20 dream holidays for the 21st
Forget the QE2, the Orient Express and a flight
on Concorde... so-ooo twentieth century. Think instead
of the Namibian dune mountains, paddle steamers in Mandalay
or a solar eclipse in the Antarctic. Jill Crawshaw suggests
20 ideas for a truly twenty-first century experience
Sunday January 26, 2003
1 Pick up a penguin
Think pristine white, think ice mountains and deserts
of snow. Explorers who conquered Antarctica simply called
it The Ice. You can follow in their tracks, forge through
the pack-ice, visit research stations in remote islands
and see penguins, seals and even whales on an epic voyage
this November. You'll travel aboard a Russian icebreaker,
Kapitan Khlebnikov, which in 1997 was the first ship
to circumnavigate Antarctica with passengers. There
is the chance of a lifetime on 24 November, when a solar
eclipse will shroud the brutal beauty of the landscape
in an eerie Antarctic twilight. Passengers can watch
the spectacle in the company of eclipse-chaser and TV
pundit Professor John Parkinson.
Departing from Port Elizabeth in South Africa on 5 November,
the expedition, which ends in Fremantle, Western Australia,
on 3 December, costs £15,995 from Wildlife Worldwide
(020 8667 9158; www.wildlifeworldwide.com).
2 Sexy safari
Sweep over the Rift Valley in Kenya to the strains of
Bach and Beethoven in your own funky helicopter, sleep
under the African stars in a four-poster, drift aloft
à deux in a balloon and breakfast on buck's fizz
in the Masai Mara... and that's just for starters. On
what it calls 'Africa's sexiest safari', tour operator
Aardvark includes three of the most fascinating camps
in Kenya: a secluded cottage at Loisaba, the riverside
Rekero in the Mara and the exotic Elephant Watch in
Samburu, where even the four-posters are hand-painted.
You'll be able to watch the world's biggest game show
- the wildebeest migration - and with your host Iain
Douglas-Hamilton (whose daughter Saba presents wildlife
programmes for the BBC) as your guru, you will probably
fall passionately in love - with his great interest,
11-night trips cost £8,500 for accommodation,
meals and activities but not flights. From Aardvark
Safaris (01980 849160).
3 Sixty mile-high club
Book up for blast-off on the first sub-orbital space
flight if you really want a holiday that's out of this
world. Flights are expected to start his year, soaring
60 miles above Earth's surface and lasting between 30
and 90 minutes. Wannabe Buzz Aldrins - or Buzz Lightyears
- will need to bone up on a six-day space training course
beforehand. It'll cost you up to £70,000, but
there is a cheaper alternative: just rocket to the edge
of space in a MiG 25 supersonic fighter and look down
on Earth from the front seat of the cockpit. Don't forget
to fasten your seatbelt.
Six-day sub-orbital flights and training are expected
to cost around £70,000; three-day supersonic flights
from the Russian Zhukorsky airbase cost £9,000.
From www.unmissable.com (0870 442 1350).
4 Light of your life
When the Northern Lights flash pink, green and gold
across the sky, the experience is breathtaking and humbling.
Folklore abounds with explanations of the celestial
phenomenon. For the Vikings the lights were messengers
from the gods, for others the reflections of heavenly
warriors. The Inuit saw them as torches to light the
pathway to paradise. Today's scientists say they are
caused when solar storms collide with the earth's magnetic
field. Whatever the reason, the result is spellbinding.
The best seats in the stalls are in Iceland, Greenland,
Lapland, Norway and even northern Scotland. The best
time to go is during the darkest, cloudless nights of
winter - sightings can never be guaranteed. But if you're
lucky enough to catch the Aurora Borealis you will remember
it for ever.
Northern Lights Tours (£30) are offered as extras
on four-day Iceland breaks, which cost £300-£500.
From Arctic Experience (01737 214214; www.arctic-experience.co.uk).
5 Go Crusoe
Why not play Desert Island Discs for real on your own
private island? The latest contender is Quilalea, a
marine sanctuary which opened last October in the Quirimbas
Archipelago of Mozambique. Known only to local fishermen,
Quilalea slumbered undisturbed for centuries, and even
Vasco da Gama missed it on his travels. Now turtles
nest on its beaches, whales shelter their young in its
channels and only a handful of holidaymakers are allowed
to share their paradise. It is a place to play Robinson
Crusoe in rustic cottages, go wildlife watching, snorkelling,
fishing or cast away in the island's dhows to picnic
on other little dots in the archipelago. For experienced
divers Quilalea has some of the finest unspoilt sites
Prices start at £276 per person per night, fully
inclusive; a stay on Quilalea can be combined with a
Tanzanian safari. From Carrier (01625 547010; www.carrier.co.uk).
