No one’s going anywhere right now, so we’ve all got plenty of time to plan one of those magical… trips of a lifetime
- Explore Antarctica on the brand new 73-passenger Magellan Explorer which has designer guest rooms
- True Lord of The Rings devotees will enjoy a visit to the original Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand
- Venture to Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited place on earth, that is home to just 246 people
Someday, sometime in the future, the flip-flops, passports and swimsuits will come into their own once more.
It will be a chance to make up for lost time — an opportunity to take that holiday you’ve always promised yourself.
So here are ten of the greatest trips of a lifetime . . .
Splendours of Antarctica
Sail on the brand new 73-passenger Magellan Explorer, which is the world’s first ship purpose-built for Antarctic tourism
Sir David Attenborough described Antarctica as ‘a place where it’s possible to see the splendours and immensities of the natural world at its most dramatic’.
This used to mean that if you wanted to see any of it, you would have to endure discomfort of levels to which Ernest Shackleton could probably relate. No longer.
The brand new 73-passenger Magellan Explorer is the world’s first ship purpose-built for Antarctic tourism. Complete with ice-detecting radar and designer guest rooms with balconies (wrap up warm!), there’s also a fleet of ten Zodiac boats so you can get up close to the penguins and whales that are the sole inhabitants of the South Shetland Islands and the wild, forlorn West Coast of Antarctica itself.
How to do it: Antarctica 21 (antarctica21.com) offers an eight-day Classic Antarctica Air Cruise from £9,366 pp, based on a twin cabin and including meals, activities and flights from Chile to Antarctica.
Go wild in Namibia
The Skeleton Coast stretches for miles along the west-facing Atlantic shore and makes for an epic, eerie and gloriously wild African road trip
Countries don’t come much emptier than Namibia. Larger than Turkey and yet with a population of fewer than three million (the majority of whom are in the northern half of the country), Namibia is not exactly overcrowded. The Skeleton Coast stretches for miles along the west-facing Atlantic shore and makes for an epic, eerie and gloriously wild African road trip.
The ribbon of asphalt that runs alongside the foggy waters takes you past sand dunes the height of tower blocks, shipwrecks slowly being swallowed by the sands, abandoned gold-rush towns and, if you’re lucky, the odd elephant, rhino, desert lion and zebra.
How to do it: Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a 12-day self-drive Discover Namibia tour from £3,995 pp including flights, accommodation and meals.
Take a trip on the California Zephyr, one of the great American passenger trains, which crosses the deep canyons of Utah’s Capitol Reef park
We can thank Scotland for the pristine state of the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks. For it was John Muir, hailing from East Lothian, otherwise known as ‘John Of The Mountains’, whose activism back in the late 19th century helped the creation of the U.S. National Park network we can savour today. There are few better places to marvel at it all than from the observation lounge of the California Zephyr; one of the great American passenger trains.
Teetering along tracks overlooking steep gorges, this epic journey crosses the dramatic highlights of the parts of the U.S. that most people fly over, including the sandstone cliffs and deep canyons of Utah’s Capitol Reef park and long, mesmerising stretches of the Colorado River.
How to do it: Amtrak Vacations (amtrakvacations.co.uk) offers a 13-day Grand National Parks Discovery on the California Zephyr from £3,199 pp, including some meals and hotel accommodation each night, but not international flights.
On the road in Oman
The Empty Quarter is a a vast sea of sand that spreads across three other countries beside Oman
With Ancient forts, frankincense, jagged mountains and the desert wind creating rippled creases through a velvet vista of sand dunes, Oman has done more than most Gulf nations to preserve its natural, untamed beauty.
The Empty Quarter, a vast sea of sand that spreads across three other countries beside Oman, isn’t as barren as the name suggests, however.
This is a journey where you’ll encounter vast forests of Boswellia trees, gazelles, red foxes, oryx and, of course, caravans of camels being guided by Bedouin tribes.
And come nightfall, look upwards for a fiesta of shooting stars that fly across some of the clearest skies on the planet.
How to do it: Audley Travel (audleytravel.com) offers a nine-day self-drive tour from £2,485 pp, including international flights and all accommodation.
Hobbits and thrills
True Lord of The Rings devotees will enjoy a visit to the original Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand
Even if Gollum, Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf mean little to you, the New Zealand landscapes where director Peter Jackson brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings series to the silver screen are thrilling enough.
Taking the full Rings trail involves crossing almost the entire North and South islands, and you’ll need to be fit to access some of it; particularly the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, an eight-hour trek that passes three active volcanoes, emerald lakes and frothing steam vents.
True devotees of the Rings can even visit the film set Jackson’s team constructed of the town of Hobbiton.
How to do it: Red Carpet Tours (redcarpet-tours.com) offers a 14-day Lord Of The Rings tour from £2,920 pp including meals but excluding international flights.
