Looking for holidays with a twist? Something a bit different? We’ve got you covered
Here are eight places that are so, so hot right now. Not necessarily the most obvious, but definitely the most interesting. So get going!
Olbia, Sardinia, Italy
Located on a beautiful bay in the north-east of the island, Olbia’s vast sweep of palm tree-lined beach is an undiscovered treasure. It’s a relatively cheap place by Italian standards, and the central core is based around Corso Umberto, a lively shop-lined street leading uphill from the waterfront. The medieval centre is filled with pretty trattoria and bars serving great local food and wine, so after you’ve visited the surrounding Roman historical sites, you can sit and watch the world go by while you relax.
In the last few years, the Adriatic coast – Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro – has seen a massive spike in numbers visiting, but very few will have spotted what lies opposite and to the east.
On the Black Sea coast lies Varna, a popular destination for locals, but pretty unnoticed to the outside. That may be set to change soon, as Varna was named European Youth Capital last year. This was based on the fact that almost half of the population is aged 35 or under, and the effort the city has made in making itself a “social and innovation hub”, as well as its laid-back vibe and array of beach bars and live music venues. Nice.
Although known for its year-round sun, Phoenix is gaining a reputation as somewhere pretty cool.
Watch a gorgeous sunset from the Soleri Bridge, or see one of the most iconic sculptures in the world, Scott Indiana’s Love on the Scottsdale Mall. For music hipsters, there’s a museum of musical instruments, with over 15,000 examples from hundreds of countries and cultures.
Want to have a go at playing a theremin? Here you can. Photographer? Camelback Mountain is a fairly hard climb, but from its peak, you get prime views over the city and the Arizona desert as it stretches far into the distant horizon.
London? Pah. The place to be in England right now is Manchester. It had an emotional 2017, and the spirit of the city is, if anything, even stronger than it has ever been. As a centre for new media, sport, craft beer, street food and music, it can make a case for being one of the best cities in Europe.
And so what if the weather’s often grey? It just means you’ll get some amazingly atmospheric photos and the chance to warm up in one of its many fine pubs and restaurants.
When you’re a city in South America that, among all the others, is known for its Salsa dancing, you know you’re doing something right. Head to the suburb of Juanchito and one of the scores of Salsa bars to dance the night away, or just have a cocktail and enjoy the party.
Cerro de los Cristales is a hill on top of which stands a huge statue of Christ, similar to the one in Rio but far less touristy, while el Gato del Rio is a sculpture of a big, friendly-looking cat. Another 15 similar sculptures have been donated to the park in which it sits, so you can walk around and find your favourites!
If you think of Japan, beer and skiing might not be the first things that come to mind, but Sapporo is famous for them. Host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, you can still find ski jumps and artificial hills scattered throughout the city, and it also holds an annual Snow Festival.
An extensive outdoor Art Park will feed your cultured soul, and if that inspires you to create your own, visit the Mabuchi stationery shop to sate your appetite for beautiful, delicate things. Investigate one of the hundreds of amazing sushi bars, and wash the whole thing down with some brewery-fresh Sapporo lager. Kanpai!
Located on the island of Java, Yogyakarta is a centre of fine arts and culture and has managed to walk the fine line between keeping its ancient buildings in good shape, while also developing as a dynamic, modern city.
The Sultan’s palace is the focus of the 18th century city core, while to the north, the Dutch colonial-era buildings provide an interesting contrast. It’s also fantastic as a base to visit the natural glory of the island: volcanoes, caves, National Parks, lakes and forests are all accessible and, due to it being a very artsy city, there are any number of classes to join if you fancy learning how to print batik, throw a pot or make your very own leather bag or purse.
Our final selection is slowly moving onto the travel radar, but still seems unusual enough as a destination to only attract the more adventurous backpackers. Set in a dramatic river valley, the beautiful, cobbled streets of the old town are a wonderful place to lose yourself in, and its lively arts and nightlife scene is, in itself, a reason to fall in love with this cool, outgoing city.
And we haven’t even mentioned the food. Georgian food is wonderful, from amazing, spicy barbecued meats to vegetable dishes such as eggplant rolls stuffed with walnut, spiced mushroom dumplings and beetroot salad with a sweet and sour plum sauce unlike anything else in the world. Fabulous.