Hot 5 Balloon Rides

Dunes ahoy
Namib Desert, Namibia

Arid scrubland, dramatic dunes, otherworldly expanses of red sand and mountainous outcrops are all part of the Namib Desert – the world’s oldest. Operating for more than 25 years, Namib Sky Balloon Safaris is a family-run business helping intrepid visitors see regions of the Namib-Naukluft National Park that are otherwise off-limits to the public. Flights leave at the crack of dawn, so you’re high in the sky as the sun’s first rays illuminate the ochre dunes. After an hour of drifting with the wind, the experienced pilots bring you back to the ground for a sumptuous champagne breakfast. In stark contrast to the scorched surroundings, the decadent buffet of cured meats, cheeses and fresh fruit is set on a crisp tablecloth. A one-hour flight with Namib Sky Balloon Safaris costs about AU$585.

Historic highs
Aosta Valley, Italy

Next-door neighbour to Switzerland and France, the rugged Aosta Valley is the most sparsely populated of all of Italy’s regions. Here, instead, Mother Nature reigns supreme. Strewn with ragged mountains, silver fir trees and vistas largely unblemished by humans, this Alpine landscape is a veritable playground for cool climate fans. To get better acquainted with Europe’s highest peaks, including Mont Blanc among others, take to the skies. With more than 30 years’ experience under their belts, the team at Charbonnier Mongolfiere will expertly glide you past these famed pinnacles. Keep your eyes peeled for the valley’s wildlife as you rise and descend, but when you’re up high it’s just you, your basket and the mountains. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these balloons soar higher than any other on the continent, reaching between 1800 and 3050 metres. A one-hour ride with Charbonnier Mongolfiere starts at AU$277.

Urban cruise
Melbourne, Australia

There aren’t many major cities in the world that you can survey from a hot air balloon. Luckily, Melbourne is an exception, and jaunts with award-winning Global Ballooning Australia take you over the world’s most liveable city. The company encourages guests to get involved in everything balloon-related (from inflation to deflation), as well as providing in-flight commentary. Prepare to see Melbourne’s icons from a whole new perspective. Float above the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, admire the green lung that is the Royal Botanic Gardens, spot the towering spire of the Arts Centre and follow the Yarra River that snakes into the heart of the CBD, from where you can see all the way to Port Phillip Bay. The balloon will rise before the sun, offering views of skyscrapers twinkling in the dark as the city awakens. Flights are carbon neutral and a one-hour trip costs AU$440, or $470 with a champagne breakfast.

Jungle flight
Alajuela, Costa Rica

Existing in droves, canopy walks on hanging bridges are one of the more vanilla ways to spy on Costa Rica’s resident flora and fauna. For something a little more exceptional, fire up the burners and set sail over the cloud forest canopy on one of Serendipity Adventures’ scenic flights. The operator’s launch site is located close to the mighty Arenal Volcano, which is notorious for hiding its crest above a blanket of clouds. By balloon you’ll see parts of this active behemoth that remain out of view for many visitors. The real drawcard, however, is the opportunity to cast your eyes over the country’s rich landscapes – some of the most biodiverse on the planet. You’ll fly low over small rivers, vast fields and steaming forests that bristle with monkeys, iguanas and all kinds of feathered friends. A one-hour flight with Serendipity Adventures Costa Rica leads in from around AU$513.

Holy views
Pushkar, India

Known as the Rose Garden of Rajasthan, Pushkar is one of the most sacred sites for devout Hindus in India, and one of the country’s oldest cities. The best time to visit is during the annual Pushkar Fair, a congregation of almost half a million pilgrims and merchants with tens of thousands of bejewelled camels in tow. While cultural performances, camel beauty contests and cattle races thrum on the ground hot air balloons take to the sky. Venture 365 metres into the air at sunrise to gaze over the ships of the desert crawling across the ground like ants returning to a nest. From the basket you’ll get an eyeful of the city’s holy lake and Hindu devotees perched on stone ghats (steps) leading down to the water. Countless temples speckle the land, but none more prominently than the famous Brahma Temple, dedicated to the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma. As the sun spills golden light across Pushkar the experience is almost spiritual. A one-hour balloon trip with Adventure Nation starts at AU$235.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok has so many opportunities for visitors to see a whole variety of attractions. Some of these offer a great insight into the Kingdom’s rich culture and Thai traditions, while others provide a glimpse into the seedier side of humanity. We recommend avoiding the popular ping-pong balls and instead head to one of Bangkok’s more salubrious tourist attractions, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha).

