May is coming to an end. As schools reopen, peak tourist season will begin to wind down in India. This also marks the start of the season for a bargain international traveller seeking a good deal. And with several formerly popular destinations trying to crawl back on the tourist map, after being shunned by visitors for receiving bad press for one reason or another, there are plenty of options to consider.
"Over the past couple of years, there have been several incidents- both political and economic- that have led to a reduction in tourist arrivals in many countries. Destinations that were once expensive have suddenly become cheap. Hotels staring at losses have dropped their prices. However, they are on the road to recovery now, and prices could firm up in the next year or two," says Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox & Kings.
Here are five countries you could check out this year before the cost of travel goes up.
1) Sri Lanka
For those looking to vacation closer home, the island nation is fast making a return to the tourist map after the end of militancy in the north of the country. "It rivals Kerala in terms of beauty and sightseeing options, and with Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka increasing flights from India to Sri Lanka, the destination is accessible and affordable as well," says Anand.
Reclining Buddha in the Isurumuniya Temple in Anuradhapura.
*Surf at the lovely Arugam Bay
*Visit Jaffna Fort and Keerimalai Spring, which is known for its healing properties
*Take in the beauty of Sinhalese civilisation at Anuradhapura
*Try the fiery local Sri Lankan curries
*Make a trip to Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock), the sheer 200-m rock citadel
Also making a comeback is India's favourite holiday destination, Thailand. "The martial law that was in place in Thailand since May last year has been lifted in the first week of April. For those who had any apprehension during the martial law, we hope their anxiousness has been quelled," says Soraya Homchuen, director, tourism authority of Thailand- Mumbai office. Now, the government has further eased the visa process- one can travel to Thailand with just a month’s validity on their passport. Hotels, airlines and attractions are all putting out special deals and yes, one can certainly expect special discounts as the locals are excited about the martial law being lifted.
Koh Chang, Thailand.
*Dive in Koh Samet, Koh Lanta and Koh Chang
*Head to Haad Rin Beach for a full moon party
*Visit a hilltribe village in Chiang Rai
*Take Muay Thai lessonsin Koh Samui, Bangkok or the Fairtex Camp in Pattaya
*Go on a bike trip from Bangkok to northern Thailand.
It suffered the consequences of recession, and regional travel, which was its mainstay, did not pick up. In the last year, the Euro has also weakened by close to 25%. Dining out and shopping have become less expensive here. And hotel rates have not increased much, giving the Indian traveller an advantage.
Melissani Cave, Greece.
*Climb Mt Olympus and watch reality merge with mythology
*Spend some time at the temple of Olympian Zeus, Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Greek Delphi Temple and the Palace of Knossos
* Experience the nightlife of Mykonos
* Go boating in the Melissani Cave
* Feast on the local Greek cuisine
Yet another destination worth exploring. In the last year, around 3.5 million tourists visited Israel, including 40,000 Indians. But the country still gets bad press, something that the tourism board is trying to counter. "It's very difficult to change negative perceptions. Some trouble is there on the border, and people will assume that the whole country is not safe to travel to. We are trying to explain to everybody that Israel is safe for tourists, and the best evidence is the millions that are travelling there every year," says Madah Hassan, director (India), Israel ministry of tourism.
Dead Sea, Israel.
* Float in the Dead Sea
*Walk the alleys of the old city of Jerusalem
*Party in Tel Aviv
*Eat Israeli falafel and hummus
* Watch the sunrise in Masada
The tourism industry in Jordan suffered greatly as a result of conflict in neighbouring Iraq and Syria. Foreigners shunned its holy sites, nature reserves and adventure tourism opportunities, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Petra, where visitor numbers have halved since 2010. The government has now announced a series of steps, including waiving the visa fee, to lure tourists and make travelling 'more convenient and affordable for people of all nationalities'.
Wadi Mujib, Jordan,
*Take in the beauty of the ancient city of Petra
*Sample the traditional Mansaf at a Bedouin gathering in the desert
*Visit the spot where Jesus was baptised
*Try canyoning at Wadi Mujib
*Marvel at the desert fort of Quseir Amra