Renew those passports, book your flight, pack your bags?… Our guide to the hottest destinations around the world will help you make your travel fantasies a reality.
The experience: Sleep with hippos and bathe with mongooses in Kenya's Masai Mara.
A long, theatrical snigger hangs in the air, followed by a snort and a sharp riposte. All night this hippo banter continues, metres away, echoing off the banks of a horseshoe bend in the Talek River. The Masai Mara National Reserve is famous for the reliable abundance and diversity of wildlife seen
on safari drives, and staying in an unfenced
camp in the heart of the park means, thrillingly, there is only well-zippered
canvas between you and the beasts.
– Helen Anderson
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) flies from Australia to Nairobi via Dubai. Wildlife Safari (www.wildlifesafari.com.au) includes the Mara Explorer Camp on its customised luxury safari itineraries.
2. MIDDLE EAST
The experience: Sail a dhow on the Musandam Peninsula, Oman.
In all the turmoil of the Arab Spring, one Middle Eastern sultanate has maintained its cool. Peaceful, breathtaking Oman moves at the sort of relaxed pace you'd expect from a country blessed with generous oil and natural gas reserves and a desolate, captivating beauty. Channel Oman's laid-back rhythm with a dhow trip on the sunbaked Musandam Peninsula, where the stark Hajar Mountains fall sheer into the Arabian Sea and stunning submarine worlds unfold beneath the surface.
– Kendall Hill
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) and Etihad (etihadairways.com) fly from Australia to the United Arab Emirates with connections to Oman. More information: omantourism.gov.om.
The experience: Splurge on a meal at Alain Ducasse's Eiffel Tower restaurant.
The only identifiable downside of dining halfway up the Eiffel Tower at the posh Le Jules Verne Restaurant (aside from the hefty bill) is that you're effectively denied a full-frontal look at the famed structure itself. But the view of Paris, delightfully interrupted by the milk-chocolate-coloured girders of the tower, is to dine for. A reservation here includes not just the master chef's renowned killer cuisine, albeit in a slightly more touristic vein, but some welcome queue-jumping: the restaurant's own dedicated elevator, which goes straight up one of the tower's shapely legs, conveys diners directly to the second level.
– Anthony Dennis
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Paris via Singapore. Le Jules Verne Restaurant: restaurants-toureiffel.com.
The experience: Drive the coast roads of the Big Island, Hawaii.
There are two sensational driving routes out of Hilo, the sleepy main settlement on the Big Island. Highway 130 leads to the World Heritage-listed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where visitors can witness Earth's creation as red-hot lava from the active Kilauea volcano adds an extra 16 hectares to the island's surface area each year. Alternatively, take the Hamakua Coast road north-west for cinematic seafronts, farmers' markets, bohemian villages and the cowboy town of Waimea.
Dream to reality: Hawaiian Airlines (hawaiianair.com) flies from Sydney to Honolulu and on to Hilo. More information: gohawaii.com.
The experience: Climb the startling rock fortress of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.
Most of the island's eight UNESCO World Heritage sites are clustered in this dry central zone, where wild elephants roam and ancient kings built marvellous cities. Among the most startling of these ruins is Sigiriya, a pleasure palace built improbably atop a volcanic plug. It's best known for its 1500-year-old cliff-face frescoes of spectacularly well-endowed, wasp-waisted women, thought to be a rebel king's concubines or celestial goddesses. After an eyeful, pass between the monumental stone paws of a lion and climb another 1682 steps to a throne with views of a long-gone kingdom.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Colombo via Singapore. Banyan Lanka Tours (banyanlanka.com) arranges customised luxury itineraries.
6. SOUTH AMERICA
The experience: Get face to face with Easter Island's stone sentinels.
Famed for its towering stone sculptures, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is a place of mystery and rare physical beauty that's also a magnet for hikers and scuba divers. Successive waves of colonisers have each left their mark on this remote Pacific island, but it is the giant sculptures, or moai, that dominate the visitor's imagination.
– Mark Chipperfield
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and LAN (lan.com) fly from Australia to Santiago, Chile. Easter Island, a special territory of Chile, is 3700km from South America and can be reached via LAN, which flies direct from Santiago. Stay at Posada de Mike Rapu (see explora.com), a contemporary lodge with a good program of guided excursions.
The experience: Take in some of the finest ballet you'll ever see at Moscow's magnificently restored Bolshoi Theatre.
It boasts the world's most bolshie, inept ushers and crankiest, most curt cloakroom attendants, and it's wickedly expensive. Fortunately, it's the famed troupe's dancers who are the stellar attraction, and a visit to Moscow is positively incomplete without attending a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet. This is especially the case since late last year, when the company reopened its stupendous 1720-seat grand theatre – a 19th-century Moscow landmark in its own right, and now Putin's new pride and joy – after an interminable and controversial restoration.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Moscow via Singapore. Bolshoi Ballet: bolshoi.ru/en.
The experience: Explore Morocco's spectacular Atlas Mountains.
The snow-capped Atlas Mountains loom over Marrakech and the harsh, khaki-coloured desert that surrounds this colourful medieval city. Rising to a height of 4167 metres, the magnificent mountains separate the Atlantic coast from the Sahara Desert. While most visitors are content to spend their time exploring the souks and crumbling palaces of Marrakech, a hiking trip through the Atlas Mountains is a special joy – especially if you are lucky enough to walk with a local Berber guide who takes you to his aunt's house for mint tea and flatbread dipped in wild honey. Despite their proximity to Marrakech, the mountain villages seem to belong to another age as bearded men haggle in colourful Berber markets and ancient mud-walled towns cling to the sides of high, treeless ravines. There are few roads – old women carry huge stacks of firewood on their shoulders, village boys drive sheep across fast-flowing mountain streams. But even in this harsh wilderness, it's still possible to find a French-style auberge where you can enjoy a dish of grilled lamb, a fresh salad and a glass of chilled Moroccan rosé on the terrace. Multi-day treks with local guides, cooks and mules are available, as are expeditions on horseback. Overnight accommodation is in Berber-style tents or local guesthouses.
Dream to reality: Etihad (etihadairways.com) and Emirates (emirates.com/au) fly from Australia, via Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, to Casablanca, with connections to Marrakech. Morocco By Prior Arrangement (moroccobypriorarrangement.net) can arrange Atlas Mountains guided walking trips.
Frequent flyer – Maeve O'Meara (Gourmet Safaris director)
The place: Sardinia, Italy
The experience: Sardinia's capital, Cagliari, is one of the great unexpected finds. Everywhere you look there are lovely palm trees, cobblestone streets, winding alleyways and great little places where you can stop and eat and have a glass of something. They do a red mullet roe called bottarga, which is an intense, pressed, salty, fishy product that's much-prized – you grate it over spaghetti so you get this lovely seafoody flavour.
Details: British Airways (britishairways.com) flies from Australia to London with connections to Rome. Alitalia (alitalia.com) flies daily from Rome to Cagliari in 70 minutes. Moby Lines (mobylines.com) operates the fastest ferry (four hours, 45 minutes) between Civitavecchia near Rome to Olbia, Sardinia.
– Katrina Lobley
The experience: Be amazed by the historic rock churches of Ethiopia.
Local legend has it that the 11 marvellous monolith churches of Lalibela in northern Ethiopia were carved from bedrock by humans during the day and by angels at night. Laid out in the 12th century as a "New Jerusalem", the masterpiece of this holy assembly is Bete Giyorgis, which was hewn from stone in the shape of the St George's cross and built in a single day, apparently, because on this occasion man and angel worked side by side. The stories can seem far-fetched but the experience is genuine; inside these World Heritage-listed churches, Coptic Christians still worship as they did in the first millennium – clad in white robes, prostrate in prayer and shrouded in incense.
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) flies to Addis Ababa via Dubai; Ethiopian Airlines (ethiopianairlines.com) offers an air pass that includes flights to all the country's major historical sites at Lake Tana, Gonder, Aksum and Lalibela. More information: tourismethiopia.org.
11. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Lift your spirits at one of the world's most unusual parks.
Grab a coffee and a copy of The New Yorker and make like a local by hanging out on the High Line – an elevated park fashioned from an abandoned 1930s freight rail line that's revitalised Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The first section opened in 2009, another 10 blocks were added last year and there's lobbying to extend the 2.2-kilometre-long park further. The hip design includes a sunbathing lawn, wildflower field and native grasses, along with the occasional art installation.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to New York City via Los Angeles. Stay at The Standard (standardhotels.com), which straddles the park. More information: thehighline.org.
The experience: Cruise the beautiful Stockholm archipelago and stay at the same hotel as Nobel laureates.
The five-star, 345-room Grand Hôtel Stockholm, the preferred accommodation of Nobel laureates when in the Swedish capital to collect their citations, serves as the perfect base from which to explore the enormous Stockholm archipelago. The hotel, which is located on one of Stockholm's 14 city islands, is next to the multitude of wharves from which ferries depart to the scantily populated but stunningly beautiful isles of the archipelago, a haven for sun- and fun-loving locals in summer.