Located in the Phra Nakhon District, Wat Pho is on Rattanakosin Island, directly south of the Grand Palace. It’s one the oldest and largest temples in the city and the star attraction is the Reclining Buddha. This majestic monument is the largest in Thailand, measuring more than 45-metres in length.

Walking through the temples and gardens of Wat Pho you’ll be able to gain a greater appreciation of Thailand through the rich tapestry of art, culture and history on show. Along with the famous Reclining Buddha, it features 394 other Buddha statues which are spread out between four temples.

If that’s not enough to shoot this place straight to the top of your must-visit list, in addition to being a place of worship, Wat Pho is also an education centre that focuses on traditional medicine. You’re guaranteed one of the best Thai massages in the city here.

We recommend visiting early to avoid crowds, dressing respectfully, engaging a knowledgeable guide who can share further details and, most importantly, bringing a wide angle lens if you have one. Price of admission is only AU$5 and that includes a bottle of water.

Schilthorn, Switzerland

Does a James Bond-themed revolving restaurant at a height of almost 3,000 metres float your boat? It may sound a little touristy, but located atop the stunning mountain of Schilthorn, this interactive 007 experience – which houses both a museum and cinema – is far from naff.

You’ll start with a one-hour gondola trip through the picturesque Lauterbrunnen Valley and Bernese Alps. The summit was the location for the sixt film in the Bond franchise, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s fair to editorialise and say that this installment wasn’t one of the better films in the series, but it also happened to feature the Australian model George Lazenby. With no acting credits to his name, George was chosen as the replacement for Sean Connery.

Both the Skyline Walk and Thrill Walk offer guests an adrenaline-inducing experience on a glass platform that dangles high above a precipice, providing a panoramic view of the snow-covered Jungfrau massif.

Spectacular views of the Eiger and Mönch also await and you can follow in James Bond’s footsteps at the interactive Bond World exhibition or the 007 Walk of Fame. Highlights include gazing upon the original screenplay, enjoying a simulator flight in the original chassis of a decommissioned Air Glaciers Alouette III helicopter and creating your own Bond chase montage in a bobsleigh.

So do you need to be a James Bond fan to enjoy this experience?

It certainly helps, but the Schilthorn is such an incredible location in itself that it wouldn’t really matter what the exhibits were.

So grab yourself a martini, (shaked, not stirred, of course), from the revolving restaurant, and if you’re visiting in winter you can really get into character by strapping on your skis and tackling the black run from the movie while pretending to outrun the baddies.

Sydney, Australia

It’s one of the most iconic bridges in the world, overlooking one of the most recognisable and picturesque harbours in the world. Should you bite the bullet and climb the Coathanger for an eagle’s view? We say, absolutely.

Traversing the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge is a must, and climbs are available from dawn until dusk.

While it can be quite challenging to climb you don’t have to be a trained mountaineer to get to the top and you’ll be assisted every step of the way. And as you take in the extraordinary views you’ll be plied with interesting facts about the bridge by a laconic Aussie guide with a decent sense of humour and pathos.

There are several climbs available that range in time lengths, but all offer fantastic vantage points for looking out over gorgeous locations such as Milson’s Point, Lavender Bay, McMahons Point, Luna Park, the North Sydney Olympic Pool and Kirribilli.

If the view from the top is always different, what’s the opportune time to climb? Dawn would be our choice, but there are limited departures so book well in advance.

Dublin, Ireland

It’s the official drink of Irish people right across the world, and even if you aren’t a fan of Guinness, chances are someone you know is.

But does the idea of spending an entire afternoon in a seven-storey visitor centre dedicated to the dark drop tickle your tastebuds? We know that sounds like a long stretch for any museum, even one filled with beer. However, we can assure you that even if you don’t love the rich, malty good stuff, you’ll still enjoy a visit to the Storehouse.

Located at Dublin’s St James Gate Brewery, the Storehouse is a shrine to all things Guinness. Think interactive exhibits, old brewing equipment and an incredible collection of artefacts, historical records and ad campaigns. You can even learn the fine art of pouring the perfect pint. According to the master brewers, to produce the perfect ratio of the dark liquid draught and cream-coloured head it takes exactly 119.53 seconds for the beer to settle between the first and second pours. So if your bartender serves up a pint with a huge head of foam, it just isn’t a proper Guinness.

