Holidays on a budget
Looking for a holiday hotspot that won't burn a hole in your wallet? Travel + Leisure magazine has named the world's top emerging destinations that will drive your holiday dollar further.
The Pacific: Marquesas
This archipelago, an outpost of French Polynesia, has the geographic distinction of being the farthest group of islands from any continental land mass and yet is just a three-hour flight from Papeete, Tahiti's capital, on Air Tahiti (airtahiti.pf).
The island Hiva Oa (population: 1991) lacks the blue lagoons and overwater bungalows of Moorea or Bora Bora but travellers in search of peace and quiet will find it here in the primeval landscape of cliffs, waterfalls and ironwood forests. Hiva Oa is where French artist Paul Gauguin spent the final years of his career and the island draws plenty of pilgrims who are travelling in his footsteps.
The main island's only hotel, Hiva Oa Hanakee Pearl Lodge (pearlresorts.com; doubles from $470), has 14 bungalows, some of which face the lush Tehueto Valley and Tahauku Beach.
Each bungalow is outfitted with woven-palm wall coverings, carved tiki poles and traditional bark-paper paintings.
Arrange a tour with Pearl Lodge's guide Lecortier Tematai, who will point out trellised vanilla orchids and petroglyphs and negotiate dirt roads under a canopy of acacia and mango trees. He'll drive you by Polynesia's largest stone tiki, then stop for a Marquesan lunch (tuna ceviche, goat curry, fried breadfruit) at the house of native chef Pua Poevai.
In the main village, Atuona, the narrow thoroughfare is lined with shops selling Tahitian beer and one-storey whitewashed houses with fishing boats lying in the yards. Gauguin's grave is on a hill at Calvary Cemetery and the Paul Gauguin Cultural Centre has 92 reproductions of his works.
A stroll on the village's black-sand beach at the base of 1275-metre Mount Temetiu is the best way to end the day. - Shane Mitchell
The pine tree-lined stretch of southeastern coastline known as Pranburi - a three-hour drive south of Bangkok and 30 minutes south of the popular resort town of Hua Hin - is blessedly free of the wandering masseurs, banana-boat operators and other interlopers who crowd many of the country's beaches. Visitors are likely to encounter only the occasional couple strolling along the sand, enjoying uninterrupted views of fishing boats plying the Gulf of Thailand. A few kilometres inland, pineapple plantations, mangrove forests and rice fields attract travellers in search of the Thailand of 20 years ago.
Change is slowly creeping into Pranburi and surrounding areas, announced by charmingly idiosyncratic boutique hotels; the area's alluring mix of seclusion, authenticity and character is driving many travellers to choose it over Hua Hin.
"Hua hin is becoming a big city with traffic," notes Yingluck Chareonying, a clothing designer who was one of the first Bangkok settlers to open a hotel in the area 11 years ago. Her whimsical 12-room Brassiere Beach (210 Moo 5, Tambon Samroiyod; +66 32 630 5555; brassierebeach.com; doubles from $205) was inspired by two domelike islands that sit just offshore, and is set in a lush garden on a secluded beach.
Pranburi has plenty of authentic flavour, with countless seaside shacks dishing up tasty street food, like som tam (spicy green papaya salad), accompanied by honey-basted grilled chicken. The best meals can be found at the cluster of stalls on the beach at the southern end of town, where lunch for two runs just $10. - Jennifer Chen
New Zealand: Southland
Few New Zealanders venture south beyond iconic Milford Sound, let alone the year-round resort town of Queenstown. Yet this spectacular, sparsely populated natural wonderland has attractions such as the World Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park, The Catlins and the Southern Scenic Route, while for the more adventurous there's Stewart Island, New Zealand's third-biggest land mass after the North and South islands.
Visitors to this remote region will experience wild pristine forests, waterfalls, lakes and rugged coastlines and glimpse endangered wildlife such as yellow-eyed penguins, whose beachside habitat can be viewed from a hide at Nugget Point in The Catlins.
One of the world's great undiscovered drives, the Southern Scenic Route officially begins at Te Anau, but it can easily be started in Queenstown. The route passes near Fiordland and Southland. At Te Anau, the architect-designed Fiordland Lodge (+64 3 249 7832; fiordlandlodge.co.nz, doubles from $600 in winter) is perfect as an overnight base for visiting Milford Sound and the less famous but larger and harder to reach Doubtful Sound.
