World through my eyes
Bali in Indonesia is the top destination in world favoured by the travellers. This is what TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards for the year 2017 show. Surprisingly (or not) there is no Indian destination in this top 25 list. List has some notable evergreen gems and some equally notable misses. There is no destination in the list from China or Australia or Japan or South & Central Africa, not even Mauritius or Reunion islands. Besides India, Asia also has notable misses like Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao or even Maldives. Probably, travellers always search for newer shores. But what can be said for sure is that more and more people are now travelling to beach destinations. This list of 25 destinations is actually beach heavy with only seven destinations have no access to sea, or are not coastal towns.
This should hardly come as surprise for anybody as the Indonesian island of Bali is a favourite destination for both adventurers and those in need of a little relaxation. The waters off the coast of Bali’s white beaches are an ideal spot for diving, while the dense jungles, teeming with monkeys and hidden stone temples, call out for exploration. Hike the rugged path to the summit of Mount Batur, and your effort will be rewarded with a stunning view. Then coax your sore muscles back into action with a massage at one of Bali’s many luxury spas.
London would have been rattled by Wednesday’s attack at Parliament, but it has always been top choice for travellers across the world. Hence it stands second after Bali. There’s so much to see and do in London, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Major sights like the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are on most visitors’ itineraries, but no matter what your interests, you’ll probably find something here. Art lovers should make a beeline for the National Gallery and the Tate Modern. If military history’s your thing, don’t miss the Cabinet War Rooms. Finally, forget everything you’ve heard about bland, mushy British food—the restaurant scene here is fabulous.
At third position is the capital of Britain’s neighbour across the English channel, France. Everyone who visits Paris for the first time probably has the same punchlist of major attractions to hit: The Louvre, Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, etc. Just make sure you leave some time to wander the city’s grand boulevards and eat in as many cafes, bistros and brasseries as possible. And don’t forget the shopping—whether your tastes run to Louis Vuitton or Les Puces (the flea market), you can find it here.
Next is again the legendary European destination which shaped world history in no mean terms. It’s nicknamed the Eternal City for a reason. In Rome, you can drink from a street fountain fed by an ancient aqueduct. Or see the same profile on a statue in the Capitoline Museum and the guy making your cappuccino. (Which, of course, you know never to order after 11 am.) Rome is also a city of contrasts—what other place on earth could be home to both the Vatican and La Dolce Vita?
The Big Apple holds its place in top five with New York. The first time you go to New York, go ahead and be a sight-seer—everyone should visit the Statue of Liberty, the Met, Times Square, etc. But on a return trip, pick a neighbourhood and go deep. You’ll find hole-in-the-wall bars, great delis, quirky shops… exploring the non-touristy side of New York is an incredibly rewarding experience for a traveller.
Greece is sixth but not for Santorini but for Crete. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and is a paradise for tourists seeking sunshine, beaches, and culture. Chania lies on the northern coast of Crete. It’s the second largest city on the island and is served by an airport. Upon arrival, hire a car and drive the 30 kilometres up to the White Mountains. This beautiful setting is perfect for relaxing or doing a spot of walking and is also a good base to explore the region’s attractions.
Europe continues its hold in top ten with Barcelona at seventh. Stroll Las Ramblas and enjoy Barcelona’s unique blend of Catalan culture, distinctive architecture, lively nightlife and trendy, stylish hotels. You’ll find Europe’s best-preserved Gothic Quarter here, as well as amazing architectural works by Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia, considered Gaudi’s masterpiece, is still under construction (your entrance fee helps to fund the project). Feel like a picnic? Look no further than the rambunctious La Boqueria market, where you can stock up on local delicacies.
Second Asian entrant in the list is Cambodian city of Siam Reap at 8th position. Siem Reap is a fast-growing city with plenty of new hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. But chances are, you’re here not because of the city itself, but for what’s nearby: amazingly well-preserved ancient temples. Even if you have the worst jet lag ever, drag yourself out of bed to be at Angkor archaeological Park when it opens—sunrise over Angkor Wat is worth losing sleep over.
