This Northern Lights destination offers not only showstopping scenery, but wildlife and an unusual culinary adventure.
THE EXPERIENCE Expect outside temperatures of minus 35°C as you cross the icy wilderness from Churchill in northern Manitoba in a specially designed "tundra buggy" en route to dinner. Dan's Diner is a cosy pop-up restaurant on wheels that operates in March, when the Northern Lights streak across the sky. Canadian chef Jason Fossen showcases local land and sea produce in a multi-course feast before guests return to Churchill – population 1000 – for the night. Known as the polar bear capital of the world, the town features a lock-up with 26 cells for rogue bears who venture too close to town.
The best time to catch the Northern Lights is between February and March, while polar bear spotting is best from October to November, as they wait for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can hunt for seals on the ice. Frontiers North Adventures offers polar bear packages including day trips, overnight stays at cosy Tundra Buggy Lodge and meals.
IDEAL FOR Aurora Borealis gazers, intrepid foodies.
– Sue Wallace
An ancient city is getting its groove back with several high-profile openings.
THE EXPERIENCE The good folk of Cairo might be wondering when their much-delayed Grand Egyptian Museum will finally open (towards the end of this year, say the optimists) but when it does, it promises to be spectacular. The $US1 billion ($1.4 billion) alabaster-clad edifice overlooking the Giza pyramids will display tens of thousands of ancient treasures, including 3000 pieces from Tutankhamun's tomb, on show together for the first time. Meanwhile, locals are celebrating a very different opening: the city's newest luxury hotel, the riverfront St Regis, where Arabic flair – think traditional arches and mother-of-pearl inlays – meets typical St Regis style, including a 1000-square-metre spa.
The hotel is designed for cocooning – there is butler service for every guest – but it is worth braving Cairo's bustling streets to explore the Museum of Islamic Art and the labyrinthine streets of the Khan Al Khalili souk. There you can refresh yourself with yansoon (aniseed tea), at one of Cairo's oldest cafes, El Fishawi. A day trip to the Saqqara necropolis, home to exquisitely decorated tombs and Egypt's oldest pyramids, is also recommended.
IDEAL FOR History buffs, urban explorers.
– Ute Junker
LIKE THIS? With its Bauhaus buildings and bustling bars and restaurants – not to mention the atmospheric and ancient port of Jaffa – Tel Aviv may be the buzziest city in the Middle East; new.goisrael.com.
The El Fishawi cafe in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Alamy
Cruising Malaysia and Thailand
Enchanting islands offer a combination of traditional village life and leisurely adventure.
THE EXPERIENCE Penang and Langkawi are hot spots among the Malaysian islands; the former rich in culture, the latter draped in magnificent beaches and waterfalls. But in the near vicinity lie some lesser-known Thai islands which make slow-paced sailing in the region an exercise in soft adventure and local experiences. Expect beach barbecues and encounters with lobster fishermen and village weavers. In between, you'll relax with cocktail in hand, admiring orange sunsets and jungle-draped island landscapes from the deck of a two-masted ship, Panorama II. All this awaits on the new Peregrine Adventures cruise, which offers pleasingly informal itineraries that include great Zodiac excursions from the mother ship.
IDEAL FOR Active travellers who have long since abandoned backpacking but aren't ready for big-ship cruising.
– Brian Johnston
Exploring Malaysian and Thai islands by yacht. Photo: Peregrine Adventures
St John's, Canada
One of North America's oldest cities in is a time warp for adventure seekers and nature lovers.
THE EXPERIENCE There are few end-of-the-earth holiday destinations, but St John's is one. It rises from Newfoundland's east coast like an Atlantic sentry, standing guard over the New World since its official settlement in 1497. Today, the city's Sheraton hotel is perched high on a hill overlooking a complex mix of cobblestone streets, Victorian architecture, boutiques, galleries and upmarket restaurants. Its coastline is a picturesque puzzle of secret harbours and fishing villages. Spend an afternoon lost among the iconic "jellybean" terrace houses before retreating to a pub for craft beer with friendly local fisherman. The people of St John's are at the core of this Canadian hot spot; the harshness of winter has preserved old-world hospitality. It's perhaps most special at sea, as building-sized icebergs float along the coastline and the largest population of humpback whales in the world passes annually.
IDEAL FOR Heritage heads, wildlife enthusiasts.
– Jeremy Drake
LIKE THIS? Try the nearby fishing hamlet of Quidi Vidi, home to the famous local Iceberg Lager, brewed using water from icebergs harvested just off the coast.
Stunning scenery, biodiversity and luxury unite at Africa's new star.
THE EXPERIENCE There are no gorillas in the misty mountains of southern Rwanda; they're up near the northern border. Further south, however, lies another memorable wildlife experience in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Chimpanzees are the main attraction, alongside colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and 10 other primate species, who share the forest with 300 bird species and 100 types of orchid. The best base for chimp trekking is the new One&Only Nyungwe House, on a tea plantation surrounded by rolling hills. Guests can encounter primates and birds on day treks or head out on a night walk to spot jackals and civets. Back at the lodge, the colourful interiors feature traditional imigongo patterns and quirky chandeliers made from tea strainers.
IDEAL FOR Wildlife fans, tea lovers.
PRICE One&Only Nyungwe House from $US1564 ($2185) a night, including meals, beverages and two complimentary activities per person per day. Signature experiences such as chimpanzee trekking carry additional costs; oneandonlyresorts.com; visitrwanda.com.
– Ute Junker
The One&Only Nyungwe House near Lake Kivu, Rwanda. Photo: Supplied
This family-friendly winter wonderland has blizzards of US hospitality and some of the world's best skiing.
THE EXPERIENCE Some 30 minutes' drive down the road from star-studded Aspen is a town with the same adrenalin-charged skiing, regular dumps of fresh powder and tonnes of outdoor activities to enjoy when the snow melts. The swish Limelight Hotel (a favourite in Aspen) recently opened a new lodge here, situated right at the bottom of the slopes. This ski in/ski out access means guests can go from thundering down a run to settling in to a sharply designed suite in minutes.
This is unfussy luxury, with each room featuring a kitchenette if you want to do your own cooking. There's also an ice rink, indoor rock climbing wall, hot tub and fitness centre. Snowmass is ideal for skiing and snowboarding with kids, with the extensive terrain catering to all abilities.
IDEAL FOR Adventurous families who don't want to scrimp on accommodation.
– Michael Harry
LIKE THIS? Copper Mountain is two hours' drive away and offers first-class skiing in a picture-perfect ski village; coppercolorado.com.