Boast-worthy travel destinations

By Chris Leadbeater

Photography by Eric Hanson/Getty Images

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Updated November 2017

What if your next adventure was guaranteed to make your mates jealous (in the best possible way, of course)? From the dramatic cityscape of Santiago to Singapore’s ‘Supertrees’, travel writer Chris Leadbeater picks ten wow-factor destinations that will get you plenty of Instagram likes.

Santiago, Chile

Take a look at a map of the world. Across a bit. Down a bit. A bit more. Yes, Santiago is a long way away. Indeed, Chile’s capital is so distant that it will become British Airways’ lengthiest non-stop service – 14 hours, 40 minutes – when it launches. But its remoteness is exciting. It is beautiful (framed by the snowy Andes), it is fun (abuzz with bars in districts like Bellavista and Lastarria) and it is a gateway – to the fertile winelands due west and to colourful port Valparaiso, clinging improbably to its steep hillside.

The Instagram brag: Take another flight north to the Atacama Desert, where you can take hot-air balloon rides over the planet’s driest area and experience world-class stargazing.

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Take a flight north from Santiago to the Atacama Desert, where you can take hot-air balloon rides over the planet’s driest area and experience world-class stargazing

New York, USA

America dazzles in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of locations, but it could quadruple the number of craggy canyons, snow-capped mountains, blissful beaches, giddy themeparks and neon casino hotels, and its biggest city would still be its biggest icon. Whether you sip heady cocktails in the bars on trendy Smith Street in Brooklyn, load up with shopping bags in the department stores on Fifth Avenue or dip into the restaurant hub of Hell’s Kitchen, New York’s unceasing appeal is a fact of life.

The Instagram brag: Be one of the first to take a ride on the New York Wheel, the Big Apple’s answer to the London Eye, which will be half as big again as its British rival – 192m tall – when it opens in the lesser-known borough of Staten Island in 2017.

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  • Bright lights, big city: New York is still the USA’s top icon © Tony Shi / Getty

    Did you know… ?

    New York’s Flatiron Building (pictured) narrows to just six feet wide on Fifth Avenue. When the steel-framed landmark was built in 1902, it was one of the city’s tallest buildings at 20 floors high.

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  • Discover New Nordic cuisine at Substans in Aarhus, Denmark
  • Oman’s breathtaking Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

    Grand designs

    Built from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone, the Grand Mosque – a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign – took over six years to build. The main prayer hall’s Persian carpet alone took 600 women four years to complete.

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Shanghai, China

Beijing may be the keeper of all China’s yesterdays, festooned with heritage sites – but if you want a glimpse of the planet’s coming superpower at its most up to date, you need to flit to its east-coast metropolis. Shanghai gleams with the 21st century. You can see all of it from the Shanghai Tower the world’s second tallest building, whose observation deck peers down from 1841ft (561m). And you can eat in style at Yong Yi Ting, at the Mandarin Oriental – where the expertise of chef Tony Lu has just earned the restaurant its first Michelin star.

The Instagram brag: Board the Maglev, the world’s fastest train, which hits 267mph as it links the airport to Pudong, riding above the tracks by magnetic power.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is neither South Africa’s biggest city (that’s Johannesburg), nor its capital (hi, Pretoria), but you’d barely know it from the adulation it receives. This seafront star is a fine destination at most times, Table Mountain rearing above it, the shops of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront full of bargains (the post-Brexit pound is still competitive against the rand). But it is especially fun in the European winter, when temperatures sit in the mid-20Cs – and the beach hotels of Camps Bay are at their most inviting.

The Instagram brag: Take a three-hour drive east to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, a superb game zone where you can see the Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros – amid comfort and luxury.

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Aarhus, Denmark

The key thing to know about Denmark’s second city is that it will be one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2017 (the other is Paphos in Cyprus), and will become the weekend possibility you’ll wish you’d discovered long ago. If the attractions put in place for said year in focus – like The Garden, a three-mile art trail laced across the centre and along the waterfront – don’t grab your attention, then ARoS, a contemporary gallery awash with clever sculptures and installations, surely will. Oh and for the record, it's pronounced ‘Or-hoos’.

