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Fifteen places to escape to this summer

There are times when a week sitting by the pool with a Shirley Temple just won’t cut it; times when you need a grander escape. Below are my recommendations for some great escapes for summer 2010:

1. The Galapagos Islands

                                                                         Catching some rays with some residents of the Galapagos Islands

Located off the coast of Ecuador, the remote Galapagos Islands have been designated a UNESCO world heritage site for their epic biodiversity. Numerous exotic species are endemic to these rocky outcrops: much-photographed blue footed boobies, the only living tropical penguins and the dangerous Galapagos Shark . The Galapagos Islands most notable claim to fame is their, much heralded, influence on Charlies Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Galapagos Islands are currently on UNESCO’s ‘world heritage in danger’ list due to the threats facing them from pollution and non-sustainable tourism so get there whilst you can and be sure to use a respectable tour operater! Colombus Ecuador offer live-aboard trips around the islands from just over $1000. The typical tourist trail is to encompass both the Galapagos Islands and Peru within the same trip; you can visit Machu Picchu, Nasca lines, Titicaca lake and the very best of Peru with Peru on Board.

 2. Ubud, Bali

                                                                           The lush rice terraces of Ubud   

Whilst Bali has long been considered the place to go in search of surfing and spirituality, tourism in the sleepy hillside town of Ubud  is set to explode this year thanks to the release of blockbuster ‘Eat, pray, love’, which stars Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem and is based on the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you would like to sample Ubud's stunning tea plantations and unique traditions (derived from a mix of Hindu, Islam and tribal worship) explore the island by bike or take organised tour. If you’ve been lured to Bali by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book contact Spirit Quest Tours and indulge in a special ‘Eat Pray Love’ tour to visit the real life characters of the book, including famed medicine man Ketut Liyer. If nothing else check out the website for the best disclaimer on a tour ever! Bali Explore Tours also provide driven tours around the island with an English speaking guide.

 3. The Amazon

                                                                                                                                            

No talk of great escapes can be complete without a mention of the legendary Amazon. The ‘green hell’ that lured many an explorer to their deaths is also one of the world’s most beautiful places, with almost unparalleled wildlife spotting opportunities. The Amazon stretches over four countries: Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil. You can stay at Caoba Lodge in Peru to experience an authentic Ayahuasca ceremony or take a tour with Amazon Adventures and stay at the Amazonia Rainforest Lodge in Brazil. This trip has been named among the 25 ‘trips of a lifetime’ by Outside Magazine.

4. Borneo

                                                                               Proboscis Monkey

Borneo is South East Asia’s newest travel hotspot and plays host to stunning jungles and engaging wildlife: from the highly unusual looking proboscis monkeys to the always-cute orang-utans. Jodi’s Jungle Adventures can arrange river rafting, caving and jungle trekking throughout Malaysian Borneo whilst Sunshine Borneo Tours provides river cruises and sea sports for those after a more adrenalin fuelled trip. Borneo Tour Specialists cover the entire Island of Borneo - both Malaysian and Indonesian sides - and also has some really thorough information on the island's world class diving spots. If you're not limited by school holidays then Borneo is actually best visited in the spring and autumn when prices are lower and it is considerably less crowded.

5. The Cayman Islands

                                                                                       Getting friendly with the Stringrays

The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory located in the Carribean Sea. Blessed with crystal clear turquoise waters, they are a haven for scuba divers and snorkelers alike. The islands are also home to one of the world’s most famous dive sites: stingray city. Stingray city is frequented by 30-40 stingrays everyday; all keen for interaction with divers! Sunset House offer daily trips to the site whilst Outbound Holidays also covers the area.

6. British Columbia

                                                                                            

Decidedly less tropical but no less beautiful, British Columbia in Canada is an ideal springtime destination with something for everyone. Popular destinations include the  valleys and lakes of Fernie and the buzzy cosmopolitan chic of Vancouver. Check out Crave Canada for some great Canada Travel Guides. Vancouver Island is another popular destination; particularly for whale watching and bird spotting. Westwood Lake Campgrounds is located on central Vancouver Island and features safe swimming beaches, great fishing opportunities and miles of well-maintained trails. Camping, close to nature, is a perfect way to experience the richness of Canadian West Coast culture and the majestic beauty of its
landscape.

