20 life-changing trips – and how to make them count

·33 min read
Hot air balloons flying at sunset, Cappadocia - Getty
Hot air balloons flying at sunset, Cappadocia - Getty

I recently received a WhatsApp from my friend P. “What am I doing?” she wrote. “I have barely any money in my bank account, I’m in the middle of buying a house and yet I’ve just booked a holiday to Mexico.”

“What?” I replied. “When are you going?”

“This Thursday!” she responded. “I did ask you!”

She did? I scrolled back through our messages. It was true. Earlier that week, she had sent me a link I’d forgotten to click on. I clicked on it now. My iPhone screen immediately bloomed with images of blue skies, bluer swimming pools and happy people drinking cocktails. “Good for you,” I typed, adding a smiley emoji, a cocktail emoji and a sunshine emoji. I was truly happy for her. She’d had a tough year. Faced with a drab grey British winter, which of us wouldn’t want to jet off to the sun?

January is a dismal month. Little wonder it’s when people start planning their summer holidays. Although, who am I kidding: I usually start Googling hotels on December 27, right after the Christmas cheese has been put away. This year, more than ever, I’m reminded of the words of the poet Andrew Marvell: “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot drawing near”. Or, for those of a more populist bent, the words of Queen: “Forever is our today/Who waits for forever anyway?” For if there is one positive thing to have come out of the pandemic, it is a reminder to seize the day. Nothing makes you appreciate your liberty more than having had it taken away from you.

If lockdown was characterised by everyone sending each other cheer-up memes, then post-lockdown, everyone is sending each other links to exotic holidays. They are my porn. Forget watching the latest episode of The Tourist: I would rather spend an hour on i-escape plotting a visit to Western Australia, where it was filmed.

So intense is my desire to experience holidays in far-flung places that I forget the vow I made, as a child, never to embark on a plane journey longer than 10 hours. Who was that blinkered child? A child who was afraid of flying, clearly, but grew into an adult who believes that life is too short to live in fear.

My childhood wasn’t exactly peppered with long-haul holidays. Or even short-haul holidays, since my mother was afraid of flying. The first foreign holiday our family took was to Spain, via a 36-hour coach journey so arduous that it’s a miracle it didn’t put me off travel for life. When it came to exploring the world, my mother’s trepidation rubbed off on me: while all my friends took gap years in France or Peru, I went straight to university. Only years later was my wanderlust ignited, courtesy of a work trip to New York. Driving over the Triborough Bridge and seeing Manhattan loom up before me – so tall, so exciting, so alien – was life-changing. We all have one special place we missed visiting during the pandemic, and New York was mine. How I yearned to chat rubbish to a cab driver en route to the Whitney, or walk along the High Line to the Chelsea Flower Market, where I would feast on lobster roll, Clamato juice and aged white cheddar popcorn. Anyone who believes the world is globalised hasn’t tried to order an MSG-free Chinese takeaway of brown rice and steamed pak choi – not fried – outside of Manhattan.

Like many people, I spent too much of the past couple of years with my head bowed over my phone, scrolling through old memories of holidays past. Had I really been to Iceland? What year was Marrakech? Did I really go straight from Ibiza to Venice in 2017? Joni Mitchell was right: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Now that the travel we took for granted has resumed again, it would be remiss not to grab every opportunity with both hands. After all, we have almost two years of stasis to make up for. We can’t snatch that time back, but we can maximise every moment to come.

And we will. We will roam further than we ever thought possible – so far that our fridges, sofas and really-needs-regrouting bathrooms are a distant memory. We will cycle through the Dolomites, play golf in the Algarve, gape at the Taj Mahal and wonder at the Pyramids. We will make that oft-promised safari trip to Kenya, even though we are scared of spiders. We will visit the old school friend who emigrated to Vancouver in 1992. We will climb Machu Picchu, and failing that, we will take a photo of it. We will drink mojitos on Copacabana beach, a place that has intrigued us ever since we heard the Barry Manilow record, because why should Lola-she-was-a-showgirl have all the fun?

As well as far-flung pastures new, maybe we will also revisit favourite old haunts: the cities of our honeymoons; the ski slopes from our school trips; and the beaches of that disastrous backpacking holiday where we lived off beer and prawns for three weeks and fell in love with a tour guide called Somsak. We are older and wiser now. We are also less impoverished, and don’t need to stay in a youth hostel. We will roam further and better, with minds as open as our horizons. Nor will we be as tense when things go wrong. So what if we are seated next to the toilet on a long-haul flight? It’s all part of the journey. Remember when we couldn’t fly at all?

