This holiday season, we suggest you venture towards more exotic destinations where there will be fewer chances of your exchanging greetings with someone you know back home. And while these new and unknown places are already on the world map, it's time for you to travel business class and get to these destinations this summer.
My friend at Leisure Ways, an outbound travel company, Ashish Chadha, tells me that he's getting quite a few requests for the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia this summer. He's already booked three families for different dates. Last year, he says, no one thought about these places.
"All the requests for families heading in that direction would be for an Alaskan cruise from Vancouver and back. Going beyond to the great Canadian Rockies is now a great option, and is even better if you can club it with a cruise," says Chadha. From Vancouver, there are options to Calgary, Emerald Lake, Banff and Jasper.
The Canadian Rockies are a vast range filled with snow-capped peaks, an abundance of wildlife and with more adventures than you could possibly pack into a lifetime. Our tip: Book a seven-night cruise tour package with a land tour to Banff and Jasper national parks, Lake Louise, and the cities of Vancouver and Calgary.
Northland in New Zealand is another exclusive area and a perfect haunt for those who want to dive into the deep blue waters. The best bet here will be Poor Knights Islands in Tutukaka. Separated from mainland New Zealand, the Poor Knights Islands are influenced by a warm current that originates in the Coral Sea, north of Australia.
The water temperature is higher, and visibility significantly greater than in nearby coastal waters. Tropical and subtropical life forms have become established among the diverse and multiple environments formed by the island's volcanic origins.
Underground caves, tunnels and archways are home to an extraordinary variety of seaweeds and a dense populations of friendly, colourful fish.
One can also enjoy diving through two former Navy ships at the Tutukaka Heads. These ships were purposely sunk for diving trips and are easily accessible. There are tonnes of other sunk ships along the coast of Northland for more information on wreck sites as far back as 1809, check out www.divenewzealand.com.
A tour operator at one of the leading outbound companies says that Turkey is the flavour of the holiday season this year. Last year, a lot of Indians were packing their bags and heading to Egypt.
This year, this tour operator says, people are enquiring about newer places like Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Bodrum in Turkey. So far, people were only interested in Istanbul and a few beaches like Antalia and Kusadasi in Turkey.
For a seven-night vacation in Turkey (which is definitely a value-for-money destination), enthusiasts will have to spend $3,000. This trip will cover Istanbul, Cappadocia (for its monolithic rock formations), Pamukkale (for its hot springs, thermal spas and salt formations, called cotton castles!) and Bodrum (for its splendid beaches).
Moving towards Africa, it's not just Kenya where Indians can head towards. There's Botswana, one of few African countries which has managed to maintain its exclusivity and vast reserve areas of untouched wilderness, which is also being circled by tour operators for Indian travellers.
Botswana is one of the best safari destinations today and hi-end luxury tour companies like A&K have exclusive lodges set up here. Details of their lodges like Chobe Chilwero Lodge, Stanley's Camp and Chief's Camp can be found on www.abercrombiekent.com. More than 30 species of large mammals are found in Botswana and they are typical of African savannah wildlife.
Here, in Botswana, one can explore the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, Gemsbok National Park, Khutse Game Reserve, Mabuasehube Game Reserve and many more.
The tours start from $5,000 per person and could go up considerably depending on the options you choose. But make sure you plan well in advance, especially as it can take a month to get a visa for Botswana.
Africa is abound with various holiday options. Namibia's capital, Windhoek, is flanked by the Auas mountains to the south-east, the Eros mountains to the north-east and the rolling hills of the Khomas Hochland to the west and is a city of many contrasts - modern skyscrapers blend with historic buildings. Places to visit in Namibia include Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp, Damaraland Camp, Ongava Tented Camp as well as the Etosha National Park.
Or take South Africa, for instance, which is not only about discovering Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and the Kruger National Park. One can explore more places like St Francis Bay and Jeffrey's Bay past Port Elizabeth, Montagu and Swellendam close to Cape Town, besides Wilderness between George and Knysna.
And with Abhiash branding Tahiti as a potential honeymoon destination, you can bet we Indians are getting there some time soon.