As both one of the oldest cities in the world and one of India’s most holy destinations, Varanasi is among the most spiritual places on the planet. Nestled on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, Varanasi is considered one of the most important pilgrimages in Hinduism, and each year thousands flock to the city to bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges and cremate their loved ones on Varanasi’s ghats – riverside steps leading to grand temples and palaces. One of the city’s most important sacred sites is the Kashi Vishwanath temple, a shrine to Varanasi’s guardian deity Lord Shiva. Each evening after sundown the Dashashwamedh Ghat is host to a spectacular ceremony known as aarti – a fascinating experience for all who attend.
Smack bang in the middle of the South Pacific, French Polynesia’s Bora Bora is one of the world’s most remote and romantic retreats – an ideal destination for those whose idea of a perfect vacation is pure escapism and relaxation. Surrounded by a pristine aqua blue lagoon, Bora Bora’s main island is fringed by picture-perfect islets home to stretches of white sandy beaches and luxury resorts boasting over-water bungalows and exclusive villas. Take to the waters on a snorkeling or diving excursion and meet Bora Bora’s marine residents – sea turtles, manta rays and reef sharks included. Alternatively, head to the main island and explore Bora Bora by safari, taking in its dramatic volcanic peaks and panoramic views of the surrounding lagoon.
If you’ve already crammed all your belongings into a backpack, trekked the globe and encountered every culture possible, the world may start to seem less like your oyster, but there’s one utterly remote location that can reignite any avid adventurer’s wanderlust: Antarctica. Luckily, IAATO (the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) offers a number of environmentally responsible expeditions, allowing adventurers to explore Antarctica without impacting negatively on the world’s last true wilderness. Go during Antarctica’s austral summer months when Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula to breed and fur seals congregate in South Georgia, or visit during February and March when whale sightings are at their peak.
While some of the most fulfilling travel destinations may focus on getting away from it all and experiencing the world’s wilderness, sometimes the most awe-inspiring trips a traveller can take are to man-made marvels – and where better to experience this than the world’s biggest metropolis, Tokyo? Following mass bombings of Japan during World War II, which depleted the city’s population by half and destroyed much of its industry, Tokyo has rebuilt itself as one of the planet’s major megalopolises – a buzzing hub of commerce and culture now home to almost 37 million people. From towering skyscrapers and the glitzy neon lights of Shinjuku to a quirky cultural scene boasting everything from first-rate dining and fashion to karaoke and cat cafés, Tokyo is a magnificent man-made environment.
Getting away from modern life and truly appreciating the beauty of the nature makes for an unforgettable trip, and Uganda – with its ten national parks – is the ideal destination to see some of the planet’s most majestic and endangered animals in their natural habitat. In Uganda’s southwestern corner lies Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is not only home to around half of the world’s mountain gorilla population but also several other primates, including Colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons. Northwards is Queen Elizabeth National Park, a sprawling, diverse ecosystem of savannah, forest, lakes and wetlands where hippos, lions and herds of elephants roam.
The usefulness of volunteering vacations, or ‘voluntourism,’ is a hotly debated topic; however, with the right skills, the ability to dedicate the proper length of time to a project and selecting a reputable provider, a volunteering trip can be a rewarding experience for both the vacationer and the host community. GVI is a multi-award winning provider of volunteer conservation and community programs in 15 countries across the globe, working with local companies on the ground to ensure its volunteers and projects have long-term positive impacts. Via GVI’s Nepal-based programs, dedicated volunteers have the opportunity to give back to local communities through disaster relief, construction, teaching, childcare and healthcare projects.
For a sense of history, a trip to an ancient site can be particularly rewarding and Petra, Jordan – an ancient city inhabited as early as 312 BC, all but abandoned by the 7th century and ‘rediscovered’ by Swiss explorer Johannes Burckhardt in 1812 – is a true testament to the history of humankind. Partly carved into the surrounding sandstone cliffs, Petra’s red hue has lent it the nickname ‘Rose-Red City’. Home to grand ancient structures and intricate tombs, it’s no wonder Petra was named both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Among Petra’s best-preserved, most-beautiful sites is Al Khazneh, an elaborate façade carved into rock and thought to have been used as a temple and tomb.