The World's 5 Best Stopovers

2 December 2016

Nowhere else on the planet is as far from Europe as New Zealand – count on around 24 hours flying time to travel from London from Auckland – and transiting straight through is an exercise in sheer endurance. Take things more leisurely instead, and spend a couple of nights in these stopover cities where good public transport and well-run airports make it easy to maximise your time enjoying each destination's attractions.

Top 5 stopovers - Singapore Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Photo: Getty

 

Singapore

One of the world's most efficient airports – don't be surprised if you've cleared immigration and customs in around 20 minutes – Changi is linked to Singapore by the city state's efficient MRT train system. Stay in a hotel in Chinatown for easy walking access to the cafes and bars of Ann Siang Hill and Keong Saik Rd on your first night.

Spend the next day exploring the spectacular Gardens by the Bay before discovering the after dark animal attractions of the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. Return by taxi – cabs in Singapore are well-priced – for dinner and drinks riverside along Clarke Quay.

Top 5 stopovers - Dubai The textile souk, Dubai. Photo: Matteo Colombo/Getty

 

Dubai

Now accessible on non-stop 17-hour Emirates flights from Auckland – and then it's only seven more hours on to Paris or Amsterdam – Dubai competes with Singapore as the planet's most popular stopovers. Opened in 2009, the Dubai Metro stops at Terminal 1 and 2, providing good access to the rest of the city from the airport.

Spend a few hours exploring the cafes, art galleries and meandering labyrinth of the heritage Bastakia area, before catching an abra (ferry) across Dubai Creek to the city's Gold Souk. Ascend sky-piercing Burj Khalifa for views of Dubai's impetuous sprawl before exploring the surrounding desert on a 4WD excursion.

 

Top 5 stopovers - San Francisco Cable cars, San Francisco. Photo: Wonwoo Lee/Getty

 

San Francisco

Easily accessed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, San Francisco's compact but diverse nature makes it a great stopover destination. The Lower Haight neighbourhood is packed with restaurants, and cool bars, and it's a quick Uber ride uphill to Haight-Ashbury, epicentre of the hippy revolution in the 1960s, or downtown for foodie highlights like Saturday morning's Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Detour to the raffish Mission District for street art and Latin American food, or explore the craft breweries, locavore restaurants and hip design stores of up and coming Dogpatch. Balance all the city's great eating by riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito before returning by ferry back to downtown San Francisco.

Top 5 stopovers - Hong Kong Neon signs in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Photo: fotoVoyager/Getty

 

Hong Kong

The 24-minute train journey to central Hong Kong on the Airport Express is a spectacular attraction in itself, whizzing across expansive bays and past serried rows of towering hillside apartments. Once in the city, get your bearings by taking Hong Kong's iconic 128-year old Peak Tram up Victoria Peak. The best views of the city's improbable skyline are from the water, ideally on a neon-lit night riding the legendary Star Ferry from Central across to Kowloon.

Beyond the mega malls dotting this legendary shopping city, ascend by Hong Kong's Mid-Levels escalators – the longest outdoor escalators in the world – for more quirky and unique shopping in the antique stores and contemporary design studios around Hollywood Rd.

Top 5 stopovers - Vancouver A downtown street in Vancover. Photo: Mitch Diamond/Getty

 

Vancouver

Also a good stopover option to Europe or if you're boarding a cruise to Alaska, downtown Vancouver is easily reached from the airport on the SkyTrain's Canada Line. From centrally-located hotels it's an easy walk to the bars and restaurants of the heritage Gastown district, or to catch a compact Aqua Bus ferry across False Creek to the Granville Island Public Market.

Brett Atkinson

Brett Atkinson is a full-time travel and food writer who specialises in adventure travel, unusual destinations, and surprising angles on more well-known destinations. He's based in Auckland but frequently on the road for Lonely Planet and other publishers in New Zealand and abroad. @travelwriterNZ