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Holidays you never knew existed
  • Book a stay at Vivanta by Taj Fisherman's Cove, built on an old Dutch fort overlooking the Bay of Bengal in Chennai, and you can take part in the unique experience of snake catching. You'll accompany Irula tribesmen, who are specialists in snake catching, into the forests for a close and insightful encounter with snakes. Poison will be deftly collected from the snakes for medicinal use, after which the unharmed creatures are set free.

  • For the ultimate adventure, head for Mongolia and you'll be shown what it was really like to be a warrior under the Great Khan. Dressed in full costume and staying in nomadic tents, you'll spend days training in 13th-century battle skills and discover the reasons that gave the warriors such power. Responsible Travel's Genghis Khan warrior training holiday (from £2,150 for nine days, excluding flights) allows you to learn bow and arrow making, field cooking, how to shoot from horseback and the art of lighting campfires quickly so as to confuse the enemy at night.

  • It might be better known for its skyscrapers, shops and theatre, but we bet you didn't know that New York City has 14 miles of sandy coastline and some great beaches. Top sandy spots include Coney Island in Brooklyn, which is also home to a famous boardwalk and funfair; Rockaway Beach in Queens, which is popular among surfers; and Orchard Beach within Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Who'd have thought you'd need to pack your cossie for a trip to the Big Apple?

  • The Mergui archipelago, in the far south of Myanmar (also known as Burma), is home to a unique ethnic group called the Moken who live a semi-aquatic life aboard hand-built boats where they survive by spear and net fishing and foraging. The Moken spend so much time diving in search of shellfish that their eyes have adapted to underwater conditions, giving them 'water vision'. Visitors to the archipelago can stay on one of many Moken islands (there are almost 800!) and meet the friendly and welcoming Moken people are. While there, you can visit their villages, rent boats, sea kayak, scuba dive or simply swim with the 'sea gypsies'. Book a trip to Myanmar via myanmarburma.com

  • Hafnarfjördur in Iceland is known for having one of the country’s largest colonies of elves, dwarves and other spiritual beings, collectively called the "Hidden Folk". Centuries-old folklore says that whole families of the beings live in the rocks that are part of the town's centre and on a trip to Iceland you can enter their magical world . A Hidden Worlds tour takes visitors to their homes, stopping at places like Hellisgerdi Park and the base of the cliff, Hamarinn, where it is said the Royal Family of the Hidden Folk lives. Along the way, the guide retells stories about the magical hidden worlds and describes the town's development in harmony with the Hidden Folk. WOW air offers direct flights from London Gatwick to Reykjavik from £74 one way, including taxes and hand luggage.

  • For a family holiday to remember, discover the spectacular Mercantour Alps in the South of France with your very own donkey. Travelling with the affectionate animals is the perfect way to make the unexplored hidden mountains accessible to families, plus the kids will love having their new friend along for the ride. Responsible Travel's Mercantour family walking holiday (from £489 to £557 for 8 days, excluding flights) takes place in diverse and contrasted landscapes, including a canyon with rocks the colour of red wine and woods of stern larch trees. You'll meet mountain folk, spend nights on farms and in forester shelters, and discover the amazing wildlife in the Mercantour National Park.

  • In the beautiful ancient city of Luange Prabang, northern central Laos, you can teach English to young Buddhist monks on a volunteering holiday. GVI's Volunteer with Buddhist Novice Monks in Laos trip (two weeks from £895) takes place in an idyllic setting at the meeting of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, renowned for its Buddhist temples and monasteries. As well as working closely with novice monks, you'll learn about Lao culture, history and food, visit the local sights and enjoy a weekend on the banks of the Mekong River.

  • Adventurous travellers looking to truly beat the crowds should look no further than Afghanistan. The country hardly needs an introduction but there's more to it than what you've seen on the news. Responsible Travel's small group tour to Afghanistan (from £4,750 for 14 days, excluding flights) takes in the extraordinary mountains and plains, following in the footsteps of Marco Polo. From Kabul and the foothills of the Hindu Kush, you'll visit the famous mountain caves of Bamiyan, the breathtaking lakes at Band-e Amir, the historical northern towns of Mazar-e Sharif and Balkh, as well as the famous Panjshir Valley.

  • For a truly unique holiday, visit one of the most isolated places on earth and one of the last bastions of Communism, North Korea. On Explore's 12-day North Korea tour (from £2140 excluding flights), you'll see the outstanding natural beauty of the Kumgang Mountains, admire the flamboyant architecture of the socialist capital Pyongyang and stand on the border separating South Korea’s peninsula. The exciting adventure offers an unusual insight into the country’s political and ideological heritage, with highlights including a visit to the Mansudae Monument, a tribute to Kim II Sung, and standing at the world's most fortified border at Panmunjom.

  • Fancy a holiday but don't have much time? How about being whisked away to Lapland for one day and being home in time for bed? On Transun's Arctic Explorer break (£499 including flights, lunch, activities, thermal suit and boot hire) you'll leave the airport on a snowmobile, sample the local cuisine in the heart of the forest surrounded by frozen lakes and snowy scenes, learn the art of snowshoeing and a husky sled ride, before taking another ride on the snowmobile to catch the flight home.