The world is a fantastic place to explore, so why do many people happily head off to the same holiday destination year after year? Is it because of laziness, because they want to stay in their comfort zone, or purely a lack of imagination?
Below are some places that should spark your curiosity to get out of your familiar holiday routine:
The High Canadian Arctic – Nunavut
One of the most remote regions in the world, nearly touching the North Pole, the Canadian territory of Nunavut is a wonderland of isolated villages, endless tundra, wandering icebergs, frozen seas, and jagged cliffs. The expected wildlife suspects run amok over the landscape and seascapes, such as polar bears, walruses, caribou, and the incredible looking narwhals with their protruding tusks and the gentle giants, Beluga whales. Here you can go dog-sledding, snowmobiling, hiking, kayaking, fishing, and even take a wildlife safari in a style that you won't need your fleecy pjs for a stint in an igloo. In addition, Nunavut is a showcase for its indigenous Inuit people's carvings and artwork. You will definitely be away from the madding crowd as the capital of Iqaluit has a mere 8,000 residents, and tourists are a rare breed.
The Birthplace of Voodoo – Benin
A tiny country abutting Nigeria and Togo, Benin sits on the West African coast. Hard to get to and to get around due to a lack of tourist infrastructure; this is one country that a small organized tour might be the best way to explore. The capital Porto-Novo is known for its colonial buildings and museums. In contrast, the coastal city of Ouidah is known for its part in the slave trade between the 17th and 19th centuries and as the birthplace of voodoo. From the snake-infested Python Temple to the mystical Voodoo god statues littering the Kpasse Sacred Forest, this spiritual religion that's often demonized is uniquely weird, kinky, and wonderful at the same time.
The Land of Fire - Azerbaijan
A fascinating ancient land that spews fire out of the earth has a tea culture dating back to medieval times, a family wool rug weaving tradition, and a diverse natural landscape that will have you hiking the wilds of the Caucasus Mountain range, which intersects Asia and Europe stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Flames are the national symbol of Azerbaijan as its where spring water burns when ignited and where ancient Greeks believed Zeus chained Prometheus to the Caucasus Mountains for stealing fire from the gods. Roaring scarlet flames still burn brightly inside fire temples—but the endless supply of underground natural gas that created this phenomenon was primarily exploited by the Soviets in the 20th Century. Home to some of the largest volcanoes and a third of the mud volcanoes in the world, Turaghai and Boyuk Khanizadagh, Azerbaijan is also where you will find fascinating mountain villages of cultural significance, including that of the Mountain Jews.
Where Penguins Rule - The Falkland Islands
Head to the Falkland Islands if you want to get up close and personal with tuxedo-clad waddling penguins, some appearing to wear funky fascinators such as the bright yellow spiky look of the Macaroni penguin or the wicked raised eyebrows of the Southern Rockhopper—it's a virtual fashion parade on ice. The Falkland Islands consist of 778 islands, but of those, only 15 are inhabited by 3,531 people. During the summer, there's a shuffling penguin invasion of about one million, all busy strutting their stuff, making out, and nesting in colonies. Like fat lava flowing, monstrous elephant seals clumsily move on land, and sea lions propel themselves onto shorelines while reindeer and foxes roam the uninhabited islands. The Falkland Islands are paradise not just for the wild creatures but for anyone into watching the antics of natural wildlife.
Wine, Villages, and Volcanoes of Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Under the thumb of the Spanish, Lanzarote is part of the Canary Islands, sitting off the West African coastline. It's a moonscape around the Fire Mountains created over eons by volcanic eruptions. Cave-dwelling albino crabs scuttle along vast golden sand beaches where your footprints will be the only ones. Vineyards decorate volcanic hills, creating wines that will have your taste buds dancing in delight. Chefs from local restaurants can be seen catching their fish of the day from the rocks, and the Sunday market in the old capital town of La Villa de Teguise will have you fascinated as you meander its cobblestone alleys. Of course, Lanzarote is on the quirky side for the mainstream tourist wanting a decadent beach holiday. But, if you are into more than just sun worshipping with the beach as an added bonus, then it's easy to sneak away to your own private paradise in an eco-yurt or a rustic countryside finca rather than hanging out at the main tourist haunts of Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen, and Costa Teguise.