They’re bucket-list material – but better. These incredible trips go further, delve deeper and will inspire even the most seasoned traveller, giving a fresh outlook on some of the world’s quintessential journeys.
For lovers of nature: Go on safari1/19
On this safari smorgasbord, you can enjoy eight safaris rolled into one action packed 14-day tour across southern Africa? Somewhat inadequately titled Exploring South Africa, Victoria Falls & Botswana, Collette should probably have gone with Africa’s Greatest Hits. This is Big Five exploration at its best, with the itinerary serving up a bounty of 4WD trips across the vast marshlands of Pilanesberg National Park (pictured) and safari cruises along the Chobe River, in addition to daily “pinch me” moments.
Out here, lion, hippo and African penguin spotting are interspersed with bush dinners under a canopy of stars, sundowners overlooking Victoria Falls, comprehensive investigation of the pinotage-heavy vineyards of Cape Town’s Stellenbosch and Franschhoek and even being the the guest of honour at dinner in a Capetonian family’s home.
Kicking off in Johannesburg and ending in Cape Town, the tour has a capacity for up to 24 guests and includes all game lodge and hotel accommodation, 29 meals, land transport and on-tour flights. The journey can be enhanced further with a pre-tour stay in Johannesburg, a post-trip stay in Cape Town or additional adventures, including a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.
Image credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland
For history buffs: Explore the storied past of Far North Queensland2/19
An overland safari through former colonial settlements and ancient geographical formations, AAT Kings’ Gulf Savannah Wanderer provides a fresh outlook on a state that’s best known for tropical reefs and fun-in-the-sun holidays.
Heading due north from Cairns, you’ll enter the lush Atherton Tablelands where rainforest, wetlands and savannah form the habitat of wildlife such as tree kangaroos and wallabies. In Curtain Fig Tree National Park, wander the elevated boardwalk to see a 500 year-old strangler fig and visit Historic Village Herberton, an open-air museum of restored period buildings.
Transport on the safari is varied: it’s mainly on an air conditioned coach but there are also vintage trains – the 1960s-era Savannahlander conveys its passengers to Georgetown and the 1950 “Tin Hare” Gulflander travels from Normanton to Croydon or as locals quip, “from nowhere to nowhere”. Your legs can get a workout, too, with treks through soaring Cobbold Gorge and the remarkable Undara lava tubes, which were formed 190,000 years ago by 23 cubic kilometres of lava.
Discover what doomed explorers Burke and Wills encountered at Camp #119, the most northerly camp on their ill-advised 1860 expedition, then forge on to Mutton Hole Wetlands Regional Park where birdlife and crocs are easy to spot.
The sightseeing is punctuated with sunset cruises, pub dinners, campfire tale telling and stays in quaint cabins, repurposed rail carriages and comfortable motels.
Image credit: Connor Mollison
For the solo adventurer: Embrace a Highland fling3/19
A shrill, elongated whistle signifies the Edinburgh departure of the Royal Scotsman, Belmond’s legendary sleeper train, on its Scotland’s Classic Splendours tour. This four-night round trip through swathes of the wild Scottish Highlands, from greener-thangreen glens to snow-sprinkled peaks, is undertaken in high style.
Grand Suites include Dior spa treatments (yes, there’s an entire carriage dedicated to wellness), butler service and splendid décor in tartan and timber, while single cabins are cosy with mahogany marquetry, an ensuite and those stunning Highland views. Evenings are spent enjoying threecourse dinners prepared in the train’s kitchen with ingredients sourced from local suppliers and served in the wood-panelled dining carriages. All drinks – from a wine list numbering 30 bottles and spirits – are included.
As the time for Devonshire tea approaches, the train continues north, crossing the Forth Bridge and on through Arbroath and Aberdeen, with the rhythmic click clack a soundtrack to your thoughts.
