If you’re based in the UK for at least the next two years, make the most of it. One of the attractions of the country is the fact there are tonnes of destinations just a short flight away. Here’s our guide to the must-visit destinations – with a few essential long-haul hotspots thrown in for good measure.
Why: Witness the birth of a new democratic country. 2011 saw the Egyptian revolution and president Hosni Mubarak resigning, ending his 30-year reign. Although there was still unrest at the end of last year, the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office had placed no restrictions on travel – but check at the time of your trip.
Highlights Don’t let last year’s Arab Spring put you off – Egypt is a stunning destination that deserves to be seen. The capital, Cairo, is located on the Nile river. It’s hectic and busy, yet beautiful. Visit the Egyptian Museum which is filled with more than 120,000 intriguing ancient artifacts, including King Tut’s Golden Mask. Luxor, gateway to the Valley of the Kings, is a mass of bustling metropolitan madness. Visit the touristy dive spot of Sharm el-Sheikh; or spend days lazing by the Red Sea in laid-back Dahab.
Giza: Nothing can prepare you for the exhilaration of standing beneath The Pyramids and the Sphinx. They are among the greatest archaeological sites you will ever encounter.
The Nile: The ultimate in lazy travel; spend a day floating along the longest river in the world on a traditional felucca. You’ll soon forget any problems.
Mt. Sinai: It will take you about three hours to reach the 2285m peak where it’s believed God himself spoke to Moses and passed down the Ten Commandments.
The Red Sea: A waterbaby’s haven, the turquoise waters off the eastern coast of the Sinai Peninsula make for some of the best diving on the planet. Plunge into a world of colourful reefs and rich marine life and explore caves and wrecks, both long forgotten and rediscovered.
The Valley of the Kings: Witness the final resting place of more than 60 of Egypt’s most highly regarded ancient leaders, including Tutankhamen and Queen Hatshepsut.
When to go: Peak season is November until May. At other times, it’s cheaper, but also much hotter.
Getting there: Egypt is a five-hour flight from the UK with flights leaving from all London airports.
How much: A tour will set you back about £150 excluding flights. It can be advisable to book a tour guide so you can take advantage of the safety and knowledge that provides. Food and drink prices are fairly cheap: you can feed yourself for about £5 a day.
Visa: Aussies and Kiwis can buy a visa upon arrival (about £10), but it’s less hassle to get one before you go. South Africans need to apply for a visa in advance.
Why: It can be an adventurer’s playground; a beachgoer’s paradise; an explorer’s unchartered territory. There are deserts, rainforests, savannah, mountains, lowlands, stunning beaches and tropical islands – not to mention some of the most amazing animals you’ll ever come close to. Go on safari at a national park to witness the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino).
Highlights: Visit Johannesburg, Cape Town, the Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Victoria Falls while in South Africa. Go on a wildlife adventure in Kenya; trek volcanoes, climb Mt Kilimanjaro, and watch the annual migration in the Serengeti; or trek in search of mountain gorillas in Uganda.
When to go: April and June to see the wildlife migration in Tanzania and Kenya.
Getting there: To witness different parts of Africa, book an overland trip. If you want to go it alone, start in Tanzania by flying into Dar es Salaamin Tanzania and making your way to Arusha, where you’ll find loads of safari operators.
How much: Tours start at about £250 excluding flights.
Visas: Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans need a visa for Tanzania. All foreigners travelling to the country also need to show proof of a yellow fever inoculation.
Skiing / Snowboarding
Why: Why not! It’s heaps of fun, and nothing beats heading up the mountains, breathing in fresh alpine air and carving your way back down. And Europe has something for beginners and pros alike.
Where: There are slopes in Andorra, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, as well as in many places outside the Eurozone. Flights leave regularly from London. However, look into hopping on to a train as you won’t get charged for baggage. Bus journeys can be long, but they’re usually cheap.
Best for … Budget Beginners: Eastern Europe is great for snow bunnies on a budget. Borovets (bulgariaski.com) has pistes of varying length and difficulty. You can even try your hand at cross-country skiing on a track set 2km away from the resort. Borovets also boasts a thriving clubbing scene. Ski passes start at £84 for three days.
Best for … Budget Indermediate: Bansko (bulgariaski.com) benefits from a long season (roughly December to May) and plenty of good powder. Together with 64km of pistes to explore, this cute medieval town has many cultural monuments and historic sites, while slightly further afield is the Pirin National Park – a Unesco World Heritage site home to epic limestone mountainscapes, glacial lakes, waterfalls and caves. There’s also a wealth of cheap accommodation options at Bansko and a decent clubbing scene. Set aside £125 for a six-day ski pass.
When to go: Most European seasons start in November and run until April, or in some cases, May. Check the snow forecast for your destination before you book – and avoid school holidays at all costs.
How much For cheaper rates, look outside the Eurozone. There’s Bansko in Bulgaria, Slovenia’s main resorts Kranjska Gora and Bovec, the High and Low Tatras mountains of Slovakia and Romania’s Poiana Brasov. Don’t expect them to rival the big hitters of the Alps, but the areas are being invested in all the time. A list of companies specialising in ski tours, with varying prices, dates and locations, can be found at tntmagazine.com/travel.
Visas: Aussies and Kiwis don’t need visas for most EU countries. South Africans will most likely need a Schengen visa. Check before you leave.
Why: The Trans-Siberian railway has come to mean much more than the train journey across Russia it originally described. As well as the route between Moscow and Vladivostok, it’s now a catch-all for any train journey in this area – in fact, most travellers
doing the ‘Trans-Sib’ will usually be heading from Beijing to Mongolia, then through Siberia to Moscow (or vice versa) – officially, the Trans-Mongolian. This epic rail journey has also come to symbolise the ultimate in do-before-you-die travel. It’s an adventure crossing time zones and cultures, continents and countries.