The Instagram brag: Book dinner at Substans, one of three Michelin-starred eateries in the city, where chef René Mammen crafts superb fish dishes.

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New Orleans, USA

One of the most evocative of US cities, founded in 1718, swirls with the past – long-balconied houses in the French Quarter, the pale facade of St Louis Cathedral, the mighty Mississippi flowing by – while the buzzing bars of Bourbon Street have firmly cemented it as a party zone where. And now the Big Easy is even easier to get to, thanks to BA’s new direct flight from London launching on 27 March 2017.

The Instagram brag: The Gulf Coast. New Orleans can be a start point for an epic road trip, which traces the edge of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama all the way to Florida.

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  • California’s Napa Valley is a must for oenophiles © Mathew Spolin/Getty Images

    Wine not?

    With 430 wineries (many family run) producing 815 wine brands in the region, it’s difficult to know where to start. Our top tip: book a tasting a Chateau Montelena – made famous in the movie Bottle Shock – to sample their classic Chardonnays, Cabernets and Zinfadels.

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  • Take in views of China’s 21st-century city from Shanghai Tower © Elysee Shen/Getty Images

    Need for speed

    You won’t be hanging around for the lift at Shanghai Tower – at the time of installation in 2014, they held the record for the fastest single (18m per seconds) and double-deck (10m per second) elevators, beating Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (aka the world’s tallest building).

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  • As the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans’ music scene extends to almost every street corner

    All the jazz

    New Orleans is famous for being the birthplace of jazz, but the origin is still up for debate. Book flights from London to New Orleans, plus a seven-night hotel stay from:£768 pp

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Palma, Mallorca

Mallorca’s most notorious resort, Magaluf, dominates perceptions of the biggest of the Balearics. But the island capital Palma – 10 miles to the north-east – is far more representative of this glorious Mediterranean outcrop. Long weekends are hugely possible – gawping at the grandeur of La Seu (arguably the most spectacular cathedral in Spain), admiring works by Joan Miro in modern art bastion Es Baluard, or eating tasty morsels in tapas bar La Rosa Vermuteria.

The Instagram brag: Add a hire car to your booking with Avis and spend time touring the north of the island – where the Tramuntana mountains make for one of Europe’s greatest one-day road trips.

Muscat, Oman

Where do you go if you want Arabian sunshine, a safe environment and a dose of culture to boot? The Omani capital has it all, dispensing Islamic majesty in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, epic military history in the 16th century Fort Al-Jalali, and 21st century creativity at Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art – while offering temperatures in the high 20C throughout the European winter.

The Instagram brag: Oman has a wonderful coastline. Sur, 120 miles southeast of Muscat, is a lovely resort area – where you can see turtles at nearby Ras-al-Hadd beach.

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  • Snap the Big Five, and more, on a safari in South Africa’s Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

    Wild thing

    For the ultimate Instagram brag, keep your eyes peeled (and camera ready) for the rare white lion. Thanks to continuous monitoring by the Wildlife Department, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve has ensured that their white lions are still wild and free.

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Oakland, USA

San Francisco is impressive. It may just be home to America’s most dramatic skyline, with the Transamerica Pyramid rearing over the Golden Gate Bridge. But Oakland, its neighbour across the Bay, is the hip newcomer – bonus: British Airways begins direct flights to the city from Gatwick on 28 March 2017. Go before everyone else discovers it, to watch American football stalwarts the Oakland Raiders, sip craft beer and eat wood-fired pizzas at Drake’s Dealership and hear cool bands at the restored Fox Theater in Downtown.

The Instagram brag: Celebrated California wine regions Napa Valley and Sonoma County are just north of the city, while a two-hour drive south will bring you to the picture perfect, winding roads of Big Sur. Add a hire car to your booking with Avis.


This city-state zings with modernity in the many shops of Orchard Road, and in the rides and simulators of Universal Studios Singapore, on Sentosa Island. But it really thumbs its nose at its received image in Gardens By The Bay, an enclave of fabulous flora, dominated by artificial ‘Supertrees’ which clamber to 50m in height, an elevated walkway strung out between them.

The Instagram brag: Do the colonial thing anyway by ordering a 1915 Gin Fizz in the Bar & Billiards Room of the Raffles Hotel.