With summer fast approaching, many Canadians are starting to think about their warm-weather travel plans. But with so many choices in the world, how do you decide where to go? It really depends on what type of traveller you are (and your budget), but here are some destinations that I think you should consider this year.
Canada is celebrating their 150th birthday so why not stay close to home and enjoy the summer with your fellow Canadians? Celebrations will be happening all year round, so think more about what you want to see. The Canadian Rockies are a must for any Canadian with their epic mountains and crystal clear waters. If you want to go all out, book a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer which will take you from Vancouver to Jasper or Banff and is considered one of the best train rides in the world. Montreal is well established as a foodie destination and is celebrating their 375th birthday, but don’t ignore Saskatoon who has seen their culinary scene explode in the last few years. The best thing about checking out Canada this summer is the fact that we don’t need to worry about the exchange rate.
TAP Portugal, the national carrier of Portugal has recently started an aggressive campaign to get more people to visit the country. Essentially, when booking with TAP, you can get a free stopover in Porto or Lisbon for up to three days. After that, you can continue on to your final destination. Once you start exploring Portugal, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get there. In Lisbon, you can dine on fresh seafood and listen to Fado music in the old district of Alfama. Alternatively, explore the nightlife of Bairro Alto which also has some of the best views of the city. If you prefer to keep things a little more low key, head to the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region where golden beaches and breathtaking cliffs await.
United Arab Emirates
The Middle East is still appealing to many people, but recent political tensions have some travellers second guessing their decisions. A good compromise is the United Arab Emirates which has a stable government and modern attractions yet retains many of its traditions. In Dubai, one of the best ways to see the city isn’t on a private cruise, but by riding an Abra, a traditional wooden passenger boat that will take you across the Dubai creek. Over in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Mosque is one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in the country as well as a key site for worship. As for modern amenities, you really are spoiled by choice. The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa has an observation deck where you can admire Dubai’s skyline or you can try your hand at skiing indoors at the Mall of Emirates.
Forget everything you know about Cuba, it has much more to offer than all-inclusive resorts. The island is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites and offers plenty of culture outside of Havana. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and is known as a cultural hub since it has multiple museums and is home to many of Cuba’s most famous authors and musicians. Located in the province of Sancti Spiritus, you’ll find the city of Trinidad which has colonial architecture that’s more impressive than things you’ll see in Havana. Then there’s the cathedral of Bayamo, a national monument that helped define Cuba during the Wars of Independence against Spanish colonialism. Cuba is full of culture so it’s worth exploring — even if it’s just for a day away from your resort.
Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? That’s what Japan feels like since you can literally go travel across Japan for a fixed price with a JR Pass. Tokyo is an explosion for the senses where you’ll feel like you’re in the future, but head to Kyoto and you can walk among temples that are hundreds of years old. In Osaka, food and shopping are in your face, but just two hours south, you can make a pilgrimage to Mount Koya where the only accommodations available are Buddhist temples. Although Japan is famous for pet cafes, they also have islands full of cats and bunnies that love visitors who bring them snacks. You might be surprised to learn that Japan is reasonably priced for travellers, and not nearly as expensive as people assume.
Central Europe continues to be a growing destination, but it’s never been easier to get to. Air Transat allows multi-destination flights where you can fly into Budapest and out of Prague or vice versa so you don’t need to backtrack to fly home. Budapest is a very cost-friendly city with meals being relatively inexpensive and hotels averaging about $120 a night. As for attractions, a trip to the Castle District and a dip in a thermal bath are musts. Instead of making your way straight to Prague, stop in Vienna where the city centre is like a walk back in time. Just about every building here is an architectural gem, and make sure you take the time to visit some nearby palaces. Finally, Prague’s Old Town gets all the attention since you’ll find all the top attractions there including Tyn Church and the astrological clock. If you do plan on heading to Europe, here’s how much to budget for a two-week trip.
Those looking to do a Safari should consider Kenya. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to lions and leopards which many tourists hope to see in their natural habitat. Beyond the big cats, visitors are in for a treat since it’s Wildebeest Migration season. Watch as more than a million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle head north as they seek out fresh grazing and better quality water. Before you head out on your safari, do spend some time in Nairobi. The city is very modern yet many of the top attractions are related to the animals which they share the land with. At the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, you can visit elephants and rhinos who were orphaned due to poaching. Just outside of Nairobi is the Giraffe Centre where endangered Rothschild Giraffes are bred and educational programs are offered.
Barry Choi is a personal finance and budget travel expert at Moneywehave.com.