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With further lockdowns looming – spontaneous, last-minute bookings are no longer possible. To help you get ‘away’ from your desk, we’ve been scouring the most aspirational travel sites for a bucket list of trips when governments ease restrictions again.
Bridget Hallinan from Condé Nast Traveler has shared her 30 top destinations – all of which require a bit of planning – and should also keep you busy and motivated in ‘lockdown downtime’.
This article was originally published in March 2018 on the Condé Nast Traveler website. It has been updated with new information.
Let’s face it: With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, jetting off a week after you plan a trip simply isn’t an option right now. And while we’re typically all for spontaneous, last-minute bookings (hello, cheap flight deals), it’s more realistic to look at trips that have to be planned in advance—way in advance. We’re talking about those multi-destination vacations, speciality experiences, limited tours, and itineraries that take more coordination than your average weekend away. Here are 30 trips that you need to plan at least a year in advance, from coastal Croatia to Peru and the Galápagos. We’ve included an itinerary from a travel agent for each one, but you can also opt to strike out on your own.
A Safari Through Botswana
If 10 days on safari sounds like your ideal vacation, head for Botswana to camp near the wildlife (the best time to visit is from May to September). Don’t miss the Central Kalahari Game Reserve—offering “some of the best summer wildlife viewing in Africa”—and be sure, too, to visit the Makgadikgadi Pass, where some 30,000 wildebeest and zebras pass through during the Great Migration. Spend time with a “colony of habituated meerkats” while you’re there, and, upon your arrival at the Okavango Delta, make the most of the diverse environment, which you can explore via game drive, bush walk, and canoe.
Traveling Croatia’s Coast
Croatia’s undeniably beautiful coast and rich history makes for idyllic vacations. Stop by the capital, Zagreb, where you’ll see baroque architecture and the fortified old city before moving on to Plitvice Lakes National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site home to 16 lakes and waterfall after waterfall. Then, head to Split, an ancient port city, for gorgeous views of the Adriatic. The last leg should be spent in Dubrovnik—the filming location of Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing— where you can grab a few more days by the coast before you depart.
Exploring Ancient Egypt
Calling all history buffs: This nine-day journey in Egypt was made for you. Start out in Cairo, where you’ll tour the pyramids, ranging from the less-frequented Bent and Red Pyramids in Dashour to the Great Pyramids at Giza. Then, move on to Aswan for the High Dam and Temple of Philae, before seeing another ancient temple in Edfu: the shrine of the Falcon God Horus. A day in Luxor will show you the Karnak and Luxor Temples, before you return back to Cairo, where you’ll shop in one of the “world’s oldest marketplaces.”
Adventuring in Peru and the Galápagos Islands
Craving the ultimate adventure? Look no further than this 13-day trip, which allows you to check two huge items off your bucket list—Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands. While in Peru, travelers can expect a tour of Cusco’s colonial sites, an excursion to the “Sacred Valley of the Incas,” and of course, Machu Picchu. Then, it’s time to head to Galápagos via Ecuador. As you explore the various islands, the tour gives you options to snorkel with penguins and sharks, go on a volcanic hike, and observe the famed ecosystems (two words: giant tortoises)—you definitely won’t be bored.
On Safari in the Brazilian Amazon
If you thought safaris were exclusive to Africa, think again. This Brazilian excursion not only stops in cosmopolitan Rio, but also hits the Amazon. After three days spent exploring the capital city, including the colonial mansions, imperial palace, and Tijuca National Park (an Atlantic rain forest), head into the jungle. Expect guided hikes, archery classes, and swimming with endangered Amazonian dolphins. Nature lovers will also enjoy the next leg of the trip, Pantanal, where you might encounter anything from a “giant otter” to howler monkeys.
Oman, “From Sand to Sea”
Adventuring through Oman—starting in Muscat and ending at the Musandam Peninsula—checks off several adventures in nine days. You can camp in the desert at Wahiba Sands, home to a traditional Bedouin tribe; visit Bahla, a medieval Islamic fortified town and UNESCO World Heritage site; and explore the Bimmah Sinkhole, a depression at the bottom of a “cavernous limestone bowl, featuring magnificent emerald blue water.” Conclude your journey at the Six Senses in Dubai, which has a beach—you know, in case you felt the whole trip was missing something.
