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Fancy a trip off the beaten track? You’ll get unique photos, enjoy fantastic food and get to share experiences with your friends that none of them has ever had. Take a holiday based on Skyscanner data to one of the least searched destinations of 2017 – such as Astana, Denver or Malaga – and we’re convinced you’ll have one unforgettable vacation!
Intriguing Astana rises from the frigid steppes of northern Kazakhstan and is the world’s second coldest capital city (January averages at -15°C). However, you’re sure to get a warm welcome from the proud inhabitants of this new capital with its unique blend of Soviet-style architecture alongside a wide range of cutting-edge buildings designed by architecture luminaries such as Norman Foster.
Astana must-sees include the extraordinary Khan Shatyr, a transparent tent with space for 10,000 people which includes a beach resort and a shopping complex, the Atamaken, a 200m walk-around map of Kazakhstan, and the Presidential Culture Centre filled with stunning Kazakh jewellery. Don’t forget to treat your tastebuds to beshbarmak, a pasta and horse meat dish, and wash it down with kumis, lightly fermented mare’s milk.
Astana is a wonderland of architectural styles
Romantic Florence fills the imagination with its world class art and stunning views over the Arno river. With its manageable size, narrow medieval streets and world-famous vineyards, the charms of Florence are abundant. Once you’ve marvelled at the world famous Duomo, been for a wine and cheese tasting session at Le Volpi e l’Uva, and popped into the Galleria dell’Accademia to marvel at Michelangelo’s David, you know you’ll be back for more.
Treat yourself to a vacation in impossibly romantic Florence
The home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, Stuttgart’s Porsche and Mercedes-Benzmuseums will please your inner petrol-head. Get charmed by the city with a visit to Bohnenviertel, a charming neighbourhood of cobbled squares and quirky galleries and pop into the Schweinenmuseum, with over 40,000 exhibits on pigs and a café serving up gigantic pork knuckles. Vacationing with family? Make a beeline for the Wilhelma botanical gardens and zoo, where you’re sure to enjoy the 19th Century landscaping and the animal encounters.
Take time to explore the quirky galleries and cafes of some of Stuttgart’s older neighbourhoods
4. Chiang Rai
Relaxed Chiang Rai is often overlooked as many visitors head straight from the airport into the countryside to discover the many attractions of Chiang Rai Province. However, it’s definitely worth lingering in the town for a while to enjoy its temples, such as the beautiful Wat Phra Kaew, and the Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park, where you can learn about Lanna culture. Take a cruise down the Kok river and visit Akha and Lisu villages before returning to town to browse the local goods at the Night Bazaar or wander down to Chiang Rai Beach to enjoy a delicious and authentic northern Thai meal.
Take a cruise down the Kok to explore hill tribe villages on your Chiang Rai getaway
Though less well known than neighbouring Granada and Seville, Malaga is emerging as one of southern Spain’s most dynamic cities with great art and superb dining. The city is blessed with diverse historical sights including the Alcazaba, a Moorish hilltop castle overlooking the city, and the Teatro Romano, a well-preserved Roman theatre. Art fans will enjoy the Picasso Museum, and foodies should hunt down espetos, delicious grilled sardines, before heading to the quay for some fresh Andalucian fish washed down with chilled mosto, a sweet and refreshing white wine.
Historic Malaga is packed full of wonderfully photogenic sights
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France’s fourth largest city and nicknamed ‘La Ville Rose’ after its red brick Romanesque buildings and ochre roofs, Toulouse captivates visitors with its bustling streets and enchanting old town. Techies will find plenty to occupy themselves at the Cite de l’Espace, a museum detailing Toulouse’s contribution to the aviation industry with exhibits on Concorde, Airbus and a planetarium too! If you’re a true aviation devotee, join a tour of the Airbus assembly line and get up and close with an A380.
Epicureans need to try celebrated local dishes including cassoulet and confit duck. Then burn it off by taking a bike ride along the 40kms of path that line the Canal du Midi, an engineering marvel that was built by Louis XIV to connect the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Take a cycle along the beautiful Canal di Midi when you visit Toulouse
Read more: Top 10 things to see, do and eat in France
Known as the ‘Mile High City’ for its 1600m altitude, Denver embraces its past as a cowboy capital but nods towards a glowing future with a vibrant arts scene with almost weekly festivals, cosmopolitan neighbourhoods and access to superlative skiing, hiking and camping in the nearby Rocky Mountains. Check out the quirky shops, microbreweries and classic architecture in the LoDo district, catch a show in the Golden Triangle or head out of town for an amazing live music event in the Red Rock Amphitheatre. If there’s one thing for sure, dynamic Denver is on the move.
Try and catch a gig at the incredible Red Rock Amphitheatre, which has some of the best natural acoustics on earth
Gritty Belgrade is southeast Europe’s most happening city with its amazing blend of Art Nouveau and Ottoman architecture alongside Soviet-era tower blocks testifying to the city’s complex history. Explore Kalemegdan Citadel, which has been fought for over 115 times and destroyed on 40 occasions, and take a walk down pedestrianized Skardalija with its cafes and buskers performing traditional Serbian music. Belgrade comes alive after dark so go to a bar on Strahinjića Bana early to grab a seat and join the boozy fun. In summer, the locals flock to Ada Ciganlija, an island 8kms outside town with a beach perfect for a refreshing dip and catching rays.
Join the crowds for a fun evening on Strahinjića Bana in Belgrade
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Once a city plagued by The Troubles and avoided by travellers, Belfast has transformed itself into a hip party city with a number of excellent attractions to keep visitors busy. First port of call on any Belfast getaway has to be the Titanic Belfast, a cutting-edge multimedia exhibition that describes Belfast’s shipbuilding history including the construction of the ill-fated Titanic. Pop into the incredible Victorian-era Crown Liquor Saloon for a pint, before taking a tour of the Crumlin Road Gaol, a working prison until 1996 which played host to some of Belfast’s most notorious villains.
Enjoy a multimedia extravaganza at Titanic Belfast. Photo credit: Reading Tom / Flickr
Beyond the Hawaiian shirts and coconut-sipping in Sanya, this little slice of paradise in China has more than enough for a tropical vacation. Dodge the crowds at unspoilt Perfume Bay to swim or snorkel in its clear water, or take a hike in Yanoda Rainforest Park and splash around in a waterfall. Sanya is the only place in China where you can surf, so get some lessons and ride those waves. Of course, a must-eat is authentic Hainan Chicken Rice, served with Wenchang chicken, and best washed down with a fresh coconut.