ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE
VISIT THE WORLD’S BEST DESTINATIONS
H M &
H E R R O N
M U R R A Y
Exclusive Books, Gifts and Stationery Est. 1983
First published in 2015 by Murray Books and Herron Book Distributors www.herronandmurray.com Copyright ÂŠ 2015 Murray Books (Australia) Copyright ÂŠ 2015 Peter Murray ISBN 978-0-9943909-4-3 All rights reserved. This publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Compiled by Lorri Lynn and Peter Murray Images: Shutterstock The author and publisher have made every effort to ensure the information contained in this book was correct at the time of going to press and accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person or organisation using this book. Some editorial may have been used from the Public Domain. Distributed world-wide by
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GREAT WALL OF CHINA WULINGYUAN THE CANALS OF VENICE MONT SAINT- MICHEL, FRANCE SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA THE MATTERHORN PYRAMIDS OF GIZA THE CROATIAN COAST LAKE LOUISE, BANFF, CANADA AEOLIAN ISLANDS, ITALY KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, STH AFRICA TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA BAGAN, MYANMAR ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS GOREME, TURKEY YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, USA THE AMALFI COAST, ITALY MALE, MALDIVES ANGEL FALLS, VENEZUELA ST. MARK'S SQUARE EASTER ISLAND VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND RUINS OF POMPEII GALAPAGOS ISLANDS EIFFEL TOWER COLOSSEUM, ROME HAGIA SOPHIA, THESSALONIKI PETRA, JORDAN THE LAS VEGAS STRIP, USA THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, INDIA TAJ MAHAL, INDIA THE FJORDS OF NORWAY THE GRAND CANYON, USA TROMSØ, NORWAY KEY WEST, FLORIDA MARRAKECH, MOROCCO UBUD, INDONESIA ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS
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FLORIANOPOLIS, BRAZIL TERRACOTTA ARMY, CHINA FAROE ISLANDS MILAN, ITALY SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK, WALES AKUREYRI, ICELAND MADAGASCAR VIENNA, AUSTRIA KATHMANDU, NEPAL CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW KASHMIR VALLEY, INDIA THE LOUVRE MUSEUM, FRANCE ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA ANTARCTICA GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA FLORENCE, ITALY VATICAN CITY THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS, GREECE STONEHENGE, UK NEUSCHWANSTEIN, GERMANY DUBAI, UAE PORTOFINO, ITALY LUBECK, GERMANY PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC BANGKOK, THAILAND QUEENSTOWN, NZ DELPHI, GREECE CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY BRUGES, BELGIUM SANTORINI, GREECE LOCH NESS, SCOTLAND GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, IRELAND ALHAMBRA FORTRESS, SPAIN ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA BAALBEK, LEBANON THE PEAK, HONG KONG PENA NATIONAL PALACE, PORTUGAL PALAU
INTRODUCTION In 1841, Thomas Cook took paying passengers on an advertised eleven-mile railway trip to a temperance meeting for one-shilling each. Included in the price was a midday meal, and that one trip began a revolution - the travel bug started with one man's vision, and it hasn't stopped growing. Today, we can travel to all corners of the globe, and we can do it in a variety of styles and to suit most tastes and budgets - a far cry from a sooty train journey between two English towns. What makes a tourist destination so spectacular that it becomes an entry on person's bucket list, and how did it make the jump from unknown destination to popular dream? Why is it that one person can drool at the thought of a meander through the canals of Venice, but another could think of nothing better than scaling The Matterhorn? The answer is simple - people diﬀer, and so does their taste in travel. Today, we live in a world that oﬀers us a vast choice in travel, and this book celebrates the ultimate must-see destinations. Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China stand out as a few of the top ten destinations in the world, and it is little wonder - they oﬀer scenic grandeur, a sense of mystery, and evidence of the most stunning architectural ediﬁces built in antiquity. Likewise, the Angkor Temples, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City and the ruins of Pompeii tease us with their untold stories. To be so close to something built centuries before Antarctica, Australia and the Americas were discovered is almost unbelievable, but thanks to tourism, we are privileged to be able to see them ﬁrst hand. From the Amazon rainforest or the Victoria Falls, we possess the capability to fall in love with a destination - to feel as though we have been transported out of ourselves and into something far greater than life. We ﬂock to Santorini, Dubrovnik and Easter Island to soak up a sense of abandon and forget our homes and our workplaces. For a short, magical time, we reach the peak of our desire to escape and stand in awe before the towering, cliﬀ structures of Petra or the fjords of Norway. Enjoy this pictorial journey into the magical world of travel.
GREAT WALL OF CHINA China’s Heritage in Dragon-Like Stone
To walk along the Great Wall of China is to follow in the footsteps of two incredible centuries of the country’s history. Between 770BC and 1644AD, the wall was built out of a need to defend China’s people from invaders. Soldiers, criminals and peasants laboured and died for centuries under often horrific conditions to satisfy the demands of the country’s Imperial Emperors as their dreams of grandeur grew with each dynasty. Spanning over 13,000 miles and traversing mountains, grasslands, plateaus and deserts, the UNESCO listed monument holds tens of thousands of valuable relics and spans 15 provinces. The Great Wall is the most common Bucket List destination in modern culture, and over four million tourists visit the surviving Ming Dynasty section every year. With an estimated three billion bricks used in its construction, that equates to 750 bricks per tourist per year.
How to Get There - The Great Wall is only about an hour’s car drive from Beijing Airport. There are a number of buses, trains and tours available for those happier to have others do the driving. Comfortable walking attire is a must for scaling the foothigh steps, and the very brave tourist has been known to take months to walk the entire surviving length of the wall.
WULINGYUAN HUNAN PROVINCE, CHINA Ancient Skyscrapers Built Before Man
Set in the Wuling Mountain Range, the 3,000 giant, quartzite-sandstone monoliths of Wulingyuan sit above gorges, ravines and caves 170 miles north-west of the province's capital, Changsha. Most prominent and steeped in folklore and legend are the natural formations known as the Bridge Across the Sky and the Bridge of the Immortals. One of China's most spectacular sites of natural beauty, the area has been UNESCO listed since 1992.
Breathtaking is an understatement when seeing the pillars of Wulingyuan, which stand up to 200 metres high, and closer inspection reveals a landscape worthy of the Great Masters. Each peak stands above areas of such incredible beauty that they must be seen to be believed - stream peppered gorges expose pools and waterfalls, while verdant greenery parts to reveal idyllic scenery at every turn.
The caves of Wulingyuan stand alone as natural wonders along the banks of the Suoxiyu River, filled with natural calcite architecture as old as time itself. The largest of the Wulingyuan caves is Yellow Dragon Cave, which is one of the ten largest in the country.
How to Get There - The nearest airport to Wulingyuan is Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport, an hour's taxi ride or minibus away. Trains run from Changsha or Huaihua (a 4 - 5 hour trip) to Zhangjiajie for those who prefer not to fly.
THE CANALS OF VENICE, ITALY The Renaissance on Water
One of the original Grand Tour destinations of the 19th century, Venice is possible Europe's greatest city of architectural wonder. Rising from canals filled with colourful gondolas and a variety of equally intriguing craft, buildings dating from the 13th to 18th centuries flank the Grand Canal, the city's 3.8 kilometre long 'main-street' that joins the lagoon at one end and the St. Mark Basin at the other.
Until the 19th century, Venice had only one bridge - the Rialto Bridge. Today, four bridges span the Grand Canal, allowing traffic to traverse between land areas. But it is the water that captures the imagination of Venice's visitors, as it did when the city was first built to showcase the wealth and opulence of the noblest Renaissance families. Those Palazzos remain today, jostling grand basilicas as a monument to the architects who once moved the watery equivalent of heaven and earth to turn a lagoon into a masterpiece. With the best of Venice's history only accessible only by water, the city is without doubt the most magical of The Renaissance's architectural legacies.
How to Get There - Venice's Marco Polo Airport is a little over four nautical miles from Venice and serves most major airlines. Closer to the city, Trevisio Airport hosts the lower budget airlines.
MONT SAINT-MICHEL, FRANCE The Normans' Most Impregnable Fortress
Only a kilometre off of the coast of picturesque Normandy, Le Mont Saint-Michel stands as a monument to centuries of religious and political upheaval within France. It was originally known as Mont Tombe until the 8th century AD, when St. Aubert of Avranches was reputedly led by the Archangel Michael to build a church on the rocky island surrounded by quixotic tides and sand. By the 11th century, Mont Saint-Michel was Norman stronghold, having changed function from abbey to prison, fort and seat of power for William the Conqueror.
Over the ensuing centuries, the island fought off all would-be invaders, and there are remains of 15th century bombardments still seen there today. The abbey grew into stupendous proportions and dwarfed the Medieval village below, operating as a jail until 1863. Mont Saint-Michel is now a destination of significant cultural and architectural beauty - a commune funded by tourism and populated only by monks and villagers. How to Get There - It's not a straightforward trip, but the best route is by train to Pontorson, with rental bikes, taxis or a local bus available for the last 10km of the trip.
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA Cambodia's Cultural Hub
Although Siem Reap is the gateway to Cambodia's Angkor Wat, it also stands alone as the source of so much more to see and experience in the Angkor Region. Located in the north-west of the country, the former region of Khmer power sits near the massive Tonle Sap Lake, which is part of the Lower Mekong Delta. Subjected over the centuries to incursions by former Siam and colonial France in the early 20th century, the town's architecture reflects the grandeur of past times that ended with the civil war in the 1960s.
Just kilometres from Siem Reap lies the heart of the Angkor region, which boasts the ancient ruins of such cities as Angkor Thom, with 23m high towers bedecked with the faces of long dead kings and religious identities and the remains of an ingenious canal system. Another Khmer site nearby is the Bayon Temple, also decorated with faces. A little further out, ancient temples abound, leaving the visitor in no doubt that Siem Reap is the centre of Cambodian culture and historic art.
How to Get There - Siem Reap has its own airport, with flights arriving from Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Vientiane.
THE MATTERHORN Pyramid of The Alps
Straddling the Alps between Italy and Switzerland, The Matterhorn has been a magnet for tourists since the advent of railway made the magnificent peak accessible to nonclimbers. Sitting at 14,692 feet, its peak is an almost perfect pyramid, with each of its four faces aligning with the four points of the compass. The Matterhorn overlooks Breuil-Cervinia in Italy and Zermatt in Switzerland and its first recorded ascent began from the latter town. Sadly, that climb ended in tragedy with the loss of four climbers, who were the first of over 500 climbers who have lost their lives since. In the late 19th century, the railway came to the region, bringing with it scores of those wishing to try their hand at scaling the impossible. The line was eventually electrified by 1930, and today Zermatt can only be reached by train after the abolition of internal combustion engines. Trekking tours of The Matterhorn generally take around 10 days, crossing international borders and over half a dozen spectacular valleys. For those brave souls wanting to circumnavigate the mountain's peak, they must be prepared to await good weather and face glaciers, rivers and numerous passes with drops of over 3,000 metres.
How to Get There - There is only one mode of transport in Zermatt - the train, which in Switzerland is the most efficient in the world.
PYRAMIDS OF GIZA Mystery and Magnificence on the Outskirts of Cairo
One of the most surprising realisations when visiting the Giza Plateau and its incredible archaeology is that the city of Cairo virtually butts up against the site. With modern tourism almost on the doorstep, it is possible to end a day at Giza with a swim in the Mediterranean and a taste of Egyptian nightlife.
