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Have you ever gone on a holiday with a long list of places to visit and activities to undertake, wondering that if you don’t, FOMO will take over? And after the end of such an adventure-filled vacation, you just end up feeling more tired than revitalised and require another time out to relax yourself? Well, you’re not the only one.

It often feels like one is trading a relaxing time with one filled with activities and sightseeing. But as the famed meme goes: Why not both? There is a solution for that too.

A little bit of everything

‘Slow travel’ and ‘slow adventure’ have been in existence for quite some time. However, as with the word ‘slow’, these two concepts were usually always reserved with some judgement. As if saved for those who want to exert themselves as little as possible. But it seems like Millennials and Gen Z are catching on to this trend too, as a way of having a holistic holiday.

One of the major outlets of slow travel are wellness retreats. Often restricted to just singular spaces over a few days, these retreats have undergone a change, inculcating short hikes, and other activities that foster mindfulness. Haridwar and Rishikesh have emerged as the hubs of slow travel, with a mixture of both meditation and adventure offering a more complete holiday for travellers.

Take your time

Outside the hilly environs of the Western Ghats and the Himalayas, Japan is fast emerging as the ideal hub for slow adventure. With its wild and untamed landscape, Hokkaido in the winters turns into the perfect slow travel destination.

The winters cause the river to almost freeze. Almost. What you’re left with is a river that’s closer to a glacier, but not completely that either. Canoeing in such a river allows one to admire the views and comfortably enjoy the feeling of paddling down in a boat. This slow adventure gives you most of the thrills, without any of the exhaustion, so that you can make the most of your visit.

Will you try going on a slow adventure next?

One of the oddest places in the world, at least geopolitically speaking, is the Strait of Gibraltar. While Gibraltar itself is present on the Iberian peninsula, it is a British territory. But if you thought that was the only odd thing, think again.

On the other side of the famed strait, lies Ceuta, a small town with a storied history and a fascinating culture. Surrounded on all sides by the nation of Morocco, the town of Ceuta itself is a Spanish territory, having been so since the 16th century.

However, while the town is a Spanish exclave, Ceuta’s culture is a lot more diffuse. Consisting of descendants of Spanish, Moroccan, and Bedouin peoples, Ceuta’s eighty five thousand residents speak a mixture of Spanish and Arabic. In fact, their language has changed so much over the years that while both Spanish and Moroccans can understand them easily, conversations can get taxing, as there is frequent code switching that only native Ceutans are comfortable with.

The town is also historically and culturally significant. Being on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, it has been known to be one of the pillars of Hercules, which formed the edge of the known world for the Greeks and the Romans. Inhabited since the 7th century BC, Ceuta also has a treasure trove of ancient buildings and mediaeval architecture, which mixes both Moorish and Spanish styles.

It seems to be the summer of sport. Whether it is the Parisian Olympics, or the Euros, or even the T20 World Cup, sports events are taking over not just our screens, but also our travel plans. And the craze is not just limited to this summer, for sports tourism is an industry that is growing at a rapid pace. And it seems that after all the adventure-centric or festival-centric holidays we seem to have gotten used to, this emergent branch is going  to blow these established modes out of the water.

Games of summer

An event that’s held once every four years is sure to generate a lot of buzz as well as revenue. It gives the places hosting it bragging rights that go on for years, and also a base to host future sports events. Take the case of Sydney Olympic Park, which hosted the event in 2000 and has remained a popular venue, both for sports and concerts, ever since.

For cities that have managed to have a permanent fixture at a sporting event, therefore, it is a rather huge deal. While the World Cups and Olympics bring in huge investments for a shorter period, events like hosting an F1 race or a football match changes fortunes. Baku, which has its own cultural and historical attractions, received a huge boost in its (and Azerbaijan’s) tourism industry thanks to hosting an F1 race. It is the same for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Lean no more

Another reason that even tourist hotspots are seeking to become a part of a sports event is primarily to do with the ‘shoulder season’. Late summer or autumn in Europe, or summers in the Middle East or Florida is a slow season for travellers. Which is exactly why most sporting events that these places are known for are held during that time. 

Miami has taken this a step further and created an interactive experience centred around the career of Lionel Messi, who currently plies his trade for FC Inter Miami. Same for sporting meccas like Barcelona, Munich, and Milan.

