18 of the best countries to visit in 2018


Travel and tourism is one industry that has continued to thrive in recent years, consistently out-performing the global economy, and 2018 looks to be no exception. We spoke to a number of experts in the industry to find out their opinions on the countries to visit in the year ahead. And so here are 18 of the best countries to visit in 2018. Happy New Year, everyone!

Belize, as suggested by Roger Hyde, CEO of Dulabab Travel

The tiny country of Belize has one foot in Central America and the other in the Caribbean, is an English speaking democracy and is a vital component of both the Mesoamerican Reef System and the Maya Forest; widely recognised as the largest intact block of tropical broadleaf forest in Central America. These 2 extraordinary reef and rainforest environments located in such a small geographical area offer unique adventure and exploration opportunities.

Starting offshore enjoying the simple luxury of Caribbean island life while based in a luxury villa, the pace is relaxed, the cayes and atolls providing a picture perfect backdrop for exploring the mesmerising underwater world aboard a private dive boat. Day and night diving along the barrier reef, canyons, walls and marine sink holes of this unique ecosystem will inspire as brightly coloured hard and soft corals are encountered along with schools of iridescent reef and pelagic predators.

Internationally renowned NGO scientists are on hand to offer unique insight and access while revealing the secrets of this enthralling sub-aqua world, while also offering the chance to take part in an internationally significant marine mega-fauna survey, and observe the endangered West Indian Manatee in remote lagoons. Leaving the reef behind, the journey heads west into the Maya Mountain Massif, the wild and rugged heart of Belize. The private helicopter flight will fly low over the iridescent patch reefs before reaching the coast and rapidly rising over Victoria Peak and the Maya Mountain Divide. Landing deep in the jungle, the quest begins with an exploration of the magnificent Maya site at Caracol, one of the region’s most important and impressive Maya sites. Discovering the Maya Mountain Massif is best done with a combination of 4×4 and horse back accompanied by rangers from a partner NGO, who co-manage the Chiquibul Forest while staying in a world-class lodge. The final immersive experience takes guests to a remote river for an unforgettable rainforest adventure. Inflatable kayaks and uniquely comfortable expedition camps allow guests to explore this unique habitat to the full. With luck and a keen eye, a wide range of wildlife including the endangered Baird’s tapir and Scarlet macaw.

With significant increases in both land and cruise ship tourism in 2017, as well as more direct flights from North America, visitor numbers are set to continue increasing. For such a small and unique country, with distinct local pressures impacting both the pristine marine and interior environments, we urge those who have the means and desire to travel there to do so in 2018. For an experience of genuine adventure, combined with the ability to explore and discover areas few people have ever visited, let alone enjoyed in such unique ways, Belize is a truly unique and special destination.

Bhutan as suggested by Matt Holmes, President of Boundless Journeys

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan is tucked in the Himalayas and probably isn’t on the radar for most luxury travelers, which is exactly why it should be. Bhutan is often described as Tibet before the Chinese invasion and Nepal without the budget backpackers. It is a country where spirituality is almost tangible, and Buddhist philosophy infuses all parts of culture and even government policy.

What makes Bhutan so appealing to luxury travelers? A number of 5-star properties have opened their doors across Bhutan in recent years including Uma, Aman, Taj, and Le Meridien. With their luxurious spas, impeccable service, and stunning design that fuses traditional Bhutanese architecture with a modern, elegant twist, these accommodations are oases after a day of activities. Moreover, Bhutan requires that travelers be accompanied by a guide and driver each day, and that policy has helped produce incredibly well-trained guides who speak superb English and have a boundless enthusiasm for introducing guests to their country.

A private, local Bhutanese guide is imperative to delving deep into Bhutan’s culture and history, and while they always showcase the most famous sites, they also know about the lesser-known, but equally-impressive places. So, what is there to see and do? Bhutan’s massive fortresses, called dzongs, and plethora of temples are intricately-decorated inside and out. The most famous is the cliff-side Tiger’s Nest temple complex—only accessible on foot, with stunning views of the Paro Valley and the Himalayan foothills. It’s an invigorating hike with a tremendous reward.

For the more adventurous traveler, there are opportunities to mountain bike, raft, learn archery (the national sport), and hike into rhododendron forests and up to high passes. Travelers interested in more cultural experiences can opt for a meditation session, a Buddhist astrology reading, attending a vibrant festival, or having tea with young Buddhist monks eager to practice their English.

The uniqueness of the country stems partially from its happiness index—Gross National Happiness—to measure its success. This encourages the government and royal family to develop the country in a way that benefits its citizens by preserving the culture and environment. Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country, producing more energy than it uses, and it has vowed to keep 60% of the country forested at all times. In addition, traditional architecture and the national dress are ubiquitous, making visitors feel they have traveled to a place little-touched by the outside world.

Thanks to Prince William and Kate’s visit in 2016, and several articles in the last year featuring Bhutan as a rising destination, tourism has been increasing. The country is on the cusp of exploding onto the tourism scene, making 2018 the year to go before that happens. Right now, luxury travelers will have exclusive experiences with few other travelers, and be able to witness a culture and country seemingly preserved in time.

Botswana, as suggested by Sara White, Marketing Director of Real Africa

Botswana is synonymous with great wildlife spectacles and swathes of pristine wilderness – it offers exclusive camps, romantic vistas and exceptional levels of guiding and hospitality. For a high quality, low density safari experience, Botswana undeniably excels.

But Botswana’s qualities run more than skin deep. The country stands out for its consistent commitment to conservation. Over 38% of Botswana’s land is now protected making it a clear leader in eco-tourism. Given the space and safety, rare species thrive here, from critically endangered black rhino, wild dog and black maned Kalahari lion to lechwe, puku, sitatunga, pangolin and aardvark.

The ambitious rhino relocation to the Okavango Delta is just one compelling reason to travel to Botswana in 2018. The Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern edge of the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta and the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site, is now a place that guests can see all the Big Five once again thanks to the efforts of Botswana’s government and to conservation charity Rhino Conservation Botswana. RCB’s newly appointed Royal Patron HRH Prince Harry, who is passionate about protecting iconic species, knows only too well how special this country is, spending as much time as he can there.

It’s a real privilege to be able to observe black rhino in the wild with only around 5,000 remaining in Africa. Guests can add a new dimension to their travels by enjoying a behind-the-scenes conservation experience – at certain camps it is possible to meet with rhino monitoring teams to learn more about the rhino’s return to the Okavango.

A fantastic diversity of activities from 4×4 game drives, by day and night, to walking and horseback safaris and boat excursions help guests get under the skin of Botswana. Float serenely by mokoro down the Delta’s maze of papyrus edged channels, safari in Chobe National Park, dubbed ‘Land of Giants’ where more than 120,000 elephants roam, canoe the remote Selinda Spillway, fly camping on deserted islands as you go, walk with San Bushmen in the desolate Kalahari, the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa,marvel at magical starry southern skies, visit the mysterious Savute region or witness the zebra migrations from the Chobe River and the border with Namibia to Nxai and Makgadikgadi pans, the longest-known terrestrial wildlife migration in Africa.

Brazil, as suggested by Simon Williams, Managing Director at Bespoke Latin America

In 2018 Brazil is back. After a difficult 2016 and 2017 with the positive and negative impact of the Olympics, the Zika scare stories, economic downturn and government turmoil, Brazil is finally on the up again with a number of new luxury hotels poised to open.

It was announced recently that the Six Senses group would be starting work on their first southern America project up in Baia Formosa, near Natal. Another newcomer to will be the Anantara group which will be the first Asian hotel flag to come to Brazil when it opens a flagship hideaway, Anantara Maraú Bahia Resort, in July. The property will boast a beach setting next to the Bay of Camamu on the Maraú Peninsula in Bahia, along a stunning stretch of Atlantic coastline.

The Hotel Fasano will finally open on 25th January 2018 after a number of delays but is an exciting new addition to the Brazilian luxury hotel scene. It’s the fourth Fasano property to open in Brazil and is bound to have the same high standards of the Fasano family’s three other properties in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Boa Vista. There is also a Fasano in Punta del Este in Uruguay. The Fasano group should also open properties in Salvador and Belo Horizonte within the next few months, two cities which are in need of luxury boutique properties and will offer an exciting edge. Salvador is Brazil’s best preserved colonial city, steeped in history and with a huge African population creating a diverse mix of religions, culture and music. Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third largest city, has limited luxury options at present so the new Fasano will be great for people looking to visit the stunning Inhotim Contemporary Art Museum, the largest outdoor art installation in the world or the colonial towns of Minas Gerais.

Aside from the new hotel openings, Brazil still has amazing sights for first time visitors. These include the most beautiful city in the world in Rio de Janeiro; the most impressive waterfalls at Iguassu; plus a wildlife lovers paradise with the best place on the planet to see jaguars in the Pantanal. For nature enthusiasts, the Amazon with its mighty river and rainforest is a must. For those looking for more active pursuits then exploring the national parks of the Chapada Diamantina or the Chapada dos Veadeiros should be on your list for wonderful treks and remote waterfalls while Bonito is an adventure capital. The north of the country is famed for its world calls kitesurfing and windsurfing while endless beaches provide the perfect chance for relaxation. It’s a great destination for honeymooners, couples and families and waiting to be explored.

Canada, as suggested by Paul Johnson, Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog

Canada was on pretty much all the must-visit lists of 2017 and with good reason; the year marked 150 years since Confederation and highlights included free admission to national parks across the country. But just because those celebrations are coming to an end doesn’t mean to say that Canada shouldn’t still be on your list of places to visit in 2018. There’s still a great deal of interest for visitors from around the world. Indeed, the Conference Board of Canada expects international tourist visits to be up 6.2% in 2018.

2018 is being billed as the Canada-China Year of Tourism – it’s said that more than 1.8 million Canadians have some Chinese ancestry, and Mandarin and Cantonese are the most spoken languages in Canada after English and French, so it’s likely that there will be significant growth in the number of visits from Chinese tourists. But wherever in the world you happen to hail from, there are plenty of events to interest you.