When to go: May until September because of the warm weather, but they’re also the busiest times. Avoid July and August as it’s too hot. Travel in March to experience the tail end of a Siberian winter. Avoid the first snow in October and the spring thaw in April.
Getting There: Take an overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow, where the journey departs.
How much: Packages start from about £800.
Visas: All visitors need a visa for Russia and China, and most nationalities need one for Mongolia too. Leave at least six weeks to sort your visas out. Ask your tour company if they can help with visa arrangements.
Why: The United States is enormous, so don’t even think about attempting to cover it in one trip. It’s a land where everything is on a bigger scale – from the superior lakes and the grand canyons to the skyscrapers and heart-attack-inducing breakfasts. Check out our favourite roadtrips:
Eastern Promise: With super-cheap flights from London to New York City, the Big Apple is the obvious place to start an East Coast tour. Explore Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Complete your East Coast tour in Florida, making stops in the stylish beach city of Miami, and in Orlando, home to Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld, as well as gorgeous beaches.
Wild West: From wild landscapes to hip cities, the US’s west coast is an adventurer’s dream. Celeb-spot in star-studded LA, ogle ancient rocks in the Grand Canyon and soak up desert hues in Death Valley. Finish up in Las Vegas, a neon wonderland in the sand that is the ultimate playground for grown-ups.
The Deep South: Laid-back New Orleans has a vibrant French Quarter which comes alive at night with competing melodies emanating from jazz clubs. If New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, then Memphis is the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll. It’s a 10-hour train ride from New Orleans but it’s worth it. Expect Elvis mania – and don’t miss the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum which covers the development of soul into rock ’n’ roll.
When to go: Summer – which begins on Memorial Day (last Mon in May) and ends on Labor Day (first Mon in Sep) – is peak. Autumn (fall) is spectacular, and Christmas time in New York is a festive overload.
Getting there: All major London airports have flights to the US. Major international airports include JFK and Newark (New York), LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco) and Hartsfield International (Atlanta).
How much: Simple four-day tours of the US start from £189.
Visas: Aussies and Kiwis don’t need visas for stays of less than 90 days, but must obtain travel authorisation prior to departing for the US. This may be obtained online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), an internet application. South Africans will need to make an appointment at their nearest US embassy or consulate to obtain a visa.
WHY If you’re after a no-holds-barred unforgettable adventure, this is the right place. South America is all epic landscapes and throbbing party towns, the perfect destination for intrepid travellers who like to have fun.
HIGHLIGHTS: SALVADOR, BRAZIL Salvador is the ultimate party city, with its streets throbbing 24-7 to African drum beats, and its central squares full of displays of capoeira, performed by buff men doing handstands and flips. The historic centre, Pelourinho,
is abuzz with bars and clubs pumping out samba.
INCA TRAIL, PERU The four-day hike to the dramatic city of Machu Picchu is a tick-box activity for most backpackers exploring Peru. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get on the Inca Trail as the government only issues 200 permits worldwide a day. Book in advance.
BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS Salar de Uyuni are the largest salt flats in the world: a 12,000sqkm carpet of blindingly white salt that stretches as far as the eye can see. Look out for turquoise lagoons full of flamingos, active geysers, striking rock formations and steamy hot springs where you can bathe. Keep your eyes peeled for llamas with ribbons in their ears, and ostriches.
ANGEL FALLS, VENEZUELA Arrange a tour from the steaming-hot Venezuelan city of Ciudad Bolivar, dotted with pretty colonial buildings. Gloriously remote, Canaima National Park, where the highest waterfall in the world is situated, is only reachable by small plane from Ciudad Bolivar across dense jungle.
AMAZON RAINFOREST Tours to the Amazon can
be arranged from Brazil, Peru or Bolivia and all are likely to include caiman spotting and piranha fishing. You’re likely to sleep in hammocks and swim in the Amazon every day during a rainforest adventure.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA Tango displays can be seen all over the city, particularly in the clubs of hip artists’ district San Telmo. Once you’ve watched the experts at it, take a lesson in one of the city’s many schools to try out your moves in the clubs.
DEATH ROAD, BOLIVIA A bike ride along Bolivia’s infamous Death Road is a rite of passage for any traveller worth their mettle. Outside Bolivia’s capital La Paz, the bumpy and narrow track is on a very steep incline and has earned its dangerous reputation thanks to suffering the most casualties every year compared to any other road. Ride with caution.
WHEN TO GO Climate conditions differ from country to country. Best check tntmagazine.com/travel for more details. Avoid the rainy season if possible.
GETTING THERE Only go it alone if you’re a seasoned traveller with a good command of Spanish. Otherwise there are a variety of tour groups.
HOW MUCH Tours start from about £345. The earlier you book your flights, the cheaper they will be.
VISAS Some countries require a visa, others just a passport and return ticket. Check with each country.
WHY As you would expect from the second largest country in the world, Canada has something to offer every type of traveller. If you’re a city-lover, check out the bright lights of Toronto, French-speaking Montréal and eclectic Vancouver. Or you can get closer to nature in the Rocky Mountains, then explore the country’s pristine wilderness or ride the rodeo.
WHEN TO GO Any time of year is good. To enjoy the outdoors, visit in summer. In most areas, March to May and September to October bring fewer tourists and often surprisingly pleasant weather. And autumn finds forests cloaked in a spectacular mantle of colour.
GETTING THERE Air Canada is the best bet for travelling to Canada from London. Which hub you choose will depend on your final destination – Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton are the gateways to the Rockies, while the cities of the eastern provinces have their own airports.
HOW MUCH Tours of Canada start at about £900.
VISAS No visas required for stays up to 180 days for Kiwis and Aussies. South Africans need a visa.