When the pandemic ends and the world reopens for business, these are the destinations that should be at the top of your bucket list...
Your job may require you to sail past polar bears in the Northwest Passage or dive with manta rays in Raja Ampat, but let’s face it, it’s still work — sometimes you need to get away on your own terms. What these unusual work experiences do, though, is mold yacht crew into some of the most sophisticated young travelers in the world.
“So many crew are so well traveled that they don’t tend to want to be a tourist, they want to get off the beaten track,” says Katie Stewart of Regency Travel in Fort Lauderdale, which specializes in marine travel. “Some want to just not see water for a month.”
And while for the ordinary person, bucket-list travel is put off until retirement when kicking said bucket may be too close for comfort, crew generally have the means for exotic travel between gigs or during long breaks. “Do it now while you’re kind of being looked after on the yacht and not subject to mortgages, car payments, paying for your own food…” Stewart advises.
Whether getting away from the sea is the goal, or the pursuit of serious relaxation or adventure, Dockwalk has consulted with travel cognoscenti to learn where in the world to go.
Who would have thought that the country with the highest rate of tourism increase would be Ethiopia? According to Jumia Hospitality Report Africa, tourism revenues grew by 48.6 percent in 2018. Aiding this has been a reduction in red tape with visas-on-arrival offered to more nationalities.
That doesn’t mean it’s swarming with visitors, though. “It’s probably the place that flies most under people’s radar at the moment,” says Tom Hall, vice president of Experience for the popular guidebook company Lonely Planet. “It’s somewhere which is good value with just a phenomenal amount of history and culture and nature.”
As one of only two African countries not colonized by Europeans, Ethiopia is a fascinating mix of ethnic groups, many of whose ancient cultures remain undiluted by the West. It’s also “Africa’s most underrated wildlife destination,” according to Lonely Planet.
Visit the rock-hewn monolithic churches of Lalibela and Tigray. Get close to wild hyenas in the 1,000-year-old walled city of Harar. Trek the spectacular Simien Mountains National Park, where you’ll run into the endemic gelada baboon. Or follow the equestrian traditions of the semi-nomadic Oromo people and ride horseback through the remote Bale Mountains, where you’re likely to spot the endangered Ethiopian wolf.
Spanning Andes peaks to Amazon jungle, Colombia may be South America’s last hidden gem. “It’s lagged behind other southern American destinations possibly because of its image of not being a safe destination, which I think is unfounded now,” says Hall. The situation has definitely improved since FARC guerillas laid down arms following a peace agreement with the government in late 2016, and as of 2018, the U.S. State Department upgraded its advisory to a level 2 (from “reconsider travel” to “exercise increased caution”). “Its moment is here, now,” Hall says.
The rewards of venturing to this vibrant country are many. Trek 23 kilometers through the jungle to reach the pre-Colombian archeological site of the Lost City. Or step back to a more recent time, the Spanish colonial era, in Villa de Leyva. Learn to dance at Cali, the world capital of salsa. Or head to the country’s adventure capital, the Andean town of San Gil, to paraglide and whitewater raft. Art lovers will appreciate the birthplace of Fernando Botero at Medellin’s Museum of Antioquia and Parque de las Esculturas, and coffee lovers will find themselves right at home in the Zona Cafetera (coffee zone), where you can stay on a working farm at Hacienda Venecia and even visit a coffee theme park.
At the opposite end of the continent, Argentina is the country that Tim Davey, managing director of Global Marine Travel (GMT), says has turned around the most in recent years.
With a million square miles of land, the world’s eighth largest country encompasses a remarkable amount of biodiversity and a culture heavily influenced by its 19th-century European settlers. One of its natural attractions was voted one of the world’s “New7Wonders:” Iguazú Falls, whose 275 separate waterfalls make one powerful spectacle. Another grand display of nature is the Perito Moreno glacier, whose 30-kilometer-wide expanse of blue ice is reassuringly advancing, not receding, at around two meters a day.
Ski or hike the Andes range that makes up the western border with Chile. Hire a bicycle to go wine tasting in Maipú. Hang out with penguins and elephant seals at Península Valdés where you can also kayak with whales…the list goes on. Meanwhile, the capital, Buenos Aires, is more European than most European capitals, says Davey. That’s not surprising when you consider that more than 60 percent of Argentinians have ancestral ties to Italy.
“There has been a lot of interest in Georgia, but the spotlight hasn’t fallen on Armenia, and I think that is something [that] is going to change,” says Hall. This is a country for the audacious traveler as tourism infrastructure is sparse and English is rarely spoken. But that also means you’ll never be overwhelmed by fellow travelers, and you won’t spend much money on food and accommodation.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Armenia lies within the Caucasus Mountains. Its history as a state dates back to 860BC and one of its claims to fame is it was the first in the world to adopt Christianity as an official religion in 301AD. Hence, dotting the mountains are some extraordinary medieval monasteries. One of these, Tatev, you can “fly” to via the Wings of Tatev, the world’s longest aerial tramway at 5.7 kilometers. Other highlights include the 5,500-year-old megalithic Karahunj Observatory, 1,900-meter-high Lake Sevan, and the Selim Pass, once part of the Silk Road.
The landlocked country is also on the cusp of becoming a proper hiking destination as new trails are currently being marked in the Dilijan National Park, and the 1,800-mile Transcaucasian Trail is being developed to connect remote parts of Armenia and Georgia.
Looking for something less intrepid and more akin to a yacht guest’s comforts? Davey says he has seen many captains of late heading to the Philippines, “not to Manila but to the out islands where you can stay in a top-class resort in a spa-type environment with all the food and beverage you can imagine, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing…and you can do it all for under $200 a day,” he says.
Indeed, in the verdant Palawan province, for example, basic beach cottages go for as low as $15 per night and indulgent five star-accommodations for under $300.
It’s not all about lying on a sugary white-sand beach here, though. From yoga to kiteboarding, resorts offer plenty of activities, and Palawan Island itself has imposing cliffs to climb that nestle limestone caves to explore, some revealing a hidden lagoon. Divers should not miss Coron Island at the northern tip of the Palawan archipelago, where WWII Japanese shipwrecks lie submerged in its bay and dramatic thermoclines await in Barracuda Lake’s mix of fresh and saltwater.
And all this with the famed Filipino hospitality…
Iceland has topped many a traveler’s to-go list for a while now, which means it might be time to look elsewhere. The Faroe Islands offers an alternative. “It’s Iceland without the crowds,” Hall says. Lonely Planet actually describes them as the forgotten Faroes, despite being just a short flight from the UK. “It’s a really stunning natural destination. The weather can be quite wild, but it’s got the outdoor attractions: hiking, coastal scenery, peaceful little villages. It’s easy to get around and easier than ever to get to as well,” says Hall.
Rising out of the North Atlantic halfway between Norway and Iceland, the archipelago is a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. With 18 major islands and nearly countless little ones that make 779 in total, the windswept rugged land is in the path of the North Atlantic Current, which keeps temperatures above freezing.
View the Northern Lights in winter, and in the long summer days, take advantage of the web of foot and biking paths that interlace the villages and offer incredible views of the fjords below. The impossibly cute Atlantic puffin makes up a good amount of the wildlife here.
This feature originally ran in the August 2020 issue of Dockwalk.