The year will kick off with one of the world’s largest winter carnivals in beautiful Québec City including snow bath, ice canoe race, night parades, snow slides, snow sculptures, shows and skating. A unique Canadian winter experience for all ages!

The Canadian Tulip Festival in May is Canada’s most colourful festival with over a million tulips in bloom across the capital as well as an artistic interpretation of the tulips by all levels of the artistic community. Inspired by the Dutch gift of tulips to Canadians in 1945, this festival is a celebration of friendship and international friendship.

In July, the annual Calgary Stampede is a ten-day long celebration with midway rides and bucking broncos that hosts, educates and entertains visitors from around the world. Also in July, and running into August, the Celebration of Light, Vancouver’s two-week midsummer fireworks bonanza, attracts more than 1.6 million spectators when the sparkles hit the skies.

In Winnipeg, the largest and longest-running multi-cultural festival in the world, the Folklorama Festival presents over 44 cultural pavilions where guests can sample ethnic food, meet traditionally costumed volunteers, enjoy lively cultural entertainment, interactive fun and learn about cultures and countries from around the world.

Towards the end of the year, don’t miss the Canadian Western Agribition – the best beef show on the continent and the largest livestock show in Canada. The show is a blend of agriculture, Indigenous culture, and festive entertainment, featuring live music, shopping, and food.

Faroe Islands, as suggested by Alex Malcolm, Founder and MD at Jacada Travel

With tourist numbers in Iceland up 34.9% already in 2017, the trend to travel north is on the rise: on the whole, the entirety of the polar regions are becoming more and more popular. Not far from Iceland sits the self-governing archipelago of the Faroe Islands. There are many reasons to visit the Faroe Islands in 2018, but chief among them is that only 50,000 tourists visit a year (for now), so it is noticeably quieter than Iceland, while still being extremely welcoming to tourists.

Iceland’s lesser-known cousin has stunning green scenery, a notable lack of crime, easy access (it’s a quick flight from Copenhagen, Reykjavik or Edinburgh), extreme remoteness, and amazing nature. It’s home to the oldest parliament in the world, as well as the smallest capital city. Plus, in 2017, the island won its first Michelin Star (the restaurant KOKS, based in Torshavn). Tourists can expect epic landscapes, fantastic birding, and beautiful little villages.

From Torshavn, nothing is more than a couple of hours’ drive away, so you can easily explore everything in the area in a few days. You can spend one day meandering through Torshavn absorbing the well-preserved local culture and the next you can be hiking atop a beautiful mountain. (We love Slættaratindur, the islands’ highest mountain at 882 meters. If you’re lucky enough, from the top you can see the whole country and you may even be able to see parts of Iceland at over 550m away – the longest view on record!) The islands also have the highest promontory in the world. It’s really a place of superlatives.

2018 is a great year to visit the Faroe Islands because it’s still a relatively undiscovered region. Our favourite hotel there, Hotel Foroyar, will have a new annex opening in 2018, allowing for even more visitors to pass through its enchanting doors. Iceland saw a meteoric rise in popularity a few years ago, and we have no doubt the Faroe Islands will follow, so it’s definitely worth a trip there now. At Jacada Travel, within a month of officially launching it, we sold our first trip there. So many people are looking to go off the beaten path a bit next year, and the islands offer the perfect opportunity to do so.

France, as suggested by Sally Guillaume, Owner and Director of Undiscovered Mountains

For Brits, visiting Europe before Brexit is a bucket list must and the historical Franco-Britannic love affair pushes France to the top of that list. But that’s not the only reason why France should be on your ‘to visit’ list for 2018! With a variety of landscapes second to none, the longest coastline in Europe, two of the highest mountain ranges on the continent, thriving cosmopolitan cities, tranquil rural villages and one of the most acclaimed gastronomies in the world, France offers countless holiday opportunities, and something for everyone.

With the newly elected Emmanual Macron promising to reform France and positioning himself as a key European figure, France will also be a happening place to visit in 2018. Tourism is one of France’s key industries and the new government is investing in digital advances for tourism and focusing on quality of welcome and of course security so tourists can be reassured this coming year.

Paris itself “is always a good idea”, Audrey Hepburn once said. Traditionally known as the most romantic destination in the world, it draws excitement and curiosity on all continents. Other sites such as the Mont St Michel, the Renaissance Châteaux along the Loire River or the Lourdes basilica attract millions of tourists every year. History, culture and the many beautifully maintained monuments are a big pull factor for France. Then there are the countless culinary specialities and two of the most renowned wine regions in the world, Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Outdoor lovers adore the French Alps with Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc and the many world famous ski resorts. The range and diversity of outdoor activities for sport enthusiasts in both summer and winter make the Alps one of the top outdoor playgrounds in the world. Surfers and beach lovers flock to the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts every year in search of summer sun, which brings me to the French weather.

France’s climate, one that allows four well-marked seasons and the much sought after heat but not at the baking levels of southern Spain or Italy, is a big plus. This perfect weather is a good enough reason for millions of Germans, Brits, Dutch and other Northerners to come and soak up the sun they rarely see back home. No coincidence that the Germans still use the expression “wie Gott in Frankreich leben” (to live like God in France) to describe the ultimate state of happiness…

The Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region (aka “PACA”) is one of the areas that best sums up all the potential of attraction of the country as a whole. Located in the south-eastern corner of France, it ticks all boxes when it comes to landscape variety and perfect climate. As its name indicates, it includes the southern part of the awe-inspiring Alps, the beautiful Provence and its iconic lavender fields, and the glamorous Riviera and its famous chic seaside towns like Cannes or Saint Tropez. Benefiting a mild Mediterranean climate, it officially boasts an average of 300+ days of sunshine a year.

If you’re looking for a perfect compromise between great weather, a strong French culture, spectacular landscapes and delicious cuisine, the true hidden gem of PACA is probably its least touristic corner, the Hautes-Alpes department. Offering both a Provence feel in its southern parts and a real alpine experience in the Ecrins National Park, the Hautes-Alpes is a small paradise where you’ll find an authentic way-of-life, a preserved countryside, one of the purest airs in the country, and a countless number of activities, from bathing in the largest dammed lake in Europe (Serre-Ponçon) to climbing the 4102 meters of the Barre des Ecrins to skiing in one of the many resorts.

Greenland, as suggested by Jonny Nicol, Founder & CEO of Stratajet

An old travellers’ saying goes, ‘When you’ve seen the world, there’s always Greenland,’ and it’s true that the island remains one of the few largely unexplored territories on Planet Earth.

2018 marks the ten year anniversary of a referendum that gave Greenland autonomy over many of its national services in a step towards independence and this adds to the country’s rich history, of which its Inuit people are fiercely proud. 1,000 year-old remains of Viking settlements are well preserved in the south of the island, while a culture of music and theatre is rooted in ancient myths and sagas.

Few places boast such dramatic scenery and such raw natural beauty. Coupled with its remoteness (the majority of the island sitting deep within the Arctic Circle) and its vast expanses of open wilderness (Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world), Greenland is the perfect destination for escaping the stresses and strains of our increasingly hectic lifestyles.

But don’t be fooled by the remoteness because you’d find it hard to get bored in this most magnificent of places. Whether listening to the daunting rumble of some of the world’s most impressive glaciers or taking a boat trip through giant icebergs, some of which loom over 100m out of the water, you can’t help but be enraptured by all that is around you. The clarity and freshness of the air, too, leave you feeling invigorated beyond any sensation that polluted city life can provide.

Amongst its scattered settlements is Ilulissat, a remote coastal town in the Qaasuitsup municipality of western Greenland. Although it’s the country’s third largest city, its population of less than 5,000 makes it a peaceful haven, ideal for removing the stresses and strains of London business life. Houses in all colours of the spectrum are strewn amongst cafes, restaurants and live music venues, perfect for enjoying the local tipples, sampling the local cuisine and generally filling the evening hours in between excursions!

The nearby Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the summer, operators run midnight boat tours and you can watch nature unfold in front of you as monstrous giant white icebergs come off the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. This is the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere, moving at 25m per day, which results in around 20 billion tonnes of icebergs being calved off and passing out of the fjord every year. But despite the awesome power of this astonishing feature, you can’t help but be captured by the serenity of the place.

Visiting in mid-summer will give you endless sunlight and until you have sipped G&T watching a sunset that immediately turns into a sunrise, frankly, you haven’t lived! As life becomes more and more hectic, Greenland is a must for removing that chaos in 2018.

India, as suggested by James Jayasundera, Founder & Managing Director at Ampersand Travel

In one word, India is ‘diversity’. Glamorous and beguiling, splendid and romantic, energetic and colourful, the entire country is awash with experiences for both the daring and the cautious traveller. From the soaring snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas to the sleepy rhythmic backwaters of Kerala, it can almost be described as a collection of countries due to its vast size and dazzling array of languages, cuisines and religions. With new hotels, new experiences and new flight routes, luxury travel in India is getting better year on year, but I think 2018 will be the best yet.

The astounding ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi, once notoriously difficult to get to, now have direct flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore thanks to the Indian Government who have embarked on a Regional Connectivity Scheme, aimed to make air travel widespread, connecting remote and far flung places with major cities. I am very excited about this development, it will be a complete game-changer for the region; fascinating cultural itineraries can now easily incorporate this utterly mesmerising archaeological site. Evolve Back’s newest addition, Kamalapura Palace, was the first luxury hotel in the area (opened in 2016) and a must stay. The Ultimate Travelling Camp have also just opened Kishkinda Camp in the area, which adds to their iconic and exclusive camp portfolio.

