Top 10 Destinations for 2013
By Cecilia Yee.
Travellers with a keen eye for emerging destinations should check out the Flight Centre Hong Kong’s top 10 spots for next year.
To get the most out of a holiday, speak to a Flight Centre travel consultant about cheap flights, accommodation options, cruise itineraries and private tours available this year.
New Zealand has made it to many people’s bucket lists for next year. This may be attributed to the plethora of activities to do. Thrill-seekers have been getting their dose of adrenalin in Queenstown for decades, but the demand for family holidays and couples escapes has been growing each year.
Fresh air, breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities are the main attractions of New Zealand, with a tremendously friendly, honest and helpful population, colloquially nicknamed after their country’s distinct symbol, the unusual but amiable flightless kiwi bird.
INSIDER TIP: Wine and food lovers should check out Waiheki Island, just a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland. This is a fantastic place to go with a group of friends or a few couples. Renting a house is easy, with plenty of properties offering great value for money, self-contained facilities and outstanding views across the ocean. Explore the wineries, olive groves, forest trails, farms and beaches or just enjoy the laid-back coastal vibe.
2. Sri Lanka
After the end of a decades-long war, the teardrop island of Sri Lanka is back on the map.
Explore the emerald hills of Bogawantalawa, otherwise known as Sri Lanka’s “Golden Valley of Tea”, take a stroll through the enchanting Dutch colonial town Galle, or head to the island’s biggest wildlife sanctuary Yala National Park. With its pristine beaches, waterfalls and rolling hills Sri Lanka is the perfect romantic escape for newlyweds or couples. Surfers, as well as adventurous souls, will also adore Sri Lanka, as the country’s eastern coastline boasts some of the best – and still untapped – beaches and breaks in the world.
INSIDER TIP: It’s best to explore Sri Lanka with a private car and driver. Equipped with a wealth of knowledge, the local drivers are the best resource to have to really get to know the country. Apart from the convenience, this also allows travellers the greatest flexibility and freedom to wander at their own pace.
Linking Europe and the Middle East, suspended between the new and the long-established, Turkey retains a disconcerted balance of both east and west, representing a cultural mix with many discrepancies and contradictions. Modern city boutiques and exotic bazaars clamour for customers, the weekly tolling of church bells interrupts the daily call of the muezzin, and Roman ruins and the beginnings of Christianity compete for attention with the history of the Ottoman Empire and modern secularity.
INSIDER TIP: For an inexpensive and delicious meal with a fantastic setting, head down to the Galata Bridge that spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Snack on fresh fish burgers and enjoy happy hour beers, all the time while enjoying the magnificent view of Istanbul harbour. Or for an authentic experience, visit a Turkish bath house (Hamam) for a traditional style body scrub to rejuvenate the soul.
The breathtakingly beautiful Seychelles islands are surely the most romantic destination there is. They cast a siren-like spell over everyone who experiences its crystalline turquoise sea washing the pristine coral reefs and the powdery beaches that encircle the vast granite pinnacles which emerge from the verdant green rainforest. The islands stretch like an array of jewels across nearly one million square kilometres of the Indian Ocean east of Kenya, and even have their own unique suggestively shaped fruit, the famous ‘coco de mer’ double coconut, to emphasise their seductive charms. Whether you come to dive among the more than 800 species of fish in the island waters, marvel at flocks of colourful birds flitting among rare jungle trees, soak up the equatorial sun on silver sands or to cement your marriage vows, the Seychelles archipelago will impress as being just about as close to paradise as it is possible to get on earth.
INSIDER TIP: There’s nothing like exploring an island that breathes calm and serenity. Hire a bike and explore La Digue. Head to one of the most pristine beaches in the world, Anse Source D’Argent, and admire the beauty of nature while drinking the local beer, Seybrew.
After decades of isolation, Burma has exploded onto the tourism scene as Asia’s newest hotspot, offering richly layered history, breathtaking natural beauty and all of the edginess that comes with a country in a state of flux. From the thousand-year old Buddhist temples and stupas scattered across Bagan to the crumbling colonial buildings of Yangon, Burma is the ideal destination for intrepid travellers. Bordering China to the North, Laos and Thailand to the East, India to the West and the Andaman Sea to the South, Burma is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the region – guaranteed to offer even the most seasoned traveller with a never-seen-before wealth of wonders.
Direct flights from Hong Kong to Yangon commencing in mid January will make it even easier for travellers to visit this country.
INSIDER TIP: It’s best to explore Burma with reputable guides. They can organise treks into surrounding hill tribe areas, so travellers have the opportunity to share stories with the village people, explore the floating markets and learn the history of monasteries, pagodas and Buddhist temples.