We will never forget. Instead, we will remember to remember, in minute detail, every sound, sight and scent our destination spawns. We will travel differently, mindfully, learning from new cultures and respecting them. We will speak to the people we meet, and we will listen. We will learn. We will learn that a tan is great, but sightseeing feeds the soul.

Most of all, we will be grateful: for the opportunities life holds, and for a world that has opened up again, allowing us to bask in its glorious sunshine or rain. We don’t know what the future holds – only that it is out there, asking us to experience it to the full.

Marvel at the Iguazu Falls

The northern tip of Argentina’s Misi­ones Province, named after the Jesuit missionaries who first settled in the region in the 17th century, has one of the country’s few remaining tracts of subtropical broadleaf forest. Within this, the Iguazú National Park is home to bright-billed toucans, colourful parrots, raccoon-like coatis and howler monkeys, as well as harder-to-spot jag­uars, oce­lots, tapirs and giant anteaters.

The centrepiece of the park are the Iguazú Falls, which comprise some 275 separate falls spread over a 1.7-mile-wide fault where the Iguazú River plunges down to join the mighty Paraná. The Devil’s Throat – the highest, noisiest fall – is almost 500ft wide and 270ft high. Gravity-defying palm trees cling to the vertical cliffs, swifts dart in and out of the tumbling brown-hued cascades and thousands of butterflies flit around the spray. Walkways above and beneath the falls make access easy, and while bathing is proscribed, there is plenty of opportunity to get soaked on a boat trip or by standing at the base of the cascades.

Iguazú Falls - Mekdet/Moment RF
Iguazú Falls - Mekdet/Moment RF

And don’t restrict your trip to the falls. Explore the surrounding national park, visit the Unesco-listed mission at San Ignacio Miní and, time permitting, drive to nearby reserves that are largely tourist-free.

You’ll never forget

The noise. The sound of 62,000 cubic feet of water plunging earthwards, sending up great rainbow-filled clouds of vapour.

Book it: Journey Latin America (020 8747 8315; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers a 13-night Signature Argentina tour, taking in Patagonia, the lake region and Iguazú Falls, from £2,330pp, including all land and air transport within Latin America.

Chris Moss

Experience the magic of the Rockies by rail

What to look at first while rattling headlong into the Rocky Mountains? The silvery glacial lakes? The effervescent-blue waterfalls? The elemental backdrop of Glacier National Park? Or the buffers, boxcars and black bears-in-hiding along the tracks of the historic Canadian Pacific Railway line, which first bridged the once insurmountable gap between eastern and western Canada? The 594-mile rail journey sprints out of turn-of-the-century Pacific Central Station in Vancouver to scrutinise British Columbia’s arresting forests, before lurching into the glacial valleys of Banff and Jasper.

Even better, the Rocky Mountaineer journey is about more than train travel. With its vast glass windows, the train only travels during daylight hours to make the most of the spectacular scenery. There’s an haute cuisine restaurant on board – loosen your belt for striploin steak and Pacific salmon emerging from the galley – and the pace is designed to offer an opportunity to unplug.

Rocky Mountaineer - Laara Cerman
Rocky Mountaineer - Laara Cerman

You’ll never forget

Stopping at a crossing light beneath the white incisors of Banff National Park’s mountains, only to see a brown bear and cub scurry from the cedars into shadow. Rare is the train journey that can take you on both an intimate wildlife-watching trip and a pilgrimage to a country’s mountainous front line.

Book it: The Rocky Mountaineer (0800 088 5541; rockymountaineer.com) First Passage to the West trip costs from £1,043pp, excluding flights. Departs April to October. My Canada Trips (0800 021 7732; mycanadatrips.co.uk) offers a 14-day Classic Rockies & British Columbia adventure from £3,229pp, including flights and GoldLeaf Service on the Rocky Mountaineer. Departs June 2

Mike MacEacheran

Uncover the history of Easter Island

Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) is one of those places that has burnt its way into the world’s collective imagination. It is very tiny and very isolated – 2,200 miles from the Chilean coast – and the fixed gaze of its looming stone figures, known as moai, make it an otherworldly place to spend a few days. The Rapa Nui culture is Polynesian, closer to that of Fiji and New Zealand than South America.

