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Travel ideas

"Let’s see… Kathmandu Timbuktu

THE MAGAZINE FOR TRAVELLERS, EXPLORERS & DAYDREAMERS

Machu Picchu Voulez vous? The Ponte Vecchio… " Me-hi- co!

Travel ideas 50

TRAVEL EXPERIENCES FOR 2017

No matter where in the world you want to travel, our passionate Travel Experts can get you there.

W OW L I S T 2 0 1 7 / Issue # 18

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Discover a world of wonders in 2017, from ancient empires to modern marvels. Seek happiness

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welcome

W W LI S T 20 1 7 CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT: The Ford Foundation atrium gardens in NYC; Bagan is one of Myanmar’s highlights; the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica is dedicated to the care of rescued sloths; Norway’s Aurlandsfjord is the world’s secondlongest fjord.

hello

50 AMAZING TRAVEL EXPERIENCES FOR 2017 I’m excited to bring you this special collector’s edition of Travel ideas, in which we highlight places, experiences and ideas that are sure to wow you. Of all my travels, the holiday that still makes my personal ‘wow list’ is the first Topdeck tour overland from London to Kathmandu in 1975. There were 20 of us travelling together. We journeyed for 10 weeks in a double-decker bus across the Middle East – visiting Syria, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s a miracle we made it – the road between Varanasi and Kathmandu was pretty dodgy at times. Each year, there’s a new must-do on my travel list, but it’s no less adventurous. This year I’ll be travelling to the mountainous island of Paros in Greece to do some mountain biking. It’s one of those Greek Islands that’s not too overcrowded and the traffic is not too busy. It has decent restaurants, villages, beaches and mountain biking trails – in a week you can cycle different routes to different places every day. Flip through these pages and plan your next adventure. From climbing New Zealand’s Mount Cook (page 34) to visiting sloths in Costa Rica (page 27) or cruising Myanmar (page 45), you’re sure to find something to suit your travel tastes. If you’re looking for great value in 2017, consider the UK or Europe. You really can’t beat London (page 110) and the Thames Valley.

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Airfares have never been more affordable. Even business class fares to Europe are within reach for many. Why not explore the beautiful Norwegian fjords, with Bergen as your base (page 46)? This year I cycled a 90km bike ride between Oslo and Bergen – Norway is a spectacular country. This special edition is full of great destinations and fantastic ideas – from seeking happiness (page 8) to sharing family adventures (page 104) – to make 2017 truly memorable. I hope you enjoy the journey. Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, CH I EF E XECU TIVE OFFICER , FL IG HT CENTR E

Photos: Ewen Bell; Getty Images; @helloemilie; iStock; Mark Parren Taylor; M. Dickson/Foap/Visitnorway.com

WELCOME TO OUR INAUGURAL ‘WOW LIST’ OF


WOW LIST 2017

at the fron t

04 The 2017 Wow List

It’s here! Introducing our 2017 Wow List. Get ready for inspiration, excitement, want and need. These 50 travel experiences are your starting point for planning a holiday of a lifetime.

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The Wow List edition of Travel ideas is also available to read online. Download the Travel ideas app from the App Store or Google Play and get reading.

What makes this continent so great? Turn to page 6 to learn where the 50 top travel experiences of 2017 are located. These amazing adventures are found all over the world, so you can start planning your next holiday now.

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Flight Centre Travel Experts reveal insider knowledge about their all-time favourite locations around the world.

Flying or cruising? Travelling alone or with a group? Flight Centre Travel Experts go head to head to highlight the benefits of each travel style.

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See our travellers’ pics from all over the world, posted using the #openmyworld hashtag. Join the fun and use the hashtag next time you take a top travel shot.

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What’s on your 2017 Wow List? Where are you heading next and why? Tweet us @flightcentreAU and share your top travel stories and tips for places to go and sights to see in 2017.

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Travel ideas Travel ideas magazine is produced by Hardie Grant Media for Flight Centre.

FLIGHT CENTRE

PUBLISHER Alison Crocker

HEAD OF CREATIVE AND CONTENT Luke Wheatley

MANAGING EDITOR Mitch Brook

EDITOR Renae Spinks HARDIE GRANT MEDIA

DEPUTY MANAGING DIRECTOR

Clare Brundle

ART DIRECTOR Dan Morley DESIGNERS Kim Hoover-Sadler, Luke Atkinson

EDITOR Tatyana Leonov SUB-EDITOR Sarah Friggieri

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PRINTER Bluestar Web

Janet Gomes

Catherine Etteridge

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this magazine, no responsibility can be accepted by the publisher for errors or omissions, and in particular no responsibility can be accepted for the quality of goods and services, including prices quoted or errors. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, either electronically or conventionally, without written permission from the publisher and Flight Centre is strictly prohibited. All images supplied, unless otherwise stated. Tour itineraries, dates and availability can change. Talk to a Flight Centre Travel Expert for the latest options.

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What makes a Wow List? How to decide where to go and what to see in 2017? Truth is, everything about travel is ‘wow’ – experiencing other realms, meeting different people, learning new skills, trying new food... the list goes on. It’s the new and unknown that excites and ignites the traveller within and for many, the planning stage is just as fun as the doing. We turned to some of the most serious travellers in the business – our own CEO, travel experts, travel writers and leisure product owners; as well as mountaineers, polar expedition leaders, surfers, chefs and many more who travel for a living or for fun. But most of all, we looked to our readers, where you’ve been and where you’re heading. So read on and let these 50 travel experiences guide you for 2017. We’ve got majestic fjords and sparse deserts, tropical havens and icy wonderlands, luxury voyages and active adventures. But remember that this is just the start. Make your own list, make your holidays happen, travel, explore, find your own ‘wow’ – and then go get it.

Northern Lights in Iceland are dreamlike.

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The Taj Lake Palace swimming pool comes with one of the best views in the country.

Photos: Ewen Bell; Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

50 TRAVEL EXPERIENCES FOR 2017 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Seek happiness

Watch an active Hawaiian volcano Explore the Colombian Amazon Surf Spain’s Basque Country

Taste new-world wines in Canada

Cycle Tanzania

Go wild in Tasmania

Discover tropical Japan Rock in Austin, Texas

Meet Costa Rican sloths

Taste street food in Malaysia Cruise to Cuba

Explore Ethiopia

Climb Mount Cook in New Zealand Gaze at Mt Merapi, Indonesia Wander Tallinn’s Old Town See Sydney by seaplane

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Drive medieval France

Indulge in wellness wonders Love Walt Disney World Cruise Myanmar

Marvel at Norwegian fjords

Uncover Birmingham’s culture

Encounter elephants in Sri Lanka Be surprised by New York Ski South Korea

Stop over in Singapore

Hang-glide in Rio

Witness the Laura Dance Festival

Be fascinated in history-rich Portugal Find your Thai paradise

Dive with sharks in South Africa Sail through Arabian fjords Eat your way around Lima

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Venture to Antarctica

Relax in dreamy Malay

Shop for Moroccan homewares Meet gauchos in Argentina

Eat an Italian feast in Salina Island-hop around Scotland Take a Pacific cruise

Get lost in Canada’s wilds

Dress like a Japanese samurai Bargain-hunt in Macao

Visit Aarhus for Danish culture Luxuriate in Oman

Wonder at Meteora, Greece See the real Iceland

Stay like royalty in Rajasthan

Holiday with the whole family

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contents

84 16

CANADA WINE

AUTHENTIC ICELAND

Just you and the raw wilderness. Now that’s true bliss.

CANADA

Wilderness

98 76

BIRMINGHAM ARTS

SURF SPAIN

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HISTORY IN PORTUGAL

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PARIS

 VANCOUVER

NORWEGIAN FJORDS

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MOROCCAN HOMEWARES

AUSTIN MUSIC

TALLINN HISTORY

AARHUS CULTURE

 LONDON  37 DRIVE FRANCE  75 ROME

 LOS ANGELES

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METEORA, GREECE

SALINA FOOD

WALT DISNEY WORLD

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CRUISE CUBA NEW YORK

Secrets

COSTA RICAN SLOTHS

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Discover a different and unexpected side to this buzzing city.

COLOMBIAN AMAZON

ETHIOPIA

Escapade

Head off the beaten track and you’ll be rewarded.

66 LIMA

Food safari

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Uncover the heart and soul of Peru by digging in.

WOW LIST 2017 / ISSUE #18 GAUCHOS IN ARGENTINA

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WORLDWIDE

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Experience true happiness by seeking out holidays with meaning.

flightcentre.com.au/travel-news

ANTARCTICA ADVENTURES

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HANG-GLIDE RIO

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Happiness

CYCLE TANZANIA

50 travel experiences f l ic k t o t he pag es indic at ed and g et r eady t o b e ins p ir ed by t he 2 0 1 7 w ow l ist.

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SHARKS IN SOUTH AFRICA


WOW LIST 2017

SCOTTISH ISLES

Adventure

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ARABIAN FJORDS

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102

Go island hopping in Scotland and absorb the Gaelic culture.

OKINAWA

Tropical Japan

SKI SOUTH KOREA

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SAMURAI JAPAN

 TOKYO

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ROYAL RAJASTHAN CRUISE MYANMAR

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THAI PARADISE SRI LANKAN ELEPHANTS

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A slice of island paradise that’s like nowhere else.

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MACAO SHOPPING

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HAWAIIAN VOLCANOS

 HONG KONG DREAMY MALAY

MALAYSIAN FOOD

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A hotpot of Indigenous culture at your doorstep.

SINGAPORE STOP OVER

 SINGAPORE 36

OMAN

Luxury

MOUNT MERAPI INDONESIA

Want to luxe it up? Oman’s new offerings astound.

CAPE YORK

Illustration: Julia Murray

Holiday with the whole family and return home a new person.

PACIFIC CRUISE

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SYDNEY SEAPLANES

36  SYDNEY

WILD TASMANIA

Multi-gen travel

Laura Dance Festival

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 BALI

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WORLDWIDE

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18  MELBOURNE

AORAKI MOUNT COOK

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 AUCKLAND

38 TURN TO PAGE 108 FOR THE LATEST ON OUR TOP 12 DESTINATIONS.

 WORLDWIDE

Wellness

Rejuvenate and revitalise your body and soul while exploring the world.

Travel ideas

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Photo: Chris McLennan

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SEEK HAPPINESS

A Cheerful chase SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND HAPPINESS IN FARAWAY LANDS Words: Brian Johnston, travel writer

A Fijian boy radiates joy.

Surely the best of travel isn’t just about ticking off the Taj Mahal or the Mona Lisa (the hectic charms of trying to see and do it all will eventually pall) but the chance it gives us to exchange ideas, open our minds and find new ways of considering the world. Simpler pursuits – discovering what brings you joy – may be more rewarding in the long run, but how exactly do we seek out happiness along the road? At least some of the time, we have an intuitive grasp of what gives lasting pleasure. Beautiful places and buildings, for example; mountaintop views in the Alps and sunsets in the Greek Islands; places with buildings so cheerfully coloured – like South Beach in Miami or Guanajuato in Mexico – that they put us in a good mood. Some places are just happy places – the beaches and bulas of Fiji; forests and rivers overflowing with enchantment, and flower-filled destinations, such as Japan in cherry blossom season, are guaranteed to make us smile. On another level entirely, however, what might make us happy is just to slow down, visit smaller places, feel connected to local people and soak up experiences rather than sights. You can be happy whiling away the afternoon in a cafe instead of tramping through a museum,

or discovering a pleasant neighbourhood far from the madding crowd. Perhaps you can seek out joy in countries that officially recognise that happiness is key. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has long had a Gross National Happiness Index, while the United Arab Emirates recently appointed a Minister of State for Happiness. Both Venezuela and Ecuador have similar government posts. Even the United Nations is in on the act, promoting the International Day of Happiness each March 20, bringing together folk from 160 countries hoping for new policies that seek to increase wellbeing and happiness. Or you might want to head to the countries that dominate the 2016 rankings of happiest nations, including Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands Canada and New Zealand. Scandinavian countries were clear leaders, no doubt because their inhabitants are enjoying themselves playing with Lego, reading gripping detective stories and driving nice, safe Saabs. While locals might have every reason to be happy because of the country they live in and how they go about their days, the question is whether such happiness can rub off on mere visitors to these chirpy countries. Surely the answer is yes, and here’s how we might go about it. Travel ideas

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Danes feel the warmth of the sun’s last rays in Copenhagen.

Cosy up to a Dane

Improbable as it might seem, Denmark – land of glum philosophers and grim winters – lays claim to having the world’s happiest people, according to The World Happiness Report. It’s often explained by personal freedoms, good education and health systems and a fair society – or it might be because fairytales do come true here, at least for Princess Mary. But Danes say it’s all down to hygge, a cosy atmosphere created by the

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Does happiness look like wienerbrød, or Danish pastries?

likes of family and friends, long conversations, candlelit suppers and warm cinnamon buns. That’s good news for visitors, who can have a helping of hygge by relaxing in Copenhagen’s trendy New Nordic restaurants, plundering bakeries or lying in a park with a good book and a picnic. Bring some hygge home in the form of chic Danish homewares: sometimes happiness is simply being surrounded by nice things.

Photos: Getty Images; Maria Nielsen; Robin Skjoldborg

Practise hygge in Denmark, like these Danes at Torvehallerne market in Copenhagen.


SEEK HAPPINESS

Seek enlightenment

India’s spirituality beckons. Religious sites have always been a highlight of this fabulous country, from the tumult of pilgrim city Varanasi to the bell-clanging Buddhist temples of Sikkim and erotic tantric sculptures of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. Happiness, however, might be found by looking beyond these spectacles to philosophies that promise inner peace, an expanded mind and an alternative view of creation. Novices can ease their way in with gentle yoga and introductory meditation courses at the ashrams of Rishikesh, a Ganges pilgrim town in the Himalayan foothills. Those up for a challenge can tackle two-week retreats without television or alcohol – surely enough in itself to result in clarity of thought. If all else fails, the fresh mountain air and evening views over the Ganges, as temple lights twinkle and pilgrims chant, will be enough to fill your soul.

The sculptural masterpiece of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India.


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Happiness is front of mind for Buddhist monks in Bhutan.

If happiness doesn’t come from within, or by finding solitude, maybe it’s found in groups of people. It might, however, come from ‘Gross National Happiness’, a concept pioneered by the little Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan in the early 1970s. The index claims to measure a nation’s collective happiness by building an economy in which spiritual, social and environmental values are as important as economic ones. Bhutan remains the only country to use ‘Gross National Happiness’ as its main measure of development, so why not head to Bhutan and see it in action. Certainly you’ll appreciate Bhutan’s colourful village and monastery festivals, mountain hikes, fun-loving people and the absence of mass tourism. It mightn’t be nirvana, but it’s almost Shangri-La, the fictional land sought by explorers of the Himalayas. So go on, get out there. The world is a marvellous place, and happiness might be just down the road and over the hill.

Happiness hits a high note with New Orleans buskers.

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Photos: Getty Images; iStock; Peter Eastway

Find music to your ears

Seeing the sights isn’t the only reason to travel, and enjoyment is found by engaging all the senses. Don’t just look at the world, but seek the sounds of happiness too. After all, music has proven therapeutic effects on our wellness and stress levels, and is even used in hospitals to combat depression and insomnia. If you’re keen to tune in as you travel, there’s perhaps no better destination than the United States of America. Check out the jazz bars and saxophone buskers of New Orleans, the soul and rock sounds of steamy Memphis, and the blues festival in Chicago. Hip-hop through New York’s Harlem, toe-tap to country music in Nashville and get your grunge on in Seattle, which produced the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And if you’re a fan of Celine Dion or Britney Spears, we’ll forgive you – and see you in Las Vegas.


SEEK HAPPINESS

Connecting with nature, like swimming with whale sharks, can be both calming and exhilarating.

Quokkas are renowned for grinning in photos!

Indulge your wild side

There’s something magical about wildlife encounters that puts a big smile on our dial, whether spotting elusive wild pandas in China’s Qinling Mountains, swimming with whale sharks in Tonga or meeting orangutans at a rehabilitation centre in Indonesia. Actually, our own native quokkas might have the power to make us the happiest. Social media has ‘discovered’ these amiable creatures, who seemingly pose for photos with big grins. You can see the endangered marsupials on Rottnest Island off the West Australian coast, where they occasionally even wander into cafes. Just don’t get too close – the quokkas have sharp claws. Travel ideas

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Go troppo

Few can deny the joy of swimming in tropical waters.

Tropical islands can make us dream of escape and a more prolonged happiness. You could just walk out of the office, get marooned on a beach and never come back, spending your life eating coconuts and admiring the sunsets. Even for a short holiday you should head to Fiji, where a WIN/Gallup poll rated people happier overall of those in 65 surveyed countries. More than 90 per cent of the Fijians asked claimed to be happy or very happy, surely corroborated by the cheery bula chorus that greets you from the moment

you arrive. Happiness is easy here, with smiles produced by the colour of the sea and emerald hills, the balmy climate and fruity food, guitars being strummed, dancing and feasting, and the languid pace of Fiji time.

Find joy on the road

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice about travelling the world and finding your happy place. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

Dance the meke in Fiji.

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EXPLORE VOLCANOES BY TWILIGHT IN HAWAII Words: Sam Aldenton, travel writer, Flight Centre

Seeing volcanoes by twilight only makes glowing lava flows more dramatic.

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You may have only travelled across the Pacific Ocean, but you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time, where cooled, blackened lava formed over vast plains from one of the world’s longestrunning volcanic eruptions and glowing lava flows can be seen spilling from its bubbling centre. No, this isn’t the set of the next Jurassic Park movie, though you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon such a location. The Kilauea volcano, referenced throughout Hawaiian Polynesian legends, can be seen up close on a spectacular twilight volcano adventure. Learn about the enthralling Hawaiian history as you make your way across the incredibly diverse landscape of Hawaii’s Big Island. Kilauea volcano by twilight is a must-notmiss phenomenon.

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The Amazon is the world’s largest waterway.

Photos: Peter Eastway; Getty Images; iStock

JOURNEY INTO THE COLOMBIAN AMAZON Words: Roderick Eime, travel writer

The Amazon is much more than just a river. The world’s largest waterway by volume relies on a huge catchment basin that extends through Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia. For edgy adventure tourism, set a course for these headwaters east of The Andes. With Colombia now finding civil peace, these once ‘badlands’ offer expedition-style tours for real adventure seekers. Leticia, the capital of Colombia’s Amazonas, has museums, eco-gardens and markets. Amacayacu National Park, and the tiny indigenous village of Puerto Narino, host international visitors in growing numbers to experience the rich local culture and ecology. Travel ideas

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SURF IN BASQUE COUNTRY Words: Nathan Oldfield, surfer, photographer and filmmaker

Okanagan Valley is one of Canada’s top wine destinations.

Playa de la Zurriola in San Sebastian is known for its epic surf.

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LET CANADA’S NEW-WORLD WINES SURPRISE YOU Words: Emma Lee, travel writer, Flight Centre

The Okanagan Valley is a picturesque region in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and during the summertime it blossoms with irresistible natural beauty. The first monks in the area were thrilled to see their sacramental grape vines flourish, and today the region’s wine industry is thriving. The summer vibes of Kelowna and Penticton are enhanced by the region’s 150-plus cellar doors pouring award-winning wines, such as Sandhill’s Gamay Noir. A longitude and land-lay similar to that of California’s Napa Valley is one portent of a bright future for this emerging wine region, and the vino itself does not lie – there’s a top drop at every turn.

