We're celebrating 16 years of Outlook Traveller with a bunch of great travel ideas for you. These include Destinations, Drives, Adventures, Cruises, Food, Festivals and Hotels. Here we bring you 6 enduring destinations from all over the world.
From the surreal rice terraces of Longsheng in China to the haunting ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru; from Venice to the Galapagos Islands; from the ancient man-made monument of Stonehenge in England to the natural columns of Farafra in Egypt, we have your bases covered. So read on, update your bucket list and plan your next trip!
Nearly 100km northwest of Guilin City in the North Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the hills look like the scaly back of a sleeping dragon. So much so that the rice terraces that form this illusion are called Longji, which literally means ‘Dragon’s Backbone’ The beautiful rice fields in Longsheng County, built by manual labour of several generations of villagers since the 13th century, snake along the slopes from the riverbank all the way up to the top of the mountain. The main tourist area here are the Ping’an Terraced Fields. Also worth exploring are the Longsheng Hot Spring, the Huaping National Natural Reserve, and the ethnic and cultural diversity among the villages of the region. A 2.5-hour bus ride from Guilin bus terminal gets you to Longsheng terminal, from where a mini bus takes you to the Ping’an village parking lot in another hour. Private operators also conduct tours in the area.
If you’re a history buff who seeks out heritage structures built by ancient civilisations, Machu Picchu should definitely be on your bucket list. A 15th-century citadel built by the Incas on a lush green mountain ridge 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level sits at the heart of the Machu Picchu sanctuary that was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The site features intimidating dry-stone structures that seem to have been sculpted out of the mountains themselves and adhere to astronomical alignments. This surreal feat of architecture and its setting–the intersection of the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin–lends it an almost mythical reputation. It is still a mystery as to what exact uses the structures were put to before being abandoned in the 16th century after the Spanish conquest.
The 26-mile Inca trail is world famous. If you don’t want to do the trek, an easier way to reach Machu Picchu is to take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, then take an early morning bus to the site. Only 2,500 permits per day are available to the site, so book online in advance (machupicchu.gob.pe).
Among the world’s most popular destinations and a favourite of honeymooners, is the city of Venice. It spans 118 small islands, each with its own hubbub of life, all reflected in a grand lagoon that splits into canals between the islands. Located in the Veneto region, the city’s unique architecture has inspired artists through the ages. It hosts in its picturesque buildings, works by Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, among others. But climate change and a predicted sea-level rise now pose a grave threat. Go for the art, the churches or the canals, but take that gondola ride soon. Multiple airlines connect major cities like Delhi to Venice. Tourist numbers peak in summer. See en.turismovenezia.it.
Stonehenge has enthralled travellers, historians and engineers alike for centuries. How was the Stone Circle built as early as 3000 to 2000 BCE? Go figure it out yourself with a trip to the site in Wiltshire, England. A prehistoric monument of gigantic proportions, the ring of standing stones is surrounded by Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. There’s also the Neolithic houses around and an exhibition which displays 250 ancient archaeological artefacts. An audio-visual show gives you a 360Ëš view of changing seasons from within the stone circle. You can take a day tour by bus from London (2.5 hours) or Bath (1 hour). Tickets cost £16.50 for adults aged 16-59 years.
The GalÃ¡pagos Islands
If you’re a wildlife lover, the GalÃ¡pagos Islands should be your ultimate pilgrimage. A volcanic archipelago of 19 islands in the Pacific Ocean, the site is a marvellous exhibition of flora and fauna, some of which are exclusive to these islands. Located 1,000km off the Ecuador coast, at the meeting point of three ocean currents, the marine life has to be seen to be believed. It was these creatures that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. You will find Darwin’s finches, the Galapagos land iguana (that insane iguana-snake chase scene in a recent documentary was shot here), giant tortoise, blue-footed boobies, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, eagle rays, etc. Fly to Quito in Ecuador, take a domestic flight and a ferry to reach Santa Cruz island, where most cruises start. See adventure-life.com/galapagos.
When one thinks Egypt, one inevitably pictures the majestic pyramids sprawled out on a sea of brown. What if we told you there were other interesting desertscapes to be explored? The Farafra Oasis is a meagrely populated, isolated depression, with the Qasr al Farafra town being a blink-and-miss town. The main and perhaps only tourist attraction here is the White Desert aka Sahra al-Beid, which lies 45km north of Farafra town. The landscape is dotted with giant chalk rock formations over about 20km. These ventifacts are created by erosion forces brought of sandstorms that hit the area. A safari to the White Desert can be arranged from Bahariya Oasis (badawiya.com/western.htm).