The three major attractions at Giza are the Khafra, Menkhare and Khufu pyramids, accompanied by satellite pyramids for the queens of the time. Khufu is also known as the Great Pyramid, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and reputed to be the largest structure ever built. Accompanying the pyramids is the nearby Sphinx, which remains mysterious in its purpose and meaning, and the Khufu Ship - the remains of a boat that was designed to take Khufu to the afterlife. As the Menkhare pyramid is the only one retaining its polished limestone exterior, it appears far larger than the others, but it is actually shorter, lighter and smaller. Only one pyramid is open at a time as a conservation measure, but a trip into the passageways, descending steps and burial chambers make the visit a full one and packed with the most incredible glimpse into Egypt's mysterious past. How to Get There - Cairo is internationally accessible from most countries, and tours run often throughout the day.
THE CROATIAN COAST The Adriatic at its Best
The ancient states of Dalmatia, Kvarner and Istria make up the spectacular beauty of the Croatian coast. The unspoiled and pristine Adriatic landscape is peppered with nearly 1,000 islands, fairy tale towns, ancient fortified harbours and scenery reminiscent of a life once far simpler than today's. Not far inland, the country has scores of National Parks, with one containing 92 waterfalls alone, as well as deep forests, gorges and lakes. Boats of all shapes and sizes predominate along the coastline, from the small and charming to massive cruise ships. Activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, rambling, sailing and scuba diving are a necessary part of travel in Croatia, as is finding oneself facing yet another breathtaking view at almost every turn.
Through Sibenek, Split, Korcula, Trogir, Dubrovnik and Pula, hidden and coves and beaches await visitors, surrounded with a lushness created by the warm, Mediterranean climate. Orchards and vineyards bulge with produce in a country not only famous for its beauty and sunshine, but also for its friendliness. How to Get There - Most major international airlines fly to Split and Dubrovnik on the
LAKE LOUISE, BANFF, CANADA The Canadian Rockies at Their Very Best
High in Canada's Rockies, the Banff National Park boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, jam packed with natural wonders, crisp air and the most incredible colours of nature imaginable. Within the park lie the hamlet of Lake Louise and the lake itself, filled with emerald coloured glacial water that appears to defy logic in its very existence. On the eastern shore of the lake lies the Chateau Lake Louise, built early in the 20th century and one of the finest examples of Canada's Grand Railway Hotels in existence.
Originally named Laggan, Lake Louise was once a railway station that formed part of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, Lake Louise is split into two distinct parts - the village and the resort. In scenery reminiscent of 1930s travel posters, Lake Louise is surrounded by spectacular scenery, including Mount Temple, Mount Niblock and Mount White, which dwarf everything in their shadows. In summer, hiking and water activities predominate, while the area is a popular ski , dog-sledding and ice-climbing destination once the colder weather arrives.
How to Get There - With numerous flights in and out of Calgary daily, Lake Louise is a two hour drive from there. In season tours are also available.
AEOLIAN ISLANDS, ITALY Volcanic and Alluring
The Aeolian Islands were created by volcanic activity and two of them remain active today. As with most landforms created in violent tumult, the beauty of Italy's six water-encircled pearls is incomparable. Also referred to as the Lipari Islands, nearly a quarter of a million tourists visit each year to soak up the unique differences between the islands and the almost hypnotic allure of visiting them.
On Stromboli the blackened beaches of the island's inhabited parts startle first time visitors, who are soon lulled by picture-book hamlets and the simplicity of an isolated but beautiful retreat. In sharp contrast, Salina is lush, green and inviting, boasting fresh springs and bountiful vineyards. The sheer experience of standing close to the brutality of nature is essential, and the jagged coastline and tiny villages of Filicudi and the isolation of Alicudi are also experiences not to be missed. It is the smallest of the islands, Panarea, that holds the greatest allure for most, attracting the fabulously wealthy and countless day trippers in the summer months as they head for the carfree retreat. How to Get There - The only way to reach the Aeolian Islands is by ferry from numerous mainland ports. The largest of these is Milan, and the trip to the islands lasts anywhere between 6 and 11 hours.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AFRICA African Adventure to Suit all Budgets
No matter what the budget, there is generally an experience to suit most at Kruger, from the ultimate in luxury to budget accommodation. Regardless of the money spent, the scenery is free, and there is little else on earth able to eclipse the sight of Africa's big animals as they loom into view.
One of Africa's largest game reserves, Kruger covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres of north-eastern South Africa and is 360 km from south to north. The park takes in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces and links up with other national parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Tourists are often surprised at the changes in vegetation when travelling from one area to another, with marula and acacia trees gracing riverbanks and mopane trees and red and buffalo grass dominating the open spaces. Over 500 bird species live at Kruger, with half of them migratory or nomadic.
The five big-game animals can be found at Kruger and include around 8,000 elephants, 27,000 buffalo, black and white rhinoceros, zebras, cheetahs, hippos, lions and impala among others.
How to Get There - There are three airports within the park for access directly from cities. Roads to Kruger are in good repair and driving is also a favoured mode of travel
TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA Medieval Villages, Gothic Castles & Modern Day Gypsies
While Count Dracula might have been a character dreamed up by Bram Stoker, the 14th century Bran Castle and surrounding landscape that inspired him is very real, appearing more fairytale than the illustrations of the Brothers Grimm themselves. Transylvania boasts some of the world's most stunning and well preserved Medieval villages and towns, complete with pastel-coloured homes, cobbled streets and castle spires that dominate the dreams of future princesses.
Secret passageways abound in hamlets and villages sporting antiques and artisan products, while shepherds, carpenters and blacksmiths populate the landscape as they have for centuries. Gypsies too are de rigeur in Transylvania, often resplendent in tradition costume as they go about their business. Best of all, Transylvania is not a theme park - it is as genuine and real as Paris and New York, but far less affected by the progress of the past century. The towns of Sibiu and Brasov are a must, as is Bran Castle, the Rasnov Fortress and fine examples of Europe's almost extinct Saxon fortresses.
How to Get There - Transylvania is well serviced by airports and roads, with tours (including Dracula Tours) available daily during the tourist season.
BAGAN, MYANMAR Echoes of an Ancient, Advanced Culture
The secret is out - over 2,000 Buddhist temples dating back to the 7th century stand in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar and their presence rivals even the grandeur of Angkor Wat. Once the capital of old Burma, Bagan's landscape is crowded with some of the world's most beautiful cultural architecture. Pagodas, temples, monasteries and monuments once dominated life centuries ago, serving as a centre for culture, education and religious studies.
A visit to Bagan is a trip into Burma of old, when religion was the mainstay of all life and the most ornate and sacred edifices were built in honour of the country's spiritual beliefs. Today, it is still possible to visit a 7th century Pagoda complete with relic chamber and resident carved ogres, or the Hollow Temples that are still used for meditation and Buddhist rituals. Archaeological tourism is left wanting for nothing with sites such as the Ananda Temple, the Bupaya Pagoda and the imposing Gawdawpalin Temple, and it is only time that limits the visitor in choice of destination.
How to Get There - All forms of transport service Bagan, but the most exciting way to travel there is to take a boat down the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay and soak up the historic scenery along the way.
ROTTERDAM THE NETHERLANDS Dynamic Chic and Old World Charm
One word seems to dominate when the subject of Rotterdam comes up, and that word is dynamic. Save a few historic buildings, the centre of Rotterdam was rebuilt after World War II, evolving into Europe's largest cargo shipping port and a city renowned for its modernity and cleanliness. The largest skyscrapers in the country punctuate the Rotterdam skyline, and the city was recently voted 2015 European City of the Year.
The wonderfully old-world Delfshaven is ripe for a stroll, complete with authentic windmills and steeped in history dating back to the Pilgrims. In the city centre, historic trams float through a maze of architectural feats that tower above, including the Kop van Zuid tower blocks, the Gebouw Delftse Poort, the Erasmus Bridge and the Euromast. Notwithstanding modern architecture and historic charm, Rotterdam offers chic dining, designer label shopping, music and film festivals and a sporting calendar in danger of exploding, such is the extent of the city's love of competition.
And of course, no visit to Rotterdam would be complete without considering the purchase of at least one piece of the iconic blue and white Delft pottery.
How to Get There - As a busy European port city, Rotterdam is serviced by all modes of transport and is easy to access.
GÖREME, TURKEY A Lunar Landscape Carved from Volcanic Rock
When considering a visit to the Cappadocia region of Turkey, Göreme deserves a separate mention due to its unique, almost lunar landscape. Göreme is a town carved from volcanic rock, its churches, homes and even pigeon houses punctuating the landscape in and almost eerie manner. Known locally as fairy chimneys, the effect of Göreme's architecture is that tourists come from all around the globe to witness the ingenuity and practicality of the ancient residents of the area.
Backpackers abound in Göreme, drawn to the haunting, natural beauty of the area that feels as though it sits alone in the landscape. Local food and is also an attraction, grown in the region's rich, volcanic soil, and the pace is conducive to relaxation and thought - something not found in Turkey's major cities. Tourists often stay in the town's cave hotels, which sparkle with mysterious invitation at night, beckoning the curious and entrancing the romantic. Churches also abound, all clad in the area's trademark honey-coloured earth, and each offering a unique insight into a town like no other.
How to Get There - Flights leave Istanbul for Kayseri nine times a day. From Kayseri, Göreme is accessible by car in around two hours.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, USA The World's First National Park
Covering over two million acres of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the Yellowstone National Park is a natural wonder like no other. At some point in pre-history, the entire landscape exploded in a violent eruption, leaving geysers, mud spots and hot springs in its wake - geographical features that draw tourists from all around the world. Sitting on top of the Continental Divide, the park is a wonderland of alpine lakes, towering peaks, vast forests and canyons. Yellowstone was designated as the world's first National Park and served as a sanctuary for moose, bison, elk, black bears, mountain lions and many more native species.
Today, Yellowstone is also a sanctuary for humans, and a trip to one of the world's most incredible ecosystems is a step into another world that sits directly on top of a volcano. Lodges and camps cater to those planning to stay, and there is one feature that everybody has to witness - the twice daily, 220 foot high eruption of the Great Fountain Geyser.
How to Get There - Airports in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are open all year round, while Yellowstone's airport is serviced between June and September from Salt Lake City, Idaho.
THE AMALFI COAST, ITALY Secret Coves, Pristine Beaches & Crystalline Water
Southern Italy, basking in a warm, Mediterranean climate, has many tourist attractions, but none like the coastline on the shores of the Sorrentine Peninsula the Amalfi Coast. There is little agriculture along the coast due to the terrain, leaving it virtually pristine in places, although there are pockets of lemon orchards in terraced gardens that provide the base for the area's famous Limoncello liqueur and lemon ices.
The houses of Atrani cling to steep hillsides, while the Emerald Cave of Conca dei Marini continues to attract with its incredible natural colours. Further along, the tiny town of Furore offers virtual paradise, and the food, pristine beach and caves of Maiori leave tourists torn between adventure, relaxation or gastronomic delight. All along the magical coastline, Roman villas and beautiful churches peer down over crystalline water that laps at places of cottage industry and mysterious history. At Revello, echoes of a strong maritime ancestry shoulder those of the famous artists who once visited and painted the stunning scenery before them. Today, the Amalfi Coast is one of the most photographed regions in the world, and a single visit is all it takes to understand why. How to Get There - The Amalfi Coast can be reached by car. The nearest airport is in Naples and a train is available to Sorrento from there.
MALÉ, MALDIVES Relaxation and Quietude in an Azure Paradise
Surrounded by seawalls and bursting with narrow streets and high-rise buildings, Malé is the capital of the Republic of Maldives. Although it is one of the world's most densely populated cities, Malé's allure lies in its position on the southernmost rim of the North Malé Atoll. Resorts abound in the azure waters of the atoll, offering luxury accommodation and a level of service virtually unequalled elsewhere.