Airlines and tour operators have caught on to this new interest and are offering packages and subsidised air fares. And fans want more of it. For if there’s anything to know about sports fans, it’s that they are willing to go the extra mile and spend more to get the best experience.

In the region of Low Countries, which comprises the Netherlands and Flanders, a phenomenon emerged during the middle ages that was unlike any other. And it has left a lasting legacy on entire cultures as well as generations, which cite this practice and time and again.

While convents are a common knowledge for most of us, we might be surprised about beguinages, which were similar in scope, but different in many ways. Beguinages were created in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to house women. But not just any women. While convents have been the domain of nuns, beguinages, while certainly made with a religious purpose, was the domain of unmarried women.

These unmarried women, called beguines, from which the name of the establishment came, were religious laywomen who sought to find work and an allowance to send home to their families. Since all these women belonged to a similar class and cultural background, beguinages turned into safe havens for those who would eventually get married and go on to separate lives.

But this space allowed them to form their own expressions, and live in a sisterhood, indulging in their ideas and dreams. Thirteen of these places have been named UNESCO World Heritage sites, and it is clear to see why. Thanks to the culture and the world women created for themselves here, the place still manages to capture the tranquillity, safety, and freedom of the beguines of the middle ages.

Lyme Regis, nestled along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, England, has a storied past that spans centuries. Originally a mediaeval fishing village known as Lym or Lymme, its maritime importance grew steadily over time. 

Throughout its history, Lyme Regis has been closely linked to the sea. Its residents and travellers alike often associate the place with fishing, shipbuilding, and trade. In fact, the iconic Cobb, a historic stone pier and breakwater, has been a prominent feature of the town’s harbour since the 13th century.

Lyme Regis gained literary fame through the works of renowned authors. Jane Austen featured the town in her novel Persuasion, while John Fowles immortalised it in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, highlighting its scenic beauty and maritime heritage.

But, there is more. The town’s cliffs are renowned for their fossil-rich deposits, attracting palaeontologists. Take Mary Anning, for example. She was a local whose father was a cabinet maker, and she supplemented his income with selling her finds, which was a common activity in the 19th century. In fact, she was the first to find complete pterosaur and ichthyosaur skeletons. Anning’s groundbreaking discoveries further enhanced Lyme Regis’s scientific significance. In fact, you can go fossil gathering on tours even now.

Today, Lyme Regis seems to be evolving while still maintaining its historical charm. The emergence of a vibrant artisan quarter and innovative eateries is injecting new energy into the town. It’s fascinating to see how places in this once a historical (prehistoric, even) place in England, now buzz with modern creativity and entrepreneurship.

Most holiday hotspots have a season associated with them, outside of which, while there’s likely to be less crowds, will also end up being a sub-optimal experience. But what if there was a place you could visit anytime, and it would be amazing? Not just that, every season will bring a different activity to enthral you. Sounds too good to be true?

Welcome to Churchill, then. Located on the western coast of the Hudson Bay, this remote Canadian town has been inhabited for over two thousand years. But while its local culture and history is a popular topic, its natural wonders are even more amazing.

If you arrive in autumn, you can see polar bears up close. This is slightly before the formation of sea ice, which allows the bears to hunt. So you can also find polar bears roaming around the coast, sometimes feeling for ice.

However, if you decide to venture into Churchill in winters, it becomes one of the best spots to view the ultimate theatre in the sky, the Northern Lights. The place also turns into a winter wonderland of sorts, with snow covering the entire town in a thick blanket.

If you thought summers would be a bust here, think again, for Hudson Bay becomes a hunting and breeding ground for belugas. The river estuary is among the best places to see these playful creatures.

So when are you heading to this place for all seasons?

Hot on the heels of the complete eclipse that captivated the world, a new generation of umbraphiles has emerged. Over a week later, and people still don’t seem to be over the magical phenomenon.

It, therefore, isn’t surprising that planning for the next few eclipses have already begun. With three of them happening in the next four years, this couldn’t be a better time to plan your next eclipse exploration.

The next total eclipse is scheduled for 2026, tracing a path that starts from the North Pole, and going all the way to the Mediterranean before dissipating. It will ensure brilliant as well as varied viewing spots, such as the North Atlantic, the fjords of Iceland, and the island of Mallorca.

The eclipse will originate in the Indian Ocean in 2027, and the phenomenon will move westwards, passing through eastern Africa and Egypt, which will be the best place, as well as the most magical one to see the skies since the path of the eclipse is in line with Giza, the site of the famed pyramids.