6 Island bliss
We know Australia is a big country but this is ridiculous...
if you rent out Woodwark Bay in the Whitsundays, off
the Queensland coast, you'll get 4,000 acres of your
own tropical forest, with quad bikes to explore your
patch and kangaroos and exotic birds for company. 'One
of the most stunning properties on our books,' says
upmarket travel company International Chapters, recently
acquired by Abercrombie & Kent. You and your party
of up to 22 people will live in six luxury cottages
with names such as Dream House and Island House, Siamese
Hut and Honeymoon Hut, giving friends and family their
own bit of seclusion. Lots of other toys come with the
property - picnic pavilions, observation tower, a lake
for fishing and waterskiing, and a qualified masseuse
is at hand. Take a boat to other Whitsunday islands
or a helicopter tour to the Great Barrier Reef if you
need a change from the bush.
Woodwark Bay sleeps up to 14 adults and six children,
is fully staffed and costs £18,095 a week to rent
from International Chapters (020 7722 0722; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk).
7 Feast of the east
In the nineteenth century a grand tour of Europe used
to take months. Now, thanks to new circular flights,
twenty-first century travellers can do the Oriental
version in two weeks or less, notching up six Unesco
world heritage sites en route in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam
and Cambodia. These include walled Sukhotai, the first
Thai capital, and Luang Prabang, the ancient city in
Laos that is still in a time-warp. There are three sites
in Vietnam: the haunting ruins of My Son, the enchanting
riverside town of Hoi An and the old cultural capital,
Hue, where 20-metre thick walls surround the Forbidden
Purple City, home to the former emperor and his harem
of concubines and eunuchs. A fitting finale is provided
by the sublime Angkor temple complex in Cambodia, which
has been described as the most inspired monument ever
conceived by the human mind.
14-night tours combine all the sites and cost £2,500
(including international flights) from Audley Travel
(01869 276222; www.audleytravel.com).
8 Five-star canvas
No more grappling with guy ropes and soggy sleeping
bags. Today's high- flying campers enjoy teak-floored
tents, gold-tap bathtubs and champagne-stocked mini-bars.
Vanyavilas, the new luxury jungle camp near Ranthambore
tiger reserve in northern India, has tents covering
80 square metres and come with air conditioning, marble
bathrooms and sundecks. When Bill Clinton was there
he spotted two tigers. In Tunisia you can sleep ensuite
under five-star canvas at the Oasis of Ksar Ghilane
in the Sahara. Camel rides and jeep trips all come as
part of the package. Even Australia is going soft -
publicity for the 15 new deluxe tents at Longitude 131°
at Uluru boasts beautiful linen, hairdryers and CD players.
12-day luxury tours of Rajasthan with four nights at
Vanyavilas cost £2,226 from Greaves Tours (020
7487 9111; www.greavesindia.com);
Sahara Adventure tours, which include Ksar Ghilane,
start at £995 from Wigmore Holidays (020 7836
11-night luxury Australian tours with a stay at Longitude
131° cost £2,600 with Austravel (0870 166
9 Thrills with frills
Raft the rapids, ride the range, trek through the desert...
and then sink into a bubbling whirlpool bath and a soft
mattress. Hairy pursuits without the hair shirt is the
philosophy of new company Pura Aventura on its holidays
for adrenaline-junkies in Europe and South America.
'They're for the well-heeled who fancy a challenge but
want their creature comforts afterwards,' says the company's
managing director, Thomas Power. First-class hotels
and lodges are promised on the rugged 'Patagonian Adventure',
on which you raft in the shadow of an active volcano,
climb on a glacier and tackle the Andean forest on horseback.
And it is 'strictly no tents' on the 'Snowdrifts and
Sand Dunes' holiday, which combines skiing in Valle
Nevado with riding, walking and biking on the salt flats
of Chile's Atacama desert.
The Patagonian Adventure costs £3,000 all-in for
17 days, and Snow Drifts and Sand Dunes £3,400
for 24 days. From Pura Aventura (01273 676712; www.pura-aventura.com).
10 Cool for kids
For today's cool kids, Orlando may be old hat, Tuscany
a yawn and Morocco so last year - but Last Fling holidays
to South Africa should spark excitement in the family
holiday department. Aimed at hyperactive 10-to 12-year-olds
and even trendy teenagers, itineraries pack in wildlife
galore, including whale-watching at Witsand, cheetah-stroking
at Cango, betting on ostrich races at Oudtshoorn and
eagle-spotting in Tsitsikamma. Hi-tech treats include
quad-biking through pine forests, touring the Stellenbosch
vineyards by Harley-Davidson, helicopter flips over
the Cape of Good Hope and bungy-jumping (optional) at
Gouritz. Beat that, Benidorm.
