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Unexpected Travel Gems Across The World

On a quest for something different? We look at places that are not your run-of-the-mill holiday…


Gorilla G Tactics

On O Saga’s escorted Ugandan tour there’s the chance to spot mountain m gorillas, track chimpanzee­s and, if you’re lucky, you might m even catch sight of a rare tree-climbing lion snoozing in the branches b of fig trees. Travelling in small groups of up to 14, you’ll trek t through Bwindi Impenetrab­le National Park, home to 700 mountain m gorillas. The package includes talks from an eminent primatolog­ist p who offers insight into gorillas’ sur vival and habitat. Guests G can also meet a traditiona­l healer, take a Bwindi forest walk, w go on mountain hikes and game drives. You’ll meet native Batwa B pygmies too, they will point out plants that regulate blood pressure p and roots that cure skin disease. Explore the city of Entebbe, E enjoy tastings at a tea plantation, meet the children at a l ocal school and relax on a short cruise on the Kazinga Channel that t connects Lake Gorge and Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National N Park. Take a scenic drive to Lake Mburo National Park to see s impala and recently reintroduc­ed Rothschild’s giraffes, as well w as guided nature walks to spot topi – one of the antelope family, f warthog and buffalo. ( SAGA.CO.UK/UGANDA 0800 056 0464)

ThThe RRooff Of ThThe WWorld ld

Fancy a seriously off-the-beaten-track wildlife adventure? Look no further than Wrangel Island lying 140kms off the coast of Siberia on the edge of the Arctic. The undisturbe­d tundra dates back to ancient times when woolly mammoths made this land their home – and their curved tusks are still being found on the island. Now a nature sanctuary and the ultimate wildlife haven, few visitors come here as access is limited, requiring a special permit and an ice-strengthen­ed vessel. Large numbers of polar bears reside here too, with up to 400 mothers raising their young each winter, while the island also supports the largest population of Pacific walrus as well as snow geese, Arctic fox, muskox and reindeer. During this 14-night adventure with a maximum group size of 45, guests travel aboard expedition vessel the Spirit of Enderby in the company of broadcaste­r and conservati­onist Mark Carwardine. How H better to experience this remarkable land and explore the e Bering B Strait between Russia and Alaska? ( WILDLIFEWO­RLDWIDE.CO.UK 01962 302086)

Ghosts G And Golf In A Doo’cot

Meldrum M House Hotel recently scooped the prestigiou­s title of Britain’s B Best Boutique Hotel. Close to the Aberdeensh­ire market m town of Oldmeldrum and only 30 minutes away from Aberdeen A Airport, parts of this one-time baronial countr y house date d back to the 13th century. The atmospheri­c 800 year old stone-walled s Cave Bar is home to one of the largest collection­s of o Glen Garioch whiskies (pronounced Glen Geery) from the distillery d a stone’s throw away. The distillery has partnered with the t hotel to create the Rare Pair Experience, featuring their single s malts and fine Scottish cheeses. Another unique space, the t th candlelit Doo’cot (dovecot) bar, is reached by its own st s taircase in an ancient part of the stables. The hotel has a ch c hampionshi­p parkland golf course, golf academy and cl c lubhouse set among mature woodland. With its selection of te t ee positions it is ideal for golfers of all abilities. The grand d rawing room with open log fires, squishy leather sofas and vi iews of the hotel’s resident Highland cows is just the place to e njoy afternoon tea. And what about the ghosts? Well, there are s upposedly a couple of phantoms… one is the White Lady. In lif fe she was Lady Isabella Douglas who lived in the house and no ow she likes to appear during thundersto­rms. In an ideal lo ocation, Meldrum House Hotel is the per fect base to enjoy all th hat Aberdeensh­ire has to offer. ( MELDRUMHOU­SE.COM M 01651 872294)

Land Of The Thunder Dragon

Be part of traditiona­l village life in the hospitable Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan while living like a local in guesthouse­s, homestays or farmhouses. One of the smallest countries in the world, Bhutan has great pride in sustainabl­e tourism. Holidays with Village Ways include visits to yak herds, afternoons spent strolling through mushroom-carpeted forests, evenings enjoying renditions of folk music, and indulging in hot stone baths, known locally as Ura Grakchu. Guests can also visit the white walled Taktsang Monaster y, a sacred site known as the Tiger’s Nest perched on a cliff edge. Legend tells that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here ono the back of a tigress for meditation. These days guests don’t need to be so brave and instead make the two to three hour journey past terraced fields bursting with red rice and chillies, on foot and on horseback. Also on the itinerary is a visit to Thimphu, Bhutan’s captivatin­g capital and the world’s only capital city without traffic lights. En route, surrounded by valleys dotted with forts and temples, there are visits to Phobjikha, the winter nesting site of black necked cranes and Chumey Valley, home to the country’s famous Yathra weavers. These women still use pedal looms to weave exotic, colour ful patterns, a practice as ancient as Bhutanese culture itself. ( VILLAGEWAY­S.COM 01223 750049)

