Go behind bars in Liepaja, Latvia

The best place to book yourself in for a bit of rough treatment is the former naval prison in Karosta. Formerly used as a punishment block for unruly sailors, the grim-looking red-brick prison is now the venue for “Behind Bars” a two-hour interactive performance that involves being herded at gunpoint by actors dressed as Soviet prison guards, then interrogated in Russian by KGB officers. Dimly lit and decorated in floor-to-ceiling shades of black, the prison interior is enough to dampen any hopes of resistance.

Vacation like a drug lord in Tulum, Mexico

Mexico, Quintana Roo state, Tulum, Mayan archeological site of Tulum on Caribbean sea, Tulum beach

Even drug kingpins – perhaps especially drug kingpins – need a little time away from it all. The late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, favoured beach getaways and in the 1980’s he built a mansion, nicknamed Casa Magna, in the one-street town of Tulum.  After a painstaking renovation of the villa, replacing its rustic drug dealer style with minimalist Asian beach-chic, today the mansion has become the quietest, most understated resort in what’s now known as the “Mayan Riviera”.

Get locked up in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Born from the gutted remains of a former military prison, Ljubljana’s Hostel Celica possesses a dozen or so conventional dorms, but it’s the twenty two-and three-bed rooms, or, more precisely, cells, that make it so unique. Different designers were assigned to come up with themes for each one, resulting in a series of funky and brilliantly original sleeping spaces – one room features a circular bunk bed, in another a bunk is perched high above the door.

Hit Mafia country, Italy

View of Countryside near Guardia Piemontese

The deep south, toe-end region of Aspromonte is still considered by many Italians to be out of bounds. For it is here, among the thick forests, crenellated mountain peaks and tumble-down villages, that the n’drangheta, or Calabrian mafia, based their empire until the 1990’s. The ringleaders were eventually driven out but many potential visitors still keep away, meaning the delights of this unexplored region of Calabria can be seen without fear of stumbling across a mafia don or a coach party.

Exile yourself to l’ile des Pins, New Caledonia

If you have to go into exile somewhere, it might as well be the South Pacific. Measuring just 14km x 18km the Ile des Pins was a penal colony in the nineteenth century, the last stop for many dissidents from the Paris Commune in the 1870’s. The modern day visitor comes to the island by choice, of course, and can hardly fail to notice its beauty: stunning coastlines, white sand; warm, limpid water, pale blue, as far as the reef. Before you leave, take in the island’s ruined prison and monument and be thankful that you get to come and go as you please.