Great lakes and how to explore them

Great lakes and how to explore them

Want sandy beaches, gentle waves and vast open water? Oceanside jaunts aren’t your only option. In fact, some of the best water-based escapes can be found inland.

From giant inland seas to calm alpine waters, the world’s greatest lakes showcase nature at its most diverse and dramatic, as well as offering adventure, culture and wholesome outdoorsy fun. Here are some of our favourites.

Great lakes – the red waters of Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

Best for… otherworldly scenery

Part of Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats, shallow Laguna Colorada sits amongst hot springs, volcanoes and twisted rock formations, and its rust-red waters are dotted with bright white pools of sodium, magnesium and borax. The effect is more Mission to Mars than Planet Earth, and it’s a scene made all the more bizarre by the presence of huge crowds of lurid pink flamingos.

Lake two: Remote and desolate, Tanzania’s caustic Lake Natron turns the animals that die there into eerie ‘mummified’ statues.

Great lakes – Lake Louise, Banff, Canada

Best for… winter activities

Turquoise, glacier-fed Lake Louise, encased by the snowy peaks of the Canadian Rockies, is spectacular enough in summer, but really shines in winter when it turns into one of the most beautiful ice rinks in the world.

If skating isn’t your thing, make the most of the lake through world-class skiing and sleigh rides, as well as ice sculptures galore at the Ice Magic Festival – the crisp night air is also perfect for stargazing. Then there’s the fondue-guzzling, hot chocolate-slurping, beer-drinking après ski in the resort town of Banff.

Lake two: Sweden’s Lake Åresjön becomes a giant frozen ice sheet in winter and there’s fantastic skiing around the tiny historic mountain town of Åre.

Great lakes – Kayakers paddle in Lake Malawi, Malawi

Best for… beach bums

Malawi may seem an unlikely place to fulfil your tropical island fantasies, but there’s chilled beach life and golden sands aplenty around the country’s namesake lake. Lake Malawi’s shores are lined with laid-back villages and pristine coves, and the clear, calm waters swarm with clouds of colourful cichlid fish.

When it’s time to sleep there are dozens of options – from the backpacker resorts of Cape Maclear and Nkhata Bay to full-blown eco luxe at Kaya Mawa and Nkwichi Lodge. Adventurers can cruise the lake on the vintage MV Ilala ferry, bedding down on the deck beneath the stars.

Lake two: Tranquil Bacalar Lagoon in Quintana Roo, Mexico is great for camping, swimming, kayaking and simply lazing around.

Great lakes – Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy

Best for… architecture buffs

Yes, Italy’s Lake Como has snow-topped mountains and deep green hills, but the real stars here are the chic homes, lakeside palazzos and enchanting towns and villages brimming with storied old buildings. Among the best are famous Bellagio, a jumble of winding stone staircases, red roofs and flower-filled gardens, and 18th century Villa Balbianello, whose elegant facade, exquisite art-filled interior and sculpted gardens come with stunning lake views.

To explore, rent a car and zip round the lakeside highway, hire a bike to navigate the hills or, in high season, take to the water and hop from idyllic town to idyllic town.

Lake two: India’s Lake Pichola is backed by the forested Aravalli Hills and the palaces, temples, and havelis of enchanting Udaipur.

Great lakes – Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Best for… wildlife watching

You can’t so much as dip a toe into the waters of Kenya’s Lake Nakuru, one of the Rift Valley’s famous soda lakes, but it’s the surrounding wildlife that is the big pull here. While most of the once plentiful flamingos have moved on, animal enthusiasts will be more than happy with the lions, leopards, black and white rhinos, and endangered Rothschild giraffes that roam the surrounding grasslands and forests.

To get up close, hire a jeep, or take an organised safari, which you can book in nearby Nakuru town or through one of the lodges dotting the National Park.

Lake two: Wild, remote and beautiful, Lake Clark, Alaska, is a fantastic place to see brown and black bears in their natural environment.

Great lakes – Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand

Best for… adventure sports

If you’ve ever wanted to throw yourself out of a plane or jump off a mountain, then Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown – the self-appointed adventure capital of New Zealand – is the place to go. You can bungee from Queenstown’s Kawarau Bridge or take in views of the lake while on a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet; then there’s jet boating, zip-lining, and for those of a less adventurous ilk, hiking the lakeshore. And when you’re done, take the edge off that adrenaline buzz in one of Queenstown’s lively bars.