So, when will you start planning for your eclipse adventure?

You must be familiar with the famous island in the Maldives that exhibits brilliant bioluminescence that turns its beaches into fields of blue shining stars. It is one of the features of the island that attracts such a huge number of tourists to the country every year.

But what if you got to know that this feature is not specific to one island, or even the Maldives? The bioluminescence can be attributed to specific species of plankton that inhabit the Indian Ocean. Plankton are microscopic sea creatures that lie somewhere between plants and animals. They float about on ocean currents and are sustenance for smaller fishes and animal species of the sea.

The chemical reaction that causes them to glow is caused by disturbance due to strong ocean waves, which results in a chemical reaction that seeks to protect the plankton from perishing in the sea. So while the islands of north Maldives went viral thanks to their pictures featuring the bioluminescent plankton washing up at the beach, the phenomenon can also be witnessed in Lakshadweep, or even the Seychelles.

But the greatest secret behind this enchanting phenomenon is the fact that while the images of the beaches have captured all the eyeballs, the best place to see the magic is underwater. And thanks to night snorkelling, travellers get to witness scenes that no photography can do justice to.

So what are you waiting for, head on over south, for the best time to see the magic of nature is between April and October.

The concept of dreams has given sleepless nights to many, and has long captured the public imagination through cult films like Waking Life, The Matrix, Inception and the underrated series The OA

While there still hasn’t been a concrete answer to why we dream, recent studies have shown they can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and increase creativity and enhance learning. Taking from this, a hotel in London’s Kimpton Fitzroy has curated a ‘room to dream’ experience. It is a world-first initiative that has been created to help people experience lucid dreaming

So how does it really work?

Through a VR set. We know that there’s been a boom of AR/VR in the hospitality sector for virtual tours and for people to partake in immersive storytelling. This experience just takes it up a notch where you are able to enter a hypnagogic state without being hypnotised. The process can help people control their dreams and face situations that cause them anxiety, reducing it in their waking lives. 

“In the same way that a hypnotherapist takes a strand of the conscious mind down into the subconscious and implants a changed way of being, the same is possible in a lucid dream,” Charlie Morley, a lucid dreaming researcher and the creator of the experience told CN Traveller. 

Lucid dreaming is going mainstream

Especially as part of sleep tourism. With more people looking towards vacations as an escape from their daily lives and as an opportunity to get better quality sleep, this comes as an effort to accommodate that need. 

Several hotels around the world are capitalising on this trend by creating meditation pods and purple rooms. But Kimpton Fitzroy is the first to introduce the concept of achieving consciousness during sleep. Guests are provided with a calming tea infused with a few drops of mugwort tonic, known to induce lucid dreaming and viola! You are in a waking dream in a matter of minutes. Would you give this unique holiday a shot? 

Even if you haven’t heard of Keukenhof, you must have seen either photographs or enchanting videos of it. The capital of Netherlands’ tulip dominion, the famed botanical garden was established in 1949, and has over seven million tulip bulbs blooming every spring. Nestled in the historic grounds of Castle Keukenhof, this place has to be on your travel itinerary even if you’re just spending a short day in the Netherlands.

It wouldn’t be out of the realm of fantasy if on your trip, you also decide to visit a spot from your favourite fictional offering. Visiting King’s Cross while in London is a given if you’ve partaken in the story of the world’s most famous boy wizard. Or perhaps visiting the Shire while in New Zealand. But more than just one or two stops, people are now starting to curate entire trips around their love for their favourite cultural creations, whether it’s music, movies, or books. This is the era of ‘fandom travel’.

The Boy Who Tripped

It’s been almost two decades since the Battle of Hogwarts, but many (while still waiting for their letters) can’t seem to get go of it. Beyond platform nine-three-quarters, there are also places that just stage as Diagon Alley and see a huge footfall. Oh, and you can get some butterbeer and Defence Against the Dark Arts literature while you’re there.   

Lord of the Rings is one of the main reasons that brings travellers to New Zealand, especially to check out Hobbiton. In fact, the movie trilogy has boosted the country’s tourism to the extent that nearly one in five visitors cite the book series as their reason for visiting. Meanwhile, Dubrovnik has claimed Game of Thrones as its own, with travel itineraries organised around the filming of the series.

