Best Places to Visit for a Sabbatical Break

So you’ve decided to take a career break (read What Nobody Tells You About Taking a Sabbatical Break), the next million dollar question is… where? The whole world is now your stage, but deciding where to start can be daunting.

Key Travel Routes

[Image Credit: Travel Independent]

Above map lays out the major overland routes. Red lines delineate the most popular routing, while green lines represent secondary extension. An important one to note are the pink lines, where travel plan usually comes stuck and you have to either turn around or take a flight onwards.

Here are a few top recommendations:

For first-timers: Western & Central Europe

London, United Kingdom[Image Credit: photos.uncoated.uk]

There’s nowhere else you can find so much history, culture and iconic attractions packed in one region. Infrastructure is well-developed and English is widely spoken, so getting around is rarely a problem. Historic city centres are usually walkable and there’s a little something for everyone regardless whether you’re a luxury traveler or a backpacker.

Essential stops: Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona
But also do not miss: Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Dubrovnik, Italian riviera, Germany‘s Romantic Road, Portugal‘s coastline

For travellers on a shoestring: Southeast Asia

Bagan, Myanmar[Image Credit: Nicholas Kenrick]

Most backpackers start their journey here and it’s easy to see why. There are plenty to experience, life is fun, food is great, people are friendly, everything is cheap and backpacking infrastructure has been established for decades.

Essential stops: Bali, Krabi, Bangkok, Angkor, Ha Long Bay, Luang Prabang
But also do not miss: Bagan, Philippine’s beaches, Indonesia‘s many overlooked gems (Raja Ampat, Labuan Bajo, Borobodur, Bromo, Kelimutu, Tana Toraja, Belitung), off-the-beaten Northern Vietnam in Ha Giang

For busy executives on a long break: South America

Machu Picchu, Peru[Image Credit: Charlesjsharp]

South America is HUGE. There are plenty of iconic sites and natural beauties, but they are scattered across the continent, prompting most people to make the mistake of biting more than they can chew. Most travelers usually focus on the less-developed-and-cheaper Inca and Amazon countries, but this is one region which is practically made for long-term break and deserves time to slowly discover.

Essential stops: Rio De Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, Pantanal, Uyuni, Machu Picchu, Amazon, Galapagos
But also do not miss: Chile‘s stunning Atacama and Patagonia (and onwards to Antarctica), Easter Island, El Calafate, Fitz Roy, Colombia‘s overlooked gems (Cartagena, Salento, La Macarena), Brazil‘s Lencois Maranhenses National Park

For culture buffs: India

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India[Image Credit: wreindl]

India is one of the few places where you can still experience serious culture shock. It’s equal parts colorful and madness, which you may hate on first visit but fondly remember afterwards. English is relatively well-spoken around main tourist trails and rail infrastructures make it easy to get around.

Essential stops: Varanasi, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Goa, Kerala
But also do not miss: Jodhpur, Amritsar, Kashmir, Ladakh, then extend to neighboring Nepal and Pakistan (blessed with gorgeous mountain ranges)

For animal enthusiasts: Southern & Eastern Africa

Serengeti, Tanzania[Image Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen]

Beyond the negative stereotypes, Africa has surprisingly diverse attractions to offer. Due to the sheer size of the region, however, this is only suitable for those who have either plenty of cash to burn, or plenty of time to travel slowly. Africa can be affordble if you take it slow (except for any East African safari and gorilla trekking, guaranteed to drain your budget).

Essential stops: For Eastern Africa circuit: Amboseli, Masai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar; or for Southern Africa circuit: Cape Town, Garden Route, Kruger, Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls
But also do not miss: Namibia (Sossusvlei, Skeleton Coast, Fish River Canyon, Kolmanskop), Mozambique’s stunning coastline, gorillas of Rwanda/Uganda, upwards to Ethiopia (Danakil Depression, Lalibela, Axum, Bahir Das), with a flight to Madagascar for truly unique ecosystem

For off-the-beaten path seekers: Central Asia

Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan[Image Credit: Remote Lands]

The “Stan” countries are one of the few remaining nations which can still lay claim to be off-the-beaten. The path traverses through some historic Silk Road cities, hiking opportunities around beautiful mountain ranges, encounters with nomad families who live in their yurts, and some truly bizzare attractions in the politically-closed Turkmenistan.

Essential stops: Almaty, Song Kol Lake, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva
But also do not miss: Pamir Highway, Darvaza Gas Crater, Kyrgystan’s mountain ranges, possibly with extension to Iran (Yazd, Shiraz, Esfahan, Tabriz) and further North to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

Honorable mentions:

  • Egypt, Jordan and Israel: Perfect for those with the slightest interest in the birth of religion and ancient wonders.
  • Greece and/or Turkey: For those who are looking to bask in sunshine and hop across some of the world’s most gorgeous islands. Also plenty of archaeological wonders which gave birth to modern civilization.
  • China and/or Japan: For those interested in the oriental culture of the Far East. Some language barriers possible, but generally good tourist infrastructure. Surprisingly has a lot to offer in the natural scenery department too.
  • USA: The great American road trip is a classic, particularly areas surrounding Arizona and Utah.
  • New Zealand: Larger-than-life landscapes and adventurous activities.
  • Australia: Bluer-than-blue beaches, plenty of reefs, inland desert.
  • West Africa: A lot of hard work, but very friendly people and remains an under-explored region.
  • But at the end of the day, the entire world is your stage. You can find something to offer in almost every corner of the globe.

Considering a sabbatical break? Read What Nobody Tells You About Taking a Sabbatical Break.

What is your dream destination for a sabbatical break?

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