Lake two: Head for the UK’s Lake District to get your mountain biking, abseiling, kayaking groove on.

Great lakes – Lake Titicaca

Best for… culture

Deep blue Lake Titicaca, peppered with golden islands and backed by snow-capped mountains, is also shrouded in myth and legend – and it’s a wonderful place to learn about local highland cultures. On the Peruvian side are the famous reed islands of the Uros Indians. They’re easily visited by ferry from nearby Puno or you could stay overnight in the reed huts of Uros Khantati.

Over the border in Bolivia, the serene islands of Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna are home to traditional communities, pre-Columbian ruins and the beguiling religious centre, Copacabana.

Lake two: Visit Myanmar’s Inle Lake, renowned for stilt-house villages, floating gardens, Buddhist temples and the distinct way of life of the Intha people.

Great lakes – Loch Katrine, as seen seen from the Trossachs, Scotland

Best for… walking

The epitome of Scottish natural beauty, Loch Lomond is best off season, when the crowds of tourists and day-trippers have thinned out and you’ll have more of its haunting splendour to yourself.

The Iconic West Highland Way runs along the loch’s eastern shores, and across the way, Luss Heritage Path winds through gentle countryside and the ancient and charming Luss village. West of Loch Lomond itself are the steep Arrochar Alps, and to the east are the Trossachs – a gorgeous landscape of forest, lakes and hills. The sheer variety means that there are routes for everyone – from gentle strolls to hardcore, multi-day hikes.

Lake two: At Gokyo Lakes, in Nepal’s Everest region, you can traverse dramatic scenery at an altitude of 5000 metres (and take a dip, if you’re brave enough).

Great lakes – Lake Michigan, Chicago

Best for… urbanites

Take to Chicago’s 18-mile long lakefront trail and you can jog, walk, bike or rollerblade with the blue waters of Lake Michigan to one side and a mixture of parkland and dramatic skyscrapers on the other.

Got a car? Enjoy the mighty city views from Lakeshore Drive, which runs alongside the trail, finishing in the diverse lakeside community of Edgewater. The lake’s many beaches pack out with sunbathers in the summer months, and on the lake you can paddle board, jet ski, or zip around by boat.


How to be a reef-safe traveller

It’s no secret that the world’s coral reefs are in serious trouble, their prospects threatened by everything from climate change to overfishing; in fact, scientists predict that without drastic action nearly all of these dazzling ecosystems could be gone by 2050.

But while the prognosis is grim, travellers can play a role in the campaign to save the reefs by changing their behaviour and making informed choices. Here are our tips on how you can help to ensure that these rainforests of the sea – from the Coral Triangle to the Caribbean – can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Drifting plastic bag and a turtle © MOHAMED ABDULRAHEEM / Shutterstock

Curb your plastic use

Saving the world’s coral reefs – which support a quarter of all marine species as well as half a billion people around the world – starts on dry land.

One of the biggest threats to marine life that play an integral role in the health of coral reefs is plastic, which never breaks down. Instead, it breaks up into tiny little pieces called microplastics. If the intact plastic doesn’t kill the marine life, the chemicals that latch onto these fragments can be severely toxic to animals that ingest them.

With five trillion pieces of plastic already thought to be bobbing about in our oceans, avoiding single-use items such as bags, bottles and straws can help to prevent adding to this colossal issue.

Choose eco-certified travel operators

Making an effort to choose the most responsible marine tourism operators while travelling can also help to save coral reefs. The first step is to ensure that operators are licensed and their guides are certified. Ideally, operators will also hold a form of national or international eco-certification.

If this information isn’t available on the company’s website, ask questions. How does the company educate guests about the local environment and marine life? What specific steps does it take to minimise its own impact on the local ecosystem? Does it run or assist in local conservation initiatives such as beach clean-ups? You might have to shell out a few more bucks to take a legitimate ecotour, but look at it as an investment in the environment.

Aerial shot of two snorkellers exploring a reef © Larry Dale Gordon / Getty Images

Become a citizen scientist

A growing number of conservation foundations, national parks, and eco-friendly hotels worldwide run citizen scientist programs that allow everyday travellers to play an active role in contributing to the long-term protection of the world’s coral reefs.

For example, scientists monitoring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – which covers nearly 348,000 square kilometres – rely on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef app, which allows users to upload images and recordings of coral bleaching events, stranded wildlife, and other developments that help to assist authorities in their conservation work.

