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12 of the Most Exotic Holiday Destinations to Visit Around the World

Grab your suncream and jet-set to these exotic destinations for the holiday of a lifetime

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A bird's eye view of white sand and crystalline blue water by green trees at a beach in Mauritius

What comes to mind when you think of exotic destinations? Sun, sea, sand… perhaps a slice of tropical jungle? Well, what if we told you that us travel experts here at Plum Guide have discovered so much more - we pride ourselves on going above and beyond for you, after all? From epic underground caves to impressively green, lush rice terraces, we’re always adding to our bucket lists - as well as sniffing out those hidden gems that lie off the beaten track. With warm weather, glorious beaches, and amazing landscapes, here are some of the most exotic places to travel around the world.

1. Barbados

People relaxing in the clear blue sea at a beach in Barbados

People relaxing in the clear blue sea at a beach in Barbados

One of the most exotic places to travel, Barbados is the definition of a Caribbean daydream. We won’t blame you if all you want to do is lounge in the sun, but if you can peel yourself away from the beach, there’s a huge array of other exciting things to do. It wouldn’t be a true Barbados experience without sampling their oldest and greatest export - rum. Book a local-led tour guide of the various distilleries to learn about its production process. If all that rum makes you feel like dancing, shimmy your way over to the many live music venues for a taste of the Caribbean’s best sounds, including soca, calypso, jazz, spouge, reggae, and dancehall. Worked up an appetite? If it happens to be a Friday, head to the village of Oistins, where dozens of small kiosks serve freshly grilled fish, shellfish, chicken and pork chops - you'll also discover cold drinks and local musicians.

Tropical Birds, Plum Guide home in Barbados

Tropical Birds, Plum Guide home in Barbados

2. Sa Pa, Vietnam

A small hut on green, layered rice fields in Sa Pa, Vietnam

A small hut on green, layered rice fields in Sa Pa, Vietnam

While Vietnam has a myriad of beautiful beaches that could feature on this list, we’ve chosen to move inland to the Tonkinese Alps. Located in the northwest of Vietnam, the small, tranquil town of Sa Pa is the gateway to one of the most beautiful areas in Southeast Asia. Discover the emerald green Hoàng Liên Son Mountains with vaulting rice terraces, lush vegetation, and Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam. Sa Pa is home to hill tribes such as the Hmong, Dai, and Dao, who often offer homestays and guided tours of the area. Be sure to visit Sa Pa’s central market, where these hill tribes gather to sell handicrafts and local produce. Younger members also play games and engage in courtship.

3. Baja California Sur, Mexico

An aerial view of clear blue water and white sand at Balandra Beach, Baja California Sur, Mexico

An aerial view of clear blue water and white sand at Balandra Beach, Baja California Sur, Mexico

With its contrasting landscapes and variety of ecosystems, Baja California Sur is a fascinating place to explore. When it comes to water activities, you’re spoilt for choice here. Go diving off the clear waters of Espiritu Santo island, snorkelling in Cabo Pulmo, or whale watching in Magdalena Bay - you could even swim with whale sharks in La Paz. If you prefer to relax on the beach, there are some pretty strong contenders here - but we think Balandra Beach is the prettiest. The untouched sands have calm, shallow waters which are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and paddle-boarding. There’s plenty to do if you’re feeling a little more energetic, such as exploring the bars and restaurants of San Jose Del Cabo, or hiking in Sierra de la Laguna. In the latter, you can enjoy natural lakes, hot springs, and all-round spectacular views of this green oasis set amongst rocky desert.

Aztec Dream, Plum Guide home in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Aztec Dream, Plum Guide home in Baja California Sur, Mexico

4. Madagascar

A view of the River Masoala with green trees and brown rocks in Madagascar

A view of the River Masoala with green trees and brown rocks in Madagascar

Not only is Madagascar one of the most exotic places to travel, it’s also one of the most unique places on Earth. This island country is home to otherworldly landscapes such as limestone karsts, plunging canyons, pristine white beaches, and captivating rainforests. These habitats are home to an amazing variety of wildlife, 90% of which don’t exist anywhere else on Earth. Head to one of Madagascar’s many national parks to spot lemurs, swim with whale sharks off the island of Nosy Be, and go whale watching off Île Sainte-Marie. In between lounging on the beach and sampling local cuisine in the capital of Antananarivo, make time to visit the aptly named Forest of Knives - a jaw-dropping landscape of vertical limestone rocks interspersed with canyons, waterfalls, and forest.