You’re only as solitary as you want to be. Mingle with other guests at nightly ceilidhs (folk music gatherings), clink drams of whisky and relive encounters with local characters on off-train jaunts. Highlights include seeing wild seal colonies on a boat ride on Loch Carron; hiking with a Highland storyteller; visiting Scotland’s only single-estate distillery in the Speyside region; and clay-pigeon shooting in the Cairngorms National Park before making tracks for Dundee and a final-night gala dinner to celebrate new friendships.
For the slow traveller: Be immersed in art4/19
Viewing art in some of Europe’s most renowned galleries and museums on Renaissance Tours’ High Art in the Low Countries allows plenty of time for reflection. Led by architectural history specialist Thomas Abbott (and organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours), the 10 day expedition not only invites immersion in the world of the Old Masters, Impressionists and Surrealists, such as Rubens, Magritte, Rodin and Van Gogh, but allows you to delve into the Gothic and Baroque architecture of Bruges and Antwerp.
You’ll visit all the big names – The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Groeningemuseum, Kunstmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Rijksmuseum. Starting in Brussels and ending in Amsterdam (pictured), the itinerary’s highlights include walking tours of Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Amsterdam, plus visits to smaller museums and notable churches and cathedrals – St Nicholas’ Church in Ghent, a key example of Scheldt Gothic style, is a standout.
The tour, with a maximum group capacity of 24, includes accommodation in conveniently located four-star hotels with breakfast daily, transportation on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches, comprehensive sightseeing with local guides and entrance fees covered, lectures and talks with Abbott, several lunches and a farewell dinner.
For wine and culture connoisseurs: Experience Iberia's best by land and river5/19
River cruising is an entirely different prospect to voyages by sea – and navigating Portugal’s Rio Douro (River of Gold) aboard APT’s brand-new, custom-built MS Estrela on a 14-day Douro Delights with Lisbon and Madrid cruise is even more distinct. The Rio Douro, a beguiling chain of villages, family-run wineries and steeply terraced vineyards unfurling to the river’s edge, carves a centuries-old route plied by the first port traders to the Spanish border. The meandering begins in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where a welcome reception breaks the ice before a visit to Sintra’s landmark red-and-gold Pena Palace.
After three nights at luxury Four Seasons Hotel Ritz, wave adeus to the capital as you’re whisked away to vibrant, azulejo-tiled Porto to board the ship. The evening’s entertainment is a tour of Palácio da Bolsa and a haunting fado performance.
For the next seven nights, the 114 passengers will enjoy MS Estrela’s deluxe cabins (book a French Balcony suite for superb views from expansive windows), buffet breakfasts and locally sourced Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine at the on board restaurant and lounge. Spacious decks are made for sipping fortified port as vineyards slip by.
Awaken en route to Entre-os-Rios, where a family-owned quinta (winery) or tour of medieval town Guimarães is on the cards. The unhurried journey to Spain is punctuated with more wine tastings, village excursions, a visit to the fascinating Douro Museum, as well as the ornate Pinhão Railway Station with its blue-and white tiles depicting the production of port.
After a daytrip to Salamanca, it’s on to Madrid where the Prado Museum and Real Madrid Football Club’s home turf are among the attractions. You’ll have your last three nights at the elegant Pestana Plaza Mayor soak up the city.
For wildlife enthusiasts: Sail to an untouched paradise6/19
Make like a castaway – albeit a pampered one – on a South Pacific adventure with Abercrombie & Kent’s new South Pacific Cruise: Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands. Densely forested and mountainous, these island chains have sparse tourist facilities, meaning your place aboard the plush small ship Le Laperouse gives you access to parts of the world that few visitors experience. Its 92 stylish cabins and suites have balconies for watching islands glide by; at Blue Eye underwater lounge, there’s the unique prospect of cocktails with a submarine view. Even the sauna offers remarkable sea vistas.
Passengers board Le Laperouse in Cairns and sail north to Papua New Guinea. Coming ashore at Milne Bay, you’ll learn about the area’s history during World War II before the ship steers towards Fergusson Island, a heady combination of hot springs, rainforests, steaming geysers and exotic bird species.
