Convento do Carmo, Lisbon
Tired of the same old trip? The travel industry is constantly creating the means for an entirely new vacation experience, as witness the following newly-popular destinations and a newly-revived form of European lodgings:
Portugal and Colombia are the hot new destinations, attracting a great many smart travelers. Both are cheap: Portugal is, along with Greece, the lowest-cost destination in Western Europe, full of excellent hotels charging under $100 a night for a double room and making two-course meals available at a number of fine restaurants for $15 per person. The airfare to Lisbon is generally the cheapest of all transatlantic flights, enabling you to enjoy a fine vacation stay in a country that values its tourists and treats them with courtesy (and where the weather is generally more than agreeable). With specific respect to Lisbon, it has a phenomenal subway system charging the equivalent of $1.50, plus extensive trams and public buses; it offers haunting Fado (unique vocals) cafes for reasonable costs; it charges nothing at all to enter a couple of important museums, and only $6 or so for others; and shopping costs are reasonable, especially for the colorful tiles that so many visitors buy.
As for Colombia, this low-cost South American country with weather that remains glorious almost throughout the year, was once out-of-bounds for tourists because of the active insurgency that made several major cities unsafe (only the port of Cartagena was regarded as without danger). Today, because of a peace treaty recently signed between the government and its rebel opponents, the threat of armed political violence has almost entirely receded, and the only threat to public order is said to be a certain amount of street crime in the city of Medellin. Apart from that once-capital of drug dealing, all the other major cities are apparently quite pleasant for vacation activities, and the warnings previously issued by our State Department are today generally directed only to very small cities and rural areas, where tourists are still advised not to go. Otherwise, benefiting from low airfares from the United States, Colombia is now enjoying a well-deserved resurgence of its incoming tourism.
A third possibility for your next vacation--Untours, stronger than ever: Overcoming fears that it might lose its clientele to Airbnb, the 40-year-old organization known as Untours, headquartered in Media, Pennsylvania, is enjoying increased prosperity and popularity, and provides a pleasant, comfortable and well-furnished European apartment for your next vacation. Prior to 2007, when Airbnb was formed, Untours.com was virtually the sole reliable source for apartment lodgings in Europe. When Airbnb began offering a vaster number of apartments in far more cities around the world, many feared for the future of Untours.
Instead, Untours has continued to prosper and attract growing numbers of clients. Why? First, Untours vets the apartments it makes available to you; it inspects each such apartment--some 300 of them in more than 20 European locations--and guarantees their quality and excellent location. But beyond that, Untours does more than simply assign you to an apartment for a week or two weeks; it meets its clients at the airport, escorts them to the apartment, provides them with an initial orientation, and is available throughout the week or two weeks for either questions or escorted touring. Based on that combination of features, booking an apartment-based Untour in Europe is now more popular than ever before.
Photo credit: Bert Kaufmann/Flickr