Invariably we all have those tried and tested, go-to destinations that we can count on for a good time. But if you do your research properly, these favourites also manage to deliver a surprise or two along the way if you venture off the beaten track, or visit during a different season to get a brand new perspective on destinations you have been visiting for years.
Here are six places packed with suggestions of ways to spend a day and uncover something different, far from the tourist crowd.
Channel the summer vibes of Lapland
The mere mention of Lapland immediately conjures up visions of log cabins with an ample dusting of snow, reindeer and of course, the man himself, Santa Claus.
While a wintry Finland is undoubtedly magical, Lapland in summer is equally as enchanting. Visit for the Midnight Sun, and the round-the-clock sunlight will soon have you craving the golden glow of the great outdoors.
Finns will often retreat to the lakeside to languish in their summer cottages. Follow in their footsteps and revel in the delights of mother nature at its best.
If you’re feeling active, take a hike through Urho Kekkonen National Park to climb some of the fells and wander through the forests of the northern region. Pack a picnic of fresh summer goodies and find a spot by a stream or lake to relax, to dust off the cobwebs and awaken the soul - this is Finland’s answer to the Dane’s Hygge for good living.
But if this sounds a little too off the beaten track, there are countless other ways to enjoy outdoor life. Finland’s action-packed festival and events calendar mean you’re never too far from the crowds.
Each June, the Midnight Sun Film Festival kicks off in Sodankylä, for five days of celebrating the very best in the world of movies. It’s a two-hour drive northeast from Lapland’s capital, Rovaniemi but for film buffs, the journey will be worth it. With artsy silent film presentations and round-the-clock showings, you can indulge in your love of the big screen from the classics to the rising stars of the silver screen.
Or you could venture out in search of gold in Lapland.
The first gold rush took place on the River Ivalojoki between 1869 and 1900 with the largest nugget ever found in Finland weighing in at 393 grams. Try out the thrill of panning for gold and book a guided tour at Tankavaara Gold Village to try and find some of the precious gems for yourself, which were formed over millions of years in the River Ivalojoki and Saariselkä. Better still, you get to keep any gold you find.
And of course, you will need to refuel after a busy day. Pirkon Pirtti in Saariselkä offers a mouth-watering menu with the likes of fresh fish platters, wild mushroom risotto and, for the epicurious, there’s reindeer with lingonberries and spiced cucumber.
Take a deep breath at Hungary's lakes and lavender
The picturesque towns and villages around Lake Balaton draw thousands of visitors to Hungary every year for boat rides, cycling, swimming and vineyard tours to name but a few of the region's holiday activities.
But there are more hidden adventures to be had, both around and even under the lakes in this region.
Approximately 20 metres below the surface of Lake Tapolca lies a peculiar cave system with three kilometres of passages, bizarre rock formations, and narrow channels which lead to countless chambers underneath.
Discovered in 1903, and open to the public since 1912, today you can tour the caverns by boat to explore the network of stunning crystal clear waters after experiencing the 3D exhibition to swot up on some facts about the natural phenomenon.
Word of warning though: if you’re claustrophobic you may want to skip the boat ride, as the narrow headspace in certain sections might make it a bit too cosy for comfort.
During your break you are likely to stumble across a vineyard or two, but if you time your visit for spring you will spot rolling fields of fragrant lavender stretching across the Tihany Peninsula on the north shore of Lake Balaton. Yes, we are talking about Hungary, and not Provence in France!
In late June, the annual Tihany Lavender Week kicks off at the town’s lavender field within Balaton Uplands National Park. At Lavender House visitors can pick their own lavender bouquet and also enjoy a cup of tea infused with elements from the fragrant purple bloom.
During the week-long festival, event goers are treated to the inside scoop on the distillation process, guided nature tours and a number of handicraft workshops too.
Kick back in Florida
Finland isn’t the only destination built on the odd misconception. It often seems like the moment you mention to anyone you are off to Florida, the immediate assumption is that you’re heading to Orlando.