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) flies from Australia to Copenhagen via Dubai. SAS Scandinavian Airlines (flysas.com) connects regularly between Stockholm and Copenhagen. The Grand Hôtel: grandhotel.se/en.
The experience: Visit the greatest museum of Chinese antiquities.
Taipei's extraordinary National Palace Museum eclipses anything on the mainland, largely by virtue of modern Sino history, and much to the chagrin of the mainland Chinese. Its contents – more than 600,000 pieces – were smuggled across the Taiwan Straits by Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist troops as they fled Mao Zedong's victorious Communists in 1949. The museum's exquisite treasures, including the priceless Jadeite Cabbage with Insects, encompass the entire breadth of China's epic history. No wonder mainlanders, courtesy of relaxed travel regulations, are flocking to Taipei.
Dream to reality: Taiwan's China Airlines (china-airlines.com.au) flies directly from Australia to Taipei. National Palace Museum: www.npm.gov.tw. Stay at Les Suites Taipei (lessuiteshotels.com). More information: taiwantourism.org.
The experience: Chill out on China's only tropical island.
China's southernmost province, Hainan Island, is often described as "the next Hawaii" because of its palm-fringed beaches and tropical climate. The best beach resorts are in the southern district of Sanya. Elsewhere, you'll find rugged mountains, dense rainforests and ancient temples. The pace of development is staggering – there are now more than 500 hotels on the island – but if you want a self-indulgent beach holiday with a difference, look no further.
Dream to reality Hainan Airlines (global.hnair.com) flies from Australia to Hainan via Shenzhen, or fly direct from Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai.
The experience: Soak up the champagne lifestyle at London's Harvey Nichols.
At this ever-fabulous department store, a complimentary appointment with a personal shopping assistant makes for thoroughly civilised retail therapy. A session in the shopping suite, to be booked in advance, includes advice on style and fit, plus access to showers and refreshments. When you're done trying on the latest designer collections, the Fifth Floor Champagne Bar, with its airy, floral decor, inspired by the work of Emile Gallé, is the perfect place to break for bubbles.
– Emma Ventura
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and British Airways (britishairways.com) fly from Australia to London. To book a personal shopping session, visit harveynichols.com/personal-shopping.
The experience: Witness the mesmerising Hindu aarti ceremony on Varanasi's ghats.
On a stifling, humid evening by the Ganges, not far from the haunting, smoky funeral ghats (or stepped hillsides), Varanasi's spectacularly intense daily fire ceremony can leave the visitor in a near trance-like state. Far from being merely a tourist attraction, this sacred, clamorous event involves young Hindu priests facing "Mother Ganga" and waving flaming aarti lamps around a person or a deity in order to achieve purification.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia via Singapore to six Indian destinations, including Mumbai and Delhi, with domestic connections to Varanasi. Stay at the Nadesar Palace (tajhotels.com), a former maharaja's 19th-century residence.
The experience: Hand-feed Adelaide's giant pandas.
As breakfasts go, panda cake doesn't look particularly appetising. But this steamed concoction of ground bamboo, corn and rice powders, soy flour, calcium, sugar and eggs looks just fine to Wang Wang and Funi, the male and female giant pandas resident at Adelaide Zoo. Turn keeper for a morning and experience the thrill of popping a piece of cake or slice of apple straight into a panda's waiting mouth.
Dream to reality: Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com.au) and Qantas (qantas.com) fly regularly from Sydney and Melbourne to Adelaide. The behind-the-scenes VIP Panda Tour runs four mornings a week (zoossa.com.au). Stay at the Clarion Hotel Soho (clarionhotelsoho.com.au).
The experience: Ride an elephant along the Thai-Burma-Laos border.
The 65-hectare Anantara Golden Triangle is part luxury resort, part elephant sanctuary – a sort of rough-luxe alternative to the mindless pampering of most five-star developments. Trainee mahout (elephant driver) programs bring humans and elephants together for gently paced walks and swims in the border rivers between Thailand, Burma and Laos. When fully booked, the resort has a human-to-elephant ratio of about 160:30 – about one pachyderm among five people.
Dream to reality: Thai Airways (thaiairways.com.au) has multiple daily flights from Australia to Bangkok and on to Chiang Rai. Stay at Anantara Golden Triangle (goldentriangle.anantara.com). The resort is a 70km drive from the airport.
The experience: Travel the Silk Route in style between Beijing and Moscow.
The Golden Eagle pioneered luxury train travel on the Trans-Siberian, the most epic
and challenging rail route on earth. Now the Golden Eagle is forging new levels of comfort in Central Asia, a part of the world not known to be as smooth as silk for travellers. Book a well-appointed, comfortable compartment on the Russian-crewed train for a true trip of a lifetime between Beijing and Moscow, along the Silk Route, via the must-see UNESCO World Heritage-listed cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.
Dream to reality: The Captain's Choice "Silk Road by Private Train" tour (captainschoice.com.au) starts in Beijing and ends in Moscow. Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia, via Singapore, to Beijing and Moscow.
The experience: Imagine you are fabulously wealthy during a stay on a private island in Fiji.
The northern hemisphere has the Caribbean but we have Fiji, a 330-strong archipelago of equal beauty but far fewer crowds. For the ultimate in hedonistic escapes, retreat to a private island such as Laucala – owned by Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, who charges guests $26,000 a night to stay in his hilltop residence (but only $4000 a night to stay in a regular bure) – or the 91-hectare Vomo, a postcard-perfect island of sugary sand, translucent waters and gently lapping waves.
Dream to reality: Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com), Jetstar (jetstar.com) and Air Pacific (airpacific.com) fly from Australia to Nadi; private air charters transfer guests to the islands. More information: Laucala.com; wakaya.com
The experience: Tour the amazing markets and tapas bars of Barcelona.
The Catalan capital is home to some of Europe's best markets, such as Mercat de la Boqueria, which is conveniently located just off touristy Las Ramblas. Here you'll find deli upon deli redolent with hanging legs of ham, or jamon, the cherished Spanish delicacy. Elsewhere, Mercat de Santa Catarina, with its adventurously modern, multi-coloured wave-like roof, is the venue for the cool Cuines Santa Catarina, a contemporary tapas bar that serves everything from tuna tataki to Thai chicken curry (and it works).
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) has a regular connection to Barcelona from Australia, via Singapore. Mercat de la Boqueria: boqueria.info; Cuines Santa Catarina: www.cuinesantacaterina.com; Travel the World (traveltheworld.com.au) and Tauck (tauck.com) run "Paradors of Northern Spain" group tours starting in Barcelona and ending in Lisbon.
The experience: Enjoy your own private slice of the Great Wall of China.
Commune by the Great Wall is the admirable folly of two of China's most prominent real-estate developers and is nestled in the Walnut Valley and Rock Valley in Badaling, within easy reach of the Chinese capital. It consists of a series of unique, cutting-edge, contemporary villas designed by leading architects from around Asia. You can stay at any of the resort's 42 villas – located within the two valleys – comprising nearly 200 suites, with a private path that gives access to a crumbling, tourist-free (except you) portion of the venerable Great Wall.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) has regular flights from Australia, via Singapore, to Beijing. Commune
by the Great Wall (commune.sohochina.com) is a 75-minute drive from the centre of Beijing.
23. NEW ZEALAND
The experience: Take off to Peter Jackson's personal aviation museum.
Without the creative genius of Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson – and the Weta studios – this would be a forgotten aerodrome with a few broken-down old planes. Thanks to Jackson, Omaka now has the world's finest collection of World War I aircraft (most of it operational) and an astonishing display of memorabilia, including field uniforms, rare medals and captured German booty. Weta's recreation of real-life battle scenes and muddy trenches is inspirational.
Dream to reality: Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com) flies to Wellington on the North Island with domestic connections to Blenheim, located at the north of the South Island. Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre (omaka.org.nz) is 5km from Blenheim.
24. SOUTH AMERICA
The experience: Visit José Ignacio, beach-town favourite of the Latin American jet-set.
That ridiculously handsome polo player from the Ralph Lauren ads holidays here, as does Shakira (she has a ranch nearby) and fashionable types such as Naomi Campbell and Mario Testino. But outside of peak season in January, José Ignacio is just a dirt-road beach village on Uruguay's laid-back Atlantic coast that has more in common with 1970s-era Byron Bay than St Barts. Accommodation is in chic boutique hotels or B&Bs, and the vibe is barefoot and beautiful.
Dream to reality: The best air connections to Punta del Este are from Buenos Aires. Qantas (qantas.com) and LAN (lan.com) fly from Australia to Santiago, Chile, with connections to Montevideo.
The experience: Scuba dive in Indonesia.
A voyage on Tiger Blue, a 34-metre gaff-rigged wooden sailing vessel, is like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. The ship is a fully equipped "live-aboard", designed for scuba diving in remote parts of the Indonesian archipelago, such as Sumba, Flores and Banda. A highlight is a visit to see those fearsome reptiles, the Komodo dragons, on the island of Komodo. Tiger Blue has four cabins, delicious Indonesian food and a well-trained crew.
