In partnership with Starling Bank
Do you like to do things differently? Are you sick of going to the same old places on holiday? The same places that your friends and family have already been to and bored you about? As part of the FinTech wave sweeping the banking industry, Starling Bank knows all about doing things differently, so we’ve joined forces to recommend a few destinations that are great alternatives to the world’s most well-trodden tourist routes.
Instead of Iceland, why not head to the Faroe Islands?
Iceland has attracted increasing numbers of tourists thanks to its rugged natural beauty. But if you want to go somewhere wild and beautiful that isn’t normally part of the tourist trail – in fact, most people would struggle to find it on a map – then the Faroe Islands are a great bet. These 18 islands can be found in the North Atlantic, midway between Iceland and Scotland, and they provide some out-of-this-world scenery, like the Múlafossur waterfall that plunges straight into the ocean or the stunning Lake Sørvágsvatn, which is perched on the edge of sheer cliffs. The islands also boast a Michelin-starred restaurant in the form of KOKS – one of the most remote venues for fine dining in the world.
Skip Thailand, try Laos
Thailand has enjoyed a decades-long tourist boom which has resulted in many of its most famous scenic spots being developed beyond all recognition. If you’re after a Southeast Asia getaway but want to go somewhere a bit more serene, then Laos is perfect. Luang Prabang is an unforgettable, tiny city that’s home to the beautiful Wat Xieng Thong monastery, which dates back to the 16th century. In terms of natural scenery, the nearby Tat Kuang Si waterfall is hard to beat, and you can also book a river excursion down the jungle-robed Mekong River to see more of the country’s wild side.
Slovenia is a great alternative to Austria
Austria has some stunning mountains, but it can be expensive, not to mention crowded. But Slovenia offers a much quieter, often overlooked mountain holiday, and the scenery is just as stunning. The Julian Alps in the north of the country offer numerous beautiful and challenging hikes, with a well-maintained network of mountain huts for multi-day excursions. And Lake Bled is one of the most picturesque vistas you’ll ever see, with a fairy-tale castle perched atop an island in the centre of its bluer than blue waters. The Alps also offer a plethora of adventure activities, from rafting to paragliding.
Switch Spain for Morocco
Southern Spain has some beautiful beaches, but they’re often packed with throngs of Brits abroad – yet just across the Straits of Gibraltar you’ll find a country that’s an absolute world away. Most people in search of sand head to the popular golden beaches of Agadir, but it’s also worth checking out some of the more remote beaches further south, like the one at Sidi Ifni with its dramatic rocky cliffs and natural arch. And further north you’ll find the beautiful fortified city of Essaouira, which provides stunning sea views from its ramparts, and has a nice line in sandy beaches to boot.
Instead of Greece, try Croatia
Croatia has some beautiful beaches along with some amazing historical locations to rival those of Greece. Split is a UNESCO-listed town that was built around an enormous, 30,000-square-metre Roman palace dating from the fourth century AD, and many of the walls and foundations of Diocletian’s Palace remain, now woven into the fabric of the city. Meanwhile, there are more than a 1,000 Mediterranean islands to explore off the coast, from the luxury-yacht berth of Hvar to the tranquil, rustic charm of Rab.
Italy is great for history – but so is Malta
The diminutive island country of Malta is absolutely packed full of ancient monuments, including the 5,000-year-old Hagar Qim temple complex. In fact, the temples of Malta are some of the oldest religious sites on Earth. Malta offers plenty of natural beauty, too. In addition to its picturesque, rugged coastline, you can find such wonders as the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island, a stunning patch of turquoise-coloured sea. Then there’s the Blue Grotto on the main island’s south coast, a cave in which the water almost appears to glow thanks to the combination of sunlight and phosphorescent flora.
Bored of France? Try Latvia
OK, bear with us. Riga, the capital of Latvia, has often been dubbed the ‘Paris of the North’ thanks to its ornate buildings and UNESCO-listed Art Nouveau quarter. And unlike Paris, it’s relatively free of tourist crowds. The architecture across the city is breath-taking, running the gamut from Modernism to Gothic, with the 14th-century House of the Blackheads arguably taking the crown as the most exquisite building in the city. And there’s a vibrant café culture too, with restaurants offering everything from traditional Latvian fare to fresh sushi.
Do things differently…
And if you like to do things a bit differently, Starling Bank offers a great alternative for managing your money. The Starling Bank app allows you to keep track of your finances, and they won’t charge you for using your card or taking cash out at ATMs abroad. And if your card is lost or stolen, you can lock it with a simple tap in-app.