Non-stop flights from Australia: Exotic and strange destinations you fly to direct

Where can you go on a non-stop flight out of Australia? Bangkok, Hawaii, Colombo, Doha – even London if you fly from Perth – but there are also quite a few destinations on the non-stop list that you might not have thought of, or even heard of.

Given the preponderance of China-based airlines flying into Australia – currently seven and counting – it's not too surprising that several of those non-stop destinations are within China. Population matters, and flyers originating from Melbourne and Sydney get the lion's share of quirky destinations.

Kunming, China

Ben Groundwater's alternative stopover destinations. Green Lake, Kunming, China

Photo: Shutterstock

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan province, which sits on top of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, with the Tibetan Autonomous Region to its north. One of China's most traditional-minded provinces, Yunnan is home to many of the country's ethnic minorities whose cultures are expressed in distinct styles of architecture, cuisine and costume.

High points include a mountainous scenery carved into terraced shelves of barley and maize, the deep gorges of the Yangtze and Mekong rivers and the city of Lijiang, where the shops and temples of the old city border a gushing stream. Hoisted high onto a plateau in the shadow of the rhododendron forests that cover the surrounding mountains, the city of Zhongdian – rechristened Shangri-La – sits among Tibetan villages furnished with smoky temples and wildflower-sprigged alpine meadows with grazing yaks.

Airline: China Eastern Airlines

Non-stop from: Sydney

Xiamen, China

tra8-online-nonstop XIAMEN, CHINA, NOVEMBER 28, 2013: detail view of a lookout tower on the top of sunshine rock on gulang yu island in china.

Gulang Yu Island. Photo: Shutterstock

On the Chinese mainland opposite Taiwan, Xiamen is one of China's most appealing cities, endowed with street markets, subtropical greenery and a rich colonial heritage. Just offshore, Gulang Yu Island was once designated a Foreign Settlement, the only one on Chinese soil apart from Shanghai.

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The island's police force was once made up of turbaned Sikhs from British India. Curious fact – Gulang Yu has more pianos than anywhere else in China, earning it the subtitle "The Island of Music" by the Chinese Musicians' Association. Today, with its churches, consulates, villas and all the other apparatus of a colonial-era trading outpost still intact, the car-free island is a major draw with domestic tourists.

Airline: Xiamen Airlines

Non-stop from: Melbourne, Sydney

Mauritius

Lux Le Morne, Mauritius.

Lux Le Morne resort, Mauritius. 

Palmy, exotic, soporific and well supplied with glossy resorts, Mauritius is also fuss-free, since none of the resorts on the pint-sized island is more than a one-hour drive from the international airport. The closest is about 10 minutes away.

Grafted onto the volcanic island is a blend of French, British and Indian cultures, with barely a nod towards neighbouring Africa. This heritage is evident in its food – and the seafood can be outstanding, particularly the lobster – but there is little in the way of culture to distract you from the hothouse pleasures.

The beaches are powder-fine, the sea the colour of Windex, the reefs are pristine and the island is well supplied with golf courses. On the downside, there's a six-hour time difference from Australia's Eastern Standard Time. Factor in jetlag recovery time.

Airline: Air Mauritius

Non-stop from: Perth

See also: Airline review: Air Mauritius economy class

Delhi

Taj Mahal SunSep2cover - right place at the right time – Ute Junke
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The Taj Mahal can be reached on a day trip from Delhi. Photo: Shutterstock 

The Indian capital is chaotic, crowded, characterful and exhausting but for those who dare it's also exciting, stimulating and entertaining, although you need to hold your nose from time to time.

Explore Asia's largest spice market, try the street food in the packed laneways of Old Delhi, admire the enormous Qutb Minar, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, both built by Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal.

The shopping is distinctive. Try Haus Khaz, a South Delhi enclave favoured by the young and the beautiful with its burgers, bookshops and boutiques, and also with a storied history, set against an archaeological treasure chest in park-like surrounds. Take afternoon tea in the gorgeously old-school Imperial Hotel.

The Taj Mahal is a day trip. Make it three and you could include the pink city of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, India's paint box. Alternatively, book yourself in for spa treatments at Ananda in the Himalayas, India's number one destination spa and a 45-minute flight from Delhi.

Airline: Air India

Non-stop from: Sydney and Melbourne

See also: Airline review: Air India's Dreamliner economy class

Chongqing

tra8-online-nonstop Chongqing, photographed on April 2017: the Great Hall of Chongqing people's Square is one of the famous landmarks in Chongqing, was founded in 1952.

The Great Hall of Chongqing People's Square. Photo: Shutterstock

Uncurling along the riverbanks where the Yangtze fuses with the Jialing River in south-western China, Chongqing is a model of the dynamism that characterises China's modern cities. This was China's de facto capital when much of the country was occupied by Japan during the 1930s and '40s.

Highlights include the Three Gorges Museum, which charts the region's history, and TestBed 2, an arts centre and creative space in a repurposed Republic-era banknote printing factory, now an artsy cultural space and home to some of the city's best restaurants, cafes and bars. Joseph Stilwell Residence was the home of General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, who headed American operations in China during the Anti-Japanese War.

For sheer atmosphere, take a trip through the time tunnel to visit Coqikou Ancient Town on the Jialing River, just west of Chongqing's centre. This thousand-year-old market town has been restored and tarted up but the narrow, crowded alleyways, teahouses and Baolun Si Temple evoke powerful sensations of China as it was during the Ming dynasty.

Airline: Tianjin Airlines

Non-stop from: Melbourne and Sydney

Hangzhou

tra8-online-nonstop Hangzhou city skyline, China

Photo: Shutterstock

On the East China Sea just south of Shanghai, Hangzhou is renowned as one of China's most beautiful cities. Sprawling across both sides of the Qiantang River before it enters the East China Sea, highlight is West Lake, where the dreamscape of willow-lined banks, temples, pavilions and arched bridges backed by misty hills has fuelled the imaginations of painters and poets over generations.

Hangzhou is also the gateway to the Longjing Tea Plantations, source of dragon well tea, celebrated throughout China for its fragrance, flavour and elegant form. Hangzhou has been a centre for the silk trade for thousands of years and the city maintains its historic connection with the trade in its lively silk market and the China National Silk Museum.

Airline: China Eastern Airlines

Non-stop from: Sydney

Nanjing

tra8-online-nonstop Nanjing Confucius Temple scenic region and Qinhuai River. People are visiting. Located in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China.

Photo: Shutterstock

On the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Nanjing was the capital of China for six dynastic periods and the city pays tribute to its past with a celebrated collection of temples, pagodas and tombs. High among the architectural treasures are the remnants of the colossal city wall, built during the 14th century to protect the new capital of the Ming dynasty.

Standout among Nanjing's cultural attractions is the Linggu Temple Scenic Area, a complex of Buddhist pavilions and pagodas set in park-like surroundings. Among the highlights is Wuliang Hall, a supreme work of 14th century craftsmanship constructed from brick and stone.

Alongside its cultural attractions, this is a relaxed and cosmopolitan city with broad, tree-lined boulevards and chic cafes and a reputation as a culinary capital, famed for its Yangzhou fried rice.

Airline: China Eastern Airlines

Non-stop from: Sydney

See also: Twenty things that will shock first-time visitors to China

See also: The future of non-stop flights: Five destinations we want direct flights to

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