Move Over Switzerland: The New Bollywood Film Sets
Having formed the backdrop to so many Bollywood blockbusters, Switzerland’s popularity with Indian travellers is remarkable.
But in recent years it seems the Bollywood industry is tiring of its A-list Alpine destination, with financial incentives tempting crews to film elsewhere and the fact that other mountain ranges have a great deal to offer (and many are a lot closer).
Taking inspiration from this trend, it’s time to explore new territories and discover places that boast all of Switzerland’s fresh mountain air and scenic appeal but with fewer crowds. To show you where you need to go, Booking.com created a cocktail of things that Switzerland scored highly for with global travellers* and applied it to the rest of the world.
So to emulate all the best bits of the Swiss Alps but with a sense of adventure, try one of these incredible new destinations.
The former Soviet republic of Georgia isn’t exactly on the well-trodden tourist trail. But no doubt it soon will be. Georgians describe it as the ‘Balcony of Europe’, since the balcony tends to be the most scenic part of any apartment. Georgia certainly has a unique charm, captivating visitors with its charmingly dilapidated cities (though gentrification is gaining rapid ground), extraordinary natural beauty and hospitable locals. Step outside the capital, Tbilisi, to discover rugged mountains and crystalline lakes with not a soul in sight. This unspoiled natural environment is perfect for hiking and enjoying sun-drenched picnics surrounded by flowers.
Though only half the size of Switzerland, tiny Slovenia packs in a lot. The country is made up of soaring snow-capped mountain peaks, emerald-green lakes and seemingly endless forest. And influenced by its Italian, Austrian and Hungarian neighbours, its culture is a pleasing melting pot. Not to mention its cuisine; from light, fluffy pastries to potato, chive and bacon dumplings akin to Italy’s gnocchi. In terms of making the most of the stunning scenery, mountain walks are popular, as is hiking, skiing and cycling.
For those keen on Switzerland, New Zealand will surpass expectations. It’s a country known for its awe-inspiring landscape, so brace yourself for striking views in this sparsely-populated wilderness. Most visitors will go glacier-trekking, hiking or walking. But there’s also plenty of opportunity to relax with a glass of New Zealand’s finest wine in a tranquil spot. Then when the sun sets over the hills, you’ll be in prime position to enjoy some of the world’s best stargazing.
Another dainty European country, Montenegro has only become an established tourist destination in recent years, so the cobbled streets of its Old Towns remain relatively crowd-free. The Bay of Kotor is the star attraction, with glistening blue waters leading up to the historic town of Kotor and mountains behind. Its architecture is a blend of its medieval and Venetian roots and getting lost in the romantic alleyways of its car-free Old Town is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. And once you’ve absorbed Kotor’s charm, more intrepid travellers can hike, mountain bike or kayak through remote countryside.
Unless you happen to be travelling the Silk Road, you may well not chance upon Kyrgyzstan but that’s exactly what makes it so special. Its almost untraveled, craggy mountains and steep valleys are dotted with yurts inhabited by semi-nomadic shepherds. And its diverse vistas are almost all humbling in their beauty – whether you’re looking at an arid, ochre plain or a palette of greenery. It’s fast becoming a destination for adventure travel but its quiet landscape would also make for a peaceful and refreshing break.
Bulgaria is pretty fresh on the scene as a popular beach destination in summer and ski destination in winter. Whatever the time of year, traipsing through its wild forests and lakes feels like stepping into a bygone era. Trek between quaint villages, admire nature in the breath-takingly beautiful Pirin National Park and watch a sublime Bulgarian sun rise over the mist from a mountain meadow.
A microstate completely landlocked by Italy, San Marino is the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state. Its rolling hills and medieval monuments are charming in that fairy-tale European way. Historic towns and gorgeous views aside, it’s also a fabulous foodie destination. Known as Sammarinese, the local cuisine is obviously very similar to Italian, with an emphasis on fresh and locally-grown produce. Think Mediterranean flavours, from the region’s signature faggioli con le cotiche (bean and bacon soup) to Piada, a moreish flatbread stuffed with a variety of cheese, meat and vegetables.
* Booking.com data specialists created a predictive model that isolated which qualities of Switzerland were most likely to influence global travellers in recommending Switzerland as a destination. These qualities were then used to look at other countries which had a similar makeup in order to recommend alternative countries that were like Switzerland.