The best of both worlds

By | Category: Travel destinations

Searching for blazing sunshine, yet you don’t want to spend all day on the beach? Please don’t worry. We have some suggestions sure to fulfil every sand and culture nirvana


Tel Aviv (Israel)

Haifa, Tel Aviv

Haifa, Tel Aviv

Can’t choose between perfect beaches and bronzed bodies, a buzzy market vibe or architectural treasures? Israel’s largest city delivers them all – along with gastronomy, history and culture –  in spades. What’s more you don’t need deep pockets to chase the warm weather to Tel Aviv as easyJet (everyone’s favourite low cost airline) runs a six-times-a-week service to this city of cosmopolitan cool.
Spend the morning lying on the sand at one one’s of the city’s main beaches. Make no mistake, there’s a beach for every occasion and character – one to party, play sports, one for families (Metzitzim Beach), a religious beach (Nordau Beach where men and women are segregated) and another for the LBGT brigade (hello Hilton Beach). In the afternoon, rouse yourself off your sun lounger to see some of Tel Aviv’s beautiful white Bauhaus buildings (there are more than 400 in total) which were declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003. For – buzzing beach aside –  Tel Aviv is all about Bauhaus architecture (think curved corners, horizontal lines and an absence of ornamentation). Two of the best examples of Bauhaus style buildings include the charming Cinema Hotel (Dizengoff Square) and Soshkin House (12 Lillenblum Street).


Miami (USA)
It was films such as Scarface and TV programmes like Miami Vice – with its super sized speedboats, Ferraris and abundance of beautiful women – that catapulted this exuberant US city onto the world stage back in the 80s. Three decades down the line, Miami is still the East coast’s hottest and hippest city for fun and sun (Miami is almost indecently blessed with good weather).
The beach is the glue binding South Beach society and deservedly so: Miami boasts some of the best beaches in the country. Yet while the sun splashed shores and ocean are a powerful lure, there’s plenty of other action in this town to keep you entertained beyond the beach.
After you’ve tanned your pecs, explore Sobe’s art deco district. Art Deco – a term used to describe certain buildings and objects from the 1920s – is Miami’s signature style. Indeed Miami has the largest concentration of deco in the world and all of the hottest hotels feature deco details (read streamlined symmetry, friezes, glass blocks, curved edges and corners). To learn more about the movement, where to go and what to look for, pay a visit to the Art Deco Welcome Center.

Dubai (UAE)
Just 25 years ago few Brits had heard of, yet alone been to, Dubai. Now the emirate is a permanent fixture on the British holiday scene thanks to its promise of guaranteed rays, without the need to fly halfway around the globe. A holiday here also comes with charming English speaking locals who extend a welcome as warm as the weather to sun starved tourists wanting to stretch out on  sand whiter than a dentist’s chair.
But there’s more too Dubai than sun-tanning and shopping (the Dubai Mall is home to a staggering 1,625 stores). Scratch beneath the shiny surface and you’ll find another side to the ‘city of gold’.
Alongside iconic modern skyscrapers like the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) and the Burj Al Arab (the seven star hotel shaped like the sail of a dhow) sit historical sites such as Bastakia and of course the creek – arguably the heart beat of Dubai. Here you can watch abras and dhows (traditional Arab sailing boats) weave their way across the water,as they have done for centuries. For further local flavour, factor in a tour of Jumeirah Mosque (this is after all an Islamic state, even if it isn’t quite how you’d envisage Arabia) before sauntering through the bustling souks. For more glimpses of the ‘real Dubai’, explore ethnic areas such as Satwa and colourful Karama where you’ll get to mingle with the melting pot of cultures that make up modern day Dubai.

Cape Town (South Africa)
Back in 1850, Sir Francis Drake described Cape Town as the “fairest cape in the whole circumference of the earth.” And for good reason: in the ‘Rainbow Nation’, visitors can effectively combine a spectrum of different holidays in just one trip. Cape Town boasts world class beaches but it’s also got awesome mountains and excellent surf spots for those who want to tone their triceps, game reserves galore for natural lovers, cultural rewards in the shape of the city itself and scores of scenic attractions.
Our advice? Start the day soaking up the sun and – oogling the effortlessly gorgeous, long limbed locals – at Camps Bay beach or cruise along to Clifton, a stretch of stunning white sand that is divided into four exclusive beaches. (One and two are for the bodies beautiful, while three has a reputation for being a gay haunt and four is for families). Then  climb – or take the cable car – to the top of Table Mountain before catching a boat to Robben Island. This is where the late, great Nelson Mandela and many of the countries top politicians were imprisoned during the apartheid era. Proclaimed a UN World Heritage Site in 1999, visitors are shown around this shrine to struggle by ex political prisoners, who work alongside ex wardens, making it the best demonstration of reconciliation.

