November 25, 2019
Reasoning: Oman’s Hajar Mountains are the secret destination that travel insiders would rather keep under wraps: at 2,000m above sea level, escaping the sweltering heat of the Gulf, the area combines some of the best weather on earth during the British summertime – 30 degrees, almost cloudless, warm evenings – with five-star luxury and low- season prices. Think dramatic canyon views, mountain slopes dotted with fruit orchards and hot springs, and traditional communities where rose water distilled in village homes fragrances the air. The five-star Anantara Jabal Akhdar Resort boasts plush canyon-view rooms with balconies, infinity pool, spa, hammam, tennis court, Omani cooking classes, sunrise yoga and outdoor cinema, with climbing, hiking, mountain biking and more on offer outside the resort.
Sample trip: TravelLocal (0117 325 7898; www.travellocal.com) offers an eight-day Oman: Secret Summer trip from £1,310 pp (two sharing), including one night’s B&B in Muscat, six nights’ half-board at the Anantara Jabal Akhdar Resort, transfers, excursions & local guide. Flights extra.
Reasoning: For decades, India was the only country that offered a realistic chance of seeing a wild Tiger. No longer – Nepal’s Tiger population has nearly doubled since 2009, and sightings of this elusive big cat are on the rise in the country’s excellent network of protected areas. With tourists now returning after the earthquake, and Tiger sightings on the up and becoming ever more reliable, now is the time to visit this awe-inspiring country.
Sample trip: AITO* member Naturetrek (01962 733051; www.naturetrek.co.uk) offers a new 12-day tour visiting two of the best reserves, Bardia & Chitwan, located within the Terai Arc Landscape, a vast area of grasslands, forests and wetlands – home to abundant wildlife, including Asian Elephant, Indian Rhinoceros, Ganges River Dolphin and one of the highest densities of Tiger. Staying in exceptional lodges, explore the parks by jeep, boat and foot, witnessing some of Asia’s most spectacular wildlife. The price is £4,295 pp (two sharing), including flights (Heathrow), transfers, 11 nights’ B&B (full board in Bardia & Chitwan), excursions and expert naturalist guides. Departs 15 March & 25 October, 2020.
Reasoning: The mountainous Monte Argentario peninsula in southern Tuscany – an ‘almost island’, joined by two sandbars to the mainland – is a chic and under-the-radar hideaway. It’s part of the Maremma coast, which is far less crowded than other parts of Tuscany, and, while popular with Italians, is fairly undiscovered by British tourists. The coastline is peppered with pretty coves and sweeping white sand dunes and, in the sleepy villages, there are rustic no-fuss trattorias serving up local specialities such as wild boar pappardelle and fried eel. The Maremma Natural Park is a wildlife hotspot, and there are fantastic walking and cycling opportunities in the surrounding countryside.
Sample trip: CV Villas (020 7261 5408, www.cvvillas.com) offers a week’s stay at Podere I Corbezzoli – a hilltop three-bedroomed villa lovingly renovated from an 18th century farm worker’s house. The property is charmingly decorated with rich fabrics and rustic furniture and boasts beautiful views, a canopied al fresco dining area and a swimming pool. A week’s stay costs from £224 pp (six sharing – £1,345 total), including maid service and welcome hamper. Flights extra.
Reasoning: In 2020, Japan hosts the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics (24 July – 9 August) – the second time that the city has hosted this iconic event. Over 200 nations will participate in 33 different sports. Tokyo’s National Stadium, based in one of the city’s busiest districts of Shinjuku, is currently being rebuilt and will host the opening and closing ceremonies.
Sample trip: Hoshino Resorts (www.hoshinoresorts.com/en/) has two properties in Tokyo. HOSHINOYA Tokyo is a luxury ryokan-style property with an impressive rooftop open-air onsen (geothermally-heated water is pumped up from 1.5 km below ground) and a restaurant serving Nippon Cuisine (a fusion of Japanese ingredients and French techniques). Prices from £614 (¥83,000) per room per night (two sharing; room only). For a budget-friendly alternative, OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka has 125 stylish bedrooms with tatami mats and Japanese-style soaking tubs. OMO Rangers’ guided city tours start from £6 pp. Prices from £98 (¥13,000) per room per night (two sharing; room only).
