For a skyscraper-high perspective across to Zailyisky Alatau (the mountains that surround the city), plan a night at Seven. Tuck into dishes such as stuffed bulgur balls with ribeye steak and sample some Kazakh wine.
Kazakhstan can oscillate between extremes, so plan a trip for April or May when temperatures are mild. A double room at The Dostyk Hotel (which bills itself as “the first national hotel brand of the five-star category”) starts at £84 per night in early April. Here, you’ll be within walking distance of the opera and ballet theatre and the cable car leading to Koke-Tobe Mountain. Turkish Airlines has flights to Almaty, via Istanbul, from London Gatwick.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
The prospect of a tropical adventure could coax you through the final gloomy weeks of 2021. And, in the interest of thriftiness, Colombo takes the number 19 spot in the world’s cheapest cities. Opt for a trip before March for the best weather, and to avoid the monsoon period between July and September.
Sri Lanka’s most populous area sits on the island’s west coast, and conveniently enough for visitors, boasts its main airport. But the city is often passed over by foreign tourists, despite its intoxicating mix of cultures. Take a rickshaw ride through its streets and you’ll pass colonial churches, Buddhist shrines and Hindu temples.
Be sure to venture to bustling Galle Road, before meandering off into the suburbs of Kollupitiya and Bambalapitiya to shop and snack. Elsewhere, Pettah Market is a must-try: the neighbourhood’s bazaars offer up electronics, clothing and fresh produce.
The principal diet in Sri Lanka is rice with a mix of delicious curries, and vegetarians in particular will find themselves spoilt. Head to the Old Dutch Hospital, a colonial remnant since converted into a retail precint, to enjoy restaurants such as Ministry of Crab, which is overseen by two elite-level cricketers (Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene).
Take rest at Colombo Court Hotel, which combines a central location, friendly service and affordable prices (double rooms are available from £68 per night in February). Other well-rated, and good-value, options include the OZO Colombo, Mövenpick Hotel Colombo and Fairway Colombo.
While Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are well within the 50 cheapest cities, offbeat Manaus sits a full nine spots below the latter. Begin your visit at a monument to the city’s industrial (and wealthy) past – the Teatro Amazonas. This opera house dates back to the rubber boom of the late 19th century and is filled with marble busts and sumptuous furnishings. The ballroom ceiling is a highlight, painted with a work titled The Glorification of the Arts, which features gods and goddesses delivering gifts from above. Its exterior adds a striking decoration to the city’s skyline: a pink block topped with some 36,000 colourful tiles, imported from Alsace and adorned with the Brazilian flag. Jazz bands and guitar orchestras are among the performances held here, although it has hosted stars as diverse as Margot Fonteyn (with the Royal Ballet) and Jack White.