A FloatingFl­ti RResort t

Royal R Caribbean’s newest ship, Symphony of the Seas has h an eye-opening selection of activities for guests. This 18-deck 1 high floating resort with 20 restaurant­s is divided d into neighbourh­oods including Central Park, lined with w thousands of (real) plants and trees, piped birdsong, cafes, c shops and the Rising Tide bar, which glides up and down d three decks. There is a carousel and two 43ft high h rock climbing walls on The Boardwalk, home to 30 big-screen b TVs in the Sports Bar. Meanwhile the Aquatheatr­e A is the setting for high-flying, high-diving displays. d If all that doesn’t set your head spinning then the t zipwire, surfing machines and the Ultimate Abyss surely s will. The latter has a glass platform so you can see the t 100ft drop as you whizz down the back of the ship. Those T who prefer less frenzied experience­s might have a dip d in one of 19 pools, play mini-golf or try ice-skating. A musical m staircase – a nod to the name Symphony – and a laser-tag l arena and glow-in-the-dark experience are another a two features, while theatre entertainm­ent includes i an ambitious stage production introducin­g 3D flying fl technology. The ship is great for multi-generation­al holidays, h but with spa, solarium, sophistica­ted restaurant­s, r shows and casino, also appeals to couples and a groups. With all those experience­s, it’s almost incidental i that she visits some of Europe’s most exciting cities c including Marseille, Florence and Palma until 2019 when w she island hops in the Caribbean. ( ROYALCARIB­BEAN.CO.UK 0844 493 4005)

Eco Camping And Walking

Li ike outdoor living but prefer a bit of luxury? No problem. Now you ca an enjoy glamping, staying in geodesic eco-domes in the heart of th he Peruvian Andes with Peru Eco Camps on a socially responsibl­e walking w holiday. Utilising solar energy and natural water, ac ccommodati­on domes have king-size beds, hot showers, wood-burning w stoves and solar-powered electricit­y. Dining domes of ffer fine, locally-sourced food and wine. After adapting to the al ltitude, guests can choose between easy walks or more ch hallenging treks peppered with wildlife watching, walking in a cl c loud forest with unique orchid species, visiting a coffee pl p lantation, zip lining through the tree tops or relaxing in hot sp s prings. As an alternativ­e to the more commercial Inca Trail, guests g have the option of trekking to fabled Machu Picchu via the ancient a Salkantay Route. The eco camps minimise the impact on this t pristine corner of South America and are ideal for travellers who w want to act responsibl­y but travel in style and comfort. ( THEADVENTU­RECONNECTI­ON.COM 07703 510296)

Off-The-Beaten-Track O

The T Lower Danube is a wilder, underrated part of the famous river r offering generous portions of history and culture. It gives a different d vision of Europe because ports behind the former Iron Curtain C are less well known. AmaWaterwa­ys river cruises take guests g to Serbia’s capital Belgrade with its captivatin­g mix of architectu­ral a styles from Ottoman to Art Nouveau. The ship traverses t the Iron Gates gorge separating Serbia from Romania and a visits Bulgaria, the country where some locals shake their head h to express “yes” and nod to say “no”. Excursions include a visit v to Belogradch­ik, a village with ancient fortress on the slopes s of the Balkan Mountains where a steep walk over rocky ground g passes amphitheat­res of UNESCO listed rock formations around a 230 million years old. At Giurgiu in Romania guests can c opt to visit Bucharest for a full-day excursion in the capital with w its tree-lined boulevards and nod to French panache with a fake f Arc de Triomphe. ( AMAWATERWA­YS.CO.UK 0800 320 2336)

Medieval Castles And Creatures

Slovenia S is a beauty queen country with snow-capped mountains, lush l lu green valleys, dense forests and cr ystal-clear lakes. It is p ossible to ski here in the morning and swim in the Adriatic Sea in th t he afternoon. On an island in Lake Bled reached by pletna boat – a kind of gondola – or by rowing boat there is a 17th centur y ch c hurch, a popular wedding venue. Tradition has it that the b ridegroom should carry his bride up the 99 steps leading to the ch hurch door to ensure a happy future. More myth and legend s urround Ljubljana, the small capital famed for its Dragon Bridge s panning the river. Many dragon sculptures are dotted around to own, the mythical beast is their emblem. A 12th century castle d ominates the skyline. It was once a fortress, then a prison and la ater home to medieval knights. More creepy sightseein­g can be h ad at the Postojna Caves, an undergroun­d world of sculpted ga alleries, chambers, halls and glistening stalactite formations. ( TUI.CO.UK/HOLIDAYS/LAKES-AND-MOUNTAINS T 020 8610 3139)

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 ??  ?? An 18-deck floating holiday resort The ship is packed with activities
An 18-deck floating holiday resort The ship is packed with activities
 ??  ?? The Tiger’s Nest Bhutan’s captivatin­g capital
The Tiger’s Nest Bhutan’s captivatin­g capital
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