Reasoning: It’s official: Finland is the happiest place on earth (2019 World Happiness Report). What’s more, it’s listed as one of the safest (2019 Travel Risk Map) and sits in the top 10 in the latest Environmental Performance Index. With a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2035 and 2,000 miles of cycle lanes in Helsinki (with plans to make car-ownership pointless by 2025), Finland ticks all the right boxes for eco-conscious travellers and those wishing to embrace ‘slow travel’. In summer 2020, the capital will also host the first-ever Helsinki Biennial, an international art event that will bring contemporary art to the city in a sustainable way.
Sample trip: For its new eco-friendly destination in 2020, AITO* member Sunvil (020 8758 4758, www.sunvil.co.uk) has partnered with Helsinki’s Kamp Hotels group to offer sustainable city stays. A three-night B&B stay at Hotel Lilla Roberts, a member of the global Green Key program, which promotes positive environmental initiatives, costs from £694 pp (two sharing), including flights (London). Helsinki can also be accessed via train and ferry, which can be booked via Sunvil.
Reasoning: The love for Mexican dining has resulted in an upsurge in restaurants across the globe. With many new Mexican restaurants popping up in London – such as Decimo and Toca Madera – it seems we can’t get enough of tacos and tostadas. Mexico City is currently enjoying a moment in the spotlight as a culinary hotspot: as well as street food and fine dining, visitors can enjoy gastronomic tours, cooking classes, and mezcal tastings. Similarly, the state of Oaxaca has become an exciting foodie destination: the combination of its many different cultures and the fact that it is home to over 500 herbs and spices means that Oaxacan cuisine delivers an explosion of culinary colour and flavour. Now is the time to visit these vibrant culinary hotspots and experience their dining scenes for yourself.
Sample Trip: AITO* member Sunvil Latin America (020 8758 4774 (www.sunvil.co.uk) offers a Classic Mexico tour, spending time in Mexico City, Oaxaca, San Cristobal, Palenque, Campeche and Mérida. The cost is from £3,825 pp (two sharing), including 14 nights’ B&B, one lunch, return flights (Heathrow), internal flights, private transfers, excursions with guides.
Reasoning: The film Ammonite (2020 release date to be confirmed), starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), looks likely to be even more of a love letter to west Dorset than the French Lieutenant’s Woman was nearly 40 years ago. Written and directed by Francis Lee, who wowed with his debut film, God’s Own Country, last year, Ammonite is set in the seaside town of Lyme Regis in the 1840s and follows the unlikely romance between palaeontologist Mary Anning and a wealthy London woman to whom she must unexpectedly play nursemaid.
Sample trip: holidaycottages.co.uk (01237 459888, www.holidaycottages.co.uk) features over 430 self-catering properties in Dorset alone, with an array of superb properties in and around Lyme Regis. Lyme View (sleeps two, plus one dog) is a stylish property set in an elevated, leafy spot with views across beautiful Lyme Bay. Explore the cobbled streets, bustling harbour and expanse of sandy beach. A three-night stay costs from £169 pp (£338 total); £20 supplement for the dog.
Reasoning: 2020 marks 400 years since the Mayflower ship set sail, bringing the Pilgrims from Plymouth (UK) to the ‘New World’, or Plymouth (USA) as it’s now known. This momentous anniversary is being celebrated from this November through to November 2020, with events across 11 locations in England, as well as Holland and the USA. Why not use this opportunity to visit the pretty town of Dartmouth, as part of On Foot Holidays’ Devon walk? It’s the perfect way to conclude your holiday – the expansive Mayflower events’ programme means there’s something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the captivating light shows, enjoy unforgettable festivals of music and food, or discover Dartmouth’s Mayflower history by exploring the Heritage Trail.
Sample trip: AITO* member On Foot Holidays (01722 322 652, onfootholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night Devon walk, costing from £815 pp (two sharing), including B&B, some meals, luggage transfers between hotels, Walkers Pack with route directions and maps, plus local telephone support. Flights extra.
Reasoning: The United States’ longest, highest and most authentic railroad, the Cumbres and Toltec (C&TSRR) celebrates 50 years of continuous operation as a scenic railroad in 2020. Originally built in 1880 to connect silver mining towns in the San Juan Mountains with Denver, the C&TSRR was travelled by Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and nearly every famous outlaw and gunman in the Old West. Its summit, the Cumbres Pass, sits at 10,015 feet above sea level and is reached by an unforgettable narrow gauge steam train journey, affording the most spectacular valley views.
