Some of our favourite places are tainted by misconceptions, but if you scratch beneath the surface you can discover some wonderful holidays with a difference. So here we're taking a slightly different approach to four places with stigmas attached, that don't seem fair, if only you know where to go.
Madeira - no longer 'God's Waiting Room'
First up there's Madeira, in unenviable possession of a world class image problem. The 'God's Waiting Room' tag put a whole raft of potential visitors off for a generation, but this really is an excellent all-round destination. There are new and hip hotels to choose between, a burgeoning culinary reputation and plenty of activities on offer from some of the finest trekking anywhere in Europe to the bizarre and hair-raising carro de cesto. From the capital, Funchal, you take the cable-car to the hilltop town of Monte then ride back down the steep streets in said carro de cesto, a sort of wicker toboggan guided by two men dressed in white, who pull the toboggan using ropes to gain momentum, then shift to the back of the sledge to steer you all the way down. Not suitable for OAPs, I'm sure you'd agree.
Colonial excellence and pristine nature in Colombia
Next up Colombia, formerly a virtually lawless hangout for cartels of drug-runners and now reinventing itself as a sophisticated cultural tourism centre thanks to the colonial elegance of Bogota and particularly Cartagena but also the huge forested area of the Tayrona National Park. Ironically the Tayrona area's pristine nature is in part thanks to its status as a no-go area when it was controlled by the cartels. The country now appears on the wishlist of many a savvier traveller, but images of drug barons and a civil war - albeit low-level - continue to restrict tourist numbers. Obviously you should always consult the latest FCO travel advice (and we keep a beady eye on this), but travelling in Bogota, Catagena and Tayrona should prove a completely safe and hugely memorable trip.
Tenerife, the perfect winter sun destination
And so to Tenerife, perceived as almost the archetype lager lout destination. There's no denying that there are parts of the island that have been ruined by dubious planning restrictions - or lack thereof - but as with so many of the Canaries, the Balearics and the Greek islands, mercifully the 'damage' has been restricted to distinct parts of the island and this is a perfect winter sun destination. Does this all sound unbelievably snobby? Almost certainly, but to clarify - we're far from against budget travel, but when an entire destination's reputation is adversely affected we think it's legitimate to highlight that there's more to the place than just the package holiday market. Discuss.
Sophistication in California
Finally there's California, another destination that is rebranding as fast as they can pump out slick TV ads showing there's more to the place than Disneyland and Hollywood. It's another case of trying to attract a different type of clientele based on the simple mathematics that one high earning professional couple will spend more on the ground than, say, three families on a package trip to Disney, and that the money will be spent on a wider range of 'products' in more diverse parts of the state. Olga just got back from a research trip and has not stopped waxing lyrical about the sophisticated nature of the places to stay so if you're interested, strike while her knowledge is hot.