Originally a seat of royal power, the island once boasted long gone walled gardens, now forming the footprints of modern living and much needed high rise accommodation. Scuba diving and local shopping are the order of the day in Malé, with hand carved boats and fresh food abounding at delightful, local markets. Four islands make up the city, with a commercial harbour serving as the heart of the tiny metropolis and plans to reclaim more land for expansion. A trip to Malé requires a mindset prepared to accept that travelling ten minutes in any direction on the water means stepping into a world far removed from the city and steeped in relaxation, quietude and an absolute love of a unique destination.
How to Get There - The only way to reach Malé is by plane to the airport on the neighbouring Hulhule Island, only 2km by boat to Malé.
ANGEL FALLS, VENEZUELA The World's Tallest Waterfall
The world's highest waterfall is also one of the most difficult to reach, but it is well worth the effort. The falls sit in the dense mountain jungle of the Canaima National Park in Venezuela and are nearly 20 times higher than Niagara Falls, measuring nearly 1,000 metres high. After a staggering 800 metre plunge from Mount Auyantepui, the water rushes over sloping cascades to form rapids in the Gauja River.
In the local language, the falls are known as Kerepakupai MerĂş, meaning 'waterfall of the deepest place' and can only be accessed by first arriving at the Canaima camp and then proceeding to the falls in a dugout canoe. The surrounding landscape is filled with high mesas and thick jungle, which only part to reveal the falls well into the journey. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths, pumas and jaguars populate the area among others, and a multitude of orchid species grow wild. Typically, tourists spend several days travelling to and visiting the falls as part of package tours that provide basic food and accommodation, often moving from boat to land and back again, depending upon the season. There is no camping allowed.
How to Get There - Flights leave Ciudad Bolivar for Canaima as part of package tours to the falls. From Canaima, dugout canoe and hiking form the final leg of the journey.
ST. MARK'S SQUARE, ITALY The Drawing Room of Europe
According to legend, Napoleon once called St. Mark's Square the drawing room of Europe, and it isn't difficult to see why. Piazza San Marco, as it is known locally in Venice, is dominated by the magnificent St. Mark's Basilica and is the centre of political, social and sacred life. Tourists flock from the world over to absorb the headiness of The Renaissance at its finest, sitting just a touch above sea level. When the Adriatic swells, the piazza's drains fill and the sea rushes up into the square, often covering it in an instant.
The entire west facade of the basilica forms an almost Romanesque end to the square, its enormous, ornately carved arches sitting in the lee of the great tower. Along each side of the square, great bastions of architecture flank the paved area, leading the eye to the stunning azure of the sea at the open end. It is at night however when the square is at its dazzling best, bathed in a golden glow that could almost replicate the light of an enormous fireplace in Europe's drawing room.
How to Get There - Venice's Marco Polo Airport is a little over four nautical miles from Venice and serves most major airlines. Closer to the city, Trevisio Airport hosts the lower budget airlines.
EASTER ISLAND Far Flung, Mysterious and Incredible
For centuries, Easter Island has pricked the imaginations of countless thousands of visitors, teasing the mind with theories of how nearly 900 giant stone statues came into existence in the middle of a vast ocean. Today, many answers to the island's history and its peoples' monument building obsession have been found, but the ongoing human obsession to visit the mysterious place continues. Easter Island is so remote that the nearest inhabited island is over 2,000 kilometres away at Pitcairn Island, once the refuge of the HMS Bounty mutineers.
The Chilean territory is only 24km long and 12km wide and slightly triangular in shape, with three freshwater lakes but no rivers or streams. Although protected by UNESCO, visitors are welcome on Easter Island, ready to discover just how the islanders carved and transported their monolithic creations centuries ago and witnessing a landscaped changed forever by their obsession. For many who come, the sheer exhilaration of standing on the most far flung populated island in the world is enough, but for others, there is still far more to the mystery of Easter Island's statues that has yet to be uncovered. Perhaps a visit could provide a clue as to what that might be ..........
How to Get There - When the season permits, LAN airlines flies out of Peru to the island's Mataveri International Airport.
VICTORIA FALLS ZIMBABWE & ZAMBIA The World's Largest Falls
Mention the Zambezi River or the Victoria Falls and instantly, images of Stanley and Livingstone spring to mind, but the legendary magnificence of The Smoke That Thunders stretches back long before Christian missionaries visited. Although neither the highest nor widest falls in the world, they are nevertheless the largest on earth due to the immense proportions of the sheet of water that creates the stunning panorama. Before the Zambezi River drops hundreds of metres from the top of Zimbabwe cliffs into Zambian gorges, it gains momentum through a landscape filled with islands, sandstone hills and a basalt plateau hundreds of kilometres long.
On the crest of the falls sit two permanent islands, joined in the dry season by several islets that appear to multiply as the weather dries. In the wet season, the spray masks the base of the falls, shrouding the cliffs opposite and creating a permanent daily rainbow. But it is the immensity of the gorges that take the breath away, viewed with fascination from the Victoria Falls Bridge and captured on film and on canvas for nearly a century and a half. How to Get There - Flights from Johannesburg connect with airports on both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of the falls.
ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND Perfection in the Shadow of The Matterhorn
At the foot of The Matterhorn, one of Switzerland's most beautiful ski resorts sits in the Valais Canton near the Italian border. Once a centre of farming, the first public ascent of The Matterhorn resulted in a rush of tourists to the area and the rebirth of Zermatt. Today, it is not only the enormous pyramid of rock above that draws visitors, because Zermatt is a gateway to summer hikers and winter skiers intent upon enjoying the best the country has to offer.
The Cervinia cable car takes travellers into Italy, while Europe's highest open air railway, the Gornergratbahn, travels to the summit of its namesake 3,000 metres above sea level and the MGB ferries visitors to and from St. Moritz. Zermatt is a car free town, allowing only whisper-quiet, battery powered vehicles within its confines. Above all else, skiing is king in Zermatt all year round, with four resorts operating continually. Regardless of recreational pursuits, electric cars and trains or hiking in the direction of the stratosphere, the view from the cable car up to the Klein Matterhorn is all the reason in the world to visit Zermatt - the rest just makes it worth staying longer. How to Get There - The MGB from St. Moritz is the only way to visit Zermatt for the first time!
RUINS OF POMPEII, ITALY History Frozen in Time
For 250 years, tourists have been visiting the ruins of Pompeii, marvelling at the city frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the home of 11,000 Romans in tons of ash and pumice. 1,500 years later, archaeologists used plaster to fill the spaces in the layers of ash, enabling generations since to witness a macabre and fascinating glimpse into the last moments of ordinary people who fell victim to the volcano. Today, 2.5 million tourists visit Pompeii every year to walk in the footsteps of its lost citizens and see Roman civilisation captured for eternity - and what a civilisation it was!
Pompeii had its own water system, a shipping port, a gymnasium and an amphitheatre, as well as a pedestrian system that allowed Pompeiians to keep their feet and toga hems clean while traversing streets that doubled as a sewage outflow. Reaching the ruins is easy as they are a short walk from the Pompei Scavi, the local train station. It takes more than an afternoon to visit everything Pompeii has to offer, mainly because the ancient city is one of the most fascinating places in Europe - three days is about the average stay. How to Get There - Train from Rome to Naples takes a little over an hour, and from Naples there is a choice of train, shuttlebus or guided tour to Pompeii.
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS Darwin's Inspiration
Nearly 1,000 kilometres west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are an ecological delight, populated by about 25,000 permanent residents and fauna and flora like nothing else on earth. The most famous visitor to the volcanic islands was Charles Darwin, whose observations of the animal, bird and marine life impacted heavily upon his theories about natural selection and evolution. Both a marine reserve and a national park, Galapagos attracts tourists in their droves, who visit in limited shifts as a means of preserving the fragile and unique environment.
On the islands themselves, the impact of catering to tourists has also been kept to a minimum, with 54 available accommodation sites, mainly small hotels. Many tourists stay on ships and yachts with overnight facilities, although there is limited camping available for those who want to immerse themselves in the experience of waking up on the beach for a few morning in a row. A fair smattering of eateries cater to most tastes, while the cruise tours are the best way to sample all that the Galapagos Islands have to offer - which naturally includes snorkelling! How to Get There - Two of the islands, Baltra and San Cristobal, have airports serviced by Ecuador twice daily. Alternatively, a ship will take about three days.
EIFFEL TOWER, PARIS The 120-Year-Old Temporary Tower
The Eiffel Tower was only ever meant to be a temporary entrance to the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, but 120 years later, it remains one of the world's most iconic structures and draws millions of visitors annually. At over 1,000 feet high and 400 feet wide on each side, it has three visitor levels, including restaurants on the first two levels and a 900 foot high observatory platform on the third. While stairs are available for those with enough energy to scale 300 steps from the ground to the first floor, most tourists take elevators to enjoy a bird's eye view of the City of Light - and what a view it is.
From the Eiffel Tower, Paris and its Quarters become far clearer than on the ground or when looking at a map. Because the city is significantly landmarked with structures such as the Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse, the top of Montmartre, the Seine and the Louvre Pyramid, it is easy to understand the city of romance and bohemian history from above. The imagination runs wild when seeing Paris from above, and it is often only time that sends the visitor away, ready to return and experience it all over again.
How to Get There - Paris is one of the world's most accessible cities, reached most efficiently by plane or train.
THE COLOSSEUM, ITALY The Roman Empire in One Building
The Colosseum, or what remains of it, represents our collective knowledge of the Roman Empire when it was at its height - the organisation, the military might, the extravagance and the cruelty have all played their part in the history of Rome. The stone and concrete structure is the largest of its type ever built and is now over 1,900 years old, standing proudly in the city's centre in virtual defiance of modern traffic.
Earthquakes and robbers have diminished its former glory, when it held up to 80,000 spectators and staged spectacles that included gladiatorial fights to the death, naval battle re-enactments, animal hunts and extreme cruelty. Thankfully, the barbarism of Roman spectacle declined with the Empire, and it became a Medieval shrine before being later used as a quarry and a fortress. Regardless of its use, the Colosseum remains Rome's most popular destination for tourists and a beacon for Christian pilgrims. The original wooden floors, the roof awnings and the bleachers have now long gone, but evidence of the Romans' incredible engineering prowess remains evident and is on display for all to admire. A visit to the Colosseum is a step back into one of the world's most infamous periods of history and a bucket-list essential.
How to Get There - Rome is one of Europe's easiest destinations to reach by air, train or private car.
HAGIA SOPHIA, THESSALONIKI An Awe Inspiring Interior
For over 1,800 years there has been a church on the site of the Hagia Sophia, and the current structure has been present there for 1,300 years. Built to replicate Constantinople's own Hagia Sophia, now in Istanbul, it became Thessaloniki's cathedral at the hands of 11th century Crusaders and a mosque around 200 years later when the country changed hands. In 1912, when Thessaloniki was liberated, it again became a Christian church.
While the exterior of Hagia Sophia cannot rival its Istanbul based namesake, it is the interior that takes the breath away. The ceiling of the dome alone is possibly one of the most awe-inspiring sights in iconic painting, painstakingly restored in 1980 to wipe away the ravages of the great fires of 1890 and 1917. The Byzantine Era has never seemed so close as when inside Thessaloniki's iconic masterpiece of architecture, and the mosaics alone can set the imagination to almost seeing the original artisans reverently crafting, painting and placing their tiles.
