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Looking For A Holiday Destination With A Difference!

If you love to travel with your heart and soul, then it’s very likely that the road taken by most is not the one you want to be on! When posed with the question of where to go next, passionate voyagers don’t seek answers from a brochure or magazine. Their spirit is drawn to places where few treads. Choosing a country from an atlas with eyes closed is more their style! Nothing of value was ever found by playing it safe. We hope that once in a while wanderlust will nudge you from the routine to the offbeat. Here’s a list of five offbeat countries that will ignite your interest.

1. Cuba

South of the United States of America, lies the Caribbean jewel, Cuba. This is not a country for the faint hearted! Cuba may seem worn around the edges, but sparks of resilience and brilliance are unmistakable. Stories of fractured relations between American Presidents and the Castro brothers are now folklore. A trade embargo of over fifty years has taken an economic toll and rendered the country somewhat inaccessible to tourists. But things are slowly changing.

Music and dance for Cubans, are as essential as breathing! A pulsating fusion of African and Spanish rhythms, will compel you to break into a salsa or rumba. A swig of rum (flows as freely as water), will help shed any inhibitions! And wherever you go, your olfactory senses will be swamped with the heady aroma of the legendary Cuban cigar.

The country is a visual treat for the eyes as well. From Trinidad’s infamous beaches, to the colonial and neo-gothic buildings of Havana; from Santiago’s trendy cultural scene, to the historic city of Santa Clara, be prepared to be blown away. Classic vintage cars throng Cuba’s streets. You can’t possibly leave without riding in one. Picture yourself in an old Chevy, lounging in the back seat, a cigar smouldering between the lips. That’s what we call, living the good life!

2. Fiji Islands 

Bula! That’s how you would be welcomed to this island country nestled in the South Pacific Ocean. The location is remote, but if far from the madding crowd is your desire, Fiji is just the place. It’s an archipelago of 332 islands, most of which are accessible by an inter-island ferry service. The country is primitive and luxurious in equal measure. A large migrant Indian population served on the island under the British, consequently, most Fijians speak a smattering of what is called, Hindustani!

Fiji is a beach lover’s paradise. Yasawa Islands will delight scuba diving enthusiasts, for its coral reefs are renowned the world over. Windsurfing and kayaking are also extremely popular. If you have craving for the unusual, head to Sawa-i-Lau, an island made entirely of limestone. On the island is a cave formation with a labyrinth of chambers inside. The walls are covered with carvings and drawings made by early dwellers. Swim in a natural pool within the cave, that is naturally lit with sunlight from above.

When in Fiji, feast on fresh catch from the seas, and luscious tropical fruit grown on its fertile land. A holiday here is sure to nourish the mind, body and soul!

3. Iceland 

Iceland is a smorgasbord of natural wonders. Hot spring geysers, active volcanoes, glaciers, fjords and oceans, Mother Nature’s bounty is clearly overflowing here! Iceland is the least populated country in Europe. It’s also one of the coldest, but the warmth of the Icelandic people compensates for freezing temperatures.

Visitors may find it bewildering to choose from the wide range of activities on offer. There’s whale watching, glacier climbing, hikes through mountains that are teeming with flora and wildlife. Hot springs in this region are known for their therapeutic value. A soak in one of these mineral laden pools is a must.

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena to be witnessed, and Iceland is just the vantage point for viewing it. For the less adventurous, Reykjavik the capitol city is a vibrant hub of music, art and literature. Nordic cuisine comprises mainly fish and dairy.

Greenhouse farming has become popular of late, as a result, vegetables and fruits that could not be grown earlier because of extreme cold, are now making an appearance. Looking to up your ‘cool’ quotient? Hurry up and visit Iceland!

4. Zimbabwe 

The Dark Continent hides in its folds many gems, and Zimbabwe is one of them. A gamut of wonders await you; World Heritage archaeological sites, game parks, beach resorts, and the most see-worthy of all, the mighty Victoria Falls. From a height of 355 feet, water plummets into the Zambezi river below, covering the surrounding rainforest in a fine mist. Such is the force of the water and resultant spray, that it has been aptly named – ‘The Smoke That Thunders.’

Can you even imagine coming to Africa, and not going for a safari to spot the Big Five? Surely not! The Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe, will satisfy the urge for something ‘wild,’ with its abundant wildlife. The park has the maximum number of leopards in the world, and there can’t be a better place for sighting the elusive creature. An audience with the Bushmen, or native tribals is also a possibility.

Zimbabwe’s cuisine is rustic and wholesome. Corn and maize are widely used to make porridge, a staple diet of the locals. Meat eaters are in for a treat! This country is fast emerging as a getaway for those seeking an experience that is out of the ordinary. What are you waiting for?

5. Mangolia 

At first glance, Mongolia can seem harsh and unwelcoming. It’s quite the opposite actually. The vast barren expanse of this rugged country holds great promise of adventure. Mongolian hospitality is legendary. So don’t be surprised if you are spontaneously invited to the family ger (tent) for a meal!

This country offers a unique chance to participate in the nomadic way of life. Tourists can rent a tent, go horseback riding, and even help herd livestock! Hike through sand dunes in the Gobi Desert to fully comprehend what a wonderful feeling it is to be solitary in a wide, unrestricted space. It’s best to visit in mid July, when the Naadam Festival is held. At this time, the city of Ulaanbaatar is filled to capacity with spectators who come to watch three main sports- archery, wrestling and horse riding. The Mongols by the way, pride themselves on being the world’s best horsemen. Buddhism has been Mongolia’s national religion since the 13th century, and there are more than 500 monasteries as well as temples here for those spiritually inclined.

Use of spices and vegetables in local cuisine is limited. If you have the stomach for it, try a brew called airag, which is made from fermented mare’s milk. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! ‘The Land of the Eternal Blue Sky,’ will leave an indelible mark on your spirit, for a friendlier lot than the Mongols, you will be hard pressed to find.

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