Cape Town – While most people are still planning their end-of-year holiday, other savvy travellers have already begun their research and preparation for a getaway in the new year.
Gone are the days of simply vacationing. Travellers now plan their escapes based on their personal interests with the aim of fulfilling a set of travel goals, rather than to just unwinding by sipping cocktails on a pristine beach (though there’s nothing wrong with doing only that too on your vacation!).
From trying out exotic meals for the first time and going on unique adventures, to ensuring one sees off-the-grid sites as much as the popular attractions, travel bucket-lists have expanded to the point where one needs a holiday after a holiday!
SEE: QUIZ: What country in the World best fits your personality - and why
To assist in your travel plans for 2018, we’ve put together a list of top places - within reasonable affordability - to whet various travel appetites.
Ideal for “archi-lovers” and culturists
If you’re an explorer of cultural, historic and archaeological sites, then a visit to Morocco will appease your interests.
SEE: From Casablanca to Marrakech: Top tips for South African travellers
While Morocco’s mountains, coastline, desert, oases, souks and cities, adds to the country’s diverse offering, its cultural influences also vary, resulting in a number of cultural places of interest.
From the historic riads of the Marrakech medina to the allure of the Moroccan hammam and the muezzin’s call, there are plenty of reasons to visit Morocco and appeal to the cultural traveller in you.
MUST-SEE: 10 Moroccan marvels you don't want to miss
Another budget-friendly and popular destination oozing appeal to cultural enthusiasts is Indonesia.
Paying respect to Mount Agung, which is the highest mountain in Bali and considered the dwelling place of the Hindu gods, is on most Indonesia travellers’ bucket lists.
SEE: Untapped Indonesia:Lapping up the raw beauty of Raja Ampat
Mount Agung plays a significant role in the lives of the Balinese; said to “dominate the surrounding area, influence the climate and is the deciding factor of their spatial orientation”.
There are also two popular hiking routes to reach the peak at 3031m, which promises stunning sunrise views.
ALSO SEE: Island-hopping in Indonesia: Visiting a few from thousands
If you plan on staying in Mzansi throughout the year, you can feed your hunger for culture by visiting one of the many historical buildings.
SEE: 10 Historical SA places you need to visit to call yourself a Mzansi kid
A must-visit place in SA is the newly relaunched Campanile memorial in Port Elizabeth, which comes complete with breathtaking views, an art gallery and state-of-the-art bells.
Also check out the newly opened Zeitz MOCAA Museum in Cape Town - a seamless collaboration between architecture and art, with a focus on displays from the African diaspora and people whose production is linked to Africa.
SEE: WATCH: Zeitz MOCAA Museum is a 'cathedral' for African art
Foodie travellers’ paradise
There’s no doubt that food plays a major part in our travel decisions. With travellers increasingly looking for unique foodie experiences - including street food, trying out local fine dining, and everyday local cuisine – a country’s food offering (when affordable!) certainly revolutionises a traveller’s experience.
One of the places where travellers can satisfy their foodie interests is Vietnam. This affordable destination, steeped in cultural and natural beauty, boasts a wide local menu.
SEE: Find Your Escape: Vietnam
In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, one can indulge in Banh mi which is a Vietnamese stuffed baguette filled with pork belly, chillies, fresh herbs, pickled vegetables and boiled egg, or perhaps try out Banh Cuon – a steamed fermented rice batter pancake filled with a mixture of cooked seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots.
Read more about the “6 Bs to treat your taste buds to in a 48-hour visit to Hanoi” here.
SEE: Eat your heart out: A 48h foodie dream in Hanoi, Vietnam
Another exotic destination that will tickle your tastebuds with uniquely local cuisine is Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, a tropical island situated in the Indian Ocean, has a colourful and rich history dating back centuries.
The teardrop island’s cuisine is known for its "rich uniqueness. The culinary delicacies of Sri Lanka are very aromatic and healthy".
SEE: Quick Guide: Refreshing Sri Lanka
If you want to test your spice-tolerance, the Sri Lanka is the place for you. While the common food to try in Sri Lanka is fish curry and mixed rice – very different from what you may try in SA – foodie travellers must opt for dhal, young Jackfruit curry and gotukola sambol.
Street food – commonly known as short eats - includes vegetable samoosas or deep-fried lentil doughnuts. And be sure to make the most of tropical fruits while on the island.
SEE: Find Your Escape: Refreshing Sri Lanka
Local is lekker
Before heading overseas, check out these local foodie escapes right on your doorstep – and they’re budget friendly too! SEE: Budget-friendly foodie escapes across Mzansi
Just for the adrenalin adventurer
If you’re the adrenalin-fueled traveller, then a budget-friendly destination for you is Maldives – a place where you can get the best of both worlds with adrenaline activities and relaxing escapes.
SEE: Find Your Escape: Maldives
Get active underwater with scuba diving and snorkelling, or if you prefer to be on the water rather than under there are many watersports to choose from.
You can also go surfing, stand-up paddling, kayaking, windsurfing - and book lessons at most resorts.
SEE: Maldives Top 5 activities: It is impossible to get bored
For adventure activities on land – and on a budget – a trip to Namibia is recommended.
Offering more than safari rides and blissful African sunshine, Namibia is home to some of the most epic hiking trails in the world, attracting hikers from across the globe. The trails offer unique scenery, plant and animal life, and are geared for people of varying fitness levels.
The most popular lengthy Namibian hikes: Fish River Hike, Waterberg Hike, Mundulea Nature Reserve and Tok Tokkie Hike.
SEE: Find Your Escape: Namibia
Another attraction for adventure travellers in Namibia is Sossusvlei, also known as the salt and clay pan, which is said to be home to the highest sand dunes in the world. Sand boarders from all over the world flock to this desert to challenge these daring sand dunes.
SEE: 8 Quirky reasons to visit Namibia!
Keep it local
Adrenalin adventurers who want to keep it local can also experience the “Big Five” of a different kind in SA with these top 5 longest, highest, fastest adventures.
And the beauty of it is that each one is located in a different corner of the country, giving you the ideal chance to tick those adrenaline rides off your bucket-list while exploring SA.
ALSO SEE: 20 of SA's thrilling adrenaline adventures to try
Nature lovers’ retreat
The ideal nature lovers’ retreat has to be in Africa. Grasslands, mountains, sand dunes, forests, coastlines, estuaries, and most of all an abundance of wildlife and plant life – all found in Africa … what more could any nature enthusiast want?
Botswana is an ideal escape to explore and appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer. A trip to Chobe National Park promises a safari experience where one gets immersed in nature.
SEE: Find Your Botswana Escape
The Park is home to many elephants that freely roam around the lodge bordering the western side of the Park. Due to this, you can’t walk outside your room at night without an escort!
Nature lovers can make the most of SANParks’ annual National Parks Week campaign that will afford South Africans free access to most of the national parks until 24 September 2017.
You can also celebrate the rest of Heritage Month at Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site with a cultural and spiritual experience.
SEE: #LoveSA: Celebrating Heritage Month at SA’s national parks
For those who like the big city life
City-loving travellers, exploring on a budget, should start of in one of the biggest cities in the world – Beijing.
SEE: South African's first impressions of China
However, Beijing has nearly 22 million inhabitants, so if you lack patience and can’t handle constant crowds, then no need to despair as SA’s cities prove to have what it takes to appeal to city lovers worldwide.
Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth – four of Mzansi’s hip and happening cities - give you reason to make the most of city life right here.
SEE: Find Your Escape: SA Budget Travel
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