Embrace 2019 with a bang and book one – or more – of these unforgettable travel experiences
Glastonbury is so 1994. If you want festival bragging rights, this banging music party really ups the cool factor. Pitched on the shores of Lake Malawi, it’s all feet-in-the-sand partying – think sunset DJ sessions, cheap beer and naps beneath shady palms. The line-up definitely beats some of the more mainstream UK festivals too: previous acts have included The Maccabees, Foals and the Noisettes; but it’s the raft of performers from across the African continent that makes this one of the world’s quirkiest festivals. That, and watching the sun rise over this magnificent body of water in the dewy morning light.
Vertigo-sufferers look away now. Booking a seat at this unique gastronomic experience means you’ll be at the table of some of the city’s best chefs… dangling from a crane above the Brussels skyline. Feel the breeze whip at your ankles as you tuck into the amuse bouche and dare to watch the Belgian city sway beneath you as your main is served. It’s a top-notch dining experience that’ll make for some very envy-inducing photos.
They say less is more – unless you’re in India. And an unforgettable way to fire up the senses is to sign up to a street food tour in Delhi. From finger-licking skewered kebabs to pani puris, thick with potato, chickpeas and lentils, and cooling kulfis, Delhi is the city of a million hawker stalls.
Dress up for one of the unruliest parties on the planet – the Salvador Carnival, where currents of hedonism swirl through the streets. Less commercial than in Rio, it’s fuelled by potent caipirinhas, booming live music trucks, the sound of steel drums and a raucous crowd in tiny outfits.
It may be one of the most popular national parks in the US, but here’s something you probably didn’t know about the Grand Canyon: deep in the off-grid Havasupai Indian Reservation, gushes a series of secluded bright blue-green waterfalls. So secluded you’ll have to trek 10 miles to reach them, or catch a first-come-first-served helicopter ride. But nothing will prepare you for the immensity, the staggering beauty, or the barren strangeness as you hurl yourself into the cool waters and prepare to set up camp amongst the oldest exposed rocks in the world.
`The Namib Desert: it’s a land of dark skies and stargazing; of rattlesnakes and dead-tree valleys; of inexplicably tall sand dunes and the otherworldly Skeleton Coast. And what better way to explore this wilderness than shooting down its dunes – some of the highest in the world – at 50mph. You needn’t be an expert surfer or boarder; just lie head-first, taking in the bizarre and beautiful Namib Desert from the top, and hold on tight.
Swap travel tales besides a crackling fire and trace constellations you pretend to know the name of during a night cocooned in a swag bag beneath the stars. For the full Aussie experience, pitch up in the shadow of Uluru for a night like no other.
Escaping to these off-the-radar islands, sprinkled across the Caribbean, isn’t easy. But that’s the point. Here you’ll be a guest of the Kuna – an indigenous group – who put a cap on visitor numbers, making for a very castaway experience on some of the most blindingly beautiful beaches in the world.
It’s not just the views from the top of the 1,076ft Sky Tower that’ll set your heart racing. Inching your way around the Skywalk, a narrow ledge encircling the tower, really tests the nerves. You may be attached by a harness, but this is one blood-pumping escapade that’ll rattle the most daring adrenalin junkies. And if that’s not enough excitement, dive off the Sky Tower via its notorious Sky Jump — the tallest man-made jump in the Southern Hemisphere – for knockout views of towering skyscrapers and distant volcanoes. Go on, take the leap…
What goes up must come down. Take the ultimate plunge and hurl yourself from a plane above the Belize Blue Hole: it’s undoubtedly the best way to grasp the magnitude and beauty of this gaping sink hole in the Caribbean. But to truly enter its world, swap your parachute for scuba gear upon landing in its waters and descend into this microcosm of trippy marine life, eerie limestone formations and perfect silence.
As well as being the picture of serenity, this gorgeous valley is also the hedonist HQ for extreme sports. There’s climbing dizzying peaks and skiing down mountain faces; hiking Alpine meadows; or scaling slow-moving glaciers. Whatever your thrill of choice, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is a rip-roaring kind of place when an ordinary escape just won’t do.
Where do daredevil walkers go for a touch of drama? To this notoriously daring trail, winding its way to Mount Huashan’s summit. With a deadly reputation for fatal falls and very narrow, very rudimentary wooden trails bolted to the mountainside, it’s easy to see why you need to watch your step.
Learn Something new:
Once a pleasure-seeking playground for Colombia’s drug lords, gritty Cali is united by one love: salsa. Some might say it’s the capital of the infectious dance in South America thanks to its insatiable demand for fancy footwork and live music. Salsa clubs are everywhere and a good place to practice your nimble-footed moves. But your best bet is a lesson with a local expert at the SalsaPura dance academy, where you’ll hone the trademark moves and some basic steps before braving the throbbing mass of gyrating bodies on the dancefloor.
It’s surprisingly hard to find an operator that merges sailing with yoga, but this new travel venture hits the spot with lessons in both, on-board an all-frills catamaran. Pootling around Sardinia’s La Maddalena archipelago or Croatia’s Kornati islands, it promises a blast of fresh air, daily dips in the Med, dolphin-spotting, trips to hidden beaches, and iced aperitifs beneath a shady canopy. It’s impossible not to leave with a few new skills under your sunhat.
How does a night out with Miami’s fire-spinning crowd sound? One of Airbnb’s new ‘experiences’, it introduces newbies to the art with one-on-one guidance from a pro. As well as meeting the bright young things leading the movement, you’ll learn a few tricks for a final photoshoot – just you and your spinning spear of fire.
Run by a British duo, this jewellery-making retreat in a 19th-century farmhouse teaches the basics of moulding and crafting silver jewellery in a picture-postcard setting. Take evening walks through sunflower fields in the soft evening light, find inspiration from the glimpses of the Pyrenees, and dine on superb plates of Classic French food.
One of my most memorable travel moments: Microlight flight above Victoria Falls
Why: The wind was picking up by the time I arrived: I was in for a bumpy ride. Rising through the chill morning air, I dug my nails into the seat as we soared above elephants paddling in the Zambezi’s shallows, a lone giraffe picking at branches, and acacias dwindling in size to resemble miniature trees. The dragon-roar of the Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) rumbled into sight: with flashes of rainbows, rising mist and unimaginable torrents of water, it’s one of my most memorable travel moments. Flights from $179.
One day: Hot air ballooning, the Atacama Desert: For arguably one of the most magnificent views in the world: of candelabra cacti; swirling dust clouds; volcanic sand dunes; and the bluest of skies.
This has been adapted from my piece in a National Geographic Traveller ‘Experiences’ supplement.