Once upon a time, holidays tended to consist of going somewhere hot, eating something (more or less) exotic and then tanning for as long as possible. But, as welcome as relaxation is, today’s travellers (rightly) demand more varied affairs, balancing indulgence with adventure, and comfort with exploration. And this opening up of what a vacation can and should be has also meant that wildly different regions now welcome tourists to take in experiences only known to locals even a generation ago. And so, we present here a handful of exclusive destinations to give even the seasoned traveller something new to look forward to.

lunar eclipse

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1. A total solar eclipse in South America

Some of the most extraordinary experiences available to travellers are those that might only occur a few times in a lifetime. Such an event happens this year – on July 2nd – across a narrow section of the globe. A total solar eclipse will find its perfect stage in Chile’s spell-binding Elqui Valley (already famed for its clear and unpolluted night skies), due to its altitude and location. For those wanting to fully savour one of the most dramatic of all astronomical phenomena, tours are available that include lectures from Dr Stuart Clark, who’ll add a new dimension with his expert knowledge.

pine trees on mountain with white snow during daytime

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2. Heli-skiing around the globe

A world away from the cosmic dance of celestial bodies – but still very, very high up – the technological adventure that is heli-skiing is gaining in popularity every year. For the uninitiated, this involves a helicopter transporting skiers to mountain spots inaccessible (or at least impractical) from the ground. This not only means pristine ski-ways in soft snow but also much less crowded slopes. Canada and the US lead the way, with multiple operators in British Columbia and Alaska, but there are also opportunities in Switzerland (naturally), New Zealand and Japan.

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3. The timeless ruins of Bagan

While Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat have been on the tourist trail for some time now, another awe-inspiring archaeological wonder – in Myanmar – has somehow stayed off the map, despite its comparable scale and grandeur. The more than two thousand superbly preserved Buddhist temples in this historical complex are surrounded by the ruins of more than double that again. Many of these are almost a thousand years old – countless otherworldly pagodas rising through the trees. Best of all, until tourism fully catches up with Bagan, the site can be experienced without the kind of crowds that can distract from the ancient architecture.

aerial photo of city highway surrounded by high-rise buildings

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4. The future today, in Dubai

From the remains of a lost empire to a marvel that’s still under construction – the global city of Dubai offers an incredible vision of the world-to-come. Especially well-suited to family holidays, the futuristic landscape offers up landmark skyscrapers boasting the world’s fastest lifts, and a shopping mall containing 1200 shops (making it, yes, the world’s largest) but also a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with 30,000 fish. Truly, this is a place built for superlatives – from the magical islands reclaimed from the sea to fountains which spout higher than the London Eye.