After a few blogs about everyday travel and various Internet games I’ve been wasting time with the last couple of weeks I thought I’d make a return to form with today’s post.

I’m planning a round-the-world trip with some old university friends for next year and our philosophy for our trip is the somewhat tried and tested ‘off the beaten track’ approach. My genuine preference for holidays is to find the real country and to explore parts of the world where you won’t find the hordes of tourists. Nothing is worse to me than the haunts commonly frequented by British tourists. Sure they may be hot and sunny but I’m not interested in spending a holiday with people who just seem to want to get drunk and be loud the whole time. I could do that in Ashford.

So with this in mind I’ve been looking around and trying to do some research into some beautiful places to visit that aren’t typically travelled to. I’m looking for places of outstanding natural beauty or some really interesting culture mostly, and somewhere where you can lose yourself in the local ways. I’ve read lots and lots of travel blogs and diaries the last few days and these five places are where I’d like to visit and where I recommend going if you’re after the same kind of things that I am.

Full of stunning scenery and some of the most unique environments on Earth, Greenland is a really amazing place. It is a country dominated by the huge arctic ice sheet and is home to glaciers, icebergs and the breathtaking northern lights. Just take a look at these pictures of the landscapes you can expect in Greenland.

Lakes and fjords in Greenland

Lakes and fjords in Greenland

Icebergs in Greenland

Icebergs in Greenland

Parts of Greenland, especially the northern parts, experience the famous midnight Sun. In these parts of the country the Sun does not set at night and you can see it remain above the horizon for a little over four months. Perhaps one of the most awe inspiring sights in Greenland is the Aurora Borealis. Occurring all year round the lights are caused by particles from the Sun colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere. A truly unique sight it is just one of the many reasons for visiting Greenland. For a real arctic adventure and something a little different than that boring beach holiday I would definitely recommend Greenland.

Next up is Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Along with Krakow in Poland it was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978. It is the second highest capital city in the world and is surrounded by active volcanoes. The sights looking over the city are quite unique as you can see just how high it is as well as seeing the snowy topped volcanoes in the background.

Quito from a distance

Quito from a distance

A busy Quito street

A busy Quito street

The city has a beautifully preserved old town with many historic buildings intact. You can really gain a great insight into a busting South American capital by spending some time in Quito. Also situated not far from the city is the Mitad del Mundo or ‘Middle of the World’ museum. Here you can see a 30 foot high monument and stand on the equator itself. A really interesting place, I would certainly look to consider it if you’re planning on heading into South America.

For another place steeped in historical significance and natural beauty then Hanoi in Vietnam is another outstanding choice. Humans have been living in what is now Vietnam for around 500,000 years and Hanoi has been populated for around 10,000 years. It is one of the most significant settlements in Asia with a rich culture and history.

Pagoda in Hanoi

Pagoda in Hanoi

Hanoi overlooking the lakes

Hanoi overlooking the lakes

While the country will be remembered for the war with the USA and several bloody episodes in its recent history the country has now found its feet and is aiming for membership of the WTO. The city of Hanoi has more cultural sites than anywhere else in Vietnam, with over 600 pagodas and temples. For places dripping with culture you could try; The Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, Flag Tower of Hanoi and Bay Mau Lake. The lakes around Hanoi are some of the most beautiful places on Earth, with the West Lake being very popular as the largest lake in Hanoi.

Increasingly friendly for tourists the city of Hanoi is a spectacular place to visit on any trip through Asia.

Staying in Asia the next place that I recommend you give some thought to visiting is Bhutan. Largely isolated from the rest of the world until the 1960s the country has a rich culture and heritage that has gone mostly unspoiled. Despite the promise for tourists Bhutan has a tight control on the number of visitors to the country. The control is to ‘safeguard this rich natural environment and culture’. As one of the most remote areas in the world, it has certainly sparked my interest.

Keshav Pradhan in Bhutan

Keshav Pradhan in Bhutan

Some of the breathtaking scenery in Bhutan

Some of the breathtaking scenery in Bhutan

The country is nestled in between China, Tibet and India and maintains a rich Buddhist heritage. The citizens dress in a traditional dress that consists of robes and shawls to the knees and then ankle length socks and immaculately polished shoes. If you wish to visit one of the last places where the influence of the West hasn’t yet made itself known then Bhutan is the place to go.

The last place on my list is Beijing in China. While not as remote or unusual as my previous choices I think that China is often overlooked as a holiday destination. The city of Beijing is being revitalised as the youth of China are looking to embrace modern ideals and lifestyles. The city is an interesting mix of old and new and creates an interesting cultural backdrop for any holiday.

Beijing is in a strange position where it is simultaneously beautiful and heavily polluted. There are numerous world famous sights to see such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Both of these landmarks will give a rich insight into the history of China and give you a chance to soak up some of the culture.

A Beijing welcome

A Beijing welcome

Beijing station

Beijing station

Beijing experiences an interesting climate with extremely cold winters and very hot summers. If you’re looking for something a little more bearable then it is certainly recommended that you visit in the Autumn. Pollution during the Summer can become almost unbearable and temperatures during Winter can plummet.

Beijing is hosting the Olympic Games in 2008 and so will be much more used to tourists afterwards. I would certainly recommend visiting the capital city of one of the most interesting countries on Earth. If the sprawling metropolis isn’t for you then you can use it is a launchpad into the rest of the country.

Well that’s my list of places I think you should visit that you’d never considered. Certainly as I travel more I intend to visit them all and gain more experience of other cultures and climates. If you think I’ve missed something off here, I’d love to hear from you or if anyone has been to these places and can give more insight it’d be great to hear some opinions.