Finish your tour in the Gravity Bar where you’ll be treated to panoramic views over the city while enjoying a complimentary, perfectly poured, Dublin-brewed Guinness.

San Francisco, USA

When visiting San Francisco one of the most touristy activities you can do is jump on a cable car and ride it right down to the harbour, where you’ll look across to the now shuttered penitentiary of Alcatraz.

To visit or not to visit?

We say no trip to Frisco is complete without venturing across the bay to Alcatraz, and whatever hype you’ve heard about it being a tourist trap should be taken with a grain of salt. The Alcatraz tour offers a riveting and fascinating insight into one of the world’s most notorious jails.

Starting from the ferry ride to the island you’ll take in some stunning views of the city including both the Bay and Golden Gate bridges. Upon arrival it’s pretty clear you’ll get unparalleled access to the site and can pretty much explore as you wish without a single velvet rope in sight.

While wandering around the prison you’ll sense an eerie melancholy and hear stories about infamous inmates such as Al Capone, The Birdman of Alcatraz and Machine Gun Kelly. You’ll also learn about the 1969 Native Occupation of Alcatraz. Your journey is narrated by ex-guards or prisoners, and the chequered history will genuinely make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. For a truly immersive experience, you can also be locked up in one of the cells to get that nasty, claustrophobic feeling of incarceration.

Those looking for a fright are encouraged to take the night tour which is not for the faint of heart.

The verdict? Yes, Alcatraz is a major tourist attraction, but you will get a massive return-on-investment with this one.

48 reasons to travel

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’ve recently checked the expiry date on your passport and have googled your eligibility for that all-important magic shot in the arm. Just like you, we really miss travelling. We also miss all the reasons for travelling. Here’s 48 of the world’s greatest travel experiences and why we MUST travel again:


Because if we could spend every cent on travel, we probably would.

1... watching the greatest lightshow on earth.

The Mayans thought a total solar eclipse meant the end of the world was coming, but we all know that basically happened when we had to stop travelling last year. This rare, solar occurrence will next happen over Antarctica on 4 December around the South Orkney Islands. Hurtigruten is offering front-row seats to the spectacle – alongside astronomers and photographers – as part of their 23-day expedition at AU$22,250pp. Lock it in because it will be another 400 years before it happens here again.

2...searching for a real-life unicorn.

Narwhals are nature’s reminder that it still has some surprises up its sleeve. On this Arctic safari to the sea melts of Nunavut, you’ll be able to seek and find the elusive tusked whale, potentially in a pod of hundreds. If you’re game, the trip also offers glacial snorkelling. Get the cheque book ready, because eight days up in northern Canada looking for the mythical Narwhal will set you back AU$23,335pp.

3...on a powder safari.

COVID-19 brought us closer to the apocalypse than we’ve ever been before, which has led to a serious rethink of life choices for lots of us. For example, the chance to combine every snowboarding dream we’ve ever had in a single trip now ranks right up there. The Powder Triangle Snowboard Safari in Canada is an off-piste rider’s dream, with guided stops (and personal coaching) in Fernie, Revelstoke, Red Mountain and Kicking Horse. This one is AU$7,100pp, but you do cover some serious ground over two weeks. the most luxe and ridiculous hotel room.

In Corona times it’s probably not unusual for some of us to have spent an entire two weeks in bed, but when John Lennon and Yoko Ono did it at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal (in the name of world peace) it was big news. Stage your own version of a ‘Bed-In-For-Peace’ in the newly refurbished Suite 1742 for a cool AU$3,050pn.

5...waking to a lion’s roar.

The Akagera National Park in Rwanda has a healthy lion population after an intense reintroduction program in 2015. We think a lion’s roar is also guaranteed to sound better through a thin sheet of canvas. At the luxurious Magashi Camp, six individual African safari tents sit effortlessly on the edge of Lake Rwanyakazinga and the main communal areas come complete with a pool, viewing deck, open bar and fire pit. A week of glamping at Magashi is not outrageous, but after what you’ll need to shell out to get here you’ll want to spend at least a week. That’s when it gets pricey. From AU$1,000pp/pn.