7. Spanish Wine Country

                                                                     Beautiful Vinyards

Not the most ‘off the beaten track’ of countries, Spain has been on the average tourist’s holiday radar for years. However, it’s well worth avoiding the usual tourist trail in this beautiful country and experiencing true Spanish life. Iberian Wine Tours is the only company to offer guided wine tours uniquely to Spain and Portugal, offering exclusive routes through the most rewarding wine regions across the Iberian peninsula. The main goal of every tour is to savour great local wine and food in offbeat locations that you’d struggle to uncover on your own. Fancy a free holiday?! The Travel Editor is giving away luxury volcano proof  weekends in the UK, Spain, France and Belgium all summer long! 

8. Panama

                                                                             The remote San Blas Islands

Panama was originally on this list for one, embarrassingly uncultural, reason: Pint Price has the current cost of a brew listed as 30 pence. However there is more to Panama than cheap beer; this Central American country is not known as ‘the new Costa Rica’ for nothing: dice with death in the untamed Darien Jungle (venture too close to the infamous Darien Gap and you’re likely to regret it!), party at  beach town Bocas Del Toro or spend a night on your own private tropical paradise at the beautiful San Blas Islands. Reef and Rainforest offer tailor made tours throughout Latin America.

9.Croatia

                                                                               Beautiful blue waters in Croatia

Along with Serbia, Croatia is proving to be one of the hottest destinations of 2010. Numerous music festivials, such as Soundwave, have helped to boost the country's popularity  amongst affluent urbanites and tales of capital Zagrebs sizzling after dark scene has done nothing to quell interest. Leger Holidays run tours in and around the Croatian Riviera.

10. Argentina

Argentina is a vast country that has a large range of very distinct features and truly unique regions. Holidays to Argentina would not be complete without visiting one of the many amazign sights such as North of Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, which is one of the greatest wonders of nature in the world. The 275 separate cascades that make up the Iguazu Waterfalls are trully magnificent, and make The Iguazu Falls known the world over. If you travel further south, you will find the unbelievable region of Patagonia. Breath-taking Bariloche is the beautiful capital of the Patagonia Lake Region and features amazing mountains and lakes, excellent winter skiing, and entices the sports enthusiasts with various warm weather sports the rest of the year
 

11. The South Pacific

                                                                                 Swimming with the fishes in Fiji

From Bora Bora to Tahiti to Fiji, the South Pacific ocean is strewn with island paradises. Wrecks to Rainforest provide tours around Vanuatu Island: one allows you to hike through the jungle of South Santo to visit the indigenous village of the Marakai for a kava (traditional drink with sedative properties) ceremony a million times more authentic than those found in upscale holiday resorts. Other options include a trip to fantastically named ‘Champagne Beach’ and the stunning, crystal clear blue hole ‘Jacquie’.  If you’d like to head to the more developed island of Fiji, Fiji For Less provides some great information on having a paradisiacal tropical holiday without the 'honeymoon' price tag! Don't forget a pair of clip on sunglasses while you're enjoying the views. The last thing you want to do is loose your glasses in the sea.

12. Offbeat USA

                                                                                     A deli in Brooklyn

Ok, so the USA most definitely not obscure and could certainly never be called unexplored. However, head to the right places and you can experience fantastic cuisine and a completely new culture without any awkward language barrier problems. Tips and Trip is a really useful resource for finding the best places in any city and is particularly great for discovering those small coffee and lunch places that tend not to be covered by guidebooks. Brooklyn, in particular, has a thriving foodie scene whilst San Francisco cannot be beaten for brunch places.

13. Lake Bled

                                                                                   Magical Lake Bled

Lake Bled is arguably the  most beautiful spot in Slovenia. A small island lies in the middle of the lake, complete with a medieval church; add this to the deep blue waters of the lake and the forests that surround it and you have a scene plucked straight from a Disney movie. No wonder Lake Bled is so popular for proposals! Travel enthusiast Jimmy Barrett has recommended Golf Hotel Bled in his guide 'Slovenia rocks - and the fly fishing is good too!', more options can be found on www.hotelibled.com

14. Budget Maldives

                                                                                Maldives

The Maldives have long been known as home to some of the world's most luxurious island resorts; their exclusivity has only been increased by reports that, due to climate change, they may all but disappear within a hundred years. These peaceful tropical havens aren't just for celebrities though! Through their Travel Challenge feature, Be Travel Savvy managed to find an all inclusive two week break for £1299!

15. The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Also known as Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are a magical phenomenon that are best seen from polar regions; they appear as 'dancing' shades of green, pink and blue in the night sky. Iceland is one of the most famous places to see the Northern Lights. Nature Explorer Iceland offers day tours and private tours in Iceland including Northern Lights tours and 4x4 glacier adventures.

For more luxury vacation ideas, visit journeyPod.com.

Now it's over to you...what destinations are on your travel radar this Summer?

Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14