World’s 100 must-have travel experiences: 90-81

An epic journey, far and wide, to assemble (in no particular order) the very best that the planet has to offer

Samba at the Rio Carnival

What happens when over 200 samba schools take to the streets of Rio for a dance-off? One helluva party, that’s what – with so many sequins, feather boas and booty-shaking divas it feels like the whole city is bouncing to the beat. Welcome to the biggest knees-up in Brazil – or even the world – where two million performers and partygoers flock for five whirlwind days in February. You’ll hear the drums before you’ve barely stepped off the plane – an irresistible invitation to throw caution to the wind and shimmy like nobody’s watching. Trust us: by the end of the day, you’ll be dancing on the tables just like everybody else.

Explore Mayan ruins

If Mexico’s Mayan ruins could talk, they would tell tales of human sacrifices and merciless rulers – but for all of their blood-thirst, the people who built this stone fortress 1,000 years ago were actually quite a civilised bunch. Their engineering, agriculture and astronomy expertise was well ahead of their time – and the fruits of their architectural prowess are evident even today. Their cities of Chichen Itza, Palenque, Teotihuacán and Monte Alban are the most impressive, boasting pyramids and palaces that still stand strong. The monuments of the Mayans might now be overgrown and crumbling, but their power spans centuries.

Traverse the narrow gorge to reach historic Petra

The ancient city of Petra is one of the world’s must-see archeological sites, and rightly so. Where else could you see such a blend of ancient Eastern traditions mixed with Hellenistic architecture, in majestic-carved structures that sprawl far deeper than the rock face from which they protrude? An important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Phoenicia, this ‘lost’ city has many secrets, not least it’s hidden back-door entrance, dubbed the Inca Trail of the Middle East. Trek from Dana to Petra, over 45km of mountainous landscapes, across a tangle of tracks, through dry riverbeds and over burnt orange foothills, bedding down for the evenings in a tent, under a sea of shimmering stars. Marvel at sporadic flora and fauna like the electric blue Sinai agama, prickly sea squills and fragrant juniper trees and drink tea with Bedouins during this long-distance hike. Your reward for this enduring trek? Entry to the hidden city, via a majestic touch-the-walls-narrow gorge where swirls of burnt orange and angry red lead you directly in to one of the world’s New 7 Wonders.

Get a suit made bespoke on Savile Row

It’s the street that is the first and last word in bespoke tailoring (we’ll gloss over noisy neighbour Abercrombie Kids), where sartorial standards are impeccably high, built on time-honoured traditions and practices. The leading names are stitched onto the cognisance of any well-heeled gentleman: Gieves & Hawkes (located at No. 1), Richard James, Huntsman (go-to of Laurence Olivier), Hardy Aimes, Kilgour (the rumoured birthplace of the grey-flannel suit) and Henry Poole (whose crest reads ‘By Special Appointment to the Late Emperor Napoleon III’). That’s not to say you can’t be well-dressed by a less-traditional tailoring outfit: those willing to depart from Mayfair purism will find an influx of designers breaking the Savile Row mould, like Ozwald Boateng and Timothy Everest – international designers crafting labels that create silhouettes and colours with a difference, whilst upholding the immense history upon their well-formed shoulders. Savile Row is where your gentlemanly identity will be carefully captured and your personality shaped, in the form of a perfect suit. A wearable masterpiece.

Ponder the mysterious heads
Easter Island

Standing sentry on the slopes of the very volcano that formed Easter Island, the Moai keep some of the world’s last great secrets. They were assembled between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries by the inhabitants of this far-flung nugget of rock, surely one of the most gruelling construction feats of the time. It’s thought that they represented the islanders’ ancestors (they were placed facing towards villages, as if to protect them) so why were they torn down by the same people who created them? What sparked the end of this ancient civilisation? They’ve now been restored to their former glory, but their lips are still sealed…

Make the journey to Machu Picchu

A view so iconic it feels like you’re gazing at a travel magazine even when it’s right before your eyes, the sight of Machu Picchu – perched on its wind-whipped plateau high in the Peruvian Andes – has captivated travellers for centuries. Once only reachable after days of trekking, the site is now connected with the city of Cusco by train. How was this 500-year-old enclave built with such precision in such perilous environs? What were the whimsies of its pampered royal inhabitants? Ponder these questions as you walk amongst its ruins, running your hands over its smooth stone contours, with centuries of history at your fingertips.

Machu Picchu


Take a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls

Hovering over a roiling waterfall – its spray soaking your clothes through the open helicopter door – is one of those heart-in-mouth moments that lifelong memories are made of. We’d defy even the steeliest thrillseeker not to let out a whoop as the chopper dips towards the white-water fray, the churning pools edging ever-closer while those thundering walls close in. But while the Niagara River is famed for its intense torrents, up here you can appreciate its intense serenity too: lush forest stretches out in every direction, while rainbows dance in the mist. It’s Canada’s raw beauty, up close.

Tour Versailles Palace

A lasting legacy of Louis XIV, the surroundings of the glorious ‘Château’ are a lot different from when it was built in the seventeenth century: you’ll now discover it nestled in a wealthy suburb of Paris. It served as the Royal Court, and opulence abounds: the Opéra Royal, resplendent Chapel of Versailles, gleaming Hall of Mirrors, Galerie des Batailles, grand apartments… not to mention 250 acres of manicured, geometric gardens. This is how it feels to live like a King. It’s a symbol of lavish luxury that 30,000 toiled to build; an immense creation by the man who proclaimed, “L’etat c’est moi,” meaning “I am the state.”

Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

Less well-known than the iconic Route 66 but arguably more scenic, the serene Pacific Coast Highway meanders for just 235km along the Californian coast from Monterey to Morro Bay. This road is made for bikers, with scrubby mountains along one side, the bright blue ocean on the other, and sunshine on your back; it’s enough to convince anyone that two wheels are better. Sites along the road include Hearst Castle, Point Lobos State Reserve and the fabled Big Sur, where giant redwood trees reach skyward and the Santa Lucia Range of rocks plunges into the sea in a demonstration of elemental majesty. It’s the definition of ‘the open road’.

Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is Australia’s pride and joy. Comprised of over 3,000 individual reef systems and coral cays while dotted with sun-drenched tropical islands, diving this incredible site with its teeming marine ecosystem is a rite of passage for those with an affinity with the underwater world. You’ll spy turtles, dolphins and sharks… Cairns is the ideal base from which to explore the reef, but cities like Port Douglas, Rockhampton and Townsville are also picturesque holiday spots to plan your dive.

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