Most people in Hong Kong have been to Thailand more than once. They are now ready to find the next paradise that is close to home. With its 7000 islands dotted in between the Philippines and South China Sea, the Philippines is the perfect tropical retreat for those looking to get away from it all.
Explore the powdery, white beaches and turquoise waters of Boracay or head to Palawan for a spot of deep-sea diving. With its diverse culture and variety of historical landmarks the Philippines is also a great destination for families. Head to Manila or Cebu and rub shoulders with the locals at a street food market or admire the beautiful Baroque churches – a testament to the country’s Spanish colonial roots.
INSIDER TIP: The Philippines has a lot of hidden gems that take a lot of effort to get to for a reason. Coron in Palawan continues to draw a lot of attention for its turquoise waters, breathtaking limestone karsts, spectacular underwater view, and a fascinating wildlife.
An intriguing land of ancient ruins, romantic legends, natural wonders, breathtaking landscapes and teeming modern cities, the Republic of Korea can trace its history back half a million years. Travellers are discovering with delight the hidden treasures of the southern half of the mountainous Korean peninsula, which pokes southwards from the eastern end of the Asian continent. South Korea has been separated from North Korea by a demilitarised zone since 1953, and has flourished to become a stable and mature democracy, home to 50-million people who are spread across its nine provinces, concentrated in seven mega-cities. Previously dubbed the ‘hermit kingdom’, South Korea is now flaunting its bright plumage like a proud peacock.
INSIDER TIP: Visit the Bukchon Hanok Village in the old town for a different view of Seoul. Explore the village and find hidden nooks such as quaint cafes, shops and museums.
Peru encompasses a desert coastline, tropical rainforest and soaring mountains, each with distinct environments. These offer an exceptional opportunity for travellers to experience a variety of landscapes, an abundance of wildlife, a rich history and archaeological heritage, and the vivacious character of durable native cultures, all within one nation.
The perfect balance between nature and culture, Peru offers all of the wonders of a growing urban city, as well as ancient ruins and unspoilt National Parks. Peru is also the perfect destination for thrill seekers looking for an adventure of a lifetime. Climb the White Mountain Range (Machu Picchu), the tallest snow-capped tropical mountain range in the world, or go river rafting through the world’s deepest canyons, known as “the Valley of Wonders.”
INSIDER TIP: The view from Intipunku (the Sun Gate) overlooking Machu Picchu is worth every step of the iconic four-day hike. If pressed for time, an alternative is to walk up from the ruins to experience the legendary view. For the adventurous, hike to the top of Huayna Picchu for a panoramic view of the ruins, the Andes, and the Amazon beyond.
Imagine a land hidden from the world for centuries, a pristine natural environment free of pollution and crime. Welcome to Bhutan, known to its people as Druk Yul- Land of the Thunder Dragon. Dubbed as the “Happiest Kingdom on Earth” where the Gross National Happiness takes precedence over material wealth, Bhutan offers an experience like no other.
Situated in the remote Himalayan mountains, with India and China its only neighbours, Bhutan is one of 10 biodiversity hotspots and the only remaining Mahayana Buddhist kingdom. The scenic majesty of its soaring mountains and pristine valleys, coupled with the vibrancy of its cultural life, makes Bhutan one of the last undiscovered destinations: an adventure to feed the soul and enrich the senses.
INSIDER TIP: Bhutan remained closed to the outside world until the 1960s when its borders slowly began opening. Tourism is based on a high value, low volume principle in a bid to avoid the destructive effects of mass tourism suffered by neighbouring countries. Visitors must spend a minimum of USD250 per day on a pre-determined itinerary. Therefore, visiting Bhutan is much easier through a registered tour operator.
For many travellers the allure of an unspoilt and little-explored country is irresistible. Emerging from a violent past of human rights atrocities, war and political instability, Cambodia is recovering from its past and slowly becoming a top destination on the South East Asian travel map. The magnificent temples of the ‘Lost City’ of Angkor are an irresistible attraction that, despite the dangers of unexploded landmines and the threat of rural banditry, is a must-see for any determined traveller.
Pleasurable moments can be had in the snatches of friendly conversations, in the tranquillity ushered in by Buddhist prayer, or in the sounds of workers in the rice paddies. One can also search out the charms of the French-era capital city Phnom Penh, visit the tragic horrors of the Killing Fields, or drift past sleepy riverside locations on a boat.
INSIDER TIP: Take a hot air balloon ride for a panoramic view of the sunrise over the Angkor Wat, It’s an unforgettable experience that not everyone does.
For more information, cheap flights, accommodation options, cruise itineraries and new tours in 2013, call Flight Centre on 2830-2866 or visit www.flightcentre.com.hk