We already love South Africa – and so should you – but you really ought to consider a visit to its near-neighbour to the northwest, Namibia. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the country’s independence from South Africa, which is as good a reason as any to take in Namibia’s wonders in the near future. These range from the staggering beauty of its desert landscapes, which are among the oldest in the world, the towering dunes and crashing surf of the Skeleton Coast (so-called because of the shipwrecks that litter its 500km length), and the diversity of its wildlife – from cheetah, gira e, black rhinoceros and elephant to giant ostrich and tiny weaver birds. Equally diverse is its kaleidoscope of ethnic cultures – the Himba people famously smear their plaited hair with red clay, while the German immigrants who arrived in the late 19th century still brew some of the best beer in the southern hemisphere, another compelling reason to plan that trip.
We’re talking here about the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, which from the 14th to the 18th centuries formed part of the empire of the Venetian Republic and more recently came under the ag of Yugoslavia. Now most of this magni cent and incredibly beautiful coastline of green and khaki mountainsides that plunge into turquoise waters, ports topped with spires and campaniles, and an outlying necklace of slender islands fringed by bays and beaches goes under the name of Croatia – though Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Montenegro in the south, have their own short stretches too. Lovely though it is, we’d strongly suggest giving the walled port of Dubrovnik a miss as it’s now su ering from the depredations of over-tourism. Instead, make for the Dalmatian islands of Hvar or Korčula, heady with the scent of pine resin or, further north, the island of Pag. And if Dalmatia’s your destination, nd time to venture inland to Plitviče Lakes National Park, whose spectacular natural network of terraced lakes and waterfalls is not only one of the treasures of Croatia but also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Faroe Islands
Northwest of Scotland and roughly midway between Norway and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are not, as you can imagine, the balmiest spot on planet Earth. This northerly archipelago is, however, located far enough from anywhere to be considered properly remote, it’s incredibly beautiful, it’s home to fewer than 50,000 people (there are twice as many sheep) and yet – thanks to being a self-governing part of the a uent kingdom of Denmark – it ranks about as high as it’s possible to get on the index of human development. The Faroes are a paradise for lovers of the outdoors too: weather permitting, the hiking is marvellous; wildlife (especially birdlife) is plentiful; and the scenery – towering cli s, green mountain slopes, crashing waterfalls and, almost everywhere you look, the sea as a backdrop – is as spectacular as you’d expect volcanic islands to be. Although you won’t be wanting for creature comforts, what you won’t nd are ultra-luxe hotels; getting around, however, is a cinch as most of the 18 islands are linked by road tunnels, bridges, causeways and ferries. Oh, and to make the most of your time there – and, though we can’t guarantee it, the weather too – you’ll be visiting in summer, when daylight is pretty much round the clock.
This sliver of a nation in North Africa is a heady mix of sand and sea, diverse landscapes and ancient cultures. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea along the north and east, Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast, with the mighty Atlas Mountains and the rolling dunes of the Sahara in between, Tunisia is a compact destination that can be explored fruitfully within a single holiday. Culture vultures will appreciate the ruins of the coastal city of Carthage and seven other Unesco World Heritage Sites that have seen the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans and French come and go. One such site is the Medina (old city) of its capital Tunis, home to colourful souks and some 700 monuments. While its beaches have traditionally been popular with the Europeans, Tunisia’s stunning national parks, lakes and oases further inland are the stu of dreams. The oasis city of Tozeur in the central western part of the country is also the gateway to multiple Star Wars lming locations – some of which still boast the original sets and props. They include the town of Tataouine, after which the ctional planet Tatooine was named, Mides Canyon, Chott el Djerid salt lake, Ong Jemel camel rock and Ksar Oued Soltane village.
Stretching more than 4,200km from north to south and yet just 350km across at its widest point, the South American country of Chile encompasses almost every variety of climate and landscape imaginable for fulfilling travel after Covid-19. There’s the high and dry plateau of the Atacama desert in the north, and the temperate rainforests and deep glacial fjords of Patagonia in the south. All of it is bordered on one side by the Paci c Ocean and on the other by the snow- capped Andes, the latter a constantly looming presence no matter where in the country you happen to be. Roughly in the centre lies Chile’s sophisticated and cosmopolitan capital, Santiago, whose southern extremities are touched by the world-famous Maipo Valley wine region. Although the most famous area of all in a country that attracts fewer than seven million visitors a year is surely Patagonia’s spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, the less-visited Cerro Castillo National Park is equally breathtaking and almost deserted. And if you’re really desperate to get away from it all, there’s always mysterious Rapa Nui – better known as Easter Island – which lies some 3,700km o shore in the South Pacific.
Central Asia/The Silk Road
You’ll often hear Central Asia, which until recently formed the southern underbelly of the Soviet Union, referred to as “the stans”. Made up of the now-independent republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, it’s a vast, rugged, beautiful but little-visited region of steppes, plains and snow-capped mountain ranges (the Pamir is among the highest in the world) that – a handful of large urban centres aside – is gloriously devoid of people. Historically, of course, it’s the site of the great Silk Road trading route that linked China with Europe and can still be traversed today – on horseback, by bicycle or 4×4, or even aboard a helicopter. Along the way, in evocatively named cities such as Bishkek, Bukhara and Tashkent, you’ll nd markets and bazaars replete with the scent of spices, just as they would have been in ancient times. No doubt you’ll also encounter nomadic people, who roam these huge expanses and sleep in yurts constructed from wood, wool and felt – and as ultra-luxury travel has yet to permeate these parts, bedding down in one of these circular tents could well be a highlight of your visit too.
Stranded way out on the volcanic Mid-Atlantic Ridge more than 1,400km west of Lisbon, the remote and often other-worldly Portuguese archipelago of the Azores is a paradise painted in dazzling shades of green and blue. It’s rightly known as the Hawaii of the North Atlantic – though mercifully one that’s so far been little altered by aggressive tourism. Each of the nine specks in the ocean has its own unique character, though for sheer spectacular beauty it would be hard to beat the Sete Cidades lagoon and crater lake, which lies in a vast volcanic caldera on São Miguel, the largest island. In contrast, the small city of Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira island is an unspoiled jewel that dates back to the late 15th century and was more recently designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. Wildlife abounds both on- and o shore – sperm whales and dolphins play in the deep Atlantic waters – and with large portions of the land area under rigorous environmental protection, the Azores are about as unspoiled as it’s possible for a destination to be in the early 21st century.
Notorious as the birthplace of Josef Stalin, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia sits nestled at the edge of Europe, with Russia and the Caucasus Mountains (rising to more than 5,000m) to the north, the Black Sea to the west and Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan to the south and east. A small country of spectacular scenery and contrasts, it has a fascinating and picturesque capital city in Tbilisi with its colourful balconies, small squares and unforgettable location astride a river and surrounded by mountains. An early cradle of Christianity that has more ancient churches and monasteries, often in stunningly beautiful locations, than any country could reasonably expect, it’s also one of the world’s oldest wine- producing regions (there are tea plantations too) – and its cuisine, which includes delicious khachapuri cheese bread and kharcho meat- and-tomato stew, is fast gaining global recognition. And if all that weren’t enough, you can even escape to the Black Sea riviera for a spot of sunshine.