Is there any feeling better than stepping off the plane in an exciting new destination? Just one that we could think of… stepping off the plane in an exciting new destination, knowing that the holiday you're about to have isn't going to break the bank.
With this in mind, here are two fantastic and unique countries to visit on a budget.
Lying 1,100kms to the northeast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is an archipelago of some 115 islands. While the vast majority are uninhabited, forming important nature reserves, the unspoilt beauty of the country has made it a hit with tourists from around the world.
Summing up the reason for this popularity is easy - beaches. The Seychelles are home to some of the world's most stunning beaches, and the lack of people means you can often have these slices of paradise all to yourself. Among the most famous are:
Anse Lazio - Situated on the northwest point of Praslin Island, Anse Lazio is famous for its azure waters, native takamaka trees and smooth granite boulders. As well as relaxing on the pristine sand, there are also some good opportunities for snorkelling - see if you can find the blue-spotted ribbontail rays hiding on the seabed.
One word of warning however - watch your valuables. Thieves have been known to operate in the area. Although we doubt your camera will be far from your hand!
Anse Maquereau - This is one of seven incredible beaches found on Frégate Island, but without doubt the jewel in the crown. Flanked on either side by steep granite cliffs, and hidden from view by towering palm trees, this beach is a secluded haven of relaxation. If that's not enough privacy, you can actually reserve the whole stretch to enjoy in total solitude.
While beaches are generally billed as the islands' main selling points, the archipelago isn't a one trick pony. Another must-do is an encounter with one of Bird Island's giant tortoises. These slow-moving giants can weigh up to 298kgs, and look like something straight out of Jurassic Park.
The best time of year to visit the Seychelles is either April - May, or October - November. These periods mark the changes between the cool southeast trade winds and the warmer northwest trade winds, creating the perfect middle ground to enjoy everything the Seychelles has to offer.
From the nightlife of Mexico City to the beautiful beaches and exotic ruins of Tulum, Mexico is one of the world's most affordable countries to visit. The sheer number of activities on offer makes it hard to summarise Mexico briefly, so here we'll give a few top recommendations for three different holiday styles.
- Oaxaca City - While Mexico City is a great place for starting your Mexican adventure, if we had to choose one city it would be Oaxaca. This is a city of colour - the people, the buildings and the food are all as vibrant as each other. This mesmerising city has earned itself a UNESCO World Heritage badge for its plazas and churches, foremost amongst which is Templo de Santo Domingo. The building's facade is covered nearly top to bottom in intricate carvings and wandering through it at night is a truly peaceful experience.
- Merida - A close second is Merida. Often referred to as Mexico's cultural capital, the mixture of narrow streets and old colonial buildings make this a picturesque stop. The abandoned mansions along Paseo Montejo show the wealth the city used to boast, and sitting down to watch an evening light show at Plaza Grande offers an excellent opportunity to take in the city by night. If you're keen to explore several different neighbourhoods, a novel way of doing this is to try and tick off each of the city's churches - each one has something unique.
Mexico has plenty to offer outdoors enthusiasts, with one of the most famous draw-cards being whale-watching. Each year, grey, humpback and blue whales visit Mexico's Pacific coast. The timing and location of your visit will depend on which species you want to see.
- Grey whales - A great place to spot these gentle giants is from Cabo San Lucas, as the whales migrate along the coast between January - April. Top tip: Take a glass bottom boat ride to watch the whales beneath you.
- Humpback whales - If you want to watch 30-ton humpback whales propelling themselves out of the water, there's no better place than Bahia de Banderas. Puerto Vallarta is a good place to start a tour when the whales pass by between December - March every year.
- Blue whales - The largest creature on earth can be spotted off the coast from Loreto Bay between January - April. Again, a glass bottom boat can make your experience even more memorable, especially as this species doesn't spend much time on the surface.
The history of Mexico's indigenous people is everywhere to be seen. Two unmissable sites to visit are Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the famous pyramid and ruins at Chichen Itza date back to the Mayan period. Its popularity means that timing your visit for early in the morning or later evening is recommended. Exploring the complex will take two - three hours and entry for adults costs 242 pesos (roughly $18).
One of the country's oldest archaeological sites, Teotihuacan was built in around 400 BC. Today, visitors can walk through the settlements original streets before arriving at the Pyramid of the Sun, which rises some 75 metres from the ground. The sheer scale of the site means you should allocate a good four - five hours to see it properly. Entry is between 9.00am and 5.00pm and costs 70 pesos (just over $5).
Mexico and the Seychelles are among the cheapest countries you can visit, and both prove that you don't have to spend huge amounts to make great memories. If the idea of jetting off to either of these locations has got your feet itching, the best way to start planning your adventure is by talking to your local Travellers Choice agent. To find out how they can help you, get in touch today.