A highlight of any stay is a tour of the moai sites, known as ahus, and the quarry where they were hewn. Although much of the coastline is defined by rugged cliffs and rocky shores, the island is also home to some lovely beaches (such as Anakena, overlooked by moais). You can also spot a variety of bird species, and explore the interesting little coastal “capital” of Hanga Roa.

Easter Island - Mlenny/Getty
Easter Island - Mlenny/Getty

While staying on Easter Island, you can learn about the fascinating history of its people, visit traditional ceremonial villages, hike around the largest volcanic crater, join locals on surfing and diving trips, and check out the local fish restaurants.

You’ll never forget

Ahu Tongariki, the most photographed ahu, which features 15 figures staring inland. They are thought to protect (or perhaps threaten) the islanders and face sunset during the summer solstice.

Book it: Scott Dunn (020 8682 5000; scottdunn.com) offers a 16-night Chile Uncovered itinerary from £5,600pp, including flights and accommodation. The trip combines three nights on Easter Island with Torres del Paine, the Atacama, the Lake District and the Casablanca Valley

Chris Moss

Do authentic barefoot luxury in the Maldives

Though close to the airport (just 20 minutes by speedboat from Velana), Gili Lankanfushi (00 960 664 0304; gili-lankanfushi.com) is set on one of the most beautiful coral islands in the country – all turquoise lagoons, crystal beaches and white sandbanks that swirl and morph with the tides.

This is one of the Maldives’ original barefoot luxury resorts where, on arrival, guests are invited to cast off their shoes for the days ahead, ready for beachside breakfast buffets, lounging under palm trees, and bicycle rides between the swimming pool, watersports centre, tennis courts and outdoor cinema. Other activities include coral planting with a marine biologist, learning to surf, foraging for ingredients for cooking classes and big-game fishing. There’s a choice of excellent restaurants and a knock-out spa offering Thai, Chinese and Ayurvedic therapies.

Maldives - John Lamb/Getty
Maldives - John Lamb/Getty

All of the timber and thatch villas are set over water and channel stylish castaway vibes, with split-level living rooms, netted four-poster beds, indoor/outdoor bathrooms and wooden decks with steps leading to hammocks strung above the Indian Ocean. The most private and romantic among them are the eight Robinson Crusoe villas, which stand alone out at sea and have rooftop terraces where you can lie and watch the constellations in the night sky.

You’ll never forget

Coming face-to-face with the enormous amber-eyed green sea turtle that likes to hang out in the lagoon, using the hotel’s pioneering coral restoration lines as a kind of underwater hammock.

Book it: Turquoise Holidays (020 7147 7087; turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights in a villa suite from £3,499pp, half-board, including international flights and speedboat transfers. For more travel inspiration, read Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in the Maldives.

Lee Cobaj

Set sail on the ancient Nile

Sailing from Aswan at first light on a creaky felucca will transport you back in time to ancient Thebes. Drift in the wake of the first British explorers to discover Karnak, a place that awakens fantastical images of archaeological digs and lost treasures, or wander deep inside a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Even Aswan, the Nubian city of red granite on the banks of the Nile, has the same effect. These are places that hint at Agatha Christie romance, conjuring up something adventurous and dream-like.

The same can be said of the slow, considered felucca journey into Egypt’s spiritual heartland. To cruise the Nile from source to sea, beneath a traditional billowing canvas sail, is to find yourself wholly content, lost in history amid the emptiness and agelessness of the sun-drenched desert. Tales of the riverbank are as glorious now as they ever were and, thanks to recent history, Egypt has been largely abandoned by tourists – it’s not uncommon to have some of the world’s most historically important temples and tombs to yourself.

Nile cruise - Peter Adams/Stone RF
Nile cruise - Peter Adams/Stone RF

You’ll never forget

Stepping from the deck at sunrise to discover full-colour tombs left to gather dust for thousands of years, walls pasted in dazzling hieroglyphs.

Book it: Intrepid (0333 254 3303; intrepidtravel.com) offers a 15-day Explore Egypt trip that includes two days aboard a felucca and sights such as Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria and Hurghada. From £1,135pp, including cruise, overnight sleeper train, meals and accommodation. Excludes flights

Mike MacEacheran

Discover Croatia’s new island

Tiny Lopud, part of the Elaphiti island cluster, has been brushed by history’s big-hitters for millennia, with Greek and Roman boats making anchor, and summer homes built during its Venetian Republic years. After some decades as a Dalmatian backwater, with decent digs hard to come by, it’s drawing a global crowd once again, who are restoring historic villas on hillsides overlooking the sea. The biggest news, though, has been the transformation of the 15th-century Franciscan monastery that rises above the harbour into Lopud 1483 (lopud1483.com), by the art collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. It’s now a glorious retreat with five contemporary bedrooms, a medieval-sized table outside for feasting and a spa treatment room. It’s also a gallery, and you don’t have to stay to explore that – you can book a tour when no one’s there.

