grandeur of New Delhi to the shimmering lakes of Udaipur, India is a real head-turner. Whether one strolls through bazaars selling spices and saris, or takes a tuktuk to a palatial temple, the country caters for visitors of both a relaxed or energetic nature. Make a beeline for the Amber Fort if you want a marvellous example of Rajput architecture, or the Taj Mahal if you want a sunrise to remember. Built by an emperor to remember his beloved wife, it’s the epitome of romance.
Image Credits: Rio Celeste Waterfall © iStock/billberryphotography. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception © iStock/mdmworks. St Basil’s © iStock/delpixart. Vietnam Street Market © iStock/laughingmango. Mt Fuji © iStock/ngkaki. Woman in Amber Fort © iStock/guillermo1956.