Destinations that are growing in popularity for compelling reasons
Holiday travel balances a mix of pleasurable activities that include relaxation, having fun and, of course, discovering new places. While some people enjoy going back to sample a tried-and-true formula - it has even been known for holidaymakers to not only book the same hotel for their annual holiday but also the same room and even the same sun loungers by the pool - others want to experience something different. Not so long ago, there was little tourism in these destinations; now, they have lots to offer the intrepid traveller.
This long, warm country in south-east Asia has a rich culture, delicious cuisine and remnants of its French colonial history to delight visitors. Hanoi, the country's northern capital, has French-influenced restaurants, fresh beer stalls, street snacks, temples, and an atmospheric Old Quarter. Look beneath the traffic and the maze of wiring that keeps this city buzzing and you will see a varied selection of gorgeous French-style architecture and some buildings that would not look out of place in Paris. As recently as the 1990s, the government here was keeping the world at bay; now, with lots of new hotels and resorts, tourism is in full swing.
From Hanoi, head to the coast to see the gorgeous islands of Halong Bay, designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. About half way between Hanoi and the fizzy chaos of Ho Chi Minh City is beguiling Hoi An, a former port that is a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese and European influences, with great local dumplings and tailors who will make any outfit you desire. In Ho Chi Minh City - the centre is still known as Saigon - you can shop, learn how thousands of vehicles muddle through intersections without the aid of traffic lights, and take a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, used in the Vietnam war. Beach lovers can dive and visit islands from the resort city of Nha Trang, while windsurfers love the breezy environs of Mui Ne.
This central American country is known as a warm haven for biodiversity - around one-quarter of it is protected rainforest, which is full of birds and wildlife. Around one-quarter of Costa Rica's four and a half million people live in San Jose, the largest city and capital. The country sits amid an interesting mix of cultures, with Ecuador to the south, Nicaragua to the north, and Panama to the north-east.
One of the most progressive and stable countries in Latin America, Costa Rica has Caribbean and Pacific Ocean coastlines and a wonderful selection of beautiful beaches. The lush jungle, year-round tropical climate and volcanoes all attract visitors to this relaxed nation. It has also become known for its ecotourism, promoting its lush biodiverse regions and generating revenue to continue protecting them. Although a small country, it has eight biological reserves and 20 nature parks, along with protected areas. Outdoorsy types will love all the activities on offer, from guided birdwatching tours to hiking through cloud forests and riding horses. People flock to see the sea turtles nesting in Tortuguero National Park every year and to see other creatures, such as otters, manatees and crocodiles.
Not so long ago, this landlocked nation in Central Europe was part of the Soviet bloc; however, the country finally secured its independence in 1989 and became a member of the EU in 2004. Budapest is the capital, with the river Danube dividing it into two parts: Buda and Pest. Visitors are attracted to the spectacular architecture dating back to the Middle Ages in the capital and the wide array of festivals and cultural events that the nation hosts. Lake Balaton is also a popular holiday area, with many resorts.