Rajasthan, the Land of Kings, has had a thrilling revamp in 2017 with the openings of the exclusive Alila Fort Bishangarh, an impressive warrior fort turned heritage hotel, and the boutique and incredibly charming Narendra Bhawan in offbeat Bikaner. Six Senses also are due to launch their first ever Indian resort, with the opening of Six Senses Fort Barwara; a 700-year-old fort in the village of Chauth ka Barwara 110 kilometres southeast of Jaipur – it is certainly one to watch! The far flung and remote Andaman Islands will also be put on the map for those searching for the ultimate luxury in an untouched paradise, with a guaranteed burst of sunshine. The new home to the sexiest hotel in the area: Taj Hotels are opening Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Andamans this December. I am thrilled that Taj Andamans will be opening on Havelock Island in the best location on the island – Radhnaghar Beach is often cited as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. A trusted brand such as Taj opening, on what is really virgin territory, will be a game-changer and add a new dynamic to tailor-made itineraries in South India. One will be able to combine this pristine beach destination with the ancient culture and elaborately carved stone temple complexes of Tamil Nadu, or with the former French colony of Pondicherry with its own distinctive style of architecture.

Italy, as suggested by Victoria Boomgarden, President at Direct Travel Luxe

Italy is again reigning above all in the luxury travel market for 2018. Travelers are tending to visit the lesser known regions now more than ever. Everyone has already visited the main cities and now want to take a deeper dive into other regions such as Puglia and Umbria. They are looking for a richer and deeper experience and these destinations will give them just that.

For instance, those who have experienced the magic of the Tuscany region and have already seen the changing landscapes of their summer’s end may want to visit the Barolo region of Piedmont for a more unique and authentic experience. By experiencing a more dramatic landscape with steeper hills and deeper ravines, travelers will understand why even the wines of this region are more exclusive in this particular province. Wherever you venture in the Barolo region, you’ll find Italian perfection. The villages, with their seemingly impossible to navigate little streets, are, transcendent. They are immaculately neat, rivaling the Swiss obsession with cleanliness. It seems that nearly every little nook and cranny is home to a café, a wine bar, or an enoteca (a wine shop featuring local wines).

Their food is noted as Slow Food which isn’t just a buzz word here. The local culture has lived this lifestyle for generations, generally gathering their local produce and meats from no more than 20 miles away. The regional cheeses, meats and wines form the foundation of the local food pyramid. With their heavy emphasis on organic foods raised to exacting standards, one surprise was the frequent appearance of raw beef on the menu.

The credo of Slow Food perhaps took root most strongly in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Or, perhaps, it has always just been that way. In the rough-hewn hills formed by the upheaval of the Cambrian seabed formed many millennia past, the people adhere to cultural and epicurean traditions seemingly as old as the fossil-filled sea beds that now comprise the region’s innumerable vineyards. If you find yourself drinking a Barolo, a Barbaresco, or a Roero wine, you will discover these deep ties… in the terroir that appears in the taste profile and in the rich tradition of winemaking developed over centuries.

Japan, as suggested by Hugh Graham-Watson at The Hotel Guru

In 2016 more than 20 million people visited Japan; due in part to an increase in flights from Australia and in part, no doubt, to the fact that Japan is an amazing county to visit. In 2019 Japan is set to host the Rugby World Cup, and in 2020 Tokyo will host the Olympics. Which means visitor numbers are only going to increase. But there’s still a window ahead of the curve of people who will notice this incredible country in the background of these events and realise it should have topped their travel bucket list years ago. And that window is 2018.

Japan is both wonderfully old and wonderfully new. Historic traditions, like the magical cherry blossom viewing season, are still vibrant, yet Tokyo is one of the most future-technology absorbing places on the planet. You can still be treated to the timelessness of a classical tea ceremony, but outside on the streets you’re never more than a few hundred metres from some sort of vending machine or other, where you can buy anything from hot noodles to lego, to socks, ties or even fresh eggs instantaneously. As if time is reserved solely for activities which make life richer and more beautiful. And both old and new exist side by side: immaculately manicured gardens somehow retain their tranquillity and raked Zen gravel between busy intersections, and thousands of lively old wooden temples are sandwiched between super-modern skyscrapers.

Among Japan’s highlights are Tokyo’s vibrant fish market, its robot restaurants and the bustle of Ginza, the shopping district, and Kyoto’s ancient Gion district, which is like a living museum to an ancient way of life, and its 1,800 or so Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. And you can zip comfortably between these destinations – and Mt. Fuji, and Hiroshima, and many more places of interest – on a calm and comfortable Shinkansen or bullet train, complete with reliable internet connection, reliable timetable and Japan’s constantly present politeness and respect for others. Japan’s culture really does seem to be all about making the details of your life as pleasurable as possible: food is arranged in an eye-pleasing fashion, toilets are clean, queues orderly and, if you take the time to learn a small amount of Japanese vocabulary people seem so pleased that it’s an easy place to make friends.

If it’s the perceived cost of visiting Japan that’s a downer, don’t let it be; it’s not really been that way since the 90s when the Japanese economy crashed. But it’s certainly not going to be any cheaper once viewers worldwide are as beguiled by this country’s incredible variations as they’re bound to be.

Malawi, as suggested by Tom Marchant, Co-Founder at Black Tomato

While countries like Kenya and Mozambique have long been bucket-list destinations, there’s one African nation that’s so immensely rich in wild experiences yet remains off-the-radar for most —
introducing Malawi. Dubbed ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’, this small country has already captured our hearts with its astonishingly diverse and pristine landscapes.

Relatively unknown and untouched by tourism, Malawi offers safari-lovers spectacular game-viewing in its abundance of wildlife-rich parks and unspoilt wilderness. With hardly anyone besides yourself trailing through the bush-veld, safaris in Malawi are quiet and relaxing – a rare find in game viewing experiences today. For those looking for the perfect beach retreat, bask on one of Lake Malawi’s countless white sand beaches as you look out over sun-dappled waters.

In 2018 we’ll witness the return of Lake Malawi’s ‘Lake of Stars’ – a magical, unique festival that celebrates music, arts and culture. Visitors and musicians have flocked to the palm-fringed shores of Malawi for over a decade, with the event considered as one of the most memorable music gatherings in the world. During 2016, music acts were joined by special groups of performers drawn from the country’s own Dzaleka refugee camp. With this year marking its 15 th anniversary, we’re expecting the event to be even more magical. For those curious to enjoy it for themselves, we can arrange an exclusive tour for you to make sure you don’t miss this spectacular event.

2017 saw the completion of the largest elephant translocation in human history thanks to the ground-breaking #500Elephants project (even Prince Harry himself was involved). Taking over two years to complete, these beautiful animals once vulnerable to poaching and loss of habitat now freely roam the plains of the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve – a site now considered Malawi’s premiere elephant sanctuary. As you venture on a game drive, expect a truly inspiring experience as you spot some of the 500 elephants that flourish here, as well as herds of rhinos, lions and leopards grazing the miombo woodlands and forest-cloaked plains – perfect for safari lovers.

In Liwonde National Park, we’re looking forward to the opening of a new Robin Pope Safari lodge – Kuthengo Camp. Nestled amongst the Fever Trees and Baobabs overlooking the grand Shire River, four modern, en-suite tents make up this rustic yet intimate camp. Boasting the usual luxurious comforts of a Robin Pope Safari Camp, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re the only one for miles as you sit on your private deck and admire the waterbuck grazing the plains in the evening glow. Beautiful and authentic, this gorgeous property will make experiencing this pristine Africa even more unforgettable. We doubt you’ll have room in your heart for anywhere else.

Malta, as suggested by Philip Watson CEO at eXpectations Holidays

Malta occupies an enviable location in the heart of the Mediterranean, where a rich history and culture plays out against a stunning scenic backdrop. Warm, dry weather invites holidaymakers to explore Malta’s gothic cathedrals and imposing bastions throughout the spring and summer whilst home-cooked Maltese cuisine caters for all seasons.

From the capital Valletta in the south to the picturesque islands of Gozo and Comino in the north, Malta offers an intriguing stay for all and was duly voted in the Top 25 Destinations by TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards in 2017. Couple this was the festivities and celebrations that await next year as Malta becomes the European Capital of Culture and you have one of the best places to visit in 2018.

Kick-start the New Year with a flash of colour in the capital city of Valletta, joining proud locals for a dramatic firework display and a night to remember. Spend the morning after the night before strolling the impressive Grand Harbour taking in both the Upper Barakka Gardens and Medieval Fort St. Angelo. Discover the incredible art and architecture of Malta at St. John’s Co Cathedral, a testimony to Gerolamo Cassar, and the Grandmaster’s 16th Century Palace.

Capture the essence of culture with a night of opera at the Manoel Theatre and peruse the treasures of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. Secluded coves and hidden beaches await in the north of Malta on the islands of Comino and Gozo with the former permanently inhabited by only 3 residents!

Crystal clear waters lap against a soft sandy beach in Dwejra Bay whilst the quaint, yet colourful, “Popeye Village” offers a fascinating day trip for families wishing to visit the home of this popular fictional character. Mellieha Bay creates a safe haven for families and couples seeking a laid-back coastal holiday with local amenities at your fingertips. Dive into the depths below to explore hidden shipwrecks and colourful marine life upon one of the numerous scuba diving hot spots around the island.

Traditional Maltese cuisine is both hearty and flavoursome from the rustic Rabbit Stew and Kapunata (Maltese Ratatouille) to Italian inspired desserts of kannoli. Wash down your new found favourites with a tipple of Maltese vintage, including Gellewza and Ghirghentina which more than hold their own on the International stage. As an island nation, Malta enjoys an abundance of seafood cuisine. A trip to the Marsaxlokk fish market is the best way to experience this, with eye-catching tuna and swordfish amongst the catch of the day.

Experience Malta in all its glory, joining the celebrations in the European Capital of Culture and make 2018 a year to remember.

Mauritius, as suggested by Jennifer Atkinson, CEO at Inspiring Travel Company

A timeless favourite for a honeymoon or indulgent family holiday to the Indian Ocean, the island of Mauritius has got fresh appeal for 2018 travel. Surrounded by some 177km of spectacular coastline, and with a maritime, tropical climate that ensures balmy temperatures year-round, it’s a classic destination for a five-star break. Home to world-class golf courses, stunning national parks, and hotels that are renowned for their exceptional service, little wonder Mauritius is a luxury travel destination that consistently remains popular amongst travellers.