Island-Hopping in Indonesia
Going island-hopping in Indonesia may sound like a dream, but you can easily make it a reality. Yes, you should stop by Bali: Visit the rural “heartland’s” many temples in Ubud, such as Pura Taman Ayun and Pura Luhur Batukaru (near Gunung Batukaru, Bali’s second highest mountain), and tour Kusamba, where local fisherman produce artisanal sea salt on volcanic black sand. But also stop by Yogyakarta in Java, where you can see the UNESCO-acclaimed Borobudur Temple and explore the palace of sultans in old city. There will still be plenty of time to see Bali when you circle back for your departure and sun on Jimbaran Bay, one of Bali’s most beautiful beaches.
South Africa, from Cape Town to Johannesburg
Seeing South Africa in one go can be hard, especially on your own. But Victoria Falls, tastings in Wineland, and “Big Five” game drives at the Sabi Sand Game Reserve are all included in this South Africa excursion, which comes in at just under two weeks long. You’ll travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg, stopping along the way to explore local markets, cook on the beach, and bike around the countryside. Plus, there’s a kayaking trip to observe sea penguins.
Tea, Cheese, and Harry Potter in Yorkshire
If you’re even remotely into Harry Potter, book your next trip to Yorkshire to drink tea in the village used to film Hogsmeade, known as Goathland. Other activities we recommend include exploring Manchester with a private guide, seeing how Wensleydale cheese is made—and trying some, naturally—and climbing the steps of Whitby Abbey for some stunning vistas of the sea. If none of the above piques your interest, you can unwind with a spa treatment at The Grand Hotel & Spa (but to be honest, we were sold at Harry Potter).
Australia’s Greatest Hits
If you haven’t made it to Australia yet, don’t worry: Many of the continent’s greatest hits can be fit into a two-week time period. You can plan your own adventure, or check out our Voyages itinerary, which includes a private yacht cruise around Sydney, food and art tours through Melbourne, surfing lessons at Bondi Beach, and exploring Satellite Island, in Tasmania. There’s something for every traveler, whether you’re outdoorsy and adventurous or more interested in unwinding on the beach.
A Food Tour in Dali, China
Hungry? Reserve your spot on Wild China’s Dali food tour, led by Mei Zhang. Taking place in the southern city of Dali—famed for its salt-cured ham—Zhang will take you on a weeklong journey of artisanal cooking. There’s salt-making, handmade Shaxi cheese demonstrations, a three-cup tea ceremony, and vegetable pickling all packed in to one itinerary—basically, it’s every gourmand’s dream. Because you do have to take some eating breaks, you’ll also visit markets and view a musical performance along the way.
Making Your Way to Myanmar
We’ve debated the ethics of visiting Myanmar right now, and whether or not it’s safe to go. Should you decide to visit, we recommend setting aside at least 10 days to see the country’s natural beauty and ties to spirituality. With this suggested itinerary, two monasteries are included on the journey—Mahagandayon in Amarapura, and Bagayar in Inwa—and you’ll also stop by multiple temples. Six days in, the trip heads to Inle Lake, a massive body of water populated with floating gardens and villages. And in the last leg, you’ll see the famous reclining Buddha, paired with a stint at the National Museum and afternoon tea.
Exploring the Wilderness in Patagonia
This one’s for you, wilderness lovers: This 12-day trip starts and ends in Buenos Aires—naturally, a tango performance is included—but most of the journey is spent exploring Patagonia. There, you can see the Petit Moreno Glacier; explore Torres del Paine National Park, one of Chile’s most iconic landscapes; and, even hang with Magellanic penguins at the Otway Sound, on the way to Puerto Natales.
