>We all know how loud London likes to be at the best of times, but this year the volume will be turned up to eleven (and that’ll more than likely just be Brian May stood atop a routemaster wearing a pair of Union Jack speedos, eating a Yorkshire pudding and playing God Save the Queen on a slightly out of tune guitar).  If the thought of spending your days off watching Boris and Beckham bigging up Blighty fills you with dread, we might just be able to help.

UK summer 2012; the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee and Steps’ Reunion Tour, each entertaining enough in their own way, if that’s your sort of thing. For those seeking something with a little less drizzle and a little more dazzle however, we have some suggestions to help you on your way. With the bustle of 12 million people barging around on foot, trains, buses, cars and pushbikes, London is a pretty busy place on an ordinary day. Try adding a few million more people who’re popping over for that small event we call the Olympics… it’s going to be pretty mad. For those seeking a little less traffic and a little more tranquillity, or wondering if the sun will actually come out this summer (it won’t), why not go in search of a real adventure and try our recommendations on where to head to escape the mayhem…

1) Jordan

Enter Holidays in Jordan. This Middle Eastern gem is a truly luxurious location; a hotbed of culture and a hub of ancient history, it has everything from rainforests to mountains, beaches to deserts – and guaranteed sunshine. Swap crowded tube commutes for casual camel rides and be inspired on your very own desert pilgrimage to the ancient site of Petra. Usain Bolt might have won a gold necklace but no prize can compete with being named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Nestled in the South West of the country, Petra is a sight to behold, having beaten both the Pyramids of Egypt and the Acropolis in Athens to make the final 7. Travel to this ancient city by camel, taking in its rose tinted walls and intricate rock carvings from afar. Once inside, hop on a donkey to tour the ancient Nabataean sites, including the awe-inspiring Al-Khazneh treasury and the bewitching tombs, all 500 hundred of them still perfectly preserved in the rock.

Where to stay? Happily, accommodation in Jordan caters for all budgets, £15 a night gets you simple shabby chic but splash some cash and you could be staying in the breathtaking Eveson Ma’In Hot Springs, where rooms come with their very own treatment spas and wine cellars – a winning combination.

There’s never been a better time to go as this year marks the 200th anniversary of Petra’s rediscovery. Expect the Jordanians to go all out for what could be their biggest year of tourism to date, and the most exciting summer of your life.

2) Maldives

Replace crowded grey streets with peaceful white sandy beaches, idyllic blue waters and beautifully exotic scenery. A Maldives holiday can provide you with the perfect summer haven. In addition to hosting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the Maldives also has a cocktail of interesting sights and activities on offer. These beautiful islands are home to a myriad of wildlife, both above and under the water, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to experience it. Well known for their mind-blowing sightings, there are plenty of gorgeous dive spots situated around the islands and the vast majority of their marine life is waiting to be discovered. Snorkel around the exquisite coral reefs and experience the best surf in the whole of the Indian Ocean.

Why stay in busy, noisy London for the Olympics, when you could spend your days relaxing in the sunshine, tropical spritzer in hand. The summer is a time for relaxing by the sea, not fighting through crowds!

3) Barbados

If you get the opportunity, go and take a look at Barbados’ medal haul in the Olympic Games. Go on, go to Wikipedia and take a look – if you do you’ll find they’ve won a pretty impressive grand total of one medal. One single, solitary medal, and bronze at that. That’s not their total haul from the last games in Beijing, rather that’s ever – their all-time, combined total of Olympic medals won in all competitions ever – one single bronze medal. And you know why that is? It’s because they’ve got better things to do. Forget that ‘Team GB’ nonsense, it’s ‘Team B’ who’ve got the right idea, and can you blame them? Have you seen their beaches?

Come on, who really cares how many shiny bits of metal you can hang around your neck? If you want to get up at 5am every day to put in a hundred lengths of an Olympic sized swimming pool, only eat the right carbs, go running in the rain, and snow, and fog, every day for hours on end, then be my guest.

I mean, being dedicated and at the peak of physical fitness is fine and everything, but it doesn’t half make you boring. When your friends ask if you’re going to that party on a Saturday night, and you say no, sorry, you’ve got to get up at 4 o’clock for another oatmeal and raw egg smoothie before twenty laps of the running track in the January drizzle, just think, instead you could join Team B!