Birdwatching is fruitful at Tufi, a town surrounded by uncharted reefs where dive sites yield sunken ships. The four Tami Islands enclose a lagoon where divers mingle with Spanish dancer jellyfish, blue sea stars and pelagic fish – snorkels will be put to good use. You’ll also set foot on UNESCOlisted East Rennell, the largest raised coral atoll on the planet and home to dozens of endemic species.
The local culture is just as engaging on Dobu Island, or you can visit a primary school on Kuiawa Island, appreciate intricate and rare tapa cloth in Tufi and browse the local markets in the Solomon Islands town of Gizo. Disembark in the Solomons’ capital city, Honiara, for a tour of historic military sites. A flight back to Cairns follows, where the night is spent in post-trip wonder at breezy Crystalbrook Riley.
For those going solo: Be at a cultural crossroads7/19
Solo travel and traditional Turkish hospitality have been a perfect match since international tourism in the country began in the 1960s. Globus is tapping into the warm and welcoming culture with an ambitious Turkish Escape tour, which promises to tick off many of Turkey’s drawcards (and 3000-plus years of Ottoman history) in eight days. Istanbul – complete with visits to the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque (pictured) and Topkapı Palace – is the ultimate springboard for the kolonya-soaked journey along the west coast. Pay your respects to fallen war heroes at Gallipoli, observe the ancient sites of Troy, Pergamon and Ephesus, visit the sundrenched shores of resort town Kușadasi, frolic in the thermal waters of Pamukkale and shop for ceramics in Iznik (all while travelling in a private air conditioned coach). If your remaining energy stores allow, you have the option of choosing additional experiences, such as a Bosphorus cruise or a Turkish dinner and folklore night.
The trip includes most breakfasts and dinners, a dedicated guide and First Class or Superior First Class accommodation. As is the case with most Globus journeys, there are a number of single rooms on this tour where the single supplement is waived, pending availability.
For gastronomes: Sample Sicily's sweet spots8/19
Food-lovers will be more than satisfied on The Sicilian, Globus’s 10-day trace of the island’s coastline, where everything from ragu-stuffed arancini, pistachio bejewelled cannoli and chunky-crust pizza – as well as a healthy serve of history – are on the menu. This southern Italy extravaganza explores Sicily’s unique food culture, forged over centuries of successive rulers, from the Greeks to the Byzantines, Arabs, Spanish and Normans.
On a scenic drive to Monreale by wi-fi-enabled coach, stop to admire the UNESCO-listed Arab-Norman architecture and lunch on cannelle (chickpea fritters) overlooking the Conca d’Oro valley’s citrus groves, before dipping paste di mandorla (almond biscuits) into sweet Marsala wine in the medieval hilltop town of Erice.
Wander Ragusa’s butter-hued Baroque streets and top up your energy levels at 150-year-old family-run chocolateria Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in nearby Modica. Zip across to Noto for a stroll past imposing churches and elaborate palazzi then head straight to one of the ubiquitous pasticceria for a slice of bitter orange and saffron cake to eat sitting beside the Fontana d’Ercole.
Granita, Sicily’s signature, semi-frozen confection, commonly comes in pistachio, jasmine, mandarin, coffee and lemon but almond’s distinctive flavour will forever evoke this trip. Opt for the popular breakfast of granita and brioche at Bar Vitelli, situated in an 18th-century palazzo in Savoca, recognisable to fans of The Godfather films. The trip’s final supper takes place in Taormina, where you’ll go to a trattoria for newfound favourites and local wine – and one last cannoli.
For those going solo: Explore history up close9/19
Satisfy your free spirit with an excursion to the land of the Pharaohs, where the mighty Nile thunders along riverbanks sprinkled with archaeological gems and restaurant staff refuse to understand the meaning of “I’m full.” Removing vulnerability from the equation is Trafalgar’s Women’s Only tours, with the nine day, seven-city Best of Egypt trip leading the charge.
Hosted by an all-female team of travel directors and with a group limit of 47, the Cairo-return tour comprises a luxury four-night Nile cruise, plus getting around Cairo and Giza in an air-conditioned coach, bookended by a wealth of experiences. See the highlights of Cairo and Luxor with an Egyptologist, discover the Great Pyramids of Giza, break bread with locals in their kitchens and set sail on a traditional felucca to Kitchener’s Island and to view the Temple of Isis in Aswan (pictured).