Cartagena (Colombia)
Cartagena – or Cartagena de Indias as it was originally, and romantically, called is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and seductive places JAT has ever visited. Expect cobbled alleys, flower bedecked balconies (a prize is awarded every year for the most beautiful balcony), horse drawn carriages, statues (saluting the heroes who helped defend Catargena against British and French colonialists, pirates and ultimately from Spain) and elegant plazas, all of which combine to help the city maintain a unique unspoiled identity. You could spend days wandering around the walled old town – where every budget from top end to backpacker can find a home – putting your bargaining skills to the test by purchasing sweets from El Portal de los Dulces (featured in Gabriel Garcia Maquez’s Love in the time of Cholera), before loosing yourself in a labyrinth of sights, sounds and smells.
However if you’re determined to return home with a tan, seek out Playa Blanca – a beach about 20km south west of the city on Isla de Baru – where you can enjoy that classic combination of white sand, turquoise seas and the smell of coconuts on the breeze, while being served ridiculously  cheap cocktails (it’s a fact that drinks taste better on a beach) by friendly vendors.

Hamburg (Germany)
Hamburg ships
Admittedly Hamburg doesn’t make it into too many tourist brochures but, when you get there, it’s hard to see why not: the German Port City boasts urban beaches, a buzzy market vibe, great galleries, gourmet eating and a nightlife scene second to none.
Start your sojourn exploring one of the many museums dedicated to Hamburg’s seafaring past. JAT can vouch for the the International Maritime Museum  in the atmospheric Speicherstadt district. Situated in Hamburg’s oldest remaining warehouse, this museum showcases 3,000 years of naval history on nine floors. Exhibits include some 40,000 miniature models, maps and paintings plus a treasure chamber with ships made of gold, silver and amber. After you’ve had your fill of history, stroll around Speicerstadt’s cobbled streets and admire the spotlit warehouses rising from the waterways…
Then stretch out on the sand at Strandperle – a buzzing beach club located right on the River Elbe that rivals party places such as Ibiza. Rock up on a Saturday afternoon (when the atmosphere is at its best)  and sip a cocktail while soaking up the sunshine and scenery (ready your favourite Instagram filter, for the views of the docks opposite are unbeatable) to the drum of the DJ…

Rio (Brazil)
Rio has always been hot, but – with the Olympic flame due to arrive in Rio in less than a fortnight – it’s never been this hot.
Most visitors touch down and make a beeline for the beach – be it the world famous Copacabana or its more salubrious sibling, Ipanema, both of whom have been celebrated in song and film. Regardless of where you to choose to stretch out your beach towel, expect to see Cariocas  (residents of Rio) from all walks of life – families, favela kids, football players, pensioners, hawkers peddling sunglasses and sarongs, and socialites in huge sunglasses – coming together to get their groove on. The city’s two best hotels are also found in the beachside districts. Copacabana boasts the neoclassical Copacabana Palace while Ipanema is home to the hip, Hotel Fasano (Queen Bey is a big fan).
It would be easy to spend all of your time frying yourself silly on the beaches of Rio, but only a philistine would visit without ticking off the 125ft statue of Christ the Redeemer who stands, arms outstretched, on the summit of Corcovado Mountain – and ascending Sugarloaf Mountain for jaw dropping views of the Marvellous City. You’ll be able to see the verdant Tijuca National Park, lovely Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, beaches, mountains and upscale neighbourhoods juxtaposed alongside the favelas (slums) – which serves as a reminder that Rio is a city divided by haves and haves not.

Cast aside any preconceptions of Singapore as a staid, stuffy stopover. The Lion city is roaring once more with modern skyscrapers sitting alongside historical sites – showing what happens when the Western world successfully collides with the Orient.
Top up the tan with a trip to Sentosa (, a real daytime island treat. Sure, Sentosa’s beaches can’t match Malaysia’s, but there’s still powder fine sand to laze on while you enjoy a quick blast of sun. Yet Singapore can also be appreciated as much by travellers in search of culture and authenticity, as it can by beach bums. The city state is a melting pot of Malay, Western, Indian and Chinese cultures – something reflected in the many compact, colourful ethnic areas like Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam, aka Arab Street. Nature lovers aren’t neglected either:  regardless of whether you want to saunter through the Singapore Botanic Gardens, rampage through reservoirs like MacRitchie or Buki Timah Nature Reserve or work up a sweat skating, surfing or swinging a golf club – it’s all there for the taking. Other attractions? How about the award winning Night Zoo Safari, graffiti-free trains that run on time and fabulous food scene… All told, as a clean and hassle-free introduction to Asia, Singapore scores.

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