HELSINKI AND OULU, FINLAND
Do you really need a reason to go to Finland? Helsinki, the Finnish capital, is a bright city full of Nordic culture that’s worth absorbing for its food, architecture and a vibe that’s comfortable and of an easy approach. If you feel like exploring a city in Finland that’s more adventurous, head to Oulu, which is well known for its extensive cycleway and skiing activities. Best time to visit: January to March (with a possibility of seeing the Northern Lights) What to do: Take a boat ride from Helsinki’s Market Square to visit Lonna island, which is a relief from the buzzing city life with amazing sunset spots and yoga retreats. For those who want to explore the city, check out Kallio, a hip and vibrant district with great food and drink options. In Oulu, science geeks can find their solace in Finland’s first science centre, Tietomaa. Adventure enthusiasts could try Syöte National Park for cross-country skiing
Also called “Pearl of the Black Sea”, the city of Batumi in Adjara is a rising destination to holiday in, especially after winning the 2019 title of “Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination” at the World Travel Awards 2018. From beaches to picturesque mountains, Batumi can be a hotspot for an all-in-all experiential vacay. Best time to visit: May and June What to do: If you want a food experience worth remembering, try Adjaruli Khachapuri, which is a pizza-like dish made with cheese and dough, in the shape of a boat and is baked in a brick oven. Even if sightseeing is not your idea of a fun holiday, the Alphabetic Tower is one such structure you shouldn’t skip. The entire Georgian alphabet is wrapped around the building, which when lit up at night, is quite trippy. Adjara has a winemaking history, so its worth exploring their wines. Imagine, they have 50 different types of grapes to make these wines from.
OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA
Ocho Rios used to be a fishing village, but now it’s all fancied up and is buzzing with tourists thanks to its access to waterfalls flowing into the Caribbean Sea and a bunch of new resorts that will make for the perfect getaway. Best time to visit: November to December What to do: While Dunn’s River Falls remains one of the most popular attractions, check out Konoko Falls and Turtle River Falls, which are really close by, or check out White River to try bamboo rafting. For those who want to let their hair down on the beaches, head to Margaritaville for tropical cocktails and powdery sand in your feet. Want to get a view like no other? Take the Mystic Mountain Rainforest tour, a tropical forest adventure tour up to the 700-foot mystic mountain peak. Food lovers, try some of the best local spots to taste an authentic jerk chicken meal, such as Scotchies Jerk Centre.
HAIDA GWAII ISLAND
Looking for a lesser-known corner? Head 60 miles out from the border between British Columbia and Alaska to Haida Gwaii, a rainforest archipelago, where only a dozen visitors at a time are allowed to set foot on some of the islands. Also, probably best to go here only if you’re a legit nature lover, the kinds who can enjoy dramatic landscapes, wildlife and lush vegetation, along with more than 500 archeological sites. Best time to visit: June and July What to do: The best way to explore — go kayaking. This way, you can discover nooks and crannies as well as enjoy the ocean. You can also go fishing by picking one of those all-inclusive fishing trips where everything on the itinerary will be taken care of. While there are a bunch of cute cafes and bakeries, it’s probably more fun heading to Queen Charlotte’s Farmer’s Market, where everything is locally made by island residents.
ARENAL VOLCANO, COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is undoubtedly one of the best countries to plan a trip to, it has this abundant offering of nature balanced with a fun, party vibe. However, nothing beats the attraction that is Arenal Volcano, and it’s definitely worth the hype around it. Best time to visit: January to April What to do: Hikers, this is your paradise. You can hike this volcano’s rugged terrain or take a dip in the soothing geothermal hot springs. For those who would rather relax after gawking at the majestic volcano, opt for spas and resorts in the area that use the hotwaters. For nature lovers, you can go on horseback rides, walks along hanging bridges, and go for underground cave excursions. Other adventures that you could try out would be canopy tours, waterfall rappelling and mountain bike rides.
Move over, Bali. Or rather, get over yourself. With Siargao’s pristine beaches, mangrove forests and coconut palms, Siargo — tinier than Bali — is definitely a vacay spot to cash in on. Known to be the hub of surfing, Siargo provides 15 surfing spots and a bunch of places where you can also learn to surf. Best time to visit: March to September What to do: For those who don’t want to surf, sail to nearby islets of Daku, Guyam and Naked Island, or check out the beaches of Pacifico and Alegria. Alternatively, you can laze around by the rock pools at Magpupungko or spend a day paddling at the Sugba Lagoon. Adventure enthusiasts, check out Syöte National Park for crosscountry skiing.
Sure, go to Tokyo, like everyone who wants to go for the Olympics in 2020. But if you’re actually looking for a cultural break, Kyoto’s your answer. Zen gardens, Buddhist temples, and Shinto shrines…there’s something for everyone here. Best time to visit: October and November or March and April What to do: The most obvious thing to suggest would be to go for the tea ceremony, but yes, please do. However, for some more new experiences, try some Yudofu, which literally translates “hot-water tofu”, and is a Buddhist dish to try in Kyoto. For the ones with a sweet tooth, a delicacy to try in Kyoto would be Kyo-gashi, a traditional Japanese sweet which is colourful and custom-made for different occasions. If you’re there during cherry blossom season, pack a few snacks and drinks to picnic at the banks river Kamogawa. Enjoy the mineral-rich hot springs on the Tango Peninsula or even visit Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, one of Kyoto’s oldest shrines for a total culture immersion.
SAN BLAS, PANAMA
Maybe this is the right time to take that technology detox you’ve been putting off. This place doesn’t have Wi-Fi. San Blas island sanctuary in Panama has 365 pristine islands with white-sand beaches, ones that are meant to purely help you indulge in self-care. Best time to visit: June to December (if you like monsoons) What to do: Essentially detox, with a nap under the palm trees, and local produce from the folks around. But one of the most interesting things for culturally curious people to do would be to learn about the Kunda Indian tribes, who are the indigenous people of the San Blas Islands, and have managed to retain their cultural traditions that you can find out more about when you visit these islands. There are also cruise tours that you can go on, which will make for the best island hopping trip you could ask for.
The more you explore in Tallinn, the less you’d have seen. There’s just so much to check out. Estonia’s cultural hub is brimming with rewarding beaches for your holiday mood as well as a picturesque cityscape to enhance your Instagram, without the filter. Best time to visit: May to September What to do: Check out the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, one of the most photographed places in Tallinn, which will let you see grand views of the harbour, bell towers, and the terra-cotta colored roof tiles, while some local musicians are playing some background music. The craft beer scene in Estonia is said to be popular, and there are a bunch of craft beer festivals that happen but if not, you can head to the Põhjala Brewery in Tallinn.
If there’s an instagrammable city that tourists haven’t flooded, it’s Poznan. The colorful architecture and beautiful streets of Poznan still retain the European essence that tourism has pretty much ripped off most cities. Best time to visit: June to late August What to do: Book lovers, here’s a treat: check out Zemsta, a small bookstore where you can read unusual texts. They also have some great vegan food and Zapatistamade coffee. Also worth checking out would be graffiti by popular street artist Noriaki, in the old town. You can also take a walking tour that will help you familiarize with the city, its rich history and culture, or you could go to Brovaria, a microbrewery that serves pilsner, honey, dark, wheat and seasonal beers, if all you want to do is have a night out drinking.