Dream to reality: Jetstar (jetstar.com) flies from Australia to Denpasar, Bali, frequently. Fly direct from Bali to Bima (Sumbawa), where you can board Tiger Blue (tigerblue.info).
The experience: Explore Tasmania's wondrous island sanctuary, Maria Island.
Part convict ruin, part wildlife sanctuary and part 19th-century industrial curio, Maria Island is Tasmania's best-kept secret. This small island off Tassie's east coast north of Hobart teems with possums, sea eagles, wombats, echidnas, wallabies and kangaroos. Hiking, mountain biking and kayaking are all popular pursuits. Camp overnight or rent one of the old convict cells.
– Mark Chipperfield
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com), Jetstar (jetstar.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com) run regular flights to Hobart and Launceston. A ferry service, taking 30 minutes, operates between Triabunna and Maria (mariaislandferry.com.au). The Maria Island Walk (mariaislandwalk.com.au) operates four-day walking expeditions.
27. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Search for the Yukon's bears under the midnight Canadian sun.
Spotting a grizzly from the Yukon's wildflower-fringed highways isn't as hard as you might think. Keep your eyes peeled for a flash of shaggy amber fur or take the hint from other tourists who have pulled over their RVs (recreational vehicles) to sit, transfixed, at the sight of a bear or two snacking on summer growth. With just a campervan door between you and those teeth, your heart will beat faster – guaranteed.
– Katrina Lobley
Dream to reality: Air Canada (aircanada.com) flies from Australia to Whitehorse via Vancouver. Kluane National Park (pc.gc.ca) offers great bear spotting. Rent an RV in Whitehorse (travelyukon.com). Government campgrounds are open May to September.
The experience: Stay in the white villages of Las Alpujarras in Spain's Sierra Nevada.
Lose yourself amid Andalucia's mountainous region, which Arabic conquerors made their own in the 8th century. Whether you rent a villa in tiny Atalbéitar, where a few scrappy cats make up the pedestrian traffic, or Trevélez, the highest town in Spain and home to some of the country's best jamon, the area's towns and villages, clinging to the cliff-faces in stark, whitewashed relief, offer a spare, unvarnished beauty.
– Emma Ventura
Dream to reality: British Airways (britishairways.com) flies from Australia to London with connections to Malaga. Rent a car at Malaga airport (malagaairport.eu); Las Alpujarras is about 140km to the north-east. Villa rentals (rusticaltravel.com). More information: spain.info.
The experience: Immerse yourself in a Philippines island paradise.
Tropical islands don't come much more perfect – or laid-back – than Panglao, an idyllic collection of farms, fishing hamlets and white-sand beaches off the south-west tip of Bohol. Most visitors are here for the excellent scuba diving. Outrigger canoes can be hired on the beach for a few dollars. Accommodation options are limited but, for something really special, book a thatched pavilion at Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies to Manila from Australia. Cebu Pacific (cebupacificair.com) flies to Bohol (Tagbilaran Airport) from both Manila and Cebu. Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa (eskayaresort.com).
Frequent flyer – Anna Funder (writer)
The place: Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy.
The experience: The Rockefeller Foundation puts up scholars and a couple of novelists at a time in this castle behind the village. It's located on the hill where Pliny the Elder did his pondering, so you're supposed to be thinking incredibly exquisite thoughts while you're there, and not spending all your time looking out the window at the sparkle of the lights of the little villages across the water. You also know that George Clooney is at another village somewhere, minding his own business in his palace.
Details: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Milan via Singapore. From Milan take a train to Como or Varenna then a boat to Bellagio (www.navigazionelaghi.it). Splash out with a stay at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (villaserbelloni.com). – KL
The experience: Marvel at the Menindee Lakes, NSW.
Kinchega National Park, on the banks of the Darling River, is among the most remarkable but least known of our national parks, and the Menindee Lakes (there are four) are the main drawcard. Now in flood, they present a magnificent sight: a huge expanse of water, rich in bird and marine life. Sunsets here are stunning. There is pleasant lakeside camping or shearer's quarters for hire, both operated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Dream to reality: Rex (rex.com.au) operates direct flights between Sydney and Broken Hill. Menindee is about 110km from Broken
Hill – hire an off-road vehicle. Contact NPWS (environment.nsw.gov.au) about camping near the lakes.
32. MIDDLE EAST
The experience: Discover Dubai's hidden heritage.
Make like a local and catch an abra, a traditional wooden boat that taxis people across Dubai Creek. Explore the shaded narrow alleyways, ancient wind-tower architecture, cafes and galleries of Bastakiya. Authentic experiences can be hard to find amid the shimmering, sky-scraping Disneyland of development that is modern Dubai, but this restored precinct, founded by 19th-century Persian merchants, provides a glimpse of the Emirate's trading past – and a clue to its present.
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) flies from Australia to Dubai. Bastakiya is on Bur Dubai, on the west side of Dubai Creek, which is lined on both sides with numerous abra stops. Bastakiya tours (cultures.ae).
The experience: Attempt to walk Victoria's Great Ocean Road.
Not so long ago, people came to drive the Great Ocean Road. Now they want to pull on their hiking boots and walk the entire 102-kilometre route – from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles. Big-surf beaches, dense eucalypt forest and sheer ocean cliffs are just some of the things to see. The track is well signposted, with plenty of campsites along the way. But it's no doddle, so expect a few blisters, aches and pains.
Dream to reality: Apollo Bay is located about 200km south-west of Melbourne. Although Victoria's Great Ocean Walk can be tackled independently, Bothfeet (bothfeet.com) offers small, group expeditions.
34. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Tour a native American pueblo in New Mexico.
No other inhabited pueblo in the United States is more dramatically situated than New Mexico's Acoma. Perched atop a 110-metre-high sandstone mesa rising from the desert, the citadel has been home to the Acoma people since the 12th century. From the visitors' centre below, take a minibus to begin a 90-minute tour that includes a peek inside the 17th-century, dirt-floored adobe church; descend via a rock stairway with handholds rubbed smooth by countless generations.
Dream to reality: United Airlines (united.com) flies from Australia to Albuquerque via Los Angeles. Acoma is about 100km west of Albuquerque; pueblo tours run from February to November (acomaskycity.org). Rent a vehicle from the airport (avis.com).
35. NEW ZEALAND
The experience: Delve into secret Maori business.
Tom Loughlin is a Maori chief, qualified chef, expert fly fisherman and former rugby league player. Set on 2000 hectares of North Island mountain and forest, Tamau Pa is a place of simple outdoor adventure where Maori culture can be experienced first-hand. Apart from enjoying one of Tom's gourmet hangis, guests can catch wild eels in the river and hunt deer (during the season). Along the way you might even discover your inner Maori.
Dream to reality: Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com) has regular flights from Australia to Auckland and Wellington on the North Island with connections to regional airports. The Kai Waho Experience (kaiwaho.co.nz), at Tamau Pa near Taupo on the North Island, includes hunting, fishing and "advanced cultural learning".
The experience: Head to Helsinki, this year's World Design Capital.
Helsinki is celebrating everything from art to homewares (including the internationally renowned Iittala line) with late-night shopping, discounts, workshops, exhibitions and events. The Finnish capital's Design District spans several easily negotiated blocks, where you'll find such diverse stores as Artek, founded by modern architecture maestro Alvar Aalto, Kalevala Jewellery, inspired by Finnish legends, and the hippie-chic Globe Hope, doing the right thing by creating clothing and bags out of recycled fabrics.
Dream to reality: Finnair (www.finnair.com/au) flies from Australia to Helsinki. Design District Helsinki: designdistrict.fi; Helsinki
World Design Capital: wdchelsinki2012.fi/en.
The experience: Savour a glass of red wine by the hearth of a quinta in Portugal's Douro Valley.
The adventure begins on the slow train that follows a single track north through the mountains from Porto to Pinhão, past stations where the azulejos, Portugal's traditional blue-and-white tiles, tell the story of port-making.
A new generation of winemakers, however, is focused on the region's unique, gutsy red wines made from indigenous grape varieties, most notably touriga nacional and tinta roriz.
– Helen Anderson
Dream to reality: British Airways (britishairways.com) flies from Australia to Lisbon via London with connections to Porto. UTracks (utracks.com) can arrange a five-day, self-guided walking trip in Douro Valley.
Frequent flyer – Guy Maestri (artist, 2009 Archibald Prize winner)
The place: Seal Rocks, NSW.
The experience: I've been coming to this area for 30 years – I've got a little place here that I muck around with. The beaches are so good that I've become something of a snob – I don't even bother bringing my surfboard back to Sydney [where I live] any more. If there are 10 people in the surf up here, it's a crowd. There's a dirt road into Seal Rocks still and [the locals] try to keep it that way. It's one of the most magical places on earth.
Details: Rex (rex.com.au) flies from Sydney to Taree, 60km from Seal Rocks. Seal Rocks is 310km north of Sydney on the NSW mid north coast. Stay at Sugarloaf Point's historic lighthouse cottages (sealrockslighthouseaccommodation.com.au) or camp (sealrocksholidaypark.com.au). – KL
39. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Tear up the perfect dirt of Idaho's mountain-bike trails.