So why choose a 2018 holiday to Mauritius? There are several reasons this Indian Ocean isle will be in the spotlight. Firstly, on the 12 March 2018 the island will celebrate 50 years of independence, following more than 300 years of colonial rule by the Dutch, the French and most recently the British. This colourful history, mixed with strong indigenous, Creole and Asian influences, has resulted in a rich and varied culture today; a culture which has created the most incredible food in my view. Mauritius will also be seen on the big screen in Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s second collaboration, Serenity. Plus, the end of 2017 saw the re-opening of luxury resort One&Only Le Saint Géran following an extensive $200m renovation. New guest rooms and suites, new culinary concepts, two new pool experiences and new fitness and spa offerings have enhanced the already ‘wow’ resort, with the exclusive Villa One being the pinnacle of the superlative new accommodation options. And December 2017 also saw the LUX* group open Grand Gaube, a reimagined resort with interior design by Kelly Hoppen and a wealth of culinary experiences.

My top tip for travel to Mauritius is to begin your luxury experience the moment you land by adding access to the airport’s YU Lounge to your booking. All your arrival details will be seen to (baggage collection, passport control etc.), and you can refresh after your long flight so you arrive in resort ready to ‘holiday’! For a dream duo, my personal suggestion for 2018 would be to twin Mauritius with another of our ‘hot’ destinations for the year; South Africa. July 2018 marks 100 since the birth of Nelson Mandela, making it a great time to visit Mandela’s South Africa to discover more about the man, his rise from prisoner to president, and his legacy.

New Zealand, as suggested by David Troya, CEO at Glamping Hub

Life’s simple and often-overlooked pleasures await in New Zealand—it’s time to become an honorary Kiwi in 2018. Animal lovers will appreciate that only 5% of New Zealand’s population is humans. Fans of the sea will be thrilled to know that they’ll never be more than 79 miles from the water, no matter where they are in the country. Wilderness seekers will relish the fact that a third of New Zealand’s entirety is made up of national parks.

Feed your body’s need for adventure in New Zealand, from skydiving in Queenstown to canyoning in Auckland. There’s no better place to soak up some sun than Great Barrier Island—a mere 90 miles from Auckland — and learn to surf than Manu Bay in Raglan. Get your blood pumping on a hike around Fiordland National Park, or skip the legwork and take a plane, helicopter, or car into the infamous Milford Sound, arguably New Zealand’s top natural must-see.

When it’s time to press pause on outdoor activities, take a moment to learn a little about the Māori culture, language, and traditions. Since AD950, these indigenous people have made up a large part of New Zealand’s rich history and continue to have a strong presence in the country to this day. Visit a marae and let the Māori welcome you into their whānau—and don’t pass up the chance to try some Māori hāngi dishes.

Your total immersion into the New Zealand way of life and all things Māori doesn’t have to stop there, however, and in fact, we recommend that it doesn’t. The annual New Zealand Festival, taking place this year from February 23 through March 18, is an event not to be missed—particularly this year’s opening ceremony. Created by the creative team at A Waka Odyssey, the festival’s commencement will begin with a special gathering and theatrical piece featuring the waka—the canoes crafted by the Māori people on which they first came to New Zealand approximately 800 years ago—and in honor of the famous Pacific explorer and great chief of Hawaiki, Kupe.

Allow yourself to get back to basics and enjoy life’s creature comforts—whether it’s eating and drinking your way around the country or seeing just how many times you can get your adrenaline going, as you race from one exciting adventure to the next. 2018 is the year to let the five senses be your guide, and there’s no better place to start than in New Zealand.

Poland, as suggested by Zenon Znamirowski, CEO of PolishOrigins

Poland, famous for its legendary hospitality, is now a perfect place to find a balance between the wild, undiscovered, not obvious destination and, at the same time, intensively developing tourism. In bigger cities and popular tourist regions you will find the top-class boutique hotels in renovated historical monuments, using modern technologies, design, and trends. Wish to stay in the old Teutonic castle with a spa in the medieval cellars? Spend vacations in a small house floating on the lake? Visit a business class hotel and shopping and entertainment centre in a carefully restored, 19th century textile factory? No problem!

In the last few years, several new museums have opened; among them applauded all over the world is the exhibition in The Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk and the Emigration Museum in Gdynia.

Poland is a country with a very rich and complex history, inseparably connected with the history of the whole of Europe. What is worth mentioning: in 2018 Poland will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of regaining independence after the 123 years of partitions. For this occasion in the whole country, there will be several great art and history events, like the monumental exhibition #heritage in the National Museum in Kraków.

There is a mass of regional initiatives, interesting theme trails, specialized local tourist operators offering city breaks, tailor-made, private itineraries or genealogy tours. And there are still many hidden gems, treasures uncovered by the massive tourism and it is easy to go off the beaten path here.

Visiting the Podlasie region with the wildlife of the Biebrza National Park and Białowieża Forest, or exploring the exceptional wooden architecture of Southern Poland (some of them are even from the 15th century!) is a must. You can still find many craftsmen and folk artists working with traditional methods such as lace makers, carpenters, blacksmiths, embroidery makers and many more, where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs for your collections.

Let’s not forget to mention the cuisine: already two Polish restaurants have the prestigious Michelin star, and over 50 others are featured in the famous red Michelin guide. For those who love to eat, the fresh, local and seasonal food can be found easily everywhere in Poland. There are many modern fusion or vegan-friendly restaurants, elaborating modern recipes yet using traditional products.

Poland is very diverse: from the mountains in the south of the country, where apart from hiking and easy trekking you can try skiing or glider flights, through Masuria – “the region of the thousand lakes” where you can try windsurfing or sailing, to the Baltic coast, where several diving bases are located and kitesurfing is getting more and more popular. Although Poland has been high in the tourist rankings for several years, it still has a lot more places, tastes, and experiences to uncover and explore.

Spain, as suggested by Francesco Soriquez, Owner of The Magic of Seville Private Tours

Spain has been for six centuries the common house of ethnics, cultures, languages, religions. Its cultural elite spoke Arabic, Hebrew, Romance and Latin for centuries. Later, its ports became the bridges between Europe and America. The combined of these elements progressively created a spectacular concentration of wealth of traditions, festivals, gastronomy, architecture and art.

No wonder the country of Flamenco and the Fiesta climbed all the travel destination charts, and now occupies the top of the wishlist of the planet. At the core of the appeal of Spain is the incredible lifestyle of Spaniards, and their ability of making traveler feel what they feel. This makes Spain a luxury destination for the discerning traveler.

Spiritual luxury is to ride a pure Andalusian horse among the brave bulls in a ranch, side by side with the same matador that later lets you practice with his red cape. To be transported to an ancestral dimension by the passion of a real Flamenco session at a local’s club. To fuse with nature and connect again with your own spirit along the Camino de Santiago Medieval route. To be pulled off the crowds by a masterpiece of Goya and penetrate the soul of this land through his painting.

Locals know how to draw you into their incredible festivals and mass rituals. The year starts with the must-join Carnaval in Cadiz. The participation of the masses will leave you gobsmacked before the sensorial show of Semana Santa processions in Andalusia. Spain hosts the party that beats all parties, la Feria de Abril en Sevilla, the vertiginous bull races of Pamplona, the human towers in Barcelona, Els Castells.

Gastronomy alone is reason enough to fly to Spain: Iberico cured ham, Virgin Extra Olive oil, Sherry and Brandy cellars, tapas restaurants hopping. Back in the kitchen, true hands-on activities like joining the chef inside his Michelin-starred restaurant, and grasp the secrets of blending together the genuine ingredients. By the beach near Valencia: cooking the paella together with a Spanish family and learn the recipe they used for decades. Everywhere in Spain you can visit a small scale bodega, and after one hour you might be sharing a bottle with the owner, talking about life.

Spain also captures the imagination with the incredibly bold shapes of its historical fortresses and temples. Inside the Alhambra in Granada the spell of Al Andalus is still intact. The Sagrada Familia reveals you the secret that every architecture comes from Nature.

Finally and fortunately, the two past decades produced companies of small and medium size that provide great quality services on monumental, cultural and life-style tours and experiences. Year 2018 is the right time to book your appointment with Spain.

Sri Lanka, as suggested by Laura Hall, Director of Communications at Kid & Coe

We love Sri Lanka for beaches and smiling faces and think it makes a terrific destination for an exotic family trip. With secret beaches that even the locals don’t know much about, and areas of the country that were previously not so popular for tourists now opening out, the country is a fine place for an off-the-beaten track adventure.

October 2018 sees the live action Jungle Book: Origins hit our cinemas. Andy Serkis is both directing and bringing Baloo to the screen with a motion capture performance, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale, Tom Hollander and Cate Blanchett also star in the firm. Nevermind the Hollywood glamour though: for us, the real star is the jungle.

Catch a glimpse of the wildlife Kipling was celebrating with a trip to Sri Lanka. Elephant parades, wild safari zones and monkeys clambering over temples are just the beginning – we’re talking wildlife adventures on a wonderful scale, and the opportunity to relax and revisit them over the best cup of tea you’ll have ever tasted, up in the country’s tea plantations. Through day safaris in national parks to visits to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage to meet young elephants (just like Mowgli), there are opportunities to see everything from monkeys to leopards. The rock fortress of Sigiriya is the place to visit for history and wonder, a rocky outcrop that is said to hold the ruins of an ancient civilization.

On the coast, learning to surf, snorkelling over coral reefs and watching baby turtles flip and flap in the hatcheries on the south coast are the stuff of unforgettable memories. Galle Fort, also, is a great spot to visit, whether you like cricket, shopping or culture. The joy of this country is that once you have booked a car and a driver, you can explore easily, without being on the road or cooped up in a car for too much of your day. For shorter distances, a tuk-tuk is the way to travel, offering added breezes and views.

