The world is filled with many wonders. Travellers know this best – they often feel that the more they travel, the less they know, because there is just so much out there to discover. Take capital cities, for instance. There is often confusion about the capitals of many countries, particularly ones that have two well-known cities – think Mumbai and Delhi, Washington D. C. and New York, Sydney and Canberra – which one is the capital of its respective country?
Here are five humble cities that perhaps don’t boast their capital status, but are a must-visit for many reasons, among them being their stunning natural attractions.
Australia’s bush capital
Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra is a delightful sight at dusk
One of the little known facts about Canberra aptly defines its resilient nature. The city had to oust Albury, Tumut, Orange and Dalgety as potential sites for the status of Australia’s capital city before the governing bodies picked it as the capital.
All these years later, this decision seems to have been a sound one. There aren’t many places in Australia where urbanity and nature coexist in perfect harmony to allow for a holistic lifestyle. But in Canberra, one can go from the bustling city sounds to the soothing music of birds at one of the many trails in a matter of minutes, giving it the well-deserved moniker of the Australian Bush Capital.
Things to do:
The Centenary Trail is one of the best ways for walking enthusiasts to experience Canberra. The 145km-long trail stretches from the New South Wales border to the north, all the way to the Murrumbidgee River in the south. The most exciting thing about the trail is that there are no looping paths here! There are, of course, tracks through the city and the suburbs as the trail dips in and out, taking in landmarks such as the Parliament House along the way. Here, one can end the trek if one wishes, or stop for a drink or snack along the way. For the less adventurous, the trail can also be explored one section at a time.
If you’re looking for a truly native experience, Namadgi National Park – almost half the size of the entire state – is less than an hour from the city centre. The mountainous wilderness has forests of wattle, eucalyptus and banksia trees, as well as herb fields and wetlands. It is also home to native wildlife including kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, emus, possums and reptiles along with endangered mice, fish and frogs. While here, look out for indigenous art, including small figures and rock paintings that date back some 3,700 years.
Canberra is a short direct flight from Changi Airport, making it an ideal location for a memorable bushwalking outdoor adventure. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!
Walking in Wellington
Breathe in the fresh air atop Mount Victoria in Wellington
Known for art, culture and foodie experiences, New Zealand’s down-to-earth capital Wellington is the latest addition in the list of places travellers can fly to direct from Singapore. Beyond these urban delights, the natural environment of this region is also well worth a visit.
Things to do:
Wrapping the outskirts of Wellington, the Town Belt Reserves have many trails that take in native flora and fauna with Mounts Albert, Victoria and Alfred; and Stellin Memorial Park. They all offer stunning views of the city and Wellington Harbour.
For those who like seaside vistas, Wellington has the most beautiful beaches in the nation with bays for building sandcastles, kite surfing and scuba diving. If you are more inclined to rest and relaxation, grab a beanbag or stool at one of the many cafés and bars that line the coast!
Wellington is connected to Singapore via Canberra; flights operate four times a week on Singapore Airlines. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!
For those who like seaside vistas, Wellington has the most beautiful beaches in the nation with bays for building sandcastles, kite surfing and scuba diving.
Harmony in Hanoi
Visitors to Hanoi often use Vietnam’s capital city as a jumping point to the famous Halong Bay, but even closer to the city there are natural wonders to explore.
Things to do:
Located in the centre of Hanoi is Hoan Liem Lake – or the Lake of the Restored Sword – a large waterway surrounded by ancient trees, which gives locals and visitors greenery all year round. Take a walk around the edge of the lake and perhaps join the locals as they jog or practice the traditional art of tai chi – an ancient art form best described as movement-based yoga and meditation.
Sitting in the centre of the lake is Thap Rua, or Turtle Tower, which was built during the Nguyen Dynasty. It commemorates the legendary warrior Le Loi and his campaign to lead the Vietnamese people to freedom from the Chinese. Legend has it that Le Loi was sent a sword in the mid-15th century to drive out invaders from Vietnam. After the war, a golden turtle disappeared with the sword into the Hoan Liem Lake and restored it to its divine owners, hence the name of the lake and the commemorative tower.
There are many options for travelling to Hanoi from Changi Airport, with regular direct flights via Singapore Airlines, Tigerair, SilkAir and Vietnam Airlines. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!
A bit of France in Vientiane
The endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins of the Mekong are a rare but spectacular sight in Laos
The largest city and largely unknown capital of Laos, Vientiane is a mix of French Colonial and Asian architecture that dates back to the 16th century. While there are tree-lined boulevards, cafés and villas that wouldn’t look out of place in Europe, there is also plenty for nature lovers.
Things to do:
The open green spaces of Chao Anouvong Park are ideal for a lazy stroll and a boat ride on the Mekong River, which gives visitors a chance to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins along the way. The endangered freshwater dolphins live in a 190km stretch of river between Cambodia and Laos. Identified by their bulging forehead and grey-blue colouring, there are currently between 78 and 91 of these mammals in the Mekong. Kayaking or river cruising is the best opportunity to see these seldom seen beauties.
One of Laos’ most beautiful nature reserves, the National Protected Area of Phou Khao Khouay, is ideal for trekkers and is close to Vientiane. Sheer sandstone cliffs give way to river gorges and lush forests that support wildlife such as elephants, Asian Black Bears and Sun Bears as well as many other species. Birdwatchers will also enjoy all the reserve’s birdlife, which includes eagles, woodpeckers, cuckoo birds and rare bird breeds.
Direct flights from Changi Airport on Lao Airlines will get you to Vientiane in less than 3 hours. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!
New Delhi, the land of many gardens
Lodhi Gardens has something for nature lovers and history fans alike
Many visitors to New Delhi are unaware that the city claimed the status of being the capital of India during the British rule in 1931. Fewer still know that this busy, bustling city is home to many parks and gardens.
Things to do: The National Rose Garden, for instance, has a variety of roses from all over the world, while the Deer Park has ducks, rabbits and, of course, deer.
The village of Said-Ul-Azaib houses another peaceful oasis – the Garden of Five Senses. As the name signifies, it is a sensory explosion and a must for visitors. The garden is strewn with spectacular lawns of flowers, pristine pools and even rock formations that showcase nature’s genius. Every aspect of the park has been designed to awaken the 5 senses and is a beautiful and exhilarating way to spend a day in the Indian capital.
Getting there: It is less than 6 hours to New Delhi from Singapore with direct flights offered by Singapore Airlines, Air India and Jet Airways. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!
You may not have known these cities were the capitals of their countries, but now with easy accessibility from Changi Airport, you can learn a lot about them and discover the best that Nature has on offer here.