“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton
Summer is almost upon us and for many, that means thinking about our yearly vacation. The budget airline revolution and strong US dollar have made it more affordable than ever to take that dream trip. So where should you go? Whether you’re a lay on the beach type or a cultural city explorer, this list has something for everyone. Here are 7 excellent places to blow off steam.
Alta Duoro Portugal
The oft-forgotten gem of Western Europe, Portugal has rebounded financially since the global recession. The capital, Lisbon, is in the midst of a gastronomic revolution, making the most of fabulous fresh fish and local products of the lush Mediterranean climate.
Lisbon is a city of contrast, in which, the sublime black and white tilework clashes with red clay rooftops and the vibrant azure of the Rio Tejo delta.
To the south, the stunning grottos of the Algarve are dotted with secretive beaches.
In the North, you’ll find Porto at the mouth of the river Douro. The birthplace of Port wine and home to some the world’s best vintners. A Douro valley cruise is a must for true wine enthusiasts, and a delightful journey for all.
Overall, Portugal has a ton to offer in a tiny compact (affordable) package.
2. Croatian Coast
Croatia’s tourism industry is just before the fever pitch. With a little help from Game of Thrones, Westerners are finally flocking to the gem of the Adriatic. The picturesque castle of Dubrovnik (you may recognize it as King’s Landing), sits on crystal clear inlets and alcoves.
Locals recommend an island hop from Korcula, to Brac, to party central Hvar, and finally to Pag, where you’ll find stellar artisanal cheese. On Pag, you’ll feel a world away from your troubles on the barren rocky surface often likened to the surface of the Moon. Nearby Zadar is famous for a majestic sunset Alfred Hitchcock once lauded as “the world’s most beautiful.” Roman ruins are ubiquitous and especially worthwhile in the Istrian city of Pula, which features one of Europe’s best preserved amphitheatres.
Croatia is fully recovered from the tumultuous 90’s and ready to take you in, it’s best to take advantage before everyone else takes notice.
In the capital, Copenhagen, you’ll find an eclectic mix of the contemporary and the classic. The architecture offers a delightful clash between the ancient sea foam rusted copper roofs and modern compositions, like the flowing Opera House. The exploding food scene, likewise, ebbs between traditional open faced sandwiches, and the truly experimental creations of nouveau culinary legends. Copenhagen is also home to Mikkeller Brewing, which constantly pumps out some outlandishly delicious craft brews.
Furthermore, Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, was the European Capital of Culture for 2017. The often-ignored locale is home to Denmark’s largest university so there is no shortage of vibrant, innovative culture, and nightlife.
The typically Scandinavian architecture along the quaint riverfront is, in itself enough to merit a visit. The Danes speak excellent English and are very open to explaining their unique lifestyle.
Australia is a tried and true destination. The pristine beaches, world class surf, and fantastic cities have been attracting tourists for decades. So why now? The Australian Dollar has cratered making a traditionally expensive destination affordable for the rest of the world. Furthermore, global warming and pollution continue to threaten the gargantuan Great Barrier Reef with extinction. Close to ? of the reef is in danger of deadly “bleaching”, so there’s no time like the present. Budget airlines and economic trends make now the time to visit the land down under.
Canada is celebrating a big birthday this year. 2017 marks the nation’s 150th year, and gives you a reason to visit the second biggest country in the world. From Vancouver in the West to Prince Edward Island in the East, Canada consistently delivers beautiful natural wonders. Alberta’s Banff National Park is well worth a visit.
The cultural capital of Toronto is a cosmopolitan metropolis with a completely idyllic mixture of people from all over the planet. The contrasting Montreal is an enclave of a singular Quebecois mind-set, where you can find francophone food and a proud local heritage. Likewise, the languishing Canadian Dollar makes it a great time to join in the birthday party.
Best known in the 90’s for a slew of cocaine fuelled violence, Colombia has calmed down in recent years. Growing interest in the drug kingpins, spurred by numerous documentaries and Netflix’s Narcos, has made the interior cities of Bogota, Medellin tourist attractions. It’s finally safe to visit their exquisite rolling hills.
Former rival Cali, is the jewel of the pacific coast, and Cartegena is the capital of the post Columbian Caribbean. A rising star is the oldest inhabited colonial city of Santa Marta where you can see history in motion. Colombian cuisine and culture is in the midst of a velvet revolution and it could be cool to see a small part of it.