Sri Lanka, of course, does ceremony very well. The annual Perehera processions are something to witness indeed (complete with painted elephants) but 2018 heralds something even more special. It marks the 70th year of independence from Colonial rule in February, which will be celebrated with pride and patriotism across the country. In addition, at the start of what looks to be an event-packed year, Galle Literary Festival will be welcoming speakers as diverse as Dame Maggie Smith, Louis de Bernières and Rachael Johnson.

And for those whose thoughts turn to cricket, the nation is due to host the Independence Cup in 2018, competing against Pakistan, India and South Africa on home turf as part of year of independence celebrations. Galle Fort’s legendary cricket ground is sure to play a starring role.

Bonus entry

This last one is not technically a country so comes as a bonus entry to the 18 countries listed above.

Antarctica, as suggested by Grant Holmes, CEO at LuxuryBARED

2018 is all about experiential, adventurous travel, and there are few experiences more adventurous than a visit to Antarctica. Arguably the last great unexplored wilderness on earth, Antarctica is a pristine travel destination, with only a few tens of thousands of visitors every year. Unless you’re on a research mission, travel is largely restricted to within the months of November and March, but this is the time when some of the most amazing events can be witnessed. If you want exclusive, Antarctica is the place to go. Any visitors will see and experience things that only a select few in the world will ever encounter. Antarctica’s incredible landscape is constantly shifting and changing, meaning that visitors will seldom encounter the same sights as those who came before or after them. Glaciers and ice sheets, along with their iceberg progeny, offering truly awe-inspiring vistas stand in contrast with tiny, rugged islands, many of which have never known the footsteps of humans.

If you’re feeling inspired by BBC’s Blue Planet 2 to pursue amazing marine life, Antarctica’s wildlife is some of the most charismatic in the world. During the season when travelling is permitted, the seas and coasts of Antarctica are rich with life. There are the six varieties of seal, whose lack of land-predators allows for far closer observation than with their northern cousins. Whales of many varieties, including sperm, humpback and the colossal blue whales, can be seen, along with pods of orcas. And of course, who can forget the penguins. A large selection of different species of these wonderfully charming birds can be seen in vast numbers in Antarctica, most notably it’s the only place on the planet to see the wonderful emperor penguins in the wild. If your visit falls at the very end of the season in late March, you could be fortunate to witness the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights. While the Northern Lights get all the press, the Southern Lights are no less spectacular, with a great deal more exclusivity to boot.

The environmental concerns threatening this amazing continent mean that a visit here could be time sensitive. With continual climate change, and the global rise in ocean temperatures, 2018 is the time to visit Antarctica in all its glory. To counter these issues there are strict guidelines around tourism there, meaning that a sustainable, eco-friendly visit is almost guaranteed. Furthermore, many of the travel companies contribute to conservation and research efforts.

Antarctica is a destination which requires a considerable investment of time and resources, but the resulting experiences are ones that are utterly unforgettable and truly ‘one of a kind’.



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The best unique experiences in Antarctica


As Christmas approaches us once again, the winter sun holidays are as popular as ever. However, for many travellers, this time of year signals the ideal opportunity to visit colder regions and really embrace the spirit of this snowy season. As the southern hemisphere begins to warm, we slip into winter, and it opens up Antarctica which is inaccessible during our summer. This huge white continent is a dream destination for wildlife lovers and photographers alike, boasting remarkable icy landscapes and unique species which are perfectly adapted to the region. If receiving a Christmas card with a penguin on the front is no longer enough, maybe it’s time to journey to this far-flung part of the world. Here are 7 unique activities to experience in this majestic environment.

1. Kayak between the’bergs

Cruising through the icebergs of Antarctica is a spectacular experience in itself, but for those wanting to maximise the experience, there is another exciting option. Many cruises offer the opportunity to get even closer to the wildlife and landscapes on a kayaking adventure. Slip into the icy seas and become at one with nature as silent icebergs glide past and your paddle gently breaks the mirror-like surface of the water. If you are lucky you may get a close encounter with penguins, seals or whales.

2. Antarctica by air

Short on time? There is now an 8 day fly-cruise option is the perfect choice for travellers who have limited time but still wish to experience the white expanse of Antarctica. This is also an excellent option for those who are concerned about being ill during the infamous Drake Passage crossing…

3. Small ship luxury cruising

Although few Antarctica vessels can rival the size and capacity of ships elsewhere in the world, some still have an impressive number of passengers. If you are looking for a more intimate experience, the Hanse Explorer has a maximum capacity of just 12 making this the most exclusive service in Antarctica. The small size allows the ship to really penetrate this huge ice-laden landscape and guests will have the trip of a lifetime.

4. Sleep on the snow

To camp in Antarctica is a magical experience like no other. For one night only, there is now the option to take part in an overnight excursion to sleep on the snow in a tent, from which you can observe the crystal clear night skies. Surrounded by ice and penguins, there are few places in the world which compare.

5. Visit Sir Ernest Shakleton’s grave

For those with plenty of time to spare, why not take a long cruise which doesn’t just visit Antarctica, but also the remote islands of South Georgia and the Falklands. These seemingly desolate places are in fact full of life, particularly penguins and seal colonies. These islands also have a rich history, as they over many years they were frequently visited by sailors seeking shelter from the turbulent seas. The famous explorer Ernest Shackleton is buried on South Georgia, and a visit to the island would be incomplete without paying respects to his memory.

6. Walk with the penguins

As very few penguins have ever been hunted on Antarctica, they remain docile and quite unperturbed by the presence of humans. Visiting the sometimes thousands-strong colonies is a wonderful experience as you stand and watch these cute and cumbersome birds go about their daily life. It is likely, as you walk among them that you will get exceptionally close to these remarkable dwellers of the deep south.

7. Visit the white continent for one day only

If they fly-cruise option is still too time consuming for you,  why not hop on a plane and visit this remote region for an astonishing single day experience. Taking off from Puerto Williams in the far south of Chile, guests will fly over Cape Horn, the Drake Passage and finally land on a small island in Antarctica before disembarking to view icebergs and penguins. A truly once in a lifetime trip for those who just have to tick this last frontier off their bucket list!

Simon Williams is Director of Bespoke Latin America.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 unique destinations best experienced by yacht


For those looking for the ultimate getaway, chartering a yacht can allow you to go one step further and discover some of the world’s most amazing landscapes in a completely unique way. In addition to allowing you to set sail and enjoy views from your own private deck, yacht charter also provides you with on-hand facilities that would rival that of a five star hotel. What’s more, you will also have a dedicated Captain, crew and chef who will ensure an unforgettable holiday for you and your closest friends and family.

Here are five destinations that are best experienced by yacht:

Cocos Island

Located around 550km off the Pacific shore of Costa Rica, Cocos Island boasts four bays, a mountainous landscape and a number of short rivers and streams. It has over 200 waterfalls throughout and boasts a tropical climate with an average temperature of around 26 degrees.

Cocos Island has breathtaking marine life and one of the world’s largest schools of Hammerhead Sharks is regularly reported there. The island, which does not allow inhabitants other than Costa Rican Park Rangers, was also named as one of the best diving spots in the world by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors).

It has also been claimed that 350 tons of gold has been buried on the island!

Antarctica

If you’re looking for a holiday that will never be forgotten, a luxury expedition yacht in Antarctica provides a life-changing adventure that very few get to experience. Utilising a specialist crew and vessel, you can explore this remote landscape whilst still enjoying the luxury facilities of a private yacht.

Antarctica offers an abundance of wildlife and untouched natural scenery that cannot be found anywhere else. Whether you would like to undertake a nature trek or go ice diving with a specialist instructor, there really is no other place in the world like Antarctica.

Central and South America

Whether you’re looking to experience the vibrant Brazil, the stunning wildlife of the Galapagos Islands or the remote Patagonia, a yacht charter to Central or South America offers something for everyone.

These areas are often thought of as very hard to reach, however many of the World’s best yachts are now located here making an adventure in Central or South America easier than ever before.

Virgin Islands

Notoriously hard to get to without a yacht, the Virgin Islands provides an array of beaches, natural seawater pools and coral islands that have to be seen to be appreciated. Whether you would like to visit some of the island’s famous towns or spend the day or white beaches dotted with coconut palm trees, the Virgin Islands provides something for those of all ages.

Cuba

Renowned for its vibrant culture and picturesque beaches, Cuba’s really does live up to its reputation.

Whether you would like to visit the capital city of La Havana, renowned for its cobbled streets and vibrant colours, or visit some of Cuba’s endless sandy beaches and crystal turquoise waters, a yacht charter really does provide an unrivalled experience that will never be forgotten.

Geoff Moore is Managing Director at West Nautical.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 winning facts about Antarctica to disarm every opponent


The next time someone says they don’t understand why anyone would take an Antarctic cruise, here’s some interesting trivia that might change their mind. We hope you enjoy our 10 winning facts about Antarctica to disarm every opponent.

1. NASA uses the Antarctic to test space gear

The coasts of Antarctica are usually quite mild (during the summer, anyway), but the interior is a different story. Head inland and you’ll feel the temperatures start to plummet. Precipitation all but disappears, and the land is almost entirely free of vegetation. Not so great for luxury travellers, but a fantastic place for a space agency to simulate the inhospitable conditions of outer space.
For example, NASA’s recently announced mission to Mars: What better place to acclimate their future space pioneers than in the Antarctic? There the off-world settlers will get used to living in a harsh environment while testing the gear that’ll keep them alive on the Red Planet.

2. Antarctica and the South Pole aren’t the same

“Antarctica” actually refers to the continent as a whole, while “South Pole” designates a specific geographic location: the axis point on which the Earth spins, with a latitude of 90° and an undefined longitude usually referenced as 0°.

3. Antarctica has the world’s most southern active volcano

Despite the frigid cold surrounding it, Mount Erebus is still brimming with liquid fire. This volcano is the only known location of currently active “lava lakes,” where the magma doesn’t solidify.

4. Antarctica should be higher

Antarctica wants to be taller, but it’s weighed down by a massive ice sheet that covers the continent. It’s estimated that without this ice, Antarctica would rise 500 meters over the next 10,000 years.

