Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

November 21, 2017
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The new must-sees

Five up-and-coming destinations where you can find undiscovered horizons or escape the tourists

Bhutan

Bhutan has slowly become a regular on the roster of adventure tour companies. Call it the new Nepal — because apparently adventure travel is now so streamlined that even remote countries surrounded by the world's highest mountains 36 hours away can become old hat. This tiny Himalayan nation, on the other hand, is one of the least touched by outsiders and tourists, and the Bhutanese government aims to keep it that way. You won't be stopping at McDonald's for lunch or picking up gewgaws and t-shirts at a tacky souvenir shop. Travel is highly regulated to make sure it remains authentic: there are added fees for independent travellers, and only local tour operator are allowed. And did we mention, the landscape is spectacular: temples, fortresses and monasteries cling to foothills, yaks wander amid stepped rice terraces and Buddhist monks pass by in their burgundy robes. If the visual appeal isn't enough, Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world based on a global survey in 2006. Go on and see if a little happiness rubs off. tourism.gov.bt.

Marseille

Long the object of Parisian condescension (though let's face it, Parisians are quick to look down their noses) for its guttural accent and street-tough image as a shipping port, Marseille is now getting its sweet revenge. France's second-largest city has recently become a getaway destination for hip Europeans and is slated to be the European Capital of Culture in 2013. Design hotels, galleries and cool lounges are already rejigging the working-class vibe. The city's narrow streets have all the charm of small Parisian neighbourhoods, within steps of a beach caressed by the sun-kissed weather of the adjacent Côte d'Azur. Part of Marseille's charm is its large Maghreby population which inflects the local culture with the strains of Algerian hip hop and the scent of Tunisian pastry shops and halal fast-food joints. Fifteen kilometres from the city are the highest sea cliffs in France along the fjord-dotted Bay of Calanque, accessible only by boat or hiking boots, and you're just a 30-minute drive from the colourful fishing village of Cassis. It's also a half-hour inland to Aix-en-Provence where you can get your dose of Impressionist master Paul Cézanne and tour the poppy- and lavender-filled landscapes that inspired Monet, Picasso, Matisse and Bonnard. If that wasn't enough, Air Transat now flies direct to Marseille from Montreal. marseille-tourisme.com.

Slovakia

It seems like every few years, someone heralds the next undiscovered gem in Eastern Europe and a new "it" city. After Prague came Budapest, Zagreb, Krakow and even the tongue-twisting Ljubljana. So where next? Slovakia. Though it only became an independent country in 1993, Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary for almost 1000 years, before being ceded to Czechoslovakia after World War I. Its capital, Bratislava is a colourful medieval city with narrow winding streets and a hilltop castle along the Danube. It has all the wedding-cake architecture befitting a place that was long the seat of a kingdom's legislature and coronations.The countryside around the capital is dotted with lakes amid craggy mountain ranges, and a string of medieval castles looming moodily above rolling hills. Surprisingly, it won't take you three train connections to get there: it's 40 clicks from the Vienna airport and 50 minutes by train from downtown. Plus, you get to stay in style: sleek boutique hotels and posh historic properties in Bratislava go for under €80. It's the perfect escape to unfamiliar territory without having to stray too far off the beaten track. slovakia.travel.

Mendoza

The popularity of Buenos Aires has opened up the beauties of Argentina's vast landscapes to travellers who might otherwise never have thought to go. One of the hot spots that is just making it on Canadians' radars is the Mendoza wine region. In addition to producing award-winning vintages in over 1000 wineries, the region's sweeping landscape is a stunner: the arid valley is perpetually sun-drenched and backed with snowy peaks — this is after all the home of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas and a hiker's mecca. During the summer months (our winter), when the snow melts in the Andes and fills the Mendoza River, serious rafters enjoy Class IV and V rapids. Developers have been quick to jump into the emerging wine region, and there are towering high-end hotels in town, like a Park Hyatt, Sheraton and Hilton but you can also head to colonial resorts right out in wine country. Despite all the hubbub, this is still a sleepy place by North American standards, and is often referred to as Argentina's loveliest and most livable city. Book yourself a couple of days of wine touring with an English-speaking guide where half the fun is taking in the views as the wine routes winds through tunnels of trees, vast desert plains and the snowcapped Andes. turismo.gov.ar.

Botswana

After decades of dreaming of once-in-a-lifetime trips to East Africa, travellers are turning their eyes to the continent's southernmost countries — places that have made hot lists for the diversity of their landscapes and for being chock-a-block with wildlife. After Angelina Jolie raised the profile of Namibia, and the World Cup put all eyes on South Africa, adventurous travellers are now wandering into neighbouring Botswana. This landlocked nation is prime safari country and home to the world's largest inland delta, the Okavango. Often called "Africa's last Eden," the Okavango shelters an intense concentration of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, zebras, rhinos, hippos and giraffes and is open to exploration by dugout mokoro canoe. Just north of the Okavango Delta is Chobe National Park, a wildlife reserve with 120,000 elephants, who will amble by as you pass on a horseback safari or boat cruise. South is the mighty Kalahari Desert where San bushmen continue to uphold hunter-gatherer ways of life dating back 20,000 years. Many trips to neighbouring countries take in this varied landscape on their way to the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. And despite its pricey reputation, budget tour companies, like G.A.P. Adventures and the Adventure Center offer very accessible packages. www.botswana.co.za.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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