For the culture

But out of all the countries, it seems like South Korea has managed to perfect the art of fandom travel. It has recently come up with the ‘Hallyu visa’, which allows people to work with performative arts for up to two years.

South Korea has recognised the cultural currency it holds, with K-Pop and K-Dramas not just creating abiding fandoms, but also inspiring the fans to be a part of the growth of these sectors, thereby creating a feedback loop that helps the growth of Korean arts. With all these packages abound, which place will you head to first?

Seefeld, nestled in Austria, offers nearly everything one could ask for from an exceptional holiday. From breathtaking landscapes to pristine waters and a vibrant cultural scene, it caters to diverse preferences. Moreover, it serves as a shining example of sustainable tourism amidst the awe-inspiring Alpine peaks. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast craving adrenaline or looking for a tranquil escape, Seefeld accommodates all types of travellers. With a survey revealing that 87 percent of Indians prioritise sustainable travel, it underscores the global trend towards mindful tourism. If you are looking for your next environmentally conscious adventure, Seefeld may just be the place for you.

One of the most remote places on the planet just opened up for you. St. Helena, nestled in the South Atlantic Ocean, remained largely untouched due to its extreme remoteness until very recently. The island has a population of just over 4000 ‘Saints’ (as residents are called) and is incredible for you if adventure is what you seek. But there is more — you can also explore its rich history, warm locals, and unique natural wonders. Oh, and there is a 200 year-old tortoise named Jonathan to befriend there too.

 

Imagine that you’re relaxing in a cosy house in Faroe Islands. Gradually, people start taking seats in a circle and before you know it, the room is filled with melodies and conversations. With hospitality abound, you are ensconced in the warmth of communal harmony. It’s time for Hoyma.

For one night every year, the people of Sydrugota in Faroe Islands sit down with their loved ones to enjoy intimate recitals. Hoyma usually takes place in the older houses of the town. Everyone (including you) is welcome and is encouraged to take part. 

The tradition of Hoyma is over 500 years old and is not limited to Faroe Islands but takes place in pockets of the North Sea. It started during Danish rule when the Faroese way of living had to move underground. Hoyma was their attempt to retain their culture and keep it alive.

Owing to this tradition, the Hoyma concert series was started as part of the G Festival which is slated to take place in July. Will you be going?

Did you know there are some destinations dedicated solely to books? The first book town – Hay-on-Wye in Wales – came into existence in 1961, after Richard Booth, an antiquarian and academic, decided to create a place for people to read and indulge in the magical scent of old books. Since then, about a dozen book towns have sprawled up across the world. 

And perhaps none is as idyllic as this quaint village nestled in France. Montolieu is a unique literary haven. While it houses roughly 800 people, it has 15 independent used bookstores. Outside each of these, you can see cobblestone streets fill every nook and cranny. And when you do step out, you can find yourself in one of its many cosy cafes. Adorned with local art and artisanal bakes, this village has everything you need for a book trip. 

Though March is a great time for a visit, it is best to plan your trip around Easter, when Montolieu invites bookworms with a massive Easter weekend book market. Pro tip: it is best to carry enough currency on your trip to Montolieu as it doesn’t have any ATMs. 

Despite what it sounds like now, Montolieu wasn’t always meant to be a book village. In the 80s, a bookbinder wanted to turn the place into a conservatory of bookmaking. But you know readers tend to find a way. And so, we got something equally magical. Who would you take on this literary adventure with you?


 

India’s travel report from 2023 is out and it is as diverse as you’d expect. Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, and Srinagar retain their nationwide allure. But tier two cities like Pune and Patna have also captivated explorers. On the other hand, spiritual odysseys to Varanasi seem to be on the rise. City-specific preferences reveal Mumbai’s love for Goa and Delhi’s penchant for Bengaluru. But that’s not all — Srinagar and Guwahati were among the most searched travel destinations in India.

What comes to your mind when you think of Valencia? Is it the breathtaking beaches? The juicy oranges? Or even football? Whatever you might think of, there’s now an even bigger reason to visit it. Valencia’s green cover has been lauded by the EU and it has been bequeathed the title of Europe’s Green Capital. With all these cultural changes and this prestige tag, could you have any more excuses to visit sunny Valencia?

