Need inspiration for your travels? Get fresh ideas instantly with our new monthly series Where to go next, where we share our choice of the best trips to book in the month ahead.
We kick off with our star February travel pick...
Go here next #1: Halong Bay in Vietnam
Five hours east of Hanoi, Halong Bay is known for its picture-perfect ocean karsts (jutting limestone rock formations) and boat party scene. If you want to mix exploring natural wonders with Chang-fuelled fun at sea, this spot will serve you well.
We chatted to Gapyear.com editor and travel blogger VickyFlipFlop (or Victoria Philpott as her mum knows her) on how to have an excellent time in Halong - she's been there and bought the T-shirt (no, really - see her awesome two-week Vietnam itinerary)...
Photo via Vickyflipfloptravels.com
Vicky: We went with Golden Lotus Tours over the backpackers party cruise because we’d heard that the party cruise was kind of ‘forced fun’ and we didn’t really want that. We met some cool people on our boat and it ended up as a bit of a party boat with the local vodka and the karaoke anyway. The kayaking was just part of the experience the next day. Blew some boozey cobwebs away.
Just sitting back on the boat and watching it unfold. It was incredible. The ‘Surprising Cave’ was pretty cool too.
We didn’t stay long enough. We only had one night on the boat and definitely should’ve gone for the two night option to make the most of the scenery and the sunset.
The local people crouch a lot – whether they’re chatting, eating or just chilling on their lonesome, they’ll sit around as if they’re a child going to the toilet. I don’t know how their knees take it.
Friends who’ve also been to Halong Bay have said how jealous they are of my bright and sunny photos, I think it’s often overcast. We met some people in Hanoi who’d said their tour had been called off a few days earlier because of thunderstorms. We were very lucky.
And if you're not so into the Viet thing, here are...
Nine more ideas for your 2014 bucket list
1. Go to Boracay on $23 a day
Just about everyone and their cat knows about Boracay by now – the Filipino island’s fast replacing Thailand’s Andaman coast as the new party paradise. Kindly enough, Sabrina Iovino of Just One Way Ticket worked out how to get your kicks there on just 1000 PHP ($23 / €17) a day – that’s accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails/beers. Amazing. Follow the guide here.
Photo via Justonewayticket.com
2. Snap photos on Istanbul’s rainbow staircases
One day in Findikli, Istanbul, a man in his 60s painted a set of steps like a rainbow – and started a quiet but multi-coloured revolution. All over the city, people started slapping colour on local staircases... and the inevitable selfie landslide began shortly after. I like the uncomplicated joy captured in Katrinka Abroad’s film shots of people posing it up – take a look for yourself.
Photo via Katrinkaabroad.com
3. Take a ten-years-younger mud bath in Palau’s Milky Way
With its glass-clear water and kaleidoscopic coral reefs, Pacific island Palau is catnip for divers. Get on a Sam Tour’s boat and you’ll also come across baby blue lagoon the Milky Way in the Rock Islands. Its seabed of skin-softening white limestone mud is said to get you looking a decade younger: slather on said mud and let it dry to do its magic. Bucket List Journey already tried it, and reveals the result here.
Photo via Bucketlistjourney.com
4. Hike a glacier in Iceland
Glacier Guides run ice-climbing tours in Iceland for people of all abilities, including winter-only ice cave tours, glacier hikes at Sólheimajökull and glacier, volcano and waterfall tours in Skaftafell. Sound cool? Read Wander the Map’s Glacier Xtreme adventure and get ready to get your crampons on… (note: the Glacier Xtreme tour runs May to September this year).
Photo via Wanderthemap.com
5. Explore Europe’s secret cheap beaches
What do you think of when you hear ‘Albania’? I’d be very surprised if the answer was “amazing beaches” – but that’s exactly what this southeastern European country has in spades, as shown in Yomadic’s Albanian Riviera photo-story. A tumultuous recent history (to put it weakly) halted tourism here, so it’s only now people are discovering Sarande’s white sands, Mediterranean climate and $1 beers. Time to book a summer holiday before everyone else does?
6. Get behind the scenes at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw
For a mere €15, you can take a two-hour guided tour behind the scenes at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam's premier purpose-built classical music venue. During the tour you'll learn the history of the 1881 building and get a look at the jazz club, the main hall from the conductor's point of view and attic (which the public doesn't normally have access to). Read more about the tour at Amsterdam Blog's Visiting the Concertgebouw.
Photo via Amsterdamblog.co.uk
7. Ramble solo round the Isle of Skye, Scotland
Fairy pools (pictured) and the Old Man of the Storr viewing point with scenes of cliffside waterfalls Mealt Falls and the rugged Kilt Rock are just a few reasons why you should take a man vs. nature-style ramble round the Isle of Skye. Hire a car, make sure your boots are sturdy, and go... but whet your appetite first with Eye and Pen's gorgeous Photo Tour of the Isle of Skye.
Photo via Eyeandpen.com
8. Go volcano boarding in Nicaragua
Yes, volcano boarding is an actual thing people do, not a dream you had after too much after-dinner cheese. Arrange to board down the ashy side of Cerro Negro near León in Nicaragua via tour group Quetzaltrekkers, and read about just how fun it is here on This Battered Suitcase.
Photo via Thisbatteredsuitcase.com
9. Discover the Inca Trail without the tourists
Where do you want to go next? Tell us in the comments…
“ Chile :)