Experiencing the Exotic
We’ve been checking out travel agency Flight Centre’s newest packages, and there are three we really like the look of.
Colors of Sri Lanka
Offering some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes and wildlife, Sri Lanka was off many travelers’ itineraries for a while due to years of war and natural disaster. While this led to a massive decline in tourism, it did mean that visiting the country was pretty affordable.
However, with eight Unesco World Heritage Sites, great food, colonial architecture, a classic railway network and of course some of the best tea in the world, Sri Lanka tourism seems to be on the rise again. It’s the sheer scenic variety the country offers which stuns visitors: From cool tea plantations to the tropical lowlands, rainforests and awesome beaches—the country has it all.
If this sounds like your kind of thing, a six-day tour begins in the seaside city of Negombo, with a stop at the Dambulla cave temple en route to the giant Sigiriya Lion Rock fortress. You’ll then cross Minneriya National Park, and visit a spice garden in Matale.
When the tour reaches the hill country of Kandy you’ll visit the Temple of the Tooth, said to be home to a relic of Buddha’s tooth. From there, journey to the waterfalls around Nanu Oya en route to the lush tea country of Nuwara Eliya. The next leg takes you to Mirissa close to the southern tip of Sri Lanka where you can hit the beach or take a boat excursion to catch a sight of blue whales.
The six-day Colors of Sri Lanka package starts from $13,499 per person and includes return airfare, five nights’ hotel accommodation, daily breakfast and dinner, entrance fees, a jeep safari and transportation costs.
Get swept away to this most romantic of lands: Close your eyes and you can see Oscar Wilde gamboling around with his young friends, or Peter O’Toole emerging from the desert on camel as Lawrence of Arabia. Join Peter—in spirit at least—on this trip, where you’ll get the chance to ride camels south to the edge of the Sahara Desert before spending the night in a desert camp. Just watch out for the spitting, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Before camping out, you’ll visit the imperial city of Meknes and the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis before continuing on to Fes. Explore the labyrinth of streets within the famous Medina of Fes with a local guide and marvel at the ancient tanneries (apparently they use urine in the curing process and it really stinks—but their leather products are gorgeous).
You’ll also get the chance to walk through local village farmlands, explore Todra Gorge, visit the ancient fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou and finally head to Marrakesh for a bit of decent hedonism.
The nine-day Morocco Experience is priced at $15,599 including flights.
Cuba is a unique place that seems to be both stuck in the past yet exuding modern cool and chic, with all white suits, panamas and a general 50s movie backdrop. I’ve never been (it’s on my list, as it seems to be on most people’s), but those who do visit definitely seem to have a more profound experience there than the typical city or beach getaway.
The current improving relationship between Cuba and the U.S., or “Cuban Thaw” as it has been named, means that not only is travel now streamlined, but western products are increasingly available, making for a more convenient trip—although personally, I can’t really see beyond Cuban rum.
The Cuba Rhythms trip proclaims ambitiously that it is setting out to “uncover the soul of Cuba.” I don’t know about that, but with a sensible itinerary that’s a good balance of sightseeing, culture and plain fun, it looks like something of a winner. The schedule takes curious visitors to Havana, stopping by Santa Clara to visit historical sites such as the famous Che Guevara Mausoleum, and then on to Trinidad for a taste of music and salsa dancing. There’s also adventure in the great outdoors, including horseback or bicycle riding (don’t expect modern mountain bikes though, the company warns) along with snorkeling or diving in Playa Ancón.
The trip then moves on to Viñales to visit the rounded “mogote” pincushion hills and a “vega,” or cigar factory. Back in Havana you’ll be given time to get your fill of drinking and dancing before heading back home.
The eight-day Cuba Rhythms trip is priced from $26,099, including flights. Flight Centre, 17 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 2830-2810, flightcentre.com.hk.