In winter, Sun Valley is a glamorous ski resort. The rest of the year it's mountain-biking heaven. This Idaho playground's fractured shale makes for pretty much perfect dirt. Add to that single-track trails at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels (including hiker-free "flow trails") and breathtaking scenery.
Dream to reality: United Airlines (united.com) flies from Australia to Boise via Los Angeles. Rent a bike from The Elephant's Perch in Ketchum that adjoins Sun Valley (elephantsperch.com).
The experience: Learn how to taste tea (properly) at a Sri Lankan tea estate.
A day in Bogawantalawa begins with tea in bed in one of four restored colonial bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails, then a breakfast cup beside a terrace where pickers are plucking the prescribed "two leaves and a bud". Another cup follows with planter-in-residence Andrew Taylor, who conducts a tour of the Norwood tea factory. Later, at high tea on the terrace, assess the strength, colour and pungency of a brew likely picked yesterday morning (no milk or sugar, please).
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com.au) flies from Australia to Colombo, via Singapore. Banyan Lanka Tours (banyanlanka.com) includes the Ceylon Tea Trails (teatrails.com) on its itineraries.
The experience: Put yourself in the postcard at Lake Bled, Slovenia.
The tiny nation of Slovenia only has one island – rising from the turquoise waters of Lake Bled – but it's a beauty. Strapping Slovenian men row you across the tranquil glacial lake to the island, where you climb 99 steps to the 15th-century church of St Mary. When you have recovered from the 100-metre ascent, you're rewarded with views of the Julian Alps.
Dream to reality: Finnair (finnair.com/au) flies from Australia to Helsinki with partner airline Qantas, with connections to Ljubljana. More information: visitljubljana.si. Regular buses and trains run from the capital, Ljubjiana, to Bled, 60km north-west of the capital (slovenia.info).
The experience: Sip Valpolicella on the steps of the Arena di Verona, Italy.
Catch a performance at the "other" colosseum, the Arena di Verona, set in the home town of Romeo and Juliet. Six different benchmark operas are performed over 50 nights during festival season, June to September, although this beautifully preserved Roman amphitheatre, dating from AD30, sees year-round performances. Seated on the ancient steps, vino in hand, the romance is palpable.
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) operates daily flights from Australia to Dubai with onward connections to Venice. RailEurope (raileurope.com.au) operates train services between all major Italian hubs. Verona is about 110km west of Venice. Arena di Verona: www.arena.it.
The experience: Meditate with Buddhist monks on a sacred mountain in Japan.
In AD816, a Japanese monk named Kukai climbed the holy mountain of Koya, on the Kii Peninsula south of Osaka, and built the first temple of the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism. About 50 of Koyasan's 117 temples welcome travellers to stay in simple tatami-mat rooms, meditate or pray with their monks and dine on a highly sophisticated temple cuisine, shojin ryori. Just outside town, a "forest therapy walk" beneath mossy cedars and hinoki leads to Okunoin, an ancient cemetery of half a million graves – a serene city of spirits.
Dream to reality: Japan Airlines (jal.com.au) and Qantas (qantas.com) fly direct from Sydney to Tokyo. Shukubo, or temple lodgings, usually have shared toilets and communal, separate-gender bathhouses (shukubo.jp/eng). More information: jnto.org.au.
The experience: Stay at the most stylish digs in Italy's fashion capital.
The belle époque Hotel Principe di Savoia, overlooking Milan's Piazza della Repubblica, has been scoring style points since the 1920s. Sip a Negroni in the Thierry Despont-designed Principe Bar before retiring to one of the deluxe Mosaic rooms, with their opulent bathrooms adorned with tiny glass tiles. If you can bear to sneak away, Milan's attractions include da Vinci's The Last Supper, Sforza Castle and, of course, the Duomo (cathedral), plus Missoni for a steal at La Rinascente department store.
Dream to reality: British Airways (britishairways.com) flies from Australia to London with connections to Milan. Hotel Principe di Savoia (hotelprincipedisavoia.com), part of the Dorchester Collection, can arrange tours of Milan La Rinascente (www.rinascente.it).
The experience: Escape the tourists on New Caledonia's Lifou Island.
Palm-fringed beaches, sleepy tropical villages and a good supply of Côtes du Rhône and freshly baked baguettes … is there anything else today's beachcomber could desire? Lifou, one of the Loyalty Islands, is the gem of New Caledonia – green, unspoilt and supremely laid-back. The combination of Kanak culture, French gastronomy, crystal-clear ocean (the island is a magnet for snorkellers) and island tranquillity makes Lifou one of the best-kept secrets in the Pacific.
Dream to reality: Air Caledonie (air-caledonie.nc) and Qantas (qantas.com) fly from Australia to Noumea. Air Caledonie has regular flights from Noumea to Lifou. Stay at the Drehu Village Hotel (drehu.grands-hotels.cc).
The experience: Check in at (probably) the world's oldest hotel in Spain.
Parador de Santiago de Compostela, a member of Spain's unique network of heritage inns, has been welcoming weary pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago trail for centuries. The 128-room hotel, likely the world's oldest (though some Japanese ryokans, or traditional inns, may demur), dates to 1499, when it opened as a hospital for pilgrims. It has a commanding position adjacent to Santiago de Compostela's grand cathedral and square, while the hotel itself features four elegant cloisters and restaurants specialising in the local Galician cuisine.
– Anthony Dennis
Dream to reality: More information: paradores-spain.com. Travel the World (traveltheworld.com.au) and Tauck (tauck.com) run small-group "Paradors of Northern Spain" tours beginning in Barcelona and ending in Lisbon. Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Barcelona, via Singapore.
The experience: Savour some architectural eye candy in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The Slovenian capital's streets are wonderful to wander, a rare mix of the old and the avant garde: the cobbled, medieval Mestni Trg (town square), the exuberantly baroque Franciscan church and the bold architecture of Jože Plečnik, who stamped the city with his unconventional signature in the 1920s and '30s. Criss-cross his colonnaded bridges, which sport modern sculptures and span the Ljubljanica, and soak up the city's surprisingly Mediterranean vibe at a riverside cafe.
Dream to reality: Finnair (finnair.com/au) flies from Australia to Helsinki with partner airline Qantas, with connections to Ljubljana. More information: visitljubljana.si.
The experience: Play high-altitude backyard cricket in Himalayan India.
The source of the Ganges and the holiest of India's Hindu temples are found in the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand, a little-touristed northern state known as the "land of the gods". Follow cow paths and pilgrimage routes in the spectacular Kumaon region through oak and rhododendron forests, and stay at restored village houses along the way. And rest in utter luxury at the private alpine retreat of 360° Leti, where staff and guests play cricket beneath the Nanda Devi range.
Dream to reality: Shakti (shaktihimalaya.com) runs private walking trips in the Kumaon region, staying at village houses and 360° Leti. Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Delhi via Singapore.
The experience: Take a walk on the wild side in South Africa's Kruger National Park.
When you're out under the stars on safari, with nothing but a bit of canvas between you and the wildlife, you'd better hope the lion sleeps tonight. Then again, little can match the experience of listening to the throaty coughs of unseen leopards while your Shangaan tracker recounts tales of rhino charges and sparks from the fire disappear into the African night. At Ngala Private Game Reserve, on Kruger's western border, luxury safari operator &Beyond offers guests the chance to step away from the four-wheel-drive and into the scrubby terrain, on bespoke guided walks that can last from two hours to three days. Accompanied by an experienced guide and tracker, groups numbering a maximum of six pick their way through Timbavati Game Reserve. They pause to interpret the signs of the bush, whether it's a change in bird calls, the subtle crack of a branch or the breathy "bah" of an impala warning. There's a pleasurable prickling of adrenalin as you mull potential encounters with toothy predators, but &Beyond focuses on the small stuff, too. Whether you're contemplating a baboon print, the exertions of a dung beetle or a wisteria tree knocked down by an elephant, it all adds up to a greater appreciation of the environment. If you opt to sleep out, you'll hardly rough it: accommodated in smart, semi-permanent tents, and dining alfresco on pan-African food. Alternatively, head to stylish Ngala Tented Camp, where all manner of birds, monkeys and antelope join you for sundowners by a limpid infinity pool.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) has regular flights from Australia to Johannesburg with connections to other South African cities. Fly from Johannesburg to Nelspruit or Hoedspruit airports, where &Beyond (andbeyond.com) will transfer you the 190km into Ngala Private Game Reserve.
50. SOUTH AMERICA
Frequent flyer – Richard Evans (BridgeClimb Sydney managing director, former Sydney Opera House CEO.)
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The experience: "One of my most amazing experiences was going to the football in an area called La Boca. It was just a regular match we went to on a Sunday night. People bring in instruments – drums, horns, the whole thing – so from start to finish the match has a soundtrack. The whole crowd is chanting and stamping – it was just bananas. At a certain point, flares were going off. It was one of the most electrifying, theatrical sporting experiences of my life."
Details: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Santiago, Chile, with connections to Buenos Aires. Stay at the boutique Home Hotel in the Palermo Viejo neighbourhood (homebuenosaires.com). – KL
The experience: Spend a night at the world's finest opera in Vienna.
