This summer, swap your usual European beach break for an alternative holiday with the inevitable braggability factor that comes with going somewhere a little more niche. Whether you're tempted by a traditionally 'winter' destination such as Swedish Lapland or fancy exploring a lesser-visited region of an old favourite, like Ladakh, read on to discover our top picks for an alternative holiday this summer...
The Dolomites, Italy
For outdoorsy adventurers and fun-loving families, the Dolomites is a real winner when it comes to alternative holidays in the mountains. Admire alpine scenery while hiking along trails - either on your own or with an expert local guide - and scale a mountain face while navigating the iron ladders, footpaths and rope bridges of a via ferrata (meaning 'Iron Roads'). You can also whizz along magnificent mountain biking routes, or opt for a less strenuous option: e-biking (which certainly makes the uphill sections more enjoyable).
Northern & Eastern Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka isn't your typical summer destination, but if you know where to go (which, handily, we do) Sri Lanka can be the perfect summer spot, particularly for families. In the north of the country, enjoy elephant safaris in Wilpattu National Park (which also has a Young Rangers course for the kiddos to enjoy), or venture into the tea hills to watch tea pickers at work and see the process of drying, rolling and pressing the leaves. Afterwards, head to the east coast for completely different weather patterns perfect for wonderful whale watching and blissful beach days.
Contrary to popular belief, Swedish Lapland is not just for Christmas. Visit during the summer, and you'll get to see everything from foxes and martens to racoon dogs and breeding golden eagles, all with a local Sami guide who can tell you about the creatures you spy. For the ultimate wildlife encounter, go bear spotting under the midnight sun. Around mid-April, spot bears roaming around the forests after emerging from their dens. And for a trip that goes the extra mile? During the day, spend time with a local Sami family to learn about Sami culture, their roles as reindeer herders and the challenges facing the modern Sami community. Come night, nab room made of ice at Icehotel 365 which is - as the name suggests - open 365 days a year, even in summer.
The Cape, South Africa
It may be South Africa's winter during our summer, but fear not - there is plenty to love about The Cape at this time of year. Head to the coast during July and August and you'll experience the peak calving season and see southern right whales, humpbacks and Bryde's whales. Another must is the Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. By day, we can arrange private garden tours with specialist botanists and come evening, enjoy a whole host of evening concerts. For a hit of nature, make the most of the cooler weather and go on hikes into the winelands. We recommend a gentle sunrise walk to Breakfast Rock along the Franschhoek Pass in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.
While most of South America isn't at its best in our summer, Peru comes up trumps at this time of year and makes for a great alternative holiday. Take in the highlights of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu or head slightly more off the beaten track and visit the recently discovered ruins of Huaca Rajada - a mud-brick burial platform where the world-famous tomb of the Lord of Sipan was discovered. Afterwards, head to Trujillo where you can explore the 98ft-tall pyramid El Brujo and admire the petroglyphs that cover it.
Ladakh may not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning an Indian summer holiday, but it should be. With heavenly Himalayan scenery and tons of Tibetan Buddhist culture, you're guaranteed a pretty awesome alternative summer holiday. Belonging to India, but geographically and culturally part of Tibet, Ladakh is wildly different to the likes of Rajasthan and Kerala, offering the chance to see another side of India. Spend your days trekking through the mountains, joining Buddhist monks for early morning prayers at Thiskey monastery, and enjoying cooking lessons and white-water rafting excursions.
Gothenburg & The West Coast of Sweden
If a Swedish city break is more your bag, explore Gothenburg and the West Coast. The second largest city in Sweden, laidback Gothenburg is quintessentially hip and wonderfully vibrant. Famous for its food culture (the seafood is some of the freshest in the world), canal-lined cobbled streets and fascinating art museums, a couple of days spent in this city will leave you wanting to grow a beard and change your name to Edvin quicker than you can say 'cinnamon bun'. For the ultimate Gothenburg getaway, pair your urban exploring with a hit of nature. We can arrange seafood safaris where you can catch and eat your own lobster, or you can board a ferry to the Koster Islands, a beautiful car-free archipelago boasting a wealth of well-marked walking trails.
Header image © Faustine Poidevin