Hitting a mid-life crisis and desperately looking for an out-of-the-way destination where you can restart your engine and do some introspective soul-searching? Looking to backpack to an exotic destination where you can push yourself to the boundaries of your comfort zone? Needing a vacation but not wanting to travel to mainstream destinations that are suffocated by tourists?
No worries, as we got you all sorted. The travel gurus here at Alternative Airlines have come out with a list of exotic destinations that are sure to engage your senses on a whole new level. Moreover, travelling to exotic destinations is not all about the expensive hotels and fancy resorts and could defintely be pulled-off without breaking the bank , and with even money to spare for a gym membership to shed those extra holiday weights.
So, without further ado, here is the official list of the top wallet-friendly exotic travel destinations for 2020.
In recent years, Kigali has emerged as a dynamic and progressive city bustling with creative start-ups and home to a vibrant art scene. This is no more apparent than in the the proliferation of restaurants and contemporary fashion boutiques around the city and the heart-warming presence of the ever-smiling locals. Moreover, Kigali is lush and scenic, fanning out across hillsides and slopes and is impressively safe and easy to navigate with well-developed infrastructure and streets. At the forefront of the sustainability movement, Kigali was one of the first in the world to ban plastic bags and has also been consecutively ranked the cleanest city in Africa.
1 Gorilla Trekking - Just a two hours drive away from Kigali city centre, the Volcanoes National Park is home to the endangered mountain gorillas, where only 880 are estimated to be remaining in the world. Put on your hiking boots and get cosy and intimate with our long-lost cousins in the tangled jungles. With Rwanda being one of the only three countries where you can find this endangered species in the wild, this would no doubt be an exhilarating and transformative experience.
2 Camping trip to Lake Burrera - You can save up on those medical expenses and trips to the psychologist by embarking on a therapeutic camping trip to Lake Burrera. Lake Burrera is probably one of the most gorgeous place in the country as picturesque hills blend into crystal-clear blue waters, all while providing access to front row seats of Mount Muhabura lurking in the backdrop. Not to mention that the sunrises are spectacular too.
3 Learn about the country’s history at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and gain a better perspective of the adversities that the locals have been through. The admirable resilience and positivity that the locals show in the midst of hardship would definitely impel you to do a little self-reflection and help put your life into perspective.
4 Mingle with the locals at a milk bar and soak in the good vibes while you get served milk fresh on tap. This is also the perfect opportunity to nourish those underworked joints with a healthy dosage of calcium and vitamin Ds or go on an alcohol detox and rediscover how you could still have fun with good company while staying sober.
Kigali International Airport (KGL) is the city’s primary airport. Airlines that fly into Kigali includes RwandAir , Turkish Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air.
Founded over seven centuries ago, Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand. There are more than 300 temples scattered across the city, which even outnumber the 7/11 stores in the region. This charming city is just a 1.5 hour flight away from Bangkok and its weather is relatively cooler than the rest of the country given its Northern altitude and moderate elevation. Travellers that have set foot in Chiang Mai have all raved about the the enchanting way that the city’s ancient village vibe intercrosses with its modern urban sophistication and with some of the most down-to-earth and laid back people residing in this city, Chiang Mai is definitely a place that is worth savouring.
1 Visit an elephant jungle sanctuary and get to feed, bath and mingle around with these gentle giants. There is no need for ethicality concerns as these sanctuaries highly prioritise on the welfare of the animals and solely provide a ‘“retirement home’” for them without subjecting them to questionable tourism activities.
2 Chat with a monk and ask them anything under the sun. It’s a win-win situation as this is the perfect chance for visitors to learn more about the country’s religion and culture while the monks also get a chance to practice their English.
3 Get a massage from a prison inmate. There are plenty of places to get a massage in Chiang Mai. But, perhaps the most interesting is the Women’s Corrections Institute. This rehabilitation programme was set-up to allow inmates to gain-skills to take with them for employment after they’re released from prison.
The Women’s Corrections Institute is totally safe — all inmates are trained professionally and have only committed minor offences. Plus, there are prison guards on location for peace of mind. The institute is one of the best places to get a massage in the city and makes a positive difference to the lives of the women involved in the rehabilitation programme.
