The best long-haul holiday destinations, from Japan to Costa Rica

a large building with a dome and a pool of water in front with taj mahal in the background
The best long-haul holidays to take this yearPeter Zelei Images - Getty Images

Long-haul holidays often involve flying to a dream exotic location to lie on a beautiful beach for a week or two. While we're all for getting some R&R on sun-kissed sands, we're also partial to adventure and exploring everything a country has to offer.

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The best long-haul holidays will take you beyond the beach and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the country you're visiting, learning more about its history, culture, and cuisine. They allow you to take in the highlights, experience traditional life like a local and marvel at natural wonders that you won't find on a European break.

On a family-friendly long-haul adventure to Costa Rica, for example, there are natural wonders at almost every stop, like the spectacular Cloud Forest of Monteverde and the fascinating tidal pools of Manuel Antonio National Park.

If you're hoping to get out of Europe while also avoiding an extremely long flight, there are some destinations a little closer to home but with plenty of distinct culture, architecture, and nature to discover.

Technically, it's mid-haul at just over five hours of flying time, but we're giving Jordan a special mention for its out-of-this-world sights that are unlike anything in Europe. This history=packed country offers a distinct culture and cuisine, as well as the awe-inspiring attractions of the Wadi Rum Desert and the Red Sea.

If investing your precious holiday time into a long-haul flight means getting out and about to discover different cultures, spotting amazing wildlife and tasting all the flavours of the local cuisine, you'll love these carefully curated long-haul holidays in far-flung destinations.

From a Japanese cruise adventure that takes in the must-see cherry blossom and snow monkeys in spring to a once-in-a-lifetime expedition cruise around Antarctica with experts and scientists, these long-haul holidays will create memories that last a lifetime.

Cruise the Mekong river through Vietnam and Cambodia

The Mekong is one of the world's great rivers, flowing through Southeast Asia, connecting six countries and passing mountains, forests, and fascinating archaeological sites on its banks. One of the most scenic stretches meanders through Vietnam and Cambodia, two countries with outstanding natural beauty and rich histories.

A cruise along the Mekong allows you to see the best of Vietnam and Cambodia, from the awe-inspiring Buddhist temple complex of Angkor Wat - one of the largest religious sites in the world - to the hustle and bustle of the Mekong Delta, where floating homes, fish farms and markets dot the labyrinth of waterways lined with mangroves and palm trees.

Explore the best of Vietnam and Cambodia on Good Housekeeping's 17-day adventure, including a seven-night cruise along the Mekong on a luxurious boat. You'll witness ancient temples, learn about the region's turbulent history, discover Hanoi and Phnom Penh, and navigate smaller waterways by sampan - a traditional wooden boat.

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Witness wonderful wildlife in Costa Rica and Panama

If you’re looking for the perfect family holiday which combines a few days of relaxing in the sun with a few days of forest adventure, Costa Rica offers the best of both worlds. Here, you can treat yourself to days on the perfectly soft sands of beaches lapped by clear Caribbean waters. But there's plenty of opportunity to get active too in this vast natural playground.

On Good Housekeeping’s Costa Rican family adventure, you'll dedicate your time to exciting jungle escapades, trying out adventurous activities like rappelling and rafting and creeping through the cloud forest at night to spot the nocturnal wildlife.

Enjoy a guided hike through the tropical forest of Manuel Antonio National Park in search of sloths, monkeys, armadillos and iguanas, and climb to the lookout point to enjoy unforgettable views. You'll also visit the beautiful Cloud Forest of Monte Verde where you can choose from a range of activities, whizzing through the trees on a canopy zipline tour, horseback riding or visiting a butterfly garden.

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Marvel at Japan’s cherry blossom

When it comes to fleeting natural wonders, Japan tops the list of destinations worth the long flight thanks to the spectacular cherry blossom that blooms each spring. Renowned for its pastel pink beauty, the season of sakura - as the blossom is known by locals - is something you really need to see to believe.