Book tickets to an opera (or queue 80 minutes before curtain for €4 standing-room tickets) at the five-tier wedding-cake baroque Wiener Staatsoper, or Vienna State Opera. It's one of Europe's busiest theatres, with arguably the world's toughest and most discerning audience. After the encores, cross the road for a slice of original sachertorte (chocolate cake) at Hotel Sacher.
– Helen Anderson
Dream to reality: Emirates (emirates.com/au) flies from Australia to Vienna, via Dubai.
Wiener Staatsoper: wiener-staatsoper.at. More information on Vienna and Austria: vienna.info/en and austria.info/au.
52. NORTH AMERICA
The experience Get hip and happening in Portland, Oregon, America's coolest city.
For a city of just over 500,000 inhabitants, Portland, in America's Pacific north-west, harbours lofty ambitions. Not content with its reputation for excellent coffee, delicious regional fare and award-winning beers and wines, Portland is also the country's most freewheeling, liberal (in the lower-case "l" sense) enclave. The city motto is "Keep It Weird" – where else could have produced Voodoo Doughnuts?
– Mark Chipperfield
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Los Angeles with connecting flights to Portland on Alaskan Airlines. Stay
at Hotel Modera (hotelmodera.com).
The experience: Tackle the scenic Camel Trail in Cornwall.
On a sunny day – and north Cornwall has its fair share – there is nothing like riding the 28-kilometre Camel Trail, which stretches along a disused railway line from the fishing village of Padstow via Wenford Bridge to Bodmin Moor. Don't expect to bump into any dromedaries, though – the trail takes its name from the magnificent Camel Estuary, which flows from Wadebridge to the sea. Hardened mountain bikers will find the trail easy work, with the old railway line making for a pleasant jaunt, but the countryside is ravishing.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and British Airways (britishairways.com) fly regularly to London. Padstow is a four-hour drive from London, or catch a train to Newquay. Bicycle hire: Padstow Cycle Hire (padstowcyclehire.com). Stay at St Petroc's Hotel (rickstein.com).
54. NEW ZEALAND
The experience: Stay at a luxury tree-house lodge in New Zealand.
New Zealand's network of superb, world-class luxury lodges stretching across the North and South Islands is that country's gift to the world of cushy accommodation. And there's none more unusual and appealing than Hapuku Lodge, at Kaikoura on the north-east coast of the South Island, with its quintet of spacious and well-appointed architect-designed tree houses. They deliver not only wicked standards of comfort but also fabulous views of snow-capped peaks, deer-filled pastures and, of course, the canopies of native
– Anthony Dennis
Dream to reality: Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com.au) has flights from Australia to Wellington and Christchurch. Hapuku Lodge (hapukulodge.com) is located just outside Kaikoura.
The experience: Whoosh down Samoa's Papasee'a Sliding Rocks.
Conquering a five-metre-high, almost-vertical waterfall might not seem much of a challenge – until you're peering over the top, knees quaking, with Samoan teenagers daring you to sit on the mossy rocks and take the plunge. Once you've pushed off there's no turning back – you're headed for the cool rock pool below and a glorious feeling of invincibility for the rest of the day. Three smaller slides will warm you up for the big one.
– Katrina Lobley
Dream to reality: Virgin Australia flies direct from Sydney to Samoa (virginaustralia.com). Sliding Rock is a few minutes' drive from Apia. Stay in a bungalow at Aggie Grey's Hotel & Bungalows (aggiegreys.com).
The experience: Dine at the on-board Nobu sushi bar as you cruise the Arctic Sea.
You may have to tussle with your Japanese fellow passengers aboard the very classy luxury ships Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony for a seat at the sushi counter at Silk Road & Sushi Bar. But on an adventurous two-week cruise to the Arctic, via Denmark, Norway and Sweden, chances are that you won't miss out. Celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa installs some of his best chefs from his raw fish empire, including from New York, to man his floating sushi bar, which also serves other Japanese dishes. If you tire of Japanese, there's always the Italian restaurant, Prego, where from the vantage point of your dining table you could well be lucky enough to spot herds of beluga whales frolicking in the frigid Arctic waters.
Dream to reality: Crystal Cruise's "North Cape and Arctic Circle – Arctic Adventure" cruise between Copenhagen and Stockholm departs on July 8, 2012 (crystalcruises.com). Emirates (emirates.com/au) flies to Copenhagen from Dubai, with daily connections from Australia.
The experience: Swim with Bora Bora's friendly sharks.
So you think a Tiffany's box is the best shade of blue in the world? Clearly you haven't been to Bora Bora, the most famed (and outrageously beautiful) of the more than 120 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. The mountainous main island, once a strategic World War II base for US forces, is surrounded by a lagoon of the most startling hue imaginable. Unsurprisingly, a holiday here means embracing the life aquatic: go for a lazy snorkel over one of the coral gardens that attract fish of every size, shape, colour and habit imaginable, or up the adrenalin factor exponentially by slipping in among a school of reef sharks with black-tipped fins. Even though the species isn't known to nibble on people, it's a seriously heart-pumping adventure to be in the water with no barrier between them and you – especially when you spy much larger (but notoriously shy) lemon sharks lurking on the seabed below. Swimming with these sharks is the highlight of a day tour on a motorised outrigger canoe. The tours usually include cuddling stingrays in shallow waters, a bountiful lunch on one of the motus (islets) that ring the lagoon, a circumnavigation of the main island with stops at the best snorkelling spots and, if you get the right crew, a few traditional and not-so-traditional tunes sung with complete joie de vivre.
– Katrina Lobley
Dream to reality: Fly to the island of Tahiti with Air Tahiti Nui (airtahitinui.com.au), overnight in Papeete, then take a domestic flight to Bora Bora, 260km to the north-west. Bora Bora accommodation packages at tahitinow.com.au.
The experience: Cruise Vietnam's Halong Bay on a small luxury junk.
Halong Violet is not only the most luxurious junk on Vietnam's World Heritage-listed Halong Bay – which is dotted with more than 2000 karst-like islands that protrude dramatically from the sea – it's also the fastest. This means you reach Halong Bay's key attractions, such as floating fishing villages, more quickly than any of the other 400-odd boats. But it's the indulgent comfort factor that sets Halong Violet apart from the rest. The junk, with just six spacious berths the size of a boutique hotel room (and with similar amenities, such as spa baths), is decorated in faux Indochine-style, with a dining room, library and small gym aboard.
Dream to reality: Vietnam Airlines (vietnamairlines.com) flies direct from Australia to Hanoi (the closest city to Halong Bay). Halong Violet, and two other luxury cruises, can be booked through Active Travel (activetravel.com.au).
59 NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Splurge on a stay at Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur.
When it comes to overnight pit-stops along California's famed Highway 1, they don't come much more luxurious than Post Ranch Inn. If money's no object, book a cliff house perched on the vertiginous Big Sur cliff-top. Otherwise, stargaze from bed in a triangular stilted tree house with skylights, or contemplate the mountains from your peak house's outdoor hot tub. Don't leave without soaking in one of the infinity pools overlooking the Pacific Ocean. – KL
Dream to reality: United Airlines (united.com) flies from Australia to San Francisco. Post Ranch Inn (postranchinn.com) is about 240km south of San Francisco.
The experience: Take in the markets of Uzbekistan, land of the golden smiles.
The majority of visitors to this former Soviet republic come to visit its "big three" Silk Road cities: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. But a bonus of a visit to Uzbekistan is the markets surrounding or inside the cities' World Heritage-listed monument precincts (as well as sites within the capital, Tashkent, itself). Bukhara's ancient trading domes are the location for stalls selling exquisite embroidered wares such as rugs and cushions. It's here, too, that you can encounter the local people of Uzbekistan, known as "the land of the golden smiles" – a reference not to a dubious "national happiness index" but to the fact that many a local woman's mouth features the arresting status symbol of a full set of shiny gold teeth.
Dream to reality: The Captain's Choice "Silk Road by Private Train" tour (captainschoice.com.au) via Central Asia starts in Beijing and ends in Moscow. Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies to and from Australia, via Singapore, to Beijing and Moscow.
61. SOUTH AMERICA
The experience: Stargaze in the Atacama Desert, Chile.
High, dry and blessed with minimal light or air pollution, the Atacama Desert is renowned
for excellent stargazing. Frenchman Alain Maury and his wife, Alejandra, lead fascinating tours of the night sky using high-definition telescopes on their remote Altiplano property. The Milky Way is almost close enough to touch and the crystal-clear sight of an exploding nebula or distant galaxy is unforgettable.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and LAN (lan.com) fly from Australia to Santiago, with connections north to the desert city of Calama. San Pedro, the main tourist town, is a 45-minute taxi ride away. Stargazing tours available through spaceobs.com.
The experience: Cruise in luxury along Bangkok's Chao Phraya River.