5. Sardinia, Italy

A bird's eye view of clear blue water and a jagged coastline in Sardinia, Italy

A bird's eye view of clear blue water and a jagged coastline in Sardinia, Italy

The rugged island paradise of Sardinia is one of the most captivating places in Europe. The best way to explore is by renting a car (or better still, a scooter), and enjoying a drive along the epic coastal roads. Stop for a picnic and a swim at the many beautiful beaches along the Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast. Alternatively, explore the coastline from the water with a chartered sailboat. This means you can get to all the unspoilt little islands and hidden bays only accessible by boat. For a spot of culture, head into the capital city of Cagliari. Divided into four historic districts, there are numerous museums, churches, and archaeological sites to discover. Make sure you also visit the smaller villages, such as Bosa with its colourful buildings and Castelsardo with its 12th-century Doria Castle.

Paradise Hill, Plum Guide home in Sardinia, Italy

Paradise Hill, Plum Guide home in Sardinia, Italy

6. Belize

A view of a small pier jutting out into clear blue water in front of palm trees in Belize

A view of a small pier jutting out into clear blue water in front of palm trees in Belize

With its dense jungle, turquoise water, rich marine life, and ancient ruins, Belize is the epitome of what an exotic destination truly is. Naturally, you’ll want to spend as much time at the beach as you can, whether you're scuba diving, snorkelling on the island of Caye Caulker, taking a scenic flight over the iconic Great Blue Hole, or relaxing on a sunset boat tour. While it may be hard to look away from Belize’s remarkable coastline, it’s worth spending time inland and exploring the many caves - including the Rio Frio Cave and the ATM Cave, a sacred Mayan historical site. Speaking of historical sites, some of the most intriguing archaeological ruins include the Mayan city of Caracol, the temples and palaces of Xunantunich, and the ancient city of Cahal Pech.

7. Kefalonia, Greece

A small boat on clear blue water by pink flowers in front of a town, Kefalonia, Greece

A small boat on clear blue water by pink flowers in front of a town, Kefalonia, Greece

The largest of Greece’s Ionian islands, Kefalonia is known for its outstanding natural beauty. Its cerulean blue coastline is marked by limestone cliffs and picturesque coves, while its interior is shaped by rugged mountains, sprawling vineyards, and charming towns. Start your Kefalonian adventure at its most iconic sandy stretch - Myrtos Beach. Backed by towering limestone cliffs, this two-kilometre-long beach fringes a dazzling turquoise sea. Another must-do is exploring Melissáni Cave aboard a small rowing boat. When lit by early morning or late afternoon sun, the rays pouring through the cave roof make for a magical scene. For panoramic views of the island, head to Ainos National Park, where you can enjoy mountain biking (or hiking) up to the summit of Mt Ainos. Need a break from outdoor adventures? Visit the capital of Argostoli, an old port town where you can grab lunch on the palm-lined seafront promenade. Be sure to visit Fiskardo - undeniably the island’s prettiest village, with an abundance of 18th-century Venetian-style architecture.

The Infinite Blue, Plum Guide home in Kefalonia, Greece

The Infinite Blue, Plum Guide home in Kefalonia, Greece

8. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Large green rocks in a blue lagoon in December, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Large green rocks in a blue lagoon in December, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Wondering where you can find the most exotic place in the world? The Raja Ampat islands are the closest thing to paradise you could possibly encounter. This archipelago is made up of jungle-covered islands, white-sand beaches, secret lagoons, and clear turquoise waters. It’s equally as beautiful underwater, with a diversity of marine life and colourful coral reefs. Unsurprisingly, scuba diving and snorkelling are popular activities in Raja Ampat, where you may spot mata rays, dolphins, and turtles. We’re not saying that you’ll get tired of water adventures, but there are plenty of things to do above land too. Home to many endemic species, take a wildlife watching tour deep into the jungles for a chance to spot rare plants and the exquisite birds of paradise. Don’t leave before picking up a few souvenirs from the local villages, where you can find handmade crafts such as accessories, bags, and plates.

