If we turn and look two years back, everything came to a standstill. The world was introduced to a disease that sent shock waves worldwide. What followed after were COVID-19 lockdowns with a complete halt to economic and social activities, and everybody trapped inside the four walls with nothing but only the will to wait. Cut to 2 years forward, the world is recovering. Fewer cases are being reported, public spaces are being opened, and most importantly, a sense of getting back to normal. Needless to say, this has resulted in a strong flow of tourists worldwide.
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism saw a 182% year-on-year increase in January-March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in Q1 2021.
Today, unlike during the pandemic times, there are no strict quarantine rules in place. However, it is important to note that, considering the introduction of new COVID variants and preventing future escalation, some countries mandate the COVID-19 vaccination certificate and proof of Negative COVID-19 test.
Today, tourHQ has curated the top 5 countries that have, in recent times, not only opened their borders to all travellers, irrespective of the region but have also allowed comparatively more unrestricted movement within their boundaries.
Thailand- The Land Of Smiles
The first country on our recommendations list is ‘the land of smiles’ or simply Thailand. Although Thailand opened its borders a few months back, effective from October 1, the new travel advisory releases tourists from submitting the necessary COVID-related documents upon arrival.
Located in the Southeast Asian region, Thailand is a country known for its mesmerising temple architecture, relaxing beaches, and colourful streets, the beauty of all of which is amplified by the warm, welcoming values of the natives and the soulful devotion to Buddhism. So if you are planning to visit Thailand, remember to visit Bangkok to see the Grand Palace of Thailand to trace the history of monarchs and the Wat Arun Temple at night when it is adorned with bright lightning; get entertained at the fun-filled Ping Pong show at the Nana Plaza market and savour the taste of Thailand’s national dish- Pad Thai. You can also explore the World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya (a city founded in 1350 when the King of Thailand, U Thong, shifted the country’s capital to escape the outbreak of smallpox!). Remember also to sightsee Thailand’s island, where you can board the traditional boat to get lost in the captivating beauty of Koh Phi Phi Island or enjoy snorkelling in the waters of Koh Lanta. Hike to the famous Doi Suthep mountain to see the panoramic view of beautiful Thailand and to offer your prayers at Wat Phra Tat Doi Suthep (a temple dating back to the 13th century), and end your vacation by relieving the body and muscle stress with an authentic Thai massage.
tourHQ’s Special Recommendation: Koh Phangan Full Moon Party 2022. According to the legends, a group of tourists once realised that the full moon looks the most heavenly from the island of Koh Phangan and to celebrate the fact, they organised a party. Since then, Koh Phangan Full Moon parties have become a famous tradition, where an amazing party is organised every month as per the moon calendar. It is truly an experience too precious to miss! (To know the upcoming dates, click here to get in touch with the Thailand guides.)
Hong Kong- The Land Of Vibrant Culture
The second recommendation on our list is Hong Kong, a place that will offer you a balanced blend of modern and historical tourism. It is truly mesmerising how Hong Kong moulded itself to the traditions of the West without subduing the culture and traditions of the East.
Some of the landmark attractions in Hong Kong are the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. As the name suggests, there are literally ten thousand Buddha statues in the monastery! You can also visit the Wong Tai Sin Temple and the Po Lin Monastery, witness the panoramic views of the ocean encircled with captivating greenery by hiking the Dragons Back trail, get a cross-cultural insight by taking a ferry to the Tai O Fishing Village, meet the little ‘bird’ friends at the one-of-its-kind Yuen Po Street Bird Garden (a market dedicated to pet birds), explore the modern landmark of Hong Kong Space Museum, get the best ‘instagrammable’ pictures clicked at the Hollywood Road, and stroll through Hong Kong’s native markets to buy souvenirs. Moreover, do not absolutely miss the adventurous hike to Victoria Peak that gives the scenic view and ‘free’ air that mountain lovers crave! Those who are not up for a hike can also take the special tram to the top of the peak.
tourHQ’s Special Recommendation: While talking about Hong Kong, one cannot miss exploring the unique, dedicated and vibrant markets of Hong Kong. Be it the Temple Street market, the Jade Market, the Toy Market, the Cat Street (Hong Kong’s go-to place for antiques) or the Jardine’s Crescent Market, you should definitely visit these markets with your guide to gather a diversified cultural experience along with buying diversified souvenirs and products.
Japan- The Land Of The Rising Sun
Another country on our recommendation list is Japan, a land extremely loved for its cherry blossoms and cultural exposure. Although Japan opened its borders in a restricted way some time back, a recent notification released on October 11 has announced the lifting up of visa and travel agency restrictions in Japan to ensure a free flow of tourists in the country.
