With another dreary winter season quickly approaching, our minds start to wander to faraway exotic places, especially if they are sunny all year round. Here are a few of our favourite places when you need a dose of sun, fresh air and stunning scenery. They can be experienced on a modest budget or you can spend a fortune, but either way they will deliver wonderful experiences, interesting people, delicious food and create amazing memories you’ll cherish forever. Add these to your must-visit list:
The South of France
Also known as the French Riviera or to the French as the Cote D’Azur (literally, the Blue Coast), this is a very special place. While this beautiful rocky coast continues similarly for several hundred miles over into Italy, the French coast packs a real punch. It’s the close proximity of dozens of famous towns and places, the countless famous and interesting people who lived there, and the exciting world class venues, festivals and events that happen almost constantly throughout the year.
We love it all, but you need at least a couple of weeks to truly savour it properly. Not all of it is cheap, but there are easy ways to make the most of your budget and still have a great experience every day and night. Visiting Monte Carlo is a must, and while hotel accommodations are often outrageous you can easily stay a town or two away for a fraction of the price and take the local train in, or an Uber/taxi. Make a grand entrance at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the iconic building from countless movies, Formula 1 races and postcards. The casino is free to enter and to play, but you may want to practice a few of the games in advance so you can make the most of your time and money. Check out canadiancasino.org for a guide to sites where you can get a little practice in.
The Cote D’Azur has a wide range of beaches, you could even say every town has a different style. Monaco has fine peach gravel, Nice has smooth large grey pebbles, Cannes has imported brownish sand, St. Tropez is closer to white, and so on. You may just have to try to visit as many different beaches as you can, I know I did!
The warm, turquoise blue Mediterranean sea to the south, the unique exposed rocky and winding coastline, the forested hills, the exotic trees, flowers, and then the mountains of the southern Alps to the north – this is a beautiful land. Oh, and the food is fabulous too! Enjoy.
Thailand is a very special place, and like many countries, can deliver an extremely wide range of experiences. We recommend a couple of days at least in bustling Bangkok to take in all this great capital has to offer. Fully embrace the culture and history of the world’s largest, quintessentially Buddhist nation with at least a couple of the temples in Bangkok (or four or five!). It’s unlike anywhere you’ve ever been, made all the more exotic thanks to orange robed Buddhist monks everywhere you turn.
Also, try to get on the Chao Phraya River for a cruise and consider a visit to the floating market, a unique Thai experience. Try a few highly recommended restaurants, to match your budget: eating authentic Thai cuisine in Bangkok is unforgettable.
You’ll definitely get swept up in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, so make sure you plan to head south to the more calming islands and beaches of southern Thailand. There is nothing really like it outside of this region of the world. Beautiful sculptured limestone rock islands rise up out of the sea, often creating almost unbelievable scenery. And the larger islands have beautiful beaches to explore and relax on. Here fresh seafood meets traditional Thai cuisine and the beer and cocktails go down extra smoothly.
We visited a few smaller islands and even rented an affordable hut on the beach for a night on the most beautiful beach scene we could ever have imagined (on Phi Phi Island). There are lots of relatively undiscovered places off the beaten track, we’d recommend finding something quiet and un-touristy, if you can, for a couple of days at least.
While there are beautiful beaches in Tanzania, primarily on the island of Zanzibar, we think your time here should be focused on the wild inland areas. Tanzania is one of the best and safest countries to visit in Africa to enjoy the iconic safari experience. There are numerous different regions and sub-regions for taking in the African wildlife. As you’ll see most of your favourites: lions, elephants, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, they’re all here waiting, totally in the wild, interacting with each other.
As everywhere, there are different options and price ranges for these experiences, and going in the off-season can lower the costs somewhat. We ended up at a safari camp in September and had the entire camp to ourselves (apart from staff), as well as the 100 square kilometre reserve and its thousands of wild inhabitants. You’ll definitely need a guide or two, and if you’re the friendly type they’ll often repay your good nature with some enhanced or bonus experiences along the way.
One note, the food may not exactly wow you here (unless you are lucky enough to be on a luxury tour) but don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re really here to consume the awe-inspiring raw beauty of the Africa landscape and its wild beasts.
For the truly adventurous, you also have the world’s largest mountain (and volcano) from base to top here in Tanzania. At 5900 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro is truly regal in stature. It’s not technically difficult, rather it’s a really long, sometimes exhausting hike, up and up, into thin, lower oxygen air. And it’s an absolutely beautiful experience if you can manage it. Count on at least five days on the mountain between ascending and descending, and you’ll definitely need to join a guided expedition, and plan and grab appropriate gear before your trip.
Hawaii always seems to conjure up visions of natural beauty and romantic sunsets. There are of course several islands to choose from and each has it’s own personality. We recommend opting for a place that is a bit off the beaten tourist path, regardless of the island or islands you’ve chosen to visit.
Make sure you have a car, there is lots of exploring to be done: new beaches, volcano peaks, pineapple plantations, breathtaking surfing hot-spots, waterfalls and jungle retreats. Hawaii is a great place to enjoy nature, and get active: learn to surf, hike up to a waterfall vista, swim with the sea turtles.
Hawaii is wonderful and may be way up the list for one of our top places in the world to live full-time, as it offers the best of both worlds: as well as nature, beaches, and the sea, you also have all the modern conveniences and luxuries, including spas, gorgeous golf courses and great shopping.
And last but not least, the food. The food in Hawaii is incredible. Fresh seafood, from some of the world’s best sushi to grilled lobster and fish, and an unparalleled variety of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. The mixed ethnic flavours of Hawaii lend themselves to some delicious fusion cuisine, as Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, American and other influences combine.
It’s never too early to begin your trip by planning and saving for your next adventure. Have fun with the entire process, as you do your research, finalize your itinerary and then finally lock things in with your bookings and payments. Plan your gear, clothing and tech so you’ll have everything you need on the trip of a lifetime. And then enjoy living the life of a modern explorer. Happy travels!