by Keri Harvey
1. EXPERIENCE THE ARCTIC MIDNIGHT SUN IN SWEDEN
If you’re in the Arctic Circle in July, definitely don’t wait for it to get dark before turning in for the night—because in mid summer darkness doesn’t happen here at all. For most of a month, the sun never sets and there’s 24-hour daylight. At the end of the day, the sun briefly kisses the horizon, as if threatening to set but then immediately starts rising again to start the new day. For obvious reasons, homes and accommodation have block out curtains to assist with sleep—but if you want a good night’s shut eye take along an eye mask too.
2. TREK ENDANGERED MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN RWANDA
There are just a few hundred of these rare primates left on Earth, living in the Virunga volcano chain that forms the border between Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC. While trekking them in the DRC is not safe or possible, both Uganda and Rwanda protect their gorillas closely and allow limited numbers of eco-tourists to trek these primates, who share 98 per cent of our DNA. Getting up early and climbing up the volcanoes to one of the habituated groups in the Virunga National Park in Rwanda is exhilarating. The climb can be strenuous but it’s all worth it when you see them for the first time. Look into their brown eyes and recognise a distant cousin.
3. VISIT THE TEMPLES OF ANGKOR WAT IN CAMBODIA
It’s the world’s biggest temple complex by far: a vast collection of ancient architecture that’s both imposing and impressive. Here you’ll not only find the vast temple of Angkor Wat, its walls adorned in thousands of carved reliefs, along with stone turrets that symbolise lotus flowers, but also the Bayon temple complex with 216 huge heads carved from stone and looking out in all directions. Well-known as the backdrop for the movie Tomb Raider, the temple of Ta Prohm is also here. It appears nature is reclaiming this ancient temple as thick gnarled tree roots and trunks are busy wrapping themselves around Ta Prohm and strangling it.
4. SHOP IN THE MEDINA OF MARRAKECH IN MOROCCO
The old town medina of Marrakech is magical and an all-round assault on the senses. Radiating off the central Jemaa el-Fnaa square are a myriad tiny shops selling everything from colourful traditional shoes to cut metal work, lamps and spices. This market is huge and shops selling similar things are grouped together. Also on the square are traditional Berber herbalists dispensing their medicines, swaying snake charmers and self-taught acrobats, gnawa musicians and orange juice sellers. At night, the square transforms into a food market, selling freshly-made traditional Moroccan food—which is completely delicious.
5. JOURNEY A STRETCH OF CHINA’S ANCIENT TEA HORSE ROAD
There’s so much more to experience in China than the Great Wall and the Terracotta soldiers. The countryside is verdant, rugged and beautiful. Winding through the mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou in south west China is a network of caravan paths used for 13 centuries to transport tea to Tibet and Myanmar. Both people and horses served as transport, often carrying more than their body weight in tea. Tea Horse Road is the longest trade route in the ancient world and an evocative journey across valleys and mountains, winding through ancient villages little affected by the modern world. Experiencing a piece of this history—enjoying tea en route - is thoroughly enchanting.
6. GET LOST IN THE ALLEYWAYS OF VENICE IN ITALY
It’s easy to get lost in Venice, and that is really half the appeal of being there. Wandering down tiny, winding streets and alleyways, past miniature shops and homes, popping up in little squares adorned with fountains or with buskers playing gentle music––this is what gives Venice its unique and romantic atmosphere. With no cars and only boats and vaporetti water taxis for transport, this city seems to float on the sea and is thoroughly enchanting. Take a map and your accommodation address with you when you go wandering, otherwise you might become truly lost.
7. SAIL THOUGH ICE IN ANTARCTICA
There’s little to compare to sailing silently through clinking sea ice and being surrounded by mountains of ice in all directions. The silence and purity of Antarctica is indescribable; the beauty is other worldly. You may see seals lying on sheets of floating ice and penguins diving and swimming as they hunt for fish, and if your timing is impeccable you may see—or at least hear—the rumble of a calving ice berg. There are whales too, and if they breach the sound is deafening in this environment of silence. Everything you see and experience in Antarctica is ‘once in a lifetime’.