This incredible natural display further enhances other special experiences in Japan, like seeing adorable snow monkeys, wandering through the historic shrines and temples of Osaka, and witnessing the majestic Mount Fuji.

And of course, no trip to Japan is complete without a chance to sample its world-famous food, from the freshest sushi to the distinct flavours of Ainu cuisine.

You can see the cherry blossom and so much more on Good Housekeeping's 17-day cruise of Japan. You’ll be sailing on the award-winning ship, Westerdam, where you can take part in regional cooking demonstrations and wine tastings as you sail.

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Another fantastic way to discover Japan is with our tour of the Japanese Alps between Tokyo and Osaka. This trip takes you to some lesser-visited parts of the country, like Takayama, Shirakawago and Kanazawa, and is a true immersion in Japanese culture, both ancient and modern.

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Discover the nature and wildlife of South Africa and Mauritius

For another long-haul adventure with a focus on wildlife, South Africa is an excellent option. Despite being a long flight away, there is only a two-hour time difference, meaning you can avoid the jet lag and get straight to exploring the country's wildlife-packed reserves.

If you'd like to balance your wildlife adventure with time on the beach, you can combine your South Africa adventure with a trip to the island nation of Mauritius. The country is famous for its powder-soft beaches and has plenty to explore inland too, with activities like wine and rum tastings and visits to remarkable natural attractions like the Terres des Sept Couleurs.

On Good Housekeeping's 15-day tour, you'll spend your time in South Africa at a five-star, all-inclusive Rhino East Lodge at Sebatana Private Reserve, with several game drives to spot wildlife including lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and African buffalos. You'll then head to Mauritius' all-inclusive Tamassa Bel Ombre to spend five relaxing nights by the beach.

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Discover the icy landscapes of Antarctica

As far as escaping from everyday life and exploring new corners of the planet goes, it’s hard to get more long haul than a trip to Antarctica. This uninhabited continent is only reachable for regular visitors on a guided expedition cruise, where you can navigate the White Continent with the guidance of experts and scientists.

The scenery here will be unlike anything you’ve seen before, with vast landscapes covered in thick ice with icebergs, glaciers and mountains to explore and breathtaking wildlife to spot, like breaching whales and huddles of penguins.

On Good Housekeeping’s expedition cruise to Antarctica you will join a specialist expedition team on landings and ice cruises. If weather conditions allow, you might get a chance to go kayaking among the icebergs. On the ship, the expedition team will give educational lectures, helping you to expand your knowledge of the frozen continent.

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Visit Petra and float on the Dead Sea in Jordan

Just under six hours from the UK by plane, Jordan is more of a mid-haul destination, yet it’s a great option for experiencing a completely distinct culture, cuisine and architecture to that which you’d find in Europe. Firstly, there’s the ancient archaeological site of Petra, a city carved out of red sandstone by the Nabataeans.

You can also experience the otherworldly terrains of the Wadi Rum Desert, where many sci-fi films have been shot, and the Dead Sea, where you can find out how it feels to float on the salty and buoyant lake.

Join Good Housekeeping and an all-female group of adventurous travellers to explore Jordan's archaeological wonders and natural attractions. You’ll spend a night under the stars in a Wadi Rum desert camp, take a dip in hot springs, visit Petra's incredible monuments by candlelight, and spend two nights relaxing in a resort on the Dead Sea.

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Admire the Taj Mahal and visit India's Golden Triangle

India's Golden Triangle features on the bucket list of many travellers. Comprising Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra, each city offers a glimpse into India's rich cultural heritage, from the bustling streets of Delhi and some of India's most famous landmarks, the Red Fort and Qutub Minar. Jaipur is known for its palaces and vibrant markets and Agra is home to the world-famous Taj Mahal.

On a long-haul holiday, it makes sense to make the most of the long journey by maximising your time there. On Good Housekeeping's luxury holiday to India, you can combine a tour of India's Golden Triangle before boarding a seven-night luxury cruise aboard the Ganges Voyager II to sail the sacred Ganges River, spotting Hindu temples and local villages as you make your way down the river.

