The new safari in India
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Spotting the big five in Africa (elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo) is certainly a bucket list experience but expect more people to flock to India to experience a different kind of safari. Tackle India’s natural reserves and you might come across bears, tigers and wild buffalo. Gujarat’s Gir National Park is the only place to see Asiatic lions in the world and, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, a guided trek through the Hemis National Park might lead you to an encounter with the elusive snow leopard.
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Does relaxing on beach for a week sound like your idea of hell? Then book a fitness-based getaway to really give your New Year’s resolutions some traction. Similar to wellness escapes but with a stronger focus on working your glutes, active holidays have been grown in popularity and show no sign of abating. One popular option for fitness fiends is cycling holidays that allow you to work out while still taking in the scenery. New Zealand’s Old Ghost Road, on the country’s South Island, is 85 kilometres’ worth of bike trail snaking through stunning native forest. Rest your quads overnight at the huts peppered along the way; this is a three-day excursion at least.
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You’re not so much seeing the world with this trend but seeing the skies. Astrotourism is about travelling to spots free from light pollution – and actual pollution – that offer incredible visibility of the night sky. Big events, such as the total solar eclipse in August 2017, cause hotels in the best viewing locations to sell out months in advance, though your every-night twinkling draws crowds too. Maybe because, as astronomer Dr. Andreas Hänel revealed at the ITB Berlin conference in 2017, 60 per cent of Europeans and 80 per cent of North Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes. Popular spots for admiring the universe’s vastness include Manua Kea in Maui, Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve and Jasper National Park in Canada.
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Game of Thrones might be partly responsible for sending visitors to Iceland (which stands in for the land North of the Wall) and Dubrovnik (aka King’s Landing) but there are other pop-culture phenomena causing tourists to jet around the world. With a TV adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend set to air in 2018, expect fans to head to the island of Ischia. A go-to holiday spot in the Gulf of Naples for generations of Italians, it has gained a new legion of lovers after featuring prominently in the series. Guided tours are already taking bookworms to the spots written about in the novel.
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The Cruise Lines International Association says that river cruising in one of the fastest growing cruise sectors for Australian and New Zealand travellers. With the order of new river vessels up by seven per cent for 2017, companies are adding more and more river pathways to their offerings. We’re not just booking jaunts down The Rhine – a survey showed that a trip on the Mekong to see Vietnam and Cambodia was top of the list for many.
The new way to ski
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You’ve shredded Thredbo more times than you can count and made skiers’ pilgrimages to Aspen and Niseko at least once. Next on your list of slopes to conquer should be Nevados de Chillan in the Bio-Bio region of Chile. With up to 10 metres of snow during its June to October season and the longest trail in South America, the resort has runs for both novice and seasoned skiers.
Getting back to nature
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As well as seeking out accommodation and services that are sustainable, it seems we want to be nestled among the trees. Airbnb reports a 700 per cent increase in bookings for nature lodges, while VRBO found that treehouse rentals were up 30 per cent. Nature tourism is encouraging us to journey out of the main cities and spend holiday time on walks throughout a country’s unique landscape. Image credit: Airbnb
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There’s something to be said for a holiday that’s about rejuvenating your soul. While Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love sent the hoards to Indian ashrams, in 2018 soulful types will seek out other places around the world to find peace. Mie Prefecture is one of Japan’s holiest spots thanks to the 2000-year-old Shinto shrine complex. A visit here is one that will truly open you up to the sacred.
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We’re not talking about bungy jumping in Queenstown. The new breed of heart-pumping adventures is a little more exotic. Kalagala Falls Tented Camp in Uganda, for example, will open in July and gives families the chance to go white-water rafting and kayaking on the White Nile, as well as zip-lining through the nearby forest.
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Some people plan their holidays around where they’ll eat, others around where they’ll stay. Boutique hotels have always drawn a more discerning traveller but the new breed of designer hotels is targeting the style savvy. Key features: a unique lobby, often with an arty bent (à la the giant woven artwork stretching above the front desk at The Whitby in New York), serious art adorning walls or rooms that are completely tonal, from the headboard to the supplied pens (such as Hotel Bienvenue in Paris’s ninth arrondissement).
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It seems we are drawn to being deep. For decades divers have known the world beneath the waves it just as worthy of exploration as the white-sand beaches above but now the rest of us have started listening (make that swimming). Raja Ampat in Indonesia is fast becoming a must-dive spot among the scuba community thanks to its rich underwater ecosystem. Want to explore the sea without getting wet? You’re in luck: Europe’s first underwater restaurant just opened in Båly, Norway.
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As some cities push back against tourist overload, one has come up with a solution to encourage visitors to explore more than just the major monuments. Venice’s “detourism” movement encourages guests to get a more authentic experience of everyday Venetian life by following sustainable itineraries to unusual and intriguing spots, taking the pressure off the big tourist hubs. For example, the “A Greener Venice” itinerary takes you through the public parks and historic gardens, while “The Other Venice” tour suggests taking a bike or boat to the under-the-radar islands in the lagoon.
Long-haul train journeys
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Was it the revamp of Murder on the Orient Express that got us obsessed with train travel again? Whatever the reason, traipsing a country via rail is hot again and around the world railway workers are amping up the luxe factor. The Rocky Mountaineer, which chugs its way through the Canadian Rockies, will amp up the luxury in 2018 with the introduction of high-end GoldLeaf carriages. Keep an eye on the ticketing ballot for the later half of 2018 for Japan’s Train Suite Shiki-shima, purported to be the most luxurious locomotive in the world.
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Remember when spending your summer on a family holiday was the worst thing that could happen to you? No more. Now, families are booking getaways with all branches of the family tree – by choice (multigenerational travel topped the trends list of the Australian 2018 Virtuoso Luxe Report). And when you’re travelling with a gaggle of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, there’s always going to be a babysitter handy. Rumour has it that “skip-gen” holidays are on the rise as well – that’s grandparents holidaying with their grandkids while the parents stay home.
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Heading on holidays for some serious self-care time is a trend that’s been burning bright for a few years now. Instead of booking a yoga retreat in Bali, consider Borneo Eagle Resort in Malaysia. The 13-villa resort, surrounded by glorious rainforest, is the perfect spot to recharge thanks to the spa treatments that utilise the mineral-rich mud sourced from nearby volcanic mud pools.
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Seeing a city’s big attractions is always fun but to get a real feel for a place, you need to spend time immersed in day-to-day life. And we’re searching for authentic experiences while travelling (see the rise of Airbnb and other home-share options). Spending a week or two living in, eating in and exploring through one neighbourhood gives you a greater chance of gaining an insight into how the locals really live.
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The more environmentally friendly a trip, the better. We’ve woken up to the importance of sustainable travel from hotels using solar hot water to those that have incorporated it into its materials and design ethos, such as Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand. Though 2017 was the UN’s World Tourism Organisation Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, expect this trend to keep on an upward trajectory as we try to minimise the impact of our globetrotting on the planet.