They may not feature on the usual travel itinerary, but these off-the-beaten-track locations are among the hottest destinations of 2017. By Eamonn Seoige
For Hot Press’ first travel guide of 2017, we have chosen to look at some of the more unusual travel destinations across the globe. Though not staples of the usual itinerary, these locations have much to recommend them. In Europe, we look at Aarhus in Denmark and the Cypriot city of Paphos, both of which have been designated European Capitals of Culture this year. Turning to Asia, we examine India’s Chandigarh, recently chosen as a Unesco site for its contribution to modernism, while our South American pick is Chile.
Not content with having claimed back-to-back Copa America titles, the latter country also claimed the World’s Leading Tourism Destination gong at last year’s World Travel Awards. Our final choice is the perhaps unlikely destination of Hull, which in 2017 will serve as the UK Capital of Culture. Despite the Sun’s recent controversial disparaging of the city as Britain’s “Scrapital of Culture”, the Yorkshire city has plenty of cultural delights on offer. Happy travelling!
Chandigarh certainly isn’t your atypical Indian city. It was conceived as a planned metropolis in the years following India’s independence from Britain in the late ’40s, designed by famed Swiss architect Le Corbusier as recent as 1949, and only completed in 1960. This thriving conurbation is the capital of the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, and features many fine examples of modernist architecture. In fact, Unesco recognised Chandigarh’s contribution to modernism in 2016, highlighting in particular the government buildings and innumerable examples of public art, of which the spectacular ‘Open Hand’ monument is the most celebrated.
The city is split into ‘sectors’, each with a specific purpose and divided by broad boulevards, public gardens and man-made lakes. Unlike India’s many overcrowded and polluted mega-cities, Chandigarh has a population of less than one million and can boast ‘smoke free’ status. Its citizens are also the per capita highest earners of the entire sub-continent. With the foothills of the mighty Himalayas looming to the north, Amritsar, home of the ‘Golden Temple’ to the Northwest and Delhi to the south, Chandigarh is an ideal base for exploring the numerous cultural highlights of northern India. However, with average daytime highs of 38 degrees, ‘The City Beautiful’ is best avoided in May and June.
Denmark’s second city is situated on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, in the sheltered Bay of Aarhus. Whilst the Danish capital of Copenhagen is rightly lauded for its gastronomic revolution and chic boutiques, the ‘City of Smiles’ can also boast fine dining and high-end shopping to compete with any European city. The massive student population lends a vibrancy to this city of a quarter of a million inhabitants, with lots of funky bars and clubs scattered throughout its cobbled old centre. In 2017 Aarhus is one of two cities awarded the ‘European Capital of Culture’ crown, and it’s not hard to see why.
Settled by the Vikings in the 8th century, today Aarhus is a more refined destination than the bay once populated by their Norse ancestors. Festivals are the lifeblood of Aarhus, including the renowned International Jazz festival and the ‘Spot Festival’, which showcases breaking contemporary music acts from across Scandinavia. Modern art lovers will be entranced by the wonderful ARoS museum, and for those looking for a window into the past, the ‘Old Town’ museum recreates urban life from the 19th century. Aarhus is a city that celebrates the diversity of its citizens and each June the city comes alive for ‘Aarhus Pride’, which promotes Aarhus’s vibrant LGBT community.
The historic and archeologically renowned city of Paphos, situated along the beautiful southern Mediterranean coast of Cyprus, has also been selected as a European Capital of Culture for 2017.
Thankfully, whilst garish developments have scarred the landscape of the new city, ‘Old Paphos’ remains wonderful and a highlight of any visit to Cyprus. Its ancient settlements, particularly ‘Paphos Archaeological Park’ give a glimpse of the old city’s rich cultural heritage. In fact, Paphos is believed to be the birthplace of the Greek God of love, Aphrodite.
A few miles outside the city sits Aphrodite’s Rock, where, legend has it, the goddess first emerged into the world. The significant ruins of the four Roman villas of Dionysos, Orpheus, Aion and Theseus are among the park’s main attractions, along with numerous significant tombs, buildings and the breath-taking Odeon amphitheatre, which dates back to the second century AD. Unsurprisingly, the area was granted Unesco status back in 1980 and continues to enthrall visitors. However, when cultural fatigue eventually sets in, head off to one of the city’s stunning beaches and the welcoming, azure blue waters of the Med.
A few miles to the north of Paphos you’ll find the picture perfect artist village of Lemba, where local painters and sculptors exhibit and sell their works. Paphos is a perfect little slice of Mediterranean paradise.
Hull, or rather Kingston-upon-Hull to give it its full title, was established in the 12th century and has remained an important seaport for fishing and trading since the middle ages. In 2017, the city’s rich history and cultural significance will be rewarded with the title of ‘UK Capital of Culture’. Recent investment has funded a major redevelopment of the East Yorkshire city’s harbour district, which was extensively damaged during the ‘Hull Blitz’ of WWII. Also, the reinvention of the Fruitmarket area, where disused and abandoned buildings have been reclaimed as galleries, artist studios and boutiques, has attracted scores of creatives.
Significantly, the Ferens Art Gallery will host the prestigious Turner Prize late this year. Similar to many English cities ‘up north’, Hull expanded rapidly along the Humber estuary during the heady days of the industrial revolution, and there are many fine examples of period architecture scattered throughout its environs. Today, its quarter of a million citizens enjoy a city brimming with renewed confidence, and visitor numbers to its Old Town, many museums and famed aquarium ‘The Deep’ continue to grow. Hull is also a sports fans utopia, boasting as it does a Premier League football team, two Rugby League sides and an ice-hockey club.
For many, Chile is often the final, rushed destination along their whistlestop South American adventure. However, in the past decade, more and more discerning travellers are discovering the myriad charms and natural attractions that adorn this sprawling nation. Straddling the Pacific Ocean for over four thousand kilometres, the ‘Land of Poets’ has the imposing Andes mountain range as its backbone. Whilst the bustling capital Santiago, home to legendary clubs, bars and cultural activities, has always attracted the crowds, it’s the opportunity to experience the country’s pristine natural environment that’s driving visitor growth in recent years.
Chile can boast some of the world’s best hiking trails, with the opportunity to visit a landscape with a broad variety of natural features including volcanoes, Fjords, glaciers, the Atacama Desert plains and the snow-crusted peaks of the imposing Andes. Chileans are friendly, laidback and charming hosts, and only too eager to point visitors in the right direction. When the busy days of exploring have concluded, make sure to sample some of the fabulous wines from this ‘New World’ favourite. Also, as Chile is only a couple of hundred miles wide, and even narrower in many places, the charms of Argentina, Bolivia and the rest are never too far away.
For those of you in possession of the true spirit of adventure, Chile can also lay claim to its own slice of the frozen continent of Antarctica. It’s a wonderful destination, as diverse as it is fascinating.
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