Pristine, white sandy beaches are still scattered across the world, though they may not necessarily be the ones you’d previously added to your bucket list destinations. Popular spots like Boracay and Thailand’s Maya Bay have recently suffered at the hands of hordes of tourists. While the former has re-opened its beaches and hotels, if you’re looking to avoid the tourist trail and opt for the road less travelled, then these are our top suggestions.
Instead of Bangkok
One of the more popular weekend city breaks from Hong Kong, Bangkok has something to offer everyone – from tranquil temples to thriving outdoor markets, to a night on the town. If you’re not one for late-night revelry, then a two-hour drive will have you in Kanchanaburi, with its vast national park and surrounding wildlife. The region is steeped in history and is home to the famed bridge over the River Kwai.
Distance from Hong Kong: 3 hours (to Bangkok)
Instead of Cebu
Cebu is known for the near guarantee of seeing the majestic whale sharks, but while this may sound like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you’d rather not pass up, your visit may be doing more harm than good. With local tour operators feeding the shark population to guarantee their presence, natural migration patterns have been disrupted. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with wildlife, then head to Malaysian Borneo, where the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary provides refuge for the critically endangered primates, and the islands that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park in Kota Kinabalu offer an array of snorkelling opportunities.
Distance from Hong Kong: 3 hours to Kota Kinabalu, and 7.5 hours to Sandakan (for Sepilok)
Instead of Bali
In just under five hours, you can swap Hong Kong’s concrete jungle for the rolling hills of Ubud’s rice terraces and expansive beaches. But what was once an idyllic paradise has now become a firm fixture on the tourist trail. In the southern reaches of Sri Lanka, Unawatuna offers an alternative to suit most travellers, with idyllic beaches, surrounding natural beauty, and a growing nightlife scene for those looking to carry on into the early hours of the morning. Just be sure to avoid the monsoon season, which typically lies between the months of May and August.
Distance from Hong Kong: 5.5 hours to Colombo
Instead of Boracay
The popular resort island was closed to tourists for a six-month period following prolonged environmental degradation, untreated raw sewage, excessive waste, and chaotic, overcrowded beaches. While it has since reopened with stringent restrictions for today’s travellers, leaving the island to rejuvenate further has its obvious benefits. The white sandy beaches of Phu Quoc island in Vietnam offer a more than worthy alternative, with an expansive national park, crystal clear waters, and far fewer numbers of tourists.
Distance from Hong Kong: 6.5 hours, via Bangkok, Hanoi or Ho ChiMinh
Instead of Barcelona
Design lovers flock to Barcelona to make the archetypal Gaudi pilgrimage, taking them from Park Guell to the Sagrada Familia. But in recent years, as tourist numbers have skyrocketed, local residents have taken to the streets in protest. Despite an increase in the daily tourist tax and measures to reduce tourist numbers, the city has remained inundated with travellers. Why not trade in your daily dose of Catalan culture and opt instead for an escape into Basque country? San Sebastian is famed for its cobbled streets, innovative cuisine, and a cultural calendar brimming with events.
Distance from Hong Kong: 16 hours, via Amsterdam, London or Paris
Instead of Dubrovnik
In recent years, everyone has been vying to get a glimpse of Kings Landing with their own eyes – or at least its real-life counterpart. Countless websites and guidebooks list the filming locations across the city’s old town, but that has, in turn, led to record-breaking numbers and droves of visitors destined for Dubrovnik. If the appeal lies in the beautiful Baltic landscapes, then Malta could prove to be a worthy alternative. Situated just south of Sicily, this Mediterranean archipelago boasts brilliant blue seas, megalithic architecture, and more.
Distance from Hong Kong: 17 hours, via London or Istanbul
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