Underrated stopover cities to and from Australia: Beyond Singapore and Dubai

Sick of Singapore? Done Dubai? Had your fill of Hong Kong? Well, there are some more unusual stopover destinations waiting for you...

Vancouver, Canada

Want to avoid the hideous US immigration queues when passing through North America? Well Vancouver's one of the prettiest cities on Earth – and Air Canada flies direct from Sydney and Melbourne. Mountain lovers can be up at altitude within an hour. Everyone else can mooch the markets at Granville Island, cycle along the seawall, or check out the totem poles and aquarium in the giant, coast-hugging Stanley Park. See tourismvancouver.com

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile skyline

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LATAM's gateway to South America – the airline offers flights from Sydney and Melbourne – can be fun in its own right. The Bellavista area is heaving with bars. But Santiago's strengths lie in what's on the doorstep – a short drive east will take you to the spectacular views and mountain lakes of the Andes, while wine tour operators will showcase the best drops in the Casablanca, Colchagua and Maipo Valleys. See chile.travel

See also: Airport review: Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, Santiago

Houston, USA

SunJan14UStexas ; Space Centre Houston Texas ; text by Kerry van der Jagt credit: Shutterstock? EDITORIAL USE ONLY? HOUSTON,TX,USA-OCTOBER 18:Photo of Space Center Houston official visitor center of Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center???NASA's center for human spaceflight activities on October 18,2015 in Houston, Texas.

The Johnson Space Centre. Photo: Shutterstock

The sprawling Texan oil city is a major hub for United Airlines, which flies direct from Sydney. Head in the opposite direction from the airport, and you can have a couple of days of fun in the sun around beachy Galveston. Otherwise, take on the city itself – you'll probably need a car to do so – and save at least a day to geek out on all things space as NASA's HQ, the Johnson Space Centre. See visithoustontexas.com

Perth, WA

Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island.

Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island. Photo: Craig Platt

The direct Qantas flight between Perth and London means that the Western Australian capital can take on the role traditionally occupied by Singapore and Hong Kong. If you want indulgence, head east to the Swan Valley wine region. Otherwise, hop on a ferry to quokka and top beach-packed Rottnest Island, enjoy microbrews in Fremantle or check out the cultural attractions in newly rejuvenated Northbridge. See experienceperth.com

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Manila, Philippines

Manila, Philippines, skyline

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No one's going to claim the Filipino capital is the prettiest or most relaxing of cities, but it can be great fun. Hit up the karaoke bars in the evening, and spend the day looking around Intramuros, the fortified, historic section of the city that plays host to the 16th century San Agustin Church. Next to it is the massive Rizal Park, a people-watching hotspot that has the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden and National Museum within its confines. Philippine Airlines connects Sydney and Melbourne to the rest of Asia through Manila. See tourismphilippines.com.au

Seoul

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 12 2015: People wander in the walking street of the Myeong-dong shopping and entertainment district at night. - Image SatJan26Korea - Walking in Seoul - Libby Moffet
Credit: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

The Korean capital offers a mix of skyscraper-filled modernity, K-Pop weirdness and the odd traditional piece of sightseeing eye candy. Of the latter, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is an enormous royal residence dating back to the 14th century. Those who want a bit more of old Korea should head to Insa-Dong, which is full of traditional shops and Korean restaurants. Asiana has its hub at Seoul Incheon Airport and flies direct from Sydney. See english.visitkorea.or.kr

Auckland

Auckland waterfront
 SunNov4cover - Ugly but beautiful - Ben Groundwater
Credit: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Air New Zealand has an ever increasing array of routes to North and South America via Auckland, and NZ's biggest city is becoming much more fun. Ponsonby's the 'hood to hang out in for food and drink, but boat trips out to the Hauraki Gulf islands are the best way to experience Auckland. Rangitoto is impressively volcanic, while Waiheke has the beaches and wineries. See aucklandnz.com

Taipei

Standing at 509 meters (1,671 feet) with 101 floors, the world's tallest building, Taipei 101 presents a new model for the Asian skyscraper seen here April 19, 2004, in Taipei, Taiwan. Designed as a segmented shaft of eight outward sloping segments, the tower resembles a giant glass pagoda. The green tinted glass cladding is meant to mimic the color of jade. Taipei 101 was finished early 2004 and designed by architects C.Y. Lee & Partners. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Taipei 101. Photo: AP

With China Airlines connecting Sydney and Melbourne to Europe through Taipei, the Taiwanese capital should be on the radar of more Aussie travellers. The star attraction is Taipei 101 – the tallest building in the world until 2010 – but the National Palace Museum and Shilin Night Market are worth a look too. Meanwhile, the Yangmingshan National Park provides hiking and hot springs around a dormant volcano. See eng.taiwan.net.tw

Chengdu

satmay4china The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding ; text by Brian Johnston ; Shuterstock *** EDITORIAL USE ONLY *** Chengdu, China - September 28, 2017: Journalist filming baby pandas first public display in Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. 

Baby pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Photo: Shuttershock

The capital of the Sichuan province is an interesting Chinese alternative to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Air China has a hub there – with direct flights from Sydney – and while spicy food may be the immediate thing that springs to mind, this is also where the pandas hang out. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding should provide an ample dose of adorableness.

Ho Chi Minh City

satfeb24cover solo travel cover ; text by Katrina Lobley credit: Shutterstock *** RE USE PERMITTED *** *** EDITORIAL USE ONLY *** View of night street as people and cars pass by in the city formerly known as Saigon on March 22, 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Photo: Shutterstock

Chaotic, it may be, but Ho Chi Minh City is also plenty of fun if you look in the right places. For war throwbacks, check out the Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum, and for a spot of colonial architecture, there's the Notre Dame Cathedral. Otherwise, grazing and drinking is the way forward, while the Ben Thanh Market is a good bet for local dishes and souvenirs. Vietnam Airlines flies direct from Sydney and Melbourne.

See also: The world's best airport just got a lot better

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