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Best for pool lounging: Dubai, UAE

Everyone loves swimming pools in Dubai. Elaborate swim-up bars, fountains, infinity pools, Jacuzzis, lap lanes, paddling pools – you name it, they’ve got 100 of them here, almost always on the rooftops of hotels and apartment blocks.

When the mercury rises to the high 20s here (which is pretty much all the time between April and November) the city’s residents and many visitors can’t wait to slather themselves in sun lotion and seek out the perfect pool to plunge into.

If you need a little more than a quick dip and a day on the sunlounger to keep you entertained, fit in a trip to Wild Wadi Water Park ( - tickets based on height 1.1m and above £64, below 1.1m £54).

You’ll find giant wave pools, a long lazy river that you can drift around on a rubber ring and some terrifying water slides, including the Jumeirah Sceirah, which sends you down at a stomach-churning 80kmph.

The water throughout the park is kept at 28ºC; warm in most parts of the world, but a cooling relief in the UAE’s scorching heat.

Keep the pool theme going into the night and dress up for evening drinks at one of Dubai’s sensational pool bars.

The Address Dubai Marina’s infinity pool looks as if the water tips right into the cityscape, making it a scenic place for shisha and cocktails.

Media One’s The Dek on Eight has a spacious palm-tree-lined outdoor pool area, and there’s a happy hour at the hotel’s Coco on 8 cocktail bar every night from 6-9pm.

Shop around for package deals to Dubai. You can bag five-night trips with flights for under £500.

Getting there: Flights from London to Dubai from £306 return. 

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Best for boozing: Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town already has plenty going for it – Table Mountain, every sport you can imagine from surfing to cycling, Robben Island (the prison famed for housing Nelson Mandela for 27 years) and access to African wildlife – yet there’s no shame in admitting you want to go just for the vino.

Less than an hour’s drive out of the city is Stellenbosch, a town mad about wine where you can explore vineyards, take in tremendous scenery and get stuck into epic tasting sessions of the Western Cape’s best offerings.

South African wine tours are as popular with younger tourists as they are older ones – join the right group and you’ll find nothing highfalutin about it.

The guide will drive you, tell you what you’re about to drink and someone will pour it… and then pour some more. Because many of the tours are targeted at a young clientele, they’re priced accordingly.

Easy Rider Specialist Wine Tours are one of the cheaper operators, who offer an all-inclusive full day for £47 with optional lunch.

This one’s more about spending a day drinking rather than developing your palette.

If you’re prepared to pay a little more for Tsiba Tsiba Wine Tours you get the best of both. Half day wine tours from £30.50

Getting there: Qatar Airways flies to Cape Town via Doha for £593 return. 

credit: FredFroese

Best for trekking: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hardy trekkers like to have a dig at Chiang Mai, complaining of phoney hill tribe village stays and ‘remote’ hiking paths that couldn’t be more well-beaten if they were tarmaced. Don’t listen to the haters.

We think that for trekkers starting out, Chiang Mai is one of the most fantastic places in the world to explore the jungle.

The province has been a staple on the Thai backpacker circuit for years, meaning that while you’re not exactly exploring uncharted territory, the tour operator and guest house owner’s experience make it a mostly stress-free process.

Sign up to a tour and before you know it you’ll be climbing onto elephants, walking along jungle paths, bamboo rafting down gentle rivers and camping under the stars. It’s cheap, too, with day treks starting from as little as £30.

Be sure to book with a reputable operator – seek out the opinions of other backpackers you meet before committing to anything – and ask plenty of questions about what the owners are doing to ensure the trek is sustainable for the local area.

Getting there: Flights from London to Bangkok £470 return. 


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