Let’s face it, trips we take in our twenties are often little more than the easiest short-haul dash to a sandy beach and a well-stocked bar, or the cheapest cross-continental city-hop of Europe’s major capitals. And they’re great. But by the time we reach our thirties many of us yearn for a little bit more. A little more culture, a little more comfort, and something a little bit different. Here are a few ideas.
1. Cape Verde
Whether seasoned traveller or occasional tourist, we all know the thrill of discovering somewhere new. Cape Verde is an unspoilt island paradise 500 kilometres off the coast of Senegal which offers a perfect mix of seclusion and civilisation. Actually, Cape Verde is the catch-all name for a string of islands, each of which offers wide sandy beaches and unspoilt interiors. Sal and Boa Vista are the most popular destinations, boasting lively bars, al fresco dining and all the facilities you might need. Cape Verde was originally discovered by the Portuguese, and visitors today will find an exotic melting pot culture of African, Brazilian and European influences.
India is an assault on the senses, a land of vivid colour, enticing aromas and spectacular sights. Most visitors head for Goa and it’s easy to see why. This coastal enclave blends Portuguese influences into its Indian soul, making for a holiday destination that offers pretty much everything. The Goan coast is dotted with beaches, both busy and secluded, many of which are also the focal point for the region’s lively and celebrated nightlife. In the daytime you can pick up a bargain in one of many bustling beachfront markets. But don’t stick to the beaches if you don’t want to, because a holiday in Goa is whatever you want it to be. There are party spots, luxury resorts, and secluded havens. Drive inland from the coast and find sleepy villages, otherworldly landscapes and a culture that embraces both crumbling Christian churches and spectacular Hindu temples.
3. St Lucia
One thing you can do on stunning St Lucia is drive into a volcano. That’s right, a volcano. Proof enough, we think, that this Caribbean gem is more than just a fly-and-flop beach resort. Don’t get us wrong. The beaches are fabulous, whether you prefer the pristine private retreats of luxury hotels, or busier public beaches complete with impromptu fish-frys and tempting snack shacks. But St Lucia is so much more than sun and sand, offering an unspoilt interior crying out to be explored. You can trek the lush rainforest if you want, but zip wires and air gondolas offer alternative means of exploring the lush green canopy. The cobalt blue Caribbean offers more opportunities for adventure, whether that means whale and dolphin watching, water sports or discovering St Lucia’s colourful pirate past.
4. Costa Rica
The Happy Planet Index attempts to measure human well-being and environmental impact, and it rates Costa Rica as the happiest place on the planet. You can see why. Much of the spectacular landscape of soaring mountain ranges, dense tropical jungle and glorious coastline is protected by law, and the country is crisscrossed by national parks, wildlife havens and nature reserves. Beaches are spectacular, but you won’t want to spend your entire vacation lying on soft white sand or swimming in the warm Pacific. You can enjoy the thrills of white water rafting, explore a rainforest in the clouds and spot a few of the country’s 52 species of hummingbird, among many other inspiring activities. And then there’s the coffee. You can certainly see why Costa Ricans are so content, and why you’re assured of the warmest welcome.
Mexico offers everything many of us will always treasure in a relaxing holiday, but combines it with the thrill of adventure and a fascinating culture. This is a holiday for mind as well as body, when days spent exploring natural wonders or ancient Mayan relics can be followed by evenings in chic bars and sophisticated restaurants. Mexico’s long sandy beaches are legendary, whether you choose the Caribbean coast (and bustling Cancun) or the less-travelled Pacific west, and it really does offer something for everyone. Luxury shopping, water sports and jungle drives are all on offer for days when you want something different. The country’s resorts are modern and sophisticated, but soon give way to more secluded spots as you travel away from major tourist centres.