Back to Europe and this time it is Czech Republic. We hear the question, “What’s the next Prague?” a lot. But while we’re all for discovering great new destinations, we hardly think Prague is over. Sure, everyone’s heard of it, but it’s still a grand city with extraordinary historic and cultural sights, and it’s definitely worth a visit. The often-rebuilt Prague Castle has overlooked the city since the 9th century, and the synagogues and cemetery of the Jewish Quarter are must-sees. Nightlife here is diverse and plentiful, from trendy clubs to sophisticated wine bars to late-night cellar bars.
Completing the top 10 is another popular Asian destination in Thailand. Phuket offers a rainbow spectrum of spectacular holiday sights from blue lagoons and pink sunsets to orange-robed monks. Three wheeled-Tuk Tuks, taxis, buses and long tailed boats transport visitors between these marvels. Phuket’s south coast offers its most popular beaches. The north is more tranquil. Koh Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay and Patong Beach are popular spots. Diving, snorkeling, wind surfing and sailing are just a few active options. Inland, forested hills, mountains and cliffs wait to be explored.
Leading the next ten despite its political upheaval is Turkey. Europe and Asia meet in Istanbul, and throughout this vibrant city, you’ll find centuries-old mosques, churches and markets happily co-existing with modern restaurants, galleries and nightclubs. And plan on visiting a hammam (traditional Turkish bath)—for about $20 your skin will be scrubbed clean. And we mean scrubbed. Your wimpy loofah has nothing on this.
Moving across the Atlantic in the Caribbean Sea is Jamaica at 12th spot. Jamaica is a melting pot of African, Asian, European and Middle Eastern cultures. You’ll experience this diversity in its strong crafts tradition, performing arts and distinctive dining options, like ackee and saltfish with roast breadfruit. Take your holiday to new heights at famed cliff jumping spot, Negril Cliffs. Jamaica offers long beaches, protected coves, rugged mountains, waterfalls, caves and sunshine and chances to play in the surf, ride horses and swim with dolphins. Jump in!
Now comes the another Asian city at 13th, Hoi An. This city on the central Vietnamese coast is a well-preserved example of the important Southeast Asian trading port it was from the 15th-19th centuries. Already a common stop for backpackers, it is becoming better known to tourists. On the 14th day of each lunar month, the town trades its electric lights for traditional coloured lanterns. Sights include the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Cong Temple. Let the town’s expert tailors make you some bespoke clothing.
Finally Russia manages to hold a spot in the list at 14th. The second largest city in Russia, St. Petersburg is the country’s cultural heart. View splendid architectural gems like the Winter Palace and the Kazan Cathedral, and give yourself plenty of time to browse the world-renowned art collection of the Hermitage. Sprawling across the Neva River delta, St. Petersburg offers enough art, nightlife, fine dining and cultural destinations for many repeat visits.
The beautiful Caribbean Sea gets another share in the pie with Bay Islands at Roatan in Honduras. Is there a better way to cap off a day of pristine reef diving and heart-pumping adventure sports than by sipping a sunset cocktail? Didn’t think so! From ziplining to deep sea fishing to exploring the military-protected archipelago of Cayos Cochinos, the Honduran island of Roatan is a playground for lovers of water sports and ecotourism. Landlubbers will flip for the Carambola Botanical Gardens, a tour of the Stone Castle Cameo Factory or exploring the beaches on horseback.
Marrakech in Morocco is the only African entry in the list at 16th position. Your local farmers’ or flea market may be a fun place to spend a Saturday morning, but it’s got nothing on Marrakech’s markets. Spend a day here to immerse yourself in the spectacle. (Yes, that is, in fact, a snake charmer.)