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Photos: Brand Canada; Lucy Piper/Intrepid Travel; San Sebastian Tourism

The landscape of Spain’s Basque region is gorgeous, with rolling green hills, cliffs and great beaches. It’s beautiful and spacious, and I love that it’s a place where the old world meets the new: the strong surfing culture here, which is less than 50 years old, mixes with one of the oldest cultures in Europe. There are places to surf all along the coast, and half the fun is looking for and finding the best places yourself – there are some more well-known spots as well as some nooks, crannies and little coves. San Sebastian and Zarautz are well-known wave destinations. One of the best waves in Europe is called Mundaka, found in a town of the same name a bit west of San Sebastian. Plus there’s a tonne of special waves over at the French side of Basque Country. It’s also the people here who make this a great region to visit. When you go surfing, make sure you have good manners and interact with the locals. Do your research before you go to make sure you’re able to find the best waves. The best season to visit Basque Country for surfing is autumn, when the water isn’t too cold, with offshore winds and the beginning of winter swells. The culture in the city is great in summer, too – you can surf until 11pm, have dinner at 1am and go to bed at 5am. It’s a crazy, amazing experience.


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CYCLE THROUGH TANZANIA Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

Experience the exhilaration of exploring Tanzania by bike – with safari and a Maasai village visit included. Intrepid Travel has launched a brandnew range of ‘Real Cycling Adventures’, and Cycle Tanzania is one of the most remarkable. The tours offer an enthralling combination of culture and cycling, so it’s not a fitness-nut-only kind of holiday. The Tanzania jaunt includes cycling through Arusha National Park, where you can catch glimpses of warthogs, giraffes, hippopotamuses, hyenas and leopards. The ride to a Maasai village is another climax; the tour follows a bicycle-riding Maasai warrior flanked by cattle herders and excited kids into a Maasai settlement, where you’ll experience a memorable afternoon. Welcomes can vary from village to village, but feasts of slow-cooked goat (prepared the traditional way – on sticks in the ground) and jump-dancing are on the cards. So why cycle through Tanzania? Experiencing life outside the confines of a safari truck offers travellers a real taste of the country. You can hear the kids shouting as you swiftly pedal past; you can smell the meaty stews cooking as you cycle through little towns; you can watch animals feed without a glass pane in the way. Now that’s real Tanzania.

Meeting Maasai warriors is one of the highlights on a cycling tour.


To the edge of the world EXPLORE THE TASMANIAN WILDERNESS WITH PAR AVION Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

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TA S M A N I A

Photos: Matt Glastonbury/Tourism Tasmania; Par Avion

Par Avion can transport you to the rugged wilderness.

Tasmania’s southwest wilderness is otherworldly, a remote and barren vastness stretching for 600,000 hectares. It feels far removed from the rest of the earth... and it is. It’s the last stop before Antarctica. No-one lives here. The easiest way to get here is on a one-hour flight from Hobart in a Par-Avion Wilderness Tours chartered plane. For adventurous souls, a visit here is a journey to paradise. Hiking and boat expeditions let visitors get up close and personal with the ravishing landscape, but a flight offers a chance to appreciate the scenery from up high first, which helps put the isolation into perspective. Par-Avion offers half-day and full-day tours for time-poor individuals, but the threeday expedition to Southwest Wilderness Camp is the ultimate ‘OMG’ experience. To start, a scenic flight in a twin-engine Britten Norman Islander aircraft affords magnificent views of the rugged southern coastline of Tasmania and mist-shrouded mountain peaks (Mount Rugby, Mount Melaleuca and Precipitous Bluff are some of the bigger ones) before landing at Melaleuca, from where participants take a boat along the Melaleuca Inlet to the camp of just five luxury huts. Indulgent multi-course meals and wines (local produce, of course) are included, but the explorations are the highlight. There’s wildlife, underwater life and plant life not found anywhere else in the world (including the critically endangered orangebellied parrot). Three days in the wildness, un-hooked from modern life, will have you re-evaluating your idea of bliss.

When flying down the South Coast of Tasmania guests are treated to this impressive view: Precipitous Bluff, a volcanic outcrop, and the murky blue New River Lagoon.

Explore this dramatic landscape

Visit your local Flight Centre for advice from travel experts about Tasmanian wilderness trips. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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O K I N AWA

08 Japan’s

tropical secret

THE ISLAND PARADISE OF OKINAWA IS LIKE NOWHERE ELSE ON THE MAINLAND Words: Kris Madden, travel writer

A woman donning a traditional bingata kimono and a headpiece that represents a lotus flower participates in a festival performance.

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Photos: Alamy; Getty Images

O K I N AWA

Okinawa is home to world-class reefs in crystal-clear water.


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Cape Manzamo provides outstanding views of the surrounding area.

Other signs from the old days are the shisa (guardian lion-dogs) found on most houses. They’re always in pairs – one with its mouth open to catch good fortune, the other with its mouth closed to keep the fortune in. Okinawa is equally famous for its citizens who live for a really long time. More people here live to 100 years or more than anywhere else in the world, and they live longest in Ogimi, a seaside village in the north of Okinawa. The secret to this longevity is said to be the local diet and

attitude towards eating and life. ‘Hara hachi bu’ is based on a Confucian teaching that reminds them to stop eating when they are ‘eight parts full’, while ishoku dogen literally translates to ‘food is medicine’. Okinawans eat a low-calorie diet of mostly tofu, fresh vegetables and very small amounts of meat and fish. Local staples include seaweed, goya (a bitter melon found in everything from stir-fries to beer) and beniimo (purple sweet potato, used everywhere – even in ice-creams and chocolate Kit Kats).

Photos: iStock; Kris Madden; Mark Parren Taylor

When travellers think of Japan, islands and tropical climates don’t always come to mind – but Okinawa is Japan’s Hawaii, a slice of paradise ideal for those seeking authentic cultural experiences and a seriously off-themap adventure. This string of 160 islands (only 49 are inhabited) in the East China Sea is closer to Taipei than Tokyo, so its food, music, art and architecture have broad Asian and Chinese influences. Part of the completely independent Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th to 19th centuries, Okinawa only officially became part of Japan 137 years ago and with their own language and customs, Okinawans regard themselves as different from the mainland Japanese. The gateway to the islands is Naha, the capital of Okinawa; if Okinawa is Japan’s Hawaii, Naha is its Honolulu. A wander along the palm-lined Kokusai Street reveals bustling restaurants, bars, shops and market stalls, and a surprising amount of ‘kariyushi’ shirts (Okinawa’s version of Hawaiian shirts), the preferred dress of the locals. History buffs will know Okinawa as the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Moving memorials, including the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum and the Himeyuri Monument, tell the poignant story of the chaos that ravaged this idyllic landscape. Several American military bases remain on Okinawa, resulting in a curious mix of Japanese-American culture. The best example is the Kadena Air Base, the largest US Air Force installation in Asia, near Mihama American Village in Okinawa City. It’s as if a slice of the United States’ west coast has picked up and moved here, with everything from bowling alleys to diners offering hamburgers and hot dogs, and even an embroidery shop that makes patches for NASA. After World War II, resourceful Okinawans started cutting down old Coke bottles left behind by US troops, to make glasses and vases. Ryukyu glass (thick glass in rainbow colours) is now a trademark of the prefecture, along with lacquerware, pottery and weaving. At the Ryukyu Glass Village in Itoman, you can see the craftsmen at work and even try your hand at making the beautiful creations. The war eliminated most traces of the old kingdom, but at the World Heritage-listed Shuri Castle, rebuilt in 1992, you can get a glimpse of the lost empire.


O K I N AWA

C L O C KW I S E F R O M TOP LEFT

Shiratama Zenzai is a traditional dessert of adzuki red beans and glutinous rice dumplings. The picturesque gardens of Shikinaen are located on a small hill to the south of Shuri Castle in Naha. Okinawa’s main island has around 130 recognised beaches. Water-buffalo taxis are a unique mode of transport. Okinawans eat a low-calorie diet consisting mainly of tofu and fresh vegetables, and small amounts of fish and meat. The gardens at Shuri Castle are a pleasure to stroll through.


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The island group sits in the same latitude zone as Hawaii.” A further 100km southwest, the Yaeyama Islands are about as far away as you can get and still be in Japan. The hub of this island group is Ishigaki, the launching point for surrounding sights, including the reefs and forests of untamed Iriomote Island and the villages and beaches of star-shaped sand (which, depending on who you ask, is either the tiny exoskeletons of marine creatures or the children of stars) on Taketomi Island. Divers are attracted to Iriomote Island for the ‘Manta Scramble’, where manta rays can be seen almost year-round, while Yonaguni Island is home to underwater ruins dubbed ‘Japanese Atlantis’ and believed to be the remnants of a 10,000-year-old civilisation. Above ground you can escape to another world too. Take a water-buffalo taxi between Iriomote and Yubu islands while being

serenaded by the driver strumming a sanshin (a banjo-like instrument covered in snakeskin) and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back several centuries. Okinawan festivals also have a different feel than those in the rest of Japan. Eisa drum dances occur between July and September. In autumn, the Shuri Castle Festival recreates ancient Ryukyu times and sees thousands of participants parade down Naha’s main street in colourful costumes. Then there’s the Naha Great Tug-of-War festival in October, which set a Guinness World Record in 1997 for the largest rope made from natural materials. Everyone is invited to join in, and afterwards you can take home a piece of the rope for good luck. With charming people, nourishing food and intriguing culture, enchanting Okinawa is a destination unlike any other in the Land of the Rising Sun – and it’s worlds apart from the skyscrapers of Tokyo and the kimonos of Kyoto.

Explore fascinating Okinawa

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about visiting Okinawa. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

Photos: Kris Madden; Mark Parren Taylor

Funnily enough, however, not everything in the local cuisine seems an obvious recipe for good health. Okinawans proudly claim to use every part of the pig except the squeal and pork is featured prominently on menus. And in an odd nod to American culture, Spam is now used in many dishes. The local brew of choice is the notoriously strong awamori, Okinawa’s version of shochu (Japanese traditional hard liquor). You’ll often see it bottled with snakes (it’s believed snakes increase libido), and distilleries around Naha offer tours and tastings. Even the tea is different in Okinawa. The traditional buku buku cha (tea) is made from roasted rice lathered into rich bubbles, then added to green tea alongside various herbs, and garnished with crushed peanuts. Only water from Naha or other southern parts of Okinawa makes the mixture foam. Another vital part of staying healthy is to keep moving; Okinawans keep fit with martial arts, gardening and dancing. Fans will know Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid franchise came from Okinawa, which is the birthplace of the martial art and is still the best place to learn authentic karate. But one of the main reasons both Japanese and international travellers head to Okinawa is for its powder-white beaches, crystalclear waters and subtropical climate. While in winter many areas of mainland Japan teeter on the freezing point, temperatures in Okinawa rarely dip below 16°C; the island group sits in the same latitude zone as Hawaii, Florida and the Bahamas. The archipelago is known as one of the world’s best diving destinations, with warm water, high visibility and marine life galore. Diving has long traditions here, as well as Australian connections – Broome’s legendary Japanese pearl divers hailed from Okinawa. Many of the islands are accessible by plane or ferry, but as they are spread across large distances, you’ll need to do some planning. While the Okinawa main island has some great beaches and diving, the emerald-green waters of the Kerama Islands, easily visited on a day trip, are regarded as some of the greatest diving spots on earth. Meanwhile, Miyako Island, about 300km from Okinawa’s main island, is home to arguably the best beaches in Japan. Miyako is connected to two of its smaller islands – Ikema and Kurima – by long bridges, which can be walked across.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Often likened to a banjo, the sanshin is a unique Okinawan musical instrument; more people here live to 100 years or more than anywhere else in the world; the archipelago is known as one of the world’s best diving destinations.


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The Austin City Limits festival is all about big names and groovy vibes.

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ROCK IN AUSTIN, TEXAS Words: Morgan Howard, music promoter

Austin is an inspiring city for musicians. Nowhere else in the country is there such a beautiful, symbiotic relationship where local musicians, independent venues, national promoters and festivals support and sustain talent without oversaturating the market. And, importantly, there are plenty of places to play and listen to different types of music on a daily basis, from punk rock to electronic. To witness the Austin music scene, head downtown to the Red River district, home to countless venues such as Stubbs Bar-B-Q, Mohawk and The Sidewinder. Mohawk has a punk-rock vibe and the motto ‘All are welcome’ – I can get down with that! Wander around to see who is playing, or try to check out local favourites such as The Black Angels, Orthy, Bayonne, RG Lowe or Summer Salt. Also be sure to hit up downtown 6th Street and East Austin to check out Barracuda and Maggie Mae’s. Austin has some sort of festival every weekend. If I could only pick four, they would be South by Southwest (March), Euphoria

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(April), Austin City Limits (October) and Sound on Sound Fest (November). Austin City Limits is an opportunity to see the big names that are playing all the major festivals like Coachella, Big Day Out or Primavera. Sound on Sound Fest is a true musiclover’s festival, booked by the legendary Austin promoter Graham Williams – he has an ear for booking, so it’s one of the best line-ups that includes up-and-coming Austin bands, punk-rock, hip-hop and festival favourites. Euphoria, located at Carson Creek Ranch, provides a truly unique camping festival backdrop. South by Southwest may be one of the first music festivals you associate with Austin – but it’s not a typical festival. It doesn’t have large stages and isn’t located on a campsite. Instead, you hop from venue to venue to see curated showcases. Capacities are small – it is awesome to say you saw your favourite band play a small venue with simple production. If you head to one of these festivals, I suggest choosing one or two performers to see each day instead of creating a detailed schedule. Leave your free time to wandering and discovering. Austin is also a great place to shop for records and vintage clothes. Check out End of an Ear for a well-curated new and used vinyl selection and Prototype Vintage Design to find your new favourite vintage shirt. Finally, make sure you pack your bathing suit and take a dip in Barton Springs Pool.


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HANG WITH SLOTHS IN COSTA RICA Words: Kris Madden, travel writer

Costa Rica is home to twothirds of all animal and plant species, including the sloth. Named after one of the seven deadly sins, sloths may seem slow and lazy at first glance, and in rural parts of Costa Rica, it’s not uncommon to come across a sloth making its way oh-so-slowly across a road. But if you don’t have time to wait around, make your way to the Sloth Sanctuary near Limon on the southeast Caribbean side of Costa Rica. The organisation is dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of rescued sloths and you can get close to one of the world’s most captivating animals; the adorable baby sloths will melt your heart.

At the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica you can meet one of these cute critters.

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EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH MALAYSIA Words: Jackie M, Malaysian chef and TV presenter

Satay Kajang is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most iconic dishes.

Malaysia’s emerging reputation as a street-food heaven makes it a must-visit destination, with a number of cities jostling for recognition as its food capital. Start your food hunt in Malacca, where nyonya cuisine – a fusion of Malay and Chinese cooking techniques – is a must-eat. Then make your way north to Penang for its world-famous asam laksa. En route, check out the diverse offerings in Kuala Lumpur, including satay Kajang and banana leaf curry. A two-hour detour takes you to Ipoh next, for its not-to-be-missed dishes – like sar hor fun (silky rice noodle soup) and salted chicken – washed down with the iconic Ipoh white coffee. Travel ideas

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Cuban beats

SOAK UP THE RICH CULTURE ON THE LARGEST OF THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS Words: Angela Saurine, travel writer

A ‘coche Americano’ American car in a side street in Old Havana.

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CUBA

Photos: Vincent Long

After more than 50 years, cruise ships are sailing from the USA to Cuba again. The two countries re-established relations in late 2014 when a trade embargo that had been in place since the 1960s was lifted, allowing Australians who could previously only visit on land-based trips to board cruises in Miami and sail to Cuba. A record three million tourists visited in 2015, and that number will continue to grow. MSC Cruises became the first major line to start sailing to Cuba when its 2,679-passenger ship MSC Opera docked in Havana in December 2015, with MSC Armonia joining in November 2016. The cruise terminal is at the entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Havana. Passengers can disembark and explore its atmospheric squares and 16th-century fort Castillo del Morro, and visit Bodeguita del Medio, where Ernest Hemingway, Brigitte Bardot and Pablo Neruda once sipped mojitos. Ernest Hemingway also enjoyed spending time at El Floridita, a bar famous for its tasty daiquiris. With its 1950s vintage cars, colourful characters smoking big cigars and colonial architecture, Cuba is a photographer’s dream. After cruising to Belize, Honduras and Mexico, the ship tenders to Cuba’s secondlargest island, Isla de la Juventud, where guests enjoy a Caribbean beach experience. Carnival Corporation began sailing its ship MV Adonia from Miami to Cuba under the Fathom brand in May 2015, and hopes to bring other brands there in 2017. Passengers can enjoy Cuban- and Caribbean-inspired music, films and food onboard, and take part in Spanish lessons. Other stops include the port city of Cienfuegos, known as ‘Pearl of the South’, where you can wander the wide boulevards and visit a ration store to learn about the country’s ration and dual-currency systems. In its second-biggest city, Santiago de Cuba, which was the capital from 1522 until 1589, discover more about the country’s history and visit one of its famous music clubs.

Explore the wonder of Cuba

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about visiting Cuba. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

Locals are friendly in Cuba and hellos usually come with a smile.

El Malecon is one of Havana’s popular evening hangouts.

El Floridita is famous for its daiquiris and was one of Ernest Hemingway’s haunts in the 1930s.

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ETHIOPIA

SURVEYING AN

ancient empire ETHIOPIA HIDES TEMPLES AND TUKELS IN THE FOLDS OF ITS DRAMATIC LANDSC APE Words: Ute Junker, travel writer

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Photo: Getty Images

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How has Ethiopia stayed under the radar for so long? Africa’s most underrated country for tourism has an astonishing collection of attractions – island monasteries, mighty mountain ranges and ancient temples. Few travellers have even heard of the country’s signature sights, but that may be about to change. The government has announced big plans to boost investment in tourism, with the hope of making Ethiopia one of Africa’s most popular tourism destinations. Start your explorations at Yeha, where you will find one of Ethiopia’s oldest sites: the prehistoric Temple of the Moon. Dating back close to 3,000 years – which means it

is older than Athens’ Parthenon – it is an extraordinary piece of engineering. Working with only the simplest tools, the builders were able to fit the stone blocks together so perfectly that it is impossible to slide even a piece of paper between them. Not far from Yeha is Axum. Nothing about this sleepy town suggests that it was once the hub of an ancient empire, but for almost a thousand years – from circa 100BC to 650AD – this was one of the world’s most important cities. Mighty palaces and temples lined the streets, built upon profits from a trade network that stretched as far afield as India and China. Only the foundation stones of

The Simien Mountains National Park is one of Ethiopia’s nine World Heritage-listed sites.


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Watch local fishermen float by in papyrus boats on Lake Tana.

those majestic buildings still stand, but the Axumites did leave some remarkable relics, including the world’s largest obelisk at the time. Unfortunately, the 33-metre-tall monolith did not survive the test of time; it now lies in pieces on the ground. However, the other obelisks that still stand around it – including one that was returned to the site in 2005 (it was taken in 1937 on the orders of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini) – give you an idea of how striking this city would once have been. But Axum is home to more than just obelisks. Believed to be stored inside the Church of St Mary of Zion, the oldest church in Africa, is the famous Ark of the Covenant, which played a prominent role in Steven Spielberg’s film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Visitors have to take this

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By far the country’s most spectacular churches are those at Lalibela.”

information on trust, however, as the Ark is considered so holy that no-one is allowed inside the chapel. Ethiopia has plenty of other spectacular churches to explore, too. Among my favourites are the island churches of Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands. This tranquil lake is mostly traversed by fishermen sailing small reed boats and a small number of clued-in visitors who come to visit the area’s 40-odd monasteries and churches, picturesquely located on the lake’s islands and peninsulas. The exteriors of these simple circular structures, made of adobe and thatch, are unimpressive. Step inside, however, and you’ll be met with an explosion of colour. Murals done in vivid oranges and reds, yellows, green and blues cover


ETHIOPIA

The Church of St Mary of Zion is the oldest church in Africa.

