Are you always on the lookout for the next up-and-coming city escape? Do you live to tramp unfettered landscapes before the crowd descends? Over the next month we’ll bring you awe-inducing and unique locations to add to that ever-growing bucket list. Here’s five to start you off…
This so-called ‘Pearl of the South’ attracts travellers with its idyllic mix of French elegance and Caribbean spirit. Situated on Cuba’s most spectacular bay, Cienfuegos is a truly nautical city with a sprawling shipyard and a penchant for shrimp-fishing.
Some of Cuba’s prettiest buildings can be found on Punta Gorda, a thin stretch of land that slices out into the bay and contains a cache of eclectic early 20th Century palaces.
Like the city itself, the accommodation is understated, but Cubanacan Boutique La Union is central and close to the water. Its 11 junior suites are very reasonably priced and its quiet pool and Jacuzzi make it easy to unwind in the evenings.
For a little isolation and premium diving, Villa Guajimico is directly between Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Its air conditioned bungalows are scattered around a secluded cove with its own beach and harbour, so a mere stumble out of your bungalow will reveal remarkable snorkeling and diving locations.
Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Perhaps one of the harshest and most breathtaking areas on Earth, Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is aptly named. Shipwrecks scatter the land due to its dangerous mix of strong currents, treacherous fog and shifting underwater sandbanks.
Rock formations, such as the Ugab Formations, are astounding; there’s clay castles scattered at the Hoarusib Canyon and the magnificent dunes of Sussusvlei will defy belief. Parched river valleys allow for desert-adapted fauna such as elephant, giraffe and brown hyena.
The stark landscape is best viewed by air and there are a number of African heli-safari options available. Journeys By Design offer unforgettable ten-night safaris that stop off at some of Namibia’s finest luxury desert lodges. Along the way you will experience the extraordinary Epupa Falls, the relatively inaccessible Marienfluss Valley, the Himba of Kaokaland, the world’s largest dunes and the conservational brilliance of the NamibRand.
Ecuador’s economy is on a roll, but the colonial city of Cuenca is a place it seems time forgot. Nuns traverse steep cobbled streets and local craftspeople pedal their goods beneath soaring steeples.
At least three civilisations have left their mark on Cuenca – the Spaniards, the Inca and the Cañari, paving the way for a picturesque town immersed in cultural history. There are plenty of good museums here that’ll fill you in.
Nestled under the Andean peaks, Cuenca may be close to the equator, but its elevation keeps residents basking in eternal spring year-round.
Die-hard soccer fans can rest their heads in the ultra-modern Hotel Zahir 360, a glass and steel structure with luxury suites that overlook the local stadium. For more traditional accommodation the Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel boasts colonial architecture and antique wood furnishings. Its peaceful jasmine garden also makes for a great place to kick back and enjoy an Ecuadorian cocktail.
Churchill, Manitoba feels like the edge of the earth. Just 500 miles from the Arctic Circle, it’s perfect for anyone who wants to experience the harsh beauty of Mother Nature, the arctic tundra and most importantly the polar bear. Wildlife enthusiasts flock here as they’re almost guaranteed to catch a glimpse of the elusive bear at some point.
Prime times to visit are July and August and then again during the peak polar bear viewing period of mid-October to November. At other times Churchill tends to be frozen and desolate, which has its own unique appeal.
Churchill Wild owns and operates fly-in polar bear eco-lodges and tours. Their Great Ice Bear Adventure is a seven-day arctic safari that includes an aerial tour, tundra trekking, gourmet meals and endless opportunities to spot polar bears, moose, caribou, seals and whales.
Great White Bear Tours do day trips that allow discerning travellers the flexibility to create their own adventure. They provide travel with expert guides in their luxurious custom-made Polar Rovers.
Europe’s oldest capital, Talinn, features an intoxicating mix of old-world Medieval charm and modern entrepreneurship – it actually holds the world record for start-ups per person. Despite a boom in 21st-century development, Tallinn remains loyal to the fairy-tale charm of its old town, which makes for a unique blend of ancient church steeples and soaring glass skyscrapers.
Its new maritime museum built in a century-old hangar is surprisingly entertaining and has enough exhibits to please everyone, while Roterman Quarter is a hip district featuring old industrial buildings that have been restored into a lively complex filled with eclectic restaurants and trendy stores.
The boutique Hotel St Petersbourg is the oldest hotel in Estonia, but don’t let its maturity put you off. It was recently spruced up by the British interior designer Andrew Martin, who restored the building to its former glory with luxe tapestries, crystal chandeliers and extravagant artworks. The suites are reasonably priced and the traditional Estonian breakfast is top-notch.