Although Orlando itself is awash with off-the-beaten-path options for entertainment, there is so much to be discovered along the coast and around the great outdoors.
Fort Myers and Sanibel off the west coast of the Sunshine State are the ultimate places to kick back, relax and enjoy the island life. But island life doesn’t always mean you have to hit pause, as there is something for everyone from all walks of life and with every kind of interest.
Nature lovers and families should head to the JN 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge to spot countless mammals and reptiles, as well as hundreds of species of bird from the park’s observation towers and nature trails. Or book a trip down the four-mile Wildlife Drive (closed on Fridays) which you can drive, hike or bike along three trails.
Keep your eyes peeled for racoons, alligators, marsh rabbits, bobcats and other unexpected residents.
For an on the water adventure, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and saltwater fishing are all on offer around Tarpon Bay so you can easily make a full day of it.
Shelling may not sound like the most thrilling of things to do, but you may just want to rethink that on Sanibel - which has previously been voted North America’s number one destination for the activity. Thousands of pristine shells wash ashore here every day, so you can brush up on your knowledge of everything, from an alphabet cone to a lightning whelk!
Keen golfers can get out on the greens in Fort Myers for some tee time, and with almost 50 courses to choose from, you could easily plan a week of golf with your sporting buddies.
Start getting into the swing by experiencing the courses that inspired other big-name courses at Fort Myers Country Club, which was created over 90 years ago by the golfing legend Donald Ross. The 18-hole course features a variety of challenging holes to keep things interesting, with a canal that runs through the property, up to the ante with the perfect strategic obstacle.
Elsewhere in Fort Myers, art lovers can indulge in some gallery hopping, or pick up a brush for themselves and get creative at one of the sessions at Painting With A Twist, led by a local artist, for a unique slice of island life.
Word has it you haven’t experienced a destination until you’ve tasted it, and with breweries and distilleries here using the likes of oranges, chocolate, honey and berries in their award-winning handcrafted libations, it’s a destination to truly be savoured!
We love the sound of the key lime pie rum at List Distillery, but you will find your own favourite among the 30-plus establishments fringed along the west coast.
Uncover the Dominican Republic's inland treats
The Dominican Republic is famed for its clear skies, swaying palms and pale powder sands, which are the recipe for the three R's holiday: rest, relaxation and rays of sunshine.
Indeed, it’s all too easy to overlook the lush island interior in favour of the pure escapism of 24/7 entertainment and tempting cocktails sipped from the comfort of your resort’s private pool or beach cabanas.
But after a few days of pampering, venture out with Country Adventure Safaris on a Plantation Tour to admire the verdant countryside and the produce harvested across its fields, including coffee, chocolate and tea.
Take time out at some coffee stops along the way to sample the locally brewed caffeine treat, discover how the cocoa bean is processed into chocolate bars and learn how coconut oil and tobacco are also produced here. Don't forget to pick up a few essential souvenirs along the way, to treat yourself.
Keen foodies looking to try out some local delicacies should look no further than A Taste of Punta Cana Culinary Tour. A guide from Dominican Food Tours will pick you up from your resort for a six-hour experience which calls in at some key food and drink hotspots in the area, including a coffee shop and a food tasting session on the beach, paired with local beers and cocktails.
Or if you’re looking to bring some Dominican flavours back home, you can also book a cooking class and lunch to learn the tricks of the unique cuisine - a blend of Tainan, African and Spanish gastronomy.
To finish off the evening, book tickets for Caribbean Buccaneers, for a Pirates of the Caribbean-style dinner show where the younger ones can unleash their inner Captain Jack Sparrow. Set aboard a vessel, a pirate crew lay on a performance at sea before you all dine on a sumptuous Dominican feast complete with a rum toast and plenty of dancing as you sail back to shore.
Find a port of call in north Tenerife
If you want something more sedate for your holiday plans, the beguiling coastline of northern Tenerife should be your first port of call. On the tourist trail, the city of Puerto de la Cruz is known for its dark volcanic sand beaches, and historical sites of interest, including the 17th-century House of Royal Customs and the ruins of the old fort, Santa Bárbara, which were key sites for managing the maritime trade and defending the island.