Photos: Alamy; Getty Images; ImageBrief

The collection of monolithic rockcut churches at Lalibela are among the true wonders of the world.

every surface. They depict saints working miracles, warriors riding into battle and – hidden away in dark corners – the devil waiting to work some mischief. By far the country’s most spectacular churches are those at Lalibela. This collection of 11 churches dating back to the 12th century is one of the true wonders of the world. Carved out of monolithic blocks – the builders started at the top and excavated downwards – many of the churches are joined by trenches. The construction must have occupied a vast workforce for decades, if not longer; according to King Lalibela, who commissioned the churches, he was helped out by hordes of angels. The best way to explore Ethiopia is to hire a car and driver, although you may need to fly between some of the most far-flung

Many of the island churches of Lake Tana feature colourful iconography.

destinations; Ethiopia is a big country. You’ll find decent hotels at most of the key sites. One of the most inviting is Simien Lodge, where guests sleep in modern versions of the tukel, Ethiopia’s traditional round houses. The lodge makes a good base for exploring the mountains known as the ‘roof of Africa’. The Simien Mountains National Park – one of Ethiopia’s nine World Heritage-listed sites – is known for its striking scenery, dominated by plunging valleys and huge peaks such as Ras Dashen, which soars more than 4,500 metres high. Many hikers come here hoping to see the local wildlife. Along with well-known animals, such as jackals and hyenas, the mountains are home to rare species too. Many of them, such as the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex, are

elusive, but the adorable gelada baboons are easy to spot. These gentle, long-haired creatures travel in large groups – as many as 600 individuals – and are delightful to watch; when they are not grazing on grass, they spend much time grooming and playing with each other. So visit this fascinating and culturally rich country now. You may be the first to do so in your family and friends group and soon everyone will be coming to you for advice.

Explore Ethiopia

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about travelling to Ethiopia and other regions of Africa. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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Reach great heights AORAKI/MOUNT COOK OFFERS AN OUTDOOR CHALLENGE FOR ALL

Words: Guy Cotter, mountaineer and climbing guide

One of the great aspects of travelling in New Zealand is the proximity of varied terrain. You can be surfing with dolphins on a west-coast beach in the morning and skiing in Southern Lakes in the afternoon. When it comes to the mountains, there are many regions within a few hours’ drive that provide climbing and hiking experiences. Aoraki/Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak, situated near the centre of the South Island. It’s equivalent to Himalayan giants in size, but at a lower elevation. This makes these mountains an ideal training ground for the Himalayas, as was first proved with New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mount Everest back in 1953.

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Climbing mountains in Aoraki/Mount Cook is not for the uninitiated, as the peaks are steep and treacherous for those who are not adequately trained, however, there are easy walking tracks around the surrounding national park that take only a few hours. Try trekking to Red Tarns on Mount Sebastopol (a two-hour return trip), or Sealy Tarns on the trail to Mueller Hut (a four-hour return trip). If you have the equipment, carry on to complete the hike to Mueller Hut (Sealy Tarns is the halfway point) for awe-inspiring views of cascading ice cliffs on Mount Sefton. Or there’s the Hooker Valley Trail – another vantage point for spectacular scenery.

For more thrills, sign up for a heli hike onto the Tasman Glacier, where you will walk on glacier ice with spectacular ice falls all around you. There are also guided instruction courses available to teach people the art of how to operate safely in these environments. First-time climbers can participate in a mountaineering course with a qualified guide to gain skills and enjoy the incredible terrain with the security of a trained professional. Aoraki/Mount Cook itself has numerous glaciers and faces that are steep and require a high standard of mountaineering skills to ascend. When I take climbers on a guided ascent, we can expect to spend as long as

Photos: Alamy; iStock; Miles Holden; Rob Suisted

The glistening Lake Pukaki set against a backdrop of Aoraki/ Mt Cook.


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A climber admires the alpine view.

Flowering lupins add a pop of colour to the scene.

20 hours climbing up and down from one of the high mountain huts – and that is only when the weather cooperates. I have actually met many a climber who has climbed Mount Everest yet has failed on Aoraki/Mount Cook! Summer is the ideal time to visit Aoraki/ Mount Cook, whether you are here for a trek or a climb or you merely want to see the star-studded skyscape.

Climb or hike Aoraki/Mount Cook

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about active holidays in New Zealand. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

Casual walkers will also enjoy the region’s trails.

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Mt Merapi is an active volcano in Indonesia – with stunning views.

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WATCH THE SUN RISE OVER MT MERAPI Words: Ian Neubauer, travel writer

Its name means ‘Fire Mountain’ – and for good reason. Over an hour’s drive from the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java, Mt Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano, has erupted more than 70 times in the past 468 years, most recently in 2014 when it blew a plume of volcanic material 1,500 metres into the sky. While Merapi can erupt again with little warning, the absence of significant seismic activity in recent years makes 2017 an opportune time to climb the 2,911-metre stratovolcano to witness sunrise. Catch a taxi at midnight from Yogyakarta to the village of Selo for the four-hour slog to the summit.

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Sydney is stunning when seen from above in a private seaplane.

LOSE YOURSELF STROLLING THE STREETS OF TALLINN’S OLD TOWN Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

A unique mix of Scandinavian and Eastern European cultures, Estonia’s charming capital is a delight to explore with plenty of modern cafes, galleries and creative spaces attracting the hip crowd. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town is, of course, the highlight. Home to splendid baroque palaces and magnificent merchant dwellings, coiling cobblestone lanes and spiralling church towers, all you need is time and a good pair of shoes to scratch below the surface of this storied city. Interestingly, many of the historic structures that date back to medieval times have been preserved – even with the devastations of wars and fires of centuries past – making it one of the best-kept old towns in the whole of Europe. Tallinn City Hall is one of many historic buildings in the city’s Heritage-listed old town.

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EXPERIENCE SYDNEY BY SEAPLANE Words: Kari Edie, leisure product owner, Flight Centre

How best to see spectacular Sydney? Well, a seat on a private seaplane is a pretty good choice. I flew northwards out from Rose Bay, over the massive rocky outcrop of The Heads, then peered down on to the famous Northern Beaches. Flying westwards towards the Berowra Valley National Park I entered the Hawkesbury River for a James Bond arrival in front of a little restaurant tucked away in bushland. I had a fantastic meal at Cottage Point Inn before stepping back on to the seaplane for the all-too-short return journey that included a swoop over Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House before our gentle water landing at Rose Bay. Truly breathtaking!

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EXPLORE MEDIEVAL TOWNS ON A SELF-DRIVE TOUR THROUGH FRANCE Words: Vicki Fletcher, travel writer, Flight Centre

Photos: Brian Jannsen Photography; iStock, Sydney Seaplanes, Visit Estonia

France: a picturesque country of undulating hills and medieval villages, where church spires interrupt the horizon and the most rewarding route is always the one less travelled. France may be

the home of the high-speed TGV train and efficient freeways, but she is also a champion of slow, of history, quality and community. There is no better way to appreciate this than by dictating your own path and pace, weaving from village to village in the comfort of a car. From the rocky outcrop of Mont SaintMichel to the fairytale town of Colmar or the perfectly preserved walled city of Carcassonne, driving through medieval France is both romantic and rustic, pristine yet peeling around the edges – it’s the real France you’ve always dreamed of.

Driving through the country isn’t all about infamous walled cities. In fact, it’s more about the tiny gems you’ll stumble across along the journey. Where the boulanger (breadmaker) is happy to chat and local flavours and friendly hospitality translate across every language. It means pausing to picnic beside the Dordogne, sleeping in a chateau and enjoying a long lunch in the region’s favourite restaurant, tucked away outside of town. The best way to explore medieval France is certainly to slow to the local pace, enjoying where the journey takes you.

Medieval landmarks like Mont Saint-Michel are good markers for a self-drive holiday in France.

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SEEK HAPPINESS

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A world of wellness Words: Belinda Luksic, wellness travel writer

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Photo: Ritz-Carlton

REJUVENATION AND RELAXATION ARE JUST ONE FLIGHT AWAY…


WELLNESS WONDERS

Embrace Zen to your heart’s content at the Mandapa Ritz Carlton Ubud in Bali.

It’s the hot word on everyone’s lips and is set to become a USD$678.5 billion industry by 2017, according to the latest Global Wellness Tourism Economy report. Across the world, hotels are racing to embrace the latest mind, body and spirit wellness trends leaving travellers looking rejuvenated and relaxed and feeling their best. It’s simple to seek wellness and rejuvenation in your travels.

Forget about a simple massage or facial in the hotel spa – these are switched-on revitalising wellness programs that are as much about empowering healthy eating as they are about engaging with nature, learning to switch off and improving natural sleep. From forest bathing and ice caves to indigenous treatments and even fresh juice bars, here are some of the hottest wellness trends to try this year. Travel ideas

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The sleep revolution

Zero-gravity nap pods and lighting schemes that change throughout the day are just some of the ways hotels are going the extra mile to optimise guest health and happiness and give jetlag the flick. At the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona, a prescribed 30-minute power nap in the ‘So Sound’ chair is all that’s needed to reset the body clock, while the cocoon bed at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort gently rocks guests up and down into a deeply relaxed state. WA N T A R E S T F U L N I G H T ? W H Y N OT T RY:

Salty dreams: Great for respiration and improved mental clarity, halotherapy is being touted as a jetlag cure. At Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, guests can sit inside a salt chamber being pumped with dry salt air and breathe in all the salty goodness of a day at the beach without the sand. Counting sheep: Doctor and sleep specialist-devised programs at some hotels are helping to retrain and

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reset out-of-whack body clocks. In Switzerland, The Alpina Gstaad takes a Zen approach with wellness consultations, ‘yogic sleep’ retreats and detox programs, and London’s Corinthia Hotel has a sleep retreat that’s rich in tryptophan and magnesium-rich sleep-inducing foods. Closer to home, Queensland’s award-winning Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat regularly holds specialty retreats based on sleep. Wellness stays: A new wave in hotel design is reshaping the way we stay. The soothing Vitality Room at the Swissotel Zurich, designed in partnership with Wallpaper* magazine, features a neutral colour palette, fitness video wall, circadian lighting and bespoke bathroom. Meanwhile, Delos, a wellbeing design company with mind-body healing expert Dr Deepak Chopra on the board, has installed Stay Well rooms at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and some Marriott hotels across the United States, which are fitted out with air purifiers and simulated dawn alarm clocks to deliver a better night’s sleep.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Take a yogic sleep retreat at Alpina Gstaad in Switzerland; London’s Corinthia Hotel is prepped with plenty of sleep-aiding services; salt therapy at Anantara the Palm Dubai.

Photos: Alpina Gstaad; Anantara; Aro Ha; Como Shambhala; Richard Powers/Corinthi

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WELLNESS WONDERS

Food tailored just for you

Healthy eating is on the menu like never before as hotels cater to the growing popularity of veganism, raw, gluten-free and Paleo diets. Overseas, Tokyo has specialty tofu restaurants and London’s 5-star Claridge’s hotel has a gluten-free high tea. Meanwhile, in Australia, Asana by Pete Evans at Capri by Fraser in Brisbane has a Paleo-influenced menu showcasing local Queensland fare. Even cruise ships are changing what passengers eat onboard, with many, like Avalon Waterways, launching healthy meal options. H AV E A N A P P E T I T E F O R H E A LT H ? H E R E ’ S YO U R C H A N C E TO G O C R A Z Y:

diet that’s Paleo-friendly and gluten-free. In Bali, the award-winning Fivelements Sakti Dining Room takes guests on an epicurean raw vegan journey, while the Evason Hua Hin holds weekend workshops and month-long courses for guests wanting to learn how to ‘cook’ raw. Like a bullet: In-room Nespresso machines, singleorigin beans, almond and coconut milk, and baristas onsite: hotel coffee keeps going from strength to strength. In Singapore, Hotel Jen Tanglin regularly holds ‘Barista Showdowns’, while the QT Gold Coast is the place to go for a ‘bulletproof coffee’ (hello, pasture butter).

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM: Learning of sustainable cooking at Aro Ha; wellness juices at Como Shambala; a vegetarian dish at Aro Ha.

Juice bars: Cold-pressed, made to order or part of a spa detox menu, the hippest hotels, such as Miami’s 1 Hotel South Beach, now have juice bars. At the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort and Evason Ana Mandara in Nha Trang, guests can detox with a rawjuice cleanse, and the fresh wellness juices at Como Shambhala hotels were designed by a nutritionist. Eat your greens: Sprouting up in some hotels, meatfree restaurants are attracting ethically minded and health-conscious guests. At Aro Ha on New Zealand’s South Island, guests can eat their way to active weight loss and better health with a nutrient-dense vegetarian

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Next-gen spas

Want to look good fast? Oxygenating medi-spa treatments at hotels like Per Aquum Niyama Maldives and Karma Kandara Bali are giving skin that fresh, just holidayed look in a flash. It’s also in the hotel spa that you’ll find the latest non-surgical cool-sculpting fat-removal machines. U N W I N D ON A W H O L E N E W L E V E L :

Feeling hot, hot, hot: Dating back to Mayan times, temazcal (a sweat lodge) is the latest indigenous treatment to hit the spa menu. Led by a shaman, this authentic indigenous rebirth ritual uses steam, heat, aromatic herbs, chanting and ancient prayers to help purify the body and mind. Hit the El Dorado Royale and other luxury resort spas along Mexico’s Riviera Maya for the best of these. The big chill: Celebrities swear by it, and now hotels are tapping into cryotherapy’s anti-ageing cool. In the ‘snow paradise’ room at The Dolder Grand in Zurich,

guests can slather on an icy snow-like concoction, and both the Carillon Miami Beach and Banyan Tree Al Wadi in the United Arab Emirates have igloo rooms. Make mine a double: Need a boost? Health takes to the road in 2017 with Reviv, a wellness company delivering B12 booster shots, CoQ10+ shots and a handful of signature IV nutrient infusions straight to your hotel room. A concierge service of trained medical professionals currently operates in locations around the world, including Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Ibiza, Johannesburg, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and Toronto. Bespoke pampering: Face-mapping and custom aromatherapy treatments continue to transform and augment the standard spa menu. In Bath, the Thermae Bath Spa Tailor-Made Facial is a bespoke blend of pure essential oils and plant extracts, while Mexico’s Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit creates custom massage oils for guests using herbs that are crushed to order from the hotel garden.

Bathe in Bath, where there are plenty of wellness options.


WELLNESS WONDERS

Zen of nature

Adrenaline activities teamed with yoga and meditation and fully immersive back-to-nature experiences are bringing a new Zen to outdoor wellness. Meanwhile, hotels like the Vibe and Novotel are making it easier for guests to stay fit and relaxed without leaving their room, with dedicated yoga and fitness channels, and others, including the InterContinental’s Even hotels, have inroom fitness zones. G E T R E A DY TO E X P LO R E T H E

Photos: Peter Lundstrom/WDO; Philip Edwards/Thermae Bath Spa; Six Senses; Treehotel

( R E A L LY ) G R E AT O U T D O O R S :

Stop and smell the roses: Walk into a forest, breathe deeply and open all your senses. The Japanese healing practise of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) is not only relaxing, it’s restorative too, with a host of benefits that include a boosted immune system, improved mood, lowered blood pressure and reduced stress. Blackberry Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee incorporates forest-bathing principles in its outdoor yoga sessions, while the mindful forest walk at Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal ends in a guided meditation suspended in a cocoon-like pod. For the ultimate in forest soaks, head to Sweden’s Treehotel and stay in The Mirrorcube treehouse suspended between towering pine trees. Hang 10: Once the domain of gnarly surfers in search of the perfect break, surfing (and stand-up paddleboarding) has come of age. Women-only and family surf and wellness retreats are now the norm, with surfing just as likely to be paired with yoga and meditation as it is to appear as an activity at an exclusive beachside resort. With miles of sandy beaches, consistent swells and good reef breaks, Sri Lanka is fast cementing itself as a surfing hotspot. On the southeast coast, Arugam Bay is known for its waves, while the southwest coast from Hikkaduwa down to Matara is

full of hidden, empty reef breaks. Intrepid surfers are also venturing further afield to places like India, Japan, Iceland and Russia. Take a hike: Why hike along a glacier when you can hike inside one? In Iceland, you can explore the breathtaking beauty of Langjokull glacier, a 550m network of magical ice tunnels and caves of everdeepening blue ice that lead about 30m below the surface, to the glacier’s heart.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Sweden’s Mirrorcube treehouse; the Mirrorcube’s interior; why not meditate in a hanging nest?

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A family affair

Family wellness is squarely in the sights of hotels, with spa treatments, yoga sessions, immersive cooking classes and indigenous activities for adults and kids all on offer. In Bangkok, The Siam has a kids’ and teen spa menu as well as one-day to one-week Muay Thai training sessions in the gym, while Camp at Mandapa in Ubud is where mini adventurers (and mum and dad too if they like) can take part in yoga, chocolate-making, daytime exploring and night-time safaris. S W E E T R E T R E AT S W H O A R E DOING IT FOR THE KIDS:

Kiddy-zen: Helping kids to switch off and relax, kids’ clubs are focusing on more contemplative pursuits. The Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives has music meditation, organic gardening and tai chi for kids, and Plum Village, a monastery in the south of France, has a four-week summer mindfulness retreat each year where kids aged six to 17 years can learn how to meditate.

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Nature-nurture: Drawing kids away from iPads and video games, nature is the big-ticket item at some family-friendly resorts. Fiji’s Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort has a full-time marine biologist on site to teach children about the ocean and buddies for fun activities like raft building, snorkelling and spearfishing. At Australia’s One & Only Wolgan Valley, the Greater Blue Mountains is a children’s playground and the Rangers Activity program one of the ways they can explore it, with bush survival, yabbying, fossil hunting and orienteering just some of the activities on offer. With so many wonderful health-giving trends, 2017 is definitely the year of travelling well.

Seek wellness and harmony in your travels

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about wellness travel and recommendations on where to go and stay. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

ABOVE: Mini adventurers are welcome at Camp at Mandapa in Ubud, Bali.

Photos: Ritz-Carlton

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REDISCOVER YOUR INNER CHILD WITH DISNEY Words: Luke Wheatley, head of creative and content, Flight Centre

Be delighted at Walt Disney World, Orlando.

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Walt Disney World is a world of surprises. My grown-up cynicism melted away the moment I boarded Disney’s Magical Express at Orlando International Airport with my family for an eight-day adventure. Much-loved Disney tunes serenaded us along the way and I started to feel, well, happy. There’s nothing like the thrill of hurtling up and down a haunted elevator or seeing my son’s eyes light up as we make the jump into hyperspace – but it was the surprises that won over this Disney skeptic. There was a strong focus on sustainability as we spotted black rhinos in the African savannah; the family feel of eating leftovers at ’50s Prime Time Cafe (keep those elbows off the table); and the ease of navigating 144 attractions, 380 restaurants and 126 shows with the help of the MagicBand wristband. Add to that cheering on a whip-cracking Indiana Jones as he dodges that boulder, and oohing and aahing as Mickey battles good and evil in the Fantasmic! show experience, and adults turn back into kids. So book your flights, get your MagicBand, schedule your FastPass, remember your sunscreen, fill up on coffee and explore ‘the happiest place on earth’.

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Temples in Bagan, Myanmar.

CRUISE THROUGH MYANMAR

Photos: Ewen Bell; Walt Disney World

Words: Steve Reynolds, executive general manager, APT

With its gilded pagodas, bustling riverside cities and villages that literally float, Myanmar is as unique as the many religious monuments that dot its landscapes. Add this to the fact that the nation was, until recently, off limits to all but the most intrepid travellers and it’s little wonder this amazing land has developed an almost mystical appeal. The Irrawaddy River is a 2,170km watery highway that runs from the north of the country to the Andaman Sea, and an APT cruise on this mighty river will take travellers past historic Mandalay, the amazing stupas of Bagan and – via a channel – to the thriving city of Yangon. Cruising really is the best way to absorb this nation’s beauty and culture. Travel ideas

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STAY A WHILE IN BERGEN, THEN HEAD OFF ON A FJORD ADVENTURE Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

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Norway’s second-largest city packs a punch when it comes to experiences. Surrounded by majestic fjords and lakes of clear water, Bergen is a visual goldmine whichever way you look. The lively city is also home to a picturesque port and, consequently, is a superb access point for all kinds of water adventures, be it short ferry rides or longer cruises that take in days worth of fjord-goggling. Hurtigruten, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Cunard and P&O UK are just some of the cruise companies that call here. Overland, the Bergen to Oslo (and vice versa) train is often touted as one of the most scenic journeys in the world – and for good reason. The track knits its way


N O RWAY

The spectacular view from Mt Floyen.