And anyone can visit Your Black Horizon, Thyssen-Bornemisza’s other contribution to the island, a colour-changing installation by architect David Adjaye and artist Olafur Eliasson, set amid cypress and olive trees. Lopud is a storybook island, with a single main sandy beach on one side, a town on the other, a promenade that curls around the harbour and overgrown tracks that take hikers up to spyglass views.

Lopud 1483
Lopud 1483

You’ll never forget

Scudding over the waves on a speedboat past the monastery walls to be met at the quayside; taking sundown drinks on the battlements as the sky streaks impressionist red.

Book it: Abercrombie & Kent (03301 734712; abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers five nights from £4,700pp, based on 10 sharing, including flights, transfers, boat trip, half-board between June-Sept and full-board in other months

Rick Jordan

Ski from a mountaintop hideout

Make first tracks each morning on deserted virgin slopes while mere mortals are still waiting for the lifts to open. On a blue-sky day, it’s great; on a powder day, it’s an experience that’s nothing short of sensational. Val d’Isère offers 300km (186 miles) of slopes for all standards and also has the most reliable snow in Europe. If it were a resort hotel, Le Refuge de Solaise would have five stars, but it’s classified as a starless mountain refuge. Refuges, as ski tourers know, don’t have pools, gourmet restaurants, cocktail bars and cinemas. They’re spartan huts where you grab some grub and a few hours’ sleep in a basic dorm. You then leave in the wee small hours, to reach a summit while the avalanche risk is at its lowest.

Yes, there’s a dormitory (super-luxe) sleeping 14 in single and double beds. But there are also 16 sumptuous hotel rooms and four spacious apartments. You’re already almost at the summit of Solaise, so if you do happen to wake up at 4am, there’s no need to rush. Just snuggle deeper beneath your duvet and dream of that first breakfast run.

Refuge de Solaise, Val d'Isere - Andy Parant
Refuge de Solaise, Val d'Isere - Andy Parant

You’ll never forget

Watching the sun set as the pisteurs herd the final skiers homewards, and you stay in these magnificent surroundings.

Book it: Ski Solutions (020 3944 3302; skisolutions.com) has seven nights at Le Refuge de Solaise from £1,535pp, including flights, breakfast and transfers. It’s worth getting a guide. We recommend Raphael Evin (info@prosneige.fr) on-piste and Patrick Zimmer (patzim73@gmail.com) off-piste

Peter Hardy

Capture the castles of Bavaria

Was King Ludwig II of Bavaria really mad? Or was he simply a man ahead of his time? Draw your own conclusions on this Bavarian road trip, visiting the fantastical follies that he created. Start your journey in Munich, at Schloss Nymphenburg (schloss-nymphenburg.de), the renaissance palace where Ludwig was born in 1845. Next stop is Füssen, a historic town two hours south, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Here you’ll find Hohenschwangau (hohenschwangau.de), the medieval schloss where he grew up, and the fairy-tale castle he built, Neuschwanstein (neuschwanstein.de) – which became the inspiration for Disneyland.

Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle - SeanPavonePhoto/iStockphoto
Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle - SeanPavonePhoto/iStockphoto

From Füssen, it’s around an hour’s drive to Ludwig’s dreamlike mansion, Linderhof (schlosslinderhof.de), then two hours to Herrenchiemsee (herrenchiemsee.de), his extravagant replica of Versailles. Head back to Munich – about two hours – stopping off at Starnbergersee, the lake where Ludwig drowned in 1886, just three days after his ministers declared him insane (lots of Bavarians still believe he was murdered).

There are plenty of other attractions to take in along the way – among them Kochel, the lakeside town where German painter Franz Marc lived and worked, and a must for art lovers.

You’ll never forget

Your first glimpse of Neuschwanstein, its fairy-tale turrets piercing the sky.