If you have always wanted to see the Northern Lights, this is your chance. This year has some exceptional sights for you because the solar activity in the area will peak in 2024-2025. This will produce the most vibrant display in over a decade. Oh, and did we mention that not only will the lights be brighter, but they will also showcase a wider array of colours too? Are you ready to embark on your Arctic adventure?

When you think of a holiday, what do you imagine? Maybe you like to spend your holidays lounging or perhaps visiting a museum? Holidays have a different meaning for different people. For some, it is to embark on challenging journeys of self-discovery and relinquishing material comforts. You read that right, many modern travellers are seeking experiences that encourage them to shed societal luxuries. And this trend is on the rise in India. Many people are embracing luxury travel that prioritises introspection and mindful living, but with a twist.

Hut-hut!

You may wonder why this sort of travel is on so many people’s radar. While one main reason is that people crave excitement, another is that of seeking personal growth. Instead of spending a holiday to relax, a transformational experience like an extreme adventure can be life-changing. All this along with the ability to push yourself to your absolute limit, and it is no wonder that these trips are so enticing.

But beyond that, this movement has been instrumental in reviving the classics like the “hut-to-hut” hiking experience. Hut-to-hut hiking is a type of backpacking trip where you travel from one mountain shelter to another. You also spend each night in a different hut along the trail. Only basic facilities such as bunk beds, cooking facilities, and sometimes meals or supplies are provided. Hut-to-hut hiking can be enjoyed across the world, but adventurous travellers are even braving the frigid conditions of Alaska to partake in it.

How’s the josh

If you want to experience something similar in India, you can explore the mountains of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh with the Indian Army. These  expeditions last for months and include mountain biking, river rafting, and mountaineering. It is almost an immersive experience of army life. 

The rise in the popularity of the extreme outdoors indicates a shift in what we can expect from a vacation. Beyond traditional categories, there are always newer and more exciting ways to explore the world we live in. What do you think?

When you think of Bali, you’re likely to think of its serene beaches and turquoise blue waters. Perhaps local delicacies come to mind. And of course, the occasional diving/snorkelling, too. But come March 11, the Indonesian province will have nothing but quietude everywhere.

But why?

The Balinese New Year or Nyepi Day is observed in spring each year. It is a day of silence as per the local Saka Calendar. Think of what Diwali or Nowruz may mean to you, perhaps. Nyepi translates to ‘to go silent’ and it entails a full 24-hour shutdown with all public transport, ATMs, and even the temporary closure of the airport. Oh, and you as a traveller aren’t exempt either.

What does it mean?

On Nyepi Day locals engage in spiritual contemplation and connection with the divine (Hyang Widi Wasa). It involves prayers and introspection to reaffirm values such as humanity, love, patience, and kindness. All good things to have in the new year. And as a tourist, you can participate in it too. But just be sure of being respectful and aware of the customs and traditions of the area.

It all starts from early in the morning. During this period, you are required to remain within your respective accommodations. Daily chores are suspended and public transport is halted except for emergency services. On Nyepi Day, you are required to turn all your lights off.

How do you celebrate?

On the eve of the festival, locals partake in the Pengerupukan ritual. It is steeped in Balinese mythology and involves the lively Ogoh-Ogoh parade, processions, and traditional dances. Giant papier-mache figures are also paraded on the beach, accompanied by spirited music. Then, they are ceremoniously set ablaze to purge the island of negativity from the previous year. It’s likely to make you think of Dussehra without the sounds of the fire crackers, of course.

There are various ways to make the most of the Nyepi Day experience if you are planning a visit. You can embrace it as an opportunity for meditation, introspection, and maybe even a digital detox. Alternatively, you can also consider exploring a nearby island by ferry. Just remember to depart before Nyepi, as no ferries operate on that day. Who would you take on this trip with you?

“One of the most picturesque places in the valley of the Wissahickon is where Cresheim’s creek runs into the larger stream. Here a pool, dark and deep, lurks under a huge overhanging rock. It is called the Devil’s Pool, and the glen which surrounds it is a highly-prized resort for picnic parties.” — reads a story in the January 1871 issue of Scribner’s Monthly.

Many describe it as a utopian corner in the middle of the city park, a perfect marriage between the natural and the manmade, which brings together all types of people, from all types of demographics, for a day of partying, relaxation, and fun — all amidst a cloud of music, smoke, and packed food.

It is a magnetic meeting point that was named after Leni Lenape, an Indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands who believed Devil’s Pool was the interface between good and evil.