Bryggen is known for its colourful wharf houses.

Photos: Alamy; Getty Images; M Dickson/Foap/Visitnorway.com; Oyvind Heen/Visitnorway.com; Sonia Arrepia/Visitnorway.com

Geiranger fjord is one of many picturesque finds in Norway.

through striking snow-topped fjords for just over six glorious hours and offers the kind of scenery that impresses even wellseasoned travellers. Be sure to spend a few days exploring Bergen itself, as the idyllic waterfront city is as fairytale-like as they come. Meander through the UNESCO World Heritagelisted Bryggen and admire wooden wharf houses; stroll along cobblestoned laneways popping your head into cafes, boutiques and wine bars en route; feast on the catch of the day at the seaside fish market; ride the funicular up to Mt Floyen for spectacular views of the city and hike down so you can appreciate the vistas over and over again.

The city also has a dynamic arts and culture scene, and there are plenty of art museums for daytime quests. One of the most notable is the Edvard Grieg Museum, located in Troldhaugen, the former home of the famous Norwegian composer. In the evenings, the music scene attracts the hip crowd. Why not join the fun? Find a kooky bar, sink into a sofa and let Bergen shine.

Aurlandsfjord is said to be one of Norway’s most beautiful fjords.

Bergen and beyond

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about Bergen and Norway. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

Quirky shops abound in Bergen.

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SOAK UP BIRMINGHAM’S BUZZY ARTS AND CULTURE SCENE Words: Gary Topp, director, Birmingham Culture Central

There’s a great independent spirit and pumping vibe in Birmingham. For classical culture vultures, there’s a world-class orchestra, the UK’s best concert hall (in my opinion!) and an amazing ballet – but there’s also a thriving contemporary scene, particularly in Digbeth, where new galleries seem to pop up every month. There’s loads for the younger ones, too, particularly at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and at Thinktank, the science museum. Best of all, Birmingham is affordable: the dollar definitely goes much further here than in London. For first-time international visitors, I’d recommend a stroll around the canals in Brindleyplace and a visit to Ikon, which is one of the UK’s leading art galleries. In the evening, take in a concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall. And if you’re there on the first Friday of the month, head to Digbeth First Friday, when the funky galleries open their doors for free events and performances with street food from Digbeth Dining Club. The city’s biggest arts festival, Birmingham Weekender, returns from September 22-24. The city centre will be filled with performances and art events from leading organisations, plus artists from across the UK. You’ll find the city at its liveliest, friendliest best!

A weekend of free outdoor performances, Birmingham Weekender is a calendar highlight.

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WATCH WILD ELEPHANTS PLAY IN SRI LANKA Every year during the dry season (June to September), one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles in the world takes place in Minneriya National Park, the only place where about 300 wild Asian elephants converge for their famous ‘gathering’. One by one, these gentle giants slowly make their way to Minneriya Tank reservoir for a muchanticipated drink – the matriarchs leading their families and the adults treading together, ensuring the baby elephants are safeguarded. It’s an incredibly magical experience to be able to watch these wild mammals come together to drink and play in the grasslands – one that photos and videos will never do justice.

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Observing elephants in the wild is a magical experience.

Photos: Andrew Fox; Getty Images

Words: Judy Anglim, product specialist, Asia, Flight Centre


Unexpected New York THE BIG APPLE IS A CENTRE OF CIVILISATION AND A BOOMING METROPOLIS – BUT ALSO HOME TO SHELTERED NOOKS, QUIRKY EXPERIENCES AND ODDITIES GALORE

Photo: Alamy

Words: Mitch Brook, managing editor, Travel ideas magazine

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With its statue of Atlas and Top of the Rock Observation Deck, the Rockefeller Center is an attraction in its own right.

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New York City, with more than eight million residents and almost 60 million visitors annually, is a world of wonder. It’s easy to be swept up in the sights on the surface – the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Broadway and Times Square – but hidden among the skyscrapers are incredible, though less famous, attractions. “The intensity of this city can sometimes force a certain level of creativity,” says Alex Kalman, co-founder and curator of mini museum Mmuseumm. That creativity can express itself in many ways, including in those smaller places that are harder to find. You’ll never feel like you’ve spent enough time here, with the city’s sprawling boroughs often feeling more like rabbit burrows – you need to really dig in to find the best experiences.

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Hidden among the skyscrapers of New York City are incredible, though less well known, attractions.”

Theatre surprise

A short cab ride from the bright lights of Broadway is The McKittrick Hotel (530 West 27th Street). From outside it’s an innocuous warehouse with a bouncer, velvet rope and pieces of monochrome wall art. It truly belies the thrillingly odd performance that happens inside each night: Sleep No More is conducted over five floors, across many spooky, detailed sets, with dozens of actors individually telling their own story. Choose to follow any character and see their tale unravel through dark and kooky narratives. One woman checks into a beautiful 1930s-inspired hotel, and has a high-stakes conversation with the proprietor. One man receives a cut-throat shave from a nemesis. Another woman wanders, lost and pursued,

through a misty forest. Most of the story is expressed through dance and movement, and it all culminates in a bloody final feast involving all the major characters. The audience is instructed never to speak and everyone must don a bone-white mask to obscure their identity. The immersive show draws plot points and themes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and several Alfred Hitchcock films, and it’s a crazy ride throughout its three-hour runtime, after which all are invited to the in-house bar for cocktails and live music. Sleep No More isn’t a scary theatre experience, but it’ll cause lack of sleep as you recall each small moment and try to unravel the intriguing story. Also beyond Broadway is a whole other theatrical world known as Off-Broadway. These are generally more intimate shows in smaller theatres like the Orpheum Theatre or SoHo Playhouse. Theatre devotees should be sure to check them out for diverse and, often, more challenging shows. It’s often the proving ground for shows before they move to Broadway, with famous productions like Grease and Rent starting Off-Broadway.

What’s the password?

After the alcohol ban of the 1920s, New York residents became intimately familiar with the idea of underground pubs or bars, where they would seek out fun when fun was outlawed – a secret society of revellers just hoping to not get caught. These days, the ‘speakeasy’ is just as fun (though now legal) and small bars with delicious cocktails are proliferating as a trendy and comfortable place to meet friends and sink some sundowners.

Photos: Boudoir; Gabriel Denham; iStock; McKittrick Hotel; Mmuseumm

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C L O C KW I S E FROM OPPOSITE

The Manhattan Bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. The opulent furnishings of Brooklyn speakeasy Boudoir. An actor performs at Sleep No More, as a masked audience member looks on. Pocket-sized Mmuseumm 2, containing sculptures from a Syrian sevenyear-old. Le Dauphin cocktail, containing absinthe, chilli liqueur, almond milk, coconut and cacao nibs at Boudoir. High tea at speakeasy Garfunkel’s, located in the former premises of a phoney bank. Look between the famous skyscrapers and tall buildings like the Chrysler Building and there’s no telling what you can discover in New York City.

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Sophisticated and suave both aptly describe The Raines Law Room (48 West 17th Street). The subterranean bar is named after one particular law aimed at restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol, leading to the proliferation of what would become known as ‘speakeasy’ bars. The law didn’t last, but this establishment will still make you feel at home with cups of refreshing beverages and the convenience of a waiter call button. Head down the stairs and press the buzzer to be granted entry. Boudoir (135 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn) is another such bar, hidden away in Brooklyn Heights. Tarek Debira, operator of the bar along with his wife Patricia Ageheim, says: “People appreciate the quality, effort and thoughtfulness of a wellmade drink, as well as feeling special.” Boudoir is an opulent parlour taking inspiration from Marie Antoinette’s era and decor. Booths adorned in rich red upholstery, gilded mirrors and period art adorn the cosy space, with cocktails such as the Guillotine and the Air Balloon matched to appetisers including crispy frog legs with spicy honey sauce. “Speakeasies have captured the spirit of thoughtfulness and have taken it to a whole different level,” says Tarek. “They combine crafted cocktails with hidden storefronts and beautiful decor, creating a unique experience.” Named after an embezzling ’20s crim who had a phoney bank in the same building, secrecy is also rife at Garfunkel’s – you’ll need a passcode to get past the functional bank vault door (67 Clinton

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Street). Curtained windows allow light during sunny afternoons, but relax in the plush purple lounges to soak up the underground vibe of this of-the-era drinking den focusing on cocktail mixology and with a cracker ambience. Somewhat out of character but nonetheless worthwhile, the bar also does a beautiful afternoon tea Wednesday to Sunday.

City oases

The High Line is great, if you get the rare opportunity to see it without throngs of people clogging the walkway. Central Park is also lovely, if you can stand the queues for the rowboats and the hundreds of travellers taking snapshots with selfie sticks. Thankfully, New York City’s reputation for beautiful parks stretches beyond these behemoths. The Rockefeller Center is an attraction in its own right, located between 49th

and 50th streets, with its statue of Atlas and Top of the Rock Observation Deck. A little less known, and a reprieve from the bustle of the busy surrounding streets, are the Rockefeller Center Channel Gardens, dressed up each season to match a different theme. The centre also has rooftop gardens – though these beautiful green city havens are only occasionally open to the public. Another urban oasis exists in the Ford Foundation building, which has an atrium of lush foliage that feels more like a tropical forest than a foyer. High ceilings and glass walls frame this pocket of tranquillity in a 1960s building lauded for its architectural value. It’s adjacent to another garden – the Tudor City Greens (42nd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues) – and is open to the public from 10am to 4pm on weekdays. You might not expect to find a waterfall in the concrete jungle that is New York’s Midtown, but Greenacre Park offers just

Photos: iStock; Mmuseumm

A city of so many people is a natural zone for the creation of pockets of the wacky and weird.”


NEW YORK

FROM LEFT: Mmuseumm 1, a literal hole-in-the-wall gallery displaying an offbeat collection of objects; the lush foliage and glass atrium walls of the Ford Foundation atrium gardens.

that in its location on the east side, on 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues. There are chairs, tables and benches for a rest from the action of sightseeing, and unexpected lush greenery to relax the mind after witnessing the buzz of the city. Another green oasis is in the East Village. Kenkeleba House (214 East 2nd Street) is a gallery focusing on art by African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native American artists. The gallery opens out to a park full of wrought-iron and steel sculptures – a thought-provoking and calming experience. Sometimes there are even live music events in the garden and people flock here to listen to tunes.

Curios and oddities

A city of so many people is a natural zone for the creation of pockets of the wacky and weird. Start with Mmuseumm (pronounced simply ‘museum’, two locations at 4 Cortlandt Alley), inside an abandoned freight elevator, a stark contrast to The Met, that’s for sure. Rotating exhibitions attempt to bring to light those things that may have been “overlooked, dismissed or ignored”, which have included ‘Personal Objects of Immigration’ (items lost in the Arizona desert on the Mexico-US border), ‘The Cornflake Taxonomy’ (corn flakes categorised by size and brand) and ‘Not

Bombs’ (reproductions of items that required a bomb squad to determine they were not explosives, such as a stuffed toy pony and a rock). Offbeat? Sure. Thoughtprovoking? Definitely. “I thought there was room to experiment with a new model for a museum,” says co-founder and curator Alex. “Rather than creating one larger, centralised destination, we could look at under-utilised spaces in the city and try to transform them into cultural destinations. So we were looking at the cracks in the city and seeing how we could bring those alive.” At Mmuseumm, says Alex, it’s all about “looking at the world that we’re living in through objects from around the world. They reveal to us who we are, how we think, what we want, how we feel. They allow people to engage with stories around the world through the intimacy and physicality of objects.” There’s also plenty of quirk to purchase in the city that never sleeps. Try a mummyhead snow globe, bone dice or antique medicine bottles at Obscura Antiques & Oddities (207 Avenue A). Otherwise there are ammonite fossils, animal brains in resin and insect-inspired jewellery at The Evolution Store (687 Broadway). “There’s a level of joy and surprise for visitors,” says Alex of seeking out and finding attractions like Mmuseumm. “Travellers find themselves looking more carefully for a place because they have to seek it out. That puts them into a mindset of curiosity and adventure, and looking carefully.” When visitors seek carefully in a city like this, there’s no knowing what else they may find hidden among the boroughs and the skyscrapers. New York City is the city that never stops changing, and if you look, you may find something unexpected. But take note, because things change fast here.

Discover something new in New York

Visit your local Flight Centre for travel advice and the latest travel deals for New York City and the USA. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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HIT THE SKI SLOPES IN SOUTH KOREA Words: Kirsty Newsome, travel expert, Skimax Holidays

South Korea is well known for cultural experiences: in Seoul city, there are cooking classes, palace and garden tours, and Seoul Tower offering amazing panoramic views of the city, and it’s packed with excellent retail shopping and fantastic food. But the country’s ski destinations should be on everyone’s bucket list. The best ski resorts are easily accessible from Seoul and offer terrain suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. The ski runs here are not so crowded as other skiing locations, plus you can ski overnight at Yongpyong Resort until 2.30am. This is one of the best resorts for international visitors, with most staff able to speak English, and there’s also a fun water park, spa and 18-hole golf course. You can even combine a skiing holiday here with cultural activities – less than an hour from Yongpyong are national parks, temples and museums. This year is the time to ski in South Korea – the Olympic Winter Games will be held in the city of PyeongChang, in the northeast of the country, in 2018. So it’s sure to attract attention and plenty of visitors far into the future.

Yongpyong Ski Resort is the largest ski and snowboard resort in South Korea.

Hang gliding offers unrivalled views of Rio de Janeiro.

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STOP OVER IN SINGAPORE No matter how many times you’ve visited Singapore on a stopover, you will always find something different to do. Head to the grand Raffles Singapore to learn how to make the hotel’s famous Singapore Sling cocktail at a masterclass before checking out the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred eateries; the first Michelin guide to Singapore was released in July 2016 and two hawker stalls – Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle – were each given one star. Or dine at 3-star French restaurant Joel Robuchon Restaurant on the island of Sentosa. Singapore also has fabulous hidden bars, including the intimate The Other Room at Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, LongPlay vintage record bar and the speakeasy-style The Library (you’ll need to obtain a password from Facebook or Twitter to enter the latter).

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Photos: iStock; Raffles Hotel; Skimax

Words: Angela Saurine, travel writer


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ADMIRE RIO FROM UP HIGH

Words: Emma Lee, travel writer, Flight Centre

Raffles Hotel is a great example of neo-Renaissance Singaporean architecture.

Head to Raffles Singapore to learn how to make the hotel’s famous Singapore Sling cocktail.

The mountains meet the sea in the jawdropping spectacle that is Rio de Janeiro, a unique landscape that offers the thrilling opportunity to jump from a cliff top and soar down to the beach on the wings of a hang-glider. According to locals, legendary surfer Pedro ‘Pepe’ Lopes was one of the first to decide that jumping off a mountain could be a good thing; he and his cronies built a runway high in the rainforest of Pedra Bonita, and today it is constantly buzzing with those seeking the adrenaline rush and bird’s-eye views that only a gliding descent can offer. A drive through winding rainforest roads and a briefing by your tandem guide followed by a fast and furious sprint off a wooden platform is all it takes – suddenly you are suspended over the trees with only canvas and air currents holding you aloft. Your view of Rio’s gorgeous curving beaches and vibrant streets will change with every lazy circle of your glider, and on a clear day you’ll see the Christ the Redeemer statue beckoning from its own lofty heights. You’ll eventually settle on the sands of Pepino Beach, but it will take a little longer to descend from the high of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Travel ideas

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29 Cheeky young boys dance up a storm for spectators. The dust adds to the incredible spectacle.

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Portraits from the past TEAR-INDUCING PERFORMANCES AND A GROUND TREMBLING WITH ACTION. IT C AN ONLY MEAN ONE THING: THE LAURA DANCE FESTIVAL IS IN TOWN Words: Michelle Hespe, travel writer Photography: Andy Solo

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W W LI ST 2017 Children as young as three years old take part in the dancing. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

There is only one place in the world where every two years, more than 20 Indigenous Australian communities, over 500 performers and around 5,000 visitors unite on sacred Aboriginal ground to celebrate the stories at the heart of Indigenous Australian culture. That place is in Quinkan Country on Queensland’s Cape York, 15km south of Laura, in the Ang-Gnarra Festival Grounds, and the special event is The Laura Dance Festival. The festival is considered a time for families to meet and get to know new and old family members, and it’s a place to meet new people too. Beautifully choreographed dance routines and electrifying performances tell stories that have been passed down through generations, and without these performances – into which children as young as three years throw themselves with gusto – many stories crucial to the preservation of Indigenous Australia may have been lost forever. The festival is a hotpot of Indigenous culture that is overwhelmingly exciting, and as 2017 marks 35 years since the festival’s inception in Cooktown, and 25 years of it being held in Laura, it’s the year to get out there and relish it. In 2015, my friend and I hit the hairraising snake-like bends and steep inclines of State Route 1 from Cairns to Laura, traversing the mountains of the majestic Daintree rainforest. Upon arrival at the festival grounds, police inspect our vehicle to ensure we’re alcohol- and drug-free; it’s a family friendly dry event and there is no tolerance for hooliganism. “You girls have a great time, eh? It’ll be hard not to!” one cop says, giving us a smile as he waves us off. We squeeze our van into a spot of shade and join the thrumming throng of people heading down a dirt road leading to the festival ground. Vans and cars packed with people, food and camping gear continue to roll up en masse – there’s high-fiving out windows, people bolting towards one another for hugs, many tears as families and friends reunite, and many people already dancing down the road in anticipation of the entertainment. It’s 30°C in winter, the land is dry and red, and the sky is a brilliant blue, but it’s the joy and excitement emanating from the thousands of people that’s most noticeable. For almost three decades, the grounds have


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Dance troupe performances are a highlight for everyone.

In one performance, women and girls form a tight circle and take part in an ancient ritual.

been transformed into one gigantic camping site, and its obvious that there are many returning visitors. As we walk, tremors tickle our legs – dancers have begun to pound the ground, and as we get closer we hear clapping sticks and some goosebumpinducing guttural singing. The road and gum-tree dominated bushland opens up into a dirt arena the size of a few tennis courts, around which thousands of people are crammed, some on picnic blankets and camping chairs, others sitting on the ground. All eyes are pinned on the performers – at this moment, it’s a troupe called Kawadji Wimpa, from Lockhart River. Their bare upper bodies are decorated with looping streams of white and red painted dots, and they wear long grass skirts, under which their legs move Travel ideas

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Ceremonial costumes add even more colour to the festival.

