When those precious few weeks of annual leave roll around you need to get it right. With the pressure on to make your next holiday a success, it can be tempting to go back to the same places, time and time again - it's just safe.
However, if you're looking for something a bit different from your next vacation, this is the article for you. Strap in and prepare for some truly unique and different holiday destinations…
The untamed islands of Svalbard are an adventurer's fantasy. This arctic archipelago, lying between Norway and the North Pole, is home to towering icebergs, amazing wildlife and the remnants of man's attempts to conquer this frozen wilderness.
Between 17 May - 30 September you can witness the 24-hours of perpetual sunlight known as ‘The Midnight Sun’. Alternatively, the ethereal splendour of the Northern Lights awaits those who choose to visit between 01 October - 28 February.
Every island in the archipelago offers something different, and every traveller is sure to find something unforgettable. Highlights include:
Spitsbergen - This is the largest island of the archipelago, and the only one that's permanently inhabited. Most visitors begin the trip here, arriving into Longyearbyen Airport - however, it's much more than just a base camp.
The Svalbard Museum is a brilliant introduction to the history and culture of the islands - with information on everything from early whalers and miners, to modern scientific research. Another great excursion is the famous bird colony at Alkefjellet which is home to tens of thousands of Brunich’s guillemots. A zodiac tour is a great way to see these sheer cliff faces up close.
Phippsøya - Only 1,040 km from the North Pole, it’s on Phippsøya that you will truly realise how remote you are! In days gone by, this unforgiving landscape was seen as the furthest reaches of the European mainland before explorers entered the true Arctic.
Phippsøya is a fantastic spot to see polar bears, walruses and puffins. Vistors can also visit surviving 'rescue huts' which were built by the Norwegian government to offer refuge to shipwrecked sailors.
Nordaustlandet - If glacier hunting is high on your list, Austfonna on Nordaustlandet is the place for you. With a surface area of 8,100km², this sheer cliff of ice shelves directly into the sea. Austfonna is the perfect place to photograph Arctic landscapes at their most stunning.
Despite the fame that came with the animated ‘Madagascar’ films, the real island remains a relatively untouched travel destination. Those who visit its shores will find a world of diverse animal species, fascinating rock formations and beautiful beaches.
No trip to this island paradise is complete without taking in the Avenue of the Baobabs. This row of striking trees, some of which are believed to be up to 800 years old, lines the route between Morondava and Belon'i Tsiribihina. It is one of the classic postcard shots of Madagascar and walking among these giants is an experience not to be missed. Visit in the early hours of the morning before the crowds arrive for the best experience!
Madagascar is also known for its national parks, each of which offers a unique experience for visitors. Four of the best are:
Isalo National Park - Hikers love the multiple trails that lead around the jaw-dropping ravines and gorges of Isalo National Park. There is also opportunity to see the island's famous lemurs hiding in the vegetation.
Ranomafana National Park - Wildlife is around every corner in Ranomafana, including 12 lemur species, mongooses and adorable tenrecs. The park's famous waterfalls offer a great opportunity to sit and appreciate the awesome power of nature.
Mikea National Park - The Mikea people are one of the world's last hunter-gatherer societies. They live in an area boasting kilometres of pristine white sand beaches, lakes and rivers - this is the destination for you if you want to get off the beaten track!
Masoala National Park - Complete with a connected marine reserve, Masoala is teeming with life. In fact, half of all the animals and plants on Madagascar can be found within the park. Dense rainforests continue all the way down to the sea, and everything from eagles to chameleons call Masoala home.
Travel Tip - Between late December and March the island experiences its wet season, often complete with cyclones, so the best time to visit Madagascar is between April and mid-December.
From its beautiful cities to its fascinating history, Russia is the perfect non-touristy travel destination. Here’s why…
Russian architecture is of a type found nowhere else in the world. The opulence of buildings like the Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg need to be seen to be believed! Built in 1710 the former Tsar residency includes over 30 rooms, lower and upper gardens, an artificial grotto and giant fountains. A whole day can easily be spent walking around the complex, which is open between 9am - 7pm.
St. Basil's Cathedral, at the southern end of the Red Square in Moscow, is another testament to Russian art and construction. The kaleidoscope of colours and patterns that make up its multiple spires is typical of Russian architecture. This fascinating structure has stood since 1561 and continues to draw crowds to the city. The cathedral is open from 11am to 5pm, but is closed on Tuesdays.
Red Square is also the final resting place of the Father of the Revolution, Vladimir Lenin. The Lenin Mausoleum, situated next to the Kremlin buildings, offers visitors the chance to see the mummified body of the communist leader. Entry is free, and during the colder winter months the waiting line is usually short, but during the high season (April to October) the best option is to arrive half an hour before the 10am opening time to avoid long queues.
All of the destinations listed in this article offer you the chance to do something a bit different with your next break. The next step is to create an itinerary that enables you to get the most from your holiday and see everything you want to see, so talk to your local Travellers Choice agent today for help doing this.