Remote island hideaway
A British territory in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha has a population of 246 and is the most remote inhabited place on earth
It’s not the most glamorous journey, but you need to make some sacrifices if you want to reach the most remote inhabited place on earth.
A British territory in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha has a population of 246, all of whom live in the shadow of a volcano in the wonderfully named settlement of Edinburgh Of The Seven Seas.
It’s the ultimate get-away-from-it-all retreat, with thatched roofed cottages, just one pub (the Albatross Inn) and no hotels — visitors stay with local families.
To get there, look for the schedules for the South African fishing vessels that leave Cape Town regularly for the six-day journey to Tristan.
How to do it: Fishing company Ovenstones runs regular ships from Cape Town to Tristan which has room for up to 12 passengers. A 22-day long return sailing is from £387 on the SA Agulhas. Go to tristandc.com for more details.
On the high seas
You’ll need to take one of the more bijou cruises to access the cone-shaped volcanoes and hot springs of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea
The names of South Pacific islands alone are enough to conjure up images of soft sands, swaying palm trees and technicoloured tropical fish swarming in warm waters. The smaller the island, the closer these dreams come to reality. So you’ll need to take one of the more bijou cruises to access the cone-shaped volcanoes and hot springs of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, to watch the ancient practice of nanggol (essentially the original bungee jump) on Pentecost Island, and to trek amid the all-but-untouched rainforests of Vanuatu. Best of all is the sense of timelessness in these parts. Throw your watch aside and let the day slow down to the speed of the simmering Pacific sun.
How to do it: Noble Caledonia (noble-caledonia.co.uk) offers a 19-night Hidden Treasures Of The South Pacific tour from £9,995 pp including flights.
Trek the camino trail
Pilgrims have been travelling the Camino trail in Spain (also known as St James’s Way) for centuries
Pilgrims have been travelling the Camino trail (also known as St James’s Way) for centuries, trekking across Roman trade routes to reach the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela.
The epic walk from Oviedo takes you through the Asturias mountains, the granite city of Lugo, the town of Melide, considered to offer the greatest pulpo (octopus) dishes on the planet and, finally, to Santiago de Compostela itself, where you can soothe your feet with wine and free tapas in the Old Town bars.
How to do it: Follow the Camino (followthecamino.com) offers a 16-day Whole Camino Primitivo tour from £1,446 pp including accommodation and some meals, but excluding flights.
Iceland’s volcanoes and waterfalls
Beguiling: The Ring Road (otherwise known as Route One) in Iceland circles the entire island
The Ring Road (otherwise known as Route One) in Iceland circles the entire island. At 830 miles, this is a journey that should be taken slowly over at least a week.
From the glacial lagoons in Jokulsarlon to the immense Strokkur geyser to myriad sulphur cauldrons and thundering waterfalls, this is Planet Earth at its most raw, wild and beguiling.
How to do it: Regent Holidays (regent-holidays.co.uk) offers a 14-day self-drive tour including flights, meals, accommodation and car hire from £1,905 pp.
Delights of the Northern Lights
Soak up wild Norwegian fjords before, come nightfall, gazing upwards to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights
Seeing the aurora borealis demands patience, perseverance and no small amount of luck.
Exploring Arctic Norway in winter puts you in with a fighting chance of spotting one of nature’s most enchanting phenomena.
With cruise ship operators such as Fred Olsen, you can soak up wild Norwegian fjords before, come nightfall, gazing upwards to catch a glimpse of those beguiling dancing lights.
How to do it: Fred Olsen (fredolsencruises.com) offers a 13-night In Search Of The Northern Lights cruise from £1,699 pp including meals, but excluding international flights.
TICK OFF THE WORLD’S TOP TEN ICONIC SIGHTS
1. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Seven million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year, either walking to the mid-point (£9) or taking the lift to the top (£23).
2. The Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
The Pyramids date from around 2,600BC. Security concerns have hit tourism, but last year there were 13.6 million visitors.
3. The Great Wall of China
The 13,170-mile Great Wall, built from the 7th century, attracts ten million tourists a year.
4. The Taj Mahal, India
Built in the 17th century to house the tomb of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite wife. Seven million visited it last year.
5. The Statue of Liberty, New York
Gifted to America by France in 1886, it draws 3.5 million tourists a year.
6. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
Last year 6 million people visited the Grand Canyon National Park, established in 1919. Entrance is £16 per person and £28 per car.
7. Niagara Falls, U.S. and Canada
Possibly the world’s No. 1 single attraction in terms of visitor numbers, with as many as 21 million tourists a year.
8. The Colosseum, Rome
Just over four million tourists visit Rome’s giant oval amphitheatre, which could host as many as 80,000 spectators.
9. Machu Picchu, Peru
So hidden it was only discovered by the outside world in 1911, this Inca citadel limits visitor numbers to 2,500 a day.
10. The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Completed in the 14th century, the top was closed to visitors from 1990 to 2001 because it was leaning too much. Now around one million climb it each year.
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