The Best Destinations, Journey’s, & Sustainable Travel Experiences For The Year Ahead.
East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
This often-overlooked region of Indonesia rewards those who hit Bali and keep going — and going. These islands are home to pristine beaches that are quieter than those further west, and one of Indonesia’s best diving scenes can be found on the Alor Archipelago. In places you’ll still feel like a pioneer, and you’ll certainly notice fewer crowds than on Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands. Crowds will also be thinner on Komodo Island following the launch of a membership program intentionally priced sky-high to limit tourist numbers and protect the eponymous dragon population, though non-members on a budget can head to other islands like Rinca for their big-lizard fix.
Of all the grand dames of Central Europe, Budapest is one of the most rewarding on your pocket, while serving up highlights memorable enough to rank high on continental explorers’ lists of big-hitters. Aim for a less-visited thermal bath, where for a few dollars you get to wallow in the warm waters the city is famous for. Throughout the city you’ll find buzzing wine bars, edgier ‘ruin bars’ in atmospheric old buildings and mod takes on the city’s renowned cafe culture. Strolling the city’s many art nouveau wonders, including Keleti station (still the best place to arrive in or depart Budapest), won’t cost anything and will fill up your phone for happy Instagramming long after your trip comes to an end.
Madyha Pradesh, India
There’s wildlife spotting with a difference in this state of India. The first difference is the price — wildlife-spotting excursions come with a far lower cost than in Africa. In Madhya Pradesh’s wildlife reserves, including Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and Pench National Park, there’s lots to see beyond tigers; you might spy wild boar, spotted deer and langur monkeys. It’s a slightly different experience to an African safari — tiger spotting is all about the mystery; the rare flashes of famous stripes through the forest, and it’s not unusual to see nothing at all of the biggest of big cats. But your chances are getting better as numbers slowly recover. Elsewhere in the state you’ll find celebrated sights such as Khajuraho’s temples and the historic small towns of Orchha and Mandu that attract fewer visitors than big-name destinations in neighbouring Rajasthan.
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo’s resurgence continues. Plan a visit now to take advantage of expanding budget air routes and a fast-growing hotel and restaurant scene. The city’s super-interactive children’s museum, Explore & More, is new for 2020, and the recently restored Frank Lloyd Wright houses of the Graycliff Estate and Martin House Complex are another highlight. Visitors can explore the city’s culinary scene at EXPO Market, a modern food hall, or take a tasting flight at Resurgence Brewing Company, a craft brewery in a former engine factory. Niagara Falls’ tumbling water is half an hour away by bus and makes a great day trip, with the added bonus of keeping you in Buffalo’s more characterful accommodation choices.
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Azerbaijan is a near-unique destination with a low visiting cost for the quality of accommodation, food, and experiences on offer. Baku, with its Caspian Sea waterfront, is home to ambitious architecture, fresh museums, and cosmopolitan air, energized by a growing global profile. Yes, you are still in Europe, even if once outside of Baku’s Unesco-listed heart you’re close to a mysterious landscape of mud volcanoes and burning earth. Visitors can then travel on into a hinterland of fast-changing towns and lost-in-time villages. The north and west of the country have the ever-present Caucasus as a backdrop, far from any crowds of visitors but always close to some of the most hospitable welcomes on offer anywhere.
What’s this? An authentic, characterful European country, rewarding slow exploration and barely discovered by travelers? Serbia can’t even be said to have been hiding away — its capital, Belgrade, has for centuries been one of the continent’s great crossroads. Today the city has laid-back cafe culture by day and budget-friendly partying by the Danube by night. And once you get out of Belgrade you’ll have most of the country’s delights to yourself. Outdoor adventures, spas and wineries, ancient monasteries and monolithic memorials from the Yugoslav era await.
Tunisia is a wonderful place to first dip your toes into North Africa at a reasonable cost. While Morocco offers a similar instant immersion, Tunisia’s efforts to win back visitors means that it offers terrific value and also shines a light on what makes the country unique. Tunis’ Medina, the remains of ancient Carthage and the beachside suburb of Sidi Bou Said offer a cultural counterpart to the country’s seemingly endless range of beach options. Then there are things you can’t find anywhere else — the easily accessible Saharan dunes, where Luke Skywalker first stared at twin suns, and the country’s traditional Dar guesthouses, offering colourful and characterful accommodation.
Cape Winelands, South Africa
South Africa is a regular fixture in lists of places that offer a friendly exchange rate for those looking for world-class safaris and other wildlife spotting, but there’s much more to the country than Kruger and other reserves. A short journey from the fabulous food city of Cape Town is the country’s wine region, centred on the historic towns of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. The real action here is at the wineries and fabulous restaurants dotting the beautiful upland scenery. You won’t find elephants snuffling round the vineyards, but you will find inexpensive tasting tours followed by lazy lunches serving world-class food alongside delicious local wines. If you care to stretch your wallet a little further when staying the night you can sleep it all off in high-end guesthouses and B&Bs that would cost a lot more elsewhere.
The best things in Athens are free. Yes, the simply wondrous Acropolis Museum charges a modest fee, but you can gawp at the Parthenon itself from various vantage points for nothing. In fact, admiring the glowing Acropolis at night is one of the most magical experiences in Europe, let alone Greece. Athens beyond the Parthenon is a vast outdoor museum. You’ll stumble over Byzantine churches and neoclassical buildings, including the National Library and University of Athens. The city’s pedestrianised centre makes for a more relaxed atmosphere than is often anticipated, and eating out is inexpensive. Beaches just outside the city, and day trips to the Temple of Poseidon at the end of Cape Sounion and the island of Aegina offer a quick and easy taste of the wonders of the rest of Greece.
Such is the evocative nature of the word ‘Zanzibar’ that there’s anticipation of adventure before you’ve even landed. And if arriving on the ferry from mainland Tanzania, you’ll get an unusual internal passport stamp: bonus! Two passport stamps for the price of one. In Stone Town, stroll the ancient alleyways and enjoy magical sunsets before taking advantage of the cheap eats at the evening food market or its multicultural cafes. You’ll delight in how much freshly grilled fare you can eat for so little. On the island’s north and west coasts you can sample beach-side accommodation of all kinds at a price that will seem scarcely credible if you’ve tried to do the same in the Caribbean or Pacific Islands.