The modern jetsetter is exposed to a dazzling array of choice when it comes to alternative travel ideas. From exploring the wild and wonderful cultures of Nihiwatu, to tempting your tastebuds with offerings from an urban mixologist to finding yourself amidst a ‘spur-of-the-moment street fiesta – in today’s frenzied world, we crave a place that is out of the ordinary, immersed in ethnicity and most importantly…oodles of fun!
CUBA: HAVANA GOOD TIME
With its vibrant buildings, impromptu street fiestas and vintage cars, the delightfully quaint Cuba is the alternative traveller’s perfect match. And with a number of dramatic changes set to take place in the very near future, now is the time to visit!
If you’re wishing to venture to a world devoid of the fast food chain’s famous golden arches, contemporary cars and US exports, then Havana will be right up your street! In fact, Cuba is a paradise for ‘pedant’ travellers. With fiestas galore, it’s incredibly atmospheric, upbeat and yet still, positively behind the times. However, with the floodgates set to open to American trading, Havana’s cobbled streets, boutique hotels and one-off eateries may soon become a thing of the past.
From learning to salsa (you’ll discover venues playing live music every day of week) to tantalising your tastebuds with rum cocktails, burgers big enough to split between two, ginger cookies and the famous Malta mocktail – Havana is renowned for its food and drink (the latter being a little more popular!)
During the days, top up your tan against a backdrop of azure blue waters and idyllic white sands, head to one of the local markets, explore the Cuban capital (havanatourcompany.com offer full or half day tours from just £25) or escape the crowds with a trip to Las Terrazas (an area renowned for its beauty and sustainable eco-community, situated just 90 minutes from Havana). It’s here you’ll discover crystal clear lagoons, zip lines and enchanting forest trails. Visit now and you’ll discover a culture as invigorating as the rum it’s notorious for!
Getting there: Flights from London Heathrow start from £485pp.
Stay: You have two accommodation options – live like an A-lister or a local. Rooms in one of the local hotels start at £45 per night. Living it up? Stay at the luxury Saratoga, where Habana suites start from £450 per night!
Pack: Your dancing shoes – Cubans enjoy a fiesta at any time of the day or night!
Fact: You can’t buy currency outside of Cuba; Pounds and Euros can be exchanged at one of the bigger hotels. Whatever you do, don’t take US Dollars!
Brush shoulders with: Beyoncé (she’s a fan of this part of the world) and a number of local party people.
Visit: The Romeo Y Julieta cigar factory.
High season: November to April.
MARRAKESH: ROCK THE KASBAH
If you’re a fan of epic scenery, look no further than the deserts’ of Marrakesh and the historic town of Ait Benhaddou. The backdrop is so impressive, it’s set the scene for many a blockbuster movie, including Babel, The Mummy and Gladiator. Travel to a luxe camp in true Moroccan style by camel before venturing further a field to the spectacular Atlas Mountains where you’ll be welcomed into a luxury Kasbah retreat in the perfectly peaceful Berber village of Imlil. Activities include learning to cook with fresh, local ingredients in the traditional Moroccan way, guided hikes in the mountains and massage treatments at any one of the native relaxing Hammam spas.
Whilst in the area, explore the Medina’s bustling souks brimming with colourful spices, more mint tea than you can ask for and trinkets galore, whet your whistle at one of the city’s hidden cocktail joints and sample the best street food Morocco has to offer.
Venturing to the world’s most original, remote and extravagant places often means we’re to bend our bank balances a little. However, as the saying goes ‘travel is the only thing you can buy guaranteed to make you richer!’ So what are you waiting for…
Getting there: Blue Islands fly direct to London City, cutting out the hustle and bustle of other major airports. You can catch a flight to Agadir from there.
Alternative accommodation: Forget the hotel and stay in a boutique B&B Riad in the UNESCO town of Ait Benhaddou, a Sahara Desert camp or a luxury mountain sanctuary in the Kasbah!
Don’t miss: A puff on a shisha pipe – there are more shisha cafes in Morocco than you can shake a stick at!
Fact: Morocco is only eight miles from Europe, across the strait of Gibraltar.
Brush shoulders with: A number of famous surfers, Taghazout, north of Agadir is renowned for its epic waves.
NIHIWATU: ON THE EDGE OF WILDNESS
Just a short hop from Nihiwatu is the Indonesian island of Sumba, where grandiose hotel pillow menus’ and Michelin Star eateries are simply out of the question. This tiny expanse of land, home to some 650,000 people and over 200 species of bird, boasts a world immersed in forgotten cultures and legendary games of past. Headhunting has not entirely died out, megalithic burials occur on a regular basis and the mythical game of Pasola is still in existence.
Nihiwatu on the other hand possesses a certain untainted luxury. The hobbyhorse of consummate hotel expert James McBride and American financier Chris Burch, it’s here you’ll find an impeccable resort with the wildest backdrop imaginable – stunning accommodation, exquisite culinary delights and service that is second to none. Unlike the majority of world-class resorts, every penny made is reinvested back into the community through the resort’s non-profit arm – the Sumba Foundation.
The concept is quite simple. By taking advantage of one of the most celebrated surf spots, the founders are able to massively improve the local’s lifestyles. Aside from generating better living conditions, they’ve even created 200 job opportunities.
If it’s an unstructured escape you’re after, then add Nihiwatu to your bucket list. Interested in a little scuba diving? Just ask, a five star dive boat will appear out of nowhere, eager to take you to the Magic Mountain – a colossal limestone pinnacle, hidden by the ocean and located just a mile from shore. If surfing is more your kettle of fish, meander down to the boathouse where an instructor will be only too happy to give you a lesson in riding the waves. And if you’re here to relax, a morning yoga session is a must. Perform twists and Bandha techniques against a backdrop of waterfalls, exotic flowers and a five-mile private beach, before riding back to the resort bareback.
Getting there: Qatar Airways fly direct to Bali from London Heathrow, where you can catch an internal flight to Sumba.
Price: Seven nights (including flights, airport transfers and all meals) is £4,394 in peak season.
Don’t miss: A guided mini expedition around the island to see the incredible work of the Sumba Foundation, you’ll even help serve up lunch in a local school!
Fact: Nihiwatu is home to world-class photographer Suki, who has a number of National Geographic cover shots to his credit.
Brush shoulders with: A number of A-list celebrities, affluent travellers, captains of industry and of course, a variety of enthralling individuals from the local ‘Guru Village’.