The tour includes hand-picked and trusted accommodation, all transport – including flights from Aswan to Cairo and from Cairo to Luxor – some meals, gratuities and local guides. Additional experiences, such as a Philae Temple Sound and Light Performance or a flight to Abu Simbel, site of the Temple of Ramses II, may be purchased. Solo travellers are assigned rooms with other lone guests but single rooms are available with the payment of a supplement.
For lovers of nature: Head out west10/19
Australia’s own backyard isn’t exactly wanting for postcard vistas and curious wildlife. Western Australia’s South West region alone is home to 24 national parks, long stretches of secluded beaches, world-class vineyards and a Mediterranean climate. Outback Spirit’s Gems of the South West tour harnesses the area’s natural biodiversity, wildlife, history, food and wine in an eight-day celebration of Mother Nature.
An air-conditioned 4WD Mercedes-Benz coach will ferry the group of up to 26 people from Perth (and return) to explore the region’s highlights, which include viewing the changing colours where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet at Cape Leeuwin, feasting on local produce at Margaret River and taking a harbour cruise on Mandjar Bay. You can even attempt to climb the famous Gloucester Tree in Pemberton (once the second-highest fire lookout tree in the world) for views of the surrounding karri forest and respectfully tip your hat at the quokkas of Rottnest Island, where you’ll also find the Wadjemup Lighthouse (pictured).
Seven nights of hotel and resort accommodation are included in the trip, as are all meals and beverages – from a morning flat white to a post-meal gin – attractions, entry fees and cruises, a tour driver and guide.
For intrepid families: Set off on a home-grown safari11/19
It’s easy to forget how vast and varied this continent is and even harder for kids to grasp. On the 13-day allinclusive Arnhem Land Wilderness Adventure with Outback Spirit Tours, things will become a little clearer.
Staying at Outback Spirit-owned properties, you’ll track a remote route through this spectacular region. Fly to Nhulunbuy where the Yolŋu, Traditional Owners of the Gove Peninsula, welcome visitors to Country before you continue into Arnhem Land. In Murwangi, threecourse dinners conclude days chasing herds of buffalo and marvelling at waterbirds at Arafura Swamp, while deluxe safari tents await. You might spot Kakadu dunnarts, black wallaroos, tiny golden bandicoots, wild brumbies and Indonesian bantengs.
In addition to the fauna-focused excursions, travellers will glimpse First Nations rock art with subjects ranging from extinct thylacines to European tall ships; fish for barra in the Liverpool and Tomkinson rivers; sip sundowners as crocs lurk beneath palm fronds in Cooper Creek wetlands; and explore Victoria Settlement, abandoned in 1849 Outback Spirit saves the best for last with Seven Spirit Bay wilderness lodge, set in the marine sanctuary of Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, where spacious Habitat villas are nestled within tropical forest. The kids will beg to stay longer.
For the thrillseekers: Hit the snow12/19
If you’ve got a winter Olympian within who’s just begging to be unleashed, Abercrombie & Kent sets the scene with its 11-day Finland & Sweden: Adventure Across Lapland – a Small Group Journey. With the wilderness of Lapland, plus the cosmopolitan cities of Helsinki and Stockholm, as your base (the adventure begins in the former and ends in the latter), this tour isn’t so much a holiday as a chance to snowmobile, snowshoe and mush like a master sledder around the Arctic.
Opportunities abound to drop tools and learn the ways of the Sami people on a visit to a reindeer farm, take an exhilarating dog-sledding safari (pictured) in the Arctic Circle and search for the Northern Lights. The accommodation is equally thrilling – glass-domed Aurora cabins and a hotel built over an Arctic river among them – and the trip features a wealth of inclusions. Expect internal flights, local guides, private transfers, a travelling bellboy to handle the luggage, a valet laundry service, as well as full breakfast daily and select lunches and dinners (including a feast in a snow castle), with a resident tour director on hand to provide options for restaurants outside of the schedule. Maximum guest capacity is 18 but private trips with customised itineraries can also be arranged.