The moves, the music and the energy shakes and wakes the soul.” so quickly, so rhythmically, that it’s all a dazzling blur. All around them and across the entire audience, dust flies up to create a hazy mist-like veil spliced by piercing midday sunrays. It’s hard to tear away from the dancers – every half hour for a full three memorable days, a new troupe with a series of performances takes the stage – but the educational stands circling the ‘dance floor’ are as fascinating as the many tribes celebrating their unique culture. We wander. At one stall, a woman is pulling plastic human organs out of a replica human torso and speaking to a group of grinning, giggling kids and teens. Next door, there’s a twenty-something with a pile of apples, wielding a fancy peeler that

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cores the apple and creates a long twist of fresh fruit for the queue of kids eagerly awaiting a healthy treat. And behind it all, at a stand bursting at the seams with kids, is a quiz board about the food groups and their health benefits. If the kids get all of the questions right, they’re given a showbag packed with cartoon books about health and wellbeing, some toothpaste and a toothbrush, and a skipping rope. At another stand I meet Tricia Walker of the Yidinji people, who teaches her visitors how to make dilly bags (traditional gathering pouches) and sun hats woven from lomandra grass. She works for Keeping Our Culture Alive (KOCA), collaborating with master weavers to teach people how to make things while educating

Tribes are differentiated by costumes, body paint, movements and stories that have been passed down from their ancestors.

them about her ancestors’ way of life. “The kids love making something from nature, and then we can teach them about our people and how they once lived. We have to keep our culture alive, and that comes down to educating the young ones.” When the festival launched, the stands were not part of the event – it was all about the dance troupes. Waratah Nichols, a British woman who arrived on the Cape as a backpacker back then, fell in love with the place and the communities and never went home. “Laura Dance Festival is incredibly important, as we need to have experiences that bring us back to earth,” she says. “Modern society and a growing obsession with technology have taken us so far from what is real.” She pauses. “This


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[she spreads her arms wide to take in the festival] is as real as you get. It’s incredible, and everyone who comes is moved by what’s happening. It’s the past, being kept alive through human energy and people’s stories.” Watching the faces of the dancers and seeing their nimble limbs move so quickly, fervently, to convey the intense meanings behind the music, sends shivers through my body. The beats reverberate through me, so it’s not just my ears doing the work. The moves, the music and the energy shake and wake the soul. There’s a little girl with a cheeky smile in a simple red cotton top – she must be about four years old. I stand on the side of the crowd and watch her smiling through curtains of dust as her spindly legs

somehow move neatly yet wildly, her straw skirt shaking as her rapid-fire ambidextrous movements take her to some other place. She’s surrounded by her loving clan. She’s so incredibly proud that she’s shining. Drums, and now a hauntingly beautiful female elder’s voice, have reached such a crescendo that the crowd is staring like one huge creature with thousands of eyes and rows of gaping mouths, oblivious to the dust that’s been whipped into a whirlwind by the theatrical frenzy. As each dance finishes, often with a dizzying high, the crowd stares at the dancers and the dancers stare back – their ancestors right there in their faces. They are pure portraits of the past. And then, minutes after each troupe files off, the

ground begins to tremble again – it’s like the ancestors of these people are reaching up and out to them from within the earth. The dust is like spirits rising from their country. Goosebumps, and even tears, are hard to avoid, because it’s like seeing magic in action. Magic passed down through families for millennia. Anyone who experiences this kind of magic in 2017 is more than just privileged – they’re downright blessed.

Experience it for yourself

Visit your local Flight Centre store for information on Indigenous tourism and travelling to regional Queensland. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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Explore Portugal history-rich

THE TINY NATION THAT PACKS A PUNCH Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

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So you’ve visited Spain, Italy and France? Travellers heading to Europe need only go a little further west to discover a country that packs a punch when it comes to experiences. “You can wander along the cobblestoned streets of Lisbon and Porto and lose yourself in ancient traditions and rich culture; explore the World Heritagelisted Jeronimos Monastery and the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima; watch the sun sink into the ocean as surfers take on the big breaks; or simply gaze out on to a tapestry of vineyards, windmills and

Photos: Christopher Wise; Back-Roads Touring

FROM LEFT: Walking down to Pego Beach, Comporta, south of Lisbon; Cataplana is a Portuguese seafood dish originating in the southern region of Portugal in Algarve.


CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Trams run up and down steep streets in Lisbon; building facades on the Cais da Ribeira in Porto; Portugal is home to many stunning palaces, such as the Palace of Pena in Sintra.

terracotta homesteads,” says Back-Roads Touring Country Manager Australia and New Zealand, Dennis Basham. Portugal’s rich and fascinating history is why many people come (the Pena National Palace, located on a rocky ridge above Sintra on the outskirts of Lisbon, is one of many not-to-be-missed historical highlights). As of late the new is getting plenty of airplay too. Recently, both Lisbon and Porto have seen an influx of innovative businesses opening up, and old dilapidated spaces are being tastefully revitalised.

In Lisbon, for example, the monotonous government buildings surrounding Praca do Comercio square now house funky restaurants and cafes; while in Porto new cultural centres, hotels and top-notch eateries are pulling in the hip crowd. It’s this tantalising synthesis of old and new that has Portugal on everyone’s lips. The old is incredible, the new raises the bar even further, and the food is – literally – icing on the cake. “Meals that reflect the diverse landscape of the country are a highlight,” Basham says, suggesting visitors

try cataplana (seafood stew) on the coast, suckling pig in Coimbra, and port wine in the Douro Valley. And of course no one sane can go past a fresh baked pasteis de belems, better known as a Portuguese tarts.

Discover the wonder of Portugal

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about getting to and exploring Portugal. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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FIND YOUR OWN PRIVATE PARADISE IN THAILAND Words: Ian Neubauer, travel writer

Get a thrill diving with great white sharks.

Dreamy Koh Lipe feels a world away from busy, bustling Bangkok.

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SWIM WITH SHARKS IN SOUTH AFRICA

Words: Anna Howard, sub-editor, Flight Centre

Voluntarily lowering yourself into a cage surrounded by dark dorsal fins goes against every instinct, but the moment you lock eyes with a gigantic apex predator for the first time, an instant high takes over. Eco-certified operators ferrying curious travellers off the coast of Gansbaai in South Africa act as both guides and educators. A first-hand account of the sharks’ genuinely nonchalant temperament not only dispels some of the Hollywood and newsroom hype, but also guarantees a newfound appreciation for the majestic creatures – in their home, on their terms.

Photos: Getty Images; ImageBrief; White Shark Diving Company

For a patch of paradise you can call your own, try one of Thailand’s lesser-known islands. Koh Phayam is a kangaroo-shaped landmass skirting the Andaman coast, where there are no nightclubs or big-brand resorts – just a little motorbike track, bungalows and long, empty beaches. Along with Phuket, Koh Phayam is also a departure point for boat trips to Koh Surin National Marine Park in the Kuraburi district of Phang-nga. Free of coastal run-off, the seas around this isolated archipelago are fantastically clear and boast colourful coral gardens. Koh Kam Nui, northeast of Phang-nga, offers seaside camping in a setting so untravelled there aren’t even fishing boats on the horizon. To get there, take a long-tail boat from Ban Kampuan jetty in Ranong Province. Not into camping? Southwest, down the Andaman coast, near Malaysia’s maritime border, Koh Lipe offers the same dreamy combination of remoteness and picture-perfect beaches with luxury boutique hotels and modern conveniences, like a 7-Eleven. Last but not least is Ko Kut. Situated southeast of Bangkok, this sublime rainforest-covered island is dotted with village homestays and beachfront bungalows.


The Musandan Peninsula is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Dubai.

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STOP IN DUBAI TO CRUISE THE ARABIAN FJORDS

Words: Mark Daffey, travel writer

Have a few days in Dubai and want to venture off on an adventure? The Musandam Peninsula, a mountainous enclave splintered with dramatic fjords that have drawn comparisons with those in Norway, is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Dubai (into Oman). Once here, sailing is the best way to explore. Hop aboard a wooden dhow from the historic port of Khasab, then set sail up a lonely inlet while dolphins frolic in the bow waves. Watch for sea turtles or snorkel its reefs in search of stingrays, eels, sharks and myriad smaller fish.

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Take your

tastebuds on tour in Lima

THE PERUVIAN CAPITAL FEATURES MORE FUSIONS IN ITS CUISINE THAN ANYWHERE ELSE Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

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C L O C KW I S E FROM OPPOSITE

Photos: Amaz; Brisa Deneumostier; Central; El Mercado; Erick Andia; Santiago Barco

Quinoa originated in the South American Andes of Peru and Bolivia and today it’s seeing a huge rise in popularity. Virgilio Martinez is one of Peru’s superstar chefs and you need to book ahead to dine at his restaurant Central. Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s restaurant Amaz is the first 100 per cent Amazonian food restaurant in Peru. At 1087 Bistro you might be eating wastage... prettily presented, of course. Brisa Deneumostier teaches people about the power of nourishing food and mindfulness. For the best ceviche in town, head to Rafael Osterling’s El Mercado. If Peru had a national dish, it would be ceviche; try the traditional version; otherwise you’ll easily find fresh takes on the famous dish.


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You’ve probably heard of quinoa and ceviche. Perhaps you’re familiar with lacuma and maca. You might even know that Peru is home to multi-coloured corn and more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes. But have you heard of kiwicha, huacatay or macambo? Go on, get your phone out. The ingredients found in Peru are incredibly diverse and nutritious, and, recently, Peruvian cuisine has exploded onto the world stage. Its capital, Lima, is at the heart of the action. The produce is a big part of the package, but chefs too are playing their part, directing the spotlight onto Peru’s unique foods using resourcefulness and originality. In the past few years, numerous restaurants have achieved world recognition, ranking highly in prestigious competitions. And more eateries are opening all over town, catering to people who don’t just want to eat – they want to taste, they want to explore, they want to understand where the produce comes from. Of course, come to Peru to trek to Machu Picchu, to explore the Amazon, to gaze upon Lake Titicaca, but be sure to spend at least a few days just eating – because where else in the world can you try Peking cuy (guinea pig) and cactus bread?

Regional cuisine

W H AT TO E AT:

Amazonian cuisine: Renowned chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino opened PeruvianAmazonian restaurant Malabar in Lima in 2004, introducing Lima’s locals to Amazonian dishes like fish tiraditos, jungle merengon and cecina de paiche. Acknowledging a strong interest, he opened Amaz in 2012. “Amaz is the first professional restaurant in Peru that conceptualises Amazonian cuisine. The menu is 100 per cent Amazonian,” he says.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Gaston Acurio changed the face of Lima’s dining scene when he opened Astrid y Gaston with his wife Astrid Gutsche; Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Maido restaurant is the best place to try nikkei cuisine; Acurio showcases fresh, seasonal produce at this flagship restaurant Astrid y Gaston.

Seafood: If Peru had a national dish, it would be ceviche (raw fish cubes marinated in citrus juice and mixed with herbs). Head to Avenida La Mar, known as ‘the street of ceviche’ at noon – traditionally ceviche is eaten at lunchtime – and sample as many varieties as you can. Be sure to also stop in at Rafael Osterling’s El Mercado; although it’s a cevicheria, you can try other seafood dishes here too, like octopus and grilled fish sandwiches. Andean cuisine: Cuy (guinea pig) was once an important meat source for people of the Andes; inside Cusco Cathedral, there’s a replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, where Christ and his 12 disciples are pictured seated around a platter of cuy, demonstrating just how important this staple was to the Andean diet. These days, you can try cuy

at Huaca Pucllana, a popular restaurant overlooking the same-named clay pyramid ruins in the Miraflores district.

Fusion food

Peruvian gastronomy is a tantalising mish-mash of cuisines, thanks to influences from different nations populating Peru throughout history. Spain’s rule from 1533 to 1821 left the biggest mark, but Africans, Chinese, Japanese, French and Italians all played a role too. In Lima in particular, fusion restaurants are easy to find. W H AT TO T RY:

Nikkei: Nikkei is a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines, and Mitsuharu Tsumura’s restaurant Maido comes highly recommended. Peruvian-born and of Japanese descent, Tsumura works with only the best local fisherman and sources

Photos: Astrid y Gaston; Maido

Peru comprises three distinct geographic regions and consequently offers a diverse variety of produce. The Amazon rainforest is the largest region, representing almost 60 per cent of Peru; the highlands make up 30 per cent; the almost 3,000km stretch of coast is the third. Lima, situated on the coast, is one of the best places to sample fresh seafood and try Amazonian and Andean specialties thanks to chefs who work with farmers and growers from those regions.


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The ingredients found in Peru are incredibly diverse and nutritious.�

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premium products from Japan to craft refined dishes that consistently surprise and excite diners. Chifa: A tasty blend of Chinese and Peruvian cooking styles, chifa is one of the most popular and talked about fusion styles in Peru. Lomo saltado (a hybrid stir-fry of beef strips, tomatoes, jalapenos and onions cooked in soy sauce and served alongside hot chips) is the best-known chifa dish, and you’ll be able to find it at almost any chifa eatery. If you want something a little upmarket, Madam Tusan, opened in 2011 by Gaston Acurio, is a great restaurant to try out. Criollo: Until recently, criollo cuisine (essentially Peruvian comfort food) was reserved for home, but lately criollo eateries have been getting plenty of airplay. El Rincon Que No Conoces (which roughly translates to ‘the corner joint you’ve never heard of’) is the place to go to try old-time

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Criollo eateries have been getting plenty of airplay.” favourites like causa (yellow mashed potato, typically layered with avocado or tuna) and caucau (a potato and tripe stew traditionally served with rice).

Famed fine diners

Thanks to Peruvian chefs such as Gaston Acurio, Virgilio Martinez Veliz, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and Mitsuharu Tsumura, the world’s eyes – and mouths – have been opened to a country’s cuisine as

rich in flavour as its history. Travellers are flocking to Peru specifically to eat – and in restaurants that rank as some of the finest in the world. W H E R E TO E AT:

Astrid y Gaston: Gaston Acurio changed the face of Lima’s dining scene when he opened Astrid y Gaston with his wife Astrid Gutsche in 1994. In 2011, Astrid y Gaston was the first restaurant in Peru to ever make San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and from there his fame skyrocketed. Today the national celebrity runs an empire of 30-plus eateries, has a TV show (Aventura Culinaria), oversees food festivals (the most famous of which – Mistura – he launched) and is showing no signs of slowing down. Although now there are plenty of other fine restaurants in Lima, Astrid y Gaston is still the one that helped ignite the city’s transformation into the foodie destination it is today.

Photos: Amaz; Astrid y Gaston; Central

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“Entering the awards at number 44 in 2015 was basically us introducing nikkei cuisine to the world, and jumping to number 13 in 2016 validates that people like it,” he says proudly.

Food for thought

In Peru, responsible gastronomy is all the rage right now. Restaurateurs are working directly with honourable farmers and producers; schools are implementing educational sustainable-living programs; communal vegetable and herb gardens are in vogue; diners are choosing to eat at restaurants where wholesome food is served. Healthy is officially in. W H AT ’ S T R E N D I N G :

CLOCKWISE FROM OPPOSITE: Pedro Miguel Schiaffino in his element at his popular restaurant Amaz; Gaston Acurio works closely with local producers and farmers when sourcing produce; Virgilio Martinez takes great care in presenting his dishes beautifully and thoughtfully at his restaurant Central.

Central: Thanks to his thoughtful approach, Virgilio Martinez’s restaurant Central (which he opened in 2009 and runs with his wife, fellow chef Pia Leon) is ranked fourth in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Martinez approaches food without fixating on trends, instead using the soil, sea and everyday moments as inspiration for his art. “Our complex geography, diverse culture and abundance of products, flavours, colours and textures

is an asset. It’s through this that we can connect to our diners and make them feel a part of a journey throughout this territory,” he says. Maido: Need another reason to try nikkei cuisine? Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Maido won the Highest Climber award in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2016. Although nikkei food is not sold on every street corner just yet, there’s a growing awareness of it thanks to Tsumura.

Mindfulness: Brisa Deneumostier is a Peruvian chef and mindfulness teacher who focuses on teaching people about the power of nourishing food through activities such as mindful walking, cooking, gardening and eating. “My Brisa Culinaria tours emphasise awareness of our relationship with food, ourselves, others and the environment we live in,” she explains. Organic food: Growing organic produce was the norm once upon a time, and today Peruvians are once again embracing its power. Local (a lunch-service restaurant that also offers brunch on Sundays) is a great place for an introduction. The menu changes daily, but usually there will be vegetarian, vegan and animal protein choices on offer; the constant is that the nourishing food is always healthy and organic. Minimal-waste cooking: Something that is catching attention in Peru right now is minimal-waste cooking, with young and ambitious chef Palmiro Ocampo a strong advocate for the cause. Ocampo heads up 1087 Bistro, where he astounds diners with imaginative takes on Peruvian dishes using interesting ingredients like cushuro (a freshwater algae known as ‘Andean caviar’). His most interesting ingredient, however, is wastage – to him it’s just another component to work into his creations.

Hungry? Travel to Lima!

Visit your local Flight Centre for travel advice and the latest travel deals to visit Lima, Peru. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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A breathtaking expedition WITH WILDLIFE AND LANDSCAPES IN EPIC PROPORTIONS, ANTARCTICA ASTOUNDS Words: Renae Spinks, travel writer, Flight Centre

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Ask for a highlight of Antarctica and polar expedition leader David Wood (Woody to his friends) is stumped. How to choose between the pods of orcas, fields of unafraid penguins or the cry of the albatross? How to make a case for towering mountains over icebergs the size of Lower Manhattan? Instead, Woody describes an altogether different landscape – the faces and sounds of the wildlife lovers, adventure seekers and ‘polar addicts’ in his charge. “When people arrive, regardless of the expectations, even the person that never shuts up shuts up,” Woody laughs. “They’re gobsmacked and they’re touched, and the


A N TA R C T I C A

Photos: Peter Eastway

connection they make with other people who have been is special, and that feels manifestly real to me. Because every time I go there I see something different. You see the looks on people’s faces and it takes their breath away.” The Quark Expeditions leader has been to Antarctica at least 150 times over 15 years, and yet it’s the trip of a lifetime, every time. While you cruise in comfort, the emphasis is on ‘expedition’, in company with marine biologists, historians and geologists, to destinations like the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Don your survival suit and scud across the waves in a Zodiac to set foot on land. “People can be on land and experience the penguins coming up to them,” Woody says, adding that a strict environmental code is followed. Or take a plunge into the icy waters, followed by hot drinks and even hotter showers. It’s one of the experiences that sends the volume level in the bar through the roof, as people recount their adventures in a state of euphoria. Antarctica can be a challenging environment for most visitors, with strong winds, heavy snow and eerie fog – and crossing the Drake Passage has struck

fear into many a stout heart. So why go? “Because it’s physical, it’s an adventure, it’s awesome on a scale that you can’t imagine, and the wildlife is unafraid. It’s one of those places that isn’t easy to get to because you have to cross the Southern Ocean, but if that’s the price of admission, it’s so worth it.”

Go on a life-changing holiday

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice on booking an Antarctica expedition with Peregrine Adventures. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

You’ll see more penguins than people when exploring this icy continent.

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CHILL OUT ON DREAMY MALAY Words: Ian Neubauer, travel writer

Every year, thousands of travellers land at Godofredo P. Ramos Airport (also known as Caticlan Airport) on the northwest tip of the Philippine island of Panay before hopping onto ferries bound for Boracay Island, home of world-famous White Sand Beach. Malay has a stunning white-sand beach, too, minus the crowds. It’s found at Naasug Point, a 37-metre-tall limestone cliff. Malay is also the perfect base for exploring nearby Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park, a chocolate-box of soft trekking trails, waterfalls and caves, one of which, the almost 300 metres long Pangihan Cave, served as a hideout for locals during WWII.

Malay is a quieter coastal region than famous Boracay.

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SHOP FOR AMAZING HOMEWARES IN BUZZING MOROCCO Words: Maxine Smith, owner of interiors boutique Barefoot Gypsy

Carved out in vivid colour and with the sweet smells of mint and freshly ground spices, Morocco is a place brimming with chaotic commercial opportunity. In Marrakesh and Fez you’ll find everything you could ever desire to style your home; the artistry of the handmade blankets, leather bags, textiles and tin accessories is extraordinary. So often you can meet the artists themselves, and experience the theatre of their craft. This marketplace environment has a unique language of negotiation, which you quickly need to absorb to play the game; the price will always begin high. Moroccan sellers are good at reading customers, but remember it is a two-way conversation and negotiation is essential. Rugs are some of Morocco’s most accessible and loved products.

Join the gauchos to experience real rural Argentina.