6...spending a night at the bottom of the world.

Ever wanted to sleep at a latitude of 90 degrees south? What about camping when it’s minus 60 degrees Celsius outside? To be honest, we’d not given it much thought either until we found out you can do both in style, for just one evening. This epic adventure does give you six full days in Antarctica but only one at the South Pole, and includes a special visit to the Amundsen-Scott Research Station. Definitely worth it at AU$70,600pp.

Take us back

These iconic spots have already been through plagues and world wars. When they bounce back this time, we’ll be ready. drink in the romance of Paris.

Drinking cocktails in a tiny hidden bar in the Marais district gets us excited in all the right places. Is there anywhere more romantic for us to visit when this is all over? We recommend your first stop be the hidden Candeleria. It’s a very French speakeasy tucked behind an unmarked door of a very not-so French taqueria. look over the New York City skyline.

Everyone loves a New York City rooftop and drinking on one in the Big Apple is just as ubiquitous as munching on a dirty-water dog when you’re in Midtown. We can’t wait to try the new rooftop at the Box House Hotel in Brooklyn, which offers almost 1,000 square metres of panoramic views over Manhattan’s skyline and the East River. a traditional British pub.

There are pubs in this world and then there are London pubs. They number in their thousands in this historical city, and the euphoria that one gets from an afternoon of sipping a brown ale on a cobblestoned corner is unmatched. Take us back to the Churchill Arms, a pub where a love of the great wartime prime minister is as colourful as the flowers dripping from its famous facade.

10...absolute sensory overload in a city.

With a population of nearly 20-million, from the minute you step off the plane, Mumbai slaps you in the face like a hard wake up call. With 20,000 people crammed into every square kilometre — many of which are in slums — we still miss the freneticism of this city, the assault on the senses and the persistent smell of body odour mixed with fish curry. Take us back to a city that reminds us we are still alive. feeling ok about really late dinners.

Days in the Andalusían city of Seville start slowly. Lunch is at 3pm and dinner won’t be until after 10pm. But that’s fine by us because eating out here is a progressive experience of tapas and cerveza best enjoyed at a few different places, so you can drink in the city’s famous nightlife. We’re dreaming of a time when social distancing was rude and we could rub our sweaty shoulders with a Sevilliano at Bodega Santa Cruz. gorging ourselves silly.

There are two religions in our favourite South American metropolis of Buenos Aires, Catholicism and beef. You can’t get a bad steak anywhere in this city which is why we’re itching for those famous late-night, Latin American meat sweats. getting lei’d again in the South Pacific.

There’s a queue of Aussies at the door (us included!) waiting to get to the South Pacific once the bubble opens, but what we’re most excited about getting back to is swimming with humpback whales in Tonga. On this new eight-day eco-tour on the island of Uoleva, you’ll have your own beachfront fale, access to kayaks and daily dips with an underwater giant.

Test the taste buds

Whether it’s raw, still moving or just the best curry on the planet, it all tastes like travel to us. drinking wine in the home of wine.

It’s no wonder that wine is so intertwined with life in Georgia, as they’ve been making it here for at least 8,000 years. Vino Underground in Tbilisi is an intimate and dimly-lit brick-lined cellar filled with the best natural wines from top artisan winemakers around the country. eating something that looks alive.

Usually we prefer our food cooked. If it’s not cooked – for example sushi – we prefer it doesn’t wriggle or move. Sannakji is a raw Korean octopus dish most famous for being served while still moving. Technically it’s dead, but the excess nerve energy keeps the tentacles wriggling around your lips as you slurp it down. a hidden izakaya.

It’s hard not to have a good time eating cooked meat sticks and drinking creamy-topped Asahi off a tap in Tokyo. Saddle up next to a drunk salaryman at Dry Dock in the neighbourhood of Shinbashi, where all of the drinking holes are quite literally stuffed under the arches of criss-crossed train bridges. a Soviet-era spy.

It won’t shock you to hear that even Vladimir Putin has had a beer at Zhiguli Bar. Popular among Muscovites, it is everything you would expect from a drinking den that harks back to the Soviet Union. There’s a room for rich men and a dining hall for the working-class folk who arrive with their hammer and sickle.

18...with some real cheese.

Cheese made in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is unrivalled. It is the protagonist of just about every Mexican meal, including the empanada. And the best empanada can be found at a place called Empanadas Carmelita, which you’ll need to hunt for in San Antonino Castillo Velasco on the southern outskirts of Oaxaca City.