Image credit: Espen Mills
For surprise-seekers: Take the journey of a lifetime13/19
A snow-covered Yuletide is guaranteed on Intrepid’s epic Best of Antarctica: A White Christmas voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula, a landscape of snow-capped mountains, colossal icebergs and lofty glaciers. While prawns are being barbecued in Australia’s summer heat, the Antarctic blooms with life – penguin chicks hatch, seals luxuriate on ice floes and minke whales surface.
Sail from the world’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, Argentina, aboard the Ocean Endeavour, a polar expedition ship that sleeps a maximum of 200 passengers in comfortable cabins, with on-board guides, including a naturalist, ornithologist, marine biologist, historian, photographer and geologist.
Crossing the Drake Passage, you’ll have orcas and wandering albatrosses for company. To keep you busy on the two-day voyage, the ship’s resident experts provide a comprehensive lecture program and amenities include yoga classes, a gym, library, a very welcome sauna, day spa and the Polaris restaurant and bar where hearty breakfast and lunch buffets and à la carte dinners are served. Plus, there’s the daily cocktail hour and hot drinks with just-baked pastries and biscuits each afternoon.
When you arrive at the Antarctic Sound, you’ll head into the remarkable environment on twice-daily Zodiac expeditions – see penguin rookeries, go overnight ice-camping and undertake snow-shoe exploits. Join the photography program and capture gentoo penguins tobogganing across the ice or leopard seals smiling for posterity. On Christmas Day, you’ll wake to a winter wonderland; between excursions, a delicious festive lunch will be served. There’s no washing up – only the gift of a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a place like nowhere else.
Image credit: Steve Strike/Tourism Northern Territory
For intrepid types: Take an epic journey across West and Central Australia14/19
Ready to tick off three bucket-list experiences in one fell swoop? Journey Beyond’s The Ultimate West by Land and Sea takes travellers across rugged, remote landscapes in style on two of Australia’s most renowned rail journeys and an island-hopping cruise. Depart Sydney aboard the Indian Pacific bound for Perth, a spectacular three-night journey with off-rail adventures in Broken Hill, NSW, Adelaide and Rawlinna Station sheep farm in Western Australia, where you’ll feast under the stars.
A night at the grand Westin Perth precedes your departure from Fremantle Port, where Silver Cloud awaits. For 17 glorious nights you’ll call one of just 127 suites home on board this intimate cruise ship that features four exceptional restaurants, a cognac and cigar lounge, gym and spa.
The voyage tracks up the Western Australian coastline where islands are sprinkled like crumbs, tempting you to explore them. Stand-outs include the Abrolhos Islands, called the “Galápagos of the Indian Ocean”; the Muiron Islands, a bonanza of marine diversity where whale sharks feed, dugongs hoover the sea floor and damselfish flit about; and the Lacepede Islands, a bird-lover’s paradise touted as one of the world’s largest brown booby breeding colonies.
Spray from the Horizontal Falls provides welcome relief from the heat, as does a swim in the Silver Cloud pool. Take a scenic chopper flight over the Kimberley or look for crocodiles along the Ord River, before the ship swings off on a tangent to Matakus Island in Indonesia, a picturesque atoll where twitchers can see fawn breasted thrush and blue-streaked lorries.
Guests take leave of Silver Cloud for three nights at the Hilton Darwin before settling into cabins aboard The Ghan. During this iconic three-night trip, you’ll make stops to see Nitmiluk Gorge, explore Alice Springs and head underground in Coober Pedy, before the train pulls up in Adelaide, triumphant and covered in red dust.
For the slow traveller: Relax into island time15/19
Blame its remote Southern Ocean location, vast population of native wildlife or perhaps the fact that the locals would probably like to keep their island off the map but life moves at a relaxed pace on Kangaroo Island. It’s exactly what those who book AAT Kings’ five-day Remarkable Adelaide to Kangaroo Island trip might be hoping for, with each ecological and gourmet moment giving pause to appreciate the little things.
