The 5 Best Countries to Stopover
You can fly from Melbourne direct to this huge, cosmopolitan metropolis on your way to yet another one. Of all the routes to London, this one would have to be our favourite. It doesn’t cut the journey in half, but it does move you along further than the more popular Asian stopovers of Bangkok or Singapore. Plus, even if you don’t plan on spending a few nights, there is a long layover during which SriLankan Airlines will provide a transit hotel. Colombo has everything you could possibly want in a quick break: golden beaches, monumental architecture and amazing food. At some point you’ll definitely want to hit the baffling but fascinating Pettah Market, but break up sightseeing in the Fort Area with high tea at the Kingsbury, served just the way we like it – buffet style. Take a dip in the sea at Galle Face Beach and give your legs a good stretch at the neighbouring Galle Face Green before heading back to the airport for your next flight.
There’s a point on any trip from Australia to New York when you wonder if it will ever end. Usually that happens as you are fanging through LAX trying to make your connection; it comes back two hours into that same connecting flight when you realise you’re trapped for another 200 minutes. Believe us when we tell you there is a better way. Jump on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Sydney or Brisbane to Honolulu then schedule a few days of sun and surf to overcome jet lag. Head to O’ahu’s North Shore, catch a few waves at Waimea Bay (pictured), snorkel with turtles, check out the cute galleries and shops of Haleiwa and eat pounds of shrimp at the famous food trucks. Just as you’re settling in to this new existence it’s back to Daniel K Inouye International Airport for the onwards flight to New York. It’s still two almost-10-hour flights, but a stopover in paradise makes it all worthwhile. Avoiding customs at LAX is an added bonus.
It’s the national airline, so Vietnam Airlines serves up a very different Asian stopover on the way to Europe (it has direct flights to London, Paris and Frankfurt). From Sydney or Melbourne, you’ll fly direct to Ho Chi Minh City, with its combo of local personality and French influences. Colour us crazy, but we’d stop here just for the opportunity to gorge on excellent food. And as much as we love pho and banh mi, this is the chance to head to food streets and night markets for less well-known dishes. (Plus, you can pho for brekky with iced Vietnamese coffee, so you won’t miss out.) Try banh xeo (crispy rice pancakes with seafood), bun mam (noodle soup with fermented fish broth, seafood and pork belly) or anything else that looks tempting. Stretch your legs before getting back on the plane checking out the War Remnants Museum, Saigon Opera House and the Reunification Palace. The Cu Chi Tunnels are just 90 minutes away, so you can even organise a day tour. Last but hardly least, kick back and have one of the city’s famous massages.
This is yet another under-appreciated Southeast Asian stopover, with Philippine Airlines flying from Sydney to Manila then on to London. Packed with personality, the Philippines capital is also a little easier to get your head around on a first-time visit than, say, Bangkok. No stop here is complete without a stroll around Intramuros, the old walled city housing most of the Spanish colonial-era landmarks, like San Agustin Church, Plaza de Roma and Casa Manila. The best way to do that is on a walking tour with Carlos Celdran, who is reason alone to visit Manila. There are also plenty of historical World War II sites, many of them, including the spot where General MacArthur bunked until the Yanks scarpered, on the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay. The dining and nightlife scene here is really sophisticated too, with spots like Blackbird, Scottish chef Colin Mackay’s contemporary fine-diner set in the old air-traffic control tower, and hidden cocktail bar Proof setting the scene.
It’s true. You do need to go via Auckland first, but we think it’s worth it to stop in French Polynesia on the way to the USA with Air Tahiti Nui. Papeete is the main city on the island of Tahiti, gateway to more than a hundred sun-kissed drops in the ocean – perfect if you’ve got time on your side – and an intriguing taste of France in a tropical paradise. Visit the Gauguin Museum, enjoy the local seafood cooked with Gallic flair, and spend some time outdoors. Even better, head over the isthmus at Taravao on the other side of the island to get to Tahiti Iti (literally little Tahiti). There you’ll find traditional Polynesian villages, amazing waterfalls and sea caves, and excellent hiking. Oh, and it’s also home to one of the world’s most famous surf breaks, Teahupoo, although you should only brave it if you’re better than average on a board.