Volunteer on a reef conservation project

A vast array of marine conservation projects are now offered by most major voluntourism organisations in destinations ranging from Mexico,  Indonesia to the MaldivesFiji to The Azores.

Projects may see you assist in conservation initiatives including beach clean-ups, building community awareness, physical monitoring of coral reefs and marine life, and even replanting healthy coral fragments onto damaged or bleached reefs. With many projects including a scuba diving course, it’s a great way to give back to the reef while picking up your certification.

Close-up of a coral reef © Brian Kinney / Shutterstock

Look, but don’t touch

Comprised of hundreds of thousands of tiny animals called polyps, corals are more delicate than they may look. Take care to practise neutral buoyancy when scuba diving, and always be aware of your flippers when you’re diving or snorkelling – stirring up sediment with your fins can smother corals, while simply touching corals can kill them. Even if a coral is not visibly harmed, the transfer of oils and bacteria contained on human skin can make these fragile invertebrates more vulnerable to disease and death.

Choose sustainable seafood

You can help to save coral reefs simply by making more informed decisions about what type of seafood you eat and when. About one-third of all saltwater fish species live at least part of their lives on coral reefs, and all play important roles in the health of these habitats. The overfishing of parrotfish and surgeonfish populations, for example, allows algae to grow unchecked, causing some coral reef ecosystems to morph from technicolour seascapes to fields of seaweed and rubble.

You can avoid being part of the problem by checking if your travel destination has a sustainable seafood guide (the World Wildlife Fund has free guides to more than 20 countries), and steering clear of out-of-season seafood offered on restaurant menus.

Boy on a beach having sunscreen applied to his back © adriaticfoto / Shutterstock

Use reef-safe sunscreen

A study of the US Virgin Islands published in 2015 revealed that common chemicals used in sunscreen were to blame for killing local coral reefs. The worst offender was found to be oxybenzone which can damage coral DNA, rendering healthy-looking corals sterile. Oxybenzone and other UV-absorbing compounds (including methoxycinnamate) can also cause bleaching by lowering the temperature at which corals will bleach when exposed to prolonged heat stress.

Even some ingredients found in ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ sunscreens can be toxic. Lavender and eucalyptus, for example, have applications as insect repellents, suggesting they may also be toxic to invertebrates. With a growing number of sunscreen brands now actively avoiding these harmful ingredients, it’s easier to make more reef-safe choices.

Avoid coral products

Coral can take decades to reach maturity, and if it is harvested, surrounding coral beds often do not recover. The prized red coral colonies of the Mediterranean, for example, now only yield an estimated 25% of their original harvest.

Thus, by purchasing coral jewellery (which many of the world’s leading jewellery brands, including Tiffany & Co, no longer sell) and other types of coral souvenirs on your travels, you are effectively contributing to the decline of corals around the world.


Eight lesser-known surfing spots around the world

Mention travelling to surf enthusiasts and the same places are bound to come up in conversation. Spots such as Oahu in Hawaii, Byron Bay in Australia, Ixtapa in Mexico and Bundoran in Ireland are world famous for their ripping waves and beautiful beaches, and rightly so.

But what if you want to catch a wave away from the crowds? From jungle-flanked point breaks in Colombia to secluded New Zealand coves, a global array of lesser-known surfing destinations are waiting to be discovered – you just need to know where to find them…

Lesser-known surfing spots – aerial shot of New Chums Beach, New Zealand

New Chums Beach – Whangapoua, New Zealand

Wave type: point and beach breaks; Level: all

New Zealand is home to some unforgettable beaches. This secluded strip of white sand and cerulean water is one of them, and requires a 40-minute hike from the north end of Whangapoua Beach, which is found on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. A trickling stream gives way to a stony coastal trail that passes over the headland and through a forest of native nikau and pohutukawa trees before the beach is revealed.

Wainuiototo Bay has several peaks along New Chums offering both right and left handers, including a small cove with a pearly right that peels around an outcrop, and a beach break in the centre of the strip. Due to its sheltered location, the bay requires decent swell to break and is best enjoyed around mid-tide.

 

A lone bodyboarder wades into the surf off Oahu, Hawaii © JJM Photography / Shutterstock

Halawa Beach Park – Moloka’i, Hawaii

Wave type: point and beach break; Level: advanced.