You'll be joined by Atul Kochhar, a Michelin-starred, UK-based chef from Jamshedpur in India who will demonstrate the best of Indian cooking during your trip and join you on a trip to a colourful food market.

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Another wonderful way to experience India is with our two-week tour which not only shows you some of the best attractions of the Golden Triangle but also gives you the chance to venture into the jungle to spot tigers in the wild.

You'll spend two nights in the heart of Ranthambore National Park and venture into the jungle on safaris, searching for the elusive Bengal tiger with the company of an expert naturalist.

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Spot incredible wildlife in Kenya's national parks

A great reason for wildlife lovers to take a long-haul flight is to see magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Although we have plenty of interesting wildlife in Europe, there's nothing like going on safari and spotting the likes of elephants, giraffes, lions, buffalo and zebra in the wild.

Kenya is one of the top locations for a safari holiday, with excellent national parks like Tsavo West and Amboseli providing opportunities to see the 'big five' roaming free. At Amboseli, you'll be able to enjoy sightings of incredible animals set against the glorious backdrop of Kilimanjaro.

Join Good Housekeeping's ten-day Kenya holiday and you'll spend time in both Tsavo West and Amboseli, based in luxury safari lodges and enjoying frequent game drives with expert guides. Another memorable wildlife encounter will be the chance to observe hippos from an underwater hide at Mzima Springs. After a few days on safari, you'll swap the national parks for beaches, with a few relaxing days on the Mombasa Coast.

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Ride Canada's Rocky Mountaineer and cruise Alaska

The Rocky Mountains in Canada deserve a spot on everyone's long-haul bucket list. With their awe-inspiring vistas of rugged peaks, tranquil lakes, and cascading waterfalls, the Rockies are home to dramatic natural beauty, unlike anything you'll find close to home. Here, you can discover the renowned National Parks of Banff, Jasper, and Yoho, both teeming with diverse wildlife and offering fantastic opportunities for unforgettably scenic hikes.

On Good Housekeeping's tour of Canada, you'll visit both of these national parks, and ride the historic Rocky Mountaineer train through the Canadian wilderness, past beautiful mountain passes, serene lake shores, winding river canyons and pristine forests.

The route will eventually take you to Vancouver, where you'll board a luxury ship for the next part of your adventure; a cruise through Alaska's stunning Inside Passage - a network of waterways winding through the fjords and mighty forests of USA's largest state.

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Another chance to explore the pristine natural landscapes of Canada comes with our ten-day tour along the country's Maple Leaf Trail. As well as visiting the eastern cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto, you'll enjoy wonderful views as you follow the Maple Leaf Trail along Lake Ontario's shores.

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view from the natural bridge on the kicking horse river in yoho national park, british columbia, rocky mountains, canada, north america the river derived its name, when in 1858 james hector, a member of the palliser expedition, reported being kicked by his packhorse while exploring the river hector named the river and the associated pass as a result of the incident yoho national park is a unesco world heritage site
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Take a musical pilgrimage through the USA's Deep South

A tour of the USA's Deep South is worth the long-haul flight for any lover of rock 'n' roll, country music, jazz, or blues. This region boasts an unrivalled musical legacy whose impact has been felt in every corner of the globe, inspiring musicians across generations.

Key destinations include the vibrant streets of New Orleans, affectionately known as The Big Easy, where the historic French Quarter woos its visitors with colourful architecture and the lively sounds of jazz drifting through the air. Then there's Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley, a must-visit site for fans of the King of Rock 'n' Roll, along with Graceland in Memphis. Country music fans will feel at home in Nashville, where they can visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and see plenty of live music.

Good Housekeeping's tour of the Deep South will take you to all of the above, with two nights staying in The Guest House at Graceland, just a few steps from Elvis' famous home, and several visits to locations marked with the footprints of the USA's musical icons.

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colorful homes and historic architecture in new orleans, louisiana
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