Bangkok's Chao Phraya River is one of the world's great urban waterways, extending all the way to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya in the Thai countryside and beyond. There's no better or more agreeable way to commune with the river than aboard one of the chic, converted 20-metre teak rice barges of Manohra Cruises. Linger on the polished timber deck (sans footwear, please) during the day as you watch Thailand's raucous riverine world drift by. By night, dine al fresco on quality Thai cuisine while the barge is moored at an upriver Buddhist monastery or temple.
Dream to reality: Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com.au) flies frequently from Australia to Bangkok. Manohra Cruises: manohracruises.com.
The experience: Relive South Africa's Anglo-Zulu wars.
Fans of the classic 1964 British film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins, will find this dusty little outpost on the veldt strangely familiar. The mission station at Rorke's Drift, where 139 redcoats defied a 4000-strong Zulu army in January 1879, contains a quaint museum, complete with life-size battle scenes. Although the site is a modern re-creation, this is a deeply moving place.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Johannesburg with connections to Durban. Rorke's Drift is a four-hour drive from Durban. The nearest town is Dundee (46km away). Stay at Royal Country Inn (www.royalcountryinn.com). Find expert guides at: battlefieldsregionguides.co.za.
The experience: Discover architectural jewels in Phnom Penh.
Before the killing fields, Cambodia was briefly a centre of modern architecture. Driven by the French-trained Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann, Phnom Penh between the 1950s and 1970s became the setting for several acclaimed modernist buildings such as the Capital Cinema and the ambitiously named Olympic Stadium, many of which are now under threat. The Cambodian capital is also home to a plethora of faded French colonial buildings. Download a self-guided tour by Khmer Architecture Tours or hire a private guide who is an architectural expert.
Dream to reality: Thai Airways (www.thairairways.com.au) flies from Australia to Phnom Penh via Bangkok. Khmer Architecture Tours: ka-tours.org. Stay at Raffles Hotel Le Royal (raffles.com) or The Quay (thequayhotel.com). More information: tourismcambodia.com.
The experience: Savour the pintxos bars in San Sebastian.
Spain's northern Basque country has evolved into the best place to eat in the Western world – according to no less an authority than Ferran Adrià, the man who famously ran the world's best restaurant until he shut El Bulli last year. The soul of this blessed epicurean land is found in San Sebastian, an aristocratic seaside resort renowned for having more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere on earth. Within this small sweep of coastline and surrounding countryside dwell such culinary legends as Mugaritz, Arzak, Martin Berasategui, Akelarre and Etxebarri. But San Sebastian's sixth sense for cuisine is not confined to three-star establishments – gastronomy runs in the veins here. Men gather weekly in the historic centre at private dining clubs called txokos to cook communal feasts using the finest seasonal produce they can source in this lush corner of the Iberian Peninsula. For outsiders, the easiest and most fun way to savour the Basque dedication to degustation is to embark on a txikiteo, a crawl of the old city's pintxos (tapas) bars. All will have prepared pintxos on the bench
and usually a blackboard menu of cooked-to-order hot dishes. The standard of food is so exceptional it doesn't really matter what bar you choose, but the likes of Bar La Cepa, Aloña Berri, Tamboril and Casa Ganderias have won fans for their alta cocina en miniatura (haute cuisine in miniature).
Dream to reality: Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com.au) and Emirates (emirates.com) offer good connections from Australia to Madrid, from where there are daily one-hour flights to San Sebastian. More information: Spain.info.
The experience: Stay in a converted shop-house in historic George Town, Penang.
South-east Asia has undergone a just-in-time heritage revival with cities and towns such as Vietnam's Hoi An, Laos's Luang Prabang and Malaysia's Malacca all benefiting from restorations driven by UNESCO World Heritage listings. Now, visionary Australians Narelle McMurtrie and Christopher Ong have helped to transform George Town, on the Malaysian island of Penang. They've opened chic and affordable accommodation, casual Australian-style cafes, laid-back restaurants and art galleries from the shells of traditional shop-houses and even a set of stables.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia to Singapore with connections to Penang with its regional carrier, SilkAir (silkair.com). More information: straitscollection.com.my; www.muntrimews.com.
The experience: Visit Madagascar for its unique animals, plants and incredible landscapes.
Madagascar really is a world apart. Cast adrift from the African mainland more than 100 million years ago, its flora and fauna have evolved in isolation to create a place unlike any other on the planet. On the world's fourth-largest island, 90 per cent of the plants are endemic along with 93 per cent of the mammals (including lemurs), 60 per cent of the birds and almost all the amphibians.
Dream to reality: The shortest route from Australia to Madagascar is via Mauritius with Air Mauritius (airmauritius.com). More information: madagascar-tourisme.com.
The experience: Explore the lost city of Fatehpur-Sikri.
An hour's drive from the town of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, is the less visited, though no less compelling, 16th-century Mughal ghost city of Fatehpur-Sikri. Abandoned in 1585 – apparently due to an inability to supply adequate water to its populace – the amazingly well-preserved, red-sandstone Fatehpur-Sikri is an awe-inspiring amalgam of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. Hire a guide in order to extract the maximum value from your visit to the site, a perfect companion to a pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia via Singapore to six Indian destinations, including Mumbai and Delhi, with rail connections to Agra. More information on Fatehpur-Sikri: Archaeological Survey of India (asi.nic.in).
The experience: Dine and stay at Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria.
The Royal Mail Hotel is not merely Australia's finest country dining experience, it also forms the basis of a rewarding holiday. Check in for a mandatory two-night stay to enjoy chef Dan Hunter's much-lauded virtuoso cooking, perfected during an extended stint in Spain. But don't forget to factor in a visit to the adjacent and spectacularly rugged Grampians and a return drive to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, due south from Dunkeld.
Dream to reality: Dunkeld is 260km west of Melbourne. Royal Mail Hotel: royalmail.com.au.
The experience: A long-awaited look into Burma, a nation wrought by political disharmony.
Even before Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi gave her blessing for tourists to visit her troubled homeland, Burma (never Myanmar) was a treasured secret of intrepid travellers. Now the world is welcome to experience ethereal Inle Lake, the fabled city of Mandalay, the temple-strewn plains of Bagan and the attractively ramshackle colonial capital of Rangoon. Get it while it's hot.
Dream to reality: Thailand is a convenient gateway to neighbouring Burma with Thai Airways operating one-stop flights from Australia to Rangoon via Bangkok. More information: Myanmar-tourism.com.
71 NEW ZEALAND
Frequent flyer – Matt Goldberg (Melbourne-based Lonely Planet CEO)
The place: Rob Roy Glacier Track.
The experience: This is one of the great day walks in the world. You wander up a glacier-fed river, cross the swing bridge and take a five-kilometre walk that ascends to the glacier. It's harrowing in places because it's edgy, but when you get to the top you're rewarded with an incredible view of the Rob Roy Glacier and about 50 flowing waterfalls. [My eldest child] Aidan was a little bit younger than nine and it was the first time he realised what he could accomplish. It was a father-son bonding experience that neither one of us will forget.
Details: Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com) has regular direct flights from Australia to Christchurch and Queenstown on the South Island, with regional connections. Rob Roy Glacier Track is in Mount Aspiring National Park (doc.govt.nz) in the South Island's Southern Alps. From Queenstown, it's about 130km to the park via Wanaka. – KL
72. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Take the train through Mexico's Copper Canyon.
The El Chepe railroad is an absolute engineering marvel that connects the dusty desert capital of Chihuahua City with the Pacific coast at Los Mochis. En route, this 60-year-old locomotive route traverses 86 tunnels, 175 bridges and countless switchbacks as it wends its way from 2000-plus metres high in the Sierra Tarahumara mountains, through the magnificent Copper Canyon to sea level.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Dallas with connections to Chihuahua City with American Airlines (aa.com). Daily departures both ways between Chihuahua and Los Mochis. More information: Chepe.com.mx.
The experience: Explore the frenetic backstreets of Kolkata with a private guide.
Burdened by its Black Hole stigma and its reputation for intractable, grinding poverty, Kolkata remains one of India's most overlooked and least appreciated cities. Yet it's blessed with not only some of India's finest, albeit decaying, colonial architecture, but fascinatingly frenetic bazaars which even include a fast-vanishing Chinatown. Book a learned private guide from Calcutta Walks and be transported (in an aged yellow Ambassador taxi, no less) into what is an exotic, wholly foreign universe.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia via Singapore to six Indian destinations, including Kolkata. More information: Calcutta Walks (calcuttawalks.com). Stay at the Taj Bengal Kolkata Hotel (tajhotels.com).
The experience: Commune with the Tiwi on Melville Island.