Book it: Embark on this road trip independently, or book with Tailored Travel (020 7064 4970; tailored-travel.co.uk), which offers the five-day Castles & Lakes of Bavaria tour from £684 per person

William Cook

Feel in the pink in Bermuda

Ocean, an hour’s flight from New York and six from London, Bermuda has always been a popular business destination, with golf and rum cocktails to sweeten the deal. But it’s so much more than that, too. Its pink sand beaches are sublime. As the shipwreck capital of the world, the diving is otherworldly. In this curious mix of a place, Old England – complete with knee-length socks and pastel-hued shorts – combines with the rich culture of its melting-pot history. The old capital of St George’s Town has a fascinating history, where you can learn about the country’s slave past and its recent emergence as an arts hub. Savour handmade perfumes at Lili Perfumery and see if the signature fried fish sandwich with coleslaw at the Seaside Grill will defeat you – it did us.

In the modern capital, Hamilton, seek out trinket emporia such as the Island Shop, which celebrates the palm so jauntily in its ceramics and linens. To the east, past craggy coves and aquamarine bays, lies Tucker’s Point. This is the Beverly Hills of Bermuda, where candy-coloured villas frame groomed lawns, and Rum Swizzles (the island’s signature drink – a mixture of rum, falernum and fruit juices) are sipped overlooking the two pristine golf courses.

You’ll never forget

Exploring hidden icing sugar beaches, diving on shipwrecks and hiking the Bermuda Railway Trail National Park.

Book it: Purely Bermuda (0800 033 6335; purelybermuda.co.uk) offers five nights at the Rosewood Bermuda staying in a Harbour View King Room from £2,449pp, based on two people sharing. Price is based on departure in July 2022 and includes flights and transfers. For more travel inspiration, read Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in Bermuda.

Jemima Sissons

Have the safari of a lifetime in Kruger National Park

Aside from its sheer size, the 20,000,000-hectare Greater Kruger is made up of different habitats and offers a plethora of safari experiences: from tracking game on foot (check out Rhino Walking Safaris at rws.co.za or the SANP wilderness trails) to planning a self-drive safari and staying in the basic rest camp bungalows and huts or (better) bush camps (sanparks.org). Or you can check into a glass box or thatched suite, with de rigueur private plunge pool in any of the exclusive private concession lodges. The days start at dawn, when you set off in an open-topped vehicle, excited at the unexpected prospects that every game drive brings; and end with the ritual stop for sundowners to the tinkling sound of ice in your G&T and the earthy smell of the nocturnally flowering potato bush in the air.

Kruger safari - Martin Harvey/The Image Bank RF
Kruger safari - Martin Harvey/The Image Bank RF

Southern Kruger in particular has perhaps the most highly habituated wild animals on the continent, allowing vehicles to get within feet of even that most elusive of big cats: leopards. Sightings, rare in any other reserve, are virtually guaranteed in the private concessions within southern Kruger; even more so in Sabi Sand, the private reserve with which it shares an unfenced border.

You’ll never forget

The first time you hear a lion roar. The 114-decibel sound can travel for up to five miles. If you are close enough, you will feel the call of the animal reverberate in your chest.

Book it: Abercrombie & Kent (03301 737982; abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers five nights at Dulini Moya in Kruger National Park from £5,999pp based on two people travelling, including full board, flights, transfers and safari drives

Pippa De Bruyn

Hit the open road on Iceland’s Route One

There is zero chance of getting lost circumnavigating Iceland, because there is only one road around it. Route One circles the entire country for 821 miles, skirting the foothills of the central Highlands the whole way round and taking in many of the nation’s key sights.

The time-poor would rightly be attracted to stick within a day’s travel of the capital, Reykjavik, taking in a loop of the popular Golden Circle, too, but those with more freedom should head out along the south coast and not look back.

Not only does completing Route One mean you will witness all the dramatic sights – coal-black beaches, thundering waterfalls and desolate volcanic plains – that have made Iceland the film set of so many futuristic blockbusters (not to mention Game of Thrones), but it also affords a sense of how the country changes. The attraction-punctuated south is different to the lush east and lumpy north, with fewer and fewer tourists the farther from Reykjavik you go.

Iceland's Route One - Moment RF
Iceland's Route One - Moment RF

There is accommodation dotted all the way around, but for a truly revitalising experience, hire a camper van and remind yourself there are still parts of the world unspoilt by human hand.

You’ll never forget

Going for a dip in a geothermal pool. Iceland is a swimmer’s paradise, with scores of “hot pots” and outdoor pools, heated by the country’s volcanic basement.

Book it: Regent Holidays (020 7666 1290; regent-holidays.co.uk) offers the 14-day, self-drive Iceland Full Circle Fly-Drive package from £1,735pp, including flights and all accommodation. For more travel inspiration, read Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in Reykjavik.