5. Antarctica has 24 time zones – and none

Time zones, except for the occasional local anomaly, always extend north and south. This means that all the time zones that reach the bottom of our planet terminate in Antarctica.

As you can imagine, trying to keep track of what time zone you’re in while moving around Antarctica can get pretty difficult. Added to this, Antarctica’s seasons create daylight-twilight conditions (or midnight sun conditions) depending on whether it’s winter or summer.

As a result, researchers living on the continent generally decide what time zone they’d prefer to be in – they usually go with their home time zone – then stick with that. So when you take an Antarctic cruise, feel free to make up your own mind when it’s cocktail hour.

6. The coast isn’t as cold As you think

During the summer cruise season, the Antarctic coasts can be quite pleasant. Temperatures there average around the freezing mark, so it may very well be warmer in that part of the Antarctic than at your home if you’re coming from a northern winter climate.

Additional trivia: The highest temperature recorded in Antarctica was 17.5°C (63.5° F) on the Antarctic Peninsula, on 24 March, 2015.

7. More sun reaches the Antarctic than the equator

To be precise, more sunlight falls on the Antarctic than the equator only during the summer months. (The rest of the year generally evens this out.) This is due to the fact that the sun doesn’t completely set in many (but not all) parts of the Antarctic for roughly half the year. It should also be noted, however, that during the other half of the year, most of Antarctica is dark.

8. “Antarctic” means “opposite of the Arctic”

The name is handed down from ancient Greece, when philosophers and mathematicians (who knew about the Arctic’s existence) figured out there had to be something on the other end of the Earth, too.

9. Antarctica makes big bergs

Icebergs are just smaller chunks of ice that have calved from glaciers. Since Antarctica is entirely covered by a sheath of ice, it generates a lot of bergs that break off into the sea.

Just how big do these bergs get? In mid-July 2017, an iceberg measuring 5,800 square kilometers (2,240 square miles) snapped off from the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula and began drifting north. That’s over twice the land mass volume of the country of Luxembourg.

10. The seas are alive with the sounds of whales

The waters of such a cold continent might seem like they should be bereft of life, but Antarctic seas actually have a robust ecosystem. In fact, cold waters hold more nutrients than warm waters.

Foremost (in size) in this cold-water ecosystem is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth: the blue whale. Blue whales are estimated to gulp down 4,000,000 krill in a single day, which in terms of volume is roughly equivalent to what you’ll eat over the next four years.

Matt Schwachofer is the Online Marketing Manager at Oceanwide Expeditions.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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9 secrets of Spitsbergen – A Luxury Travel Blog



 



What a difference a century makes. In the early 1900s, Spitsbergen and the Arctic regions were spoken of with awe and a fair amount of fear. Only the world’s greatest explorers dared take on the northern reaches in the hunt to find the Northeast and Northwest Passages first, and of course the North Pole itself.

Nowadays Spitsbergen cruises carry passengers looking for a little adventure and a whole lot of beauty. Still a remote and pristine wilderness, Spitsbergen holds plenty of surprises for those willing to go farther than the usual tourist hotspots.

1. The Northern Lights

The aurora borealis is no secret to most travelers, but not so many people know the island of Spitsbergen is one of the best places to view the show. You can cruise under the northern lights during the spring and fall seasons summer days tend to be too long to allow for much aurora viewing and in winter you can even see the lights during the dark daylight hours.

2. Set sail with Spitsbergen cruises

Cruises around Spitsbergen offer the best chance to get as far north as possible. If nature is feeling generous, ships have even been able to sail as far north as the 80th parallel.

3. Dine out in the Arctic wilderness

Some enterprising hotels are now offering their guests a dinner out way out. They pick you up and drop you off at a camp some 10 km north of the city of Longyearbyen, where you can enjoy a reindeer feast inside a remote wooden cabin.

4. From polar bears to polar beers

Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago of which Spitsbergen is the largest island, boasts the worlds most northern beer brewery built at 78 north. It wasnt easy setting up the brewing works: In addition to managing the remote location, the founders also had to combat a no-brewing law that dated back to 1928. Still, their efforts cant fail to impress when you sip brew made from 2000-year-old glacier water.

5. Dive into the Arctic depths

You can experience the Arctics bone-chilling waters in two ways. The first is the infamous Polar Plunge, in which you don a bathing suit, muster your courage, and take the leap then scramble back out, most likely screaming.

The other option is a proper scuba dive. Spitsbergen cruises will sometimes offer diving, but often only to those experienced in polar diving specifically. If you have the chance to partake in this activity, youll come into close contact with a part of the polar world most people only see in pictures.

6. Polar bear pics

You cant talk about Spitsbergen cruises or the Arctic, for that matter without mentioning polar bears.

These kings and queens of the Arctic are so abundant around Longyearbyen that citizens are required by law to carry a rifle while out for a stroll, and nobody is allowed to lock their car doors so that pedestrians have a place to hide if bears advance.

7. Ferreting out fossils

glegraverne, about an hour’s boat ride from Longyearbyen, has become a fossil hotspot. Scientists from the Natural History Museum of Oslo uncovered three remarkable fossil discoveries in the area, one Ichthyosaur and two Plesiosaurs.

8. Champagne and chocolate tour

Once you’re off the ship and back in Longyearbyen, you can indulge your sweet tooth by checking out the worlds most northern chocolate parlour. Next quench your thirst at the Spitsbergen Hotel, which contains one of Northern Europes best wine cellars.

9. Paddle at your own pace

Kayaking has become quite the lure for Arctic adventurers, with a lot of Spitsbergen cruises offering the chance to paddle up to the icebergs, check out the shorelines, and (every once in a while) become the fixation of a curious seal.

Matt Schwachofer is the Online Marketing Manager at Oceanwide Expeditions.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 exceptional wildlife experiences in Latin America



 



It doesn’t matter what type of holiday or trip you are looking for; Latin America has something to offer everyone. There are idyllic beaches, fascinating historical sites, exciting adventurous activities, off-the-scale luxury hotels and award-winning restaurants to name but a few. However, if you are interested in wildlife, the options are endless. From sweeping mountainous valleys, to coral reefs and thick rainforests to some of the driest deserts in the world, this unique continent has an incredible array of habitats that support an even more astounding concentration of wildlife. Take a look at our recommendations for the best wildlife experiences;

1. Birdwatching in Colombia

With just under 2000 species of bird, there is no other country in the world which has as many bird species as Colombia. The variety is spectacular, colourful and unique – much like the country itself. Now, it is possible to visit this incredible part of the world in luxury, and enjoy areas such as the ‘Coffee Zone’, Tayrona National Park, the Tatacoa Desert and the Guajira coastline in style – all of which offer an abundance of birds and other wildlife.

Hummingbird

Recommended place to stay: Hacienda San Jose

Hacienda-San-Jose

2. Watching bears in Peru

The spectacled bear of South America is one of the rarest bear species in the world – second only to the giant panda of Asia. This shy and solitary creature is not easy to spot, as they live far out in the forests of the Andes mountains and rarely stray close to human settlements. However, recently, there has been an increase in the number of bears being spotted at Machu Picchu – Peru’s most popular tourist attraction. With a selection of luxury hotels now close to this UNESCO World Heritage site, why not take a visit to the historic ruins and keep your fingers crossed for a glimpse of this enigmatic bear.

Machu-Picchu

Recommended place to stay: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo

Inkaterra-Machu-Picchu

3. Snorkelling and scuba diving in Fernando de Noronha

Latin America is not widely known for scuba diving sites, but the small archipelago of islands off the coast line of Brazil are fast becoming one of the best in the world. This jewel in the Atlantic Ocean is another of Latin America’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, and also boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Baia do Sancho. Visitors to this paradise who wish to dive or snorkel can expect to see spinner dolphins, turtles, rays, groupers, huge shoals of multicoloured fish, various corals plus nurse, reef and lemon sharks.

Turtle

Recommended place to stay: Pousada Maravilha

Maravilha

4. Whale watching on the Valdes Peninsula

Argentina certainly isn’t at the top of the list when people think of whale watching, however, it is one of the best places in the world to see southern right whales. Every year hundreds of these gentle giants migrate up the coast to nurse their young in the shallow bays here, making it possible to see these wonderful creatures from the beach! In addition, the peninsula is also home to pods of orca, who prey on the pups from the many sealion colonies along the shores.

Southern-Right-Whale

Recommended place to stay: Hotel Territorio

Territorio

5. Penguin spotting in Antarctica

The 17 species of penguins that we share our world with can all be found in the southern hemisphere. A luxury cruise to Antarctica and the surrounding islands of the Falklands and South Georgia will allow visitors to spot some of these charming and charismatic birds at very close quarters. Of course, there’s not only penguins to be seen in this remote and unspoilt wilderness, there are also whales, dolphins, seals and plenty of airbourne birds to keep any wildlife enthusiast happy.

Antarctica

Recommended luxury cruise: National Geographic Orion

Orion

6. The Amazon Rainforest

Arguably the continent’s most famous natural wonder and one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, the Amazon rainforest needs no introduction. Spanning across 9 countries, there are many different options for visitors. There are hundreds upon thousands of species to spot here, including some unusual species such as poison arrow frogs, tapir, ocelot, arapaima, tarantula, caiman and many species of parrot. In recent years the standard of accommodation has increased dramatically and it is now one of the most sought-after luxury holidays.

Sloth

Recommended lodge: Juma Amazon Lodge

Juma

7. Costa Rica

It’s very hard to pin point a single place to visit when it comes to Costa Rica and areas in which to see wildlife. The whole country is small than Lake Michigan in the USA, yet it holds a mind-boggling 5% of the worlds biodiversity. Due to its tiny size, it is an extremely easy place to travel around, and if you have 2 weeks to spare, there are plenty of opportunities to see a wide range of animals and birds. Some of the best wildlife encounters include humpback whales, nesting sea turtles, hundreds of colourful butterflies, sleeping sloths and the elusive but beautiful quetzal.