At the very top of Australia, 80 kilometres from Darwin across the Arafura Sea, lies a magical place unlike anywhere else on the continent. The Tiwi Islands – Bathurst and Melville, Australia's second- and fifth-largest islands respectively – are home to a unique population of 2500 indigenous Australians. Tiwi language and culture are distinct from that of mainland Aborigines and the people have two abiding passions – art and Australian rules football. Tiwi islanders have the highest football participation rate of any Australian community, a reality that produced such AFL legends as Michael Long and the Rioli brothers. When not having a kick, the Tiwi can be found creating extraordinary bark paintings, weaving pandanus, or carving and painting the intricate Pukumani burial poles that decorate Tiwi graves. Access to the islands is by organised day trip; visitors take billy tea and damper with the Morning Tea Ladies, talk with local artists about their inspirations and motivation, and enjoy the spectacle of a smoking ceremony or traditional dance performance complete with ochre-painted bodies. If a day seems too short, visitors can camp overnight on Bathurst and hunt and gather their own food with their hosts. Local delicacies include mangrove worms and goanna.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com), Virgin (virginaustralia.com) and Jetstar (jetstar.com) all fly to Darwin from Melbourne and Sydney. Tiwi Tours on Bathurst Island organises visits to Wurrumiyanga (formerly Nguiu, the main township), and to neighbouring Melville. More information: aussieadventures.com.au.
The experience: Stay in a 16th-century palazzo on Rome's Via Condotti.
Napoleon slept here. Napoleon the Third, to be precise, and at the 16th-century Palazzo Ruspoli visitors can still bed down in the same apartments once enjoyed by the ruler of the Second French Empire. Residenza Napoleone III consists of three extravagant suites adorned with centuries-old oil paintings, tapestries and statuary. The palazzo's separate rooftop apartment with terrace views to the green lungs of the Villa Borghese offers an equally charmed existence, right in the heart of Rome on Via Condotti.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Singapore from where Finnair (finnair.com/au) flies to Rome via Helsinki. For accommodation details see: mrandmrssmith.com; residenzanapoleone.com.
The experience: Tuck into a sushi breakfast at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Markets.
The world's biggest and finest fish market is a crazy, topsy-turvy world where lunch is breakfast at any of a series of outstanding, excellent sushi bars serving the freshest and best raw fish on the planet. Rub shoulders at the crowded sushi counter with a motley collection of Japanese market workers and bleary-eyed foreign tourists. Combine your visit with a viewing of the tuna auction (restrictions apply) between 5am and 6.15am and a wander around the market itself – though take care in the maddening traffic.
– Anthony Dennis
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies regularly to Tokyo. For more details and regulations about visiting Tsukiji Markets go to: www.shijou.metro.tokyo.jp/english. For accommodation needs stay at the nearby, affordable Park Hotel (www.parkhoteltokyo.com) in Shiodome.
The experience: Beckon your butler while you're all at sea.
Silversea's six luxury cruise ships ply routes all over the world but, come summer, one heads Australia's way, travelling via east coast ports from Tasmania to the Top End. Get lost in a world where the champagne's on tap, your butler is a phone call away and the "porthole" is floor-to-ceiling glass. And you can work on improving mind and body (anthropological lecture or zumba class?) once you lever yourself out of your deckchair.
– Katrina Lobley
Dream to reality: More information (including Silversea's Australian ports): silversea.com.
The experience: Visit Gallipoli for its beauty as well as its history.
Some Turks call it the "Australian Mecca". Its place names echo from our history books – the Nek and the mass graveyard at Lone Pine. Battlefield tours do a roaring trade as Australians, New Zealanders and Britons return to the scene of one of their bloodiest defeats. But remembrance is only one aspect of the experience on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The graveyards are scented with stocks and Sweet William, wild poppies bloom in abundance and the landscape has reverted to its dreamy Aegean type.
– Kendall Hill
Dream to reality: Etihad (etihadairways.com) flies from Australia to Istanbul via Abu Dhabi. TJ's Travel (anzacgallipolitours.com) in Eceabat has excellent guides who lead one-day circuits of the battlefields.
The experience: Hop across to Kangaroo Island for its stunning flora, fauna and food.
It's often described as Australia's Galapagos but, beyond the marketing hype, Kangaroo Island is what it is: an unpretentious, accessible holiday destination with superb coastal scenery, prodigious wildlife and a burgeoning local food and wine industry. Wander among scores of seals on an otherwise deserted beach; marvel at true natural wonders such as Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch; meet the producers of all kinds of foods, from sheep's milk cheese to Ligurian honey; then chill out on an island that is refreshingly free (so far) of glitz.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com) have regular flights to Adelaide where Rex (rex.com.au) has frequent connections to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island. Stay at Thorn Park on the Island (thornpark.com.au) or Aurora Ozone Hotel (auroraresorts.com.au). More information: southaustralia.com.
The experience: Ride via mule to Molokai's famous leper colony in Hawaii.
Until recently it was taboo for outsiders to come to Kalaupapa, on the remote island of Molokai. Hawaii's dark secret, this is where leprosy sufferers were banished between 1866 and 1969. Today, travellers can visit the isolated but stunning peninsula site via a five-kilometre mule ride down sea cliffs and a bus tour through the remnant colony. Contact is forbidden with the few remaining residents, but historical displays and photographs convey the tragic beauty of the place.
Dream to reality: Hawaiian Airlines (hawaiianair.com) flies from Australia to Honolulu and Island Air (islandair.com) connects to Molokai. Mule treks depart Monday to Saturday. More information: muleride.com and gohawaii.com.
The experience: Discover the gem of El Jem, Tunisia.
Thrysdus, as the Ancient Romans called El Jem, is today a dusty, unremarkable settlement in north-east Tunisia that has only one real claim to fame. At the end of the main street, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, stands Africa's largest amphitheatre, a 35,000-seat wonder of tiered Corinthian columns and rippling history. Modelled on the Colosseum in Rome, it is almost as large and in marvellous condition, considering it has dominated this arid plain for more than 17 centuries.
Dream to reality: Etihad (etihadairways.com) and Qatar (qatarairways.com) fly between Australia and North Africa. El Jem is reached by train from the capital, Tunis. Check the Australian government's Smartraveller (smartraveller.gov.au) website for security advice for Tunisia.
82. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Cruise the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
On land you have the well-worn Love Boat ports of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco but the real star of the Mexican Riviera is the Sea of Cortez, the most biodiverse body of water on the planet. Cradled between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico, this marine wonderland, dubbed "the world's aquarium" by Jacques Cousteau, harbours more than 900 fish species and 2000 marine invertebrates that thrive here on nutrient-rich upwellings from the sea floor. The Sea of Cortez is also home to 33 species of marine mammal, including the world's largest fish, the whale shark, and the world's largest animal, the blue whale. Small cruise and expedition ships are the best way to experience this often-harsh environment in comfort. Summer temperatures can soar into the high 30s and much of the sea is fringed by desert, so on the water (or in the water) is the best way to discover what lies beneath. Swim with sea lions, turtles and devil rays, or snorkel above kaleidoscopic schools of parrot fish and sergeant majors. Outside the major ports, the landscape is an unfolding postcard of sentinel cacti, dramatic mountains like the Sierra Giganta and 50 remote islands, many of them national parks or biospheres sheltering unique environments and wildlife.
Dream to reality: Lindblad's expedition cruiser National Geographic Sea Lion offers week-long itineraries in the Sea of Cortez (expeditions.com). Delta (delta.com) flies from Australia to Los Angeles with connections to La Paz, from where you transfer to San Carlos
to board the ship.
The experience: Snorkel or dive in Papua New Guinea, heart of the Coral Triangle.
From the bizarre horned sea cucumbers of the Tufi fjords to Pig Island's coral gardens painted verdigris and calamine, Papua New Guinea is a largely unexplored paradise for snorkellers and scuba divers. The country sits at the intersection of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Triangle, an area known as "the Amazon of the seas", so the waters teem with magnificent marine life.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Port Moresby. Or you can cruise between Cairns and Rabaul with Aurora Expeditions (auroraexpeditions.com.au).
The experience: Visit the gardens at Giverny, France.
You don't have to be a fan of impressionist master Claude Monet to swoon at the meticulously tended gardens and cottage he once called home in Normandy. The painter's house is charming and there's a new-ish art museum on site, but nothing can eclipse the glorious abundance of Monet's "kingdom of flowers" – from the symmetry and colour bursts of the Clos Normand to the enduring inspiration of the Japanese water gardens that the artist painted continuously for 20 years.
Dream to reality: Air France (airfrance.com) flies from Australia to Paris. Giverny is about 75km from the capital and accessible by train, bus or car. Claude Monet's house and gardens are open from April to October only. More information: giverny.org.
The experience Stay at Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania's multi-star lodge, for the food as much as the scenery.
Tassie's most luxurious lodgings are home to one of Australia's outstanding regional chefs. Hugh Whitehouse, who won critical acclaim during his days at Darley's restaurant at Lilianfels in the Blue Mountains, is these days ensconced at Saffire's Palate restaurant. The ingredients for his creative dishes are sourced direct from Tasmania's wealth of quality produce. The only catch is that to experience Whitehouse's cuisine – in a spectacular, glass-encased lodge building overlooking the Hazards Range – you need to be one of Saffire's guests.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com) fly regularly to Hobart and Launceston from Melbourne and Sydney. Saffire (saffire-freycinet.com.au) is located at Coles Bay, near Freycinet National Park, on Tasmania's east coast, about 200km north of Hobart.
The experience: Rent a yacht in Croatia and island-hop.
