These days, people are spending more on experiences, rather than materials goods. No longer satisfied with just the typical shopping and eating trips (although these have their place as well), many are seeking vacations that are one-of-a-kind, meaningful or life-altering.
Calling all intrepid globe-trotters! Take a pick from our wish list for your next voyage. From seeing the wildebeest migration in South Africa to trekking the Tiger’s Nest in the happiest country in the world, the world is your oyster.
1. Xian, China
Photos: Golden Eagle Luxury Trains
The famous 2,000-year-old terracotta army in Xian is a must-see for history lovers, but there is more to the former city called Chang An, the epicentre of Chinese civilisation during the Tang Dynasty. It was also the heart of the Silk Road route and the legacy of its position on the famous trade route is still evident in the diverse creed and cultures you see among the locals today, and also the breadth of foodie experiences.
Besides feasting on the best hand-pulled and hand-cut noodles in China, you can also snack on flavoursome lamb kebabs made by the Muslim minorities. If you have the luxury of time, savour the Silk Road by rail. Luxury train operator, Golden Eagle’s Silk Road itinerary usually includes a two-day stopover in Xian. The uber-luxe cabins typically sell out a year in advance — a testament to how popular this journey is.
Photos: Six Senses
The landlocked country may have welcomed its first foreign visitor in 1974, but you still won’t find the maddening crowds of tourists ruining the pristine landscape of ragged mountain ranges and verdant valleys. Besides having a rather isolated geographical position, there are also requirements such as a minimum daily spend that keeps visitor numbers low. City folks who crave isolation, remote landscapes and the sincere hospitality of villagers, usually fall in love with Bhutan and want to return.
A crop of luxury lodges in the country also offers travellers who love their creature comforts a fitting place to check in at night. The biggest opening this year is the luxurious Six Senses in the western and central parts of Bhutan. Set to make their debut in December are the first three lodges in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha, while the last remaining two will open in Gangtey and Bhumtang next year.
3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Photos: Tourism Tropical North Queensland
As the world’s largest coral reef and marine park, this 2,300km stretch of marine wonderland is home to 1,500 species of fish from tropical fish to manatees and 4,000 types of mollusc. With environment protection and conservation weighing more on travellers’ conscience than ever before, a need to see epic landmarks or destinations of phenomenal natural beauty and diverse wildlife seems to have taken on a greater sense of urgency.
Especially when it’s one that has been opined by numerous experts to be dying due to global warming. Though there are reassuring reports from other sources as well that the Great Barrier Reef’s health has greatly improved, we still say you should tarry no further.
Photo: Instagram/ stone_horse_expeditions
With a population of 1.94 people per square kilometre, the land of the eternal blue sky is one of the least densely populated places in the world, making it the perfect escape for peopled-out people from crowded cities. It’s possible to walk for days across grasslands and under star-filled skies and not see anyone except for the occasional herd of cattle or horses. However, we would recommend that you journey across national parks on the back of a horse, in a pack, just like Genghis Khan did when he conquered vast land from Turkey to Eastern China.
Stone Horse Expeditions and Travel offers guided horse riding experiences with nomadic family stays or camping trips that go up to 14 days, and also trips to the Gobi desert, the fourth largest desert in the world.
5. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photos: Paveway Explorer Holidays
There’s more than one reason to travel to Tanzania, but the wildlife alone is compelling enough. During the annual wildlife migration an estimated 1.5 million animals including wildebeest and zebras will travel 3,000 miles from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. You can imagine the sounds and sights surrounding you. This is the way to experience Africa at its most natural.
For a seamless safari experience, check out Paveway Explorer Holidays’ packages that start from eight days — it’ll be a truly unforgettable experience.
6. Isle of Skye, Scotland
Photos: Visit Scotland
The sight of rolling hills, and frothy waves crashing against treacherous cliffs are the things that a mention of rural Scotland evokes. If you love the creations of Mother Nature, make a trip to the Isle of Skye. From waterfalls at Fairy Pool (so called because local folklore has it that fairies guard the waters purported to have magical health-restoring properties) to the valleys of Quairag, the Isle of Skye has it all.
To warm your bones after exploring the coastline and being exposed to the blustery Scottish winds, down a smoky Talisker whisky, distilled locally.
7. Lapland, Finland
Photo: K. Chae, Visit Finland
Photo: Visit Finland
Visit the birthplace of Santa Claus to relive your childhood and maybe, to realise an adult dream of seeing the Northern lights. If you are from the tropics, you would find the snowscape from November to March to be astoundingly stark and beautiful. In this winter wonderland, reindeer and huskies are aplenty, making it a treat for animal lovers. Seeing the Aurelia Borealis during your trip would be the icing on the cake — if you should be lucky enough. If you are not, take heart in the fact that the Santa Village is open every day of the year.
8. Machu Picchu, Peru
Photo: Instagram/ peru
The 15th century Incan citadel may seem like a cliché on the bucket list but it’s still on the list of most people who have not been to Peru — and for very good reasons. It’s well preserved, and breathtakingly beautiful. The sight of the jagged green precipices of the Huayna Picchu framing the ancient settlement that greets visitors after a two- or four-day (depending on where you start walking) hike or train ride, is one to behold.
Once there, the air is thin – adding to the out-of-the-world feeling (and altitude sickness that some may experience) of being in a truly special place.
Photo: Aurora Expeditions
Photo: A Bakker and Aurora Expeditions
If getting out of your comfort zone and being in the midst of one of earth’s most pristine wilderness areas puts you on a high, put this no man’s land on your list now. Besides towering icebergs that rise out of the sea, you will also see colonies of penguins, fur and leopard seals, and whales – just to name a few. One of the leading operators for these life-changing trips is Aurora Expeditions, with rigorous safety standards on their vessels for the terrain and guided trips with marine biologists and other experts.
They have a wide range of packages for travellers of all kinds, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.