19...with a barbecue like no other.

We’ve had good grilled meat in Texas, but nothing compares to Khan’s Barbeque in Arusha, Tanzania. This unique barbecue joint in the country’s second largest city draws travellers from all over Africa. Mechanic by day, makeshift restaurant by night, juicy African chicken and beef is cooked on several open fires, some of which are set in the engine blocks of discarded cars.

20...with a hallucinogenic honey.

Both nutritious and intoxicating, this delicacy known as ‘Mad Honey’ is found in mountainous areas around the world, but most famously in Nepal. It’s collected by brave apiarists who cling to the side of cliffs to harvest this psychedelic sweet stuff. The honey is made by bees that feed on the rhododendron flower which contains a natural toxin that can bring on hallucinations. Be careful, too much can be dangerous.

The journey

Sometimes it’s the journey that reminds us what we’ve missed.

21...riding a motorbike cross-country.

Leave trekkers in their tracks and jump on a classic Royal Enfield for a cross-country motorcycle tour through some of Nepal’s most breathtaking Himalayan scenery.

22...walking an almost impossible distance.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is tough going and while thousands attempt the 3,500-kilometre journey, only about one-in-four make it all the way. The ‘A.T.’ snakes its way from Maine all the way down to Georgia.

23...taking one of the world’s great train trips.

The Trans-Manchurian doesn’t get as much press as the more popular Trans-Siberian rail journey, but this trip actually skips Mongolia and runs to Beijing via the northern-Chinese city of Harbin. The mountain scenery along this less touristy route is breathtaking.

24...traversing a normally uncharted stretch of ocean.

Cross the Bering Sea from Katmai in Alaska to Kamchatka in Russia on a working expedition ship. Join a Lindblad National Geographic Expedition on a 22-day journey where you’ll witness smoking volcanoes along the Pacific Ring of Fire and also get up close to walrus. Meryl Streep in The River Wild.

Let’s face it, New Zealand is likely to be the first country most of us can visit when this nightmare with no travel is all over. A three-day rafting journey on the Rangitikei River will be high on our list with grade-five white water, huge canyons and stunning North Island scenery.

26...soaking in the architecture of the ancient Silk Road.

The ancient city of Bukhara – now in modern Uzbekistan – was once the collision point of expanding cultures from the East and West. A key trading stop along the famous Silk Road, the city came under siege from Genghis Khan in 1220 AD, when he ravaged the local population and buildings for 15 days. Very little survived the Khan’s fury except for the Kalon Minaret. Built in 1121 AD, it is alleged that when the great Khan saw it he was so taken by its beauty that he ordered it be spared while the rest of the city was destroyed around it.

Shock the system

The only way to travel is in the direction of our fears. skiing with monsters.

There are only a few spots in Japan where ‘Juhyo’ – more commonly referred to as ‘snow monsters’ – are as accessible as they are in Zao Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture. These ice-covered trees at the summit of this hidden ski resort in northern Honshu can be reached by a gondola and are at their most menacing when lit up at night.

28...four-wheel driving through Africa.

We love it when a tour company tells us to “go-big-or-go-home”. The Go Big Namibia self-drive safari takes you through two of the country’s ancient deserts, the Kalahari and the Namib. It’s the perfect option for first-time thrill seekers visiting Africa. Across 13-days you’ll tackle Fish River Canyon, the coastal town of Swakopmund and Etosha National Park.

29...trying Asia’s highest bungee.

Strap yourself in with this one, quite literally. But first you’ll have to put on a wingsuit because this new bungee experience in the Japanese city of Gifu is so high (at 215 metres) you have enough time to fly like a bird before the slack of your tether rips you back to reality. leaping untethered into the unknown.

Canyoning is one of those adventure experiences you decide to leap into when you realise life is no longer a rehearsal. Behana Canyon is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise where experienced guides from Cairns Canyoning will take you to a gorge filled with waterfalls where you can abseil, cliff jump, slide and swim your way to the bottom. riding a wild horse.

The Mongolian Steppe is silent and treeless, and traversing this eerily vast land is best done on horseback. The Huns and Genghis Khan were among the first to establish this proud equine tradition, which continues today like a cultural transportation time capsule for adventurous tourists. Sleep on the Steppe in a traditional yurt with nomadic families caring for their herds. going deeper than we’ve ever been before.