Hugh Morris

Seek out crowd-free Greek Islands in the Sporades

Unlike the often-mobbed Cyclades and Ionian Islands, the four inhabited isles of the Sporades offer delights aplenty, but with a far less touristy feel.

With lots of broad sandy beaches and excellent restaurants, Skiathos is by far the most popular of the chain’s islands. Vromolimnos beach is one of the loveliest, with plenty of chic whitewashed accommodation set amid pine forest, while the must-see historic site is Kastro, the fortified former capital, now an atmospheric ruin dotted with churches.

From here, head to neighbouring island Skopelos – made famous as the filming location for Mamma Mia! – for lovely pebbly bays and large forests. Its namesake town, set on a harbour, is very pretty indeed, and the best beaches are on the west coast, particularly Kastani, or the more sedate Armenopetra.

Skiathos - Giorgio Filippini/www.4cornersimages.com
Skiathos - Giorgio Filippini/www.4cornersimages.com

Alonissos is a large island, but quieter, more remote and less developed, lying inside a National Marine Park. Better suited to walkers and those seeking nature over nightlife, its cobblestone kalderimi (mule path) leads to Hora, the former capital – abandoned after an earthquake in 1965.

The south-easternmost island Skyros is harder to reach and so sees the fewest foreign visitors (it’s the secret that Greeks want to keep to themselves), though there are nevertheless plenty of hotels, villas and tabernas.

You’ll never forget

Paddling in the clear turquoise shallows lapping Skiathos’s white-sand beaches – some of the most splendid in the Aegean.

Book it: Sunvil (020 8758 4758; sunvil.co.uk) offers a 14-night Sporades island-hopping holiday from £1,098pp, based on two people sharing

Chris Moss

Witness Arctic wilderness in Svalbard

Midway between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard’s treeless wilderness is a place of fierce, mind-altering beauty, where charcoal-coloured mountains thrust bare and muscular above the frozen tundra.

In summer the light is eternal, in winter the sun vanishes for months on end. Locals leave home with guns: the polar bears might be out of sight, but they are never out of mind.

The best way to explore is on a snowmobile expedition. You’ll be thrust straight into Narnia, bouncing through gullies and over snowdrifts in the kind of sub-zero temperatures that gnaw bones and numb extremities. But, boy, is it worth it. Behold the glaciers, the fortress-like mountains in pearly whites, the delicate ice formations, the northern lights playing in pitch-black skies. When the sun returns, the pastel colours are surreal. As is the nothingness when you switch off the engines. A vast, echoing silence interrupted only by the crunch of foot on snow.

Svalbard - Johner Images/Getty
Svalbard - Johner Images/Getty

You’ll never forget

Those magical fleeting glimpses of Arctic wildlife. Keep a lookout for snow-white Arctic foxes and Svalbard reindeer in the valleys, and whales and walruses on the fjords and out at sea. Polar bears? Perhaps, if you’re lucky.

Book it: Sandgrouse (01764 664236; sandgrousetravel.com) offers a four-night Northern Lights Adventure, involving snowmobiling, dog-sledding, hiking and snowshoeing, from £1,269pp, not including flights (available between October and January)

Kerry Walker

Explore the wonders of Venice by water

In Venice – costumed, choreographed and seductive – every vista is heightened by reflection, and it is only by spending a few days on the water that you can truly appreciate the beauty of this spectacular city. A cruise will take you to the tranquil island of Torcello, where the depiction of the Last Judgement in the 11th-century Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta is a revelation. On Burano, cottages are painted in picturesque shades of vermilion, purple, pink and saffron.

Heading to the southern reaches of the lagoon, the colourful village of Pellestrina is a precursor to the quaint fishing port of Chioggia where an excursion aboard a traditional wooden bragozzo explores mussel beds and the southernmost gates of the controversial MOSE flood barrier.

Venice river cruise - www.robertharding.com
Venice river cruise - www.robertharding.com

The Po offers a placid scene as it meanders past rice fields and vineyards. From the village of Polesella, excursions head to Italy’s culinary capital Bologna, the renaissance city of Ferrara and incomparable Padua. The northbound journey through the lagoon offers yet more eye-candy as SS La Venezia glides past Isola Santo Spirito and Isola di San Clemente before the campanile, domes, colonnades and pinnacles of La Serenissima appear on the horizon.