Legend has it that early Moloka’i chiefs once surfed at Halawa Bay, where two beaches, Kaili and Kaiwili, are separated by a rocky outcrop.The island as a whole is known for its rich heritage and pride in its indigenous culture.

Today, residents ride the strong winter waves that crash onto the black sand, backdropped by sweeping views of mountains and waterfalls. While summertime swimming is enjoyed by visitors, both coves can be subject to dangerous rip currents. Showing respect is definitely necessary at this unspoilt, low-key location, both to the locals and to the untamed waters.

 

Lesser-known surfing spots – Amoreira beach, as seen from a wooden walkway on the cliffs. Algarve, Portugal.

Praia da Amoreira – Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal

Wave type: beach and point break; Level: all.

Nestled along the western coast of The Algarve in the middle of Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a gorgeous park that stretches over 100km from Porto Covo to Burgau, Amoreira Beach sits at the mouth of the River Aljezur, which forms a tranquil lagoon system right beside the incoming waves.

The unique beach is perfect for swimming, kayaking and surfing, and although it has fairly consistent waves, it’s rarely crowded, even in the best conditions. Praia da Amoreira features a beach break with left and right hand waves, as well as two point breaks that peel into the middle of the bay from the cliffs on both sides.

Lesser-known surfing spots – A group of surf students walk along the beach on Ngor Island, Senegal

Philippes – Ngor Island, Dakar, Senegal

Wave type: reef break; Level: professional.

Peaceful Ngor – a tiny island just off the tip of Dakar, Africa’s most western point – offers a range of reliable surf options. Despite being featured in the iconic 1966 documentary The Endless Summer, Ngor island hasn’t been overrun by surfing enthusiasts, and Senegal remains an often overlooked destination, despite having some world-class waves.

Philippes is a very heavy wave that picks up swell directly from the north Atlantic Ocean. It’s more than 50m deep in front of the spot, so the waves stand up only a few metres before breaking, presenting a short, rocky ride with a heavy barrel. While this unique spot is definitely one reserved for the pros, Ngor Island offers a dozen other locations suitable for all levels.

 

Lesser-known surfing spots – Aoshima's coast features rock formations called the Devil's Washboard.

Aoshima Beach – Kyushu, Japan

Wave type: beach break; Level: all.

Shrouded in palm trees and surrounded by sheets of wave-like rock formations known as the Devil’s Washboard, Aoshima is a tiny island – complete with Shinto shrine – located on the southeastern coast of Kyushu, Japan. The coastal area on the mainland (also called Aoshima) includes a town, beach park and strip of idyllic white-sand shores perfect for surfing.

It is a popular spot in spring and summer, hosting various international competitions, but it’s never overrun by crowds and is quiet compared to the likes of Okinawa or Chiba. With laid-back waves and a clean, sandy beach, the easily-accessible location is perfect for beginners, while choppier conditions for more advanced surfers can be found further down the coast.

 

Lesser-known surfing spots - a surfer rides a large wave at Pico de Loro, Colombia

Pico de Loro – Nuquí, Colombia

Wave type: point break; Level: advanced.

With staggered outcrops jutting from the sea and strong waves that break onto a rocky shoreline before a dense jungle thicket, Pico de Loro is definitely a spot reserved for advanced surfers and those with key knowledge of the area.

The beach – which is only accessible via a short boat ride from Nuqui – offers consistent swells and rideable waves, as well as opportunities to spot colourful birds and humpback whales. Surfers seeking the spot can take a plane from Medellín to Nuqui and make arrangements through local guides or hotels.

 

Lesser-known surfing spots – Ballyhiernan Bay, County Donegal, Ireland

Ballyhiernan Bay – County Donegal, Ireland

Wave type: beach break; Level: all.

Although it’s located only 30 minutes by car from Letterkenny, County Donegal’s largest and most populous town, Fanad Peninsula is a striking example of the hardy, unspoilt charm on offer in abundance in Ireland. The area is a highlight of the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route, featuring undulating emerald knolls and sprawling, world-class beaches – ideal for surfers looking for peace, tranquillity and, quite possibly, completely private wave-riding sessions.

Consisting of a long sandy beach backed by low-lying sand dunes fringed by rocky headlands, Ballyhiernan Bay in particular is a must-visit for surfers, swimmers and casual coastal ramblers.

 

Lesser-known surfing spots – A silhouette of a surfer standing on the shore as the sun sets.

