What Tahiti lacks in wide white-sand beaches, it makes up for in waterfall-laden, shadowy mountains, unpretentiously beautiful black-sand beaches, sheltered blue lagoons and a distinctly Polynesian, modern buzz. This is the heart of the islands, where the cultures from all the archipelagos are mixed in the cacophonous, dusty, yet smiling and energetic capital of Pape'ete.
Blessed with some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, Botswana is one of the great safari destinations in Africa. There are more elephants in Botswana than any other country, the big cats roam free and there’s everything from endangered African wild dogs to aquatic antelopes, from rhinos making a comeback to abundant birdlife at every turn.
All trails lead to waterfalls, misty crater lakes or jungle-fringed, deserted beaches. Explored by horseback, foot or kayak, Costa Rica is a tropical choose-your-own-adventure land. The Peaceful Soul of Central America As the eco- and adventure-tourism capital of Central America, Costa Rica has a worthy place in the cubicle daydreams of travelers around the world.
Italy is an extraordinary feast of heart-thumping, soul-stirring art, food and landscapes rivalled by few and coveted by millions. Buon Appetito It might look like a boot, but food-obsessed Italy feels more like a decadently stuffed Christmas stocking. From delicate tagliatelle al ragù to velvety cannoli, every bite feels like a revelation.
Noted for its oodles of small and luxurious resorts that drip color and flair, St Lucia is really two islands in one. Rodney Bay in the north offers modern comforts amid a beautiful bay. In the south, Soufrière is at the heart of a gorgeous region of old plantations, hidden beaches and the geologic wonder of the impossibly photogenic Pitons.
Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating - Cuba is a country of indefinable magic. Expect the Unexpected Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat; behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. It’s these rich dichotomies that make travel here the exciting, exhilarating roller-coaster ride it is.
Talcum-powder beaches lapped by topaz waters, lush hills, a sublime laid-back tempo; these dreams of a tropical paradise become reality in the Seychelles. Splendid Beaches Mother Nature was very generous with these 115 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, and has spoiled them rotten.
It's easy to see why Hawaii has become synonymous with paradise. Just look at these sugary beaches, Technicolor coral reefs and volcanoes beckoning adventurous spirits. Modern Multiculturalism Hawaii is as proud of its multicultural heritage as it is of island-born US President Barack Obama.
The Turks and where? That’s the reaction most people have when you mention these tropical isles. Although small in size, they offer a range of experiences. Providenciales gets all the noise and has constant construction along its beautiful main beach. It's an ever-more-popular destination for upscale vacationers looking for low-key fun in the sun.
Friendly and fun loving, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue from its glittering temples and tropical beaches through to the ever-comforting Thai smile. Sacred Spaces The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation, and religious devotion is colourful and ubiquitous.
What’s so surprising about the three Cayman Islands (population 56,800) at first is how un-British they are for a British territory – Grand Cayman seems straight from the US, with ubiquitous SUVs jostling for space at upscale malls and US dollars changing hands as if they were the national currency. Think of it as a much more orderly version of South Florida.
Trinidad and Tobago are an exercise in beautiful contradiction. In Trinidad, pristine mangrove swamps and rainforested hills sit side by side with smoke-belching oil refineries and ugly industrial estates. Tobago has everything you’d expect from a Caribbean island, with palm trees and white sand aplenty, yet it’s relatively unchanged by the tourist industry.
The Philippines is defined by its emerald rice fields, teeming mega-cities, graffiti-splashed jeepneys, smouldering volcanoes, bug-eyed tarsiers, fuzzy water buffalo and smiling, happy-go-lucky people. Islands & Beaches With more than 7000 islands, the Philippines is a beach bum's delight.
Scattered like dabs of silver and green paint on an artist’s palette, the Bahamas are ready-made for exploration. Just ask Christopher Columbus – he bumped against these limestone landscapes in 1492 and changed the course of history. But the adventure didn’t end with the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
Set your internal clock to ‘Fiji time’: with exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and a fascinating culture to explore, you won’t want to rush. Why I Love Fiji By Tamara Sheward, Writer What makes Fiji exceptional isn’t any must-see sights or unforgettable experiences (though those are pretty thick on the ground): for me, it’s her people.
Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, desert, trekking and diving: Madagascar is a dream destination for outdoor lovers – and half the fun is getting to all these incredible attractions. Epic Landscapes The remarkable fauna and flora is matched by epic landscapes of an incredible diversity: you can go from rainforest to desert in just 300km.
Get out into the bush where animals, both predators and prey, wander through unfenced camps, where night-time means swapping stories around the fire and where the human footprint is nowhere to be seen. The rewards of travelling in Zambia are those of exploring remote, mesmerising wilderness as full of an astonishing diversity of wildlife as any part of Southern Africa.
Palm-fringed beaches, chili-spiced cuisine; steamy jungles, teeming cities; fiesta fireworks, Frida’s angst: Mexico conjures up diverse, vivid dreams. And the reality lives up to the imagining. Why I Love Mexico By John Noble, Writer I first felt Mexico's pull when reading, as a teenager, the barely credible story of Cortés and the Aztecs.