Last Fling 14-night family packages to South Africa
fly into Cape Town and out of Johannesburg and cost
£2,100 per person from African Odyssey (01242
11 The new Riviera
Those in the know are forsaking the crowded Côte
d'Azur and heading for the Istrian Riviera, Dubrovnik
and the necklace of sun-drenched islands off the coast
of Croatia. Steven Spielberg, Sharon Stone and Clint
Eastwood are admirers of the sparkling Adriatic with
its pine forests, olive groves, vineyards and fishing
villages, and Princess Caroline of Monaco has bought
her own place off the Istrian peninsula. There are still
1,185 uninhabited islands if you want to buy your own,
though it'll cost you up to £1 million. But there
are plenty of treats for the rest of us here in one
of the most affordable dream destinations. Regular ferries
hop between islands such as Hvar, famous for its lavender,
rosemary and honey, and gutsy Korcula, birthplace (they
claim) of Marco Polo. Look out for the spirited Moreska
dance performed every week in summer. Star turn on the
mainland, Dubrovnik, is nearly back to its best after
a civil-war battering and ranks among the Med's most
stunning medieval walled cities.
Many hotel rooms cost less than £30 a night; package
holidays start around £200 a week. Information:
Croatian National Tourist Board (020 8563 7979).
12 Simply divine
The monks and friars would count their blessings if
they could live in these former colonial monasteries,
convents and churches today - many have been converted
into some of the finest hotels in Latin America. You'll
be steeped in Spanish and Inca history if you stay in
the 300-year-old five-star Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco,
Peru, once the former seminary of San Antonio Abad.
You can even marry there - the gilt-encrusted chapel
is still consecrated. The Rough Guide to Central America
claims that converted former seventeenth-century convent
the Hotel Casa Santa Domingo in Antigua is 'probably
the most atmospheric hotel in Guatemala'. There is a
Spanish art museum and a swimming pool in the grounds,
and recent excavations have unearthed some of the greatest
art finds in Antigua's history. And there's no more
evocative base from which to explore Oaxaca, one of
Mexico's most colourful towns, than the luxury Camino
Real hotel, once the sixteenth-century Santa Catalina
Rooms cost £90-£180 a night and can be booked
separately as part of a package from Steppes Latin America
(01285 885333; www.steppeslatinamerica.co.uk).
13 Blazing dunes
The ultimate spot for serious dune-bashers is Sossusvlei
in Namibia where the sand mountains reach over 1,000
feet. The latest playground for sky-divers, sand-boarders,
skiers and quad-bikers, the dunes are part of the oldest
and driest desert in the world, the Namib, where tidal
waves of sand billow across an empty landscape flooded
with sunshine. The dunes are also a photographer's dream
with their surrealistic shapes and sizes, sharp crests,
ridges and ever-changing colours. If energetic pursuits
don't appeal, soar away on a balloon safari and drift
with the wind over oceans of sand. Or just find your
dune and leave your footprints where no one else has
10-night, self-drive tours with flights over Sossusvlei
and Namibia's Skeleton Coast start at £1,400,
and all activities can be arranged. From Sunvil Travel
(020 8232 9777; www.sunvil.co.uk/africa).
14 The road to Mandalay
Take a pandaw (a converted paddle steamer) up the Irrawaddy
and you will float into a gallery of oriental watercolours.
You'll see emerald rice paddies and velvety jungles,
shimmering pagodas and bamboo fishing rafts, sleepy
farming villages and the fabulous temples (4,000 of
them) of Pagan. Long before trains and cars were invented,
they called the river 'the road to Mandalay'. Now, as
visitors trickle back to Burma, they have a choice of
river journeys into the country's unspoilt rural heartland.
The boats are attractions in their own right - romantic
throwbacks to the old colonial steamers, which carried
jade and lacquerware, silk, tamarind and even elephants
downstream, returning upstream with European cargoes
of soap, cigarettes and whisky. The pandaws have been
lavishly converted for passengers, but the landscapes
Two- to 10-day river journeys cost between £350
and £2,000 and must be combined with land-based
tours in Burma from Audley Travel (01869 276222; www.audleytravel.com).
15 Ring cycle
If you've seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you will
have fallen in love with their breathtaking backdrop.