Thessaloniki's Hagia Sophia is a must-see destination for tourists who love history, regardless of its more imposing, golden inspiration in Istanbul.
How to Get There - By road, Thessaloniki is about six hours drive from Athens. The train takes four hours and there is also a once-weekly ferry, but the best way is by air, with many international airlines flying directly to the city.
PETRA, JORDAN The Ancient Rose City Hewn from Cliffs
Nearly 2,500 years old, Petra has only been known to the Western World since the early 19th century. The world's most incredible rock-cut city has sat fortress-like in a deep canyon, remaining hidden from all but passing caravans and local Arab tribespeople for centuries. Now, the world knows about Petra and it can't get enough of Jordan's most popular tourist destination.
In the midst of deep canyons, ancient architects and builders carved an entire city out of walls, becoming a centre of trade and a fortress, while witnessing the rise and fall of many empires before it was forgotten by all but the locals. There is one narrow passage that leads to Petra from the east, and tourists today travel between the towering canyon walls of The Shaft to reach an elaborately carved city frozen in time and sheltered from the outside elements. In pride of place stands Al Khazneh, or The Treasury, pockmarked by Bedouin bullet holes that were intended to release fabled treasure hidden in its walls. Farther along, the amphitheatre of en-Nejr tells the world that Petra was once a thriving city filled with people who enjoyed entertainment and the outdoors.
How to Get There - A daily bus service runs from Amman to Petra, while minibus tours and taxis are also an option.
THE LAS VEGAS STRIP, USA A Neon Lit Paradise of Modern Excess
The Las Vegas Strip might be less than a century old, but for the past several generations, it has been an icon of American excess at its gaudy best. The Strip sits along the Las Vegas Boulevard and is jam packed with casinos, hotels and restaurants, all promising the best in everything to tourists and locals alike. 25 massive hotels with a total of over 60,000 rooms make up part of the four kilometre route, which began back in the 1930s when gangster Busy Siegel built his first casino in the middle of the desert.
Notorious as having once been the spiritual home of Hollywood's famous Rat Pack, life on the Strip centres around the hotel casinos, shrines of night life and famous for top class entertainment, nightclubs and theatres. There are many free attractions for sightseers, including the Bellagio's water fountains, the Mirage's volcano and the sensational display at Caesar's Palace. But it is the gambling and the over-the-top entertainment that continues to attract millions of tourists year-round, with temples of excess that include the MGM Grand, The Bellagio, the Aria Resort and Casino, Treasure Island, the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. How to Get There - Las Vegas is serviced by airlines from all around the world.
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, INDIA Holiness and Grandeur in Gold
Over a century before Christopher Columbus mistook America for an extension of India, the city of Amritsar was founded by Sikh gurus and the Harmandir Sahib started life as the holiest of temples or Gurdwaras. The home of Sikhism's holiest relics, the Golden Temple was built to welcome visitors from all walks of life and religions. The body of water surrounding the temple (The Holy Pool of Nectar) was dug out in 1578 and the temple was built in the middle of it. The architecture of the temple is very specific - designed to represent the cornerstones of Sikh faith. Details such as the water surrounding the structure and the act of descending to worship reflect this.
Today's Golden Temple is far more ornate than it originally was, with most of the gilding and the marblework having been installed in the early 19th century. The Maharajah Ranjit Singh was the temple's most devoted benefactor in the early 1800s and was the chief donor of the gold plating that remains today, The combination of his largesse and that of his forebears has resulted in possibly the most breathtaking and awe inspiring site of religious pilgrimage in the world today.
How to Get There - Delhi and Mumbai have direct flights to Amritsar, but for the experienced traveller there is always the exotic option of Indian train travel.
TAJ MAHAL, INDIA The World's Most Visited Mausoleum
When the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's favourite wife died in 1632, he set out to build a mausoleum that reflected his feelings for her. Two decades later, the Taj Mahal (Crown of Palaces) was complete, at a cost that would be over $800 million US today. 20,000 skilled craftsmen built a huge complex that has become India's one true jewel, reflecting both Mughal and Persian architecture.
The tomb itself is crafted in white marble and set with semi-precious gems, standing on a plinth and sporting a large dome and four minarets. With decorations designed with space in mind, paint, stucco and stone carvings reveal the artistic refinement of 17th century India in the use of calligraphy in black marble or jasper and the representation of botanical and abstract forms. Throughout the structure, passages from the Qur'an are also used as decorative elements. The vaults and domes of the Taj Mahal have been painted with geometric elements, and inlays feature heavily throughout the complex. Visiting the Taj Mahal is often the realisation of a dream, but the dream doesn't end with the visit - it becomes part of a person's life experience and can never be forgotten.
How to Get There - Domestic flights from Mumbai or Delhi are plentiful to Agra, as are train and bus journeys.
THE FJORDS OF NORWAY Wonderland in Ice and Water
A trip to witness the icy splendour of Norway's fjords can last from a few days to weeks on end, depending upon budget and the depth of the desire to immerse oneself in a wonderland of Nordic beauty. At Ulvik, the Viking Ship Museum is the best way to start out before seeing the Tyri Fjord, the Hardanger Mountain Plateau and the stunning Vøringfoss Waterfall. The Hardanger and Ulvik Fjords have to be seen to be believed, as has the city of Bergen - the Gateway to the Fjords. One of the most popular fjord-spotting vantage points is from the Flåm Railway before boarding a cruise that takes in the Aurland and Nærøy Fjords. These fjords are branches of the longest and deepest fjord in the world - the Sognefjord.
Norway also has the world's largest glacier, the Jostedal Glacier, not far from the Nord Fjord. The waterfalls of Seven Sisters and Bridal Veil form a backdrop to the spectacular Geiranger Fjord, and possibly the most scenic view in all of the Nordic world - that of the landscape surrounding the beautiful village of Geiranger itself.
How to Get There - The fjords of Norway are best visited as a package tour, run by locals companies who know the terrain better than others.
THE GRAND CANYON, USA A Two Billion Year Building Project
For two billion years, the Colorado River in Arizona carved out the world's most visited canyon - rendering it nearly 300 miles long, 18 miles wide and a mile deep in places. The traditional home to Native Americans for centuries, the Grand Canyon was first seen by Spanish Europeans in the 16th century and ultimately deemed one of the country's top holiday destinations.
Aside from the spectacular views to be had from vantage points on the canyon's rim, the real thrill of visiting happens below. Descent by hikers or visitors on mules traverse precarious, rocky trails and require a certain level of fitness - as well as the ability to withstand the high daytime temperatures at the canyon's base. Camping is a favourite feature of Grand Canyon visits, as are scenic flights and river trips. For those not afraid of heights, the native Hualapai people offer a glass-bottomed Skywalk across the canyon, some distance from the Grand Canyon Village but well worth the experience. So much has been written, photographed and filmed about the Grand Canyon, but its overwhelming beauty and magnificence can only be truly appreciated in person.
How to Get There - From LA, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Phoenix and Flagstaff, there are a number of highways that reach all points of the Grand Canyon's compass. Road maps or tours are definitely the way to go!
TROMSØ, NORWAY The Gateway to Arctic Exploration
One of the largest urbanised areas in Norway's north, Tromsø sits on Tromsøya, an island only 350km north of the Arctic Circle. Connected to the mainland by both bridge and tunnel, Tromsø enjoys warmer weather than most other places on its latitude - due to the unique warming patterns of the Gulf Stream.
Dominated by the Arctic Cathedral, the city is packed with the most delightful wooden houses, some of which date from between the late 18th century until 1904, when new wooden structures were banned. With the Lyngen Alps framing Tromsø's scenery, the view is almost fairytale, especially when taking in neighbouring islands and the fjords of Ullsfjorden, Malangen, Balsfjorden and Kaldfjorden. As a former centre for hunting and a starting point for Arctic Expeditions, the city even has its own wooden cathedral, along with several museums and the oldest working cinema in Northern Europe. A cable car takes visitors to the top of nearby Mount Storsteinen, which sits at an elevation of 400 metres, - the journey alone is worth the visit, as is a trip to the top of Tromsøya, where Lake Prestvannet sits in sparkling, arctic splendour and the Northern Lights pale all else into insignificance.
How to Get There - There are no trains to Tromsø, but flights and buses arrive from Oslo daily.
KEY WEST, USA The Southern Extent of Continental USA
Only 90 miles from Cuba, Florida's Key West is a tiny island four miles long and only a mile wide, but it is known the world over. Not many towns can boast a main street that spans the Gulf of Mexico, but Key West's Duval Street does just that and has appeared in numerous movies and advertisements throughout the years. Today, nearly a million passengers a year see Key West from the deck of a cruise ship, a tradition started in 1969 when the Sunward docked at the island's naval pier. In the 1980s, a pier on the city's Mallory Square opened, adding a new dimension to the centre of town.
Tourists flock to the concrete buoy that tells them they stand at continental USA's most southern point, but Key West's most delightful destination has to be its Old Town, dating from the late 19th century and filled with an eclectic mix of charming wooden, pastel painted houses complete with iron roofs, gingerbread-house trims and old-world balconies. New Town is a more modern addition to the island, having been reclaimed through landfill and packed with shopping centres, suburbs, retail strips and an international airport. How to Get There - Key West has its own international airport, which services the cruise ship industry.
MARRAKECH, MOROCCO Red Walls and Green Tea
The fourth largest city in Morocco, Marrakech is its most well known and possibly the most important. The city was originally a Berber farming community, but by the 13th century it was a red-walled city containing religious schools and mosques and a major trading centre for Africa's sub-Saharan region. The fortified city holds many attractions for international tourists, due mainly to its frantic, market-place atmosphere, stunning red architecture and local cuisine. In particular, the French are keen travellers to Marrakech.
Over the past decade, hotel and real estate development has skyrocketed as Marrakech strives to become a prime African tourist destination, and many wealthy French citizens own property there. Everything is available in the Red City, from traditional Berber carpets to high-tech electronics and locally produced crafts. Cuisine in Marrakech is unique and famous, with locally grown produce forming the basis of trademark local dishes and spices dominating the culinary experience. The city's most famous dish is Tanjia Marrakshia, cooked in hot ashes in a traditional oven. Notable also is the tea culture of the city, and green tea with mint and sugar is a favoured drink - poured into small glasses from a teapot. How to Get There - Marrakech is serviced by most international airlines.
UBUD, INDONESIA Medicine for the Soul
In the middle of rice paddies, deep gorges and jungled foothills, Bali's Ubud has become one of Indonesia's fastest growing tourism destinations. Famed as an early centre for medicinal herbs, Ubud is named after Bali's word for medicine - ubad. Late in the 19th century, the area was presided over by feudal lords, who encouraged the growth of the island's arts, and by the first half of the 20th century, notable names including NoĂŤl Coward, H.G. Wells and Barbara Hutton were regular visitors to an area reached only by those with the means to travel to far flung destinations.
Since the 1960s, Ubud's popularity has grown incrementally, but of late, it is becoming the first destination of choice for those heading for Bali. The palace of Puri Saren Agung, which is now a hotel, along with Hindu Temples sit in a landscape that drips with tropical allure. Wildlife also figures high on the must-visit list, and the Ubud Monkey Forest houses hundreds of crab-eating Macaque monkeys and the sinister sounding Temple of Death. Ubud suits every type of tourist to the East, from lollers and loungers to hikers, nature lovers, foodies, arts lovers and more.
How to Get There - Most international airlines fly into Bali, and Ubud is only a taxi ride away.
ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND Highlands, Lowlands & Everything In Between
With a population of around 7,000, a single town and several villages to its name, Bute offers all of the delights of Scotland in one small island. Sitting the Firth of Clyde, Bute is reached by mainland ferry, and from the moment visitors arrive, they are overwhelmed with the variety of tourism experiences on offer.
The island is bisected by the Highland Boundary Fault, just as Scotland itself is, and the divisions in terrain are just as marked. In the north of the picturesque island, densely forested hills abound and a sense of isolation hangs thickly. Heading south, Bute offers a far more cultivated landscape that stretches to the foot of Glen Callum, which punctuates the air with angry ruggedness. To the west, beaches can be found, offering views of surrounding islands and picturesque villages steeped in preDickensian charm, while the east offers similar delights. Stone Age, Iron Age and Medieval ruins pique the interest, as does the neo-Gothic Mount Stuart house, complete with tales of a resident mystic. Along with the town of Rothesay and Rothesay Castle, arts and Jazz festivals, Bute certainly offers the best of Scotland in one island.
How to Get There - The ferry from Wemyss Bay on the mainland takes about 35 minutes and leaves regularly. Reaching Wemyss Bay from Glasgow can be achieved by car or train.
GRAND CAYMAN CAYMAN ISLANDS A Grand Paradise
Simply put, The British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands is heaven in the West Caribbean Sea, and Grand Cayman is the biggest slice of heaven - 75% of it to be precise. At 22 miles long and 8 miles wide, Grand Cayman offers such a variety of travel sensations that it's difficult to know where to begin.
Bodden Town, the Island's original capital offers a glimpse into a colonial past, while East End serves up an array of the island's best natural attractions and sensational cuisine. George Town, Grand Cayman's capital and one of the world's few off-shore banking havens, offers the Caribbean's trademark hospitality along with the opportunity to taste the island's faster pace. On the North Side, visitors immerse themselves in marine biology that is rarely found elsewhere, and West Bay is bound to delight with its turtle farm and beaches that are picture-postcard perfect.
Watersports, nightclubs, restaurants and shipwrecks abound on Grand Cayman, as do some of the most beautiful beach and island scenes imaginable. And as for the magnificent blow hole that spouts the ocean into the air - well, it's not called Grand Cayman for nothing!
How to Get There - The most efficient means of travel to Grand Cayman is by direct flight from Miami.
FLORIANÓPOLIS, BRAZIL Brazil's Most Vibrant City
Florianópolis rates as one of the best cities in the world in terms of quality of life, and with 42 beaches, it is little wonder why thousands flock there weekly to soak up the atmosphere of the intriguing city. Most of the city is situated on the mainland and has a population of over a million, with the island of Santa Catarina the next populous area with half the number of residents. Santa Catarina is less populated on its southern coast, but it attracts tourists in large numbers.
Lacemaking, local cuisine, fishing and the area's colonial past all dominate in the more remote areas, and while modernity pulses nearby, it is miles away in the small, quaint villages. Three bridges reach the island, and many come for the thermal baths - the waters of the City Baths have been known to reach 360C. With surfing hugely popular at the world renowned Barra da Lagoa, nearby canals are often the haunt of penguins in winter. Ingleses Beach offers sophistication while Armacão Beach acts as a launching point for travel to outlying islands or local archaeology. Colonial architecture abounds in a city that oozes with sophistication, charm and the promise of something different around every corner.
How to Get There - From Sao Paulo to Florianópolis, it is a six hour drive down the coast of Brazil, or a direct flight. Either way, the views are magnificent!
TERRACOTTA ARMY, CHINA 8,000 Reasons to Visit Xian
When local Shaanxi Province farmers first discovered a pit of sculpted statues back in the 1970s, little did they know that more than 8,000 terracotta soldiers, over 100 chariots and nearly 700 horses would be unearthed by archaeological teams over the ensuing decades. The second century mausoleum also contained a necropolis that mirrored the imperial palace of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, as well as his intact burial mound and tomb. The necropolis itself is made up of rammed earth offices, stables and halls and surrounded with defensive walls and gateways, revealing much about life in Imperial China nearly 2,000 years ago.
With each soldier, horse and chariot carved in exquisite detail and news sources around the world revealing the incredible find, it wasn't long before tourists began flooding the area, intent upon witnessing one of China's most exciting archaeological finds. Some of the Terracotta Army have toured the world, but most remain in situ, preserved in their original majesty and waiting for the next batch of excited tourists to marvel over them. Much like the country's Forbidden City, the miraculous find has given the world a fascinating insight into China's grand but brutal past, and afforded generations to come a glimpse into an almost forgotten past. How to Get There - There are flights and train journeys from Beijing to Xian throughout the day. From Xian, the train travels directly to the Terracotta Army.
FAROE ISLANDS Extreme Tourism at its Best
Halfway across the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Norway, the independent Faroe Islands exist as part of the Danish Kingdom in 500 square miles of incredible land and seascape. Originally part of Norway and subsequently ruled by Denmark, Greenland and Iceland, the islands have been independent since 1948 but are protected by their Danish counterparts. Made up of 18 separate islands, with all but one inhabited, Faroe is closer to Scotland than anywhere and boasts some of the most beautiful Atlantic coastlines in the world.
Rugged, rocky and inaccessible at times, the Faroe Islands and their trademark cliffs beckon the extreme traveller and deliver an experience like no other. Hiking and climbing in such a bracing environment can be one of the greatest thrills on earth, as can the knowledge that Europe and its fast paced cities are a world away. Bird and marine life abound, adding to the sensation of isolation when viewed from the coastal cliff tops, while the welcoming villages dotted around the islands offer warmth and contact with humanity. It doesn't get much closer to the edge of civilisation in the Faroe Islands! How to Get There - Denmark, Norway, Iceland and England offer year-round flights to the Faroe Islands, while a weekly ferry travels from Jutland in Denmark.
MILAN, ITALY Fashion, Opera and Wow Factor
Who doesn't want to visit Milan? As Italy's premier commercial, financial and industrial centre and the world capital of fashion and opera, the city is a magnet to those wanting to soak up culture by the bucketful.
Fashion is king in Milan, with Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace dominating the shopping experience. Industrial design also features strongly, with Europe's most prestigious design fair, the Salon Internazionale del Mobile, a permanent fixture on the world's furniture design calendar. The city's architecture is a stunning array of modern and Medieval, with La Scala, Milan's famous opera house, oozing class and inviting all to steep themselves in the musical experience of a lifetime. Most importantly, it isn't possible to visit Milan without shopping, and the Quadrilatero Della Moda, the fashion district, is the only place to start. A stroll down Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni or Corso Venezia equates to a canal ride along the main artery of world fashion shopping, and a visit to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an absolute must before anybody can state categorically that they have shopped in Milan. How to Get There - Most international airlines have flights into Milan.
SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK WALES Stunning Welsh Landscape
Six million visitors arrive at Snowdonia every year, soaking up the majesty of an 800 square mile landscape that varies between wild open space, grazing land and towering mountains. Right in the middle of Snowdonia sits Blaenau Ffestiniog, a town that is a centre of slate quarrying and exempt from National Park status.
In all, Snowdonia has four distinct areas, each a delight to visit and each distinct from the other. In the south, The Dyfi Hills, the Tarren Range, Cadar Idris and Aran Fawddwy tower over the landscape, reducing those below to less than a dot. The western part of Snowdonia features the remote Rhinigydd and Arenig mountain ranges and the Migneint moorland, which is predominently an enormous bog. The peaks of Moelwynion, Cnicht and Moel Siabod surround Blaneau Ffestiniog and its slate quarries, but it is in the north of Snowdonia that tourism is at its peak. Wales' highest mountains are there and include the Glyderau and Snowdon Massif groups among others, as well as each of the country's 3,000 foot mountains. Rare bird life and mammals live safely within the confines of Snowdonia and include the rainbow beetle and the red kite, as well as the peregrine falcon. How to Get There - Across the United Kingdom, trains and buses connect to Snowdonia.
AKUREYRI, ICELAND Iceland's Best Kept Secret
Akureyri is Iceland's best kept secret outside of the country, hidden away in the north of the country but surprisingly warm in comparison to other cities below it. Surrounded by mountains and blessed with a surprisingly ice-free harbour and a river running through the centre of town, Akureyri sits at the end of a lengthy fjord and enjoys warm summers as a result of its unique terrain. It was first settled in the ninth century, but it wasn't until the 19th century that Akureyri became a town of note due mainly to its sheltered port and the ability to farm the surrounding lands.
Today, Akureyri offers tourists a glimpse into a unique slice of Iceland that differs from any other part of the country. Although only the hardiest traveller might brave the winter elements, summer in Akureyri is an absolute delight. When the seas are kind, a 35 mile boat trip to the island of HrĂsey is also worth a visit, although there are restrictions because it is used as an animal quarantine station. When looking for something different in holidays, Akureyri certainly deserves to be on the list, if only to experience the fine dining and excellent accommodation.
How to Get There - Route 1 from Reykjavik to Akureyriv is easily travelled by car or bus, but air travel is often cheaper.
MADAGASCAR Ecotourism's Premier Destination
Madagascar is an island within the Republic of Madagascar and the fourth largest island in the world. Over 90 percent of Madagascar's wildlife is unique to the island, making it an area of significant ecological interest to conservationists. Once ruled by noble families and eventually France, the country has been independent since 1960.
Madagascar is the world's premier ecotourism destination, and visitors wanting to witness the island's unique ecosystem help bolster the country's weak economy. Lemurs alone account for 100 different species, along with 300 bird species and 260 reptile species. Invertebrate fauna such as earthworms, spiders, and insects are also found nowhere else and attract ecological experts from around the globe. Interestingly, there are no monkeys on Madagascar, but there are many other animals in place of them, including the fossa, a relative of the cat and many previously unknown chameleons. The most beautiful of Madagascar's flora is the Comet Orchid, only one of the islands 14,000 unique plant species. Covered in rainforest, grassland and deciduous forests, Madagascar offers an incredible ecotourism experience and is a must-visit for those who value biodiversity.
How to Get There - Flights to Madagascar can be expensive, and the most dependable route is from Mauritius.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA A Waltz Through European Culture
Home of the waltz and known as the City of Music, Vienna resounds with echoes of Baroque life, evident in its castles, grand buildings, parks and monuments. Culture and Vienna are synonymous with each other, and central Vienna has been home to some of the world's most notable people - including composers Brahms and Strauss, socialists Trotsky and Tito, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Loos and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Mozart, Haydyn, and Beethoven all spent time working in Vienna, sealing the city's status and the world's culture capital.
Today, Vienna is as cultured as it ever was, and visitors are spoiled for choice. Grand opera houses and theatres host opera, operetta and the city's trademark New Year's Day Concert, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. On Vienna's to-do list is a visit to the Schรถnbrunn Palace or the Tiergarten Schรถnbrunn, the oldest public zoo in the world. The Weiner Riesenrad's ferris wheel in Prater is probably the most recognisable of all Viennese landmarks and attracts over 600,000 visitors every year. Over half that number visit the Donauturm observation desk to see Vienna from above, while visitors looking to soak up historic Vienna with a difference head for the Spanish Riding School, which is an absolute must. How to Get There - Major international airlines fly into Vienna daily.
KATHMANDU, NEPAL A Mountain Oasis
Nepal's only official city stands 1,400 metres above sea level but is dwarfed by the four surrounding hills of Chandragiri, Nagarjun, Shivapuri and Phulchoki. The city is Nepal's tourism gateway, and the only drawback upon entering is in knowing what to visit first.
