Jaded globe-trotters, get ready for a year filled with unusually exotic escapades
START planning your adventures for 2015 with our guide that covers natural wonders in Zermatt to man-made luxe spots in
the Caribbean. In short, lesser known destinations to suit your every mood.
Mont St Michel
Perched on a rocky islet between Brittany and Normandy, stands what is known as the Wonder of the West—a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Dedicated to archangel St Michael, the village was built between the 11th and 16th century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts three million visitors a year and is home to a natural phenomenon. The highest tides take place 36 to 48 hours after the full and new moons, and while the sea wall protects the islets, the causeway is completely submerged and is cut off. Make sure you know the tide times as, if you arrive by car, it may be washed away. Return fares to Paris are Rs.35,000 upwards. Details: ot-montsaintmichel.com
You should be celebrating their centenary year in 2015 with an opal festival (89 per cent of the world’s opals come from here), gem shows, a marathon, dances and street parties. A culturally diverse town of several thousand people, this south Australia town has plenty of underground attractions and we don’t mean dodgy affairs. They have museums, art galleries, churches, shops and even hotels underground, giving you a once-in-a-lifetime experience of living sub-surface. Climbing, cliff diving, swimming with great white sharks, visiting wineries and Aussie breweries, and getting a glimpse of aboriginal life are all in a day’s work for anyone travelling here. Return fares to Adelaide (the closest airport) start at Rs.87,000. Details: cooberpedy.sa.gov.au
Tucked away in a farming hamlet in Switzerland, Zermatt is considered one of the most picturesque places on Earth, with the Matterhorn mountain looming in all its majesty. Be it swanky ski resorts, Swiss watches or crafted chocolate, luxury is the way to go. Head here for climbing, helicopter rides to view the Alps and fondue. Make sure you pop into the museum, have a quick town tour and, if you dare, even in the summer, dip into the Leisee Lake at Sunnegga nearby. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is best viewed from a ride on the cable car up to the highest station in Europe, 365 days a year. Perfect for those looking for a romantic escape.
Rs.42,000 up for return tickets. Details: zermatt.ch
Among the ruins and archaeological sites, the land of the Incas is quite stunning. Cuzco, the capital, has the Plaza de Armas, filled with historical stone arcades and the lovely Church of La Compañía de Jesus. Visit the Qurikancha, once a sanctuary to the Sun God, Inti, during the Inca rule and don’t miss the magnificent Stone of Twelve Angles — a huge landmark in the city’s history. Sacred Valley leads you through centuries of dyeing, spinning and weaving techniques, passed from mother to daughter, as the weavers keep their Andean traditions alive. The Inca trail should be on your list for a five to seven-day walk where you will visit the splendid Machu Pichu, located on a ridge above the Sacred Valley. The Manu National Park, a 45-minute flight from Cuzco, is the largest in Peru and is home to fauna and flora native to the Amazon jungles. Return airfare starts at Rs.1.6 lakh. Details: visitperu.com
Hike into the Carpathian Mountains to enjoy their beautiful landscapes, glacial lakes and animals. Bucharest, a must-visit for architecture fans, has marvelous museums and shopping streets. Pesetera and Voronet gothic monasteries are orthodox places of worship, which bring out the true colour of the nation. A visit to the castles and fortresses that reflect the rich medieval heritage of the country goes without saying. Especially the 14th century Corvinilor Castle, built on the site of a former Roman camp, and Bran Castle, built in the mid-1300s and legendary home to Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. Tickets from Rs.55,000 upwards. Details: romaniatourism.com
Dotted with guilded pagodas, men in skirts and beautiful beaches, Myanmar is a truly hidden treasure. History buffs will love the Shwedagon Pagoda, in the heart of Yangon, (dating back to the times of Buddha, over 2,500 years ago), the war cemetery and the synagogue. Head off to Bagan for some ancient architecture — lovely reddish pagodas, ancient religious monuments like Golden Rock, in Mon State, with its majestic pagoda sacred to the Myanmar people. For adventure and wilderness, hit Putao, once the site of World War II British Fort Hertz. The Cycling City, Mandalay, set on the Ayeyarwaddy river, is great for a glimpse of traditions and cultures of the country as a whole. We suggest you make it for Thingyan (the water-throwing festival to celebrate New Year) from April 13 to 16. During the festival, staying dry is not an option as water symbolises purification and getting rid of the sins of the previous year. Return fares start at Rs.45,000. Details: myanmartourism.org
Situated in the heart of the Gulf Stream, between Iceland and Norway, this archepelago is closely associated with nature, though autonomous of its mother country, Denmark. Tórshavn, the capital with its restaurants, shops, pubs and facilities is a great base for touring and, more importantly, hiking. The scenic village Gjogv is also a fantastic place for waffles and fishing, while Sorvagur is a little town with a church and picturesque harbour. Catch the vintage schooner Norðlýsið in summer, which sails from Torshavn to the nearby island of Nolsoy, where well-known Faroese musicians play live concerts in the sea caves, while Mykines island is the perfect getaway from civilisation. Trails from the capital city range from five miles to over 100 miles-that last for days. Evenings on the island turn into lively cultural fiestas with plenty of traditional food, music and chatter on the streets. Return tickets to Vagar Airport via Copenhagen start at Rs.3 lakh. Details: faroeislands.com
Spread across over 2,900 rooms, 2,000 performing arts centres, a sprawling 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, 30 restaurants and bars, 14 swimming pools and a 1,00,000-square-foot casino, this luxury resort in the Caribbean opens to the public
later this year. But with reservations already open, you best hurry. Located along Nassau’s famed Cable Beach, Baha Mar Casino & Hotel will be the main hotel promising a Vegas experience, Rosewood Baha Mar will be ideal for a luxe experience, Mondrian Baha Mar will up the quirk ante, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar will blend functionality and luxury, and Meliá Baha Mar will give you an authentic time. Return fares start at Rs.1.6 lakh. Details: bahamar.com