48 reasons to travel
BLOW THE BUDGET
Because if we could spend every cent on travel, we probably would.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes it’s the journey that reminds us what we’ve missed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We like to party. We like, we like to party.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Words Jeremy Drake
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