Carnival in Rio
Carnival doesn’t need an introduction: The vibrant festival, celebrated in iterations all around the world, is legendary. Expect samba dancing in the streets, elaborate costumes, parades, and live bands—basically, one enormous block party. The celebration in Rio is the largest, according to USA Today, so you’ll want to book at least a year in advance to get the best hotels and restaurant reservations.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
After arriving in the capital of Rwanda, Kigali, head to Volcanoes National park for this eco-adventure, and stay at the lodge. Dedicate two days to observing endangered mountain gorillas: With the assistance of a guide, you’ll climb to the bamboo forests they inhabit. Set aside another half day to spend searching for golden monkeys, one of the most endangered primates in Africa. During down time, you can choose to relax at the lodge or strike out to one of the nearby lakes or villages. Upon leaving Volcanoes National Park, we suggest returning to Kigali once more for your final night in Rwanda.
Eco-Adventuring in Ecuador
If getting up close and personal with the world’s highest active volcano tickles your fancy, book your next trip in Ecuador. This suggested nine-day journey takes you to lunch in the foothills of Cotopaxi, night hikes in the jungle near Mashpi Lodge, and the Temple of the Sun in Cuenca—basically, it’s the ultimate eco-adventure. There are also brief visits to Quito, too, for some art and culinary activities.
12 Days in Northern India
This trip through northern India hits Delhi, ancient Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, and Mumbai in 12 days, packing in plenty of once-in-a-lifetime experiences in between. There’s a sunset cruise along the sacred river Ganges, a culinary tour in Varanasi, tours of Jaipur’s famous forts—and of course, a pit-stop at the Taj Mahal.
Spirituality and Wildlife in Ethiopia
This Voyages tour touches upon Ethiopia’s religious roots (Orthodox Christian) with several visits to churches and cathedrals—even a pilgrimage to Axum, the supposed home of the Ark of the Covenant and the Queen of Sheba. Then, days spent in the Simien Mountains will showcase natural wildlife, including monkeys, ibexes, and bushbucks. The trip starts and ends in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and the location of Africa’s largest open-air market, the Mercato, where you can find anything from spices to livestock.
Eating Your Way Through Southeast Asia
A street food tour in Hanoi, a cooking class in Hoi An, and sampling cuisine at some of the region’s top new restaurants: If any (or all) of the above make your mouth water, check out GeoEx’s 16-day tour through Southeast Asia. The trip hits Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, with emphasis on local cuisine. In between bites, travelers will experience traditions such as the daily Tak Bat ritual in Luang Prabang, when monks walk through the city streets with alms bowls (hence, “almsgiving”) to collect offerings. Pit-stops to Halong Bay (A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Vietnam), and (optionally) Angkor Wat are also included in the tour.
Touring Morocco’s Major Cities
There’s a reason many of our editors have recently been to Morocco: It’s full of lively cities and dynamic natural landscapes. In touring Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca, you’ll get to experience everything from visiting the Roman ruins of Volubilis to spending an evening in Marrakech’s Djemaa el Fna market square—complete with musicians, fire eaters, storytellers, and snake charmers. We recommend planning a trip one year in advance, booking a guide, and adding on a trip to the beautiful Ourika Valley.
Kilimanjaro and Tanzanian Wildlife
This excursion through Tanzania hits several national parks (yes, including Serengeti) and conservation areas: After you land in Kilimanjaro, head to Tarangire National Park, where you can expect to see anything from herds of elephants to more than 500 types of birds. Then, after two days, you’ll drive to a luxury lodge right on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater and observe the Big Five (rhino, buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant), before visiting Serengeti.
Petra has long been one of our favorite places to visit, and if you book this trip, you’ll get to see it for yourself. While you’re there, explore the city’s famed red sandstone architecture (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site), and try your luck at hiking the 400 mile-long Jordan Trail, if you’re feeling brave. The Dead Sea is also within reach, and you can relax at the onsite resorts and take a famously light swim—or kick back at the spas, if you really need to unwind. You can fly in and out of Amman; make sure you don’t miss the capital’s impressive collection of ancient ruins.