La Saladita – Guerrero, Mexico

Wave type: point break; Level: all.

Ixtapa was a pastoral coconut plantation up until the late 1970s, when the Mexican Government launched an initiative to transform the area into a family-friendly resort. But a 40-minute coastal drive north brings visitors away from the more densely populated hotels and apartments, to La Saladita, a pristine beach that offers some seriously stunning swells. Its smooth, long-peeling left point break is said to provide one of the longest rides in Mexico and is good for longboarding all year-round, with waves being smaller in winter.


An island-hopper’s guide to archipelagos of adventure

The word ‘archipelago’ comes from the Greek ‘arkhi’ (chief) and ‘pegalos’ (sea). Originally, it was a name only for the Aegean Sea, that island-speckled spur of the Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey.

Now, the word describes any chain of islands – but just as it did when Odysseus supposedly set sail from Troy to explore the original, the thought of hopping from one island to another still stokes a sense of wanderlust.

After all, where else can travellers find such a range of one-off experiences so close to each other? Simply put, archipelagos condense adventures. So perhaps it’s time to set off on your own odyssey through one of them. Here are some ideas to ignite your imagination.

A close-up of an iguana on a beach in the Galapagos Islands © Alexander Safonov / Getty Images

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

In a nutshell: The original bucket list-topper for wildlife watchers

Salt-sneezing iguanas, blue-footed boobies, multi-hued Sally Lightfoot crabs… you’ve seen the Galápagos’ iconic inhabitants on TV so many times that you know them as well as the much less colourful critters in your own backyard. In this case, however, familiarity has not bred contempt: seeing with your own eyes the unique wildlife that shaped Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is a spellbinding travel experience. Most visitors stay aboard a cruise ship bound for several islands, but you can also stay at a hotel on one of the larger ones and take day trips instead.

Go: TAME, Avianca and LAN fly from Quito and Guayaquil.

Several species of starfish in a shallow channel running between two islands in Gwaii Haanas National Park, Canada ©  Alexandra Kobalenko / Getty Images

Haida Gwaii, Canada

In a nutshell: Intriguing culture amid ancient rainforest, plus marine life in abundance

Often dubbed ‘Canada’s Galápagos’, the wild, wet islands of Haida Gwaii, which lie about 90 miles off the craggy coast of British Columbia, cast a powerful spell, combining a vibrant First Nations culture with some of the oldest, most pristine rainforests on earth. After visiting the Haida Heritage Centre in the north, take a boat or hop on a plane to Gwaii Haanas National Park in the south, a vast wilderness of spruce and cedars that abounds with endemic fauna and flora; and keep ‘em peeled for the whales, orcas and sea otters flourishing in the islands’ protected coastal waters.

Go: Air Canada flies from Vancouver; BC Ferries run services from Prince Rupert.

The dense undergrowth of a tropical forest on the Ogasawara Islands © Amana Images Inc / Getty Images

Ogasawara Archipelago, Japan

In a nutshell: Tropical balm for the soul, seriously off the beaten track

It is difficult to reconcile the electrifying, high-tech metropolis of Tokyo with the edge-of-the-world tranquillity of the Ogasawara Archipelago – and yet, officially, these polar opposites occupy the same Japanese prefecture. Stressed-out Tokyoites and anyone else looking to unwind will find the long ferry trip to this necklace of jade jewels in a dolphin-dotted sea more than worthwhile. Yes, these islands exude a sense of calm, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do: in an environment this unspoiled, you won’t be surprised to hear that Ogasawara’s forests and reefs simply teem with life just waiting for you to hike or swim amongst it.

Go: There’s only one way – the 24-hour ferry from Tokyo.

Wrecked boats in the harbour of Moroni, Grand Comore © altrendo travel / Getty Images

Comoros Islands

In a nutshell: Islamic culture plus castaway charm

The unheralded trio of Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan is unlike anywhere else in the Indian Ocean: in contrast to near-ish neighbours the Seychelles, the Comoros, an Islamic nation at the top of the Mozambique Channel, welcomes just a few thousand visitors a year. African, Arabic, Malagasy and French influences intermingle to intoxicating effect here, as do the fragrances of tropical flowers, which gave this old spice trading post its other name: the ‘perfumed islands’. Stroll the medina of Moroni, hike smouldering Mt Karthala in the south of Grande Comore, and then set sail for the even more remote outposts of Mohéli and Anjouan, home of endangered turtles and fruit bats respectively.

