Perfect for when you have a long journey across many time zones or want to add another destination to your itinerary, stopover cities offer you the chance to check another item off your bucket list. Many airlines offer the ability to spend a night or two in a stopover city at no charge, so why not make your trip? Whether you’re flying across the globe to far-fetched places like Australia or stopping in Iceland on your way to New York, these are the world’s best stopover cities and recommended things to do.
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Arguably one of the most popular stopover cities in the world, Icelandair’s stopover program dates back to the 1960s. Tourism has grown substantially since then, where visitors want to explore its array of stunning natural wonders and Game of Thrones locales. It’s a perfect break between the United States and other cities in Europe, offering you the chance to spend up to seven days in Iceland for no charge. Embark on a relaxing day at the famed Blue Lagoon, then admire the Hallgrimskirkja Church before making your way around the Golden Circle for a chance to see plunging waterfalls and the northern lights.
Portugal has seen a surge of tourism in the last few years, and for good reason. TAP Portugal offers a stopover program so you can explore Lisbon or Porto for up to five days, offering you a chance to experience a slice of the country’s laid-back lifestyle. Spend your days sipping coffee in an open square, exploring domed cathedrals or getting lost in its cobbled alleyways. Hop on the famed Tram 28 for a scenic ride around town, explore St. George’s Castle with its nearly 1,000 years of history and make sure to taste the famous egg tart pastries at Pasteis de Belem.
Tokyo is an incredible stopover city, serving as a main entryway for Asia-bound flights from the west coast of the United States. Get a sample of what this city has to offer, where you can visit anything from Michelin-star ramen restaurants to historic temples. Arrive early to explore the Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest and oldest fish market, then visit the Meiji Shrine and Senso-ji Temple or admire artifacts at the Tokyo National Museum. Make sure to pick up souvenirs in the Ginza shopping area or Akihabara electronics district.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The airline Emirates offers an alluring stopover program, allowing passengers to explore Dubai en route to one of the airline’s 150 global destinations and also includes discounts on hotels and transportation to your hotel. Marvel at the towering Burj Khalifa upon arrival to this futuristic metropolis, then spend a relaxed day at the man-made Jumeirah Beach or explore the historic Bastakiya quarter to see its Arabic architecture. If you want to pick up a souvenir or two, head to the impressive Ibn Battuta Mall, while the Dubai Miracle Garden to see the world’s largest natural flower garden.
Singapore offers a great stopover when traveling in Southeast Asia, as the compact is easily explored in a weekend. You can spend your time shopping, getting pampered at a spa or indulging in the city’s diverse array of flavorful cuisine. Find delicious eats in Chinatown or Little India before admiring the iconic Marina Bay Sands towering over the skyline. Catch a view of the Supertree Grove glowing at night or see the greenhouse-like glass dome at the magical Cloud Forest, while history enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.
One of China’s largest cities, Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that has a dizzying array of attractions to explore, which makes for a bucket-list worthy stopover destination. Considered the center of the country’s commerce, it is a shopper’s paradise and is home to iconic sightseeing landmarks such as the Bund, a glitzy waterside walkway. It’s night views are captivating, where you can marvel at its collection of soaring skyscrapers that create an impressive skyline. Take a break in Yu Garden, visit Disneyland or explore neighborhoods like Tianzifang and M50.
Los Angeles, California
Based on the sheer amount of things to do in the city, Los Angeles makes for a great stopover city. You’ll find anything from cool surfing spots to craft breweries and world-class museums, offering attractions for a range of travelers. Disneyland is great for traveling families, Catalina Island is a great place to chill out, while the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hollywood sign are iconic attractions. Graze at the LA Farmers Market or capture views over the city at Griffith Park, but if you’ve got a need for speed head to Six Flags Magic Mountain or Universal Studios for thrilling roller coasters.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the biggest foodie destinations in Southeast Asia, many passengers will find themselves transiting through Kuala Lumpur when exploring the region. It’s full to the brim with multiculturalism, and while you could spend your entire time indulging in Malaysian food, your first stop should be to the Petrona Towers where you can walk out onto the Skybridge and admire the stunning views. Explore Little India and Chinatown, then visit the city’s beautiful landmarks like Jamek Mosque of Kuala Lumpur and the Sultan Abdul Samad Buildling. For a memorable day trip, take the train to the legendary Batu Caves.
A densely populated city with endless options for exploration, Hong Kong is a great destination to enjoy a stopover. Immerse yourself in the city’s long list of culinary delights and explore its diverse neighborhoods that showcase an East-meets-West vibe. While Disneyland is great for those with kids, visitors of all ages will enjoy a ride on the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hong Kong Island or a cable car trip up to Victoria Peak. Pick up souvenirs at the Ladies Market or browse the vibrant Goldfish Market, then end your night being dazzled by the display of color at the nightly Symphony of Lights show at Victoria Harbor.