Whether you’re wanting to explore a city or coastline, there are plenty of places close to the UK that don’t require a costly long-haul flight. Among the Panache Cruise expert’s top picks are Montenegro and Nicosia, Cyprus.
James Cole, founder and managing director of Panache Cruises said: “We have seen an increase in those looking to discover far-flung destinations and avoid the hustle and bustle of well-visited tourist spots.
“There are many underrated countries which have so many sights and experiences to offer travellers.
“Unusual travel destinations like Borneo, Azerbaijan and Nicosia may not be at the top of many bucket lists, but should not be overlooked and can offer travellers the trip of a lifetime.
“Many of these destinations can be reached or explored by ship too and water-bourne itinerary offers travellers entirely different perspectives when compared to land-based visits.”
As one of the smallest countries in Europe, James noted that this “underrated spot” is the perfect place for travellers looking to escape the “hustle and bustle of busy tourist spots”.
Bounded by the Adriatic sea and Croatia, Montenegro is home to the deepest canyon on the continent and offers visitors the chance to explore stunning landscapes including exceptional mountains and inviting shores.
James said: “Compared to Croatia’s popular coastline, the Montenegrin coast remains off the beaten tourist trails. The Bay of Kotor is known as the “jewel of the Montenegrin crown” and is loved by those who visit for its beauty and atmosphere.”
Ryanair operates direct flights from London Stansted Airport (STN) to Podgorica Golubovci Airport (TGD), with an average flight duration of two hours and 45 minutes.
Cyprus attracts millions of British tourists each year with an estimated 3.9 million having visited in 2022. While Paphos and Larnaca are two of the most popular hotspots for holidaymakers, the country’s capital is lesser-known.
James said: “The capital of Cyprus is split by the ‘green lane’ – a border between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus, making it the world’s last divided capital city.
“Once completely sealed, the restrictions on the border are now more relaxed, allowing travellers to visit both parts of the city. The Republic side of the border can be compared to other European capitals, with popular retail and food spots available for tourists.
“When crossing into North Nicosia it becomes clear there is a huge divide between the two areas, offering cultural sights like mosques and the mediaeval caravanserai.”
Return flights to Nicosia can be purchased for as little as £44 with Wizz Air in early March.
If you’re willing to look further afield, the cruise expert recommended Jordan – just a five-hour flight from London. The journey is just one hour longer than a trip to Cyprus and is “brimming with historical treasures”.
Among its must-see spots are the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Petra and Wadi Rum which is also known as the “Valley of the Moon”, and the Dead Sea – known for being the lowest place on earth.
Situated 400m below sea level, visitors can experience the healing mineral waters, rich air and rare animals.
If you’re not willing to travel across continents Azerbaijan is an ideal location. Sandwiched between Europe and Asia, the cultural and “vibrant” destination is a hotspot for activities and has something to offer all.
The cruise expert said: “Food lovers can enjoy culinary tours of the country, tasting delicious local cuisines like gutab and sweet halva. East of the country lies the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water, offering day cruises and an amazing swimming spot for sun lovers. Azerbaijan is also home to nine of the world’s 11 climate zones, for travellers to experience beautiful green landscapes.”
Further afield is Borneo – the world’s third-largest island based in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago. The vast wildlife tourism allows visitors to experience a range of endangered species, and travellers can also tackle the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu, dive into the Sipadan Island’s corals or enjoy the sandy beaches of Kota Kinabalu.
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