Sample trip: AITO* member Ffestiniog Travel (01766 512400, www.ffestiniogtravel.com) offers The Best of Colorado – Mountains, Trains & a Touch of the Old West, a 13-day escorted tour featuring some of the US state’s most famous railroads, amongst them the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad (including the summit at Cumbres Pass), all of which run through magnificent Rocky Mountain scenery. Departing 18 June 2020, the price is from £4,285 pp (two sharing), including flights (London), hotel accommodation (room only), two lunches, excursions and the services of a UK tour leader.
Reasoning: Running at London’s Saatchi Gallery from 2 November 2019 until 3 May 2020, Tutankhamun – Treasures of The Golden Pharaoh promises more than 150 original objects from the tomb of the boy king, 60 of which are travelling out of Egypt for the first and final time before returning for permanent display within Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum, currently under construction. Likely to be one of the cultural events of the year, the exhibition is certain to spark renewed interest amongst UK travellers wishing to see more of Egypt’s ancient sites for themselves.
Sample trip: Jules Verne (020 3553 3722, www.vjv.com) offers an array of Egypt itineraries, including The Original Nile by Royal Steamer, an exclusive new sailing on the full Nile route (from Cairo and the Pyramids to Thebes and Aswan) on board the restored deluxe SS Misr, once owned by King Farouk. Departing 13 September 2020, the price is from £4,995 pp (two sharing), including flights (Heathrow), transfers, 13-night full-board cruise (including drinks on board), excursions, and the services of an Egyptian tour manager, Egyptologist plus local representatives.
Reasoning: Sightings of Africa’s rarest big mammalian predators, painted wolves, have increased dramatically in the South Luangwa over the last decade. Wild dogs are now commonly sighted throughout the park – where once they were seen in just a few areas, and only in the rainy months (December-March). In the last year, Expert Africa’s travellers had a success rate of over 60% for wild dog sightings (sample size 23), compared to reports from 34 travellers in July ‘07-July ‘09, none of whom reported any sightings. Thanks to a collaborative approach to conservation, South Luangwa now has one of the strongest populations of wild dogs in Africa, and is therefore the place to visit in 2020 for sightings of this rare and sought-after predator, as well as first-class big game experiences and walking safaris with expert guides.
Sample trip: AITO* member Expert Africa (020 3405 6666, www.expertafrica.com) offers the seven-night Boehm’s Zebra Safari from £5,898 pp (two sharing), including full-board accommodation (four nights at Kaingo Camp and three nights at Mwamba Bushcamp), all safari activities and park fees. Flights extra.
Reasoning: The pristine wilderness of southern Cambodia’s Botum Sakor National Park may be just four hours from Phnom Penh, but it is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in mainland Southeast Asia. A haven for all the country’s endangered mammals, this is a truly special place given the accelerated loss of rainforests worldwide and the limited number of protected areas for wildlife. The Cardamom Tented Camp, at the heart of the park, is protected by the Wildlife Alliance and its forest rangers. Proceeds from stays help to fund rangers’ salaries and to provide animal tracking devices and camera traps – all fundamental needs for the work to protect this fragile ecosystem from poachers.
Sample trip: AITO* member InsideAsia Tours (0117 244 3380; www.insideasiatours.com) offers a 14-night Kingdom of Adventure trip from £9,460 per family of four (based on two adults and two children under 12), including airport and guided transfers, 14 nights’ B&B (including a night at the Cardamom Tented Camp), seven lunches, six evening meals and guided excursions as listed. Flights extra.
Reasoning: Kirker Holidays has seen a huge surge in enquiries for Israel in 2019, with bookings currently up 250% year-on-year and projected to double again in 2020, thanks in part to a host of new flights and hotels. The launch, in September 2019, of a new Virgin Atlantic flight (Heathrow) direct to Tel Aviv will be followed in May 2020 with a direct flight from Dublin with El Al. A plethora of new hotel openings, including the stylish five-star The Jaffa in the heart of the most ancient part of Tel Aviv, has also contributed to Israel’s rise in popularity, both as a city break destination and for longer, tailor-made itineraries that take in its incredible variety of landscapes, culture and history, from the Negev desert to ancient Jerusalem, cosmopolitan Tel Aviv and the tranquil Sea of Galilee.
Sample trip: AITO* member Kirker Holidays (020 7593 2283; www.kirkerholidays.com) offers a three-night stay at The Jaffa from £1,598 pp (two sharing). A seven-night tailor-made itinerary, taking in Jerusalem, Tiberias and Tel Aviv, costs from £1,997 pp (two sharing). Prices include flights (London), private transfers and accommodation with breakfast.
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