Toucan

Recommended places to stay: El Mangroove

El-Mangroove

8. Jaguar safari in the Pantanal

For those who wish to see a truly majestic creature up close, look no further than a jaguar safari in the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil. A boat trip downriver will get you within a stone’s throw of this impressive big cat, an experience that is not easily forgotten. Between July and October jaguar can be frequently seen along the river bank, along with other wildlife including capybara, caiman, tapir, giant anteaters and hundreds of bird species. Seeing this wildlife bonanza should absolutely be on your travel bucket list.

Jaguar

Recommended places to stay: Caiman Ecolodge

Caiman-Ecolodge

9. Puma tracking in Torres del Paine National Park

If you want to continue the big cat theme, you could head to the southern cone of South America and take a trip to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. If you can manage to drag your eyes away from the breath-taking scenery, this pretty part of the world is also home to puma. This shy cat, which feeds on guanaco (the wild cousin of the llama), is notoriously hard to spot – but a real treat for wildlife enthusiasts could be to take part in the new puma tracking itineraries that some hotels offer. Living alongside the puma’s which call this remote landscape home, are other interesting species such as grey fox, huemel deer, rhea, skunks and armadillo.

Puma

Recommended luxury hotel: Tierra Patagonia

Tierra-Patagonia

10. A luxury cruise in the Galapagos Islands

Last, but certainly not least, the Galapagos Islands are a timeless classic for anyone wishing to see a multitude of bird and animal species on land, in the sea and in the skies. This collection of islands is home to some of the rarest and most unusual creatures on earth, and what better way to witness this spectacle than on a luxury cruise? Many yachts offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime liveaboard experience which will allow guests to see famous residents such as blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and giant tortoises.

Galapagos

Recommended luxury yacht: Sea Star Journey

Sea-Star

Simon Williams is Director of Bespoke Latin America.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 great reasons to cruise to Greenland



 



Tourism is still a relatively new phenomenon for Greenland. They’ve only had an active tourism office since the early 1990s, and like with any baby industry they’re still finding their way. Which is great for luxury travellers – you’ll still be getting a true immersion into Greenland’s culture without a lot of tourist-facing brouhaha getting in your way.

Rembrandt van Rijn in Greenland, Nuuk

Greenland’s culture (a mix of Inuit and European traditions), history, wildlife, and spectacular scenery have proven to be a growing draw, especially for cruise-liner companies. There’s a lot to take in, and with that in mind we present just eleven of the multitude of Greenland’s natural and historical hot-spots for you to check out while you’re on your Greenland adventure.

1. Icebergs galore

You want icebergs, Greenland has icebergs. Greenland is one of the most prolific iceberg-birthing points in the world outside of Antarctica. Specifically, steer yourself to the Ilulissat Icefjord or Scoresby Sund and kayak your way around incredible icebergs of all shapes and forms.

RødeØ Icebergs Greenland © Gerard Bodineau - Oceanwide Expeditions

2. Go kayaking

Lots of places allow you to go kayaking. One or two even let you take a paddle around icebergs. But did you know that Greenland is the home of kayaking itself? The word and the activity have both been loaned to us by the Inuit culture found on the island.

Kayaking-in-Greenland-©-Sandra-Petrowitz-Oceanwide-Expeditions

You’ll be able to explore the picturesque bays and fjords without the disruption of motorized engines breaking up your mellow… which is perfect for jumping out of your skin when an iceberg cracks or roars under the influence of the sun.

3. Visit the ruins of Hvalsey Church

About a 20 minute boat ride from the town of Qaqortoq, the still-standing walls of the Hvalsey Church are both the most complete Norse ruins found on the island, as well as the location of the last known written Norse record (highlighting a wedding in September of 1408).

Hvalsey-church-South-Greenland-©-Louwrens-Hacquebord-Oceanwide-Expeditions

4. Visit the church responsible for the first church ever built in North America – Tjodhilde’s Church

Greenland and Viking exploratory history go hand-in-hand. You’ve probably heard of Erik the Red, the first European to set foot on Greenland who went on to tell other Euros just how wonderful it was and that they should totally join him in cultivating the place.

Erik’s wife, Tjodhilde, made her own claim to fame by converting her pagan husband to Christianity. And because of that conversion, their son Leif Eriksson would build the very first Christian church on the North American continent some 500 years before Chris Columbus would make his way across the pond.

Brattahlid,-church-of-Thjodhild-South-Greenland-©-Louwrens-Hacquebord-Oceanwide-Expeditions

Today a reconstruction of Tjodhilde’s church sits in Qassiarsuk. Measuring only 2 x 3.5 metres, you may have to squeeze a little to fit in with other explorers. But the charm of this little wood-and-turf bit of history more than makes up for the close quarters.

5. Spoil yourself in the Uunartoq hot springs

The hot springs found at Uunartoq have been a feature of the island for thousands of years. There is even a story going right back to Leif Eriksson who thought he’d have a bit of a bath before heading off to North America. Nowadays the springs are very much D.I.Y. – pack a picnic lunch, bring a bottle of wine, and just sit back and relax. While there aren’t any spas or other usual hot springs attractions about, the staggering scenery more than makes up for the lack of luxuries. How many hot springs do you know of that let you luxuriate while taking in snowy mountaintops and passing icebergs?

Unartoq-hot-springs-South-West-Greenland-©-Rob-Tully-Oceanwide-Expeditions

6. Take in the wildlife

If spotting out wildlife is more your speed, then Greenland offers a bevy of Artic-oriented critters. Take a safari tour and lock your binoculars on Arctic foxes, musk oxen, reindeer, eagles, seals, walruses, a variety of whales, and of course the main attraction of the north, the polar bear.

Musk-Oxen-East-Greenland-Scoresby-Sund-©-Oceanwide-Expeditions

7. Be wowed by the Aurora Borealis

This one’s an easy one. Who wouldn’t want to encounter a moment of sheer colourful cosmic transcendence?

Aurora-borealis,-Greenland,-Scoresby-Sund-©-Alexander-Kassler-Oceanwide-Expeditions

8. Dive into the Greenlandic culture of Ittoqqortoormiit

If you really want to immerse yourself in Greenland’s cultural melting pot then try checking out the most isolated town on the island – Ittoqqortoormiit. Situated right next door to the world’s biggest national park, as well as the world’s largest and deepest-reaching fjord system, the town boasts strong ties to both its European and Inuit cultures. You can camp out, go dog-sledding or go for a snow-mobile ride past historically significant hut sites, and of course hop into the ever-present kayaks for a paddle along the shorelines.

Ittoqqortoormiit-©-Katja-Riedel-Oceanwide-Expeditions

9. See the spectacle of spectacular fjords

As mentioned above, Greenland is home to an amazing fjord system. Each dip and doodle in the coastline hides new beautiful bays and shorelines just waiting for the next adventurer to find them.

Alpine-Peaks-of-West-Greenland-©-Massimo-Candolini-Oceanwide-Expeditions

10. Experience a new world with a polar diving expedition

Usually for experienced divers only, polar diving introduces you into an undersea world coloured by light shifting through the ice and icebergs above.

Diving-Greenland-Scoresby-Sund-©-Alexander-Kassler-Oceanwide-Expeditions

Matt Schwachofer is the Online Marketing Manager at Oceanwide Expeditions.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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7 alternative safaris to take you off the beaten track



 



To come face-to-face with the incredible wildlife that walk this planet is surely one of the greatest adventures. But there’s more than one way to enjoy a safari these days than just sitting on a jeep. If you’re looking for a real heat-thumping wild encounter that gets you closer and takes you off the beaten track, then try one of these alternative luxury safaris. From chimp tracking to sea kayaking, paddle-boarding safaris to diving with the Big Five of the ocean, each one of these safaris come with adventure guaranteed.

Walk with elephants in Nepal

Forget traditional elephant safaris, for a really wild thrill nothing beats exploring on foot with these gentle giants. Tiger Tops’ jungle-based Tharu Lodge is the first in Nepal to offer walking safaris with elephants and their guiding team is second-to-none. Nowhere else in the country can you get closer to these incredible animals and immerse yourself in their day-to-day, from breakfast in their tented elephant camp to helping out at snack time. But it’s the elephant walks that steal the show—the experience of a stand-off between the rhinos, leopards and tigers that roam Chitwan’s lush jungle with elephants as your personal guard is one of those rare, spine-tingling safari moments.

Elephants Nepal

Jaguar spotting in the Pantanal

Look beyond Brazil’s Amazon and you’ll find another unique wildlife experience that’s sure to be off-the-radar for most. The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetlands and its ethereal wide-open marshlands never fail to inspire our inner Attenborough. Take a water safari into the interior and keep your eyes peeled for the jaguars, peccaries, bobcats, wild boars and endless birdlife that together make this one of our favourite off-beat safaris.

Pantanal Jaguar

Chimp tracking in the Mahale Mountains

Most safaris, you’re intent on seeing the Big Five—rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard—but the best wild encounters are always the ones that are hard won. Set adrift on a remote island off Western Tanzania, Greystoke Mahale luxury camp is one of Africa’s hidden gems. Here you spend your days tracking the island’s families of chimpanzees. After an hour or two’s search, the experience of sitting quietly on the forest floor with baited breath, watching these creatures feeding, foraging and bonding, is a privilege worth waiting for.

Chimpanzee Mahale Mountains

Paddle-board and heli-safari in the Okavango Delta

The flowing waters of Botswana’s Okavango Delta is one of the most thrilling safari experiences in the world. For a twist, a stand up paddle board (SUP) safari through the maze-like rivers puts you in pole position to spy the myriad animals drawn to the water’s edge including hippos, antelopes, wildebeest and more. You’ll be able to float deep into the Delta, and reach parts otherwise inaccessible to get a completely unique view, stopping on isolated islands to cook your own bush meals on the way. End at the paradisical Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, stranded in the Delta’s very heart, and for a final adrenaline rush take a heli-safari to see your route from above.