4 Go cliff jumping at Chiang Mai’s “ Grand canyon” - Just a 40-minute drive from town, this is the perfect sanctuary to escape the city and swim/sunbathe and cliff jump (heights for all confidence level).
5 Climb up the Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand (2,565 meters above sea level) and immerse yourself in the breath-taking beauty of mother nature. From the rugged mountainous terrain to the lush tropical forests and majestic waterfalls, not to mention the plethora of animal and plant species that you can uncover. However, Doi Inthanon is more than just an Instagram-worthy location , as it is also known for its historical significance. You could also explore Chedis (monuments) dedicated to their royal majesties at the peak of the mountain.
6 Unleash your inner Spider-man at the Sticky Water Fall where you can have fun clambering up the cascading water, made possible due to the stickiness of the limestone lining the waterfall.
7 Chiang Mai is also a paradise for adrenaline junkies and offers activities ranging from jungle trekking, zip lining , white water rafting, river cruising and bamboo rafting.
Fly to Chiangmai International Airport (CNX) on airlines including Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Korean Air, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Air China. Chiangmai is also easily accessible from nearby cities like Bangkok (1.5 hrs flight) and Phuket (1 hr 45 mins flight).
Whenever we think of Curacao , the first thing that comes to our mind would probably be the world-renowned bluish liqueur that is found in many cocktail recipes. However, little did you know that Curacao is also an enchanting island that forms part of the Netherland Antilles and one that should definitely be ticked off your bucket list. This spectacular island is home to some of the most serene beaches in the world and is peppered with pastel-coloured architectures that will boggle your mind.
At first sight, the island looks like a sugar-coated version of Amsterdam , with buildings painted in every colour of the rainbow and it is almost as if a sky full of skittles have rained down on the town below. Engulfed in a sea of vigorous colours, even the most melancholic soul who sets foot on this island would be lifted out of depression.
Moreover, for those social media addicts and influencer wanna-bes out there, make sure that your camera phone is of the highest megapixel when you visit Curacao as this island is probably one of the most instagrammable places on the planet. #nofiltersneeded. Although much emphasis is given to the visual spectacularity of Curacao, one should never overlook the island’s cultural richness and how it serves as the melting pot for Dutch, Iberian, South American, African, Tropical, and even Sephardic Jewish influences, which has been brought about by its complex history.
While many people would find it difficult to pinpoint Curacao’s location without the assistance of Google Maps or may simply never even heard of the place, it is unquestionably still a fantastic out of the way travel destination that you should plan your next trip to.
1 Be mesmerised by the majestic Hato Caves , a geographic marvel that formed millions of years ago and the home to various beautiful limestone formations, romantic pools and breath-taking waterfalls. You could admire the different fantastical shapes and images that were formed from the mineral deposits that accumulated within the cave over the years or maybe even step back in time and learn about the stories of ancient tribes that are depicted on the cave paintings.
2 Regardless of whether you a fan of big birds , you would definitely still enjoy a trip to the Ostrich Farm where you would be carted around in a safari vehicle to learn about the African Ostrich and Emu, the second largest bird in the world. You could watch how these “Ferraris of the Animal Kingdom” speed across the field without a care in the world and even get up-close-and-personal with these lovely creatures to pet/feed them. This is not only an experience that “animal whisperers” will relish in but also a wonderful opportunity for ordinary people to satisfy that intensifying need to connect with nature as we trade forest-dwelling for concrete jungles and live in an increasingly virtual world.
3 Make sure you bring along your snorkelling gear as you do not want to miss out on the opportunity to go on a once-in-a-life-time underwater adventure that is sure to leave you reminiscing for years to come. With more than 350 species of fish and 65 species of hard and soft coral known to be found on the fringing reefs of Curacao, snorkelling here is almost like a scene straight out of Finding Nemo. Tag along sea turtles and schools of colourful fishes and discover what Curacao’s turquoise waters have to offer. If snorkelling is too mainstream for you , you could even rent a sea bob (underwater scooter) and live the fast-and-furious life, speeding in and out of the waters.