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HANG OUT WITH GAUCHOS IN THE ARGENTINIAN COUNTRYSIDE Words: Christie Hopp, leisure product owner, Flight Centre

The spirit of rural Argentina lies within the heart of its cowboys – gauchos – and the best way to experience this side of Argentina is by spending time with them on an estancia (ranch). Chase cattle across the sprawling deserts of Salta; saddle up to trot up the rocky hills of Patagonia, then gallop down lush grassy valleys passing hidden mountain streams. Finish each day with a cup of ‘mate’ tea with the gauchos, a traditional herbal drink that doesn’t taste amazing – but it doesn’t matter, because life on the estancia is nothing short of amazing.

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CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Views of the Tyrrhenian Sea; Hotel Signum is ideally placed on Salina; fresh pasta and seafood are local specialities.

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LEARN ABOUT TRADITIONAL ITALIAN FOOD IN SALINA

Photos: Getty Images; Signum Hotel

Words: Stefano Manfredi, Australian chef and restaurateur

Salina is a dream. An island in the Aeolian group located just above Sicily, it was formed by two volcanoes. These are the sparkling waters and legendary islands of poems and fairytales, filled with magic and monsters. On the northern side of Salina, in the township of Malfa, is Hotel Signum, one of the most beautiful and romantic places on the island. It looks out across the Tyrrhenian Sea to Panarea and the smoking Stromboli, the perfect picture of a volcano, and a beautiful view to witness.

Here, the pace of life slows to a trickle. In small increments, your state of mind seems to shift down to local time. Walk down scented laneways, passing houses where cherry tomatoes hang drying in bunches on verandahs; trek along the coastal track bordered with rock walls filled with cascading caper bushes and shaded by lemon trees. Avid walkers can trek three-and-a-half hours across the island to Lingua (others can take a bus) and enjoy lunch at Da Alfredo, right on the water’s edge. Here you can try the local pizza-like specialty pane cunzato, a large piece of wood-roasted bread topped with grilled eggplant, baked ricotta and cherry tomatoes, then drizzled with caper and almond pesto. Wash the local delicacy down with local white wine – Carlo Hauner’s delicious Salina Bianco is a favourite. At Da Alfredo you’ll also find some of the best gelato and granita you’ve ever tasted. Lemon, made with the lemons grown on the island, is the best choice. Travel ideas

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The scenic Isle of Skye is known for its rugged landscapes.

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Photo: Asad Iqbal

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Island fling

BREATHTAKING BEACHES, ANCIENT MONUMENTS AND LASHINGS OF GAELIC CULTURE, SCOTLAND’S UNKNOWN ISLANDS ARE GUARANTEED TO IMPRESS Words: Paul Ewart, travel writer


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While Edinburgh, Glasgow and Loch Ness – along with its famous monster – are all top of mind for visitors to Scotland, the country’s biggest drawcard is also perhaps the most underrated: its islands. With about 790 of them equating to some 11,800 kilometres of coastline – interesting fact: if you stretch out the coast into a straight line it would stretch all the way to Australia – Scotland is a bona fide islandlover’s paradise. Most sit within one of the four main groupings: Shetland, the Orkneys, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. And out of the 790, only 110 islands are classified as ‘inhabited’, so for those keen to indulge in their very own Robinson Crusoe fantasy there are hundreds to choose from. Leave the familiar, city-slicker urban sprawl behind, ignite your imagination and travel back to Scotland’s grassroots – literally – by exploring the wild beaches, ancient ruins, lush greenery, magical waterfalls, mist-laden lochs and rugged mountains that populate these remote, otherworldly isles. First-timers can ease themselves into the Scottish island-hopping experience by making the trip to the Isle of Arran, an easy three-hour journey from Glasgow. This already-popular holiday destination for Scots is affectionately described as

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‘Scotland in miniature’, thanks to its microcosm of highlands in the north and a more temperate south, alongside smatterings of woodlands, beaches, majestic castles, prehistoric standing stones and outlying islands. But to experience the true magic of a Scottish islands holiday, a visit to the Hebrides is essential. Home to rugged landscapes, fishing villages and Gaelicspeaking communities, this widespread archipelago off the west coast comprises two main clusters, the Inner and Outer, with the Inner lying closest to the mainland. The phrase, ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ is touted around a lot these days and while the Hebrides might not claim that title – indeed, how do you begin to quantify such an honour? – there aren’t many places that will supersede it. Remote, otherworldly and with some of the most stunning beaches in Europe, it needs to be seen to be believed. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the Isle of Skye is Scotland’s largest island and also the perfect jumping-off point from which to explore the rest of the archipelago. Its signature craggy coastlines, mountain ranges and other majestic geological features, such as the Old Man of Storr, has seen it immortalised on both the big and small screens, in the

likes of The BFG, sci-fi epic Prometheus and TV smash-hit Outlander. The stunning Cuillin Hills are a walker’s dream, and the Fairy Pools – a staggered series of dreamy pools and waterfalls – tempt visitors for a bracing swim and definitely live up to their fantastical name. But if you’d rather drink fluids than swim in them, make a pitstop at the widely acclaimed Talisker Distillery, which can swiftly be followed by super-cheap and tasty fresh local lobster and chips at nearby The Oyster Shed. Speaking of which, foodies shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine at award-winning The Three Chimneys, which cooks up seasonal local produce from Skye and other Scottish regions. Though snaring only a fraction of Skye’s limelight, the Isle of Mull has plenty of attractions in its own right, not least its wildlife. Both Atlantic grey and common seals can be seen in the waters off the jagged coastline here, along with pods of dolphins and otters. But its the winged population that have really put the island on the map; it is regarded as the best place in the UK to see the rare golden and whitetailed eagles, Mull has been re-christened ‘Eagle Island’ by the droves of bird spotters who flock here annually.

Photos: Asad Iqbal; Ewen Bell; ImageBrief; iStock; Kilchoman distillery; Visit Scotland

The Isle of Mull is regarded as the best place in the UK to see the rare golden and white-tailed eagles.


SCOTTISH ISLES

C L O C KW I S E F R O M A B OV E

The Isle of Skye is renowned for its craggy coastlines, majestic mountains and beautiful medieval castles. The Shetland islands are home to roughly a fifth of Scotland’s Atlantic puffins. The beautifully crystal-clear blue Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye. You’ll find cute Atlantic grey and common seals lounging about on the Isle of Mull. The Shetland islands are beautiful and secluded. Islay’s biggest claim to fame is its single-malt whisky production. Head to the award-winning Kilchoman distillery for a tipple... or two.


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Ireland may have its Giant’s Causeway, but Scotland has Fingal’s Cave. On the uninhabited, volcanic Isle of Staffa, just west of Mull, is the famous geological marvel. Like its Irish equivalent, the towering six-sided columns of basalt induce awe in visitors; classical composer Felix Mendelssohn even immortalised the natural wonder in his ‘The Hebrides’ overture. Almost 100km south is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and the one dubbed as its reigning ‘queen’: the Isle of Islay. Though an association between Scotland’s notoriously chilly climate and great beaches isn’t an obvious one, there’s a bevy of stunning beaches to choose from – and Islay is home to one of the best. A short hike through lush, green flatlands and past a crumbling Iron Age fort will take you to Machir Bay. While not suitable for swimming due to its strong currents, the white-sand shoreline has a reputation for some of the best sunsets on the island, which you can toast with a dram of whisky from the nearby, multi-awarded Kilchoman distillery. In fact, Islay’s biggest claim to fame is its single-malt whisky production. There are eight working distilleries on the island, which are known for producing peaty, smoky whiskies, which some say are the best in the world. Of course, after a few whiskies, the natural conclusion is merrymaking, and this is when you’ll see Hebridean hospitality at its best. Given its remote location, traditional Gaelic culture is still going strong here, as evinced by its tight-knit community events, haunting folk music and raucous ceilidhs (parties filled with Scottish music and dancing), all of which can be seen at their best during the annual Islay Festival of Music and Malt. Taking place every May (2017 will mark its 16th year), the festival features a diverse program of traditional music, poetry, piping, ceilidhs, Gaelic lessons and, as you’d expect, whisky tasting. Separated from the Inner Hebrides by the Minch strait to the north and the Sea of the Hebrides to the south, the 100-strong chain of islands and small skerries (rocky outcrops) that comprise the Outer Hebrides is battered by winds and the turbulent North Atlantic Ocean. Its inhospitable position means it’s even more remote, and nowhere demonstrates this better than the ‘ghost islands’ of St Kilda.

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The most fascinating aspect of St Kilda is its human population, or lack thereof.” FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Cleit huts are uniquely found on the isles of St Kilda; locals often refer to the magical Northern Lights as ‘mirrie dancers’.

The only site with dual World Heritage status in the UK (for both its natural and cultural significance) and one of only 24 such in the world, the islands play home to unique breeds of wildlife; their impressive sea stacks make them one of the most important seabird breeding stations in Europe, with an estimated 600,000 seabirds – including puffins, kittiwakes and guillemots – and the largest colony of northern fulmars in the British Isles. But the most fascinating aspect of St Kilda is its human population, or lack thereof. For thousands of years a community survived here, adapting to the unique way of life, until 1930, when the remaining 36 locals were evacuated at their own request due to disease and food shortages. Since then, the islands have mostly been reclaimed by nature, and its modern-day visitors are merely day-trippers

Photos: Getty Images

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SCOTTISH ISLES

exploring the eerily abandoned main street, church and crumbling cleit (stone) homes of its former residents. Veer north from John o’ Groats – the tip of the Scottish mainland – and you’ll reach the two archipelagoes of Orkney and Shetland. While each has its own distinct culture, both sets of islands are filled with pristine beaches, ancient Neolithic wonders and fascinating geological sites in spades, with omnipresent folk music fuelled by a raft of locally produced spirits and ales. In the low-lying islands of Orkney, there is evidence of human habitation from more than 6,000 years ago. Indeed, on the island of Papa Westray, the Knap of Howar has been hailed as the oldest preserved house in northern Europe. Another Orkney claim to fame is on the island of Hoy, which has a sea stack – the Old Man of Hoy – that is officially the tallest in Britain.

Venture even further north and you’ll see what happens when Scotland meets Scandinavia. The most northerly of the British Isles, the Shetland islands are rugged, beautiful and secluded, with breathtaking coastline, sun-dappled sea lochs, heather-clad moors and towering clifftops. Like Orkney, history abounds here. Visit fantastically preserved Viking remains, Iron Age brochs (towers) and Neolithic standing stones. Shetland is a place that has one foot in the past and one firmly in the present, with Norse cropping up everywhere, from signage to place names – even the local dialect (Shetlandic) has a distinct Scandinavian lilt. And that’s not the only link. Because Shetland lies close to the North Pole, it’s also a great viewing point for the magical Northern Lights during the winter months. Known locally as ‘mirrie dancers’, there are

undoubtedly few more magical moments than an evening watching the stunning rippling green and often multi-coloured aurora borealis. Amazing natural wonders, ancient civilisations, warm local culture and some of the most stunning scenery in the world – the Scottish islands have it all. So, this year, leave the hordes of tourists on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile behind and instead earn serious travel bragging rights by exploring the country’s off-the-beaten path islands. You won’t regret it.

Ready to island hop?

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about visiting Scotland and its many islands. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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41 Pacific paradise

WHITE-SAND BEACHES AND CRYSTALLINE WATERS SO CLEAR THAT YOU CAN SEE FISH SWIMMING METRES BELOW, THE SOUTH PACIFIC BECKONS...

Tahiti is one of those lush tropical islands you’ll never want to leave.

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Photos: Celebrity Cruises; Tahiti Tourism

Words: Angela Saurine, travel writer


PAC I F I C C RU I S E

White-sand beaches fringed with palm trees, clear turquoise water and friendly locals – is it any wonder Australians love cruising the South Pacific so much? Cruising is a great way to explore several islands in one holiday, with companies including P&O, Royal Caribbean and Carnival offering voyages from Down Under. As well as their pristine natural beauty, the Pacific Islands offer a range of cultural experiences. In Noumea, New Caledonia, see totem poles and ritual masks on a guided tour at Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre. Or embark on a thrilling jet-ski ride on the harbour, or go fishing in the world’s largest lagoon. New Caledonia’s smaller islands, including Mare and Lifou, are fabulous for snorkelling in colourful coral gardens. One of the must-do activities in Fiji is to bathe at Sabeto Mud Pools. Cake yourself in mud before relaxing in the three hot springs of varying temperatures in the beautiful Sabeto Valley. From the port of Suva, you can visit thundering waterfalls, fly through the air on a flying fox and enjoy a traditional kava ceremony. With its volcanic peaks and lush vegetation, a 4WD safari is a great way to explore the island of Tahiti. Soak up the scenery and visit sacred places from preChristian Polynesian society. Sign up for a relaxing sailing trip on a catamaran or try crepes and other delicacies from food trucks parked along the waterfront in Papeete. In Samoa, enjoy high tea at a plantation house, swim in the crystal-clear Piula Cave Pool and explore the underwater passage linking two cave chambers. Or just sip coconut juice in a thatched-roofed hut.

Ready for your cruise adventure? Visit your local Flight Centre for the latest advice on setting out on your own South Pacific cruise. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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Photo portfolio

Into the wild FALL IN LOVE WITH CANADA’S BEAUTIFUL BACKCOUNTRY Words and photography: Bree Potter, travel writer

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Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Photo: ImageBrief

Explorer Walter Wilcox once wrote of Canada: “No scene had ever given me an equal impression of inspiring solitude and rugged grandeur�. After spending six weeks breaking in my hiking boots in the Canadian wilderness, I have to say Wilcox had a point. Canada is a wild beauty that just begs to be explored. Moraine Lake is no exception; milky turquoise in the morning and deep blue and glossy in the midday sun, enclosed by snow-dusted sawtooth peaks and looped by hiking trails. There is a quiet kind of magic early in the morning, when it feels like you have the valley all to yourself.

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Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia

This backcountry park is home to towering mountain peaks, azure alpine lakes and meadows of wildflowers and larch trees, as well as elk, marmots, pikas and, of course, grizzly bears. Located in the traditional territory of the Kootenai First Nations people, this UNESCO World Heritage park is only accessible by foot, or, if you’re feeling fancy, helicopter. I choose a combination of both, flying in from Spray Lakes and hiking back out to Sunshine Meadows. The park has a full-service lodge, huts and rustic wood cabins, as well as plenty of campsites. Over the next four days I tread through alpine flower meadows, valleys of giant boulders and ethereal forests of spruce and fir trees, ears pricked for bears (being bear aware is particularly important here), but hearing only the happy chirp of ground squirrels. The most dramatic views are found after a scramble up the Nub; a panorama of the pyramid of Mount Assiniboine and her sister peaks sticking out of the earth like giant shards of onyx, with sparkling lakes pooled in the foothills.

Joe Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Peeking out of my tent in the silent dawn, watching smoky mist rise off the lake while the sky turns shades of lilac, pale blue and cotton-candy pink might just be the very definition of serenity. Peppered throughout the densely wooded islands skirting the lakes in Algonquin, these campsites are reachable only by canoe, and are about as picturesque and private as you can get. Each site is marked and equipped with a fire pit and a rope to hang your food (Bear Safety 101, folks). Our afternoon is spent with a lazy swim and a spot of yoga on a cleft of rock overlooking the water, warmed by the sun. In the evening, we stoke the fire, listen to the eerily beautiful howl of the Algonquin wolves echo across the lake, and watch the stars come out in the inky, Ontarian night sky.

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Lone Cone, Meares Island, British Columbia

Off the coast of Vancouver Island, in the Clayoquot Sound, lies Meares Island. This Tribal Park is steeped in history; numerous peaceful protests by the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations against logging on the island in the 1980s resulted in the successful preservation of its old-growth west coast forests (some are up to 1,500 years old). I hop on a 10-minute water taxi from Tofino to Lone Cone Hostel & Campground, or rather, ‘glampground’ (it’s equipped with a spa, hot showers, fire pits and flush toilets), where I’m rewarded with a wild peach sunset and the soft crash of waves to send me off to sleep. I wake up early to hike up Lone Cone Summit, where I’m told I may catch a glimpse of Buc Miis, the Nuuchah-nulth word for Sasquatch (I don’t). I promise the sticky, steep incline is worth every step when you see the view. Travel ideas

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Algonquin is heavenly in early autumn, when Sugar Maple trees explode in a spray of rust, ochre and gold, and the lakes are still warm enough to dip your toes in. Wildlife watchers rejoice: Algonquin is home to more than 40 types of mammals such as black bears, deer, wolves and beavers, as well as an impressive array of birds, reptiles and amphibians. We even spot the silhouette of the ever-elusive moose across the lake through the rose-coloured mist at dawn.

Canoe Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Floating down the river, sun drenched and sparkling, this is how I like to spend my day. Portaging (which involves carrying your canoe upside down over the top of your head overland between two bodies of water) in Algonquin is the perfect way to make it to your next campsite. With 2,000km of clearly marked, and mainly flat, calm waterways to navigate, Algonquin is perfect for both brand-new and been-around-the-block canoeists.

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Edith Cavell Meadows, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Hailed as one of the top 10 drives in the world, a road trip along the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper is a must-do on any Canadian itinerary. I pitch my tent opposite the Athabasca Glacier (icy blasts of morning air are better than any alarm clock) and escape the summer crowds with a hike up the rocky scree of Cavell Meadows Summit for some superb mountain views. In the Canadian wilderness, you are spoilt for choice. Perhaps John Muir said it best: “All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild�. Travel ideas

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Kids and adults alike will love learning about the samurai in Japan.

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TACKLE JAPAN LIKE A SAMURAI Words: Roderick Eime, travel writer

The samurai are perhaps the most identifiable icon of Japanese legend: tough defenders of the Emperor’s honour, master swordsmen and true warriors. In Sennan in the Osaka Prefecture, the whole family can transform into samurai, learning Bushido (the way of the warrior) with full iaido gi costume and tameshigiri swordplay, aikido martial arts, and even enjoy meditation sessions in the Shin-nyoji temple under the watchful eye of samurai master Hirofumi Maruyama. There are special costumes for children from two years of age and an opportunity to create extra fun family portraits. The whole experience is capped off with traditional snacks and sweets, served by ladies in traditional costume.

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SHOP UNDERGROUND ON THE MACAO BORDER

Words: Roderick Eime, travel writer

Is it clandestine or subterranean? Well, in truth, it’s a bit of both. Just over the border in China is the bustling customs and immigration port of Zhuhai, and in the midst of all this bilateral frenzy is the underground market known officially as Gongbei Port Shopping Plaza. Beneath the pavement you will find all manner of goods from DVDs, fashion, shoes, jewellery, watches, accessories and electronics. Surplus, overruns, seconds and discontinued lines abound in the many stalls and trestle tables throughout the labyrinth. There are bargains for all in the maze of tunnels that make up this massive retail bunker.

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Macao’s bustling Gongbei Port Shopping Plaza.


Photos: Alamy; Japan Tate-do Association; Visit Denmark

The distinctive rainbowcoloured walkway at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum.

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GET TO KNOW AARHUS Words: Ute Junker, travel writer

Denmark’s second-largest city packs a lot into its compact boundaries: picturesque canals, a walkable city centre and the most striking town hall in the country – a modernist masterpiece by acclaimed Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. In this lively university town, you can explore cutting-edge art in the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, topped by a rainbowcoloured panoramic walkway courtesy of internationally acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson, and 15 minutes later be on the beach, in the woods or out on the harbour.

Food fans will enjoy the lively restaurant scene, home to no fewer than three Michelin-starred restaurants, including the acclaimed Restaurant Frederikshoj, while architecture buffs will want to check out the city’s new developments, including eye-catching buildings such as the Isbjerget and The Iceberg apartments. Aarhus is set to step into the spotlight in 2017 as one of the European Capitals of Culture, with a program that includes some spectacular signature events. Plan your visit to coincide with the launch of Life-Boats, three beautiful vessels sculpted to resemble the female body throughout its lifespan, from youth to pregnancy to old age. Another family friendly event is Red Serpent, a Viking tale that features raids and romance, warriors and gods, which will be performed on the grass-covered roof of Moesgaard Museum from May to July. Travel ideas

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Photos: Chedi Muscat; Getty Images

The Chedi Muscat was one of the first luxury hotels to sprout in Oman and the sleek furnishings attract a chic crowd.


