5 places to visit for unique experiences that are beyond your imagination

Take the road less travelled with these destinations

Zambia's Victoria Falls are a sight to behold. PHOTO: PIXABAY
Zambia's Victoria Falls are a sight to behold. PHOTO: PIXABAY

Anyone who has been bitten by the travel bug will surely be familiar with the fish-out-of-water feeling that is a heady mix of disorientation and excitement of the endless possibilities waiting around every corner.

Being outside your comfort zone is also likely to make your senses hyperaware of all the sights, sounds and smells you come across. This makes for indelible memories — from the aroma of spices wafting through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, to wading through the human flow in Delhi’s streets.

Tourist hot spots like London and Paris are a joy to visit, but they are hardly exotic. If you are looking to explore parts unknown, here are five places to check out.

1. Mongolia

A traditional yurt in Mongolia. PHOTO: PIXABAY

Why you should go:

Mongolia is an intrepid adventurer’s dream. The least densely populated country in the world, it is home to vast, untouched landscapes. A large portion of the population still lead semi-nomadic lives and in some places Mongolia still looks very much like the same land once ruled by Genghis Khan.

What to do there:

Ulaanbaatar, where almost half the population dwells, is a rapidly developing city. The countryside is the highlight, but it is worth spending time in the capital too.

Stop by the well-preserved Mongolian Buddhist Monastery called Gandantegchinlen Monastery, and visit Sükhbaatar Square to see the site where Mongolian independence was won. The full name, Gandantegchinlen, translates roughly as ‘the great place of complete joy’, and the views you’ll be treated to here could very well evoke that emotion.

Driving just 55km to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park will allow you to revel in its quietude. The park is easy to get to, but just as beautiful as the rest of the country. There, you will find plenty of hiking, trekking and camping spots around nearly 3,000 sq km of undulating hills, alpine scenery and unique rock formations.

You can spend months trying some of Mongolia’s outdoor activities. The horse-riding culture is strong here, so have a go at riding a steed at Bogd Khan Uul National Park. Or you can play it safe by watching wild horses, gazelles and other wildlife roam the steppes in Khustain National Park.

2. Wadi Rum, Jordan

Breathtaking view in the desert. PHOTO: PIXABAY

Why you should go:

Experience Mars on earth with a visit to a desert that has been used as a film set for the science-fiction movie Red Planet. The otherworldly landscape is dramatic and extreme, but is easily accessible from major cities in Jordan.

What to do there:

Camels in the desert. PHOTO: PIXABAY

In the day, explore the imposing desert on foot, camelback or Jeep. Look out for several arresting archaeological features such as the natural rock bridges of Umm Fruth, where you can scamper up for a photo at its edge.

Come nightfall, sleep in the heart of the desert at the Sun City Camp. Rooms designed like Martian Domes — spaceship-like tents with glass walls — were recently opened to offer panoramic night-time views of the desert.

From there, you can explore the rest of Jordan’s numerous World Heritage sites. The most famous is Petra, an ancient city cut from rose-coloured rock.

Whatever your religious affiliation may be, visiting the holy site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan — a land where John the Baptist and Jesus were said to have walked — is an unmissable part of your trip.

3.  Zambia, Africa

The majestic Victoria Falls in Zambia. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

Why you should go:

If you’ve never been to Africa, Zambia might be the best introduction to this beautiful country that is rich in natural wonders, wildlife and open plains.Personable safari tours and unspoiled nature make this large landlocked country a hidden gem.

What to do there:

Zambia’s vast network of national parks ensures that your visit will be free of tourist hordes.

South Luangwa is the best park in Zambia and one of the most majestic in Africa. Visitors can see a rich population of animals: Impalas, pukus, waterbucks, giraffes, buffaloes and leopards roam the pristine wilderness.

You can also check out Liuwa Plain National Park, a 3,500 sq km area that is home to zebras, spotted hyenas and more than 300 bird species. The park is also where you can witness Africa’s second-largest annual wildebeest migration every November, where enormous herds of the antelope move in search of new grazing grounds.

No trip to Zambia would be complete without a visit to Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world. About 1,000 cubic metres of water flows from the 108m-high and 1.6km-wide waterfall every second.

The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometres while the spray and mist from the falling water is rising to a height of over 400 metres. This grand waterfall is definite must-see!

4. Malta

St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta. PHOTO: PIXABAY

Why you should go:

There is a lot of history packed into this island state half the size of Singapore, located south of Sicily. Despite its size, many people and conquerors have left a mark on this dot in the azure Mediterranean Sea. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Spanish and French have left their mark on Malta’s rich history, food and culture.

A pier in Malta. PHOTO: PIXABAY

What to do there:

The capital Valletta is a sight in itself. Designated a Unesco World Heritage site, the city is full of baroque architecture, staggering stone forts, church domes and dense, multi-coloured balconies.

The Upper Barrakka Gardens offers one of the best views of the city. The highest point of the city walls, it provides an unobstructed view of the Grand Harbour.

A slice of Malta’s opulent past can be admired at the St. John’s Co-Cathedral where the interior is radiant with glittering gold columns, intricate frescos, and the famous “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” (1608) painting by Caravaggio.

5. San Sebastian, Spain


Why you should go:

Basque Country, an autonomous community in Northern Spain, is one of the world’s great dining destinations. The restaurants in San Sebastian holds one of the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter in the world, more than culinary heavyweights Paris and Lyon. This is why the city has become an undeniable staple in the itinerary of food enthusiasts.

What to do there:

It is difficult to have a bad meal in San Sebastian, as the coastal city is blessed with first-rate ingredients.

The most controversial are baby eels, slimy, worm-like morsels that fetch astronomical prices of 1,000 euros per kilo. But excellent — and cheaper — food can be found anywhere. Stop for fresh oysters and txakoli (a Basque sparkling white wine) at a seaside café or settle for multi-course dining for several hours.

Do as the locals do by going on a pintxo crawl. Similar to tapas, pintxos is a Basque version of bite-sized food. It is typical to have nibbles at one bar before heading to another for more.

But if there is one meal worth shelling out for, it would be Arzak. The restaurant holds three Michelin stars and showcases the best of Basque cuisine. Its extensive menu includes specialities such as Scarlet prawn with krill, and pig trotters and mushrooms — all sourced from the region.

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