9. Ibiza, Spain

Numerous white boats sailing on the blue sea by a large hill in Ibiza, Spain

Numerous white boats sailing on the blue sea by a large hill in Ibiza, Spain

Famed for its lively nightlife and beautiful beaches, there’s never a dull moment in Ibiza. Follow up a wild night out with a relaxing day at one of Ibiza’s many spas. This hotspot is a haven for healing, whether you’re looking to join a yoga class or get pampered with a massage. If the beach is more your idea of relaxation, how about a sunbathing session at Cala D’Hort? Legend has it that if you make a wish while looking out to the mystical Es Vedra across the water, it comes true - it won't hurt to try, will it? If you’ve wished for a little adventure, why not hop on a ferry and spend a day or two in Formentera, known for its Caribbean-like beaches and unspoiled interior. It’s much more laid-back compared to Ibiza, so acts as the perfect place to nurse a hangover. Once you feel renewed and rejuvenated, check out Ibiza’s many artisan markets where you can pick up everything from handicrafts to local food. Many of these markets also have live music and performances, including the traditional Ibizan folk dance of ball pagès.

Homespun Nooks, Plum Guide home in Ibiza, Spain

Homespun Nooks, Plum Guide home in Ibiza, Spain

10. Mauritius

An aerial view of vast areas of blue sea by a large green island in Mauritius

An aerial view of vast areas of blue sea by a large green island in Mauritius

Are you still wondering where the most exotic place to vacation is? We will give you another very strong contender: Mauritius. While it may only be a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is packed with exciting things to do. As well as relaxing, swimming, and trying out water sports on the white sandy beaches, you can immerse yourself in Mauritius’ fascinating history, mouthwatering culinary experiences, and vast tropical nature. The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens is a relaxing place to spend a few hours surrounded by tropical gems - including huge water lilies and peaceful giant tortoises. Nearby is the L'aventure Sucre, a museum telling the story of sugarcane, the main crop in Mauritius - there’s even a restaurant onsite which serves local delicacies, desserts and rum-focused cocktails. If you’ve not overdone it on the drinks, you may want to take a hike up Le Morne Brabant Mountain, once used as a shelter by runaway slaves. It’s quite challenging, but the views from the top are breathtaking.

11. Antalya, Turkey

An aerial view of white boats on the blue water at Phaselis Cove in Antalya, Turkey

An aerial view of white boats on the blue water at Phaselis Cove in Antalya, Turkey

The Turkish resort city of Antalya is the gateway to the Turquoise Coast, Turkey’s southern Mediterranean region. The city’s blue waters are irresistible, with Konyaalti Beach being our favourite place for a swim. With cafes, restaurants, and shops along the palm-tree lined promenade, you can comfortably stay here all day. However, if you’re looking to explore a little more inland, there are numerous interesting places to keep you busy. History buffs will be in their element, with Greek and Roman historical sites such as Hadrian’s Gate, the ruins of Aspendos, the ruins of the ancient city of Termessos, and the Roman fortress looking over Antalya’s old harbour. Those looking to spend time in nature are spoilt for choice too, whether you want to try white-water rafting in Köprülü Canyon National Park, swimming under Kurşunlu Waterfall, or venturing deep underground into the Karain Cave.

White Mirage, Plum Guide home in Antalya, Turkey

White Mirage, Plum Guide home in Antalya, Turkey

12. Goa, India

Different coloured kayaks in a river by tall palm trees in Goa, India

Different coloured kayaks in a river by tall palm trees in Goa, India

This state in western India is known for its party atmosphere, but there’s more to Goa than late-night soirées on the sand. History is very much alive here, with remnants of different empires revealing themselves in both the architecture and the food. Speaking of food, Goa is home to India’s best seafood, and what better way to eat than with your toes in the sand? Continue the delightful culinary adventure well into the evening with a variety of street food at the Arpora Saturday Night Bazaar, where you can also pick up handicrafts, clothing, jewellery, and more. If you’re looking to brush up on your history, there's an array of intriguing sites, such as the Mahadeva Temple, Se Cathedral, Singbal’s Book House, and the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Don’t forget to take a breather, and embrace nature at the remarkable Dudhsagar Waterfalls - a four-tiered waterfall standing amidst dense forest.

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