5 best destinations for an extended vacation

Who wants to rush around while on vacation? Sometimes a long weekend just isn't enough to really get-to-grips with a place; if you have a week or two to spare, or even longer, from Spain to South Africa this is where you should explore
Flamenco dancing in Andalucia. Photo: Shutterstock
Flamenco dancing in Andalucia. Photo: Shutterstock

Perhaps author Nicholas Sparks put it best: "Strange, what being forced to slow down could do to a person." When it comes to travelling, these words couldn't be truer. Weekend breaks are fine, but sometimes the best way to experience a new place is to slow down, to experience the culture and really immerse yourself in the local way of life. Here are five destinations that make for a perfect extended vacation

1. Spain

Spain is all at once vibrant and serene. Its diversity, in fact, is perhaps what makes it such an adored travel destination. From the beaches of Barcelona to the mountains of Madrid, why rush your discovery of this European jewel? In the central plateau, the cities of Toledo and Salamanca are bursting with medieval charm. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean coast offers up sparkling sun-drenched beaches like Costa Dorada and Costa Blanca.

The north touts both lush vineyards in La Rioja and jagged mountain views, while a treasure trove of Spanish culture awaits in the south (just ask travel writer Cat Gaa, who brilliantly blogs about the allure of southern Spain at Sunshine & Siestas). Andalucia is a vacation in itself. Here, sizzling flamenco and Muslim architecture reign supreme. Ready to create your own tailor-made tour of Spain? Insight Guides' local experts can handle all the details: browse suggested itineraries online now or submit a trip request.

2. Malaysia

If it's wild beauty and diverse landscapes you're after, Malaysia is an ideal locale for an extended vacation. What other place features both lush rainforests and the glitzy appeal of big cities? Malaysia has a little bit of everything. Buzzing Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan cityscape famously punctuated by the Petronas Twin Towers. For a taste of nature at its best, the Langkawi archipelago's surreal limestone caves and geological park are beautiful examples. All the while, World Heritage Sites Georgetown and Melaka attract history buffs with their rich and storied pasts.

And then there's Borneo, with its abundance of natural wonder, especially in Sarawak and Sabah. Here, spend your days experiencing first-class diving, local wildlife and the famed peak of Mount Kinabalu. Your only real problem will be deciding where to go first. Fortunately, Insight Guides can put together a spectacular Malaysian adventure just for you.

3. South Africa

South Africa is so varied, encompassing so many wonderfully different elements, you'd be doing yourself a favour to slow down and take it all in at your own pace. The Cape Peninsula is home to one of Africa's (if not the world's) most dynamic and energetic cities: Cape Town. Also known as the Mother City, Cape Town's city centre is a mishmash of Victorian buildings and upscale shopping malls; an ancient-meets-modern collaboration like no other. Make your way to Gauteng Province, where Johannesburg (aka the City of Gold) gets all the attention. It is here that miners dig below the surface, while a bustling industrial city hums above.

And of course no trip to South Africa would be complete without going on safari. This part of the globe is known for its fantastic private game reserves. Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a real stunner in this department, showcasing everything from wild dogs to African elephants. Ready to put South Africa on your travel itinerary? One of Insight Guides' luxury vacations is a great place to start.

Cheetah in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa.

Cheetah in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Thailand

There's a reason Thailand has been coined the Land of Smiles. Between the idyllic coastlines, superb dive sites, outstanding cuisine, and colourful festivals, one of the best ways to experience the culture is to slow down and settle in for an extended vacation. For many travellers, the adventure kicks off in the capital. Bangkok is a fast-paced, hustle-and-bustle city that combines modern pleasures with a bit of ancient charm. Vibrant nightlife and trendy restaurants are a stone's throw from golden Buddhist temples and traditional street markets. For a refreshing change of pace, chilled-out Chiang Mai in the north boasts lush landscapes and can't-miss night markets (not to mention elephant training camps and gorgeous orchid farms).

If you favour the beach, Thailand's impressive tropical islands certainly won't disappoint. Head to the Gulf of Thailand in the south, where the Andaman Sea epitomizes beachy bliss. Phuket and Ko Phi Phi should top your list. When you're ready to take your next extended vacation, Insight Guides can fill in the blanks with one of their many luxurious Thai getaways.

5. India

India is so vast, so enormous, exotic and downright diverse, that a quick pit-stop trip simply doesn't do it justice. In this dazzling country, the spectacular snow-capped Himalayas provide breathtaking alpine vistas, while Kerala (perhaps India's greatest hidden gem) offers up tropical beaches on the Arabian Sea, along with fantastic street food and sacred temples to boot. As you might guess, the Taj Mahal in Agra is a must-visit locale that really is worthy of all the hype. If you're coming from Delhi, Archana Singh at Travel See Write suggests catching the Taj Express or Shatabdi Express (if travelling by car, opt for the Yamuna Express Highway).

Of course, your journey shouldn't end there. According to Anna Phipps, the travel writer behind Global Gallivanting, the colourful attractions of Rajasthan should definitely make your itinerary. Its capital city Jaipur (also known as The Pink City) is brimming with ancient forts, palaces and observatories. We could write all day about India and never run out of travel tips. Experience its wonder for yourself on one of Insight Guides' private luxury getaways.

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