The massive cavernous Cave of Swallows in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, is so large that it would completely swallow Melbourne’s Eureka Tower. At a height of 370 metres to the bottom, crazy daredevils come from around the world to use it for base jumping, abseiling and rock climbing. Tours now run to the edge of the cave, where you can peer into the bird-filled abyss. The spot was made famous by the 2011 film, Sanctum, which was stacked with some of our favourite Aussie actors including Richard Roxburgh.

Party again

We like to party. We like, we like to party. secret festivals on the Mediterranean.

Drop a pin on most French, Spanish or Italian islands in the central Mediterranean and there’s a good chance they’ll be holding a secret beach party. Calvi on the Rocks is the festival of choice for the Parisian-chic crowd. The flavour here on the island of Corsica is bikinis, sunglasses, beach shacks and dancing for hours in turquoise-coloured waves.

34...somewhere really safe.

Hot Mediterranean nights, an endless coastline and a mix of locals and international visitors has made Tel Aviv a party capital. It also helps that Israeli’s have a much more relaxed attitude to alcohol consumption than their other Arab neighbours. Not to mention a population that was vaccinated against COVID-19 quicker than anywhere else in the world.

35...with some big name stars.

European festivals always draw the biggest names, and with the pandemic putting a stop to most big gigs last year, there’s a pent-up demand from both stars and punters. Mad Cool Madrid is a Spanish rock, indie and pop festival held each summer and will this year feature The Killers, Cardi B, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Deftones. a city that punches well above its weight.

It might be small, but Reykjavik is mighty when it comes to late-night drinking and hedonism. Every venue – most of which are on Laugavegur Street – are within walking distance. Be sure to dress to impress, as Icelanders like to look fancy and the city is small so the bars and clubs can be picky about who they let in.

Make a difference

Because what is better than travelling? Helping the world. countering overtourism.

When we can go, we’re going to look for destinations where we can really get away from other people. Not just because the pandemic has us spooked, but because places like Greenland are undertouristed gems with very few footprints. During its last two August peak seasons (2018 and 2019), there were just 17,000 international visitors. Compare this to Iceland, which had a little over two million. a superhero without a cape.

Ever had a hankering to help those in need? A dream of being a real-life superhero? You can do both on the Costa Rica Superheroes Volunteer trip, where you’ll help out in the mountainous region of Alajuela in San Ramon. You’ll be making a sustainable impact on the lives of local children by assisting in a classroom or daycare centre and contributing to community outreach projects. In your downtime you can explore the Costa Rican rainforests and beaches, and hang with the locals. spending touristy dollars with someone who really needs it.

For Jenny Adams of Kiah Wilderness Kayak Tours in Eden, on the NSW Sapphire Coast, 2020 was a year to forget. First came the bushfires that nearly destroyed all her equipment, followed by a pandemic that brought a full year of cancelled bookings. Jenny runs incredible sunrise, full-day and family-friendly kayaking adventures. taking responsibility for an entire island.

Maatsuyker Island is the southernmost island group on the Australian continental shelf. You can apply to live here for six months (with no other human contact) as part of the island’s unique caretaker program. remembering history, so it’s never repeated.

The Nkyinkyim installation is a thought-provoking art project by Ghanian artist and social activist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. Located in a field in Nuhalenya Ada, a town outside the Ghanian capital of Accra, it features thousands of concrete heads in the ground that aim to bring awareness to 400 years of enslavement and human trafficking in West Africa.

Reset and recharge

After a difficult year, we all deserve some time to fill our cups. living like ancient European royalty.

Those Italians sure knew how to live their best lives back in the 15th century. The jaw-droppingly gorgeous Villa Mangiacane is set among the rolling green hills and bountiful vines of the Tuscan winemaking region of Chianti. This 10-bedroom, eight-bathroom palazzo – complete with a pool, sauna and steam bath, sculpture garden and views of the Duomo in Florence – is like a Renaissance painting come to life. Bellissima! reconnecting with my mind and body.

Master the ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu with an intensive, full-time course at Taizu Shaolin Kung Fu International School in Handan, China. Under the watchful eye of actual Shaolin monks you’ll complete personalised, one-on-one training focusing on your core, flexibility, agility and explosive strength, while also practicing meditation techniques, starting every day with a Tai Chi class and nourishing your body with wholesome, organic food. visiting the world’s newest overwater tropical villa.

