Try a road less travelled in 2017 with these not-so-common summer holiday destinations
It’s time to pack up the office and soak up some sunshine. If you’re after a summer trip with a difference, try these 14 unconventional warm(ish) weather destinations on for size.
Ringed by mountains and nestled deep in an emerald valley, Medellin has long shaken off its Pablo Escobar days, growing into a vibrant, cosmopolitan jewel of a city. Brand new infrastructure, including a metro system, hillside gondolas, parks and museums speak to its rich cultural heart. Nicknamed the “City of Everlasting Spring”, it offers up perfect weather all year round, and you’ll want to squeeze the most out of every day.
El Poblado’s Parque Lleras, a park with a perimeter of bars and restaurants, is where you want to be in the evenings – even if you’ll feel distinctly underdressed. Visit in August to check out the famed Feria de las Flores – the Flower Festival.
Recommended hotel: Art Hotel Boutique (rates start at 184, 531 COP [$80] per night)Find a flight to Medellin
Forming the arch of Italy’s boot, Basilicata is draped with forests and mountains and kissed by the warm Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. Its blissfully quiet countryside is studded with tiny villages and the remnants of volcanic activity. Lake Grande and Piccolo sparkle at the base of the extinct Mount Vulture; the nearby Monticchio frazione is famous for its mineral waters.
Marvel at the Sassi di Matera, ancient dwellings thought to be the oldest in Italy, and explore Ancient Greek and Roman ruins in the towbnsns of Armento and Venosa. Turn back the clock further still with a dinosaur excavation site in Atella – or visit a museum in a castle in Melfi.
About 3km north of mainland Noord-Holland, Texel is the largest of the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands – and it’s a dune-smothered beach wonderland. White-sand beaches engulf a heart of wilderness reserves and forests, with the occasional village thrown in. With horse-riding, kite surfing and salt marsh hiking galore, it’s a fitness-lover’s paradise, and there’s plenty to entertain the family.
Head to Ecomare, where you can watch seals and porpoises being fed, then check out the Shipwreck and Beachcomber museum to see what’s made it ashore – or otherwise – over the years. Snap a picture with the vivid red lighthouse at the island’s far north; climb its 153 steps to marvel at the view from the top.
Recommended hotel: De Pelikaan Texel (rates start at €69 [$87] per night)Find a flight to nearby Amsterdam
At a literal crossroads between the scenic William Tell and Bernina railways expresses, Lugano is Switzerland with a laid-back Mediterranean vibe. Italian-speaking and with a holiday-friendly mix of boutique shopping, boat cruising and funicular-riding, it’s a relaxed spot for a quick weekend away. Brimming with cafés, bars and promenades, the old town hugs Lake Lugano, magnificent against its mountainous backdrop.
Indulge your passion for cocoa at the Museo del Cioccolato Alprose, then grab a coffee at the Grand Café al Porto, which opened in 1803 – the year Ticino joined the Swiss Federation. Stroll City Park with its centrepiece Villa Ciani, a fine arts museum, and check out the town’s quirky Mario Botta-designed Cherry Building – a pink commercial office with a cherry tree on top.
Recommended hotel: Continental Parkhotel Lugano (rates start at 96 CHF [$132] per night)Find a flight to Lugano
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Stretch out your vacation days in the land of the midnight sun. Norway’s Lofoten Islands are a craggy cluster of windswept wonder topped with the quaint red cabins and bobbing boats of its old-timey fishing community. The Hurtigruten ferry chugs between the islands from the main port of Svolvær, and there’s plenty of hill hiking, dune strolling, kayaking and cycling to keep you busy.
The rugged land soars above you, offering magnificent glimpses of rocky landscapes, including Fløya, and a pale sea cruised by sperm whales. Go deep-sea fishing in the world’s largest cold-water reef and snack on the codfish (klippfisk) you’ll see drying in the open air.
Recommended hotel: Best Western Lofoten Hotell (rates start at 780 NOK [$129] per night)Find a flight to nearby Leknes
Ringed by massive stone walls and looming mountains, the red-capped city of Kotor feels protected against the march of time. About an hour south of Dubrovnik, it’s a UNESCO-listed medieval masterpiece with an abundant heritage. Churches dating back to the 12th century bristle among its narrow streets, with other highlights including a Prince’s Palace and Napoleon’s Theatre.
Grab a stuffed burek to snack on while you explore, take your time over a coffee al fresco, or book a cruise around the far-too-beautiful bay. It’s as sleepy as can be during the day, but the lights come on at night – along with a bar, club and live music scene that’ll surprise you.
Recommended hotel: Vila Panonija Hotel (rates start at €59 [$85] per night)Find a flight to nearby Tivat
Duck across the Morbihan Gulf to an island paradise measuring just a few kilometres in all directions – and home to just a few hundred people. Tranquil, low-key and picturesque, it’s perfect for a lazy day or two away from it all. Tiny white traditional houses and vanishingly small bars and boutiques line the narrow alleyways of the built-up area around the port.
As you head further south, the cobblestones give way to fig tree-lined bicycle paths. Catch some rays at the Grande Plage and at the beach near Goret, or delve into history with Neolithic sites like the set of standing stones at the Cromlech de Kergonan or the Dolmen of Pen Hap, dating back 5,000 years. The entire island is free of cars, so breathe deeply and enjoy that clean air.