In keeping with this onomatology, Philadelphians continue to come together in the water, despite the fact that both swimming and diving there remain — on paper, at least — illegal. And sure, some people want to see it gone, and there is routine outcry in the local papers and magazine, but nothing that can ever stop its patrons from coming for a swim.

“You can tell that people have been drawn to it forever,” says Sarah Kaufman, a local photographer who has been photographing the place for decades now, no matter what the city was undergoing. 

Hotel and resort holiday stays by now are a ubiquitous experience. We have taken the holidays that stayed with us — from exceptional service to spa days. Added to that are souvenirs we tend to hoard during our holidays. Things like bathing gels, shampoos, and toiletries are very carefully brought back and used extensively. But in recent years, hotel merch and memorabilia has undergone a change that combines it with the trend of ‘quiet luxury’.

Gourmet garb

Hotel supplies and souvenirs made their way to our suitcases on the back of an ‘it’s economical and paid for’ idea. Remember that episode of FRIENDS? The current trend is somewhat coming from an opposite direction. High-end hotels and resorts have their own websites, as well as on-site stores that specialise in not just simple souvenirs, but premium clothing and gear.

Currently, this trend has reached a point where people end up purchasing hotel merchandise. The premium nature of these items is enough for them to become part of a treasure trove. For several patrons, these objects function much in the same way that photographs or social media posts do. They are a reminder of the great experience one had on a holiday and become cherished possessions rather than mere souvenirs. For example, New York’s The Carlyle’s most popular item is an INR 5,000 white baseball cap, while Taj Hotels have Swarovski studded shawls whose worth is a closely guarded secret.

Blending in seamlessly

What endears hotel merchandise towards prospective customers and celebrities alike is their apparent simplicity. Unlike most popular clothing brands, there are no huge tags or logos on these goods. This prevents undue attention, which tends to happen when wearing luxury labels and brands.

Ultimately, this seemingly ‘simplistic’ merchandise and clothing creates something very personal to us. The specialty of these threads is a knowledge solely we and those close to us are privy to, which is a shout out to the exclusivity provided by premium holiday packages.

Imagine a train ride across Europe’s highest plateau, exploring the vistas of the fjords, and glaciers with some of the most spectacular sights known to man. This is the 496 km, 39-station Oslo-Bergen railway and it is a trip of a lifetime. There’s a bit of everything — from bigger cities like Oslo to skiing destinations like Hallingdal Valleyand and even remote places like Hemsedal. And there’s more — during the journey, you can use some of the many stopovers for some winter sports, immersive travel, and exploring the many small towns and villages along the way. So if you’re looking for a sign to go to Norway this year (why wouldn’t you, with the upcoming solar maximum in 2024 and 2025), this may be it. 

 

The heart of Brazil’s carnival culture might be shifting from Rio. The city of Belo Horizonte or Beagá, as locals call it, had a record number of 5.5 mln people (many fold its resident population) come out onto the city streets to celebrate the carnival this year. So far, Rio de Janeiro’s popularity has remained unmatched as it traditionally attracts most of the international tourists. And though Rio’s carnival may still be the most extravagant, Brazilian tides seem to be turning towards a new direction in terms of popularity. 

 

If you had to paint a picture of a futuristic place say three years back, you’d probably imagine it to be in Japan, the US, or Singapore. But today, it is impossible not to splash Saudi Arabia onto that canvas. 

We’ve all heard of Neom, The Line, or The Rig (somehow ‘the’ always adds an element of drama), but the country, which is planning to make tourism its second-largest revenue source by 2030, is not just using technology, but reimagining everything to turn itself into a tourism hotspot. Even their latest campaign featuring footballer Lionel Messi (yet again) has the slogan ‘Go Beyond What You Think’. And you cannot help but do so. 

Shifting perspectives     

The Middle East kingdom is embarking on an extensive building spree, constructing private islands, luxury hotels, theme parks, and even a desert ski resort! A fully customised luxury train cruise, christened ‘Dream of the Desert’, with a design inspired by Saudi style and tradition, will also soon be a part of this dynamic picture. Despite challenges like artificial snow maintenance, these developments could diversify the region's economy if executed well.

