Spring has long drawn associations of change, rejuvenation and new beginnings. In the spirit of the season, we decided to find cities around the world that have flourished – catapulted into the public conscience through periods of economic boom, artistic injection and favourable political landscapes – over the past five years. What’s changed, what’s been happening and why should you go?
Continuing our series, we’re turning to German travellers and the global cities increasingly on their radar.*
Discover Kyrgyzstan's traditional nomadic lifestyle
Bishkek has sweeping panoramas and soaring horizons. Cupped by mountains on every side, wherever you look, you’ll have views of the stunning mountainscapes that are grabbing the attention of avid hikers looking for an alternative to the Himalayas. Just outside the city lie the breathtaking jailoos (pastures), gorgeous gorges and yurt-dwelling locals who still live a traditional nomadic lifestyle. Kyrgyz are also known for their generous hospitality, so it is very common for travellers to be invited into a yurt for some tea and bread topped with homemade jams and freshly churned butter.
As for the city itself, there’s no better place to experience the rich tapestry of culture than at the Osh Bazaar city market. Vendors pile their stores high selling dried fruits and freshly grown vegetables, and as Kyrgyzstan has the highest consumption of meat per capita in the world, be prepared for generous assortments of meats. Vodka and beer are also readily available, which is one of the many reminders of when the country was under Russian rule. Before you start to explore the marketplace or the nomadic abyss beyond the city, fuel up at Garden Hotel with a delicious buffet breakfast.
Explore the 'Gateway to the East'
Known as the ‘Gateway to the East’, Brindisi has played an influential role in Italy’s history. It was first used as a port for Roman troops and later for Venetian merchants. It is still a thriving port town that blends its bustling mercantile history with a warm, relaxed atmosphere.
Most travellers use this city as a way to visit Greece. However, its towering ancient palaces, cathedrals, narrow alleys and appealing old houses are capturing people’s interests and in turn giving the city a new burst of life. It’s also earning itself a reputation as a destination for travellers who adore fresh produce and fine food. Its mineral-rich soils nurture olive groves, vineyards and farms in the surrounding areas; the local market is packed with unrivalled produce that includes fresh tomatoes, Puglian olives, wine and cheese. Expect to see fishmongers harvesting mussels straight from the socks (a net they grow on) – a visceral example as any of the city’s fresh food culture. Spend more time exploring this city with a stay at Dimora Nettare and wake up to a delicious, locally sourced breakfast.
Gaze at the tallest wax palm trees in the world
Salento is the oldest town in Quindio. During colonial times, Salento was the main stop between Popayan and Bogotá, but in the 1830s the construction of a new road redirected people around it, which ground this city to a halt. It was then left untouched and somewhat forgotten, missing out on the development the rest of the country experienced. Ironically, its laid-back and sleepy atmosphere is now the main reason why Colombians visit Salento for their holidays and also why it’s attracting international travellers from all over the world.
A typical visit includes sipping on locally-sourced coffee, feasting on trout caught from the surrounding rivers and touring the Cocora Valley. Here hundreds of 60-metre tall wax palm trees loom overhead, the tallest of its kind in the world and also Colombia's national tree. Return home to enjoy the panoramic views of Cocora Valley at Hotel El Mirador del Cocora, just 500 metres from the main square.
Moalboal, The Philippines
Scuba dive with enormous shoals of sardines
With glassy waters, ivory-white sand beaches and lush mangroves, this island paradise has long been overlooked for its sister islands Oslob and Bantayan. But this sleepy town is slowly being woken up and unveiled to the world, namely thanks to its range of excellent scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. Moalboal is particularly unique as it’s the only place in the world where divers can see enormous shoals of sardines throughout the whole year. The untouched waters are also home to a rainbow of coral gardens, dive reefs, sunken islands and kaleidoscopic fish that include the frogfish, mandarin fish and anemonefish.
Head ashore and you’ll find the island has plenty of promise too. Locals line the streets selling smoky skewers of grilled chicken, pork or prawn, while the intoxicating aroma of ripe mangoes hanging from the trees lingers in the air. Sit back and soak up the bountiful, natural beauty at Ravenala Beach Bungalows, located on the pristine White Sand beach.
Gros Islet, St Lucia
Take a dip in one of the many plunging waterfalls
Previously caught in a territorial battle between the French and English, St Lucia has seen a lot of change since the French first settled here in 1778. Today, this quiet fishing village is seeing yet another change, as travellers in search of tranquility and pristine nature have finally put it on their radar. Gros Islet is rich with natural resources. It’s home to plunging waterfalls, fresh seafood, the world’s finest cocoa trees, tropical fruit trees heavy with pineapples and coconuts, thermally heated pools and volcanic mud, which the locals swear to be an anti-aging elixir. For a full island experience, spend your time lounging on a hammock with sweeping views over the warm Caribbean ocean at Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort. Later, indulge in their aromatherapy, body wraps and facial treatments.
**The data scientists at Booking.com looked at cities that had seen the highest growth in bookings year on year, from 2015 to 2018 (with 500 bookings made as the minimum initial benchmark).