Been there - done that? We spice up your travel favourites

29 September 2016

Been there - done that? We spice up your travel favourites

Everyone has things that they like doing more than other things. Maybe you love big city energy but don't really like sitting on the beach. Maybe you love food but aren't really into the great outdoors. Maybe just chilling with a book is your favourite thing.

Whatever your favourite thing is, it makes sense to do that thing when you travel. And if it's your favourite thing - you may well have already done it somewhere in the world. So, we've spiced up your travel favourites and provided you with some off-track alternatives. You're welcome.

If your feet can't stop moving to the music...

Classic pick: New Orleans

For some good old-fashioned jazz and blues, with a side dish of jambalaya, you can't beat New Orleans. But what if you want to pick up the tempo and step out in your dancing shoes?

Off-track pick: Step to the salsa rhythms of Cuba

Cuba is alive with music. In Havana, you'll find music everywhere, from inside the ornate, crumbling theatres to outside on the footpaths of the cobbled streets. The town of Santiago de Cuba is the home of Afro-Cuban music – it sounds like a heady mix of flamenco guitar and African percussion and you will not be able to keep still while you listen to it. In Trinidad, knock back a mojito and step onto the dance floor for a salsa class to really get the local moves.

To accompany the ever-pulsing rhythm, there's beautiful beaches, rolling tea plantations, heritage-listed towns and the absolute magic that is Habana Vieja – the old city of Havana.

If chilling out is high on your list...

Classic pick: Bali

The lush terraced hills and yoga centres of Ubud, combined with glorious beaches of the coast, make Bali a top pick for seekers of chill time.

Off-track pick: Take a top-notch chill-out in Sri Lanka

If you're prepared to step a little further afield – and a little out in left field – Sri Lanka is a chill-seekers paradise. An island country surrounded by glorious beaches, this little country has something for everyone.

There are plenty of historical sites to wander, like ancient Sigiriya, a UNESCO-listed site where a crumbling palace sits atop a giant rock. There's beautiful mountain scenery, wildlife parks, cave temples and fishing villages.

Sri Lanka is well set up for relaxing. You can have an Ayurvedic massage or sit by the pool. Beautiful tea plantations and hill retreats offer calming places to sit on a verandah with a cup of tea and a book. And white sand beaches offer a chance to contemplate life as you stroll along the sand watching the local fishermen work with their lines and nets.

If you're a hip city culture vulture...

Classic pick: New York

Big city lights, hustle bustle, a place where anything and everything is happening 24-7. That's New York.

Off-track pick: For an intense cultural experience, visit Japan

Tokyo is Asia's answer to New York. It's non-stop, neon, eclectic magic, all day, all night. It's classy, it's quirky, it combines the ancient with the modern in a futuristic collage. The sake is flowing, the food is seriously astounding. It's a place where you can have a good time with five dollars or five hundred dollars.

But there's another side to Japan, the quiet, traditional and ancient. The cherry trees, the shrines, the gracious traditions. Visit Kyoto to explore ancient temples, have a tea party or learn about Geisha culture. In the beautiful mountain town of Takayama, visit the traditional sake breweries to learn about the complexities and variations of this delicious fermented rice wine. These ancient traditions are as compelling as Tokyo and provide an elegant contrast to the non-stop city glam.

If hiking is your activity of choice...

Classic pick: Nepal

Nepal is home to much of the mighty Himalaya, and it's the original (and maybe the best) multi-day trekking destination in the world.

Off-track pick: Lace up your boots and step out in Patagonia

For a very different experience, consider the amazing trekking options in Patagonia. This vast icefield, sprawling across Chile and Argentina, offers maybe the best day hikes you'll find anywhere on the planet. From the comfort of your guesthouse, you can head out each morning and hike amongst rugged rocky spires and high mountain lakes.

Hiking towards Mount Fitzroy or the Torres del Paine, you are in serious icy wilderness. The scenery is breathtaking, astounding, incredible. The hiking is perfect – challenging but not impossible. And you're not roughing it in any way – head home at the end of a big hiking day out for a hot shower and delicious South American feast.


If cosmopolitan culture makes you swoon...

Classic pick: Paris

Ahh, Pareee. City of everything elegant. Everything art and culture, handbag and perfume. It's the capital city of class and cosmopolitan times.