The Boudhanathv or Grand Stupa generally wins out, purely because of its magnificence. Bedecked with prayer flags and topped with a spired done, the temple's pristine white foundations draw the eye. With temples and monasteries abounding, the city's Garden of Delights eventually beckons, promising all who enter a sense of both peace and awe at its incredible beauty. As for the city's commercial centre, Thamel is where it all happens. Noisy, frenetic and colourful, Thamel offers everything from knock-off climbing gear to sensational local cuisine, accommodation to suit most budgets and most surprisingly, signage in English! The people are gentle, the scenery is magnificent, and for those heading off to an Everest Base Camp, Khatmandus is an oasis of refuge upon their return.
And as for earthquakes - everything beautiful about Khatmandu is still there and ready to greet visitors! How to Get There - Most airlines have flights to Khatmandu, with domestic travel available from nearby India.
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO An Educated but Brutal Civilisation
One of Mexico's most visited archaeological sites, Chichen Itza is recognised the world over as the heart of the mysterious Mayan civilisation. Built in pre-Columbian times, the city was the largest of the Mayan settlements, and its origins are still steeped in mystery. On the day of the Spring Equinox thousands make a pilgrimage to witness the shadow of the feathered serpent-god crawl down the wall of the Temple of Kukulcan.
High on the list of Chichen Itza's amazing buildings is the Temple of Warriors, the exposed columns of which once supported a massive roof. Carved Mayan soldiers appear along the walls, and at the top of the stairs, a reclining figure lies with a bowl on its stomach. The ancient Mayan observatory of El Caracol is also a fascinating insight into the ingenuity and intelligence of the city's past inhabitants, while the enormous ball court reveals the brutality of the civilisation, with depictions of players losing heads and severing arteries. It is only when visiting the Temple of Skulls that the true horror of Mayan life becomes apparent, with the walls of the temple having served as a point of display for the severed heads of ball game losers! How to Get There - Most major airlines have flights into Cancun, from which tours take visitors to Chichen Itza.
THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW The Fortress Inside a City
For most Baby Boomers, the name Kremlin automatically conjures up memories of the Cold War, but Moscow's Kremlin has been in existence since the 15th century. Overlooking the Moskva River, the triangular citadel includes multiple palaces and cathedrals, as well as surrounding four-metre thick walls and imposing towers. In the centre of the Kremlin sits Cathedral Square, which is surrounded by magnificent buildings including the Cathedral of the Dormition - where all of Russia's Tsars were once crowned. Ornate, gilded and domed as only Russians know how, it is nevertheless dwarfed by the even grander Cathedral of the Archangel Michael.
The Ivan the Great Belltower dominates the square's north-east corner at 81 metres tall, and it once contained the world's largest bell - the Tsar Bell, which now sits alongside the tower. Ivan III's Palace of Facets and the Terem Palace are also standout features inside the incredible citadel, and they link to the Grand Kremlin Palace - the new kid on the block at only a little over 170 years old. Every structure within The Kremlin has a story to tell, from the arsenal of Peter the Great to the knowledge that just outside the walls of the citadel, Moscow's infamous Red Square butts up against it. How to Get There - Most international airlines fly to Moscow
KASHMIR VALLEY, INDIA The Subcontinent's Great Divide
The Kashmir Valley is an Indian administrative division that has historical significance as the site of a fabled lake named after Shiva's consort. Once called Paradise on Earth, the valley changed hands between different religious groups before Gulab Singh, the Rajah of Jammu took control in 1846. From then until 1947, Sikh rule prevailed, but when India and Pakistan were partitioned, the area became a territory disputed between India, Pakistan and China.
Today, the Kashmir Valley is a top tourist destination, renowned for a ski-resort, a boating lake and the sacred Hindu shrine of Amarnath. The ski-resort at Gulmarg attracts tens of thousands of skiers annually and also boasts the world's highest altitude golf green. Other popular destinations in the Kashmir Valley are the hill stations of Sonamarg, a gateway to the ancient Silk Road and Aharbal, notorious for trout fishing and its beautiful waterfall. The Kashmir region's capital, Srinagar, is known as Venice of the East, such is the extent of the lakes in and around the city. Srinagar is renowned for its Mughal Gardens, which include Naseem Bagh, Pari Mahal,Nishat Bagh and Chashma Shahi - all world heritage sites. How to Get There - Srinigar's airport connects domestically with Delhi and Mumbai.
THE LOUVRE MUSEUM FRANCE The World's Most Visited Museum
The Right Bank of Paris' Seine is rich with things to do and see, but none is as exciting as The Louvre Museum, easily identified by the enormous glass pyramid that greets visitors. The world's most visited museum holds a collection of over 30,000 objects dating from pre-history, and nearly ten million visitors pass through every year to view them.
The home of the museum is the 12th century Louvre Palace, which is an artefact in itself. Louis XIV once lived there before moving to the Palace of Versailles and leaving the Royal Collection behind. Opening its doors as a museum for the first time in 1793, The Louvre's holdings have increased to have eight main departments - Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints & Drawings; Sculpture; Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; and Egyptian Antiquities. The latter is the inspiration for the glass pyramid that dominates the courtyard and fascinates. For those contemplating a day trip to the museum, careful planning is the key because there is far too much to squeeze into eight hours. Travel websites are a great resource for this and are highly recommended before a first visit. How to Get There - All major airlines fly into Paris daily.
ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA The World's Largest Religious Monument
The 12th century temple complex of Angkor Wat is Cambodian tourism's biggest drawcard, and for good reason - it's absolutely majestic! Built to represent the home of the mythological Hindu devas, the west orientated structure is unique among architectural practises of the time for its position alone. Thought by many scholars to have been intended as a mausoleum, the quincunx of towers in the centre of the complex represents the five peaks of Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods.
3.6 kilometres of wall surround the Siem Reap province's greatest pearl and a moat surrounds the temple itself. Since the demise of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia's recovery, visitors have swelled to over two million a year, and that number is expected to grow. Ropes and wooden steps enable access and ensure that damage is minimised - especially to the ornate bas-reliefs and the floors. Nearly 30% of visitor takings is turned back into the temple to help preserve it, and plans are afoot to build a city specifically for cultural tourism nearby. Luxury hotels and modern facilities will be incorporated into traditional architecture to immerse visitors in the delight of the Khmer experience. How to Get There - Tours leave Siem Reap, which has its own airport, with flights arriving from Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Vientiane.
ANTARCTICA In the Steps of Our Greatest Explorers
Fifty years ago, visiting Antarctica was the domain of explorers and scientists, never to be considered by the average person - apart from those intrepid souls keen enough to charter a Dakota for a flyover. Today, tourists visit in November and March, citing the experience as one of the most exhilarating of their lives and itching to return. The only way to see Antarctica is by ship, and depending upon packages and ports of departure, there are a myriad of things to do once the ice begins to appear. Excursions in zodiacs take tourists to the mainland, and from there, a world of wonder opens up before their eyes.
From the Drake Passage near Tierra del Fuego, travellers take in the Antarctic Andes, research stations and some surprising hot springs. Wildlife abounds, including whales, penguins and seabirds, and the photography opportunities alone makes the trip worth every last penny. The Weddell Sea teems with seals and whales, and on the territory's largest island, South Georgia, glaciers and snow covered mountains create a dramatic backdrop unequalled anywhere else. The incredible coastline, orcas surfacing nearby, long disused research stations and a litany of amazing sea and bird life are just a part of the Antarctic experience.
How to Get There - Over a dozen cruise ships leave from Patagonia or Chile, but there is a waiting list of generally around 18 months.
GREAT BARRIER REEF AUSTRALIA Paradise Under and Over the Waves
Being the largest coral reef in the world is one thing, but being the most beautiful sets Australia's Great Barrier Reef aside as a natural wonder and a must-visit destination. Nearly 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands sit in the Coral Sea parallel to the country's Queensland coast, forming over a quarter of a million square kilometres of marine wonder built by billions of living marine polyps.
Most of the reef falls under the protection of National Park status, enabling authorities to protect it while encouraging tourism to 'safe areas'. This is particularly important today, because the crown-of-thorns starfish has decimated a huge part of the reef since 1985 and control measures are essential to the reef's survival. The clear, warm waters of the reef make it perfect for tourism, with scuba diving, snorkelling and special viewing boats the most popular pursuits for visitors on the outer edges of the reef. A number of resorts have sprung up over the years on the mainland and several coral cay islands, making The Whitsunday Islands and others destinations of choice for those who want to soak up the tropical atmosphere and witness the miracle of nature in the most perfect of settings.
How to Get There - Major airlines fly to Brisbane or Cairns from all over the world. Package tours to the Whistundays or one of the other island resorts is the best way to pack in reef activities.
FLORENCE, ITALY Birthplace of the Renaissance
Florence, or Firenze as the locals know it, heads up the Tuscany region of Italy and is often referred to as the Birthplace of the Renaissance or the Athens of the Middle Ages. Once ruled by the Medici family, notorious for their Machiavellian politics, turbulence and strife reigned supreme for centuries. Of course, while this was all going on, Florence managed to become the home of Italy's finest Renaissance architecture and a repository for art and culture without peer.
Visiting Florence today requires at least one foray out into the beautiful Tuscan countryside to sample wine and local produce, and many visitors use the city as a base to do just that. Others visit for the fashion shopping, but most come to gape at the beauty of Italian city life at its finest. Plazas, cathedrals, statues and bridges feature highly in Florence's architecture, with such landmarks as the Cupola del Brunelleschi, the Piazza del Duomo, Giotti's Bell Tower and the Ponte Vecchio just some of the reasons that student architects flock to Florence for study and mind-boggling inspiration. A day in Florence dips the toe, a week tantalises the mind and a month becomes the beginning of a lifelong love affair. How to Get There - Most major international airlines travel to Florence.
VATICAN CITY Sacred Ground and that Painted Ceiling
The smallest of the world's independent states, Vatican City packs a punch in terms of global influence as the Catholic Church's HQ with resident CEO - The Pope. Aside from its sacred status among Catholics worldwide, Vatican City is also an unrivalled centre of culture and beauty, and has been appointed a World Heritage Site for that reason.
St. Peter's Basilica, created by architects including Michelangelo, along with the Sistine Chapel, are the guardians of some of mankind's most coveted sculptures and paintings. The frescos of the Sistine Chapel, by greats such as Botticelli, are stunning, and the ceiling painted by Michelangelo has to be seen to be truly appreciated as both a work of beauty and of great physical endurance. Inside the Vatican Museums, visitors come face to face with the works of Raphael and others at every turn - often in danger of culture overload. There is little about The Renaissance that doesn't feature, right down to robed priests and a sensation of being somewhere slightly off limits. And as for the world's shortest railway line and a train like no other - well, that's another story again!
How to Get There - Vatican City is within walking distance of central Rome, but there are buses and trains for those who want to save their feet for their visit.
THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS GREECE Athens' Holiest of Holies
In Ancient Greek, Athens' Acropolis is literally a city on the extremity - not just of the early settlement of Athens, but of the collective knowledge of mankind. The most famous of Greece's many so-named structures, building of the city on a hill began back in the fifth century, when England was still under Roman rule and much of the world was yet to be discovered.
Athens' holy rock sits above the city and can be seen from most vantage points below, even at night when it is lit up. Approaching the hill from Monastiraki, the first surprise is the view of Athens below and the second is in safely traversing slippery, stone steps - but the climb is well worth the effort. There is also a lift available, but regardless of how it is reached, the view from Areios Pagos is sensational - as is sunset from the Acropolis' peak. The sensation of seeing firsthand such iconic structures as the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaean, the Parthenon and others is awe inspiring, as is the ability to walk among iconic buildings once graced by the founders of democracy. How to Get There - Athens is serviced daily by most major international airlines.
