South Georgia

You’ve sailed the Caribbean, summited the Himalayas, traversed the Kalahari, backpacked through most of Europe and all of Southeast Asia, and milked yaks in Mongolia. The travel bucket list is well and truly ticked off. But have you ever ventured to the southern Atlantic Ocean to hang out with king penguins? South Georgia, a British overseas territory about 1300 kilometres southeast of the Falkland Islands, is extremely remote yet remains one of the most-visited places in Antarctica. (It’s teamed with the South Sandwich Islands, which are so remote and inhospitable few visit them since the Argentina closed its naval station on Thule Island in 1982.)

Captain James Cook was the first to land here in 1775, and his reports of huge populations of elephant and fur seals brought the traders who would lead, not just the bloody exploitation of these mammals (typical humans – once they’d killed the last of the seals in 1916 they moved on to whales), but also the exploration of the Antarctic.

These days visitors still largely arrive on sea-going vessels. Some tour operators follow in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was the first to attempt to cross the Antarctic from coast to coast via the South Pole. He started his journey here, returned to the island after his ship sunk in ice and was eventually buried here, at Grytviken, after he died aboard Quest on his way to Antarctica in 1922.

These days King Edward Point, on a sheltered bay, hosts a small but permanent population of scientists and crew from the British Antarctic Survey (they also man a scientific base at Bird Island), while nearby Grytviken is home to a museum. For the visitor, this is an otherworldly place. Bare, rugged peaks erupt from the island behind the settlement, seven abandoned whaling stations dotted around the island are a reminder of darker days, and South Georgia’s two mountain ranges are covered in snow, ice and glaciers. Still, it’s the wildlife that is its biggest attraction. After their decimation, seals have returned in force. About two million southern fur seals (or 95 per cent of the world’s population) come here each summer, along with huge numbers of southern elephant seals. There are six species of penguins, and a eye-popping number of sea birds. About a quarter of a million albatrosses, including the wandering albatross with its three-metre-plus wing span, return each year. And because there are so few people on the island, the animals don’t fear them, often making for close encounters of the rare kind.


The Seychelles is the kind of destination you might imagine when someone says “go to your happy place”. These 115 islands, many of them uninhabited, rise from the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. Britain and France fought over them for a long time before the country finally gaining independence in 1976.

Spend a few days and you’ll discover why they were worth fighting for. With white sands, clear blue skies and a seemingly never-ending summer, it’s easy to spend your entire time here lazing on one of the famous beaches, like Anse Lazio and Anse Source d’Argent, in your bathing suit with a book and pretending nothing else exists.

If that sounds a bit too relaxing (yep, we sometimes get a tad bored with perfection) there’s enough to keep an adventurous traveller busy. Visit the giant tortoises on Curieuse, hike to the centre of La Digue for views of the surrounding islands and ocean, or snorkel off the beautiful horseshoe beach at Port Lanauy on Mahé for an impressive underwater show.

St Lucia

If the idea of lush peaks watching over harbours and beaches floats your luxury yacht then a visit to this Caribbean island, part of the Lesser Antilles, might just suit. Sure, you can drop and flop at any of the luxe resorts on its coastline, but there’s so much more to do as well. Zip-line through the forest near Rodney Bay, check out the changing colours of the Diamond Waterfall before taking a soak in the adjacent mineral baths, or hike through the rainforest at the foot of Mount Gimlie to see amazing birds. Of course, there is also action aplenty on the water, from whale watching to kitesurfing and scuba diving.

Don’t miss out on the biggest party of the year, the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, held in the capital Castries every May. But at other times, the town of Soufrière is a better bet for visitors. Located on a crescent bay, its colourful village is backed by the island’s major features, the two huge mountains, know as the Pitons, that erupt from the sea.


If crumbling castles set atop craggy mountains are your jam, Romania is the country for you. This is a place where the past is all around, from those aforementioned fortresses to the simple subsistence lifestyle practised in some of the more far-flung villages.

As a contrast, Bucharest is a capital city going places. Layers of its past, including its bleak and more recent communist history, can be seen throughout the streets, but there is also lively bar scene in Lipscani, the old town.

The Danube Delta, with its outstanding birdlife, and the Carpathian Mountains, where hiking trails traverse alpine meadows and pass glistening lakes, are great for outdoorsy types. Channel your inner bohemian as you hang out in towns like Vama Veche on the Black Sea, or get close to the legend of Dracula (and the real life stories of Vlad the Impaler, who is said to have spiked 80,000 of his enemies during the fifteenth century) in Transylvania. As well as visiting Bran Castle (thought to be the inspiration for Dracula’s home in Bram Stoker’s novel), hunker down in a hide in the forests near Brașov to spy bears, enjoy the thermal salt waters of Bear Lake, and sample palincă, the local plum brandy. Watch out: one shot is fine, two might leave you on the floor.


Northern Ireland

Did you know parts of Game of Thrones were filmed in Northern Ireland? You do now. And there’s a good reason! Bordering the Republic of Ireland and surrounded by sea on its eastern side, the country has an endless array of beautiful sights that could keep a film crew happy for decades.

Be guided by a history rich with ancient castles, pre-Christian monuments and a museum dedicated to the Titanic, which was built in Belfast before meeting its fate. Eco-tourism may be a buzz word, but nothing says ‘green’ like being in a country with a 150 days of rainfall a year. Rolling pastures wind up and down mountains and meet the stunning coastline where waves almost lick the foundations of sites like the haunted seventeenth-century Ballygally Castle in County Antrim. Scared? Don’t be. It’s now a wonderful hotel that typifies the adventure that awaits – just with a ghost or two thrown in.