4 Bathe in the “natural jacuzzi” at the Suplado hole, a shallow pool field with warmed seawater and be enthralled by the powers of the raging waves not far from sight. You could then walk along the shore to witness the sight of incoming waves being projected upwards through various holes like mini geysers, which is definitely enough to send chills down your spine . On top of this, the sizzling sound generated from this phenomenon makes it seems as if you could literally hear the island “breathing” as the waves come in and out, which is surprisingly melodic and even therapeutic for the heart and soul.
Travellers usually fly into Hato International Airport, which is situated on the North Coast, 12 km from the capital Willemstad. The airport services flights from South America, North America, Europe and the Caribbean region. Airlines that fly to Hato International Airport include Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, Air Century , Aruba Airlines, United Airlines , WestJet, Caribbean Airlines, Avianca, KLM, and JetBlue.
Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic and prides itself as the first city in the New World. Founded by Christopher Columbus's brother, Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, it is the oldest inhabited European settlement in the Americas and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial empire in the New World. The city is literally a well-preserved history book leaping off the shelf and is packed with architectural gems, cobbled streets and historic churches and palaces. A true colonial gem dripping in charm and character, a trip to Santo Domingo is one that definitely should not be missed!
1 No words could adequately describe the beauty of the Three Eyes National Park, a nature reserve and open-air limestone cave system that consists of a series of pristine lakes. The moment you set foot in the area , it is almost as if you have entered a whole new mystical world, the sort of place where Game of Thrones would be filmed. Moreover, this could even be quite an educational cultural experience as these stunning open water caves offer deep insights into the pre-colonial and ancestral origins of the Dominican Republic. This definitely takes interactive learning to a whole new level!
2 Tap into your cultured and sophisticated side and immerse yourself in the exhilarating Dominican theatre experience. Plays are uniquely 15 minutes long with themes that mainly revolve around Dominican life, culture, love and relationships. From gripping plotlines to intertwined relationships that match up to Love Island , these plays would be thoroughly enjoyed even by people that grew up on an electronic screen. Plus, Netflix can never replicate the intimate audience-actor interaction that is unique only to Dominican theatre, making it such a thrilling experience in all.
3 Learn about the world’s rarest semi-precious stones at the Larimar museum, exclusively found only in the Dominican Republic.
4 Take a step back in time and make a trip to Alcazar de Colon , home to Columbus’s son and the Spanish conquistadors like Vasquez and Cortez__.
5 Take time to soak in the significance of setting foot into the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, the first and oldest church in the Americas and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Santo Domingo is easily accessible through Las Americas International Airport (SDQ). Airlines flying into the city include Aeromexico, Air France, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, and United Airlines.
As the melting point of Buddhism and Hinduism and the gateway to Everest and the Himalayas, the fabled city of Kathmandu is the epicentre of economic and political life in Nepal. Upon touch down, you will be instantly sucked into the vortex of its fast pace and chaotic tempo, engulfed in a riot of sights, sounds and smells that quickly lead to a sensory overload. This assault of senses and magical mayhem may just be what you need to stir up your uninspiring routines and inject a little zest into your static life. However, the beauty of Kathmandu is that in the midst of this frenetic confusion, there are still heavens of tranquillity concealed in every corner where you could retreat into and find that inner zen. This mix of “figuring-out-the-way” amongst the chaos and access to therapeutic peace makes a trip to Kathmandu incredibly revitalising and is also the exact reason why herds of tourists visit the city every year when they hit a bottleneck in life.
1 No visit to Kathmandu would be complete without making a trip to the Durbar Square, a living museum of Hindu and Buddhist art and the perfect place to get lost in a labyrinth of stunning temples, shines and palaces scattered across its narrow streets.
2 Let loose of your adult worries and relive your care-free childhood at the Holi Festival each Spring as you soak in the joyful atmosphere and throw coloured powder and water balloons at one another in the spirit of celebrating fertility, colour and love.
3 Unearth your inner zen at the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest stupads in the world and a popular pilgrimage site for Tibetan and Nepalese. The peaceful, mystical atmosphere and soothing chants would put you into meditative mode in no time.
Fly to Kathmandu via Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) which connects the city to destinations in Asia and the Middle East. Airlines that fly into the airport include Air China, Air India , China Eastern Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Etihad Airways, Korean Air , Silk Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines.
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