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Often overlooked in favour of its neighbours, Laos promises an equally intriguing culture, plus leafy paradises as far as the eye can see – think mountains, palm trees and the Mekong Delta. When not on a jungle trek, immerse yourself in centuries-old temples in the colourful villages and towns that are scattered across the countryside.
Western Africa has become a hub for creative enterprises and artist communities marrying tradition with innovation. Ghana’s capital of Accra may appear chaotic and somewhat overwhelming, but the city’s burgeoning character and locals’ easygoing mentality is supplemented by picturesque fishing communities stretched out along the coast. Escape Accra at the idyllic Meet Me There Eco Lodge in Dzita.
This picture-book resort offers some of the chic skiing, the best après-ski and the finest dining in North America. Those who can’t resist a bit of retail therapy can enjoy the high-end boutiques and salons in the downtown area. It may be a well-known destination, but there’s a reason for it.
If you’ve ticked Iceland’s glaciers off your list, there are many reasons to make Greenland your next Nordic escape. Often billed as the “final frontier of travel”, the world’s largest island is now serviced by several airlines and offers travellers much more than just dog-sledding experiences and the Northern Lights. Visit its capital for an unexpected creative scene.
The rugged terrain is “inspiring” according to ski champion Caroline Gleich, and well suited for seasoned skiers and snowboarders. Snow junkies looking for something a little different will not be disappointed. Don’t forget your GoPro.
Steer clear of the cities and head towards the countryside to witness this vibrant country, bursting with colour and history. Despite the poverty and delicate political situation, the people are overwhelmingly friendly and ready to welcome guests with open arms. Go towards the end of the peak season (February) to avoid the crowds.
Belize, Central America
With over 185 miles of reef, including the iconic Blue Hole, Belize is one of the best places to dive in the world – if you’ve always wanted to get your PADI qualification, you could do worse than here. Alternatively, head inland to visit some of the many Mayan ruins, or climb to the top of the ancient temple Caracol in the lush tropical rainforest for some of the best views.
This is an urban jungle like no other. From the skater boys at Sea Point to Long Street’s partygoers; the Stellenbosch winemakers to the arty crowd attracted by Zeitz MOCAA, the carefree notion of coastal living and the determined drive of a bustling capital are hard to resist. A beach, safari and city break all in one – what’s not to like?
The long flight is worth it when you experience the harmony of nature with urban hedonism: hello, Sydney. Within a few days you will be sun-kissed, relaxed and stuffed with both food and good-time vibes. The diverse neighbourhoods mean there is always something new to do or see, now matter how many times you visit.
A city which embodies “dolce far niente”, or pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Food and drink is at the heart of everything, so gorge yourself on the softest bread, creamiest pasta, heartiest meat dishes and richest red wine before walking it off with some sightseeing – and doing it all again come dinner time.
Do you need more of an excuse to visit when three of the top 50 best restaurants in the world are in Lima? Following a gastronomic stopover in Peru’s up-and-coming capital – where you’ll also find beautiful colonial architecture – head out of the city to Cusco, Arequipa or Machu Picchu.
If you’re looking for a desert escape before being hit by the summer months, but have already been to Joshua Tree, hit up Amman for a dose of archaeological ruins, vintage finds in souks, and hummus that isn’t from Tesco. Not to mention, the Jordanian capital is only a five-hour flight from London, making this city a feasible destination for a long weekend post-Valentine’s Day.
The birthplace of paella, this Mediterranean darling is a hotspot for great eats, wild nightlife and architecture ranging from the ancient to the ultra-modern. We adore Valencia for its super-charged Spanish culture that manages to feel like a complete change of pace from Barcelona and Madrid.
The Lesser Antilles island of Curaçao is a lively medley of Dutch-Caribbean culture that couldn’t feel farther away from the spring breaker-infested beaches of many of its tropical counterparts. Days are split between exploring the untouched caves and coral reefs of Klein Curaçao and popping between museums and art galleries in the town’s rainbow-hued centre.
It’s no wonder that, with a name meaning “hidden port”, this corner of southern Mexico is a well-kept secret among locals. Quietly preserving its reputation as a secluded escape on Oaxaca’s Emerald Coast, Puerto Escondido’s secret beaches with golden sands and crashing waves have rendered the region one of the world’s best surfing destinations. Those less confident tackling the waves can head for La Punta or Playa Carrizalillo to swim in turquoise waters and sip on freshly cracked coconuts. While there are no direct flights from outside of Mexico, those willing to make the trip are rewarded with the area’s chilled, easy-going vibe and welcomed with some of Oaxaca’s best cuisine. Be sure to make a trip to Laguna de Manialtepec, a bioluminescent lagoon nearby. Summer is rainy season, Christmas and Easter holidays can be a bit busier. Visit between January and May to have Puerto Escondido all to yourself.
One of South America’s smallest countries, Guyana remains South America’s best-kept secret. But as the continent’s only English-speaking country complete with vast coastal plains, towering mountains, arid savannahs and expansive rainforests, the country’s immense diversity deserves recognition amongst those seeking a culture-filled retreat. Visit Georgetown to immerse yourself in a toe-tapping music scene, colourful architecture and vibrant culinary hotspots, or head inland to explore “The Land of Many Waters” through cascading waterfalls and vast rivers streaming through verdant landscapes. Come in February for Mashramani festival, Guyana’s anniversary of becoming a republic, when parades float down streets, dancers strut through the neighbourhood and steel drum bands play tunes ‘til the sun goes down.
What’s happening in the world in February?
8-16 February: New York Fashion Week, US
16-21 February: London Fashion Week, England
21-27 February: Milan Fashion Week, Italy
27 February-6 March: Paris Fashion Week, France
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