You’ll never forget

An evening visit to the Basilica di San Marco for a private lighting ceremony that gradually illuminates 43,000 sq ft of gilded mosaics that narrate the New Testament.

Book it: Uniworld (0808 168 9110; uniworld.com) offers an eight-day Venice and the Gems of Northern Italy cruise from £2,499pp including flights from Heathrow, all meals on board, premium spirits and wine, excursions and transfers. Departs from the San Basilio terminal in Venice from April to October. For more travel inspiration, read Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in Venice.

Gary Buchanan

Feel like royalty in Rajasthan

Like Italian dukes, Rajput kings vied with each other to build bigger and better forts and palaces, employing the finest artisans and the most expensive materials. Their descendants make ends meet by opening their ancestral homes to guests. Some are whitewashed medieval citadels with more rooms than days of the year; others are art-deco masterpieces transporting you back to country-house life in the 1920s.

Many properties are still owner-run with hosts who lead walks, run Jeep safaris on their former estates and supervise kitchens that serve unusual fare based on old family recipes. There are several dozen palace hotels. My favourites include Rawla Narlai near Jodhpur, Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur, Ahilya Fort on the Narmada River and, for five-star luxury, RAAS Devigarh near Udaipur.

Heritage hotel, Rajasthan - Gordon Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo
Heritage hotel, Rajasthan - Gordon Sinclair / Alamy Stock Photo

You’ll never forget

Sitting on a candlelit marble terrace sipping an ice-cold beverage as the sun drops over the purple Aravalli Hills and the temple conch is blown.

Book it: Wild Frontiers (020 8741 7390; wildfrontierstravel.com) is offering a 14-night tailor-made Luxury Rajasthan Revisited tour, with prices from £7,745 based on two people travelling together, including breakfast and economy flights with British Airways

Gill Charlton

Live the high life on St Barths

You can have a lot of fun on St Barths, which is only 10 square miles but somehow packs in 16 beaches, almost 100 restaurants and 28 hotels – a quarter of which are five star.

Its topsy-turvy hills are fringed with stunning sands such as Anse du Gouverneur, Anse de Grande Saline and Colombier (the last of which is only accessible by foot or sea) while the bijou capital, Gustavia, sparkles with mini outposts of designers including Hermès and Louis Vuitton.

There are high-end hotels to suit all moods, such as the new Rosewood Le Guanahani, the very private Le Toiny, eco-thoughtful Manapany, while Christopher has a chic pool-party scene. You can also rent superb villas (001 401 849 8012; wimco.com), and there are excellent restaurants including romantic Tamarin (00 590 5902 927 74; tamarinstbarth.com), which has the prettiest garden.

Gustaf III Airport - Universal Images Group Editorial
Gustaf III Airport - Universal Images Group Editorial

You’ll never forget

Flying in. Gustaf III Airport has one of the shortest commercial runways in the world – with a dazzling beach at the end. The endlessly polished superyachts that dock in Gustavia harbour. The abundant red-footed tortoises, which have right of way on roads.

Book it: Elegant Resorts (01244 757608; elegantresorts.co.uk) offers seven nights at Rosewood Le Guanahani from £4,310pp, including breakfast, shared shuttle transfers, shared charter flights, economy flights and UK lounge passes

Nigel Tisdall

Frolic amid the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

The volcanic landscape of Cappadocia in Turkey has become iconic – especially when photographed in the pink of dawn, with a squadron of gaily hued hot-air balloons rising above the platoons of cones sculpted over millions of years from tuff (compacted volcanic ash) known as “fairy chimneys”. It’s an endlessly intriguing region of gorges, table-top mountains, narrow valleys, rock formations and quaint villages seemingly frozen in time. Exploring, whether by foot, bike, horseback or balloon, is an unforgettable experience.

Formed by the eruptions of three volcanoes – Mounts Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz – Cappadocia is not only one of the most distinctive landscapes in the world, it is also an ancient one. To the Hittites it was “the land of the beautiful horses” and in the Byzantine-era it was a centre of monasticism. Many fresco-adorned churches from that era can be visited today – along with a clutch of labyrinthine underground cities.

You’ll never forget

The walk down Ilhara Gorge with the sparkling Melendez River flanked by red cliffs and a succession of rock-cut Byzantine churches to explore.

