oh, the places you'll go ... next
If you want to make like Carmen Sandiego and go explorin', we rounded up some ace travel destinations you might fancy visiting this year.
We asked Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, for some ideas for travellers thinking outside the box.
ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT, NEPAL
If reaching 10,000 steps a day brings you joy, why not up the ante and book yourself a walking trip through the epic snow-capped peaks of Nepal’s mountainous regions? “Next year marks five years since the massive earthquake, and while the country has recovered from its shocking effects, tourism has not fully bounced back,” Bruce explains. “It’s a good time to visit and support the Nepalese, as tourism is a huge industry there.” The Annapurna Circuit through the Himalayan region of Central Nepal is one of the country (and world’s) most famous long-distance hiking treks. It can take up to 20 days, depending how speedy you are, but there are plenty of opportunities to warm up in tea houses and lodges lining the trail. “This trek is a great way to support local communities, as you’ll visit a lot of villages along the way,” Bruce says. It’s challenging, but worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience yummy Nepali meals, traditional mountain temples and breathtaking views.
ALL THE ‘STANS
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan: a tour through these five ‘stans is becoming a go-to since visa restrictions were lifted. “It’s one of the fastest-growing tourism industries because it’s now easier to get to,” Bruce says. “This region is so unspoiled, and has an amazing, unique culture that sits between Asia, China, Turkey and Russia.” Head to this part of the world – which is on the ancient Silk Road trading route – for eclectic market bazaars, vast plains and the opportunity to learn more about its nomadic cultures. There are quite a few famous lakes worth a visit, too, including Kaindy Lake, nestled in the Tian Shan mountains. (It’s known as a ‘sunken forest’ for the spruce trees growing out of its turquoise water.) You’ll need a pair of sensible walking shoes to see everything, but don’t fret, because you can rest up at the end of the day in traditional yurt accommodation.
THE PANTANAL, BRAZIL
Now is the time to go to Brazil. Well, maybe not this very second, because that would be impossible – unless you have access to an impressive teleportation portal – but on the whole, it’s easier than ever. “Australians have always needed a visa to travel to Brazil, but this has been lifted since June 2019,” Bruce says. Don’t skip Rio de Janeiro if your trip coincides with the country’s annual party, Carnival (think feathers, sequins and more feathers). A lot of people also go for the super-duper famous Amazon rainforest, but if you’re up for something a little different and just as amazing, Bruce suggests heading farther south for the Pantanal – a UNESCO World Heritage site. At nearly 195,000 square kilometres, it’s the world’s biggest wetland. It’s also chock-a-block with amazing wildlife, including jaguars, marsh deer, toucans, storks, giant anteaters, giant otters and the surprisingly adorable Brazilian tapir, which looks a bit like a cross between a pig and an elephant. Rad, right?
People love dishing out recommendations about everything from their favourite hairdresser to the latest addictive podcast. Who can keep up? But when a professional jet-setter tells you you really need to go somewhere, you pay attention. “A must-do on everybody’s bucket list should be taking a balloon trip over Cappadocia in Turkey, seeing the city’s mountains and unique houses from above,” Bruce says. Cappadocia – an ancient, otherworldly city – is famous for its surreal cone-shaped rock formations called ‘fairy chimneys’. The unusual topography would be worth the trip alone, but there are also underground cities and beautiful multi-coloured frescos. The Goreme Open Air Museum features the ruins of 1000-year-old churches and monasteries carved out of caves. You can definitely see it on foot, but it’s a jaw-dropping place to peep from the sky. Seriously, have a squiz at pics of Cappadocia balloons hovering in colourful clumps over the city, and you’ll realise you’re itchin’ to hop in one yourself.
PATAGONIA, SOUTH AMERICA
You know that moment in winter when it looks so dark outside that you put on your pyjamas, only to realise it’s actually 6pm? Or how about in summer, when you forget to whip up dinner because it’s still so light outside? Patagonia, an area at the tip of South America, will give you extreme versions of those disorienting feelings, but in a dreamy and rugged landscape. At certain times of the year you can experience almost 24 hours of sunlight. “Patagonia is one of the last wild frontiers of the world,” Bruce says. “There are many ways you can see it – you can drive in and out, or trek deeper inside and go camping, which is what I always recommend.” See massive glaciers, penguin colonies and Ushuaia, the southernmost city on the planet. Bruce’s Patagonia non-negotiables are the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier and diverse Torres del Paine National Park, where you’ll see lakes, icebergs, and mountains that will stop you in your tracks.
AN ARCTIC CRUISE
Have you ever wanted to go to the top of the world (or the bottom, depending how you look at it)? Well, dear adventurers, it’s time for you to don your snazziest thermals, a zillion layers of woollens and some very cosy trackie-dacks for a journey to the cold-but-brilliant Arctic Circle. You can see it up close on a ship with G Adventures’ Arctic expedition team, who can whisk you to the wild edges of Norway, Greenland and Iceland. “We’ll take you to Northwest Spitsbergen National Park – an island in northern Norway – where you’ll see walrus colonies, polar bears, reindeer wildlife and areas covered completely in ice,” Bruce says. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, and experiencing it up close is unlike anything else,” he adds. Other worthwhile stops include the tiny Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit (one of the world’s most remote communities), as well as Northeast Greenland National Park, where you might spot orca, humpback and minke whales.
This curious travel guide was created in collaboration with G Adventures, a small group travel company and social enterprise. And guess what? They've got an awesome trip to give away to one lucky frankie reader! If you're keen, pop over here to enter.