Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal used to be at the top of many people’s wish lists. But the “bucket list” – a term I’ve always despised – is giving way to a general desire to make it big, to be adventurous and to seek dream experiences now, because we’ve all been held up too long and because we’ve all seen how quickly plans can change, how quickly opportunities can vanish.
Also, visiting places that attract millions of visitors every year is less attractive than it used to be for various reasons. We want to have amazing experiences in amazing places, but without the crowds. The pandemic isn’t over yet, overtourism is back, and we don’t want to be either. Here’s some better dream food.
The ends of the earth in a fishing village in Norway
Earlier this year, high-end travel company Blue Parallel – founded almost 20 years ago as a leading expert in South American luxury travel – broadened its horizons. Big: Your new polar initiatives cover the vast expanses above or below the 66th parallel. In Norway, this includes immersing yourself in Viking history, private zodiac safaris to the bird island of Runde, hiking and biking along the Geirangerfjord, and staying in a fisherman’s cabin in the beautiful Lofoten archipelago above the Arctic Circle.
The size and scale of NIHI Sumba – and the island it’s on
Regularly – and rightly – named the best hotel in the world, NIHI Sumba is spread over 500 hectares on a sparsely populated island where local animistic traditions have remained largely intact. “It’s an hour east of both Bali and Java, the most populated island on earth, and it’s a completely different island,” says the hotel’s partner and CEO James McBride. What began as a surfing destination with a legendary break has now evolved into a world of adventure, with a herd of 24 horses for sea rides, a “spa safari” where a single couple spends the day relaxing in a wellness oasis, waterfalls, Palm trees, organic food grown on site and cooked over fire, and lots of space—”the ultimate dream,” says McBride.
Heli-hopping on a private tour of Iceland
Blue Parallel Polar also takes guests to increasingly remote parts of Iceland — away from the crowded Golden Circle and up onto glaciers (and to the Westman Islands, one of the country’s best-kept secrets, and diving (brrrr!) in the Silfra Fissure, a chasm between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia and home to fascinating cold-water marine life.
Sail along the Turquoise Coast in a Turkish gulet
The word Turquoise derives from the Old French for “Turkish stone” but suits the waters around the south-west coast of the country just as well. A week aboard a traditional Turkish gulet (sailing ship), enjoying delicious food, sunbathing, swimming and admiring the beautiful, vibrant colors of the water is pure imagination. A great way to make this a reality is to book with ScicsSailing, a company that has been offering hassle-free, all-inclusive cruises in the bays around Bodrum for decades, both for guests booking a single cabin as well as “comfort”. Yacht and for those privately chartering a “luxury” yacht that has hotel style amenities.
Adventure through the Gobi desert
Ride past sacsaoul bushes, black-tailed gazelles and ibex. Mountain biking along ancient desert routes, past dramatic gorges and cliffs. Camp in the shadow of the Gobi Altai Mountains and later sleep in a glamorously prepared yurt. These are some of the things that come to mind when you think of Mongolia’s vast, empty playground. Earthtones, a startup focused on nature travel, has put together a program that includes all of this and more, such as: B. Rides on the famous Bactrian (two-humped) camels of the desert.
Meet the women in northern Kenya who are rescuing Africa’s elephants
When Katie Rowe founded Reteti in 2016, she brought nine rangers and zoo keepers from the local community to tend to a growing brood of orphaned elephants. Reteti is unique in that the Samburu women who run it are respected and valued just as much as male elephant keepers. They’re paving the way for women in conservation everywhere, which is one of the reasons adventure travel company Uncharted sends guests to them. Reteti is open to visitors who can see the elephants and speak to the keepers while staying in the beautiful new Reteti House, an exclusive private retreat.
Diving in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Halfway between South America and Africa — meaning far from it all — the hyper-protected Brazilian island has evolved from an undeveloped military outpost into a natural paradise with severe restrictions on tourism and a massive commitment to conservation. This is an ecological sanctuary, a site that marine explorers use as a control group, in contrast to the developed beaches on the mainland. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime scuba diving trip (something Blue Parallel can also organize), not only for its warm, crystal-clear waters and rich marine life, but also for its laid-back Brazilian island vibe.
The ultimate New Zealand soft adventure
Experimental travel company Hiking New Zealand recently put together a 15-day experience they call New Zealand Uncut. It covers the vast and varied landscapes of both islands as it moves north to south without the rigor and inconvenience of, say, the Milford Track. Rather, this is New Zealand for non-campers, a range of day hikes and short walks – from strenuous alpine treks to beach walks – in remote areas where the majesty of the islands shines through.
A flying tiger safari in Central India
Royal Expeditions is a boutique luxury travel company founded by the Princess of Jodhpur, who was MP and Minister for Culture. The outfit created a flying tiger safari (on a Pilatus jet) over the wilderness of central India – Rudyard Kipling’s inspiration for The jungle Book. On land, naturalist guides take visitors through the national parks in open vehicles. There is an option to purchase special all-day photo permits, allowing access from sunrise to sunset.
Magnificent alpine foraging in Slovenia
Slovenia is an increasingly well-known secret and one of the last great forest paradises in the world, full of beautiful places to visit and delicious food. Wanderlux Journeys journey takes guests to Velika Planina, a pastoral settlement in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. It can only be reached on foot or by day train, so deceleration is on the agenda. The journey includes chef Bine Volcic (known for his daring zero-waste cuisine at Ljubljana’s Monstera Bistro) and renowned collector (yes, that’s a thing in Slovenia) Katja Rebolj, and there’s hiking, collecting, a hands-on culinary workshop and a night in a cottage high above the city lights.
Off the beaten track in Tanzania
The Serengeti has many selling points, but solitude is not one of them. Fortunately, Tanzania is a large country with a number of game reserves that remain remote and unspoilt. To the south is Ruaha National Park, the best park you’ve never heard of and Tanzania’s ‘best kept wildlife secret’ – with an impressive number of elephants and even more lions. The landscape of Greater Ruaha has one of only six lion populations in the world greater than 1,000 and is now home to about 10% of the planet’s lions. Another corner of Tanzania worth exploring is Mahale National Park on the western border and Greystoke where visitors can spot wild chimpanzees. Cartology Travel can be both.
Cougar tracking in Torres del Paine, Chile
Southern Chile’s largest predator, the Patagonian puma, calls Torres del Paine home. Going in search of them with professional wilderness tracking experts – something else Earthtones offers – adds a new dimension to a journey to this majestic end of the world. The hikes are accessible, short-distance and mildly difficult, and are rounded off with starry nights at a mountain ecolodge.