‘The whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people. The Japanese people are simply a mode of style, an exquisite fancy of art.’
– Oscar Wilde
So, if you are all ready to book your holiday tickets, consider Japan amongst your top choices. Being the capital of Japan, Tokyo harbours many attractions, like the Tokyo Royal Palace, Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, Tokyo Disneyland and Kabukicho (the perfect place for your nightlife!). Other must-dos of Japan are: visit the Nijo Palace (the house of Japan’s first military dictator, built in the 17th century) in Kyoto, learn about Japan’s famous ninja art at the Ninja Museum in Igyaru village, take a dig into the WWII history at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, pray and immerse in the soulful atmosphere at the Ise Grand Shrine in the spiritual land of Ise, sit in the nature’s lap at the Oirase National Park, watch the one-0f-its kind Sumo show in the Ryogoku district, enjoy the dramatic play of Japans’ traditional art form- Kabuki, savour the taste of authentic Sushi and make your acquaintance to Japan’s important tradition- the Tea Ceremony.
tourHQ’s Special Recommendation: The world is full of art and style that is one-of-its-kind in the whole world. So, while in japan, witness the cultural performance of a Geisha. You can visit the Gion district to see their centuries-old cultural performance and learn about the origin of Geisha, their art, living, and most importantly, their contribution throughout history.
Bhutan- The Land Of The Thunder Dragon
Do you know Bhutan is the one country that releases a Gross National Happiness Index? It is truly appreciated how the people of the country, along with its government, are following a planned path of economic development aided by happiness and well-being. Said so, visiting Bhutan is a unique experience in itself. Whether you are seeking a spiritual vacation or an adventurous one, Bhutan can offer you both.
One of the must-have experiences in Bhutan is the hike to the Taktsang Monastery. It is famously called the Tiger’s Nest as it is believed that the bearer of Buddhism in Bhutan, Guru Rinpoche, was carried from Tibet to Bhutan on the back of a Tigress. Other activities to do in Bhutan are: visit the house of Bhutan’s Royal Family at Trongsa Dzong, explore the Bumthang Valley and learn why it is called the ‘Switzerland of the East', go for a bird-watching tour in Jigme Dorji National Park, engage in kayaking and other water activities near the Paro Valley, opt for the famous ‘hot-spring therapy’ for healing purpose, witness the stupas with an amazing view of the Himalayas at the Dochula Pass, immerse in the traditional culture by strolling through the famous weekend Thimphu markets, taste the national dish of Ema Datshi, meditate in front of one of the largest Buddha statues in the world- Buddha Dordenma, try your hand at Bhutan’s national sport archery, and complete your vacation by observing and exploring Simply Bhutan, a place that allows you to softly and slowly get a peak into Bhutan’s way of life.
tourHQ’s Special Recommendation: What is interesting to know is that in recent times, Bhutan has been emerging as a famous ‘wellness’ destination, as the secret practices of Bhutan are being shared with the world. There is a range of wellness tours offered in Bhutan, which are based on hot spring therapy, acupuncture therapy, massage, shaman healing, and Buddhist spiritual therapies. (Click on the below-given link to learn more from your local Bhutanese guide.)
Canada- The Land Of Maple Leaf
Lastly, on our recommendation list is the ‘happening’ country of Canada. This North American country has recently been added to the list of countries that have uplifted all sorts of COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
There are many attractions in Canada that you can explore with your guide while listening to the tales from the perspective of a native. Some of these are Quebec’s World Heritage Site of Notre Dam Basilica Cathedral, another Heritage Site- the town of Old Quebec, the mining city of Dawson, Batoche National Historic Site, and a very interesting site- Canada’s Uranium City (also known as the ‘ghost town’!). Other activities to do in Canada are: admire ‘the symbol of Canada’- the maple leaves, take a walk through the colourful ‘heaven’ in the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, sit in nature’s lap at the Fraser River, see the dinosaur skull at Drumheller (Alberta), watch an enchanting sunrise from the famous Cypress Hills, spot the grizzly bears at the Banff National Park, and take upon the challenge of hiking the West Coast Trail. Moreover, the option for adventurous activities is overflowing. Be it ziplining in the Cypress Hills or kite surfing in the Magdalen Islands, or skydiving in Saskatchewan, Canada is absolutely one of the most favourable places for adventure lovers.
tourHQ’s Special Recommendation: Apart from the above-mentioned attraction, if there is an experience that you absolutely should not miss is visiting Churchill, the ‘Polar Bear Capital' of the world. You will be amazed to see the beautiful White Polar Bear or a Beluga whale in this subarctic community. Moreover, the joy only amplifies with the glimpse of the Northern Lights since Churchill tops as one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights in the world!
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
– Ray Bradbury