You could be heading to the beach, strolling along warm, soft, white sands, basking in the tropical sun or resting in the dappled shade beneath emerald-green palms as they stir gently in a balmy Caribbean breeze. You could be sipping a cool cocktail as you watch the lingering, lazy waves lolling softly upon a gentle shoreline, or gazing longingly as a spectacular sunset, with more gold than any medal, melts slowly into the sea, painting the sky with vivid flames of magenta and coral-pink.

Of course life isn’t a beach for everyone in Barbados… but it will be for you! So leave all of that boring boasting and cumbersome competition to the show-offs, who needs the hassle anyway? And just because you live in vaguely the same geographical jurisdiction as someone doesn’t mean you can really get away with saying ‘we won such and such gold medals’ or any similarly disingenuous remarks. Just cut your losses, leave the racing and striving and sprinting behind, and head to Barbados where you can take things nice and slowly – go on, I’ll race you!

4) New York

So you’re into culture, but perhaps you prefer your art to be something a bit more than glitzy décor for a sporting spectacle? Well forget the soggy efforts of the Cultural Olympiad and get yourself to New York City – the still undisputed international heavyweight capital of the art world!

Ever since the very first Armory show in 1913, NYC has been a place to see and be seen as far as art goes. As the US bounded energetically out of World War II, the Big Apple took an even bigger bite out of Paris’s avant-garde pie, leapfrogging it as the cutting-edge global centre of the art world.

Thanks in no small part to those well-known art critics at the CIA, Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock splashed onto the scene, securing New York’s place as the new top dog when it came to art. The iconic works of Warhol cemented his city at the visual heart of 20th century and in the 80’s NY was renowned for its hip, underground scene – something that survives to this day in an almost boiling-over melting pot of street art, hip-hop and hot Wall Street money. This all mingles to make a scene that’s vivacious, diverse and always fresh. Areas such as Chelsea are positively bursting at the seams with creative talent and the whole place is littered with galleries for the discerning visitor to peruse.

New York is still the place where young, artistic hopefuls come to ply their trade and make their fortune. Throw in some of the world’s most famous museums and galleries such as The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim and you’ve got more than enough to keep even the most keen aesthetic adventurer occupied for a good while.

Of course there’s more to this amazing city than art – Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State, great shops, legendary restaurants and a world famous skyline. …Or then again, you can always sweat it out on a packed tube train, staring blankly at a partially obscured Art on the Underground poster for your visual inspiration, sound appealing?

5) Thailand

What was once viewed as one of the most untouched and mysterious countries in the world has grown in popularity over the past decade at an unbelievable rate. This is because once you’ve discovered Thailand, you’ll want to tell everybody about it; the legendary ‘travellers’ word-of-mouth’! Once a haven for sweaty backpackers, travellers and those seeking something off the beaten track, Thailand is now on its way to luxury levels of super-stardom among holidaymakers.

But just what is it that’s drawn so much attention to the jewel of South East Asia, aside from Olympic opening ceremony producer Danny Boyle’s dubious portrayal of Alex Garland’s story ‘The Beach’?

Well, the proof is in the pudding and there really is something for everybody in this beautiful country. In the south you have the picturesque islands with their pristine coastlines and shores that encompass perfect white sands, azure oceans and fascinating wildlife. You also have the party island of Koh Phangan, famous for its full moon parties and other neon events that attract thousands of people every month. To the West you have places such as Khao Sok that are rich with rainforests and tropical nature, perfect for those with a thirst for adventure and exploration. To the North you have Chiang Mai, the spiritual destination for all of those who want to get in touch with Buddhism or see the rural lifestyle of Thailand. Last, but definitely not least, you have the magnificent Bangkok. With its endless markets, hubbub of traffic, spectacular statues, temples, exclusive bars and fine dining restaurants, Bangkok can cater to the needs of anybody who graces its streets. The people are friendly, the food is exquisite, the sights are spectacular… Thailand ticks all of the boxes. It’s a perfect place to get away – relax, unwind and be inspired in Thailand this summer.

So if you prefer splashing in the crystal surf to being splashed with mud as the Olympic officials tear passed down their special priority lanes, if your taste is more cocktail bars than screeching cars, sparkling seas than shining medals, be sure to take our advice and start running, the finishing line is on the beach!

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