Beginning with a city sights tour of Adelaide and travelling by air-conditioned coach, your wilderness, wildlife and wonderful dining experiences are served in equal measure. Highlights include a visit to the 500-million-year-old Remarkable Rocks (pictured) and Admirals Arch where families of New Zealand fur seals sunbathe. Then there are the drop-ins on some of the island’s most innovative purveyors, enabling you to down liquid gold at Kangaroo Island Brewery, sample the fragrant scones at Emu Bay Lavender Farm and come to know well the Islander Estate Vineyards’ flagship wine, The Investigator.
Centrally located accommodation, a travel director and driver, local specialists and some meals (four breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners) are included with the tour. The maximum group size is 30 guests.
For families: Discover South-East Asia16/19
On paper, “taking the kids to Vietnam” may not read like an ideal family holiday – given all the traffic, chaos and potential “I’m not eating that” moments. But G Adventures’ popular Vietnam Family Adventure quietly dispenses with any concerns, its time-honoured Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City tour packing as many of the country’s best destinations into 12 days as humanly possible, while taking away the hassles – and tiny finger pointing – of the logistics.
Designed to appeal to younger travellers as well as adults, the highlights list reads like an adventure novella: a cyclo (three-wheel bicycle taxi) tour through Hanoi’s Old Quarter; a Ha Long Bay cruise (pictured) and cave visit; a noodle-making demonstration in Hoi An; a Mekong homestay; and an opportunity to wander the Imperial Citadel in Hue. The variety in accommodation will also keep the kids happy – hotel rooms are interspersed with sleeper trains and overnight junk boats. The average group size for the company’s family journeys is 10 guests and this tour includes all the accommodation, transportation, including boat trips and a flight from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City, a chief experience officer and local guides throughout, many attractions and some meals. The minimum age requirement is six years old.
For the thrillseekers: Hike the Top End17/19
Strap on your sturdiest boots and summon your resilience. World Expeditions’ Litchfield Tabletop Trek isn’t what you’d call a leisurely stroll – it’s a five-day, long distance, guided bushwalk that harnesses the isolation of the Top End and delivers a conga-line of stunning vistas.
Timed to make the most of the tropical weather in cooler months, it’s a daypack only adventure as you follow the palm-lined creeks, open woodland and lush rainforests of Litchfield National Park, those boots coming off for regular refreshing dips in an abundance of freshwater springs and creeks along the trail and a frolic at Florence (pictured) and Wangi falls. Sleep under the stars at the comfortable base camp, where the tents come complete with stretcher beds, mats and linen, and relax in the knowledge that all the meals are included, as is transport from Darwin, national park and camping charges and local guides.
The trek is graded introductory to moderate so it will suit most abilities. Those keen to continue hiking can combine this trip with World Expeditions’ Jatbula Trail or Kakadu Explorer trek for a complete Top End wilderness encounter.
For families: Roam Central America18/19
Fiji and Bali will always have their place as much-loved family holiday destinations but there’s no better way to broaden your kids’ horizons than by trying something new – such as visiting vibrant and untamed Costa Rica. Intrepid Travel’s Costa Rica Family Holiday has been a top choice with parents for eight years and the 10-day return-San Jose tour – by way of Santa Rosa de Pocosol, Arenal, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio National Park – delivers an experience far removed from the standard break.
It’s picking produce and making dinner with a local family during an agricultural homestay; trekking to the Peninsula section of the national park, near Lake Arenal; and a canopy walk across the suspended bridges of Monteverde to spot the incredible birds, sloths and toucans (pictured). The trip winds down at Manuel Antonio National Park, an evergreen forest that stretches into pristine white beaches, where you can hike at dusk to see the area’s nocturnal creatures begin to stir.
The tour rolls up accommodation, eight breakfasts, plus a lunch and a dinner, on the-ground transport and a host of activities into one neat package. The minimum age for participants Discover South-East Asia is five years old.
Image credit: waterloo inn