- Sunday Sanctuary
Beautiful City Breaks
Sun, sea, and sand can also mean burn, bad hair, and tiny grains of rock in your bed for weeks. We've compiled a list of alternative destinations, whether you choose to visit for a long weekend, or decide to get to know a city inside out.
When East and West collide you'll find yourself in Istanbul. Endless days can be spent here exploring the different districts, walking along the Bosphorus, winding your way through the Souks, or simply sipping cocktails from a rooftop bar.
With culture that rivals many of the world's most famous cities, be sure to book yourself onto a free walking tour for an insight into Istanbul's history. Architectural delights range from the Topkapi Palace Museum to the Aya Sofya, your tastebuds will be tingled whether you wish to spend less than £5 in a food kitchen (try Galata Kitchen), or choose to immerse yourself in the capital's fine dining scene. Whilst you're there be sure to try baklava, börek, and of course some authentic Turkish delight.
If you fancy a bit of down time, take a ferry over to the Princes' Islands for traditional, laid-back island life. You can choose to hike around the hills, sip coffee in a quiet cafe, or simply kick back on a pebble beach and enjoy the sound of the waves.
The perfect spot for a long weekend, Edinburgh never ceases to captivate the imagination no matter how many times you go. Whether you visit during summer or winter, this beautiful, historic city will make you feel as if you are Harry Potter.
You can walk by Elephant Cafe where J.K. Rowling penned the masterpiece itself, or take a stroll up the Royal Mile to explore Edinburgh Castle with its sprawling views of the city. Restaurants will not disappoint either, and you can find great places to eat from the artisan to the commercial (try a fried Mars bar for a fantastic introduction to Scottish cuisine).
Not to be missed is a hike up Arthur's Seat (and if you can muster the energy, do the hike before dawn to watch the sunrise from the top), followed by a stroll through Holyrood Park.
Bangkok usually gets all the buzz, but if you prefer a more laid-back vibe then the northern city of Chiang Mai is the place for you. From dawn 'til dusk this incredible place will have you amused - whether you choose to do a cooking class, spend time at an elephant sanctuary, hike around Doi Inthanon, or wind your way around the food markets, you will find yourself running out of time before your visit has even begun.
Chiang Mai is famous for its Night Market(s), which are well worth a visit if only for the buzz. The food stalls that pop up in the evening will have you eating 4 dinners before the night is through, and whilst you promised yourself you wouldn't buy any trinkets, you'll quickly find your suitcase full of them (who doesn't need 12 sets of chopsticks?)
Spend hours strolling through the Old Town, book yourself in for an affordable and incredible spa day, and make sure you visit Nimmanhaemin, the up and coming expat spot with tonnes of trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants. And if you're looking for some nightlife, you can't leave Chiang Mai without a visit to Zoe in Yellow and a shot of Samson whiskey (although you might regret it).
If you have time to spare, take a bus up to Pai and spend a few nights in this incredible mountain village. The scenes on the road from Chiang Mai to Pai are something else, and once you arrive we can assure you that you may even find yourself (at the bottom of a mushroom shake).
Cuba itself is another world entirely, and Havana will be your first stop in this incredible country. Prepare to be transported to the mid-20th Century, in a time before the internet (seriously, there is pretty much no internet - more on this later), great cars, street dancing, cigars, rum, salsa, and giant avocados...
Visit the bar where Hemingway found inspiration to write seven novels, do a tour in a vintage convertible classic, or simply stroll along the Malecon to the sound of the sea. The dilapidated buildings have an ethereal beauty to them, and there is charm to be found on all corners; from old ladies selling cups of coffee out of their living room windows, to live bands in the street.
As previously mentioned, the internet situation is a weird one - you have to buy (and often queue for) a slip of paper that has a code, which allows you to use the internet for one hour... in a public place. So prepare yourself for hundreds of people sat in parks and on curbs on their laptops. The situation is different in fancier hotels who pay for their own wifi, but if you're sticking to an authentic (read: budget) experience, this is what it will take to google directions. Our best survival tip would be to download an offline map from maps.me, as you may find yourself getting lost over and over again (which, tbh, isn't the worst thing in the world when you're in Havana).
An absolute treasure that really stands out from the crowd, New Orleans will sweep you right off your feet. Old towns in big cities are few and far between in the USA, and this one in particular ticks all the boxes; from the architecture, to the cuisine, from the culture to the history, and from dawn 'til dusk, you will be entertained.
New Orleans is best visited during less busy times, as events such as Mardi Gras can get pretty hectic and it's nicer to explore the city in your own time; from voodoo shops to cemeteries (sounds strange, is great), food tours to jazz clubs, NOLA has it all. Do make sure you delve into the city's dark history too, from the time of the confederate flag to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Perhaps the quality setting NOLA apart from the rest of America is its divine, delicious grub. With dishes that extend far beyond the usual offerings of burgers and steak, you can choose from an eclectic menu that includes (but is not limited to) gumbo, po-boys, beignets, jambalaya, crawfish ettouffee, and so much more, all whilst a live jazz band plays just metres away from where you sit.