Today Customs House is a cultural landmark, home to a contemporary art museum. For the perfect photo opportunity, take the short walk to Plaza Del Charco so you can marvel at the panoramic views of the square itself, the fishing pier, the customs building and the imposing fisherwomen monument. The unique and intimate atmosphere of the area makes it the ideal place to pause and take stock of your impressive surroundings.
The square has long been a meeting point for locals to catch up and swap stories, and numerous festivals take place here throughout the year. During spring it is Carnaval time, and the plaza comes alive with colourful celebrations, while the lively procession of Entierro de la Sardina, finishes off with fireworks and the bizarre burning of an enormous sardine on a funeral pyre.
Even more amusing is the men’s high-heeled obstacle race which starts and ends in the square - no doubt with plenty of plasters, ice packs and slippers at the ready!
It’s not often that you get an all-encompassing luxury experience to keep you entertained for a whole day. But the pools at Lago Martiánez designed by iconic Canarian architect César Manrique is the place to be. The saltwater lido, has been developed since Manrique’s original creation to include a leisure and entertainment complex with floating islands, bars, restaurants and even an underground casino.
As you wander the city’s quaint streets, you will soon be acquainted with Puerto Street Art, an initiative which was set up to liven up the area’s buildings in the old part of the city. Pick up a map from the tourist information centre at Customs House for your own self-guided tour to delve deeper into the city behind the artworks.
Designed in 2014 to provide an outdoor museum for the public, the 12 official murals come in all shapes and sizes so the beady-eyed should fair well for spotting elusive works including the whimsical piece by Dulk, called The Puffin.
For a slice of island history, head down Theobald Power Street to find Ritual by Sabotaje al Montaje. The portrait depicts one of the icons responsible for defending the ancestry and traditions of the city.
Go city slicking in Spain
For art, history and culture in one, the cosmopolitan city of Málaga is the answer. Iconic sights such as the Roman Theatre, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Alhambra Palace and Fortress (recently made even more popular by hit TV series Game of Thrones) and the Picasso Museum are all essential visits during your stay.
While these are the sights you should follow the crowd for, you could also set some new trends with some of these smaller, but equally special attractions.
The Automobile and Fashion Museum, while it seems a somewhat oddball mix of collections, the attention to design and detail fuse surprisingly well to delight both petrol heads and the fashion forward. Exhibits include sleek classic cars and the Cocktail of the Forest haute couture range comprising of nature and animal-themed outfits straight from leading fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel and Vivienne Westwood.
Next up, the breathtaking Málaga Cathedral brings together not only faith and art, but its vast history will also serve to blow you away. Starting out as a Great Mosque owing to the city’s Arabic roots, development over the years has resulted in a distinctive concoction of construction styles with Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic touches throughout.
As you often find in mainland Europe, the churches are a majestic sight to behold with no expense spared on the opulent surroundings, from the stunning Greater Chapel bedecked in marble and gold in the spiritual heart of the Cathedral to the intricate rich wood carvings of the Chorus.
Pause for some moments of reflection, and buy an audio guide so you can unravel the meaning behind the features on a self-guided tour.
Following a long day pounding the pavements, a wine and tapas bar makes a sensible choice - and Bodegas El Pimpi should fit the bill for a quick bite. With a range of halls and rooms inspired by fiesta vibes to the Picasso Loft with views of the impressive theatre.
But if you’re looking to make an evening of it, the Viennese style 1920s El Jardín hosts a flamenco and dinner show every Friday night for patrons to relax with a good glass of wine while being entertained by the passion of flamenco performed by the hottest acts. Not forgetting the fabulous Andalucian menu options either, served up on the terrace or in the living room.
If you are all flamenco-ed out and want something a little more offbeat, Thursday nights are reserved for Argentine tango classes so be sure to bring your dancing shoes.
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