8. VISIT THE ROSE COLOURED CITY OF PETRA IN JORDAN
It’s a long, well-worn road into Petra, walked by millions of feet wanting to experience entering the ancient city through the narrow rock-walled siq. The walk is fascinating, but emerging from the narrow siq and seeing the grandiose Treasury building carved into a mountainside will leave you speechless. And that’s just the beginning. Tombs, a theatre and the rest of the city are carved into the pink rock too. Up 1000 rock stairs is the imposing Monastery carved into a mountain, and magnificent in the late afternoon light.
9. SEE THE ANNUAL MIGRATION IN THE MAASAI MARA IN KENYA
It’s one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, and it happens every year without fail. A few million wildebeest and zebra, with a rear guard of predators, migrate from the savannah grasslands of the Serengeti in Tanzania over the Mara River into the grasslands of the Maasai Mara of Kenya. In this case, the grass is greener on the other side of the Mara River and the animals brave the crocodile-infested river to get to it. It’s a dramatic spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. No photo or video can capture the scale or immediacy of this natural drama.
10. SEE THE FLOATING VILLAGES OF VIETNAM
When you live on terra firma, it’s difficult to imagine lives lived entirely on water. In Asia this is not that unusual; in southern Vietnam there are plenty of floating villages. Homes are built on floating platforms, and are even adorned with pot plants and pet cats or ducks. Transport is by boat—mostly long, narrow wooden boats that are poled—and everything from vegetables to bricks can be seen as passing cargo. It’s a complete water world.
11. STAND ON THE EQUATOR IN UGANDA
Just like you can straddle the Greenwich timeline in the UK, in Uganda—not far from the magnificent Queen Elizabeth National Park—you can stand with one foot in the northern and one foot in the southern hemisphere. It makes for quirky photos and a lifelong memory too, since a bold sign marks the exact spot where the hemispheres are divided.
12. MARVEL AT THE SPLENDID PALACES IN ST. PETERSBURG IN RUSSIA
Russia does opulence on a very grand scale. The massive turquoise, white and gold palace of Catherine the Great is feminine in appearance, whereas yellow Peterhof is clearly more masculine. A vast palace complex fronted by terraces of fountains and gold statues set in acres of gardens and water features, Peterhof is breathtaking. Taking a tour through a section of the palace inside, you’ll see unspeakable opulence and more gold, crystal and gem stones than imaginable—rooms clad in amber, gold staircases, crystal encrusted fittings and more. It is opulence overload, and definitely unforgettable.
13. WALK THE OLD CITY WALL OF DUBROVNIC IN CROATIA
On the postcard perfect Dalmation Coast, Dubrovnic’s enchanting old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city walls are so wide, there’s a pathway on top of them where you can comfortably walk the perimeter and look down into the cobbled streets below. There’s a monastery and original old pharmacy between souvenir and ice-cream shops, and the streets are always bustling. Being elevated and looking down on the red tiled roofs of the old town, you’ll notice colour differences in the tiles—bright red denotes new roofs repaired after being bombed in the last war.
14. WATCH TANGO IN THE STREETS OF BUENOS AIRES IN ARGENTINA
South America has a joie de vie that's difficult to match. In the capital Buenos Aires, everybody and their dogs are out on the weekends — cycling, running, panicking, asking and dancing.In La Boca, a colourful and art suburb of the city, tango dancer take to the streets outside restaurants to entertain diners, who are mostly enhanced by the seductive moves of the dance. There's tango right int the pavement, between the tables and chairs, in between pedestrian foot traffic. All you have d is step aside, watch and enjoy.
15. DRIVE TO THE END OF THE ROAD IN FLORIDA IN THE USA
Of the countless roads in the USA, if you hop on the highway in Miami and keep going south you’ll be travelling on Route 1. It winds through Georgia into Florida, passing the Everglades, and all the way down to Key West. The Seven Mile and Nine Mile bridges over the ocean are also traversed en route. When you get to Key West it’s the literal end of the road and there’s a zero-mile marker there to prove it. Key West hugs the dreamy Gulf of Mexico and is about as relaxed a place as you could find anywhere. It was also the hangout of author Ernest Hemingway and you can have a sundowner at Sloppy Joe’s, his favourite bar. Or go snorkelling, diving, boating, swimming and sunning in your own good time, because nobody wears watches here.