Holidays can be two-a-penny when you live in Hong Kong – some people seem to jet in and out on an almost monthly basis. With such hectic schedules, it’s often difficult to turn down destinations like Phuket, Bali and the Maldives in favour of more off-the-beaten-track locales. However, there are definitely a handful of places that warrant shelving your Koh Samui villa and hopping on a flight (or two, or sometimes three!) to experience these quieter, out-of-the-way spots that haven’t been inundated by mainstream tourism – yet. We asked the experts at Lightfoot Travel to pinpoint five such destinations.
Given that it’s one of the few remaining socialist outposts, Cuba has a unique and authentic atmosphere – one you won’t find elsewhere. With the thawing of US-Cuba relations, tourism is already increasing as word gets out that the country will likely change quite rapidly in the coming years. At present, Cuba is a 1950s time-capsule: colourful colonial buildings, classic US cars, few ATMs or credit cards, and horses pulling carts along the cobbled streets. Roads and buildings will soon be spruced up, and while this will no doubt be a welcome change for many, for travellers looking to experience the Cuba of Hemingway and Che, you’d better hop on that indirect flight, ASAP!
Despite the rapid changes and opening up that have taken place within the country since the release of politician Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010, Myanmar has still managed to avoid the hordes of tourists that have tramped through the rest of Indochina. Yangon is often the first stop on any itinerary, with its rough-and-tumble colonial buildings, jade markets, and local Burmese wearing thanaka – a yellowish cosmetic paste made from ground bark. In mystical Bagan, it’s often still possible to explore temples in complete isolation (unheard of in places like Cambodia’s Angkor), and Inle Lake’s floating market is the real deal, not set up just to bring in tourists. The big hotel chains are already moving in, and with them will come crowds and a more more commercial approach to what is now still considered fairly authentic travel.
Antarctica is the talk of the town, and Hong Kong visitor numbers to the white continent are increasing considerably. One reason why it’s highly coveted is the exclusivity factor – only a limited number of ice-strengthened ships can sail to Antarctica each season. Another draw is the unrivalled wildlife experience: penguins, whales, seals, sea lions and countless sea and shore birds. Scientists have long warned that the white continent is melting, and while it won’t thaw out entirely within our lifetime, there will be stricter controls on tourism numbers in the near future. We recommend avoiding typical cruises, as the experience can’t match an expedition voyage aboard a smaller ship. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of commercial tourism to Antarctica, which is sure to boost interest – even more reason to get there now!
Until recently, the Land of the Thunder Dragon was one of the most isolated countries on earth. Tourist numbers are limited, and the minimum daily spend of US$250 acts as somewhat of a deterrent in itself. The colourful festivals that the country is famous for are still very much for local Bhutanese; they’re not staged as a way of showcasing the country’s “authenticity” for foreigners. You can still visit monasteries with virtually no other tourists (some don’t even allow non-Bhutanese), and there are many remote villages you can get to if you’re keen on really going out of the way. While there, you’ll get a sense that you’re visiting someone else’s land as they go about their daily lives.
5. Sri Lanka
This little teardrop-shaped island definitely has its fair share of tourists, yet it still retains so much charm and character, unchartered areas ripe for exploring. Ride one of the old colonial British trains as it chugs up into hill country, sitting on the steps of the open car doorways, watching the tea plantations roll by. Hike up to Adam’s Peak at dawn during the pilgrimage season (December to May). Journey to the northernmost tip of the country, only just opening up after the end of the civil war in 2009, and explore the historic city of Jaffna. Or just sit on the ramparts of Galle Fort at twilight, with children playing cricket and flying kites, and watch a spectacular sunset unfold over the Indian Ocean.
Lightfoot Travel specialises in family holidays, honeymoons, corporate travel and private villas in countries spanning six continents. For tailor-made itineraries, contact them at 2815 0068 or visit lightfoottravel.com.