Go: Kenyan Airways, Air Tanzania and Air Madagascar fly to Grande Comore.

The Azores' spectacular landscape abounds with views that will stop hikers dead in their tracks © Hiral Gosalia / Getty Images

The Azores, Portugal

In a nutshell: Adventure playground for adults in the mid-Atlantic

Thrillseekers need look no further than these nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic. Geology and geography have combined to produce an adrenaline junkie’s fantasy: sail, dive, hike, surf, rappel, canyon, kayak, paraglide, mountain bike – it’s all happening in this autonomous region of Portugal. The Azores’ location also ensures world-class whale watching and, should you fancy some culture amid all that action, the ancient vineyards of Pico and old town of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira are both world heritage sites. Phew.

Go: TAP, Ryanair, Delta and others fly from destinations throughout Europe and the US.

Two people on a kayak crossing Bacuit Bay, Palawan, at sunset © Mark Watson/Highlux / Getty Images

Bacuit Bay, the Philippines

In a nutshell: Brochure-friendly vision of limestone cliffs and emerald lagoons

Composed of more than 7000 tropical islands, the entire Philippines qualifies as a castaway’s daydream. But the long sliver of Palawan province, the inspiration for Alex Garland’s bestselling novel The Beach, is certainly one of the highlights – and within Palawan itself, the sheer limestone cliffs enclosing the jade and turquoise shallows of Bacuit Bay draw the most determined paradise-seekers. El Nido is the gateway to this glimmering waterworld, which is best explored by sea kayak. Expect secret lagoons, exquisite beaches and some of Southeast Asia’s best snorkelling.

Go: Airswift flies from Manila and other Filipino destinations.

The remains of the Stone Age settlement Skara Brae, Orkney © Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Orkney, Scotland

In a nutshell: Enough time-travelling potential to make Dr Who’s head spin

Strange as it seems when you consider its location from a contemporary perspective, this wind-buffeted spot off northeast Scotland was once a hub of Stone Age civilisation. Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and other atmospheric ruins testify to that, and these flat, fertile islands also retain traces of later epochs, from the Bronze to the Viking Age, not to mention a fascinating footnote of war-time history, when the natural harbour of Scapa Flow sheltered the British Navy during WWI and WWII. Aside from this multi-layered heritage, Orkney also attracts nature lovers with shell-strewn, seal-frequented beaches and walks along sandstone cliffs echoing with the screeches of huge seabird colonies.

Go: Flybe flies from most major Scottish cities; Northlink Ferries runs services from Aberdeen, plus there are shorter seasonal routes.

A diver in the centre of a shoal of barracuda, the Solomon Islands © Peter Pinnock / Getty Images

The Solomon Islands

In a nutshell: Barefoot beauties and undersea marvels in the South Pacific

This part of the world specialises in desert-island getaways. Many of them boast resorts with all the trimmings, but the Solomon Islands offers a different vibe: here, you’re more likely to stay in a humble guesthouse than an overwater bungalow, and the chief pleasure comes from experiencing a place that feels pleasingly lost in time. It’s surprising given that, like some of their neighbours, the Solomons enchant the senses with luxuriant forests, indigo-hued lagoons and, most of all, marvels beneath the waves. It’s the latter that lures divers, who come for the kaleidoscopic coral and WWII wrecks; but, what with jungle hikes to secret waterfalls, serious surfing and snapshots of Melanesian culture on offer, there are reasons enough above the water too.

Go: Solomon Airlines, Virgin Australia, Fiji Airways and others fly from Australia, Fiji, Papau New Guinea and Vanuatu.

A group of people on snowmobiles exploring Svalbard © Ethan Welty / Getty Images

Svalbard, Norway

In a nutshell: a taste of the North Pole for mortals

Short of enrolling for a proper polar expedition, a trip to these ice-encrusted islands in the North Atlantic is one of the best ways to get a feel for life inside the Arctic Circle. And what a life it is: more polar bears than people roam this land of creaking glaciers, where the seasons dictate what’s on offer. In summer, pick from dozens of boat trips, hiking adventures and dog-sledding tours, and explore this wild archipelago under the glow of the midnight sun; those dauntless dogs still run in winter, but snowmobiling is the fastest way to traverse the polar night, with tour companies offering multi-day cross-country ski excursions.


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