World cup of travel: Offside or underdog - unusual fixtures for dedicated away fans

Many of this last group of Fifa World Cup participants come with baggage – but some will entice those who like to stand out from the crowd

There are several countries among the World Cup qualifiers who – irrespective of football ability – do not seem obvious candidates for holiday exploration. But peer closely, and each has something to recommend it – and a tour operator who can create a suitable trip.

South Korea is a place of rich culture. On The Go Tours dispenses a 12-day "Spectacular South Korea" break (020 7371 1113;, available on either a group or private basis, which ticks off key sights in Seoul, such as the Buddhist Jogyesa temple, the island Namhae, the south-easterly port of Busan (home to the eighth-century Bulguksa temple) and the peaks of Seoraksan National Park. Prices start at £2,499pp, without flights. Korean Air (0800 413 000; and British Airways (0844 493 0787; compete between Heathrow and Seoul.

Tucked into the torso of Central America, Honduras is short on profile as a holiday zone, but boasts some of the best-preserved Mayan archaeological remains and fine beaches. Journey Latin America (020 3582 6305; serves up an 11-day "Highlights of Honduras" jaunt that visits the ruins of Copán – a Mayan citadel that was at its height between the fifth and ninth centuries and is as impressive as any site in Mexico – plus the Caribbean island of Roatán. From £2,714pp, with flights.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's first foray on to football's biggest stage will be another step away from the war that devoured it between 1992 and 1996. However, those who wish to delve into a dark yet important period in recent European history can do so with "The Mystery Explained" – an escorted break run by The Ultimate Travel Company (020 3411 0035; Leaving Heathrow on 9 April, and based in Sarajevo for four nights, the trip will be led by Major General Andrew Cumming, who served with Nato in the Balkans in 1996. It will examine the collapse of Yugoslavia and will visit other cities ravaged in the conflict, such as Mostar. From £1,495pp, including flights.

Algeria is also an intriguing country for history buffs. It is home to some of the most important Roman ruins in North Africa: Timgad, a many-pillared jewel in the Aures Mountains, for example, and Djemila, with its giant amphitheatre. Both feature on the "Desert and History" tour sold by Responsible Travel (01273 823 700; – as does the capital Algiers and the Mzab Valley in the top reaches of the Sahara. The next edition of this 12-day group jaunt starts on 19 January, from £1,955pp, excluding flights. BA flies from Gatwick to Algiers.

Of Africa's four other World Cup qualifiers, Ghana is the most accessible. Cox & Kings (0845 287 9926; is launching a new itinerary for 2014 – "Colours of Ghana", an eight-night tour that absorbs the capital Accra (with its evocative fishing area Jamestown), the uncomfortable echoes of Cape Coast Castle (a 17th-century slave-trade stronghold overlooking the Atlantic) and the tropical rainforest of Kakum National Park. Prices from £2,745 as a group trip, or from £3,535 as a private holiday, including flights.

Ghana's neighbour to the west, Ivory Coast, is a trickier proposition – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against "all but essential travel" to certain parts of the country. Nonetheless, Intrepid (0845 287 1190; is planning a 28-day "Freetown to Accra" group odyssey that will set off from Sierra Leone's capital on 23 December next year, dissecting Guinea and Ivory Coast en route to Ghana. The Ivory Coast leg takes in the curious enclave of Yamoussoukro – where the vast yet under-used Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is supposedly the planet's biggest church – and the former French colonial capital Grand-Bassam. The cost of £2,031pp does not include flights, but British Airways flies to Accra non-stop from Heathrow.

The FCO also has concerns about areas of Nigeria, although Undiscovered Destinations (0191 296 2674; insists that the country "has a far worse reputation than it deserves". It will lead a 14-day "Nigeria Discovery" group trip, starting on 6 December 2014, which will dash to the capital Lagos and spend time by the Niger River, one of the globe's great waterways. From £3,099pp, including flights to Lagos.

A destination for the adventurous, Cameroon can be reached on the 12-week "Accra to Cape Town" group trip due to set off from Ghana on 15 January via Oasis Overland (01963 363 400; With hard miles of off-road driving and camping, it will cut through eight other countries before it enters South Africa. The Cameroon section will feature the capital Yaoundé (known for such cultural hotspots as the Cameroon Art Museum), as well as the dramatic arc of Mile Six Beach, near Limbe. From £1,990pp, plus local payment of US$820 (£547), flights extra. BA and Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; compete from Heathrow to Cape Town).

Most problematic of the World Cup qualifiers is Iran – the Foreign Office currently warns against "all but essential travel" to the country. What's more, during a demonstration on 29 November 2011 the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked and is now closed, which means you cannot benefit from consular services.

Should you decide to ignore all official advice, the Golden Eagle Danube Express (01462 441 400;, will embark on a 15-day "Jewels of Persia" train ride from Budapest (via Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey) on 14 October. The trip is not cheap – from £8,695pp, full board, not including flights – but it will allow glimpses of the "lost" Mongol city of Soltaniyeh, the epic archaeology of Persepolis and the capital Tehran. For the outbound flight, a wide range of carriers compete between UK airports and Budapest; coming back, Pegasus Airlines (0845 0848 980; flies from Tehran to Stansted via Istanbul.

Read more:

World cup of travel: The nations most likely to score with travellers

World cup of travel: In with a good chance of delivering a striking trip  

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific