The world's best stopover cities, from Atlanta to Singapore

David Whitley

Can’t bear the thought of a marathon plane journey? Then breaking the trip into two sections with a stopover might just be the way forward.

Pick the right airline, and you can get a city break tagged on to the main trip – and these are 10 of the best options.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Take in Iceland’s explosive geysers during your stopover
Take in Iceland’s explosive geysers during your stopover

On the way to? North America with Icelandair

Do: Stop for a dip in thermal waters amid a volcanic landscape at the Blue Lagoon – it’s handily between Keflavik Airport and the city. Then snorkel the Silfra Fissure – the gap between two continents – with Dive.is.

See: In the winter months, take an Elding cruise out to sea in search of the Northern Lights. In summer, the Golden Circle – taking in the furious Gullfoss waterfall, the lavascape of Thingvellir National Park and explosive geysers – with Grayline is a better bet.
inspiredbyiceland.com

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Hope to Saadiyat Island for the Louvre Abu Dhabi (Mohamed Somji)
Hope to Saadiyat Island for the Louvre Abu Dhabi (Mohamed Somji)

On the way to? Asia, Indian Ocean and Australasia with Etihad

Do: Want to make it all about fun stuff? Then try the Ferrari World theme park with the world’s fastest rollercoaster, followed by cycling around the Yas Marina Formula One circuit.

See: Alternatively, plunge into the cultural heavyweights, visiting the enormous Sheikh Zayed Mosque, then the Louvre’s first overseas outpost on Saadiyat Island.
visitabudhabi.ae

Miami, USA

The facade of the Breakwater hotel, classic Art Deco in Miami (Visit Miami)
The facade of the Breakwater hotel, classic Art Deco in Miami (Visit Miami)

On the way to? Latin America with American Airlines

Do: Strut along South Beach, enjoying the freak show of posers and the pink lifeguard huts. Then turn your attention to the world’s greatest collection of Art Deco buildings. The Miami Design Preservation League runs tours.

See: Calle Ocho in Little Havana gives a taste of Cuba, with fab murals and cafes full of old-timers playing dominoes. The Everglades are a short detour away – go gator-spotting on the Shark Valley tram tour.
miamiandbeaches.com

Perth, Australia

Go quokkas spotting on Rottnest Island
Go quokkas spotting on Rottnest Island

On the way to? Australasia with Qantas

Do: Take the Rottnest Express out to Rottnest Island, then cycle round to find a magical Indian Ocean beach to yourself, while stopping for pictures with the ultra-cute quokkas that inhabit the island. Then take a jaunt around the wineries of the Swan Valley.

See: Kings Park, high above the city, is a tremendous place to amble and learn about Aussie plants. The Northbridge neighbourhood, meanwhile, combines nightlife, hip dining and other cultural sites.
westernaustralia.com

Madrid, Spain

Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, a great start for navigating the city (Getty/iStockphoto)
Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, a great start for navigating the city (Getty/iStockphoto)

On the way to? Latin America with Iberia

Do: The Spanish capital is a mighty-fine city to graze in – keep the evenings free for tapas crawling. Calle Cava Baja is the longstanding favourite gorging street. Those with even richer tastes can ogle the lavish state rooms of the Royal Palace.

See: Football fans can make their pilgrimage to Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium. Tours include a very hagiographic museum. On a more cultural tip, the Prado is one of the world’s great art museums.
esmadrid.com

Singapore

Relieve some of that travel stress at Singapore Botanic Gardens (Marklin Ang)
Relieve some of that travel stress at Singapore Botanic Gardens (Marklin Ang)

On the way to? Southeast Asia or Australasia with Singapore Airlines

Do: Singapore’s food culture is phenomenal, with scores of hawker courts selling cheap, delicious feeds. Narrow it down to some of the best with a Singabites food tour. Chinatown provides the markets and temples fix.

See: Cleverly designed Singapore Zoo is arguably the best in the world, but if plants rather than animals are your thing, then either the more traditional Botanical Gardens or the futuristic Gardens By The Bay fit the bill.
visitsingapore.com

Lisbon, Portugal

Take a trip to Jeronimos Monastery, a lavish 15th-century building in the heart of Lisbon
Take a trip to Jeronimos Monastery, a lavish 15th-century building in the heart of Lisbon

On the way to? Brazil with TAP Portugal

Do: Visit the Belem neighbourhood, home to several historic buildings including the implausibly lavish Jeronimos Monastery. Then hit the Bairro Alto district, which becomes one giant bar with people drinking and mingling in the streets at night.

See: The city is covered in gorgeous tile art – with some particularly marvellous examples in the Metro stations. But the Museu Nacional do Azulejo is the nirvana on this front.
visitlisboa.com

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Fancy a spot of dune bashing in Dubai? There are plenty of them (Visit Dubai)
Fancy a spot of dune bashing in Dubai? There are plenty of them (Visit Dubai)

On the way to? Asia, Indian Ocean and Australasia with Emirates

Do: It’s not just the beaches that are sandy – 4WD tours of the desert sand dunes with the likes of Arabian Adventures offer plenty of excitement. Alternatively, Frying Pan Adventures runs superb food tours through the authentic parts of Dubai few tourists see.

See: Oh alright, go full bling – take a trip up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, then splurge in the shops of the Dubai Mall, which also has an aquarium and ice rink.
visitdubai.com

Atlanta, USA

Get to the heart of the deep south in Atlanta (Gene Phillips/ACVB Atlanta)
Get to the heart of the deep south in Atlanta (Gene Phillips/ACVB Atlanta)

On the way to? Latin America, smaller US cities with Delta

Do: Walk the Beltline, a former train line that now has dozens of hip bars and restaurants popping up alongside it. The Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park – superb for understanding the Civil Rights struggle – is nearby.

See: At the 1996 Olympic Park, the World of Coca-Cola is cheesy but quite well done – and involves sampling dozens of weird global Coca-Cola drinks at the end. Also there is CNN HQ – take a tour to see how 24 hour rolling news is put together.
atlanta.net

Hong Kong, China

The breathtaking Hong Kong skyline is worth a trip alone
The breathtaking Hong Kong skyline is worth a trip alone

On the way to? East Asia or Australasia with Cathay Pacific

Do: Get active, taking ferries out to Hong Kong’s massively underrated islands. Peng Chau has cute beaches, while Lantau is home to hiking trails, the 34-metre tall Tian Tan Buddha and the Ngong Ping cable car.

See: The night-time Symphony of Lights show takes over the harbour, and is best seen from a boat cruise. But the best people-watching comes in the numerous bars of hipster neighbourhoods Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun.
discoverhongkong.com