Paddle boarders Botswana

Take an Arctic safari

For a riff on the traditional safari, intrepid adventurers can swap bush for snow on at the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. Strategically located close to one of the last beluga nurseries on earth, you can choose between a sea kayak, raft or SUP safari to watch these unique graceful animals, or while your time away fishing for Arctic char. If you’re a photographer set on snapping some arctic wildlife, you’re in one of the top locations to get that all-important Kodak moment with arctic foxes, polar bears and seals. Basically, adventure lies at every turn.

Beluga Whale

Balloon over the Serengeti

See the Serengeti form a completely different perspective, drifting above in a hot air balloon. At the gentle pace of an African breeze, you’ll get wide-angle views of the migrating wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle, as well as the lions, buffaloes and cheetah that call these magnificent plains home—all a-blaze in the golden African sun. Then, land and indulge yourself with bush dinners with your Masai guides at one of the luxury camps; a magical way to really appreciate the incredible array of wildlife that only the Serengeti can provide.

Hot Air Balloon Serengeti

An ocean safari in South Africa

Already have Africa’s Big Five crossed off your list? Then what about the Big Five of the deep? A tailor-made underwater safari into South Africa’s wildlife-rich waters is really the trip of a lifetime. So, if you’ve ever wanted to cage-dive with sharks, be entertained by whales, dolphins and seals as they frolic at sea, or paddle with penguins on Boulders Beach, then add South Africa’s ocean safari to your bucket list. The bonus? All that delicious South African wine to wind-down with afterwards.

Whales South Africa

Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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8 exciting ways an Antarctica cruise might change your life



 



People who have taken an Antarctic cruise will tell you it is an experience not quite like any other vacation experience they’ve ever had. And chances are, they’ll keep trying to tell you, again and again, how life-changing the trip truly was, only pausing when they take a moment to book their next trip to the south.

So what is it about the Antarctic that has travelers searching for words? What keeps them coming back for more? Here are just 9 reasons why your friends won’t stop bragging about their awesome trip to the Antarctic.

1. Become a part of history.

The Antarctic was one of the last great exploration holdouts, becoming the focus of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration that blossomed during the early 1900s. And here’s the thing – it’s still a frontier. Heading south on an Antarctic cruise means you’re going to be one of the first human beings to ever set foot on our southernmost continent in the history of humankind.

Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds in Antarctica ©Rolf Stange - Oceanwide Expeditions

Granted, your name probably won’t hit the history books like Shackleton’s did, but considering how he ended up, that’s probably a good thing.

2. It’s not just a vacation, it’s an adventure.

Because of the Antarctic’s remote location, it’s still very much an untamed land. Antarctica does not and has never had an indigenous population and there aren’t hospitals, taxis, or tacky t-shirt shops around every corner. In fact, there aren’t really any corners in the first place. Aside from your cruise ship and a few science stations, the Antarctic is one of the hold-outs on Earth that can still put the “wild” in “wilderness.”

Antarctic Peninsula - its an adventure © Dietmar Denger - Oceanwide-Expeditions

3. There’s camping… and then there’s Antarctic camping.

That’s right, some cruise lines offer you the chance to sleep out under the Antarctic skies. You’ll hunker down in a spot far enough away to not disturb the wildlife, and get to go to sleep under skies unhampered by any sort of light pollution.

Camping in Antarctica © Richard Wadey - Oceanwide Expeditions

4. Get some major photo props without having to improve your photo skills.

The Antarctic offers fantastically beautiful landscapes every which way that you turn. You’ve got interesting wildlife, blue waters contrasting with snowy white mountains, crystalline blue icebergs sailing past. You’d have to actually put some effort into taking a bad picture, which means you’re going to go home with a memory card full of awesome pics.

Humpback Whale Photography - Major Photo Props © Dietmar Denger - Oceanwide Expeditions

And if you happen to actually want to improve your shutterbug skills some cruise lines offer lectures and workshops with professional photographers as part of their cruise line-ups.

5. It’s a brand new experience.

Even if you happen to live in an environment that has snow for part of the year, it’s just not the same as setting foot on the Antarctic continent. Maybe it’s the unique wildlife, perhaps it’s the knowledge that you are days away from anything resembling civilization… whatever the cause, visiting the Antarctic is a bit like blasting off for a whole other world.

McMurdo Dry Valleys © Rolf Stange - Oceanwide Expeditions

NASA agrees. They’ve used Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys as a testing ground for some of their equipment because of its similarities to the environments of Mars and the moon.

6. You can learn stuff (or not, it’s up to you).

Some cruises offer lectures on a variety of topics, given by certified experts. So if you’re in the mood you might hunker down with some hot chocolate and learn about the wildlife, geology, the science experiments being conducted on the continent, why Antarctica is so important to the world’s environment, or the history of the region.

Some cruises offer lectures & workshops

7. No two cruises are exactly the same.

All cruise lines are of course subject to the environment, but Mother Nature tends to have much more of a say in where and when Antarctic cruises can hit a spot of interest.

For some odd reason Antarctic cruise lines put a lot of effort into making sure their passengers are “safe” and can “survive the trip” and don’t “die horribly.” That means adhering to weather patterns when it comes to selecting bays that they anchor in.

They also take great care in maintaining environmental safety for the local wildlife. So if there’s even a whiff of danger that something might upset the animals cruise lines will veer off.

And of course there’s the wildlife itself – sometimes whales (for example) are complete show-offs and are putting on a show every way you turn. On other days they can turn shy and hide under the waves.

Antarctic Peninsula - no-cruises-are-the-same © Dietmar Denger - Oceanwide Expeditions

All of this combines to ensure that each Antarctic cruise is its own thing, and that no two cruises are cookie-cutter copies of each other.

8. Penguins!

Just look at them!

Gentoo Penguins with mv Plancius © Dietmar Denger - Oceanwide Expeditions



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10 great reasons to visit the Arctic



 



The Arctic is starting to pop up more and more on luxury travellers’ must-visit lists. Part of its appeal is that for a very long time Arctic cruises were so exotic that they were almost the thing of fantasy, meshed in with tales of explorers risking life and limb to find the elusive Northwest Passage.

Nowadays the Arctic has been tamed (at least a little bit) and cruises run the gamut from hardy explorations to outright luxury vacations complete with hot tubs and top tier meals. Plus they provide the best way to get up close and personal with the wonders of the North.

scoresby-sund-arctic

That being said… just what experiences should you be shooting for? What should you put at the top of your Arctic must-see lists? These 10 Arctic experiences should help give you some idea of what to search for when you navigate your way to our Great White North.

10. Go Viking hiking

Remnants of Viking history are still standing on Greenland. You’ll be able to see where the famous ex-pat Erik the Red had his farmstead, the remains of the Gardar settlement (seat of the bishop of the Norse settlements), and the still-standing Hvalsey Church which was built all the way back in the year 1300 A.D.

Go Viking hiking

9. Put your feet up in fantastic lodges

If cruising isn’t your thing, there are some truly beautiful lodges nestled in the northern reaches of more than one country. Some are so remote they’re only accessible by ski-plane. Included in our list of these high-class hideouts are the Blanchard Lodge in Canada, Brandon Lodge in Sweden, and the Arctic Panorama Lodge of Norway.

Put_your_feet_up_in_fantastic_lodges

8. Go kayaking

One of the great attributes of the Arctic is its quiet. One of the best ways to appreciate and enjoy that quiet is to putter around under your own power, no engines allowed. Kayaking lets you dip in and out of small bays and get up close to the beauty of passing icebergs.

Go kayaking

7. Explore the towns of Greenland

Greenland is an amazing melting pot of Inuit and European cultures. The art, the food, and the people themselves present an environment that you’re not likely to encounter anywhere else in the world.

Explore the towns of Greenland

6. Stay in an ice hotel

With architecture carved out of the ice itself ice hotels are breathtaking, if a little bit chilly. But all you have to do to stay warm is bundle up or snuggle up with your S.O. during the nights, and then spend your days skiing or whipping around the countryside on a snowmobile or dog-sled.

Stay in an ice hotel

5. Celebrate Christmas in Lapland, Finland

The Finns claim that Santa makes his home in Finland. We’re not entirely convinced on that point, but we do know that they do Christmas up right. Help some locals decorate their tree, light up Christmas Eve with ice lanterns, get a nice pre-Santa glow on with a spot of Glögi (a spiced and mulled red wine), and take a traditional Christmas spa to put a relaxing cap on the night.

Celebrate Christmas in Lapland, Finland

4. Dive under the Arctic seas

Prepare yourself to glide through a world of startling and ever-shifting blues. Climb sideways, hand-over-hand, along the bottoms of blue-white icebergs. Meet and greet a surprisingly diverse array of wildlife including crabs, corrals, and waving anemones. And when you finally manage to drag yourself away warm yourself up on board your cruise ship with a hot toddy.

Dive under the Arctic seas

3. Go whale-watching

One of the most awe-inspiring encounters you’ll ever have, whale-watching always gets a recommend for Arctic must-see lists. This one takes a little more work than some of the other points though – do a little research so that you hit the right area at the right time of the year to max out your chances of meeting up with our giant mammal cousins of the seas.

Go whale-watching

2. Make friends with the polar bears

Another staple of trips to the Arctic is the chance to spot the Kings and Queens of the North – the polar bears. If this experience hits the top of your Arctic must-see list then set your course for either the Spitsbergen region of northern Europe or Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

Make friends with the Polar Bears

1. See the Northern Lights

No list of Arctic experiences can be complete without mentioning the Northern Lights. The reason why they’re mandatory is simply that they really do live up to their reputation. They’re enormously beautiful and somehow empowering, making you feel connected with the sun (a borealis is caused by solar radiation), the Earth, and the pristine Arctic environment around you.

Northern Lights and sv Rembrandt van Rijn

Photography pro-tip: When taking pictures of the Northern Lights try to put something else in the frame that will create a reference of scale – a mountaintop, your cruise ship, or perhaps your significant other.

Matt Schwachofer is the Online Marketing Manager at Oceanwide Expeditions.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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