Off-track pick: Try the glorious – and glamorous – Italian Lakes

The Italian Lakes region oozes cosmopolitan charm. There's the wealthy city of Milan, the home of fashion and design. There's the utterly gorgeous town of Varenna, where a hilltop castle overlooks colourful lakeside villas. Across Lake Como, at Bellagio, villa mansions with manicured gardens dot the lakeside and George Clooney will give you a stylish nod as you pass him at a pavement cafe.

Head into the nearby mountains of Switzerland to visit the luxury alpine resort town of St Moritz. Rub shoulders with the rich and famous, then take the Bernina Express down through the mountains – it must be one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world. It's a region of beautiful landscapes, quaint towns and mountain  backdrops, but at no point will you be roughing it. You're never more than half an hour from a serious Italian coffee.

If you love stepping back in time to explore history...

Classic pick: Rome

The Colosseum and the Forum provide enough historical wanderings to last the history buff a month. But if you've already spent some quality time there, where to next?

Off-track pick: Soak up the history and culture of Russia

Consider Russia. The place is soaking in fascinating history. Moscow's Red Square is surrounded by the imposing walls of the Kremlin, the State Historical Museum, Lenin's Mausoleum and the bright, colourful onion-shaped domes of St Basils Cathedral. Exploring this area is a real highlight. In the Kremlin, the lavish jewels and riches of the State Diamond Fund are on display and the Armory Museum offers some fascinating displays.

St Petersburg is one of Europe's finest cities – but it's definitely off the beaten track. Here, you'll find yourself surrounded by elegant Baroque European architecture and Russian royal history. The highlight is the beautiful Hermitage Museum, an utterly massive showcase of world art and artefacts. It's a fascinating country and you can feel history being created around you in the atmosphere of change.

If the beach is your favourite pastime...

Classic pick: Hawaii

Say Aloha to palm-fringed beaches, beautiful landscapes and sipping drinks out of coconuts. Can you beat Hawaii for a beach holiday?

Off-track pick: Add some spice to your life on the beaches of southern India

In Southern India you'll also find palm-fringed beaches, beautiful landscapes and sipping drinks out of coconuts. But you'll find a ton more.  There's Periyar National Park, where you can search for Indian elephants, Bengal tigers and Bonnet Macaques. There's ancient temples still in use today, where lanterns light narrow corridors leading to decorative shrines. There's world-famous southern Indian cuisine – dine on tamarind fish, rich coconut curries and blow-your-head-off spicy dishes.

There's fishing villages, spice plantations, sprawling bazaars, jungles, colonial hill stations and beautiful backwaters. All that plus beaches. How can you go wrong?

If it's food that gives your life meaning...

Classic pick: Italy

For a foodie destination, it's hard to go past Italy – home of pasta, pizza, risotto, prosciutto and gelato.  How do you compete with that?

Off-track pick: Eat your way from north to south in Vietnam

Well, you compete with with the slippery noodles of a hot bowl of pho. The crusty combination of a banh mi – a baguette filled with maybe shredded pork, fresh herbs and chilli. And then there's banh xeo, the crispy savoury pancake filled with deliciousness. Vietnamese cuisine is making a serious impact around the world and it's easy to see why. Punchy flavours, fresh ingredients, everything made just now, to order, ready to eat – hot, fresh and crispy.

Get lost on the old town of Hanoi, hunting down the back-alley restaurant with the reputation for the best sweetened condensed milk coffee. Put your feet up on a boat on Halong Bay and feast on fresh seafood smothered in coriander, ginger and chili. Or take to the lantern-lit streets of Hoi An and pull up a stool for a beer served with a char-grilled pork skewer. So many tasty dishes, so little time.

If wine is your favourite drop...

Classic pick: France

If trying different wines is one the the experiences you love while travelling, the classic French regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux or Champagne are obvious choices.

Off-track pick: Wander the wineries of South Africa's Garden Route

For some seriously fine wine that you may not be familiar with, consider South Africa. There's a lot of wine history in the beautiful Winelands region – vineyards were first planted in the Stellensboch district in 1679 and have been thriving ever since. The original settlers of the town of Franschhoek came from France and brought their winemaking skills with them, making this valley home to famous Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The classic Garden Route takes you through the Winelands region, as well as along South Africa's stunning coastline. Journey through quaint hamlets, past towering mountains and into world-class game parks. You can sip chardonnay and dine on oysters while you spot whales splashing off shore, or go on an elephant-spotting safari then head back to the lodge for a Franschhoek Cab Sauv. It's Africa plus wine – an amazing experience.