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AN ARABIAN

wonderland OMAN’S LUXURY OFFERINGS ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

The Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands desert is a destination in its own right.


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The adults-only pool at The Chedi Muscat is popular with the chic crowd.

Ancient mosques and crystalline waterholes, rolling sand dunes and jagged mountain peaks, Oman is an incredible destination that feels more like the set from a 1930s action film than reality. However, this pocket of Arabian paradise won’t stay this way forever. Oman is the fastestgrowing tourism destination in the Middle East (according to the World Travel & Tourism Council) and eventually the crowds will come running. Now is a great time to visit and experience this charmed country in style. Oman’s connection to the earth and sea stretches back centuries, and this deep resonance with nature is reflected in design. Although more and more luxury resorts are popping up, there is by no means a surplus. And the hotels that already exist, or are under development, are designed to accentuate Oman’s best bits – the people, the land, the sea. Welcome to a world where luxury accommodation isn’t just about the wow factor. It’s about opening visitors’ eyes to the real Oman. Sure, there’s a turndown service, spa treatments and infinity pools, but these ‘commonplace’ luxury touches

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This deep resonance with nature is ref lected in design.” are sprinkled with the Omani touch. The turndown service might include sweets made by a village chocolatier who learnt the practice from his mother; spa products might be handcrafted in a nearby village using this season’s rosewater as the base; and that infinity pool you laze in might be built from local materials, like rock chiselled from the neighbouring mountains. From swish seaside megaresorts to luxury desert camps to hotels perched on a mountainous cliffside, here’s where to stay in style.

City slickers

Women adorned in sparkling jewels wear long abayas that swish as they walk; men donning crisp white dishdashas munch on dates; the sweet smell of frankincense wafts

through the streets… Muscat is an Arabian city paradise and it is home to a number of luxury lodgings. The Chedi Muscat was one of the first luxury hotels to sprout in Oman and still attracts the chic crowd thanks to its central location and timeless design. Interestingly, many of Muscat’s ‘city hotels’ are located on the outskirts of town – usually beachside – so you feel far away but it’s easy enough to hail a cab into town to watch an opera or wander the souks. Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is one of the country’s most legendary properties; a sprawling three-hotel extravaganza. Al Waha is best for families; Al Bandar is popular with the business crowd; and Al Husn is the most sumptuous of the three, fitted out with its own private beach and adults-only infinity pool. A stay here feels a world away from the whirl that comes with city life. New openings slated for 2017 include the Kempinski Hotel Muscat, located in the fresh seaside community of Al Mouj; and Jumeirah at Saraya Bandar Jissah, a lavish resort comprising two hotels located on the outskirts of Muscat.


O M A N LU X U RY

Muscat’s Muttrah Harbour is a popular local hangout.

The Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands are not to be missed.

Al Husn is the most sumptuous of the three hotels at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa.

Photos: Alila Jabal Akhdar; Chedi Muscat; Getty Images; Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa

High hopes

For centuries the Al Hajar Mountains were tricky to reach, but now asphalt roads link the majestic range to Muscat – and consequently there are a couple of luxury lodgings to check out. Alila Jabal Akhdar’s entrance was the most-talked about opening of 2014, and rightly so. Nested high in the ranges overlooking vertical cliffs and plummeting valleys, the hotel overhauls the definition of ‘good view’. The rooms are lush, but the vistas somehow seem even more magical when appreciated from the infinity pool. There’s a new player in the region too. Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, opened in 2016, is also perched overlooking those same dramatic mountains and gorges, but even higher up (2,000 metres above sea level, making it the highest 5-star resort in the Middle East). The hotel is designed so as to blend in with the surrounds, and days whiled away here are all about unwinding. There’s plenty to see and do, including spa treatments, sunrise yoga and mindful

Alila Jabal Akhdar’s cleanlined design takes inspiration from the surrounds.

hiking… or you could just sit mindfully in the infinity pool and soak up the surrounds.

Desert dreaming

There’s something about desert sunsets. The reds are more like crimsons, the oranges are fiery, and the pinks are fluoro. Imagine taking in that scene while riding a camel, or perhaps with a cool drink in hand on top of a sand dune, before signalling to your jeep driver that you are ready to return to your Bedouin-style tent. Dinner will be a lavish affair filled with local specialities eaten around a dancing campfire. Then, as you slowly sink into a pile of cushions to admire the star-flooded sky, the beat of hand drums and melodies of the oud will fill the night air. Welcome to Desert Nights Camp, the only luxury desert camp in Oman located in the sprawling Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands, about two hours’ drive from the capital. Although the plush accommodation is amazing, it’s these moments that heighten that quintessential desert experience.

Seaside sojourns

The idyllic beachside city of Salalah offers a different take on Oman. Here coconut trees sway in the wind and life is soaked in a beautiful slowness. So it’s no surprise then that the latest news in accommodation offerings is another Anantara entry – Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, opened in 2016. The resort design pays homage to the surrounds, with plenty of lush tropical palms making for a garden oasis feel. The location is the star of the show, though. The resort is perfectly positioned between a long beach and a freshwater lagoon, and is just a hop and a skip away from a site of magnificent mosque ruins.

Luxe it up in Oman

Visit your local Flight Centre for the latest advice on Oman from our experts. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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Monasteries and monoliths GAZE AT METEORA IN GREECE, AN AMAZING COLLECTION OF AWE-INSPIRING STONE Words: Tijana Jaksic, travel writer, Flight Centre

The monasteries at Meteora in Greece are a truly magnificent sight.

Photo: Getty Images

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In the heart of mainland Greece, far away from the sun-soaked islands, pebblefilled shores and eminently swimmable aquamarine waters, lies a formation of immense monolithic pillars known as Meteora. At first glance, they can be hard to fathom; the ancient monasteries dramatically perched atop a cascading series of vertical rock pinnacles look almost otherworldly. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora is the biggest and most important group of monasteries in Greece after those found in Mount Athos. From the 11th century onwards, monks settled on these ‘columns in the sky’ – reaching up to 400m high – coming together in their search for refuge, peace and harmony on the quest for spiritual elevation. Before these incredible bastions were constructed, the monks lived as hermits in individual caves in the area, but by the late 16th century there were 24 active monasteries. Materials for construction were hauled up the cliff faces using nets and cages via pulley systems – an incredible feat indeed. The monks themselves even ‘travelled’ this way. Today, six monasteries still stand in superior condition and their doors are open for travellers to explore. Wander through the courtyards, chapels and rooms for a fascinating insight into monastic life and art (their 16thcentury frescoes mark a key stage in the development of post-Byzantine painting) and there are also walking trails winding their way through this mystical landscape of green valleys. Perched at the feet of Meteora, the peaceful village of Kastraki and the town of Kalambaka both serve as great bases for exploring the area. Spend a night or two in the area sampling the local cuisine in quaint restaurants and soaking up authentic Greek culture before or after your unforgettable day trip.

Soak up the history at Meteora

Ready to explore? Visit your local Flight Centre store to chat to a Travel Expert about visiting Greece and exploring Meteora. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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Thingvellir National Park is a unique geological wonder.

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Photos: Ewen Bell

ICELAND


ICELAND

Discover Iceland THE REAL

THOUGH SHE BE BUT LITTLE, SHE IS FIERCE Words: Kari Gislason, writer and academic


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I left Iceland when I was 10; my family moved to England, then Australia. But these days I return every couple of years and look for cherished places of my childhood that are still familiar, and for the many changes in a country that never fails to take my breath away. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world, a UNESCO City of Literature, and the source of an endless supply of new and amazing music. Rolling Stone magazine once named the local music festival “the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar” – this of a remote city of about 220,000 people. But the faraway location is one reason life runs at such an intense pace; it’s as though Reykjavik thinks it’ll fall off the edge of the known world if it doesn’t work extra hard to stay on. The first thing I do when I return is go for a swim at one of the many outdoor pools, something I did most days as a child. This may seem a perilous activity in a country that skirts the Arctic Circle,

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but no. Geothermal water is pumped all across the island, most crucially to the pools and saunas. They’re a rare place where Icelanders are fully relaxed, redcheeked and gossipy. Going to Iceland without having a swim is a bit like going to Australia and not spending a day at a beach. Another place you’ll find a chink in the Scandinavian armour is downtown any time after 11pm. Iceland doesn’t have any large wild mammals, no treats of that kind, but it does have its share of excitable citizens, a local liquor called Black Death (or Brennivin) and a constant need to defeat the cold night air. In summer or winter, whether under the midnight sun or the cloak of a long frost, you’ll find a party and you’ll be welcomed. A swim and a night out almost always ends the same way, at one of the small hot dog stands that populate the inner city. Many have said that Iceland has the best hot dogs in the world, but I think the truth is that it has the loveliest air in which to

eat them. This is especially the case after vigorous activity, whether on the dance floor or in the lap pool. Even processed sausage meat seems pure in such cold, clean air. There are plenty of good tour operators in Iceland. My sister Bryndis guides for one, and she makes me jealous with her pictures of the glacial treks she leads. She raves about a new ice tunnel that’s been cut in the Langjokull glacier, in the country’s mid-west highlands – one of the many attractions that make the most of the island’s extraordinary glaciers, volcanoes and otherworldly scenery. This is where it pays to join a tour, as some parts of Iceland are very remote and susceptible to extreme weather changes. One day I’ll take one of Bryndis’ tours, maybe when my two boys are old enough to ride a snowmobile. But I also like hiring a car and driving around on my own. I always visit Thingvellir, a national park 40 minutes’ drive outside Reykjavik. No matter how many times I go there, I can’t quite believe it exists: a cliff-lined rift in the landscape

Photos: Getty Images; Visit Reykjavik

The new ice tunnel, cut in the Langjokull glacier, is one of Iceland’s hottest attractions.


ICELAND

that sits directly above where the North American and Eurasian plates meet. Here, as all over the island, the effect of this landscape on the eye is one of immense drama and depth, as though the cliffs have been carved directly from the Norse myths. You can imagine Thor and Odin crashing through the boulders, but when you descend into the gorge itself, you realise that this is a peaceful place: there are wildflowers, narrow pastures of grass and the steady sound of a stream coursing its way between the rocks and out to a cold lake beyond. The contrast is sudden, but also so very Icelandic. The people here are gentle and family focused, but centuries of natural disaster have also forged a strong sense of independence and belief in the value of honest, hard work. These days, much of that hard work goes into making visitors feel welcome. The landscape here is in a constant state

Vibrant Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world. In winter Reykjavik is a phenomenon; a magical and snowdrenched delight.

A swim and a night out almost always ends the same way.� of revolution, but now the national cuisine is, too, as it has come back from the old starvation foods to fresh, local produce. From Thingvellir, I love to drive south for a lobster lunch at one of the tiny villages that have retained the rather run-down, unguarded charms of isolation. These villages lie on the edge of an island on the edge of the world. They are small, but also busy and beautiful. The world has noticed, too, and discovered something Icelanders have always known: this little island of the North Atlantic is at the very centre of it all.

Dreaming of discovering Iceland? Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about travelling to Iceland. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most popular sights in the country.


49 Raȷasthan ROYAL

EXPERIENCE LIFE LIKE A MAHARAJA IN INDIA’S LAND OF KINGS Words: Tatyana Leonov, editor, Travel ideas magazine

The view over Lake Pichola from Taj Lake Palace.

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Photos: Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

INDIA

Have you ever slept in a royal palace? Rajasthan is often referred to as the ‘Land of Kings’ as many maharajas and maharanis have lived here throughout history. Many palaces still stand today as powerful reminders of these sovereign times, and travellers from all corners of the globe flock to Rajasthan’s colourful cities to visit – and even stay – in these historical edifices. Yes, that’s right. Some palaces have been transformed into lavish hotels, giving holidaymakers a chance to live like a royal for a day… or three. When India gained independence in 1947, India’s royal figures lost their official powers, so they had to diversify to retain their prestigious positions. Some transformed their homes into sumptuous hotels, and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is the largest accommodation group managing these former palaces. In Jaipur, Rambagh Palace is an architectural splendour of elaborate masonry, glimmering marble, Murano crystal chandeliers and all kinds of decadent magnificence. Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace is interesting because the former royal family still reside in a subdivision on the sprawling grounds. Guests do not see them; nonetheless, it’s easy to imagine what royal life might have been like simply taking in the surrounds. The daily heritage walk, conducted by a butler donned in crisp livery, offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the history of the palace while admiring the grandiose structure and gardens. And no exploration of Taj palaces is complete without a sojourn at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. Like the name might have you believe, this extravagance is positioned – as if floating – on a man-made lake. A private boat whisks you to the hotel lobby for check-in and from that moment on life will not be the same. Rose-petal showers, waiters who know what you desire, there are even suites fitted out with an ornamental swing. Life really does feel like a dream here.

Stay in Rajasthani palaces

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about luxury travel in India. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

The former royal family still reside in a section of the Umaid Bhawan Palace.

Swims in the pool at Taj Lake Palace are a popular pastime.

The plush Royal Taj Spa at Rambagh Palace.


M U LT I - G E N T R AV E L

LEFT TO RIGHT: The Winged Victory of Samothrace – one of the Louvre’s renowned artworks; visiting Omaha Beach offered the writer an opportunity to reconnect with her family history.

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Photos: Getty Images

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An adventure to span the ages IT’S TIME TO TAKE THE FAMILY HOLIDAY TO THE NEXT (GENERATIONAL) LEVEL Words: Carlie Tucker, travel writer, Flight Centre


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The London Tube screeched to a stop and the doors opened on the last carriage. My parents, siblings, husband and I began wrestling our oversized luggage onto the train as quickly as we could. With all of 30 seconds, it was a task that required the skill and efficiency of an experienced factory-work line... and we almost made it. Just as my mother hopped onto the train, the doors clamped shut on her arm, which was holding her carry-on – with all the passports in it. Caught up in the moment of frenzy as my father prised at the doors while the rest of us shouted for her to pull her arm in, we were oblivious to the scene that we were causing. That is, until my mother got the bag in and we all stood sheepishly at the back of the train amid a mountain of baggage under the glower of London’s morning commuters. Multi-generational family travelling is not without its challenges, but when

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looking back on fond memories, it’s easy to understand the value of bringing everyone together to create these once-in-alifetime moments. I still reflect on our most recent sojourn through Europe – a trip that encompassed three countries, two families and three generations – and remember new details every time I reminisce. My mother was able to tick London’s Kew Gardens off her bucket list, as well as see the Winged Victory of Samothrace in person at the Louvre in Paris. As we stood at the foot of that Hellenistic masterpiece, she told us about the beginnings of her fascination with the ancient Greek sculpture. She had learned about it as a small girl at school. Fifty years on, there she was seeing it in person, stunned by the beauty of its intricate carving. And there I was, standing next to her, sharing a new perspective and gaining a new appreciation that I would otherwise have missed.

More than just reconnecting with my family (who I hadn’t seen in nearly five years), this journey was our opportunity to reconnect with our history. My father was able to walk in his father’s footsteps as we took a day trip from Paris to tour the Normandy beaches. My grandfather was a 21-year-old student from Teton, Idaho, drafted in the US Army to deploy to Central Europe during World War II. He landed on Omaha Beach three days after D-day and went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. My brother, sister and I stood shoulder to shoulder with my father in silent reverence, looking over the sandy shores of Omaha Beach as our guide detailed the scene my grandfather would have come upon when landing. From walking the bomb-cratered headlands of Pointe du Hoc to driving across the rolling French countryside, we couldn’t help but wonder if we were looking upon the very same scenery as our grandfather more than 70 years ago.

Photos: Getty Images; iStock

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LEFT TO RIGHT: London’s Kew Gardens; the iconic Louvre pyramid; dining out in Brussels; Omaha Beach in Belgium is a reverent site for descendants of WWII veterans.

We were all too eager to share our observations each night over too much food.” We had heard him speak of his 189-day service in generalisations, but witnessing the scene firsthand offered a new element – something tangible and real that connected us to him and this new location. While it’s great to spend time and explore with the whole family, there’s something to be said about breaking away every once in a while to blaze your own trail. While in Brussels, my family took a train to Atomium while my husband and I practised our French, ordering mussels at a quiet local restaurant. The beauty of travelling with family is that they’ll easily understand if someone needs a solo day. Plus, there’s always a travel partner on hand to keep each

other company, even if differing interests take you in separate directions now and then. At the end of the day, the sense of wonder that comes with exploring new destinations is multiplied as each generation sees each city with their own eyes and personal experience. We were all too eager to share our observations each night over too much food, the chatter getting all the more gleeful with each round of drinks. This was especially true by the time we reached Scotland. Even better, we had roped my husband’s family in to the merriment. Having not seen his grandmother and extended family in close to 15 years, we jumped at the opportunity to unite our

families. Three generations from three countries meeting for the first time – what a feat! Stories were shared, encompassing everything from local travel insights to fond childhood memories, as we all found common ground in our experiences, even if they were half a world apart. We took plenty of photos of our time in Europe, which I look back on frequently, but it’s the moments in between that stand out the most. It’s the time spent bonding with both sides of my family as we shared the world with one another, collecting memories and experiences that have lasted long after the flight home.

Ready to explore with the family?

Visit your local Flight Centre for more advice from our experts about family holidays and group travel deals. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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all stars FLIGHT CENTRE FAVOURITES

find o ut w hat’s new in o ur m o st p opu lar dest i nat i o ns

Sydney, Australia

Melbourne, Australia

Auckland, New Zealand

Why I love it...

Why I love it...

Why I love it...

Whether you visit for culture, art, food, fashion, touring or to relax, you’ll always find something new and exhilarating in Sydney.” Jacqui Stutt, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Mundaring, WA

Melbourne’s vibrancy is addictive! In 2017, get out of the tourist hotspots and take a tram out to the suburbs (think Ripponlea, Elwood or Yarraville).” Gemma Wright, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Kingsway, WA

Auckland is a stunning city with volcanoes, beaches and restaurants to match the best in the world, plus it’s got a great city energy.” Hannah Loudon, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Maylands, WA

A new venue: The newly renovated Aria

restaurant has beautiful ambience and exceptional views. Try the tasting menu with matching wines. A must-attend event: Enjoy the dragon boat races, markets, fashion and amazing food for the Lunar New Year under a canopy of Chinese lanterns as Sydney’s Pyrmont Bay Park is transformed into a wonderland of cultural experiences. A tour you must do: Join a fantastic photography tour and capture unique night photos, learn the art of light trails or photograph authentic city experiences. Something different in 2017: With more than 100km of dedicated bicycle paths, fitness enthusiasts and families alike have safe access to this beautiful city, so take a bike tour and explore. A new experience: Embrace your inner peace with Yoga From The Sky at The Sydney Tower Eye; create beauty with Korean calligraphy classes; or try your hand at making your own chocolate. The best day trip: Kick back and relax on a day cruise. Sail on an old-fashioned tall ship while enjoying lunch and maybe a wine or two and let your worries go on the beautiful harbour.

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A new venue: Higher Ground is a cafe on

Little Bourke Street housed in a former power station. You can get your foodie fix while sitting inside a beautiful restoration. A must-attend event: Remember the fallen at one of the many Anzac Day services, before making your way to Caulfield RSL, home to one of the country’s largest two-up rings. A tour you must do: Aussie Brewery Tours’ Urban Beer Odyssey is the perfect way to cruise Melbourne’s streets and laneways. It will take you to some of the country’s oldest breweries as well as new ones. Something different in 2017: Stay at The Olsen on Chapel Street and bump shoulders with celebrities while admiring the creations of famed landscape artist Doctor John Olsen. A new experience: In 2017, Etihad Stadium will host an AFL match on Good Friday for the first time. Join thousands of other passionate fans cheering on their team. The best day trip: Hire a car and explore nearby beaches. Barwon Heads is a favourite summer spot – go fishing or surfing, or visit local wineries.