At 17th spot is another gem in the Caribbean Sea. Ambergris Caye in Belize in Central America hovers in a holiday sweet spot: just enough amenities to make it exciting, but not so overdeveloped that you’re tripping over flip-flopped tourists. A mangrove swamp is the eye of this white beach island, the largest in Belize, and golf carts are the main form of transportation along the sandy roads. Reef divers drool over the Belize Barrier Reef and the Blue Hole, a 400-feet deep circle of limestone that teems with angelfish, elkhorn coral, cleaner shrimp and stalactites.
Latin America gets its first spot in the list at 18th through Rio de Janerio. May be your curiosity would have piqued by the last year’s RIO Olympic Games, or you’re heeding the call of the famous twin beaches Copacabana and Ipanema, Rio offers more than you can imagine, and offers it at all hours. With breathtaking views from Corcovado Mountain and breathtaking deals in the city’s endless malls and markets, Rio de Janeiro is a holiday paradise, whatever it is you travel for.
It seems that we are not going any far from the region as we again move from Rio to Caribbean Sea in north. Saint Maarten comes to 19th position. Get the experience of visiting two island colonies in the same 37 square miles. Saint Maarten/Saint Martin’s spicy marriage of Caribbean, French and Dutch cultures matches its physical diversity: the island is both urban and untamed, with rain forest-like landscapes, white beaches, and amazing caves and wildlife.
Moving further north we come to Mexico for exploring 20th spot. Playa del Carmen is distinct among Yucatan beach towns both culturally and commercially. While its beaches are similar to other destinations’, its nightlife and hotel culture is hipper in the European and American style, blending the traditional Mexican locale with a more permissive and opulent array of tourist options.
An Asian city of extravagance and opulence is at 21st rank. Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks. If you’re looking for thrills, you can float above the desert dunes in a hot air balloon, climb aboard a high-speed ride at IMG Worlds of Adventure or skydive over the Palm Jumeirah.
Not surprisingly, we come back to Caribbean Sea. This time it is Grand Cayman in Cayman Islands. The farther you go from Grand Cayman’s busy docks, the more peace and quiet you’ll find. At Stingray City (actually a sandbar), stingrays swim alongside you in the tranquil waters. Closer to town, travellers report finding some of the best massage and spa services anywhere in the Caribbean.
India couldn’t find a place in the list but its neighbour does at 23rd position . Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is situated in a valley full of historic sites, ancient temples and shrines, golden pagodas and fascinating villages. Hotels, bars and restaurants cater to all budgets. Shops offer handicrafts, carpets and Nepali paper prints. Bus services, taxis and bicycles open up the city. Trek to see the Monkey Temple, the valley’s oldest and most sacred shrine. Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square’s monuments and temples, or join mountain trekkers in the bustling Thamel District.
Far enough close to the International date line in South Pacific Ocean is all time favourite tiny island of Bora-Bora at 24th spot. The relatively small island of Bora Bora is an activity giant, offering visitors the chance to experience a 4×4 safari, sunbathe and swim at white sandy beaches, dive in a natural underwater park among fish and corals, experience thrilling shark feedings, or circle the turquoise lagoon by boat. And Bora Bora is a superlative romantic spot. Fall captive to this lush gem of a Polynesian island by sharing an intimate midnight dinner on the beach; visiting the Lagoonarium, the Diving Centre, the Coral Gardens or the Leopard Rays Trench; or taking it all in from the lofty heights of 2,300-foot Mount Otemanu.
Last but not least in the list is Cusco in Peru, home to one of the wonders in world. Incan majesty and Andean baroque exist side-by-side in Cusco’s stone streets, epitomized by the Qoriacancha palace and the church of Santo Domingo flanking the Plaza de Armas. In this high-altitude melting pot of Amerindian and mestizo culture, you’ll find extraordinary textiles, lively summer festivals and archaeological wonders.
SO, now for you it is time to decide, where would you want to land first!