STONEHENGE UNITED KINGDOM The Prehistoric Mystery
At around 5,000 years old, Stonehenge stars as one of the most famous and iconic places in the world. The prehistoric monument stands in the county of Wiltshire on the Salisbury Plain and is set within a massive complex of structures and mounds still only beginning to reveal themselves with modern technology.
Recent discoveries have revealed the stones of the henge to have originated in Wales, and historians and archaeologists have retraced the steps of the generations of people who dedicated their lives to transporting them to their final resting place. Visitors to Stonehenge are no longer able to walk among the standing stones, but the experience is nevertheless exhilarating. During the winter and summer solstices and equinoxes, devotees of Druidic religions gather nearby to witness the miracle of planetary alignment, while the rest of the world merely marvels at the knowledge of ancient man. There are many more standing stones and wooden henge sites scattered throughout the United Kingdom, but none are as majestic or as mysterious as Stonehenge itself - a magnet for the enquiring historian and a must-visit destination on most bucket lists.
How to Get There - Stonehenge is best visited by car or bus, with many tours operating in the area.
NEUSCHWANSTEIN, GERMANY A King's Homage to Wagner
Neuschwanstein Castle is less than 200 years old, but it was built to resemble Romanesque architecture by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century. Little did His Majesty know that within less than a century of his death, the castle would become the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, beamed into the living rooms of millions worldwide on a weekly basis. Built on a steep hill overlooking the village of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein was Ludwig's personal retreat, dedicated to the musical genius of Richard Wagner - of The Ring fame.
Immediately following Ludwig's death, the castle was opened to the public - a practise occasionally halted by war but which continues today in the form of over one million visitors every year. Once through the tower-flanked gatehouse entrance, visitors arrive in the palace courtyard, which has two levels. With spectacular mountain views dominating the southern courtyard end, the sense of enclosure pervades with the Knight's House, the Bower and the Gallery accentuating the stronghold feel of the place. The Hall makes up the bulk of the castle, containing staterooms and servants' quarters in five incredible floors. Richly decorated, impossibly ornate and surrounded by a fairytale landscape, nobody leaves Neuschwanstein without at least one new interior decorating idea!
How to Get There - F端ssen is easily reached by train from Munich. From F端ssen, Neuschwanstein is easily reached by car, bus and even horse-drawn carriage!
DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES High Rise, High Cost & High on the Bucket List
Dubai is the United Arab Emirates' most populated city and an icon of what progress and innovation can bring to a desert region. The hub of Middle East commerce, Dubai began life as a small city funded by oil revenue in the 1960s. Today, oil contributes to only 5% of the economy, with tourism, financial services, real estate and aviation dominating. Dubai's skyline is a symbolic one, packed with shiny new skyscrapers and high-rises built by a burgeoning international workforce.
As one of the world's most expensive cities, Dubai is nevertheless well worth visiting for those who can afford it. The Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest building with the fastest lift on the planet, and is the most popular of the city's tourist spots. A trip to Jumeirah Beach, once a site for abandoned oil drums, takes visitors into the world of opulent excess and the world's only 7-star hotel - the Burj Al Arab. Nearby, a shopping mall landscaped with ski slopes defies desert logic, especially with desert safaris on offer just outside of the city. In the midst of such excess, a trip across the water to Deira takes visitors back to the pre-sixties, with the sights, smells and sounds of colourful markets, exotic spices and the evening call to prayer. How to Get There - All of the major international airlines service Dubai.
PORTOFINO, ITALY Italy's Saint-Tropez
Much like Saint-Tropez once was to the French Riviera, Portofino is a picturesque fishing village on the Italian Riviera. Colourful, painted buildings flank the shoreline in picture-book perfection, overlooking a harbour that has witnessed the return of small fishing fleets for centuries.
Today, Portofino has managed to retain its charm, which is no mean feat considering its status as the most popular destination on the Italian Riviera. Once the sun comes out, Portofino's 500 residents ready themselves for the arrival of the yachts of the rich and famous and the ensuing welcome invasion of the town. Art galleries, boutiques and restaurants cater to those who prefer quality over quantity and have the means to pay for it. With diving in the harbour and a choice of Italy's best beaches nearby, Portofino is a truly idyllic escape. Churches figure highly in Portofino, especially with fisherman to protect, and the churches of Saints Martin and George are delightful. Dominating the skyline on a hill high above the harbour, the 16th century Genoese fortress of Castello Brown overlooks luxury yachts and fishing boats alike, now a far cry from its origins as the defender of a long gone realm. How to Get There - Portofino can be reached by train from Rome, but car and ferry travel is also an option. For an effective entrance, luxury yacht is the only way to travel.
LÜBECK, GERMANY Canals, Churches and Christmas
Gothic architecture dominates in one of Germany's major port cities, which sits on the River Trave and is connected by canal with the River Elbe. Lübeck's lifeblood is its thriving port, but the heart of the city lies in its history, which is evident in its stunning architecture, narrow streets and Medieval garrison feel. 13th and 14th century churches with trademark green roofs feature heavily, as do former Hanseatic monasteries, all of which bore the brunt of a 16th century plague that wiped out most of the city's population and necessitated the expansion of a 13th century hospital that still exists today.
But Lübeck is far more than churches and cargo ships - it has preserved much of its past in its customs and handicrafts, and offers some of Germany's best wine and food experiences imaginable. Confectionery also figures highly in Lübeck, and once tasted, is addictive. Once a year, Lübeck pulls out all stops for its famous Christmas market, which attracts shoppers from all over Germany and offers local handicrafts and arts unique to the region and renowned the world over. Lübeck has something for even the fussiest tourist, and return visits often feature on the itinerary.
How to Get There - Most domestic German airlines service Lübeck, which is also very accessible by ferry and well worth the voyage.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC The Best of Central Europe
The Czech Republic's capital is central Europe's cultural and political hub and has a history of witnessing some of the world's most turbulent times and incredible eras. Two Holy Roman Emperors wielded power from Prague before the empire's fall and the rise of the Hapsburg Dynasty and the ensuing Austro-Hungarian Empire. Eventually, Prague saw the advent of two world wars before falling under Communist rule in the late 1940s.
Fortunately for Prague and its visitors, the city survived a fair amount of destruction, which include the Prague Castle, the old town square and the astronomical clock, an early 15th century masterpiece locally named the Orloj. According to local folklore, the city and its people's wellbeing is directly linked to the clock's performance - which is naturally maintained to the highest standard! Petrin's Hunger Wall, built purely to provide the poor with work in the 14th century, attracts tourists, as does the old Jewish Quarter and the historical fort of Vyšehrad. Four million people visit Prague every year to soak up the history, the cosmopolitan lifestyle and the chance to see Central Europe at its very best, and most leave delighted with the experience.
BANGKOK, THAILAND The Heart and Soul of Thailand
When the Asian Investment Boom erupted in the 1980s and 90s, a number of multinational companies set up shop in Bangkok and the Thai capital's future was set. One of the world's top tourist destinations, Bangkok offers up every possible experience, from the best of fashion, accommodation and entertainment to a thriving red-light district. Every budget is catered for in Bangkok, and only time and money restrict the tourism experience.
The city's legendary floating markets are a must visit - the clamour, smells and sights like nothing seen in Europe. With bartering the order of the day, shopping is a delight, from fresh produce to knock-offs and everything in between. Entertainment and fine dining are also high on the list of things that Bangkok does well, and for those who want to know more, cooking schools are now par for the tourist course. Buddhist temples, river cruises and tuk tuk travel is also extremely popular, and there are numerous themed tours available, including a trip to the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. Of course, no trip to Bangkok would be complete without seeing at least one elephant, and with Buddhism the heart of Thailand, the elephant has to be its soul and what soul it has! How to Get There - Most major international airlines service Bangkok.
QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND Adventure and Culture in One
The Z-shaped, glacial Lake Wakatipu plays host to Queenstown, a resort town that sits below some of New Zealand's most spectacular mountains. Renowned for offering the very best in extreme tourism, Queenstown is also a centre for relaxation and some of the best views in the country.
For the adventurous, whitewater rafting, paragliding, sky diving, fly fishing and snowboarding are but a few of the 200 plus offered experiences. There are four major ski fields nearby, with cross country skiing also a favourite pastime. For those who prefer their scenery at a more moderate pace and altitude, the TSS Earnslaw, a 100year-old coal fired steamer cruises Lake Wakatipu and delivers a relaxing view of the mountains in old world, nautical comfort. The historic Arrowtown is packed with the best in bars and restaurants, as is Queenstown proper, which offers premium tourist accommodation and entertainment. The southernmost winery in the world, Two Paddocks, is always good for a delightful tipple, while the wine flows freely during the town's famous Jazz Festival. For film buffs, Queenstown and surrounds have featured in many productions, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, although these days, the Hobbits have long since disappeared. How to Get There - Scheduled flights from New Zealand's major cities and Australia's east coast cities service Queenstown Airport.
DELPHI, GREECE The Classical World's Time Capsule
Visiting Delphi is a step back into the Classical World, when myths were part of the collective consciousness and the world was filled with projects to stimulate the mind, body and soul. Delphi was the god Apollo's haunt - a sacred place where myth and tradition met for sport, music and worship.
Today, Delphi is an archaeological site visited by millions each year and a day trip out of Athens, albeit with a long bus journey included. On the slopes of Mount Parnassus and overlooking the Gulf of Corinth sits a wonderland of ruins to explore and marvel over, with the Temple of Apollo perhaps stimulating the imagination most. Tales of Zeus' eagles and his son Apollo's visions are intertwined with facts about sacred life in first millennium BC. Archaeological artefacts abound in the Delphi Museum, and evidence of Mycenean life before the temple building began is also on show. It is easy to forget that the modern town of Delphi is only a short distance away as the Treasury of Athens, the Altar of the Chians, Tholos and the Hippodrome fill the vision and the mind, but the pinnacle of the visit for many is the theatre at the top, overlooking the spectacle that was and is Delphi. How to Get There - Tours run from Athens daily, although a day trip is not enough for the dedicated Classical World buff.
CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY Cave Houses and Fairy Chimneys
Cappadocia is a region of Turkey like nothing else on earth, famous for its geology, history and culture. Within Cappadocia there are four main cities - Nigde, Kayseri, Aksaray and Nevsehir, all of which are fascinating, but it is in the towns of the region that most of the excitement happens.
The underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu accommodate tourists in cave houses, while above ground, the unique volcanic features of the region are best viewed from a hot air balloon. Almost lunar in appearance, the landscape is littered with intriguing fairy chimneys, minaret-like pillars formed as the result of volcanic erosion. In the villages of the region, people have carved out homes, churches and monasteries from the soft, volcanic rock, their legacy centuries old and covered in sacred frescos. Cappadocia is unique, intriguing and totally out of this world. Its people are warm and inviting, its accommodations fascinating and its culture is a festival for the senses. From fairy chimneys to local cuisine, underground monastic cathedrals and unparalleled views from above, visitors take away more than just photographs - they leave with a feeling that they have been somewhere incredibly special indeed. How to Get There - Flights leave Istanbul for Kayseri nine times a day. Package tours or DIY can be equally rewarding.
BRUGES, BELGIUM Medieval Flanders on Display
Bruges is an architectural miracle - not because it has some of the most beautiful Medieval structures in Europe, but because they have managed to survive, virtually unscathed after centuries of invasion and war in the Flanders region. Also called Zeebrugge, Bruges on Sea, the city is dominated by an oval-shaped centre and filled with delightful canals that remind visitors of its earlier status as one of Europe's most important commercial centres.
