A holiday with friends is the perfect opportunity to escape the obligations that often come with romantic getaways, family holidays, and business trips.
Good friends will constitute some of the longest-term relationships you will ever form, and such relationships deserve that ultimate sort of celebration: getting away somewhere special together.
Whether your friendship is fuelled by heart-to-hearts in classy cafes or high-adrenaline adventures in the wilderness, these are the 8 best places in the world to travel with friends.
1. Buenos Aires, Argentina
South America’s suavest destination, the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, is a sharp-dressing, good-looking city. For friends wanting an inexpensive taste of the good life, this is the place to go. Its historic and classy café scene is Paris-like, its excellent red wines are affordable and full-bodied (Argentina is the spiritual home of Malbec, after all) and the steaks here are so huge you’ll need to share – even in the finest city restaurants like Don Julio.
The ‘to do’ list knows no limits, either: gorgeous, manicured parks best perambulated with a pal, explosive nightlife that will sate even the most exuberant compadre’s penchant for partying, plus an array of majestically faded architecture means the backdrop is invariably beautiful. The culture in BA is incredible, too. Think South America’s most respected opera house and some of the most fervent football matches on the globe. Plus, as the home of tango, it’s a great place to learn to dance with the pressure off.
2. Ko Tao, Thailand
Taking the plunge together assumes a whole new meaning in Ko Tao, an island idyll marooned in the Gulf of Thailand. Scuba diving is the local lifeblood here and cheap prices and oh-so-clear water reveal a rich menagerie of sea life – not least the turtles from which the island derives its name. As one of the planet’s best locations for learning to dive, taking classes in tandem with your friends is much more fun, especially when chatting about the marine creatures you’ve spotted on one of Ko Tao’s heavenly white sand beaches afterward.
If you prefer affirming your friendship above the surface, Ko Tao is increasingly a hiking destination, too, with several trails bisecting the hilly, jungle-clad interior.
3. Munich, Germany
Quaffing lots of lovely beer in lavish surrounds in Europe’s hub of all things hop. For many friends, this will be the only incentive they need to indulge in the Bavarian capital Munich, a city that grafts hard to make its drinking scene globally renowned.
There are six major breweries here serving a stunning array of ornate beer halls, colonnaded, frescoed, and embellished by grand beer gardens. Home of the original Oktoberfest too, Munich’s various magnificent drinking establishments make each day feel like a celebration of fermented froth. Work up a thirst wandering around one of the continent’s largest city parks, Englischer Garten, where there also happens to be... a big beer garden.
4. San Francisco, USA
One of the 20th century’s most rigorously documented friendship groups, the Beat Generation, had San Francisco as their hangout. Emblazoned with the legacy of 1960s counterculture and a phenomenal music scene – bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane originated here – come to drink in the history-drenched bars that Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg and Neal Cassady frequented — like Vesuvio Café.
After that, clock some of the planet’s best and brightest street art in the Haight and Ashbury neighborhood, or check out the legendary live music scene with your pals. If that doesn’t do it for you, pan out a little. Take a cruise around the City by the Bay, which encompasses talismanic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, or pull out all the stops with a foray into the USA’s most fabled wine country, Napa Valley, an hour’s drive north.
5. Budapest, Hungary
It’s difficult to conceive of a finer thing to do with friends than touring Europe’s only capital to sit on natural thermal springs, Budapest, sampling its dozen-odd historic spa complexes. These toasty waters are conducive for relaxing, gossiping, healing (body-beneficial minerals like magnesium, calcium and sodium are purportedly present), and even a game of chess (a big thing in Budapest’s baths). Start soaking up Budapest’s bathing culture with a dunk in turn-of-the-century Széchenyi Baths, where you can treat yourselves to a massage too.
6. Petra, Jordan
Nurture your friendship with a trip to perhaps the planet’s most remarkable Unesco World Heritage Site, the striking sandstone city of Petra. If the Nabataeans managed to pull off the impressive feat of establishing this dramatic desert city by carving it out of the rocks in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, then there should be nothing and nowhere you and your mates feel you can’t do or go.
The approach – through a narrow, twisting passage between sheer rock walls known as the Siq – is an aptly enthralling trailer for the show of craftsmanship in the hidden city ahead. Here, the center of the drama is the Treasury, its Hellenistic façade sculpted in exquisite detail out of the iron-rich red sandstone cliff – although the Monastery, tucked away higher up in the complex, is similarly hewn from the rocks and far bigger. Get here early, for the 6 am opening, to dodge the crowds and see the sunrise on your special adventure together, bathing Petra’s phenomenal monuments in a red and pink glow.
7. Sydney to Gold Coast, Australia
It’s road trip time. One of Australia’s quintessential rides goes from Oceania’s biggest city Sydney to the Gold Coast, one of its most glorious beach destinations. For you and your buddies, though, it will be less about beginnings and ends and more about the journey: 850km along the Pacific Highway for coast lovers or 1000km via the New England Highway if you fancy mixing wine country in with your water time. Either way promises stunning national parks.
While neither distance needs to take upwards of a day, you’ll want to stretch it to several. A long drive dotted with magical stop-offs and far-removed from a rigid, rushed schedule is the optimal environment for letting your long-term friendships catch up, nurture and grow – and we guarantee, there is not one of you who won’t enthuse about some aspect of this east coast adventure.
On the Pacific Highway route, seek out the nation’s cutest marsupials in koala-dense Port Macquarie, chill in serene beach towns like Byron Bay, or swim and surf off the golden sands that rim this coast. On the New England Highway option, catapult your friendship into the churning waters of a Nymboida River rafting trip, or toast each other in Hunter Valley’s mountain-backed vineyards.
8. New York City, USA
New York has something for every visitor. Better yet, most of it is available around the clock. If you and your pals can’t get mutually excited over the beacon of the arts, the fulcrum of fine dining, the kernel of culture, and the nexus of nightlife that makes NYC what it is, then you’ll likely struggle to agree on anywhere to travel together. Taking a bite out of the Big Apple can feel oddly familiar even for first-timers – this is one of the world’s most-filmed cities after all – yet utterly unique at the same time.
By day, bond with your bestie at a classy Manhattan café – the place that made a leisurely brunch out cool. Then climb a lofty building like the Empire State Building for unforgettable metropolis views, before hitting a titanic museum, like the Guggenheim, or seeing the sights linked with the planet’s best-known TV show about friends… Friends!
The after-dark experiences are just as legendary: head out to a historic speakeasy, all-night diner or jazz club to get acquainted with the city’s wildly diverse soul while you have one of those companionable catch-ups these trips are tailor-made for.