Whichever direction you take, from the Causeway Coastal Route to country lanes linking charming villages, you’ll discover a place where laughter reigns and hospitality welcomes. As you tour the countryside, don’t forget to stop a while at Bushmills – King James I granted it a licence to produce whiskey in 1608, making it the oldest distillery in the world.





Monaco may be the second smallest country in the world, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in swag. The world’s wealthiest cruise into town in their Lamborghinis, check in to their suites at the Hôtel Hermitage or the Fairmont Monte Carlo then head for lunch at Joël Robuchon. Well, the city-state does have an exceptionally low company tax rate.

Chances are, though, if you’re anything like us, you probably don’t have wads of cash to burn in the designer boutiques of Cerle d’Or or on box seats at the Grand Prix. That doesn’t mean you should avoid Monaco all together. Monte Carlo is beautiful and easily walkable – head to the clifftop garden near the Town Hall for views of the harbour. Window shop, stare at the millionaires in their ostentatious cars and wander around the cathedral where Princess Grace is buried. If you do want to live it up, hire a yacht and sail down the French Riviera for a couple of hours or get dressed up (there’s a strict dress code) and head to the Casino de Monte-Carlo. During summer you can even play roulette on a terrace overlooking the bay.

Just don’t forget to take enough snaps to rival those of the Rich Kids of Instagram. #Blessed.


There is no doubting the beautiful island of Mauritius is known for its endless beaches, swaying palms and relaxation-inducing weather. However, there is more to this part of the world than just that. This mountainous island practically explodes from the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, to showcase spectacular scenery, incredible walks and unforgettable diving.

In the capital of Port Louis there’s a melding of the cultures, from Africa, India, the Middle East and parts of Asia, that have washed up here over the years. Check out the Central Market before moving on to the rest of the island. Take the two-hour walk to the Black River Peak lookout in the Black River Gorge National Park, where you look out over the whole island, then head back towards the coast. It’s all about the beach, so hire a car and find an isolated one, jump on a board or try your hand at kitesurfing at Le Morne, or check in with one of the local dive operators to hit shipwrecks and the shallow Sharks’ Trench.

If you’ve got some time on your hands, Rodrigues is the one of the nation’s furthest flung outposts, 650 kilometres from the main island. Here the residents live a simple existence among nature’s finery and welcome visitors looking for complete relaxation.


It’s not the origin of those addictive choc-malt balls, yet Malta may prove to be equally as irresistible.

Secluded bays, rugged cliffs, architecture from all the great historical eras and huge plates of fresh seafood pinpoint this group of idyllic islands as part of the Mediterranean. Visit here and you may even be following in the pedicured footsteps of the stars, since a number of Hollywood films, including Troy, Gladiator and The Da Vinci Code have beeb shot here. It’s no wonder directors salivate – the capital Valletta is a camera-friendly siren armed with assets such as a spectacular harbour, Baroque architecture and the impressive St John’s Co-Cathedral.

As well as its visual offerings, Malta is a feast for the stomach, with dishes that take on flavours from Italy, Spain, France and the Middle East. To supplement the beaching and the feasting, discover fine art in its museums, hike in solitude on Comino, an island pirates and smugglers once used as a hideout, and get cultural trying to decipher the meaning of ghana, a traditional sing-song ‘conversation’ accompanied by guitar. There’s also the chance to let down your hair at Maltese Carnival, a vibrant alternative to the one in Venice.


There’s a reason why everyone thinks of soft sand, pristine water and blissing out when the Maldives is mentioned. This small archipelagic nation of almost 1200 islands hit the tourism radar in the 1970s and has since become one of the world’s top tropical destinations. In the midst of the Indian Ocean you can swim up to your villa’s balcony, snorkel on some of the best reefs the world has to offer, sunbathe in the never-ending sunshine, and eat the tropical fruits the Maldives are known for.

There was a time – until quite recently, in fact – when tourism was confined to the luxury resorts built on certain islands. Now, however, independent travel on public ferries and staying in local communities is on the rise and it’s one of the best aspects of visiting here. The Maldivians are so welcoming you’ll feel like you’re at your second home by the beach. Don’t miss Eid al-Fitr, the three-day festival that marks the end of Ramadan.



Scared of ghosts? For those who like a good haunting, the dead are very much alive in Madagascar. The Malagasy tradition, known as razana, dictates that the living serve their dead ancestors by carrying out the spirits’ bidding from beyond the grave. Some communities even exhume and rewrap their dead loved ones seven years after they’ve been buried.

Razana is tied to a deep culture of fady (taboo) that locals take deadly seriously, and are offended when tourists ignore their beliefs. Think you’re a sensitive, seasoned traveller, immune to boorish backpacker behaviour? You may not be quite as savvy as you imagine, because in some communities wearing swimming goggles is considered an affront. When travelling to a different township be sure to ask your guide about the local taboos.

If you remain of the living, you’ll discover Madagascar is a biosphere unlike any other. For travellers there’s an array of water sports, dense rainforests to trek and 90 per cent of the wildlife is unique to the island. Just be careful of those cunning lemurs – their name means ‘spirits of the dead.’