The last thing you want over the Chinese New Year is a getaway destination so crowded, you’d be tempted to return to where you’re trying to get away from. If you aren’t the early-planner type and are still considering your options, count yourself in luck: this guide was written with you in mind. This Year of the Rooster, we wish to spare you of the tourist throngs, and enjoy a new year’s welcome free of the crowds. Here are five destinations to visit if such is your idea of a good holiday weekend.
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The Japanese island in the South is colder during this time of the year, but fret not: Okinawa is pristine with wildlife and nature, as well as a host of land-based activities that guarantee tons to do even as water sports take a backseat.
How about a family-friendly boat trip to see the whales (now’s just the right season for it), or a kayaking trip down a mangrove river? Home to the Ryukyus, Okinawa is colored with culture, too. Don’t miss a stop at the Shuri Castle in Naha, once the abode of the Ryukyuan King and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also drop by the Nakijin Castle Remains, where Higan cherries are said to appear in full bloom throughout mid-January and early February.
2. Siem Reap
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Wealthy with historical monuments, it is arguable that the Cambodian capital is a landmark of history itself. In the nearby Angkor, the old city is punctuated with its spectacular temple complex, a mighty remnant of Khmer reign.
What better way to welcome the New Year than by watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat, a sight as majestic as the photographs tell it? Or experience a water blessing in the tradition of the ancients, a ritual conducted by chanting monks at a countryside pagoda? Younger travelers with a bucket list may consider a day in the Cambodian rice terraces, watching buffaloes at work and mingling with the locals of Treak Village.
Slowly slipping out of its cloak as a backpacker’s favorite, Siem Reap is growing into its own as a destination for travelers of all stripes looking to Southeast Asia. Moreover, it’s the best time to visit before the April showers.
An underrated destination that rewards the curious is Kathmandu. Ever outshined by its own Everest peaks, the capital and largest municipality of Nepal has often had to nestle its blessings with summit chasers and adventure seekers alone, while its cultural and religious pillars of art stand stark, beautiful, and piercingly overlooked – by most of the season’s travelers, anyway.
When in Kathmandu, make it a day around the Durbar Squares, once the gathering points and watering holes of Malla Kings. Then how about acquainting yourself with Nepali cuisine in a fun cooking class? There’s no better time – and year! – to try something new.
Photo credit: by Rebecca Bredehoft
Where Kathmandu is known as the cultural bed of the Everest nation, Pokhara is often thought of as the adventurous sibling. And rightly so: from paragliding with Egyptian vultures to soaring down the world’s longest zipline, the second largest city in Nepal offers up its natural and topographical blessings to every visitor. With most travelers taking to the beach this Chinese New Year, we reckon it the best time for a Nepali getaway.
Get a good look at the Annapurna Range in the glow of the rising sun – another sunrise option to start off your Chinese New Year – on Sarangkot Hill. Then try the paragliding experience of a lifetime, parahawking, where you get to soar the skies in the company of a rehabilitated Egyptian vulture.
Tip: Why not make it a two-destination trip to Nepal, and raft down from Kathmandu to Pokhara for added fun and adrenaline?
Photo credit: klook.com
Of course, tropical getaways this chilly Chinese New Year are inevitable. Should you be in search of an alternative to the crowds of Bali and Phuket this holiday weekend, may we point you in the direction of the Indian Ocean, toward the island of Mauritius?
We like to refer to the island nation as heaven on earth, and a quick Google scan will show you why. With silvery sands and waters so emerald you’d fear it’d break like glass with every splash, the captivating island is among the closest to paradise we’ll glimpse in this lifetime. And while we’re convinced of the beauty of Bali and Phuket, the distance of Mauritius certainly adds to it an extra charm.
Spend a day cruising to the immaculate island of Île aux Cerf, complete with a delicious barbecue lunch. Mauritius enjoys a tropical weather all-year round, so you can swim, snorkel and sun bathe to your heart’s content. Allocate another day for a sky diving rush, and yet another for a horseback ride up Le Morne Mountain. The only trouble you might encounter in Mauritius is the probability you’ll never want to leave, ever again.