Unlike the rest of New Zealand, the southern portion of the Southland region is bereft of luxury accommodation, except for the strawbale-designed, ultra-private Tikana Lodge (+64 3 236 4117; tikana.co.nz; doubles from $1700). It's on a farm surrounded by undulating paddocks populated by deer.
The water in Southland, which has the longest daylight hours in New Zealand, is warm enough for swimming in summer months (just) in The Catlins, with Curio Bay and Dolphin Bay recommended as safe. At Curio Bay, don't miss the petrified fossil forest, which features 160 million-year-old logs frozen in time at the water's edge.
The Southern Scenic Route can be completed in Dunedin where the bed and breakfast Mandeno House (+64 3 471 9595; mandenohouse.com; doubles from $260) is a stylish find. - Anthony Dennis
During the late 19th century, the Pacific Coast town of Mazatlan was a playground for holidaying members of the German, French and Mexican aristocracy, who took up residence in the Centro Historico, or old town.
Its reputation as an elite hot spot continued through the early 20th century. But in the '60s, the city became a popular port for cruise ships. Soon after, strip malls and chain restaurants sprouted up along the Zona Dorada, a 20-kilometre stretch of beach 15 minutes north of the Centro Historico. The neoclassical mansions with five-metre-high ceilings and wrought-iron balconies - remnants of Mazatlan's heyday - were abandoned and all but forgotten. Until now.
The old town is experiencing a renaissance, with cafes, boutiques and hotels on seemingly every corner. Local Alfredo Gomez Rubio jump-started the revitalisation in 1997 with restaurant Pedro y Lola (Avenidas Constitucion and Carnaval; +52 669 982 2589; dinner for two $67). Housed in a 130-year-old building, the former social club serves regional dishes such as molcajete (arrachera beef with grilled nopales, onions and fresh panela cheese) in a wooden-beamed dining room.
Soon after, artists Miguel Ruiz and his Belgian wife, Helene van der Heiden, opened Casa Etnika (+52 669 136 0139; casaetnika.com.mx), an art gallery and craft shop. Inside, Michoacan silver necklaces hang alongside colourful paintings by locals. More galleries followed, as did an overhaul of the nearby 1874 Teatro Angela Peralta, an 841-seat Italian Renaissance-style theatre with an open-air lobby and triple-tiered balconies.
In 2007, Conchita Valades de Boccard created Casa Lucila (+52 669 982 1100; casalucila.com; doubles from $316), the old town's first seaside boutique hotel, built on the site of a 1940s nightclub frequented by John Wayne and Ernest Hemingway and overlooking Olas Altas Beach.
El Santo y La Panga (+52 669 985 4124; dinner for two $130) is the old town's newest addition. Locals pack the tiny seafood joint for tuna tostadas with chipotle mayonnaise and avocado. - Jeff Spurrier
Cyprus: Paphos and Limassol
The prime Levantine location and sandy turquoise shores of this tiny island belie its political past. After decades of division between a Turkish-occupied north and Greek-speaking south, Cyprus is unifying and international attention is now focused on its wildflower-covered hills and crystalline coastline.
Cyprus is changing dramatically around the port town of Paphos, the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite. During the Hellenistic period, Paphos was Cyprus's capital, renowned for its temples and olive groves. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage site serves as an entry point to the island's most exclusive resorts and to tiny nearby towns, such as Omodos and Lefkara.
The chic Almyra (+357 26 888 700; thanoshotels.com; doubles from $510) set the tone for Paphos's resurgence in 2004. Designed by Joelle Pleot and Tristan Auer, the hotel lures Europeans with its whitewashed bungalows and black-bottom pool. Down the coast at Thalassa Boutique Hotel & Spa (+357 26 881 500; thalassa.com.cy; doubles from $810), the 58 suites sit on a peninsula overlooking 3400-year-old ruins.
Although equally historic, Limassol, a harbour town on the southern coast, is more focused on its future. The marina is in the midst of a $390 -million makeover. In the old town, cobblestoned Agiou Andreou Street houses stylish shops. On the waterfront is Londa (+357 25 865 555; londahotel.com; doubles from $700), a 68-room retreat with marble and wood interiors, a mod restaurant and bar. - David Kaufman