There’s luxury, then there’s this: the new overwater villas at Soneva Jani in the Maldives. Part of the Chapter Two expansion of the resort, the villas are accessible via a long, winding boardwalk and range from one-bedroom bungalows to four-bedroom mansions – which are among the largest of their kind in the world. All feature insanely cool things like a water slide, gym and outdoor bathroom, but the best part is getting to experience Soneva Unlimited – an indulgent offering that allows guests to experience every facet of the resort (think dining options, spa treatments and the personal butler service) within the price of the villa. unwinding on that last undiscovered beach.

You know a beach is going to be secluded when the only way to access it is with your surfboard strapped to the top of a tuk tuk. Gurubebila is just outside the heaving surf village of Weligama in Sri Lanka, yet this local’s spot lacks the annoying and usual tourist fanfare. Lion’s Rest is the only upscale digs here, while the rest of the accommodation and restaurants are modest and right on the beach. On Wednesday evenings join in on a local cricket match, dodge cows between the wickets and watch the sunset behind a field of palm trees and the Indian Ocean. sleeping with bugs.

Introducing the newest buzz word (sorry, we had to) to hit the travel scene: apitourism. Originating in Slovenia, it’s all about showcasing bee-based adventures, supporting local beekeepers and highlighting the crucial role bees play within nature. In Kozjak, you can even spend the night in a domestic apiary. Doze off to the sound of thousands of buzzing bees, treat yourself to a honey massage or try beehive aerosol inhalation – a therapy that involves breathing in air directly from the apiary through a mask. Apparently it boosts the immune system, reduces stress and helps treat respiratory illnesses. Unbeelievable, right? staying completely off the grid.

After the year we’ve all had, running away to live in the wilds of some far-flung destination without any contact from the outside world actually sounds pretty appealing. So why not get a taste of life off the grid with a stay at Awasi Patagonia. Situated on the very edge of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, it’s home to just 14 uber-private cabins and one main lodge, and days are spent exploring the mountains, lakes and forests as you please, or soaking in your very own hot tub and cosying up by the fire. Iso never looked so good. trying an ancient healing ritual.

If you’re the type of person who freaks out if a teeny bit of seaweed touches you in the ocean, then this probably isn’t for you. Everyone else, strip down and prepare for a very special kind of bath. At Voya Seaweed Baths, located in the picturesque coastal town of Strandhill, in Ireland’s County Sligo, the signature treatment is – you guessed it – a luxurious, steaming bath of wild, organic seaweed and fresh seawater. It’s an age-old tradition that can improve the suppleness and elasticity of the skin, promote healing and increase circulation. A bathing sesh lasts 50 minutes, and all seaweed is hand-harvested from the pristine Atlantic Coast.

The Faraway Tree

In 1774 when Captain Cook was charting the archipelago of Vanuatu, it was apparently the enigmatic red glow of the Mount Yasur volcano that first led him to the island of Tanna.

Today, the same magma continues to light up the night sky like an endless sunset. But after an adventurous flight from Port Vila, dodging monsoon clouds, and a bumpy two-hour ride through rugged terrain on the back of a ute, it was something else that captured my attention.

The verdant foliage parted to reveal a hidden garden amongst the tropical rainforest. Fred George, custodian of Tanna Tree Top Lodge, chuckled proudly: “There is the penthouse suite, my friend!” There, sitting six metres off the ground amongst the tangled canopy was the manifestation of my childhood dreams: the ultimate tree house.

Excited, I climbed the airy staircase to the rustic but cosy bungalow, and sat on the balcony to admire the most unique vista on Tanna Island. Beyond the twisting branches of the tree rose the ashen crater of Mount Yasur.

That afternoon I found myself nervously following my ever-smiling guide, Phil, up Yasar.

Arriving at the crater’s edge, I looked on warily, as the land shook around us and the sun disappeared into a glowing ashen haze beyond the heaving pit of magma. In between blasts from the deep, Phil briefed us on volcano safety. “OK, please you have to be careful because tourists who have not listened have died here!” As if to confirm his point, Yasur immediately belched a cluster of liquid rock high into the air. A stray piece of ordnance landed with a slap several hundred metres below.