Arabian Nights meets Jungle Book 

Saudi Arabia isn’t just using the best technology and sustainability tools to draw eyeballs, but has dropped the sunglasses to view itself with naked eyes. With its challenging, yet diverse terrain, the country can become one of the most “outstanding hiking destinations in the world”. And it is recognising that by creating hiking trails in some its most breathtaking spots – from the Tuwaiq Mountains with a cliff named ‘edge of the world’, to Jabal Abyad or the white mountain, and Wadi Al Disah – a green, spring-fed valley surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs. 

On the other hand, places like AlUla – a living museum known for historic dwellings dating back millennia, dramatic rock formations and some of Saudi’s most spectacular scenery, are also drawing tourists from far and wide. 

The country drew over 27 mln foreign tourists in 2023 and has more than doubled its goal for the end of the decade. Given the pace at which it’s reshaping itself, we have no doubts it will easily achieve that goal.

Deep within the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon lies a revelation that challenges our understanding of the world's largest rainforest. Led by archaeologist Stephen Rostain, a team of researchers has unveiled an extensive network of cities, shattering the long-held notion of the Amazon as untouched wilderness. 

Utilising cutting-edge Lidar technology, Rostain and his team embarked on a journey scanning the dense foliage to reveal a long-lost civilization buried beneath the surface. What they uncovered was nothing short of extraordinary — a sprawling network of cities spanning over 300 sq km, adorned with plazas, ceremonial sites, and meticulously engineered roads dating back 2,500 years.

But there’s more — the site is located in Upano Valley, which has become increasingly popular as an eco-tourism destination. For the more adventurous among us, Macas, situated in the valley, may be an ideal destination to add to our must-see list. It serves as an excellent hub for rafting, hiking, and exploring hot springs. 

Additionally, nearby Sangay National Park, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts three volcanoes, numerous lagoons, and an abundance of biodiversity, making it perfect for nature enthusiasts. So, are you ready for a historic adventure? *Cue Indiana Jones’ soundtrack*

Yosemite's Horsetail Fall creates a mesmerising “firefall” illusion annually from mid to late February when the setting sun hits it at a specific angle. The 2024 event is estimated between February 10–25, with prime viewing from February 19–24 this year. 

Although the popularity of the firefall illusion has steadily grown in recent years, there earlier existed a different rendition involving real fire. Until 1968, remnants of nightly campfires were pushed over the edge of Glacier Point in Yosemite, forming a cascade of embers famously referred to as ‘the Firefall’. While the custom has since been banned, you can still witness the stunning illusion in all its glory.

Imagine a scenic retreat for the holidays, surrounded by green plants and the perfect blue sea. But instead of a holiday, imagine a sabbatical of over twenty days at the same place.

Welcome to the Seychelles, a nation of islands that houses some of the most stunning resorts in the world. While this has been well-documented, another thing that the nation was previously known for were its endangered giant tortoise species. The Seychelles’ current tourism policy seems to have decided to mix both these aspects in a stroke of genius, coming up with a programme that encourages visitors, while also making them mindful of the island’s ecology.

Companies like Natucate, which organise trips from anywhere between twenty six days to sixty days, have made it their mission that while travellers unwind and relax in the lap of paradise, they also come away with the understanding of the precarious balance that exists on the island. This is done by involving the tourists in conservation activities and efforts that seek to offset the carbon footprint of both the visitors and the island.

These methods and trip plans are not limited to the islands, as conservation work done by the tourists is bound to change their worldview, as they incorporate this new knowledge of the biodiversity and the ecological situation of our planet into their daily lives.

The famed International Travel Photographer of the Year awards for 2023 have just been announced, and some of the shots submitted are simply breathtaking. Consisting of several categories divided by age and subject, the overall award was bestowed upon AndreJa Ravnak, a Slovenian architect and photographer, for her landscapes that communicated a subtle simplicity and a sense of quiet calm. In the Young Photographer category, 14-year-old Caden Shepard Choi’s black and white portraits of American diversity found favour with the judges, who lauded her sense of composition and mature eye. Which one of these is your personal favourite? We’re eager to know.

Did you know that Charles Darwin first experienced a banana at the age of 22 on Santiago, the main island of the Cape Verde archipelago? Santiago marked Darwin’s initial exposure to his scientific abilities and sparked his desire to contribute to natural history.

Today, Cape Verde is an independent nation known for its blend of West African and Portuguese influences. Often referred to as the “African Caribbean,” the island archipelago is known for its constant sunshine. 