Tour Japan, from Tokyo to Osaka
If you’re heading to Japan, don’t think you can visit for five days and call it done: Instead, take at least a week of vacation to make the journey from Tokyo to Osaka, where you’ll experience cuisine, culture, and craft. In Tokyo, sample a traditional kushiage meal of fried meat and vegetables before visiting the Imperial East Garden and Meiji Shrine; in Kyoto, a castle, the Nishiki food market, and a traditional tea ceremony can be packed into one day. You can (and should) also make a stop at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park before arriving in Osaka. By the time the trip wraps up, you’ll have experienced a great deal of Japan in just under two weeks.
Highlights of Bhutan
From Paro to Jakar, this Red Savannah tour spans 14 days in Bhutan, and includes a visit to the annual Black-Necked Crane Festival if you go in in November, which highlights the importance of conserving endangered Black-Necked Cranes, as well as the link between economic welfare, sustainable living, and happiness. You’ll see the bird for yourself in Phobjikha Valley, and also explore museums, visit a medieval village (Ura), and the Burning Lake, which is sacred for local Buddhists.
Architecture and History in the ‘Stans
The ‘Stans—Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan—may be off the tourist path, but they’re well worth a visit. There’s stunning Islamic architecture, deep historical roots (as in, Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan) and several UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can even get a private calligraphy lesson with a master in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, if you book with a travel company like GeoEx. In fact, their tour pays a great deal of attention to traditional crafts overall, including carpet-weaving, wood-carving, and silk-making, making it well-suited for design enthusiasts.
A Foodie Tour through Spain and Portugal
Any food and wine vacation is good by us—especially in Spain and Portugal. Start out in Spain, checking out museums in Madrid, wine tastings and Michelin-starred meals in La Rioja, and touring the UNESCO World Heritage-approved cathedral in Burgos. Then, it’s time to cross the border into Portugal—and naturally, visit Porto’s world-famous wine cellars. Make sure Lisbon is also on your list, so you can tour the Castelo de São Jorge and Tower of Belem, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. Then, wrap everything up back in Seville (and definitely take a tapas walk).
Combining Argentina and Antarctica
This epic Red Savannah itinerary begins in El Calafte, southern Argentina, and also hits Los Glaciares National Park—where you can sail, fish, ride, and observe the wildlife—before heading to Ushuaia, South America’s southernmost city. Then it’s off to Antarctica, via a cruise through the Drake Passage. Upon arrival, you’ll see penguins and all the seals (leopard, fur, elephant), gleaming icebergs, and Port Lockroy, a natural harbor that’s seen days as a British military base and research station. Oh, and did we mention there’s a spa on the ship?
Sri Lanka, from Colombo to Galle
From Colombo to Galle, this trip will take you all over the island nation of Sri Lanka. Stop at Sigiriya, which is the gateway to Lion’s Rock, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and look at sixth-century frescoes. There’s also a “lost city,” Anuradhapura, which we recommend exploring with a guide to learn about the history and myths surrounding it. And in Kandy, also known as the last capital of Sri Lankan Kings, stop at an elephant orphanage, where you can watch them play and swim in the river.
A Serengeti Safari in Tanzania
The annual migration of wildebeest and zebra is a focal point in this Red Savannah safari, which comprises an 11-day itinerary spread across the northern Serengeti, as well as Pemba Island in Zanzibar. You’ll sleep in tents and drive through the plains to follow the migration—including the dangerous crossing wildebeest undertake at the Mara River—before wrapping up the trip near the Indian Ocean, on the beach.
Arctic Greenland, Canada, and Iceland
If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing polar bears in the wild, this is your trip. For 23 days in August, travel company GeoEx will take you around the arctic, making stops in Iceland, the High Canadian Arctic, Greenland, and the latter’s outlying islands. You’ll see humpback whales as you sail up Greenland’s west coast, explore the tundra on Philpots Island, and, at Qilakitsoq (an archeological site in Northwestern Greenland) view mummies dating back to 1475. As an added bonus, the excursion starts and ends in Reykjavik, meaning you’ll also get that coveted Instagram at the Blue Lagoon.
Source: Condé Nast Traveler