An epic journey, far and wide, to assemble (in no particular order) the very best that the planet has to offer
Visit the Acropolis
The inquisitive travellers and prospective conquerors who first laid eyes on the Acropolis in 430BC would have immediately understood the power of its creators. The towering columns of the Parthenon, the looming marble façades, the intricate sculptures of the Erechtheion: all were designed to showcase the muscle and might of classical Greece, an effect that holds true to this day. The settlement sits on a natural rock platform, high above the sprawl of Athens, its white marble columns still dazzling in the sun. There’s no better place to tread in the historic footsteps of the ancient Athenians.
Whale watch in Kaikoura
Most whale watching experiences are carefully timed to catch pods of whales on their annual migrations – but not in Kaikoura, one of the few places in the world where giant Sperm Whales can be seen year-round, and close to shore. The 3km deep Kaikoura Canyon runs right up against the New Zealand coast, creating a rare and rich system of sea currents that sustain a huge marine food chain including seals, dolphins and the huge seabirds known as shearwaters. A great resource to find the right tour for you is Whalewatch where you can also learn more about New Zealand’s marine culture before your trip.
Follow the tea trails
Sri Lanka is the globe’s fourth largest tea producer, providing the world with 340,000 tonnes of the stuff every year and, in the lush tea counties of the island, you can sip up some history with a trail through old colonial plantations. Head to Tea Trails – the world’s first tea bungalow resort perched an altitude of 1,250m – and enjoy rambling across 2,000 acres in the panoramic region whilst staying at bungalows and cottages that date back to the seventeenth-century. Learn time-honoured planting traditions, follow the trails of old Ceylon, enjoy meals packed with fresh homegrown vegetables and, of course, sample the world’s most popular teas.
Witness the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights (or aurora borealis) are visible across Scandinavia, Scotland and northern Canada, but the further north you go, the better viewing you’ll get – you don’t get much further than Norway’s Svalbard. There you’ll experience the polar night, with unearthly colours and sounds in a crisp night-sky, above a snowy Artic wilderness that is 1,200km from the North Pole. Alternatively, Kakslauttanen in Finnish Lapland is great for those who want to gaze at the Northern Lights from the comfort of their own glass igloo. When these enchanting solar winds are in a phase of high activity, a visit heralds pure visual magic.
Hit the ski slopes
Plenty of resorts contribute to the best of the Alps, but those dedicated to a bout of ski and après-ski inspire imagery of powdery pistes, luxury lodges, roaring fires, and ski-lifts ascending over trails. Tignes and Courcheval in France, Verbier, Zermatt and St.Moritz in Switzerland, Innsbruck and fashionable Lech Zürs am Arlberg in Austria… every afiskionado will have their own resort de jour, but it remains that skiing in the Alps exists as a long-season social occupation for the well-to-do. Majestic mountains, cool air, alpine villages, glasses of bubbles and perhaps even the fleeting sighting of a Royal Family member zipping past on the slopes.
Stay in a stately home
Following the success of Downton Abbey, this experience has become a fixture on must-try travel lists, with historical fascination now blended with a dash of popular culture. Highclere Castle has moved with the trend, offering 2- or 3-bedroom cottages to rent within its 5,000-acre estate, meaning one can prolong the feeling of being part of the drama. For a quieter opportunity, Cliveden House in Berkshire encourages you to create your own moment in history. They’ve a host of rooms (right up to the Prince of Wales Suite, and a Spring Cottage), where one can wine, dine and enjoy family time in the snugly rich confines of a stately home.
Drink splendid coffee along ‘the bean belt’
It was Ethiopia’s nomadic tribes who first discovered the restorative effects of coffee. In the tenth-century they would pluck the red fruits to eat as they roamed, buoyed by the tiny nuggets of caffeine. True coffee lovers should make a pilgrimage to the town of Kaffa (which lent its name to the beans) to visit coffee farms and roam the valleys where the plants grow wild. Ethiopians drink copious cups every day, and a coffee ceremony (with tall earthenware pots and tiny cups of sweet black brews) is a highlight. Once back home, the aroma of every freshly-brewed cup will bring back memories.
Visit the Pyramids and the relics of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum
You haven’t seen real gold until you’ve seen the gold of ancient Egypt. Sought after by pharaohs and fought over by raiders, the glittering treasures that lie in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum have entranced mankind for thousands of years. Set aside at least one day to immerse yourself in Egypt’s myths and legends – although that will barely do justice to the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities. The iconic Giza pyramids are just a stone’s throw from central Cairo, giving you time to rifle through dusty tombs and spooky burial chambers, following in footsteps of treasure hunters.
Enjoy every side of the island
This Indian Ocean isle is no ordinary beach destination. You’ll have over 160km of beach at your fingertips, from calm lagoons to wild stretches where pro surfers play. So why choose just one resort? Make your own tour of the island to experience its coastal treasures. Head north for the largest concentration of paradise beaches, with crystalline waters. Down south, discover turquoise bays with mountainous backdrops, while incredible sunset views await on the west coast. In the east, the island’s most glamorous boltholes reside – including the recently refurbished One&Only Le Saint Geran.
Stay in a riad in Marrakech
There’s no doubt that busy souks, beautiful palaces and bustling nightlife make for an intoxicating adventure, but the real delights of Marrakech lie in its historic riads – the old houses found in its atmospheric old quarter. These unique abodes have stood for hundreds of years, little oases of calm in a restless city. Happily, many have been turned into charming hotels, complete with cool courtyard gardens, sensational restaurants and sumptuous interior design. Head up to the roof to sip Moroccan mint tea while you watch city life unfurl, or lie back in a private courtyard swimming pool under a sliver of clear blue sky. Divine.