Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seven superb underrated destinations

By Nikki Bayley
Oh, the world is awfully big, so why do we all insist on going to the same places over and over again, rather than exploring new ones? Well, there are endless underrated places to visit, and although you may have to explain to people where you're going on holiday, it'll be great when you get there and you'll not have to share it with half the rest of the population! In no particular order, here's a few of our favourites.
At less than a six-hour flight away from the UK, and benefitting from a generous pound to Canadian dollar exchange rate, Newfoundland is oddly underrated as a holiday destination. In the wintertime you can ski, snowboard and stuff yourself silly with superb seafood, and in the summertime, enjoy spotting whales, puffins and have fun getting outdoorsy with the moose in gorgeous national parkland, like Gros Morne or Terra Nova (and, of course, stuff yourself silly with superb seafood)! Legendarily hospitable too, just go drinking (and inevitably dancing) on George Street in capital St John and you'll see what we mean!
Book your flight to Ibiza with a smile on your face. Not for you, the crazy all-night and all-day parties, the hen and stag dos and over-crowded streets. Nope, when you get to Ibiza, you'll be sneaking off to the ferry port to take a trip to Formentara instead. Enjoying the same sunshine as the other Balearic Islands, but a fraction of the tourism, this is a great spot to visit with famously white sand beaches (and infamously quite a few nudist beaches too!). Complete your 'hidden holiday' experience by paddling over to the uninhabited lla de s'Empalmador at low tide where you can have a natural spa in its mud bath.

Cowal Peninsula
This destination has embraced its underrated status so much that it's known as the Secret Coast. Well, the secret's out... you'll find the Cowal Peninsula around an hour or so west of Glasgow, part of that is the Argyll Secret Coast with pristine forests, peaks and rugged Highland scenery. The famous waters of Loch Fyne are in the heart of it all, so you can enjoy zingingly-fresh langoustine, oysters and, of course, superb smoked salmon. But shh! Don't say we told you. 
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Off-season resorts can sometimes reveal unimagined treasures. It may be famous for its superb skiing, but we think Colorado is even more exciting in the summer. The Winter Park resort is in the heart of the giddy heights of the Continental Divide, and now home to one of the US's coolest bike parks. That's 37 miles of 'gravity-fed trails' (that means less pedal-power required, hooray!) and treks for all levels, along with Colorado's longest Alpine Slide (a crazy toboggan-like device that rockets you downhill at exhilarating speed). Oh, and there's also North America's tallest sand dunes! The rather originally-named Great Sand Dunes National Monument, amongst the Sangre de Cristo mountains, are 750 feet high! Why ski when you can dune....
West Coast of Australia
When thinking about Australia, many people tend to only get so far in their thoughts as the east coast, however, head west and you'll see some of Australia's most extraordinary landscapes. Try Lucky Bay to laze on the beach with Oz's whitest sand. Love the world of wildlife? The west is Australia's only biodiversity hotspot, which means that you can be wowed with creatures as diverse as humpback whales and kangaroos, manta rays and turtles. Over at Ningaloo Reef, you'll even find the only place in Australia where you can swim with the world's biggest fish, the alarmingly-named, but perfectly-safe, whale shark.
The Azores
A surprising amount of people would struggle to pick out the Azores on a map. Nope, not in Caribbean, although don't they sort of sound like they might be? These gorgeous flower-filled islands – there are nine altogether which make up the archipelago – are actually in the Atlantic, about four hours flight away from the UK. Where else could you cook a meal over a volcano, spot whales and dolphins, and then bathe in geo-thermal healing hot springs? Bafflingly under-visited. Hmm, it's probably better for that, actually, forget what we said about The Azores... nothing to see here, move on!
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands
For many of us, mention the Falkland Islands and all we can think of is the war in the 1980s. However, I bet you didn't know that it's one of the best places in the world to see penguins! More than 770,000 of them live there, including the king penguin and rockhopper too. It's the perfect place for a bird watching break, as the Falklands boast more than 227 species, in fact Charles Darwin spent time there and a settlement in the East is even named after him. There's no chance you'll get bored either, with over 740 islands to visit... Hmm, island hopping in the Falklands? You heard it here first...

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