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Photograph: / ESB Professional / Time Out

The best of both worlds: why you should take a ‘fusion trip’ this year

Split your holiday between city break and rural getaway for the ultimate ‘town and out’ holiday

James Manning
Huw Oliver
Written by
James Manning
Huw Oliver

One of the defining travel trends of 2020 was a shift towards nature and the great outdoors. With lockdowns still in place and infection rates often highest in urban areas, holidaying in crowded cities lost its appeal rather quickly. The relaxation (and built-in social distance) of a trip to the country, by contrast, seemed like just what we needed.

But with the vaccine rollout now well underway, our thinking is starting to change – and cities may well bounce back more quickly than anyone expects.

In Time Out’s first global Travel Survey, we found that this year, just as many travellers are craving the unique culture and diversity of city holidays as are planning nature and countryside escapes. Of the 21,000 readers we polled, around a fifth wanted to travel to both city and nature destinations this year.

That got us thinking: could 2021 be the year of the two-part ‘fusion trip’? Combining both city and nature, this sort of break would involve travellers exploring city neighbourhoods and their food and drink scenes, while discovering less crowded cultural attractions. Following a few days of urban exploration, they might then venture out to find nearby nature trails, wide-open spaces and other outdoor activities.

We’ll definitely be planning a fusion trip of our own later in the year. And if you’re tempted too, check out our recommendations below. We asked Time Out editors around the world about their favourite places to escape near their city, and compiled 16 leading destinations for a ‘town and out’ holiday once international travel reopens – from snowy mountains outside Madrid to an old-fangled island near Istanbul.

After all, we haven’t been able to travel for a year now – so why wouldn’t you want the best of both worlds?

RECOMMENDED: 21 very cool things for travellers to look forward to in 2021

16 ‘fusion trips’ that blend city break and rural getaway

Barcelona... and Montseny

After a few days checking out the cathedrals, museums and vermouth bars of Barcelona, escape to Montseny – a beautiful and relatively untouched stretch of forested mountains less than an hour from the Catalan capital. It’s at its most spectacular when the leaves change colour in autumn, making it a great place for a dose of nature in the second half of the year.

London... and the South Downs

In a normal year, millions of visitors from the UK and beyond visit London’s attractions, shops and museums – but not many think to extend their trip southwards to discover one of the most beautiful bits of Britain. Spanning three counties, the South Downs is a paradise of chocolate-box villages, intensely green grass, dark skies and hilltop walks, all only a short journey from London.


Sydney... and Ku-Ring-Gai Chase

Of course you should check out the city’s harbour, the world-famous beaches and ocean pools – but don’t miss out on the national parklands that cover thousands of hectares around Sydney. Many head south to the Royal National Park, but Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, in Sydney’s north, could be the smarter option: beautiful lookouts, beaches and day hikes plus stunning places to stay along the shores of Pittwater.

Istanbul... and Büyükada

Spend a few incredible days in the tumult that is Istanbul, then hop a boat to Büyükada: the largest of the nine Princes Islands on the Marmara Sea. It’s only a half-hour ride from the mainland, but with acres of green, spectacular panoramas from its forested peak and a ban on motorised vehicles, it has a feel that’s completely its own.


Tokyo... and Okutama

There’s nowhere else quite like Tokyo: the world’s biggest metropolis has everything you could want from a city break. But don’t miss out on a few days in Okutama. It’s a taste of rural Japan right on Tokyo’s outskirts, where you can explore forests, mountain hikes, rivers, caves and a 300-year-old sake brewery.

Paris... and Boucles de la Seine Normande

You could spend a lifetime exploring Paris’s bistros, bars and boulevards. But for a breath of fresh air, head upstream and spend a few days in the Boucles de la Seine Normande regional nature park. This dramatic, verdant landscape traces the River Seine as it meanders through Normandy, passing by towns, traditional cottages and ancient abbeys.


Chicago... and Indiana Dunes

Once you’ve soaked up Chicago’s architectural marvels, head along the shore of Lake Michigan. Just over the Indiana state line, there’s sand and solitude at the Indiana Dunes National Park. You’ll find 50 miles of dune trails for summer as well as wetlands, prairies, rivers and forests that are perfect for snowshoeing and spotting animal tracks in the winter snowfall.

Hong Kong... and Sai Kung

The seaside town of Sai Kung is Hongkongers’ favourite escape – a place of fresh seafood, stunning beaches and hiking trails, as well as some great alfresco drinking and dining spots. The islands and bays here rival any in Asia, and they’re only an hour from the world-class restaurants and bars of Hong Kong’s central district.


Los Angeles... and Santa Monica Mountains

First, spend a few days ticking off L.A.’s best restaurants, museums, studio tours and beaches. Then escape to the Santa Monica Mountains, stretching west from the city: a mix of rocky peaks, green meadows, canyons, wineries and winding roads, all right near the ocean.

Madrid... and Sierra de Guadarrama

After a few days in the tapas bars, flea markets, parks and museums of Madrid, head north for a dose of spectacular nature in the nearby Guadarrama mountains. The scenery here is so breathtaking that there’s even a hiking trail inspired by JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.


Melbourne... and Bellarine Peninsula

Less well trodden than the Mornington Peninsula on the other side of the city, the Bellarine Peninsula is Melburnians’ secret escape, filled with beautiful beaches and some of the best wineries in the state of Victoria. From here you could even head further down the Great Ocean Road to the rainforests and redwoods of the Otways. It’s the perfect double-up with any trip to Australia’s cultural (and coffee) capital.

New York City... and Hudson Valley

The five boroughs are a whole world on their own. But if you are planning a trip to New York, make sure to head out of town to the Hudson Valley, where you can discover sleepy towns, gorgeous autumn leaves, grand hotels and newer, ultra-cool spots like farm-to-table restaurants and galleries.


Dubai... and Hatta

After a short city stay in Dubai, take a 90-minute drive out of the urban area to the mountain town of Hatta: an outdoor adventurist’s dream. Nestled in the Hajar Mountains, Hatta is home to hiking trails of varying difficulty and heaps of wildlife, while Hatta Dam is a stunning spot for kayaking or pedal boating. Set up camp under the stars, or check into a vintage airstream trailer or mountainside lodge to really get away from it all.

Singapore... and St John’s Island

Singapore’s high-tech, high-density reputation belies plenty of green space – but to really get away from it all, take a ferry to St John’s Island. Despite a dark past as a quarantine island, it’s a vision of blue lagoons, sandy beaches, rare wildlife and forested trails. And it’s one of the few Singaporean islands where you can stay overnight without camping.


San Francisco... and Mount Tamalpais

Spending a few days in San Francisco should be on anyone’s bucket list. But don’t miss the chance to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the peak locals call Mount Tam. Pitch a tent or rent a cabin amid thousands of acres of redwoods, waterfalls and hiking trails – plus unbeatable views over the city.

Lisbon... and Comporta

Once, Lisbon’s elite escaped to the nearby royal retreat of Sintra. Nowadays, clued-up residents of the Portuguese capital head instead to Comporta: a former fishing village just over an hour from Lisbon, surrounded by water, dense forest, nesting birds, rice paddies and one of Europe’s most spectacular beaches. It’s the perfect complement to a few days exploring Lisbon’s traditional shops and tile-studded streets.

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