Recommended hotel: Kerisa (rates start at €119 [$178] per night)Find a flight to Paris
Think Tuscany without the tourists. Calmly located in Spain’s Aragon, Matarraña blooms with olive trees, vineyards and pine forests. It’s just three hours from Barcelona, but feels a world away. Ancient, tiny towns perch like mountain goats on the hillsides, ibex roam about, and cave paintings and prehistoric settlements lurk waiting to be surveyed.
Explore Puertos de Beceite Natural Park, cycle La Via Verde – the abandoned railway line that cuts through the region – and cool off at the El Salt waterfall in La Portedella. Refuel by nibbling on cured ham, goat’s cheese and walnuts – and toss back some local wine. It’s the perfect spot for doing absolutely nothing.
Recommended hotel: Hotel del Sitjar (rates start at €89 [$132] per night)Find a flight to Valencia
Presiding over the massive Müritz lake in northern Germany, Waren is an out-of-the-way spot a few hours from Berlin. A ghost town just a few years ago, it’s suddenly bursting with activity: a new marina and a profusion of new hotels and restaurants mean you’ll have plenty to keep yourself entertained – but at the same time, the area’s natural beauty has been left well enough alone.
Explore the nearby national park, bursting with eagles and ospreys, or saunter through the cobblestone streets of the red-roofed old town – be sure to stop off for some fish-stuffed bread rolls and Italian-style ice-cream. Visit the discovery centre, Müritzeum, for some insight into the region and book in for a steamboat cruise.
Recommended hotel: Hotel Am Tiefwarensee (rates start at €58 [$85] per night)Find a flight to nearby Berlin
Faroe Islands, Denmark
Wedged between Norway and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are known for their isolated wonder. But this famously rainy archipelago full of rocky gorges and lush valleys is an annual summer destination for music lovers. Every year the three-day G! Festival descends, swelling the population of the tiny grass-roofed town of Fuglafjørður, the capital of mountainous Eysturoy, from a few hundred to the thousands.
Head to the beach for live performances – and for a soak in the hot tub and saunas conveniently set up on the sand. Chill with more tunes at the Summarfestivalurin in Klaksvík, and drive the twisty one-lane roads in search of the endless classical and folk concerts held throughout the islands all summer.
Recommended hotel: Hotel Tórshavn (rates start at 1089 DKK [$216] per night)Find a flight to Faroe Islands
Joining the EU has put Croatia on the map – and its capital Zagreb is living up to its newfound fame. But never fear: its quaint, historic charm remains despite the new bars, restaurants and boutique clothing stores. Stroll Maksimir Park, drink in the soaring spires of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and snack on farm-fresh food at the Dolac Market.
Kids will love a visit to the Museum of Illusion, and horror movie buffs a trip to the Tortureum; jilted lovers will empathise with the displays at the Museum of Broken Relationships. Travel from Upper and Lower Zagreb via the funicular railway – dating back to 1888 – or escape the heat and explore the city’s literal underworld with a stroll through the Grič Tunnel.
Recommended hotel: Palace Hotel Zagreb (rates start at 500 HRK [$99] per night)Find a flight to Zagreb
Victoria, BC, Canada
Snuggled in on Vancouver Island, Victoria melds the old and the new with mild-mannered charm. Its formal buildings, London-esque double-decker buses, stunning flower gardens and tearooms all speak to its British heritage – all in tandem with the outdoorsy beauty of Canada. Explore the Parliament Buildings and the Royal British Columbia Museum in the Inner Harbour, then put your arms to work with a kayak tour from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Take the kids to the Victoria Bug Zoo or Miniature World; drag historians to the magnificent Craigdarroch Castle or the fancy Fairmont Empress Hotel for tea and scones. Wine lovers should set aside some time for a day-trip to Cowichan Valley.
Recommended hotel: Royal Scot Hotel & Suites (rates start at 149 CAD [$149] per night)Find a flight to Victoria
What better place for a summer holiday than a jaunt to the self-proclaimed City of Sunshine? Nestled on the banks of the Tisza, Szeged is a laid-back university town lined with al fresco cafés and featuring surprise palaces and cathedrals. Stroll the Stefania promenade for exquisite river views, and nod along to the strains of the musical fountain at Dugonics Square.
Warm weather wine, beer and music festivals make it easy to fill your days; in the evening Dóm tér, the city’s main square, transforms into a massive open-air stage with shows playing every night. Try Szeged’s very own Pick salami – so famous it has its own museum – and halászcsárda, a type of fish soup. Public transportation abounds, so use the trolibusz or the autóbusz to get around.
Recommended hotel: Novotel Szeged (rates start at 14,022 HUF [$65] per night)Find a flight to Budapest
Papua New Guinea
Make your summer a far-flung, adventurous one and jet-set off to the shambolic jungles of PNG. Largely untouched by tourism, it’s a destination for travellers who don’t mind planning their own itineraries. Damp and mountainous, it’s brimming with an amazing array of odd and wondrous wildlife, and its local communities still maintain their long-held traditions.
The siren song of the Kokoda trail will call intrepid adventurers, but it’s definitely a trek for the experienced. Amidst the rain-drenched canopies and jungle-clad highlands you’ll find the hustle and bustle of Port Moresby, a sprawling city with a gritty charm all of its own.
Recommended hotel: Kokopo Beach Bungalow Hotel (rates start at 557 PGK [$235] per night)Find a flight to Papua New Guinea