2018 has finally arrived, which means a whole new year of getaways to plan… and a whole new year of public holidays to help maximise your vacation time! With Chinese New Year bringing us a handy batch of four days off (16-19 February 2018), our springtime escapes can get just that little bit more fabulously far-flung – so we’ve rounded up six fantastic international destinations for some CNY holiday inspiration. Time to get booking!
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
If you thought you’d already ticked Vietnam off your bucket list, did you include the idyllic island of Phu Quoc in your tally? Located just off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand, this Vietnamese paradise is home to some of the most stunning beaches in South East Asia, with powdery shores, emerald seas, swaying coconut trees and spectacular sunsets all-round. The 20km golden stretch of Long Beach is probably the most popular spot, whilst the oases of Sao or Ganh Dau Beach offer a little more seclusion.
Phu Quoc has plenty more to offer than simply soaking up the rays though. Its National Park makes up over half of the island, meaning scenic wildlife walks and soaring mountain hikes are always within close reach. For something a bit different, get a closer look at some of Phu Quoc’s most famous imports, with a tour around one of the island’s fish sauce factories, black pepper plantations or pearl farms – further proof why a trip here goes far beyond your average beach holiday.
For sun, spice and plenty of surprises, look no further than The Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka. Less frenetic than neighbouring India, Sri Lanka is rich with colonial history, ancient relics, diverse wildlife and spectacular scenery. And let’s not forget the real jewel in this country’s crown: its mouth-watering cuisine, made with the very freshest of ingredients, grown on this lush island paradise.
Culture vultures should head to Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage city ringed with ancient ruins, monasteries and temples. The cool, hilly Central Province is famous for its Ceylon tea, with many plantations over 150 years old, since the British colonial era. Meet a menagerie of wildlife – from elephants to leopards, monkeys to crocodiles – on safari in one of Sri Lanka’s well protected national parks. And no trip is complete without a few days on the beach, whether soaking up the rays or riding some exceptional surf. Whatever you want from your holiday, it’s right here in Sri Lanka.
Balmy, breezy and downright beautiful, this archipelago of over 100 islands lies dotted off the coast of East Africa, in the warm and welcoming waters of the Indian Ocean. Famous for its clear cerulean seas, powder-white beaches and incredible biodiversity – including thriving coral reefs offering world-class diving – the Seychelles is, deservedly, a leading eco-tourism destination.
Situated on the largest island of Mahé, quaint and compact Victoria is one of the world’s smallest capital cities, full of charming colonial-era landmarks. Sleepy Curieuse is a leading bio-reserve, home to the rare Coco De Mer palm, along with a thriving population of sea turtles and Aldabra tortoises. Meanwhile, eagle-eyed visitors to the island of Praslin may be lucky enough to catch sight of the protected Seychelles black parrot in its only natural habitat. Of course, you may prefer nothing more than to kick back on a lounger for a week and soak up this little slice of paradise… giving you the perfect reason to book a return visit.
Khao Lak, Thailand
If you’re looking for a beach holiday that’s happily off the beaten track, Khao Lak might just be the place for you. This laidback cluster of villages is located just 80km north of Phuket, but feels a whole world away from its party-hard neighbour. Take your pick from dozens of postcard-perfect beaches, with the dreamy vistas of Bang Nak or White Sand Beach looking like they’ve been plucked straight from Instagram’s finest wanderlust feeds, or head to the nearby Similan Islands for some spectacular diving adventures.
Expect even more stunning panoramas at Khao Sok National Park, where you’ll find some of the world’s oldest rainforests, complete with cascading waterfalls and the serene Cheow Lan Lake, plus an awe-inspiring array of flora and fauna – including Malayan sun bears, hornbill birds, wild elephants and clouded leopards. It’s also worth heading to the International Tsunami Museum for a sobering look at the natural disaster that hit Khao Lak back in 2004; the police boat that was swept nearly two kilometres inland has also been kept as a memorial to that fateful day.
Less glitzy than neighbouring U.A.E, Oman is a sophisticated Middle-Eastern destination that has really come into its own over the last few years. Large sections of its remarkable desert terrain remain inhabited by nomadic Bedouin people, while the historic city of Muscat is now a thriving contemporary capital, marrying modern high-rises and colonial heritage buildings – including some truly world-class museums and galleries – with ease.
With space for 20,000 worshippers, the awe-inspiring Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat is a staggering feat of modern engineering that pays homage to Oman’s deep-rooted Islamic culture. The city also provides a convenient jumping-off point for some aquatic adventures; Muscat has a number of excellent dive and snorkelling sites along its coast, along with regular dolphin-watching trips. Further afield, Salalah offers beautiful beaches and, if you visit during the Khareef (an annual monsoon), you’ll witness the unforgettable sight of its parched desert dunes transforming into an undulating carpet of greenery, almost overnight. So for a true taste of Arabian culture, ditch Dubai’s urban sprawl and head to captivating Oman.
The phrase “heaven on earth” sounds a bit of a cliché these days – but when it comes to Mauritius, the use of such platitudes is entirely justified. In fact, with its glorious white beaches, sapphire oceans, shimmering lagoons and exotic population of rare birds, it’s actually something of an understatement.
For some of the best views on this Indian Ocean island, head to Black River Gorges National Park where, amidst the lush forests, you’ll spot a mesmerising range of indigenous creatures including the Mauritian flying fox, echo parakeet and pink pigeon. No less dazzling is Chamerel’s mysterious Seven Coloured Earths – no one is entirely sure quite what caused these undulating sands to settle into painterly-strokes of red, violet, green and yellow, but it definitely makes for some amazing photos. Meanwhile, the capital of Port Louis is home to a lively bazaar selling colourful spices, delicious local food and handmade crafts; make time to check out one of the few surviving dodo skeletons at the Natural History Museum too, before heading to the Caudan waterfront for a well-earned sundowner.