Beyond Santiago, the country consists of ten islands, with Sal and Boa Vista being other popular destinations mainly because of their beautiful beaches, while Santo Antão is considered a lesser-known gem.

The best time to visit Cape Verde is between November and April when sunshine is assured, but even during the wet season (May to October), temperatures do not drop below 24°C. With a range of activities, including watersports, hiking, excursions, and the possibility to observe humpback whales and loggerhead turtles, there is something for each kind of traveller.

So, if the cold is making you wish for warmer days, you know what you can book your tickets for (or at least dream of) today. 

What do you picture when you hear the term solo trip? Exploring a new place, trying out different cuisines, trekking through lush mountains or a desert, and taking a tonne of pictures? The sole difference being that it’s just you in them. But the concept of a solo trip isn’t what it used to be. Of course encountering new people has always been a part of it, but instead of leaving it to probability, the future of travel is leaning towards creating communities within travellers. 

More about shared interests and experiences

The rise of loneliness since the pandemic has prompted companies to review the way they curate travel. The focus has shifted from catering to the needs of an individual customer to facilitating connections among solo travellers and satiating their desire to meet and connect with like minded individuals. 

And it seems to be working. By taking yoga or pottery classes together or going to a music festival, fresh encounters are turning into deeper bonds and episodes of quality time together. These engagements do not just alleviate loneliness, but also enhance the quality of the activity and experience.

“We see our customers booking other trips with the same people, going to karaoke nights after the trip and keeping in touch via WhatsApp groups,” co-founder of Much Better Adventures, a company that curates shared travel experiences for 20-40 year olds, Sam Bruce, told The Independent. And this is happening not just across cultures but age-groups too. 

 AI to play friendship matchmaker

AI is expected to play a significant role in enhancing these connections in the future by recommending travel companions based on users’ trip dates, destination choices, and activity interests. This personalised approach will help recommend travel buddies based on interests and individuals with similar preferences, fostering meaningful connections during their travels. 

Skyscanner reports that more than half of its users (54%) this year were considering travelling alone. Owing to this trend, the travel industry is set to alter itself in new ways where AI is going to play a major role (like with most other things). What could be the most exciting to see, however, would be how we, as travellers, take to this new way of bonding. 


 

Train rides are fun but winter trains are on a completely different level, especially if they take you through some tall and dreamy snow-laden mountains. And what better place than Europe to hop on one (it’s one of the reasons we are still not over DDLJ), where over nine new trains have been launched recently? The one we found most exciting is TUI’s Ski Express which takes you from Amsterdam to Austria via Germany. The carriage splits in Wörgl before halting at two different skiing hotspots. Which one of these do you like the best?

When you think of Sydney, what comes to mind? The Opera House, Sydney Cricket Ground, or the Sydney Harbour? Our imagination of the city has been sprinkled with images of modern structures, making it difficult to look beyond. But once you’ve had a peek into the city’s rich history and culture, the desire to explore further becomes insatiable.  

For instance, did you know that the Gadigal people, one of the 29 clan groups residing in greater Sydney, have kept the world's oldest continuous living culture alive? This fascinating fact inspires an exploration of the city through an indigenous lens. 

Start with the aboriginal bush tucker tour. It will not just help you gain insights into the deep relationship the Gadigal people had with the native plants and what makes some of these plants so unique (for example, a native nut that is used as a candle!), but you get to soak in the enchanting beauty of the oldest botanic gardens in Australia – the Royal Botanic Garden. All of this while tasting some freshly plucked berries and fruits.
 
Once on this journey, Blak Markets in The Rocks, too, becomes an inevitable destination, where you can find products that reflect the centuries-old culture of the Gadigal people – from eatables (with recipes passed over generations) without preservatives to art centres. So the next time you visit the city, all you’ll need is a fresh lens.

In stark contrast to the surrounding black lava fields and grey moss lie the milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. One of the most visited attractions in Iceland – rivalled solely by the Golden Circle sightseeing route – the water in this pool contains natural minerals that are known to have rich skin nourishment benefits. In fact, the Blue Lagoon first gained prominence as a treatment site for people with skin conditions, and later became a spa for the general public – including celebrities like Bjork, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and others who have been spotted relaxing in its waters. With an average water temperature of 39° C all year round, it's the perfect destination for a mid-winter spa break.