Travelling to some of the world’s greatest or most iconic holiday destinations doesn’t always come cheap. So before you start a 5-year savings plan, consider our top destination dupes that will be a little softer on the pocket, but will still pack a holiday punch, giving you that brilliant wanderlust thrill!
1. For the wine lover
Instead of: Bordeaux, France
You’re flying to: Yarra Valley, Australia
Source: Flickr – Jessica Rabbit and Natalie Maguire
If your idea of a perfect vacation is sipping on a glass of vintage vino against a lush green backdrop, then Yarra Valley is your best bet. A stone's throw from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley region boasts a whopping number of wineries, restaurants, and national parks. With sweeping fields and vineyards stretching across the cool-climate region, visitors can choose to devour their body weight in wine and cheese, or take in some fresh air on a hot-air balloon ride over the stunningly rustic scenery below.
When it comes to wineries, make your way to the De Bortoli Wines vineyard, one of Australia's largest family-owned wine companies. Established in 1989, the estate is set against the backdrop of the Great Dividing Range with a gorgeous view of the 162 hectares of vines. Sit down for a delicious Italian meal at their restaurant Locale and a taste of their wine offerings!
After all that food, nothing beats a leisurely stroll past creeks and tall trees at the Yarra Ranges National Park. With a scenic mountain view surrounded by unique and endangered plants and animals, this bushland favourite provides a perfect trail walk for visitors. If you’re after a comfortable stay in a quaint boutique apartment, look no further than Healesville Apartments, situated on a quiet lush tree-lined street with views of the Yarra Valley mountains.
2. For that Grecian allure
Instead of Santorini, Greece
You’re flying to: Cha-Am, Thailand
Source: huahin.bangkok.com and Flickr - ladybug
Pining to see the iconic white staccato houses that line the hills of Santorini and smell the Aegean ocean breeze? Satiate your Grecian fill at Cha-Am’s Santorini Park, a miniature version of the Greek island, filled with classic white buildings and cobblestone paths. Just a short 40-minute drive away from Hua Hin, Santorini Park sports different zones for various activities – Park Zone, Village Zone, Rest Area, Activity Zone, and Weekend Art Market. Visitors have the chance to take beautiful pictures at every corner, get an adrenaline rush on the rides such as the G-MAX reverse bungee, or wander along the paths to browse through the many trinket stores and flea market.
To fully quench the need for an ocean sea breeze, take a stroll along Cha-Am beach, a quiet retreat from the activities of Santorini Park. Enjoy beach activities, such as banana boat riding and jet skiing, and feast on scrumptious fresh seafood at the quaint little beach town where charming seafood restaurants and open-air eateries line up in a row. Stay on the beach at the Grand Pacific Sovereign Resort & Spa, where you’ll also be close to the Camel Republic and Swiss Sheep Farm.
3. For the snow bunny
Instead of the Swiss Alps, Switzerland
You’re flying to: Hokkaido, Japan
Source: Flickr_Perfectzero and onigiri_chang
Arguably one of the best European destinations to ski, the Swiss Alps has a remarkable landscape of snow-covered mountains, lakes and gorgeous alpine villages and towns. However, to save your wallet from some heartache given the lengthier and pricier flight, not to mention the Euro currency, Hokkaido provides the perfect replacement for all ski and snow lovers. The second largest of Japan's four main islands, Hokkaido emits a natural beauty that is unspoiled and serene. A draw to outdoor lovers, especially skiers and snowboarders during the winter, it’s filled with greenery, wildlife and picturesque mountains.
Make your way to Sapporo Teine, a large renowned ski resort offering a variety of ski trails. Take your pick from wide sloping hills to fast advanced courses with powder perfect snow. Skiers can err on the side of caution and stick to the tame slopes, or unleash their inner sport junkie on the jumps and rails. For a little breather, be sure to visit Lake Shikotsu, an hour away from Sapporo. Part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, take in the beauty of the caldera lake with a leisurely canoe ride across the calm waters. Cosy up in Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo, conveniently located near the JR Sapporo station where you can catch trains up to Sapporo Teine.
4. For the theme park lover
Instead of Orlando, Florida
You’re flying to: Hong Kong
Source: Flickr_Denn and Tanel Peets
For all you theme park enthusiasts out there, we know that Orlando has one of the craziest and best, but a little closer to home is Hong Kong Disneyland, located on reclaimed land in Penny's Bay, Lantau Island. While its American counterpart takes the cake in terms of being bigger and better, Hong Kong Disneyland now has 7 theme parks – Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, and Main Street, U.S.A. Needless to say, there is lots to see and do with rides, live stage musicals, and Disney characters roaming the park posing for fun pictures with visitors. Hong Kong Disneyland brings out the kid in everyone with that good old Disney Magic. Auberge Discovery Bay Hong Kong is a stone’s throw away from the theme park and boasts full-service spas to rest your aching feet and body after a long day at Disneyland!
If you need a break from all the rollercoaster excitement, absorb Hong Kong’s culture and visit the Big Buddha in Lantau. Sat atop the peak of Mount Muk Yue and built by the Po Lin Monastery, this monument is the biggest sitting Buddha statue built outdoors. After a 260-step climb, to the top of the mountain, you not only get to see the statue up close, but you’re also rewarded with sweeping views of Hong Kong.
5. For the beach lovers
Instead of Bora Bora, French Polynesia
You’re flying to: Maldives
Source: Flickr_Mac Qin and Aitor Garcia Viñas
For a slice of picture perfect sand heaven, look no further than Maldives. Unparalleled luxury, stunning white sandy beaches and a crystal clear underwater world make it one of the best choices for a true beach holiday of a lifetime. Maldives is made up of 26 coral atolls with roughly 1,200 islands, out of which, over a hundred have resorts ranging from affordable to ultimate luxury, so you’re spoiled for choice. While many think Maldives is an expensive destination, it can be affordable if you know where to look. One of the islands is Maafushi, a small local island of Kaafu Atoll, which is filled with reasonably priced guest houses for those who are looking to save some money. One of them is the Picnic Inn, situated just minutes away from Maafushi Harbour and Maafushi Reef.
Maafushi is made up of wide and clear unpaved roads, with barely any motorbikes in your way. Since the locals are pre-dominantly Muslim, appropriate dressing is required, such as t-shirts, shorts, summer dresses and outfits that are modest, as the local laws prohibit swimwear that is too revealing. Get your island fill by lounging around the white powdered sand beach and don’t feel shy to pop by at any of the restaurants when you’re hungry.
Sign on for any local tours offered by guesthouses and tour agents on the island, and enjoy snorkelling and visiting nearby islands to full embrace the Maldivian beauty. Maldives is renowned for its beautiful sand bars and reefs, and snorkelling is lovely with plenty of pretty fish and corals to admire in the azure waters. If underwater is not your thing, lounge on the sand to get a tan or go for quiet walks along the length of the island and soak in the sunsets. With so many activities available, Maldives is an absolute paradise for the sun worshipper and beach lover.
With such interesting cheaper destinations that are much closer to us, there’s really nothing stopping you from achieving that once in a lifetime dream vacation!