The most famous of Bruges' buildings is its belfry, built in the 13th century and containing a carillon of 48 bells. A permanent carillonneur is in residence and bell ringing concerts are a highlight. Visiting Bruges can endanger the neck - mainly because there is so much to take in at once. Medieval buildings flank the streets and lanes of the city, dominated by the Church of Our Lady - the church's spire is over 400 feet high and the building is one of the tallest brick built structures on earth. It is also the home of the only Michelangelo sculpture known to have left Italy while he was still alive. In Bruges, art and architecture combine, from the Medieval to the early modern, with Flemish Primitive Masters such as van Eyck and Memling taking top honours. How to Get There - Most major international airlines service Bruges, as well as Europe's larger ferry services.
SANTORINI, GREECE Fabled Site of Atlantis
When it comes to the colours of the Mediterranean, nothing can compare to the islands of Santorini. Made up of two inhabited islands, Therasia and Santorini and six uninhabited ones, the area was formed by a volcanic eruption and exemplifies the beauty of the Aegean Sea. On Santorini, the largest and most popular island, lagoons and cliffs dominate the landscape. Santorini's capital, Fira, seems to cling to the top of the cliffs, resplendent in white from the sea and almost golden at sunset when seen from above.
The best of Greece and the Aegean is on show in the islands, from untamed wilderness to the cosmopolitan. Beaches and sunset cruises are a must-do, and the elephant in the room - the lost City of Atlantis, is discussed at length for those who ask. Cuisine, scenery, art, history and some of the world's most wonderful resorts are there for the taking on Santorini, with the sea at sunset one of the most memorable sights a visitor can take in. The pace is relaxed, the menu is crammed with activities and the people are welcoming - what else is there?
How to Get There - There are several daily flights to Santorini from Athens, but nothing beats arriving by ferry from Piraeus.
LOCH NESS, SCOTLAND Monster Destination
Loch Ness is just one of a series of lochs interconnected throughout the Scottish Highlands, but there is no denying that a certain monster has made it the most famous and a magnet for tourists. It is also an enormous body of water, measuring some 23 miles in length and extending to a mind-boggling depth of over 700 feet. Tales of a cryptid, lake dwelling monster began to emerge from the area in the early 1930s, heralding the arrival of scientists and tourists. Many people believe that Nessie exists, purely as a result of the sighting having been entered into a ship's log - a sacrosanct book among superstitious sailors and not to be messed with for fear of inviting retribution.
Arriving in Loch Ness means first rolling into the carpark of the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit, where the area's natural history is on display. With the appetite whetted, there is a choice of things to do and see, including a boat tour of the loch - complete with sounding equipment in case the old girl makes another appearance. Because of its vastness, Loch Ness has lighthouses at Lochend and Fort Augustus, as well as Urquhart Castle, not far from the visitor centre. All are worth a visit, as is the surrounding countryside, which serves up the Scottish Highlands at their most inviting.
How to Get There - Flight to Inverness are plentiful, and with Loch Ness only a bus or car ride away.
GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, IRELAND Ireland's Volcanic Legacy
In County Antrim, Northern Ireland, 40,000 interlocking columns of red basalt formed as a result of ancient volcanic activity, created a natural feature that looks exactly like a causeway for giants. Most of the columns, the tallest reaching 40 feet high, are shaped hexagonally and have the appearance an enormous stair from the cliff tops to the sea, where they disappear under water. First revealed to the greater world in the late 17th century, paintings of the site began circulating within 50 years and captured the imagination of those exposed to the arts. By the 19th century, the greater population knew about the causeway, and a narrow-gauge, electric tramway was built to ferry day trippers to and fro.
Today, the tramway is a steam railway that carries tourists from the nearby town of Portrush, terminating at Giant's Causeway and offloading its human cargo to the recently built visitor's centre that sits across the descent. Inside, the exhibition both educates and intrigues, revealing more about such geological formations as the Giant's Eyes, the Camel's Hump and such like. Most importantly, visitors can walk on the causeway, experiencing first hand the wonder of nature and man's constant quest to understand the very beginnings of life on earth.
How to Get There - Buses and trains service the area from Londonderry or Belfast, with buses linked to surrounding towns.
ALHAMBRA FORTRESS, SPAIN A Pearl Set in Emeralds
The ninth century fortress of Alhambra in Spain first came into its own when a Moorish Emir rebuilt it two-hundred years later. Its existence as a castle and the royal palace of the Sultan of Granada began in the 14th century, when Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar built the walled structure seen above Granada today. Described at the time as a pearl set in emeralds, Alhambra is today one of the most popular attractions in Spain, showcasing the beauty and ingenuity of Islamic architecture at its best. The harmony of the castle and its surrounding landscape is evident to all who visit, from its myrtles, oranges and roses to the wildflowers and latterly introduced English elms. Water also features heavily, with fountains and small waterfalls fed by a source higher up the mountain.
When entering through the Gate of the Pomegranates, a magnificent, tree-lined avenue takes visitors to the castle ramparts and the Charles V Pillar, one of the impressive fountains within the complex. Visiting Alhambra is a delight of colour and natural sound. Arabic inscriptions blend perfectly with geometrically patterned arabesques and the castle's painted tile wall panels are exquisite examples of clever craftsmanship and artistic vision. How to Get There - Most airlines service Granada, which sits below Alhambra fortress.
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA Four Centuries of Russian Culture
Saint Petersburg sits on the Baltic Sea in the Gulf of Finland and throughout history, has also been known as Petrograd and Leningrad. The second largest of the Russian cities, it was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great and was Imperial Russia's capital. Following the Russian Revolution, Moscow became the nation's capital, but Saint Petersburg retained its position as the most dominant of Baltic ports. As the world's northernmost city, it managed to escape some, but not all, war damage sustained by European cities over the past century. While WW2 bombing decimated some city areas, others remained virtually unscathed, and Saint Petersburg has thus retained much of its Russian culture and heritage.
A trip to Saint Petersburg is a walk through four centuries of Russia's turbulent and fascinating history. With Moscow receiving the bulk of post-revolution modernisation, Saint Petersburg retained its beauty, and thousands of buildings, monuments and complexes remain - accompanied by thousands of museums, libraries, cinemas, exhibition halls and galleries. From the magnificent waterside Winter Palace, the best of Russian culture fans out through the city and across the water, with ballet, art, music and everything in between just waiting to be discovered. How to Get There - Most international airlines service Saint Petersburg.
BAALBEK, LEBANON Colossal History - Incredible Lebanese Desserts
Once known as Heliopolis by the Romans, Baalbek is the site of an enormous Phoenician and Roman ruin a couple of hours from Beirut - and possibly the finest archaeological site in the world. Colossal is word used often by those visiting Baalbek's ruins, which are the reason most tourists take the bus trip from Lebanon's capital. Centuries ago, the temples of Bacchus, Jupiter and Venus were the centre of life in Baalbek, celebrating fertility, wisdom, athleticism and autocratic rule of the region.
Today, the Phoenicians and Romans have long gone, leaving in their wake an almighty ruin that appears almost too big upon first visiting the site. Highlights are the Great Court, the Temple of Venus, the Hexagonal Forecourt and the Temple of Bacchus, and summer in Lebanon brings local and international artists to the area to add even more excitement to the experience. Also essential to the allure of Baalbek are the vendors of obviously fake antiquities, which when taken with a pinch of salt, are as much a part of the landscape as the outdoor shesha bars and the traditional sweet desserts that Lebanon is famous for. Baalbek showcases Lebanon of old and is a must-see destination in the Middle East.
How to Get There - Most international airlines fly to Beirut, and the majority of major hotels offer tours to Baalbek.
THE PEAK, HONG KONG Essential for First Time Visitors
The Peak, or officially Victoria Peak, is the summit of Hong Kong's Mount Austin, the island's highest mountain at over 1,800 feet. Overlooking the city and its beautiful harbour, the actual summit is a closed area, but the surrounding area is filled with parks and gardens, as well as some of Hong Kong's priciest real estate - a recent house sale topped $1.8 billion US! Originally the domain of the Governor's summer house, The Peak is accessible to everybody in Hong Kong, and on summer evenings, it seems as though most of Hong Kong is there.
Overlooking the harbour, the view from The Peak is nothing short of stupendous, and tourists numbers were such that shopping centres, towers and galleries were built to cater to the numbers arriving daily on the famous Peak Tram. Leaving from Hong Kong's Central District, the tram climbs directly up the side of the mountain, while buses and cars take the more circuitous route along Peak Road. The braver and fitter set out on foot up the Old Peak Road, enjoying the atmosphere of the city's Zoological and Botanical Gardens. The Peak is synonymous everything that makes Hong Kong unique, and essential to visiting the city for the first time. How to Get There - All international airlines service Hong Kong daily.
PENA NATIONAL PALACE PORTUGAL A Stunning Masterpiece of 19th Century Romanticism
Portugal's Pena National Palace is a work of art on top of a rocky hill, overlooking the town of Sintra and easily seen from Lisbon. Deliberately built in a number of eclectic architectural styles, the mix of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Islamic, Neo-Manueline and Neo-Gothic is as overwhelming as it is beautiful, and most visitors begin their visit not knowing what to expect. With unequalled views of the Portuguese landscape and looking as though it has been there since the dawn of civilisation, the palace was built by King Ferdinand II in the 19th century - on top of a former 16th century monastery. When first setting eyes on the palace, yellows, oranges, reds and silvery-greys combine with a surrounding forest of outstanding beauty to transport onlookers into another dimension.
Described by many as a Disney castle brought to life, visiting Pena is as much about the grounds as the castle itself. The interior doesn't glitter as much as the exterior, but the decors is fascinating in its own way and the mosaics are incredible. Still used for official functions, some areas are off limits, but the experience is second to none. Tour guides are the order of the day due to the number of visitors, and once outside, the gardens easily chew up a half day. How to Get There - Package tours are the best way to see Pena National Palace.
PALAU Scuba Diving's Global HQ
Palau is an island republic made up of 250 Western Pacific islands and 21,000 inhabitants, sharing oceanic borders with Micronesia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Throughout its 3,000 year history, Palau has been populated and colonised by numerous countries, including Spain, Germany and Japan. The tiny island republic also suffered in both World Wars, eventually falling under the protection of the USA - today that association allows Palau to govern itself while under US protection.
Tourism is the mainstay of Palau, and with two official languages, a US dollar economy and a mix of over ten distinct cultures, it is one of the most delightful destinations in the Pacific. The main island of Koror is the place to start when visiting Palau, and three neighbouring islands have bridges connecting them to Koror. Everything the Pacific has to offer is available on Koror, from resort style accommodation, exotic flora and fauna and aqua-tourism to island cuisine, shipwrecks, cruises and a level of service that is second to none. As scuba diving's global HQ, Palau personifies the beauty and friendliness of the Western Pacific and there are few other destinations on water that are comparable.
How to Get There - Airlines in Seoul, Tokyo, Australia and Hawaii offer flights through Guam to Palau.
From the Amazon rainforest or the Victoria Falls, we possess the capability to fall in love with a destination - to feel as though we have been transported out of ourselves and into something far greater than life. We ďŹ‚ock to Santorini, Dubrovnik and Easter Island to soak up a sense of abandon and forget our homes and our workplaces. For a short, magical time, we reach the peak of our desire to escape and stand in awe before the towering, cliďŹ€ structures of Petra or the fjords of Norway. Enjoy this pictorial journey into the magical world of travel.