Book it: Exodus (020 3131 2785; exodus.com) offers an eight-day Walking in Cappadocia tour from £1,349pp including flights, accommodation, some meals, listed activities and a tour leader. Departs April to Sept 2022

Terry Richardson

See another side of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is bewitching – something to do with the intoxicating smells of smoky coconut oil and aromatic spices that fill the air, the boundless warmth of the people and the dramatic beauty of its landscape. It is exotic yet accessible, with a well-trodden travellers’ path from capital city Colombo via the cultural highlights to the south west’s sandy bays.

But the lesser-visited parts of the island, on the east coast, also hold allure. Make a beeline for Trincomalee, where the historic naval fort sits alongside colourful temples. Two hours south is the beach hangout of Pasikuda and the gorgeous tented suites of Karpaha Sands (00 94 7036 62018; karpahasands.com), which are ideal for families.

From here, venture past the lagoon city of Batticaloa, through rural villages to Gal Oya National Park and stay at the charming Gal Oya Lodge (00 94 6349 29148; galoyalodge.com). Then head to cheery surf town Arugam Bay, where the Jetwing Surf (00 94 6320 30300; jetwing hotels.com/jetwingsurf) is a few steps from the boho beach shacks that line the shore.

Sri Lanka beach holiday - John W Banagan
Sri Lanka beach holiday - John W Banagan

You’ll never forget

A whale-watching trip off the coast of Trincomalee and Nilaveli: the boat heads about half an hour out into the choppy Bay of Bengal for the best chance to spot sperm whales, blue whales and spinner dolphins.

Book it: Scott Dunn (020 8682 5080; scottdunn.com) offers a 13-night Epic Sri Lanka itinerary from £3,100pp based on two people travelling, including breakfast, flights and transfers.

Issy Von Simson

Cruise the Pacific Northwest

In 1804, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark set off to find the legendary Northwest Passage across the newly expanded United States – and you can follow part of their journey on a cruise along the Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington state and Oregon, where the ship passes through eight dams and sails past ochre-coloured cliffs, scrubland and vast apple-growing estates.

On board will be a host of speakers, including historians and members of the indigenous Nez Perce people, and stops include a visit to the Tamastslikt Native American museum on a reservation outside the Oregon city of Pendleton. You can get a taste of the Wild West at the city’s Hamley Steakhouse or take an underground tour leading down into the basements of what used to be the gambling and red-light district.

American Queen steamboat
American Queen steamboat

Excursions include tastings at local vineyards, a train trip to Mount Hood and a visit to Multnomah Falls, a 611ft-tall waterfall. There’s also the chance to see Fort Clatsop in Astoria, Oregon, where Lewis and Clark spent a winter, and near Portland is Mount St Helens, the volcano that blew with such ferocity in 1980.

You’ll never forget

Bouncing across rapids in Hells Canyon – the deepest gorge in the US – in a jet boat. Do this on a pre-cruise excursion from Clarkston, Washington.

Book it: American Cruise Lines (americancruise lines.com) operates modern river boats and paddlewheelers along the Snake and Columbia rivers between Clarkston and Portland. Fred Holidays (0800 028 4272; fredholidays.co.uk) offers nine nights including a seven-night cruise and a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay from £4,699pp including flights, meals and excursions. Departs April 22

Dave Monk

Surrender to salsa and sunsets in Havana

There can be few places in the world that live up to the hype like Havana: buildings are daubed with giant revolutionary murals; classic American cars trawl the streets beneath washing lines hung heavy; Habaneros seem ready to put down their cigars and dance the moment a salsa band drops its first note.

Old Havana is a wonderful place to lose a few hours, strolling cobbled streets and dipping in and out of churches, galleries and palacios, while Centro Habana is less spruced up and arguably more magical for it. Behind the crumbling building facades lie some of the city’s most interesting bars and eateries, including the romantic La Guarida (laguarida.com), or a paladar (family-run restaurant), serving some of the country’s most inventive food.

Spend an evening walking the Malecón – a five-mile esplanade curving round Havana Bay that is particularly atmospheric at sunset – or take in an exhibition, dance performance or theatre show (check schedules at Fábrica de Arte Cubano; fac.cu). And don’t forget to spend time at the beach: you’re in the Caribbean, after all.

You’ll never forget

Your first sip of a mojito at a rooftop bar, with the faint sound of salsa drifting up from the streets below.

Book it: Original Travel (020 3958 6120; originaltravel.co.uk) offers a five-day Big Short Break in Havana trip, including walking tours, classic car cruising and a beach day, from £1,755pp. For more travel inspiration, read Telegraph Travel's guide to the best hotels in Havana.

Amanda Canning

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