A new venue: Pah Homestead is a historic home located in Hillsborough. The estate houses New Zealand’s largest private collection of contemporary art. A must-attend event: The World Masters Games (April 21-30) is the world’s largest multi-sport event. You can watch surf lifesaving, water polo, sailing, athletics and swimming. A tour you must do: Visit the Sky Tower for stunning views. The more adventurous can try the SkyWalk, around the outside of the tower, or try the SkyJump, a base jump by wire at 85km per hour! Something different in 2017: Rotoroa Island Exhibition Centre is the latest attraction to open to the public after 100 years – and the island on which it stands is just a 75-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. A new experience: The Splore music and arts festival in Tapapakanga Regional Park, (February 17-19) is set to go off with an amazing line-up of music, arts and food. The best day trip: Definitely Waiheke Island. Sitting in the Waitemata Harbour, it’s just 40 minutes on the ferry from downtown Auckland to a relaxing world of wine, fine food and pristine beaches.


Bali, Indonesia

Why I love it...

Photos: iStock

It’s perfect for swanking around the hotspots and drinking cocktails, or having a relaxing family holiday. It is ever-changing and exciting.” Sandra Innis, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Garden City, WA

A new venue: Go to La Favela, one of the hippest cantinas in Seminyak. It’s great for a food and cocktails. It’s where all the good-looking people go on a Saturday night. A must-attend event: If you head to Bali mid-August, make sure you snag tickets to the annual White Party at Ku De Ta. Dress code is white (surprise!) and the music is sublime. A tour you must do: Get hands-on experience with local cuisine by trying a cooking class in Ubud. Casa Luna Cooking School offers half-day courses covering ingredients, cooking techniques and the cultural background. Something different in 2017: Travellers are starting to explore the less-beaten tracks of Candidasa and Pemuteran. A new experience: Ubud and Seminyak boast some of the best yoga studios. Jiwa, in the Kuta Utara district, is a favourite among bikram (hot yoga) devotees, and it even offers express 60-minute sessions. The best day trip: Head out to Mount Batur on a sunrise trekking trip. A moderate level of fitness is required, but the views from the top are absolutely worth it.

Singapore

Hong Kong, China

Why I love it...

Why I love it...

There’s so much to do and see in Singapore at any time of the day or night – it’s a great city for families, solo travellers or as a stopover.” Amy Elliott, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Woy Woy, NSW

It’s a cultural kaleidoscope, with Cantonese, Mandarin and British cultures combining East and West. And of course the food is delicious!” Victor Araya, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Narellan, NSW

A new venue: Go to Yong Siak Street

in Tiong Bahru for a tasty lunch at Open Door Policy, which has just become entirely gluten- and dairy-free. A must-attend event: Sentosa for music: ZoukOut is a dance-music festival in December at Siloso Beach – think techno, trance, hip-hop and more on the beach. And there’s always the Formula One Grand Prix. A tour you must do: Hop on a bike for a tour of the city on two wheels, taking in the city’s oldest neighbourhood to Marina Bay Sands. Stop along the way for a calamansi juice, or a classic Singapore Sling at Raffles. Something different in 2017: Several neighbourhoods close to the city centre have been rejuvenated, including Tiong Bahru, hip Jalan Besar, laidback Holland Village, and vibrant Katong and Joo Chiat. A new experience: Singapore Zoo has a new Australasian zone, home to four rare tree kangaroos. You should also try the popular night safari, An Evening In The Wild, including dinner and wine. The best day trip: A 40-minute bumboat ride away is diving spot Pulau Hantu. Corals are abundant and the natural marine biodiversity is richer than you’d imagine.

A new venue: COBO House is a community platform for collectors to collect and connect. It offers cocktails, fried chicken and a dessert bar – and showcases contemporary art. A must-attend event: Cheer on some of the world’s most elite athletes in the Rugby Sevens tournament in April 2017. A tour you must do: Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island. The eight-minute trip up on the 128-year-old Peak Tram offers sweeping views of the city and surrounds. Something different in 2017: The seven-storey Disney Explorers Lodge Hotel, opening in 2017, will feature four themed gardens based on cultures from across the world, including the African savannah, South American rainforest, Polynesian island paradise and Asia.  A new experience: Rooftop Republic hosts workshops throughout the year that teach the fundamentals of growing greens in the Hong Kong heat. The best day trip: A short ferry ride away is Macao. Offering all the charm of Vegas and a rich Portuguese history, the many luxurious hotels along the famous Cotai Strip will entertain late into the night.

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all stars

Tokyo, Japan

London, England

Paris, France

Why I love it...

Why I love it...

Why I love it...

Cherry blossom season in March/April is a great time to visit. Walk through the Hama Rikyu Garden and admire the blossoms in full bloom.” Bianca Rusovan, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Craigieburn, Vic

The West End is always a great drawcard, and, if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is showing in 2017.” Michael Dalton, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Travel Group, North Essendon, Vic

Paris is a city to love. Shop in Rue Saint-Honore, buy macarons at Fauchon, enjoy wine at a street cafe or whizz around the Arc de Triomphe in a Citroen.” Karen Hislop, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Wynnum Plaza, Qld

A new venue: Panda Chinese Restaurant –

Japanese and Chinese influences make this underground restaurant a hit. A must-attend event: If you travel to Tokyo in January, May or September, you’ll want to catch a sumo-wrestling tournament, Japan’s national sport. A tour you must do: The Mount FujiHakone Return By Shinkansen tour. You’ll cruise halfway up Mount Fuji, sail Lake Ashi and take a cable car to the peak of Mount Hakone, and be greeted with spectacular views. A highlight is catching the shinkansen (bullet train) back to the city. Something different in 2017: In Tokyo Halloween is bigger than ever and still growing. Hit the streets of Shibuya on October 31 and see Halloween come to life as the locals go all out on spooky and whacky costumes. A new experience: Head to the Harajuku district in Shibuya, the heart of Tokyo’s most extreme street fashions. Go to shop, eat, hang out or just people-watch. The best day trip: Disneyland! Tokyo boasts two Disney parks: Disneyland and DisneySea, only 40 minutes’ drive from the city and right next door to each other. Who doesn’t love a bit of magic in their life?

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A new venue: ‘The Walkie-Talkie’ is one of London’s newest buildings. It features great views of London, and several bars and restaurants are located on its upperfloor Sky Garden. A must-attend event: The English Premier League season starts in August and with six teams based in London, you should definitely experience the atmosphere of a match. A tour you must do: Buckingham Palace is open to visitors in August and September, so if you’re in town, you can visit the home of the Queen. Something different in 2017: The London Underground is the best way to get around and it is now open 24 hours a day on weekends – so you can live it up like a local! A new experience: Until April 2017, the Museum of London has an exhibit where you can see what life was like at the time of the 1666 Great Fire of London. The best day trip: A good option is a day trip up to Liverpool to explore the city and visit the home of The Beatles. While in London, you can also check out Abbey Road Studios and get a picture on the famous zebra crossing.

A new venue: Afternoon tea at Restaurant Le Dali, re-opened in 2016, thanks to pastry chef Cedric Grolet’s reinterpreted classic French pastries, is not to be missed. A must-attend event: Fondation Louis Vuitton is housing Icons of Modern Art until late February 2017, featuring impressionist, post-impressionist and modern masterpieces. A tour you must do: Take a walking tour of the Jardin du Palais Royal – the gorgeous roses are in full bloom in summer – and take a selfie among the modern columns installation known as Buren’s Columns. Something different in 2017: Recently opened OFF Paris Seine, is Paris’ first floating hotel and bar, with unique views over the left and right banks and close to Notre Dame Cathedral. A new experience: Disneyland Paris turns 25 in 2017. From March 26, visitors can experience new attractions, shows and events. The best day trip: Take a day tour to Epernay, the capital of the Champagne region, and Reims, the home of the gothic Reims Cathedral.


Los Angeles, USA

Why I love it... Los Angeles is putting a strong bid in to host the Olympics in 2024, so you’ll want to see it now as its beautiful skyline continues to grow.” Marlee Follman, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Warner, Qld

Photos: iStock

A new venue: You’ve got to try Philz Coffee

on 8th and South Hope streets – they brew every cup to your liking, including adding milk, sugar, cream and syrups (a rare find in USA!). A must-attend event: Check out dineLA in January and July. It is a two-week event featuring more than 300 restaurants that create special menus at set prices. A tour you must do: Intrepid’s Urban Adventures: Sips of Old Hollywood tour is great. The guides have amazing knowledge of old Hollywood, and take you for a drink in bars you probably wouldn’t be able to find yourself. Something different in 2017: The transport options in LA were recently broadened with the opening of the Metro Expo train line from downtown LA all the way out to Santa Monica. A new experience: Check out The Broad Museum on Grand Avenue and take a tour through recent art history’s finest. The amazing Infinity Mirrored Room installation by Yayoi Kusama runs until October 2017. The best day trip: Hire a car and head to Joshua Tree National Park, about two-and-ahalf hours’ drive from LA, to get your nature fix (a sharp contrast to LA’s concrete jungle).

Rome, Italy

Vancouver, Canada

Why I love it...

Why I love it...

Rome is buzzing any time of year, but 2017 is also a great time for events, including Catholic festivals and European Union anniversaries.” Kaitlyn Jensen, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Big Top, Qld

Vancouver is fantastic for all travellers! From nature enthusiasts to shopaholics, Vancouver has something for everyone.” Kia Ireland, Travel Expert, Flight Centre Townsville Castletown, Qld

A new venue: Try Alice. It’s a little New York-style pizzeria with amazing ingredients on real Italian pizza. The pizza is sold by weight, so you can pick exactly how big a piece you would like. A must-attend event: Rome celebrates its birthday on April 21 and there will be fireworks, music and street celebrations. Everyone gets into the spirit. A tour you must do: Trafalgar Tours’ Best of Italy and Sicily tour will take you around the country to experience authentic Italy with an amazing guide. Something different in 2017: It’s ready! Restorations of the Trevi Fountain are now complete. You can once again make your wish at the fountain without the scaffolding getting in the way. A new experience: Intrepid’s Urban Adventures: Roman Dolce Vita is a three-hour walking tour with a local guide who will take you to all of the main sites, stopping along the way to try espresso and gelato. The best day trip: Book in for a cooking class in the ancient village of Mazzano Romano. Learn to cook Italian cuisine with a local chef on a farm, then enjoy lunch before heading back to Rome.

A new bar, restaurant or cafe:

For the perfect romantic or specialoccasion dinner, there is only L’ Abattoir in Gastown. It is located on the site of Vancouver’s first jail and within the former meat-packing district, hence the name. A must-attend event: Chinese New Year in Vancouver is a must do – it has one of the best Chinatowns outside of China. There are lion dances, cultural dance troupes, marching bands, martial arts performances and so much more! A tour you must do: The Mail Run with Harbour Air, a seaplane tour over British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands. Something different in 2017: Skyride Surf Adventure opened at Grouse Mountain in 2016. Ride inside or outside the aerial tramway as you ascend to the top of Grouse Mountain. A new experience: Book in for a two- to six-night bear tour to Knight Inlet. See grizzly bears in their natural habitat – it’s one of the only places in the world to see them this close. The best day trip: Whale watching. Head out across the Strait of Georgia and try to spot the endangered orca.

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W W L IS T 2017

The CHALLENGE WHAT’S BETTER: FLYING AROUND THE WORLD OR CRUISING? SHOULD YOU TRAVEL SOLO OR IN A GROUP? FLIGHT CENTRE’S TRAVEL EXPERTS GIVE US THEIR INSIDER KNOWLEDGE INTO FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS TO EXPLORE.

Fly

Round-the-world flights are great way to get more out of your holiday, by making use of where the airlines already fly and stopping off at those points. It can be expensive just to get to Europe with return flights, but to include the USA could cost only about $500 extra, and you’ve combined two holidays into one. You’ll save travel time and instead spend more time experiencing the cities you are visiting. The savings in your airfares mean you can do more while you are away, and have those precious memories to look back on.

What to consider

You need to consider flexibility, particularly with your travel dates. Round-the-world fares need specific fare types, and having the ability to be flexible with your airlines and exact dates means we can find the best fare for you. The length of time you’re away is also important, as you will be crossing lots of time zones and it can take a bit more time to adjust. You’ll need three nights minimum in any city to not feel exhausted. Don’t let jet lag be a drag on your holiday! KATE MCDONALD, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE ROUND-THEWORLD EXPERTS, BRISB ANE, QLD

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Where to go

Anywhere! As cliched as that sounds, there are so many options out there that the possibilities are endless. You can combine South America with North America, Europe and South Africa, or keep it simple with Canada, Europe and Asia.

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Want to get a taste of business class? We can also mix fares and give you a great price to have that long-haul flight in a lie-flat bed. Round-theworld flights really let you be flexible with your flight itinerary. My dream itinerary would be one that combines new places with old favourites. From Brisbane, I would head over to San Francisco in the USA before driving down the coast to Anaheim to visit Disneyland again. From there, I would head across to New York and spend at least a week exploring the city that never sleeps. From New York, Munich would be next on the list, as a stopover on the way to London. After catching up with friends there, I would head to Paris and explore Europe via the extensive rail network. I would like to fly out of Rome after sampling all of the food Italy has to offer. A stop in Dubai on the way home is a must – a chance to tick another city off my bucket list! – before making my way back to Brisbane.

Take off on holiday

To find out the best way to book round-the-world flights, head to your local Flight Centre. Chat to a Travel Expert about getting the best prices, and what itinerary would be best. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.


FROM FAR LEFT: Paris and San Francisco can easily be connected with a round-the-world flight booking; cultural and beach destinations are highlights of round-theworld cruises.

Cruise

“Why would anyone choose to cruise around the world?” is a question I get asked quite often when I tell customers how long such cruises actually take. My answer? “Because if you’ve got the time and the money, why wouldn’t you?” Think about it. You board this amazing vessel that allows you to walk around and sleep in a comfortable full-size bed while you travel to your next adventure. You can eat as much as you want, when you want, and you have so many options. You don’t have to live out of your suitcase or carry it in and out of taxis or up and down stairs. And you have live entertainment, included, every night.

Photos: iStock

What to consider

EMMA HARDY, CRUISE SPECIALIST, FLIGHT CENTRE TRAVEL GROUP, ALTONA, VIC

A round-the-world cruise can be anywhere from 111 to 180 days, depending on the cruise line and direction of the itinerary. It is a long time to be in one place, but almost every morning you can open your eyes and find you’ve arrived in a new destination without the worries of flight delays and schedule changes. You do need to think about the weather, though, as there will be a few days in a row out in the open ocean, where the occasional storm and high seas may be unavoidable. So remember your ginger pills and your travel insurance, as onboard doctor’s visits can be a bit on the expensive side.

Some countries do require visas and, for most places, these can be organised onboard by the cruise line for a small fee. For others, you will need to organise visas through the appropriate consulates or embassies before you set sail.

Where to go

Round-the-world cruises traditionally departed from and returned to Southampton. But these days you’ll find round-trips from places such as Los Angeles and even Sydney. Typically they’ll visit Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the UK and Ireland, Canada, the USA, Central and South America, the South Pacific, and Australia and New Zealand. One of the best bits about a round-the-world cruise is that you can actually pick the parts of the itinerary you like the most and cruise just that sector. It gives you a bit more flexibility if you don’t have all the time in the world, and lets you skip places you don’t really want to visit. It’s also a great way to get from one place to another.

Get cruising

If you’re keen to book a cruise around the world, your local Flight Centre Travel Experts are the people to see. They can help you choose an itinerary and get the best deal on flights and cruises. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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W W L IS T 2017

The CHALLENGE continues

Group Travel

When you book a group tour, all you have to do is pack your bag and show up. Everything is taken care of – transfers, accommodation, meals. It is all made easy for you – which is all the better when you’re taking your holiday to have fun with your friends or family! Group travel allows you to see and experience your destinations of choice in depth and explore it all with like-minded travellers. You will meet travellers from different parts of the world, share experiences and stories, and make friends along the way. When you travel as part of a group, you receive value in your holiday. Lots of elements, such as breakfast and entry fees to museums or attractions, can be included. Plus, you will experience your destination in more depth, as your tour guide will know the best local places to go, from that restaurant hidden down an alleyway to the rooftop bar with the best views of the city.

What to consider

ISABELLA SNAIDERO, TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE BROADWAY, NSW

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You need to consider which tour is right for you. With help from your travel agent, you can work out together what will suit you best. There are tours for all types of traveller, from the budgetconscious adventurer to those with more luxurious tastes. Also consider that you may not get along with everyone in a group, and that is okay. Group sizes can range from as small as eight to 40 or

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more, depending on the tour, so you will always find somebody you’ll want to spend time with, and you won’t be forced to spend time with anyone you’d rather not. When considering who you would like to travel with, family and close friends are common choices, but remember that friends you may not know as well can be just as much fun to travel with. You’ll likely even become much closer after your shared experience.

Where to go

My dream itinerary for travelling in a group would be an all-inclusive tour throughout the Mediterranean with my family, exploring amazing countries such as Greece and Italy. We could spend the days experiencing towns and cities in depth, with a local tour guide to take us to local haunts we wouldn’t find otherwise and explain the history of the area. This would be a great way to travel, as I would get to share amazing experiences with my family but also have the chance to meet new people from all across the world.

Gather and go

If you’d like to travel with friends or family, Flight Centre’s Travel Experts can help you (all!) book your dream trip. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.


Visit Bangkok with friends, take a family holiday, or bring the gang to Norway; enjoy solitude in Kyoto, go it alone in the tropics, or hit the heights in Whistler.

Photos: iStock

Solo Travel

MICHELLE ELLIS , TRAVEL EXPERT, FLIGHT CENTRE TUGGERAH, NSW

You’ll never know if you love travelling solo until you try it! When friends, family or clients ask me what it is like to travel alone, I always relate it back to my experience – I love travelling with family and friends, but the freedom of solo travel is exciting and I’d recommend it to anybody willing to try it. I went to the USA and Canada on my own, explored parts of Asia alone and ventured through countries in South America as a solo traveller, and, honestly, it was incredible. I could explore without pressure from companion travellers and try something new, do my own thing and go at my own pace. I could eat wherever I wanted and see the things I dreamed of seeing. You learn to do things on your own and enjoy your own company, but the best part is meeting new people, going on adventures and creating incredible stories that you remember forever. Some of those people become lifelong friends. Another massive benefit of travelling alone is the ability to control your costs. You pick the hostel, hotel or resort; you choose the restaurant, bar or club; you decide which tour or transport to catch, so you are not spending extra money. You really travel without many of the usual limitations when you go on your own.

What to consider

Before you go or while you are away, getting first-hand advice from someone who has visited

your chosen destination is invaluable. They can tell you what the country is really like according to their own experience, as well as offer an insider’s point of view on the places you really shouldn’t miss as a solo traveller.

Where to go

The reason you travel is to see and do new and exciting things – you really can go anywhere. My next adventure is to travel through Japan alone. It is so out of my comfort zone; I don’t speak the language, I don’t know anybody – but that is really exciting! I can’t wait to ride a bike through the beautiful bamboo forest and take pictures at the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto, read a book at a cat cafe in Tokyo, watch a sumo wrestling match in Fukuoka, jump on the bullet train, and learn about the history in Hiroshima. I can do everything I have ever wanted to do in Japan because I will make up my own itinerary. This is not my first solo trip and it definitely won’t be my last, and I encourage all potential travellers to consider a trip on their lonesome!

Just you and the world

To explore the world as a solo traveller, visit your nearest Flight Centre for advice and the best deals on tours and airfares. Go to flightcentre.com.au or call 131 600 24 hours.

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