Have some vacation hours begging to be put to use? Use them this spring to do something you’ve never done before. Something wild. Something interesting. Or, in the very least, something that will revamp that tired Instagram account of yours. Venture to one of the five travel destinations I highly recommend below for Spring 2014. (Warning: they’re nothing like the spring breaks of your college days.)
1. Chiang Dao, Thailand
Just about an hour and a half north of Thailand’s beautiful and well known city of Chiang Mai, is the amazing district of Chiang Dao. Surrounded by lush and vibrant vegetation, Chiang Dao is one of the most picturesque towns in Thailand. Stay at the Chiang Dao Nest, a beautiful accommodation that offers guided tours, delicious Thai food and a range of bungalows that are guaranteed to be some of the most unique rooms you’ve ever vacationed in. While you’re in town, check out the Tuesday morning market for colorful handmade crafts, and take a two-day trip to the region’s national park. If you have more time to spare, take an inexpensive tour of the Chiang Dao caves, a spot in the area which very few western tourists frequent. You’ll have Instagram photos for days.
Go for: culture, exploration, natural beauty, relaxation
Switching gears from international travel for a sec, there’s a spot on California’s Central Coast that is a must-see destination for any and all beach enthusiasts. If you’ve never travelled to California before, you may be tempted to head straight to Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego, but before you do, consider Cambria. It’s a much less-travelled coastal town with a completely different vibe. The town’s dramatic scenery includes jagged cliffs, a pebbly beach and a scenic ranch that overlooks the Pacific. When you’re not spending time outdoors, Cambria has an awesome food scene to explore. Lobster bisque, fresh, golden brown fish and chips and award-winning fruit pies? Yes, please. Oh, and it’s near Paso Robles, AKA Wine Country. Tasting rooms are scattered throughout town and there’s even a shuttle service that will take you to and from each one, including ones in Paso Robles.
Go for: relaxation, dining, amazing scenery, outdoor activities, wine tasting
You may not have heard of it, but this medieval market town located an hour outside of London is one of the coolest spots in England. For those of you used to spending your spring breaks in places like Florida and Cabo, this is about as different as you can possibly get — but hear me out. Saffron Walden may not be located on a beach or an exotic, tropical island, but it has a lot to offer, especially first-timers to England. Known for having held a market since the 1141 (yes, that is an eleven), Saffron Walden now holds markets each Tuesday and Saturday, selling fruit, vintage jewelry, clothing and more. It’s an awesome thing to experience. Aside from the market, there’s Bridge End Garden, home to an ornate hedge maze and Audley End House, a gorgeous (and huge!) 17th century country house which will reopen for tours this spring.
Go for: history, culture, proximity to London, site-seeing
4. Palawan, Philippines
For those of you who aren’t sold on Saffron Walden, this destination may be more for you. This island provence in the Philippines is as close to paradise as one can get. From island hoping and snorkeling at your leisure, to the more intense Tao expeditions, there’s no such thing as boredom on this Philippine island. While you’re there, find a booking agency that will take you on an island hoping excursion you’ll never forget. It’s an all-day activity, complete with freshly prepared food and drinks. You can go with a group of strangers, or, if you prefer, book a private boat (for right around $50!) You’ll love the scenic views, underwater sights and accommodating guides. You can also explore the island by motorbike for just a few dollars a day.
Go for: snorkeling, kayaking, stunning scenery, culture, affordability
5. El Camino de Santiago, Spain
It’s the way of St. James — an arduous journey with multiple starting points, traversing Spain’s northern countryside towards a final destination: the cathedral in Santiago, where many believe St. James’ bones are held. Historically, pilgrims made the journey for a variety of reasons, such as religion. Today, although many still travel to Santiago for spiritual purposes, others go for the experience of the journey itself. Stripped bare of many of today’s modern conveniences, the journey will allow you to experience a more minimalistic lifestyle while trekking through scenic Spanish terrain. More than likely, you’ll end up sharing your experience with others you meet along the way, giving you the opportunity to learn about different cultures, lifestyles and more.
Go for: the experience, the scenery, meeting new people, history, culture
Hopefully you’re getting your passports ready after reading about these very unique destinations perfect for a spring getaway. What are some of your favorite global hot spots?