Getting the flavour of…
Polo playing in Spain
It may be the weirdest sport on Earth (Sylvester Stallone said it was “like trying to play golf during an earthquake”), and it’s certainly “murder on the bollocks”. But polo is such addictive fun that wealthy patrons spend a fortune on horses and pro players just to get a crack at it themselves. For the rest of us, there’s Polo Valley, says Sam Leith in Tatler. On a four-day course at this resort in Sotogrande, southern Spain, you stay in a “well-appointed” house, eat meals with other guests, and learn the basics of the sport from “hunky, tanned” instructors. Polo initially seems almost impossibly complex – but hitting the ball well for the first time results in “indescribable satisfaction” that will have you hooked for life. Polo Valley (020-8246 5301, www.polovalley.co.uk) has three days from about £960pp, full board.
Tracking giant Alaskan bears
Unique to Alaska’s Kodiak Island – one of the most remote places on the planet – Kodiak bears are the larger cousins of the grizzly. They are so “improbably huge” that when photographed beside “grinning hunters”, they look as if they’ve been Photoshopped, says Richard Waters in The Daily Telegraph. To track them in the wild, check in at the “luxurious” Kodiak Brown Bear Centre, a 40-minute helicopter ride from “pretty” Kodiak City. Surrounded by “bottle-green” meadows and mountains and “rugged” beaches, the lodge is a kind of Eden, in whose grounds frolic otters, beavers, foxes and deer. Guides take guests out by boat and on foot to spot the bears (salmon season, in summer, is the best time to go), as well as walrus, moose, bald eagles, orcas and humpback whales. Steppes Travel (01285601050, www.steppestravel.com) has an eight-day trip from £6,495pp, incl. flights.
Mexico’s living history
Set near several extraordinary Mayan ruins, the restored hacienda hotels of Mexico’s western Yucatán Peninsula are “a call from another era”, says James Henderson in The Sunday Telegraph – “hauntingly beautiful”, and a welcome antidote to the brash modern resorts on the peninsula’s east coast. Built by rich sisal planters, each has a run of Romanesque arches painted in blood red or gold, standing out amid luxuriant greenery. The oldest, Hacienda Chichén Itzá, dates back to 1523, and has Mayan carvings in the walls. Another, Temozon, has seen the signing of treaties by Mexican and US presidents. Chablé, the latest conversion, has a superb restaurant overseen by Mexico’s most famous chef, Jorge Vallejo, and a spa centred on the crystal-clear waters of one of the region’s many cenotes, or subterranean sinkholes. Steppes Travel (see above) has a seven-night trip from £3,360pp, incl. flights.