Hobbit fever has made New Zealand one of the hottest
destinations of the new century, and there is still
one more film to go in the Tolkien trilogy. The reality
is even better. New Zealand may be a small country but
there is nowhere bigger for natural wonders. If you
follow in the footsteps of Elijah Wood and co around
the blockbuster's locations, you will encounter a land
of lush rainforests, rugged gorges and remote fjords,
crystalline glaciers, spouting geysers, caves sparkling
with glow-worms and majestic mountains. Get there soon
- New Zealand is on a roll.
12-night Fellowship Tours cost £1,550 for flights,
accommodation and car hire from Bridge the World (0870
444 1716; www.bridgetheworld.com).
14-night luxury tours with first-class flights, luxury
lodges and your own private jet cost £26,000 with
Elegant Resorts (01244 897887; www.elegantresorts.co.uk).
16 The coolest hotspot
Le Touessrok could soon be the place for super-cool
travellers to chill in Mauritius after its swanky multimillion
dollar face-lift and add-ons, which include a Givenchy
spa and state-of-the-art Matt Roberts gym. It is certainly
good news that the once pint-sized standard rooms are
now big enough for the complete range of Louis Vuitton
luggage. But this revitalised resort will have to work
hard at it; the little Indian Ocean island packs in
some of the world's most drop-dead gorgeous hotels,
and the likes of Le Saint Géran, the Royal Palm
and the opulent new Oberoi will give Le Touessrok a
close run for your money.
A week's half-board with flights starts at £2,000.
From Carrier Tours (01625 547030; www.carrier.co.uk).
17 Caribbean elegance
Live in a style to which you'd like to become accustomed
by renting a seventeenth-century plantation home in
the Caribbean. Their original British owners had every
intention of enjoying if not surpassing the lifestyle
of the gentry back home. Ancient and modern blend flawlessly
at Jamaica's 2,000-acre Good Hope Plantation - host
to countless fashion shoots and posh parties. Priceless
antiques, Palladian windows, polished four-posters and
even the first hot water bath in the Caribbean take
you back to the elegance of centuries past. A floodlit
tennis court, movie library, music room, 10 metre pool
and children's playground, to say nothing of a heliport,
will soon bring you back to the twenty-first.
Sleeping up to 26 and fully staffed, Good Hope Plantation
costs from £9,686 to £10,368 a week to rent
from The Owners' Syndicate (020 7801 9801; www.ownerssyndicate.com).
18 Marine supreme
Christina Ong of Parrot Cay fame in the Caribbean has
come up with a hotel with a difference in the Maldives.
On Cocoa Island visitors stay in dhonis - thatched wooden
boats moored alongside the pier. These aren't the traditional
fishermen's versions; Ong's floating nirvanas come with
TVs and CD players, Indian-embroidered fabrics, verandahs
where you can eat lobster fresh from the sea and air-conditioned
bedrooms where you rock yourself to sleep at night.
On dry land you can dine with your feet in the sand
in the al fresco restaurant, browse in the well-stocked
library, snorkel off a dazzling beach, treat yourself
to a massage in the Shambala Spa or watch the real dhonis
drift on the horizon.
Dhoni suites cost $480-$670 (£310-£430)
a night. Inclusive holidays from Elegant Resorts (01244
897999; www.elegantresorts.co.uk) and Seasons in Style
(0151 342 0505; www.seasonsinstyle.co.uk).
19 Pacific odyssey
Flying boats used to zigzag across 5,000 miles of the
Pacific on luxury odysseys, landing on island lagoons
where passengers were welcomed with song and sweet-smelling
garlands. The journey became known as the Coral Route.
Air New Zealand jumbos are taking a nostalgic blast
at the past with itineraries from London to New Zealand
or Australia to sample the magic of Tahiti or Fiji,
the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga. Robert Louis Stevenson,
Rupert Brooke, Paul Gauguin and a host of other castaways
made their own exotic stopovers there. Some of them
Four-centre, 25-night itineraries from London with all
flights and hotel stays in the Cook Islands, Tahiti,
Fiji and Auckland start at £2,850. From Tailor
Made Travel (01386 712000; www.tailor-made.co.uk).
20 Polar dare
Pack your thermals and play it cool on a long weekend
to the North Pole - if you can find it. When your helicopter
decants you on to the sea-ice on top of the world, you
will be given a satellite compass to find 90° north
for yourself. Only then will you get to take that photo
to bore the folks back home. You can relax on a couple
of days' acclimatisation at Longyearbyen - the 'Chamonix
of the north' - on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen
before you go, or experience dogsledding, ice-caving
and snowmobiling if you want some action.
Four-day North Pole tours cost £8,200 from the
Polar Travel Company (01364 631470; www.polar-travel.co.uk).