Stopovers – Part 6 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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HELSINKI - FINLAND
Helsinki Airport is the hub for Finnair, which offers free stopovers for up to five nights. Helsinki is not one of the most obvious stop over places but allow you to get places by providing links to parts of China (Xi’an) and Japan (Fukuoka) not flyable directly from the UK.
It offers a chance to wander a wild archipelago and two see capitals with one stop over. Helsinki is a seafarer’s dream and you can easily spend more time in the harbour area then you intended. It can easily be absorbed in a day or you visit some of its 330 islands. The Finnish capital is eminently walkable, but grab a bike to pack in more. Stop by Senate Square and see Sederholm House, part of a citywide museum, before heading underground for the copper-domed Temppeliaukio church that was blasted into a rock outcrop. The real lure are its islands, best explored by sea kayak or hopping on a ferry. Boats to the 18th century Suomenlinna fortress, which is positioned across a half a dozen islands, depart from Market Square regularly. This UNESCO listed fortification is the jewel in an archipelago that includes camping friendly Kaunissaari Island. If you stay longer then a two hour ferry ride to Estonian capital Tallinn, no visa required gets you two capitals for one stop. Here you can wander the Old Town, then escape to the forests of Kadriorg Park. No visas are required for UK citizens. The airport to Central Station trains take 38 minutes and cost around £5.
SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE
Gateway to South-East Asia, Changi Airport is the hub for Singapore Airlines, which offers stopover packages including transfers and accommodation. This is a foodie’s paradise just made for stopovers.
This is South-East Asia’s original stopover city and is densely packed, culinary blessed and well placed for day trips. This is a full day trip so rise early to see the city’s 157-year-old, UNESCO listed Botanic Gardens, while walking past Zen and tai-chi masters to its rare orchid gardens. A different take on this is the Gardens by the Bay which is pure science fiction. Here you find towering, supersized treelike structures with walkways peering down over the city. They’re incredible when lit up, or seen from a ‘bumboat’ tour to Marina Bay. Then walk some old rainforest trails at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to work up an appetite for a visit to the city’s hawker malls. These street food canteens are justly lauded, and some are now Michelin-starred. Fill yourself on Hokkien noodles, sticky rojak salads and savoury chai poh omelette for prices so low that you will not believe it. If you stay longer then get the metro to Kranji to explore the wetlands. However the big adventure is to be found on the 40 plus islands off the coast. Here you can explore tortoise sanctuaries and quarantine islands that have turned into natural escapes. No visas required for UK citizens staying up to 30 days. The airport to Downtown trains take around 25 minutes and cost £1.
I hope some of these suggestions will make you think the next time you book a long haul flight that the final destination is not the only place worth a trip.
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