Looking for a real once-in-a-lifetime experience for your next overseas getaway? Consider these global adventures and epic experiences...
Related article: Festivals and events you won't want to miss in 2019
Dive into a luxe marine safari
Imagine a holiday so special it comes with a photographer to capture those pinch-me moments. Not to mention a full support crew including butler, masseur, chef and dive instructor. It’s the A-lister treatment you can expect on a new series of marine safaris from Secret Retreats.
Swap dry land for eight to 12 nights aboard the 26.1-metre Sequoia yacht, exploring the wonderous wilderness of the Bird’s Head Seascape archipelago in Indonesia’s West Papua region. Ideal for one or two couples, the custom-designed yacht (inspired by classic timber vessels but with all the mod cons) features two deluxe suites, sky deck and full kitchen. Each day is a fresh adventure: think swimming through waterfalls, enjoying the onboard cinema, and drifting around coral-rich dive sites (including exquisite Raja Ampat) teeming with fish, whales, dolphins and turtles.
Visit 2019’s coolest country
With Lonely Planet flagging it as the country to visit in 2019, it’s time to bump Sri Lanka up your bucket list. Like, to the top! Fabulous food tours, incredible animal encounters, ancient temples and ruins, and gorgeous beaches make this tiny treasure south of India a must.
Join the nature-lovers flocking to spectacular World’s End in the highlands of Horton Plains National Park: a sheer escarpment with a drop of 870 metres accessible via a four-kilometre walk. For a more challenging trek, try nearby Adam’s Peak, a 2,243-metre pinnacle reached via 5,000 stairs! Don’t worry, you can revive with a local tea from one of the sellers along the way. The footprint-shaped hollow (called Sri Pada or ‘sacred footprint’) near the top has been attributed to Buddha, Lord Shiva and Adam (after being booted out of the Garden of Eden). Worth a look, no?
Become a wildlife warrior in Cambodia
Want a getaway that does good – more give, less take? We hear you. Conservation tourism is on the rise and Cambodia’s Cardamom Tented Camp offers an exemplary example. Located in the country’s largest national park, Botum Sakor, the area was once a hotbed of poaching and illegal logging. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Wildlife Alliance, Cambodian government, and 12 forest rangers (supported by the Cardamom Camp) it’s in revival mode. Even rare native animals, including the endangered clouded leopard and sun bear, are starting to return.
Nine safari-style tents are located within an 18,000-hectare concession in the park – this isn’t five-star glamping but you do have a comfy bed, ensuite and access to the Riverbank Restaurant overlooking the Preak Tachan River. The real highlight is in the conservation activities: think replanting native trees, helping monitor local wildlife and kayaking excursions. You can see why the camp is a finalist in the 2019 World Travel and Tourism Council Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in the ‘Changemakers’ category.
Get sporty in Japan
With the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon, Japan has an extra glow about it. Embrace the outdoorsy vibe while exploring this richly diverse destination with the one you love.
Snorkel the stunning subtropical Okinawa Islands in southern Japan. Soak up the sunrise on top of Mt Fuji and walk the spiritual Kumano Koda pilgrimage trails through the forests south of Osaka. Or shimmy down the trails in the ski enclaves of Niseko, Hakuba and historic Nozawa Onsen – a day of snow followed by a soak in a local hot spring (onsen) is a combo you’ll want on repeat.
Sleep under the stars in Uzbekistan
Although known for its magical Silk Road cities, the Central Asian hub of Uzbekistan is still a bit of a holiday wildcard. But change is in the air as the country begins to embrace government reforms and take a more relaxed approach to tourism. So, get there before everyone else does!
Once you’ve finished flooding Instagram with the stunning Islamic architecture and swooning over the country’s famed silk, head out of town into Alexander the Great territory, the Kyzylkum Desert. Experience the arid beauty on a camel ride, cuddle up beside the campfire, and try to hold your own as the vodka toasts kick off before retiring to your mushroom-shaped yurt (a conical tent favoured by the local nomads). Not much has changed out here since Genghis Khan terrorised the region (he, too, slept in a yurt) so you’ll find a wonderfully remote kind of romance.
Meet the rellies in Rwanda
Ready to see Rwanda? For animal-lovers the first port of call should be the high-altitude ‘cloud forests’ of Volcanoes National Park: a haven for some of the world’s last remaining wild mountain gorillas. This beautiful area will soon have a new base for wildlife encounters, Singita Kwitonda Lodge (named in memory of a local silverback gorilla).
Occupying a lush landscape of meadows and wetlands bordering the national park, the couple-perfect hideaway is slated for an August 2019 opening. The low-impact design of eight suites and a four-bedroom villa linked to a central lodge includes a huge reforestation effort, in keeping with African-based Singita’s strong conservation commitment.
Take your romance on the road in New Zealand
Got a bicycle bucket-list? Then it’s time to add the picture-perfect Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail in New Zealand’s South Island. The full adventure (four to six days) begins at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and cuts across the island to Oamaru in North Otago, with overnighters in lodges, lakeside retreats and even working high-country stations along the way.
Highlights include stellar mountain, lakeside and ocean scenery, an abundance of fresh NZ air, and the option to stargaze together in a 38°C hot spring pool at Tekapo Springs (on a floating hammock, no less). The clincher, though, is the option of electronic bikes (e-bikes) to help you up the hills!
Herd reindeer across Russia
“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” This popular Nordic saying rings oh-so true in the Yamal Peninsula on the northern outskirts of Russia, where the temperature can dive to -40°C (Yamal means ‘edge of the world’).
If you like your holidays authentic, immersive and seriously hardcore, you can live with the region’s indigenous reindeer herders, the Nenets, as they swap their winter digs for the summer pastures of the Arctic Circle. You’ll dress and eat like a local, sleep in a traditional reindeer-hide tent called a chum (pronounced ‘choom’) and travel with these resilient nomads on their epic pilgrimage of up to 1,000 kilometres. It’s not for the faint-hearted (and yes, reindeer features on the menu) but it does offer an incredible opportunity to experience the tundra.
Dreaming of getting away? Find romantic destinations and beautiful accommodation here...
Image credits: AdobeStock, Secret Retreats, Cardamom Tented Camp, JNTO and Miles Holden