We all know the tried-and-tested resorts that holidaymakers will always flock to - the French countryside, the popular beaches of southern Spain, or the Disney-led charms of Florida. But if you'd like to strike out to a more unusual travel destination this year, read on for some offbeat inspirations!
Up on the northern coast of Norway and sitting inside the Arctic Circle, Tromso is a spectacular place to visit in summer or winter. Visit between mid-May and mid-July and you'll be in the land of the midnight sun, with 24-hour daylight for the whole of the short summer season. Fishing, kayaking, cycling and hiking in the Lyngen mountains are all popular activities in the Arctic summer. But the real magic takes place in winter - with its northern location and unpolluted skies, Tromso is one of the best places in Europe to view the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. For the best chance of seeing it, head out to the city between November and April, when you can also try your hand at husky sledding or cross-country skiing. Perfect for an alternative Christmas break.
Sitting between Indonesia and Malaysia in the South China Sea, Borneo is often overlooked by travellers to East Asia, but its rainforests are home to a variety of wildlife comparable to the much more touristed savannahs of Kenya and South Africa. Here you can spot orangutans, gibbons, macaques and pygmy elephants just eight feet tall. You can also take a boat trip out to Selingan Island to see green and hawksbill turtles laying their eggs at night, visit the Mulu Caves with its stunning canopy walkway, or simply relax on the white sand beaches of Dalit Bay. Bring a camera with lots of storage; Borneo is an extremely photogenic place to spend a week. Flights to Borneo involve a change in either Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Hong Kong, so you might want to make this part of a longer trip to the Far East. Borneo's wet season is November to February, so the best time to visit is outside this period - unusually for southeast Asia, summer is a good time to go.
The Canadian Rockies
Why fly over the majestic beauty of Canada's 3,000-mile long Rocky Mountain range when you can explore them in detail and at your leisure on a railway tour? Explore the parks of Banff, Jasper and Whistler or even (if you're in the mood for a truly epic voyage) all the way from Vancouver to Halifax in Nova Scotia. A luxurious and eco-friendly way to take in some truly breathtaking mountain scenery. May to September is the best time to visit Canada (unless you're heading out for the ski season). Rocky Mountaineer packages can be booked from a number of major cities including Vancouver, Toronto, and Seattle in the US and can even be combined with an Alaskan cruise!
If you're fond of island-hopping but bored of Greece, the ten islands of the Cape Verde chain in the Atlantic Ocean offer a whole range of stunning volcanic locations where you can dive, sail, trek in the mountains or simply relax on the unspoiled sandy beaches. Located just off the coast of Senegal, Cape Verde was colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th century - and African influences can be found in the music, food and culture of the islands. Fresh-caught fish and seafood are Cape Verde staples, simply grilled or cooked in tasty stews. Temperatures in the archipelago are warm year round, making Cape Verde an ideal place to head for winter sun, and there are regular flights from London Gatwick to the airports on Sal, Praia and Boa Vista.
Most visitors to Scotland head to the urban centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow, often during the August festival period. While these cities have their undeniable charms, Scotland has much more to offer from the rugged beauty of the Western Highlands and the Trossachs, to the unspoiled islands of Jura and Islay, the Queen of the Hebrides. Here you can tour the island's eight working distilleries, learn about the whisky-making process and sample to your heart's (if not your liver's) content. Islay is also a fantastic place for bird-watching, so bring your binoculars. Start your trip with a scenic drive past Loch Lomond and a short ferry ride across to the island. June to August is the most pleasant time of year to visit although the Gulf Stream keeps the weather mild year-round.
Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.Top