The year has crossed the halfway mark, meaning it’s time to start thinking of your next holiday. Tired of the usual tourist destinations and yearning for something more exotic?
We’ve got you covered. The best thing about our wonderful world is that there is so much to explore. There are countries still unspoiled by tourist footfalls, offering unadulterated natural beauty, history and culture.
Move over, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia — while these places were once the go-to spots for any traveller worth his or her salt, it’s time to set your sights on places much more unconventional and far less traveled.
Why do we travel in the first place? We travel to learn, to explore and ultimately, we travel to see life, terrain, people, food and ways of living as different from our own as possible. We don’t want to go on holiday to see what we can see or experience what we can experience in our own backyards.
We’ve put together a list of holiday destinations that are exotic in their unconventionality and that will (hopefully!) inspire you to step out of your travel comfort zone!
Why you should visit it: Travellers going through South America often pass over Bolivia and head to its more famous neighbours like Chile and Argentina. But this little gem of a country is not to be underestimated. The Salar de Uyuni, which is the world’s largest salt flat, is breathtaking to behold in all its mirror-like, otherworldly glory.
Bolivia offers gorgeous landscapes, a strong indigenous culture and a wine scene that, while still small, has begun to gain global attention.
Places to check out: Explore the wine country in Tarija, the south of Bolivia; take in the majestic backdrop of La Paz, the capital city; appreciate the beautiful colonial city of Sucre; soak in the scenery at Lake Titicaca and go hiking around Isla del Sol.
Visa situation: Singaporeans need to obtain a visa on arrival in Bolivia.
Estimated flight costs: Round-trip flights from Singapore to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia and back start from S$2,215.
Why you should visit it: Kyrgyzstan might be often overlooked as a holiday destination, but it is a stunning country that is over 90% mountainous and is steeped in local tradition.
If you love outdoor activities like hiking and trekking, are intrigued by nomadic life and culture, long to stay in a yurt and and are seeking something completely off the beaten track, this is the unique destination for you.
References to check out: Contact Kyrgyzstan’s Community-Based Tourism network (CBT) in Karakol, South Shore of Issyk-Kul, Osh, and Jyrgalan for the low-down on local experiences and help with organising home or yurt stays, treks, mountain horseback riding, gear rental and local mountain guides.
Visa situation: Singaporeans can travel visa-free to Kyrgyzstan.
Estimated flight costs: Round-trip flights from Singapore to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and back start from S$1,489.
Why you should visit it: Besides having pristine, white-sand beaches, Haiti is a country that’s full of character in the form of hilltop fortresses, musicians, artists, amazing cave networks, a mysterious Vodou religion-culture and its surprising trekking destinations.
While it shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, which is the more popular of the two and sees many more tourists, Haiti is relatively unvisited and beautiful in its colourful, cultural, Caribbean appeal.
Things to check out: Dig into some deliciously rich Creole grub, which is a tantalising mix of French, African, indigenous Taíno, Spanish and Arabic cuisine; go trekking in Furcy and Milot; soak up some rays at Ils-a-Rat or Gelee beach; visit Jacmel for some gorgeous art and architecture and check out Citadelle Laferrière, a vast, hilltop fort of old.
Visa situation: Singaporeans can travel visa-free to Haiti.
Estimated flight costs: Round-trip flights from Singapore to Port Au Prince, Haiti and back start from S$2,070.
Why you should visit it: Dramatic mountain ranges, impressive historical ruins and bluest waters are only some of the things Albania has to offer.
While Europe is a popular tourist destination, the souther country of Albania only recently opened itself up to visitors. If you enjoy challenging climbs, breathtaking panoramic views, old castles and architectural sites, it is worth a visit to this relatively under-toured country. Most also don’t know that Albania is home to a UNESCO heritage site — the impressive old city of Butrint, featuring Greek and Roman ruins.
Places to check out: For jaw-dropping panoramic views and incredible hikes, take on Mt. Talijanka and the the granite peaks of the Karanfil Mountains on the border of Montenegro. Journey and trek through the Albanian Alps, which are much more mysteriously known as the Accursed Mountains. Wander through the villages of Valbona and Theth, where local shepherd families may let you stay and sup with them. For sea breezes and blue waters, visit Albania’s Adriatic Coast and check out the serene beaches of Sarandë or Vlora.
Visa situation: Singaporeans can travel visa-free to Albania.
Estimated flight costs: Round-trip flights from Singapore to Tirana, Albania and back start from S$1,100.
Why you should visit it: While Madagascar may not have lions, buffalos, rhinos, leopards or elephants, it distinguishes itself from the rest of Africa by offering something truly spectacular — besides having over 100 species of lemurs, 80-90% of its wildlife and fauna are endemic to the island.
And that means you’ll get so see wildlife that you cannot see anywhere else in the world. Madagascar is a diverse wonderland of animals and unique human culture, and the beaches and rainforests in this island of conservation and eco-tourism are just waiting to be explored.
Places to check out: The Avenue of the Baobabs is a must-visit, with its strange-looking baobab trees framing the road in the Menabe region. A visit to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in the Melaky region will reward you with towering geological rock formations. Ranomafana National Park offers guided tours through the rainforest — spot lemurs, chameleons and other incredible wildlife along the way. Nosy Sakatia offers gorgeous turquoise waters with superb snorkelling and turtle sighting.
Visa situation: Singaporeans need to obtain a visa on arrival in Madagascar.
Estimated flight costs: Round-trip flights from Singapore to Antananarivo, Madagascar and back start from S$1,377.