Far from the Med crowd; TRAVEL

Why stick to France or Greece when the world's your oyster? Jill Crawshaw selects long-haul breaks for late bookers
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For holidaymakers who are short of time, Magic of the Orient offers a tour that shows the other side of Bali, away from the cosmopolitan resorts of the south. Four-night itineraries take in remote temples, caves and villages; live volcanoes (Mount Agung and Mount Batur); the art centre at Ubud; the black sand beach of Lovina on the north coast; and dolphin- spotting on a dawn boat ride. The full-board, four-night tour costs pounds 316. Combined with four nights' hotel accommodation in Bali and return flights, the total is pounds 1,083. A 14-night "Asian Combination" itinerary - with four nights in Bangkok, three each in Hong Kong and Singapore, and four in Bali - costs from pounds 1,198 (including flights and room-only hotel accommodation).

Magic of the Orient 01293 537700


In Belize, Reef and Rainforest Tours (specialists in unusual holidays for adventurous travellers) offer the chance to join in the excavation of an ancient Mayan site. It is believed to be one of the civilisation's urban coastal centres that flourished from 1500BC to about AD1675. Participants need enthusiasm - rather than expertise - in tasks including sketching, cataloguing, mapping and laboratory work. The site is on the banks of a lagoon which is rich in wildlife. Afternoons are left free for pursuits like canoeing, swimming and birdwatching.

Belize is a fascinating, pocket-sized country about as big as Wales. It has a population of 200,000, some 250 species of trees and 250 types of orchid. Seventy per cent of the country is rainforest, and there are spectacular Mayan ruins - remnants of the highly advanced civilisation, known for its sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, mathematics and architecture, that suddenly and mysteriously crumbled.

A typical two-week itinerary, combining a week full-board at the dig with five days half-board in a beachfront lodge - picnicking and snorkelling on the cayes, or little atolls - costs pounds 1,386. The price excludes international flights, though these can be arranged for you.

Reef and Rainforest Tours 01803 866965


Autumn expeditions from Explore Worldwide visit unusual destinations on foot, by bike and by boat. The most sacred sites of the Incas, on the two islands of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, are the goal of the company's 20-day tours in September and October, which cost pounds 1,390.

A 15-day trip to northern Thailand, walking between the villages of the Akha, Hmong, Karen and Laku people, with a sail down the Chao Phya river in a converted rice barge, costs pounds 860 (pounds 795 at the end of August). A 15- day tour travelling the length of Vietnam, with a day on a fishing boat out of Nha Trang, walking in the central highlands and a trip down the Cu Chi military tunnels, costs pounds 1,435. All prices include flights, accommodation, some meals, transport and the services of a tour leader.

Explore Worldwide 01252 319440


The Gambia is back on the holiday map after a period of political unrest. It's also cheap, with prices from The Gambia Experience starting at pounds 349 a week b&b, pounds 899 a fortnight, including flights - which is less than most Mediterranean resorts, or the Canary Islands. Vast unspoilt beaches, international hotels, friendly people, local colour, and culture in the capital Banjul are the Gambia's chief assets. There's also some low-key sightseeing upriver to the village of Juffure - the "Roots" of Alex Haley's saga - and four- wheel-drive expeditions into the bush to rural communities, schools and fishing villages.

The Gambia Experience 01703 730888


Sizzling midsummer temperatures in Dubai mean swimming pools have to be refrigerated rather than heated - one reason, perhaps, why peak-season reductions are so great. Premier Holidays is shaving over pounds 100 off its brochure prices: a seven-night stay at the Metropolitan Beach Hotel now costs pounds 529 b&b, including flights. As well as being a shoppers' mecca, Dubai offers sandy beaches and desert safaris. The low prices last until the end of October.

Middle East specialist Jasmin Tours is organising a number of sightseeing tours, tailor-made for independent travellers or escorted groups. Tours of the ancient sites cost pounds 971 for nine days half-board in Jordan, pounds 985 for a trip round the highlights of Syria. An eight-day tour of the Lebanon costs pounds 898 b&b. Prices include flights.

As lesser-known Middle East countries open their doors to tourism, Jasmin offers a range of breaks in the Sultanate of Oman, one of the fastest- growing destinations. A 12-day Land Cruiser tour, with an English-speaking guide, costs pounds 1,672 each, based on two sharing, until the end of October. The itinerary includes a day in the capital Muscat, a visit to the fort and hot springs at Nizwa, a dhow trip to Ras Al Haad to see turtles, and a stay in Salalah in the far south.

A tour of the ancient sites of Yemen costs pounds 1,599 half-board for two weeks, a trip to Iran and its sites pounds 1,866 for 16 days, flights included. For those with less time, a three-night weekend in Beirut costs pounds 465, in Cairo pounds 366, with flights and half board, available through Jasmin Tours.

Premier 01223 516677; Jasmin 01628 531121


With New England Country Homes, holidaymakers can stay in lakeside cabins, colonial mansions, hunting lodges and clapboard cottages at the water's edge - either in rural settings or in the coastal villages of the New England states. Prices vary from pounds 716-pounds 980 per person per fortnight, including house rental, flights to and from Boston, a night's hotel stop-over in the city, insurance and car hire. These breaks are ideal for those seeking an outdoor life away from the crowds, staying in small American communities with clam-bakes, boating, baseball and fishing.

New England Country Homes 01328 856666


From October, new charter flights to and from Trivandrum, and more flights to Goa, will produce cheaper and often more convenient access to Indian highlights such as Kerala. Somak Holidays has several good autumn offers. A week's bed and breakfast at the grandly named Park Lane Guest House (shower with cold water only), in the beach resort of Kovabui, costs pounds 299, 14 nights pounds 460; a first-class hotel there, with swimming pool and watersports on the beach, will cost pounds 540 per week and pounds 968 per fortnight, all prices including flights. Wildlife and temple tours in the province are also available. Holidays in Goa start at pounds 269 b&b.

Somak Holidays 0181-423 3000


Sherpa Expeditions is organising 15-day treks to Morocco's Atlas mountains at the end of August. Led by Berber muleteers, groups travel to the remote region of the Mgoun Massif, camping en route or sleeping under the stars. The treks are fully guided and cost pounds 670, including return scheduled flights and two nights' b&b in Marrakesh. In September, similar treks to the highest summit in North Africa, Jbel Toubkal in the High Atlas, cost pounds 640.

Sherpa Expeditions 0181-577 2717


Reductions on pre-planned airpasses linking North and South America and the Caribbean, available through Journey Latin America from 1 September- 9 December, could be useful for independent travellers heading west. A return flight from London or Manchester to Lima, with stopovers in Miami and Caracas, will now cost pounds 660. Additional stopovers cost pounds 35 each. There are 35 destinations on the network, including New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Havana, Buenos Aires and Rio.

Journey Latin America 0181-747 3108 !