Hong Kong is electric – a blend of neon lights and lush greenery. The skyscraper-packed city is nestled on a glimmering harbour and fringed with jungle, with surprisingly gorgeous beaches and trails to explore.
For spectacular views across the whole city, take the tram up to The Peak, the highest point on the island. Or if you’re craving an active day out, hike up Dragon’s Back Mountain, finishing at the swells of Big Wave Bay.
Back in the densely populated urban centres, you can lose yourself in bustling street markets, poke around the charming cobblestoned streets of Old Town Central, and soak up a fusion of colonial architecture and ancient Chinese culture.
Auckland, New Zealand
Pretty and chilled, Auckland makes a nice stopover on the way to South America, or to explore more of New Zealand. It’s a quiet city, but there’s plenty of beauty to discover within easy reach. Head to Mt Eden – a dormant volcanic peak, covered in vibrant green – and soak up an incredible view of the city on an easy, 2 km walk. Jump on a ferry to explore the historic seaside village of Devonport, or spend a lazy afternoon at the Viaduct Harbour waterfront.
If you have a full day spare, take a half-hour ferry across to Waiheke Island, a glorious haven of wineries and white-sand beaches.
Los Angeles, USA
Palm trees and sunsets calling? Two days gives you the perfect glimpse of LA. The sun-drenched city is a mix of glitz and grunge, full of dreamers and creatives and the hustle of Hollywood.
If film and TV are your thing, a behind-the-scenes tour of Warner Brothers or Universal Studios can be a fun family day out. Fashion lovers can shop like an influencer along Melrose Avenue and Rodeo Drive, or you can get your culture fix at galleries like the impressive Getty Centre.
For a more relaxed vibe, escape to the colourful enclaves of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. The vibrant beach boardwalk, endless stretches of shimmering white sand, and trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard are perfect for an afternoon of shopping, walking and people-watching.
Make a stop in Thailand’s colourful capital for a rejuvenating massage, the perfect pad thai, and your pick of dazzling temples and palaces.
Bangkok is known for its vibrant street life, pulsing with gritty backpacker charm. Contrast that with its gleaming shopping malls and swanky hotels, and you’ve got one intriguing city to explore. It’s an energetic rush before escaping to Koh Samui or roaming through South-East Asia.
To soak up some of the main sights on a short trip, a boat ride on the Chao Phraya River is a must. Marvel at the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and the Golden Buddha. Explore the Chinatown night markets for a sensory feast, and top it off with views from a glamorous rooftop cocktail bar.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
A futuristic city nestled in the Arabian Desert, Dubai is a heady mix of old-world customs, ultramodern architecture and golden luxury. Explore a maze of alleyways in Old Dubai and discover treasures in the traditional gold and spice markets. Then contrast that with a visit to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with incredible views across the Persian Gulf.
When you’ve had enough of grand shopping malls and opulent light shows, head out to the desert. There are plenty of desert safari trips to choose from that let you sandboard, ride camels, or just be awed by the colours and vastness of the dunes.
Bright, clean and blooming with city gardens, Singapore has plenty to explore. The steamy island city-state is known for its gleaming architecture and fusion of vibrant cultures. First stop, the fantastical Gardens by the Bay precinct, with its spaceship-like ‘supertree’ structures, sprawling flower gardens and rainforests enclosed in enormous greenhouses.
Take your time to explore the neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street for a real taste of the diverse local cultures. Wind through alleyways and discover brightly-coloured shophouses and fragrant open-air markets. Then after dark, head to Singapore Zoo for the famous Night Safari – a unique experience of nocturnal animal life.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Under a silvery skyline dominated by the Petronas Towers, Malaysia’s balmy capital is pulsing with a blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences. Indulge in the best local street food in the colourful night markets of Jalan Alor, or enjoy the city lights with a cocktail at the glittering Skybar.
For a bit of luxury shopping, the nine huge malls of Bukit Bitang are a fashion paradise, full of local and international labels. Or for a more peaceful and cultural experience, head out to the Batu Caves. A sacred Hindu site, this cluster of pretty caves and temples is set on a limestone hill at the edge of the city, with cheeky monkeys frolicking about.
MORE: Two days in Kuala Lumpur