Finland designed to please

Finnish touch

Of all the gifts of Helsinki's year as World Design Capital, travellers might be most grateful for the Suvanto lounges at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. The 22 islets - created as part of the biennial event that sets out to raise the profile of cities that use design to improve social, economic and cultural life - have a comfortable lounge with a plywood surround in which passengers can make phone calls or read documents in relative privacy.

A spokesman for Finavia, the country's airport body, says it is one initiative in its push to be northern Europe's leading transit airport.

"We wanted to create a new type of passenger service open to all, which meets the challenges of a changing travel culture," he says.

The lounges are free and at gates 16, 17, 26 and 36. And no matter if you miss out on a seat; wi-fi is free throughout the airport and mobile devices can be recharged wirelessly with PowerKiss, a Finnish innovation, of course.

Readerly types can also get new material on the way to board a flight at its Book Swap station. Travellers can mark their book's journey on a sticker on the inside cover for future readers.

Meanwhile, another legacy of the design year in a country of 37 national parks will be the nature-focused centre Haltia, 25 kilometres from Helsinki on the edge of the Nuuksio National Park.

Set to open in March, visitors will be able to get close to the country's environment and wildlife, with several installations in the three-storey wooden building powered chiefly by thermal and solar energy.

Cape Town takes the World Design Capital title in 2014.


Spots by the Dalmatian

The Dalmatian coast by kayak - limestone islands, fishing villages and mediaeval monasteries included - is one of four new journeys by veteran Australian operator Southern Sea Ventures. A traditional wooden sailing ship will be the floating base camp for the 14-day journey from Croatia to Montenegro, which includes day paddles to the islands of Hvar, Korcula and Mljet, the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Dubrovnik and the Kotor region in Montenegro.

Other new trips for 2013 include the islands of Thailand's Koh Chang Marine National Park, the Bohuslan Archipelago on the west coast of Sweden and the Arctic Circle, including Scotland and Norway.

The Croatia-to-Montenegro trip costs $3250 a person and departs Split on September 15. See

Brisbane to Jakarta

After a five-year hiatus, Garuda Indonesia will reintroduce services from Brisbane to Jakarta and Denpasar next August.

The re-established services are a response to the increase in Australian passengers, 20 per cent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2011, and demand from Queensland in particular, according to the airline's vice-president, Bagus Y. Siregar.

The carrier, judged world's best regional airline in 2012 by Skytrax, will operate six times a week from Brisbane via Denpasar to Jakarta.


Wellness and the waters

Michelle Bennett's decade-long fascination with taking the waters has led to two books detailing the art of mindful pursuits.

Breathe details 30 health, yoga and meditation retreats, including the Alive Retreat at Noosa, where guests design their own wellness timetable, and Relax, a guide to 40 luxury spas such as the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa. The books cost $22.95 each.


Rockies on the rails

Rocky Mountaineer will pull up in the glacial valley of Lake Louise in 2013 for the first time in 20 years. A spokesman says increased demand in this region of the Rockies, which involves a 90-minute coach ride from Banff to Lake Louise, has led to the additional stop. Guests will continue to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

The most popular journey on the First Passage to the West route, the seven-day Canadian Rockies Highlights, stops at Vancouver, Kamloops, Lake Louise, Banff and Calgary and costs from $C2079 ($2003) a person.


The Art of the long stay

If you can take the uncertainty, Melbourne's Art Series Hotels are encouraging guests to overstay the standard check-out time of 11am.

On the morning of departure, guests at the Olsen South Yarra, the Cullen Prahran or the Blackman on St Kilda Road can request a late checkout of 3pm, 6pm or another night. If the room is not booked, it's yours.

The chief executive of Art Series Hotels, Will Deague, says there's no catch. "They are potentially available regardless of whether you have booked directly with the hotel, through a third-party website or a travel agent," he says.

For stays between December 16 and January 13. Rooms cost from $165 a night.


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