Sailing the Adriatic is not a pursuit confined to the European jet set. Any group can hire a sleek yacht and chart a course for some of Croatia's 1100 coastal islands, whiling away the days eating, drinking and slowly becoming nut-brown ocean nymphs. Medieval villages, gambolling dolphins and effusive local hospitality guaranteed.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies from Australia to Frankfurt with connections to Zagreb and Dubrovnik with Croatia Airlines (croatiaairlines.com). Book yachts through established rental companies like sunsail.com. Novices can hire a skipper.
The experience: Encounter the rare creatures of Lord Howe Island.
Everything about Lord Howe Island seems rare and a little improbable. Its extravagant beauty – palm trees, white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoon – is more South Sea island than Australian coast. Lord Howe rises spectacularly from the ocean to the Jurassic-dramatic basalt peak of Mount Gower, a challenging nine-hour walk past sea cliffs, cloud forests and microhabitats teeming with strange wildlife, much of it unique to the island. In nesting season, for example, providence petrels fly out of nowhere when called from the mountain and flop, unafraid, at walkers' feet. They're among hundreds of thousands of seabirds that rest and nest on this volcanic speck, protected for the past 30 years by UNESCO World Heritage status and as pristine an environment as you're likely to find. Far outnumbered by fish and fowl are humans – at any one time only 400 visitors are permitted on the island, which is home to about 350 residents, many of whom you'll meet on their bicycles, dodging flightless (and rare) woodhens and flesh-footed shearwaters on the road. A perfect day will also involve immersion, for the island is ringed by the world's southernmost coral reef. The diving at 50 sites is superb – visibility often exceeds 30 metres – or simply snorkel in the lagoon among coral gardens and spot the unique (and adorably ugly) double-headed wrasse and McCulloch's anemonefish, a rare clownfish, among 500 fish species found in local waters. Or wade knee-deep at Neds Beach and handfeed metre-long kingfish. Later, tuck into the freshest kingfish sashimi on the deck of Capella Lodge, a chic beach house beneath the twin peaks of Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird, and the height of barefoot luxury on the island.
– Helen Anderson
Dream to reality: QantasLink (qantas.com) operates daily flights to Lord Howe Island from Sydney on most days. For luxury accommodation, stay at Capella Lodge (lordhowe.com) and see the island with LHI Environmental Tours (lordhoweislandtours.com). More information: lordhoweisland.info.
88. NORTH AMERICA
Dream to reality: Snap an architectural icon from Quebec City's ferry.
Ask the doorman at the slightly spooky-looking Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for the best place to snap "one of the world's most photographed hotels", and he'll point you towards the commuter ferry plying the St Lawrence River below. Ride the ferry during the infamously cold winter and you'll feel as though you're aboard an icebreaker. Or time your ride for sunset and catch the hotel looking its sparkly best as the lights come on.
Dream to reality: Air Canada (aircanada.com) flies from Australia to Quebec City via Vancouver and Montreal. Stay at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (fairmont.com/Frontenac) and ride the ferry (traversiers.gouv.qc.ca/en).
The experience: Stroll among the lively streets and port wine lodges of Portugal's second city, Porto.
Whether it's the winding, cobbled streets, the dazzling Casa da Música concert hall or net-fresh sardines, Porto's joys are many, but a tour of the sturdily beautiful port wine lodges is a must. Taylor's, with its ledger-lined bookshelves and dimly lit barrel hall, is among the most atmospheric. A short walk uphill will bring you to the country's first wine-themed hotel, The Yeatman, where lunch by the decanter-shaped pool is accompanied by unrivalled views over the Douro river.
– Emma Ventura
Dream to reality: British Airways (britishairways.com) flies from Australia to Lisbon, with connections to Porto. Taylor's runs daily tours of its port lodge at Vila Nova da Gaia (taylor.pt/en). The Yeatman (the-yeatman-hotel.com) is excellent for accommodation, food and wine. More information: visitporto.travel.
The experience: Ride an airboat through the Mary River wetlands in the Northern Territory.
The Florida Everglades have got nothing on an airboat safari through the Mary River wetlands in the Northern Territory. Fierce crocodiles abound and the area is famous for its profuse bird life, including a huge breeding colony of magpie geese. Glide across its watery reaches to witness the eerie silence of a drowned melaleuca forest or the glory of a lily field stretching to the horizon.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com), Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com) and Jetstar (jetstar.com) operate regular flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Darwin. Stay at the upscale Bamurru Plains (bamurruplains.com) bush camp, about three hours' drive from Darwin. Bamurru offers airboat tours of the wetlands.
The experience: Take in a Balinese temple without leaving the beach.
Hire a driver to take you to Tanah Lot. The venerated Hindu temple sits on a rock off Bali's west coast and, come high tide, is encircled by seawater. At low tide wander across the black sands for a closer look – but only those intent on legitimate prayer can enter the complex, which maintains its mystique with a shroud of trees and vines. The sight becomes even more dramatic at sunset when the temple is thrown into silhouette.
Dream to reality: Garuda Indonesia (garuda-indonesia.com) flies from Australia to Denpasar. Tanah Lot (tanahlot.net) is about 30km north-west of Denpasar and about 50km south-west of Ubud. Stay at the Alila Resort Ubud Hotel (alilahotels.com/ubud).
92. NORTH AMERICA
Frequent flyer – Megan Washington (singer-songwriter)
The place: New York City.
The experience: I've gone to New York City and had fantastic times, and then I've gone and it's kind of chewed me up. But no matter where I go there, I always have a strong experience: it's either awesome or f…ed. We checked out a few places in DUMBO, which is Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. There's a whole bunch of really great venues, cafes and amazing bars there. Mayahuel is a mezcal and tequila bar in the East Village and it's just completely badass. My other tip is La Esquina – it looks like a diner and is a diner but there's a restaurant underneath. There's no signage for the restaurant at all. You make a booking and then you go through the kitchen of this crummy-looking diner, past all the dudes washing pots and pans, and down, down, down, down, down to this amazing, beautiful, candle-lit, gothic Mexican restaurant underneath.
Details: Fly to New York City via Los Angeles with Qantas (qantas.com), Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com), Delta (delta.com) or United (unitedairlines.com.au). More information: dumbonyc.org; mayahuelny.com; esquinanyc.com. – KL
The experience: Stay in style at the nearest five-star hotel to the Taj Mahal.
Many of us spend a lifetime waiting to visit the Taj Mahal and then, when we do get there, only allocate a rushed, sweaty day trip from Delhi to experience it. Splurge on a night or two at The Oberoi Amarvilas, the best and nearest hotel to the Taj Mahal (just 600 metres away) and savour unmatched views of India's architectural jewel. Rise at dawn, with complimentary coffee and tea awaiting you in the lobby, for a crowd-beating tour of the monument with a scholarly private guide and transport aboard the hotel's own fleet of electric golf buggies.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) flies from Australia via Singapore to six Indian destinations, including the capital, Delhi, which has frequent rail connections to Agra. Stay at The Oberoi Amarvilas (oberoihotels.com).
The experience: Glamp in style in the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains are so familiar to Sydneysiders it's easy to forget just how wild and compelling they are. This high-end glamping (glamour camping) experience presents the wilderness area in a new light – guests (usually no more than six at a time) sleep in designer swags in the bush and gourmet meals and chilled wines are provided. Activities include bushwalking, canoeing and birdwatching.
Dream to reality: Blue Mountains Private Safaris (bluemountainsprivatesafaris.com).
95. NORTH AMERICA
The experience: Travel in high style across Montana's Glacier National Park.
Of course you could drive yourself up Montana's Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Continental Divide – but where's the old-fashioned glamour in that? Glacier National Park's fleet of 17-passenger red buses with rollback canvas tops dates from the 1930s. They're driven by "jammers" – so called because predecessors would "jam" the gears to cope with the steep gradients.
Dream to reality: Delta (delta.com) flies from Australia to Glacier Park International Airport via Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Stay in the park's historic lodges or nearby Whitefish. The buses operate 15 park routes (glacierparkinc.com).
The experience: Take coffee, cake (and goulash) at a grand Budapest cafe.
Forget Vienna (hard as that may be). The marbled, gilded and decidedly decadent New York Cafe in Budapest matches or even surpasses any equivalent salon in the Austrian capital. The cafe, which occupies a prized section of the Boscolo Hotel, derives its name from the New York Insurance Company that commissioned the building, with the cafe itself opening in 1894. While the place is full of American tourists, the food is typically Hungarian, with traditional goulash and a selection of continental tortes that will blow your mind, and potentially your waistline.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies regularly to Frankfurt with connections to Budapest on Malev Hungarian Airlines (malev.hu). New York Cafe (newyorkcafe.hu). Budapest is the starting point of APT's 15-day, 14-night "Magnificent Europe" cruise (aptouring.com.au). Stay at Sofitel Hotel Chain Bridge (sofitel.com).
The experience: Linger on the cliff top at Port Willunga, South Australia.
To one side there's a kiosk doing a brisk trade in Chiko rolls and garfish 'n' chips. Those in the know (and with a booking), however, will push through a white door leading to the Star of Greece's fine diner and settle into a candy-striped chair overlooking Gulf St Vincent. For all its casual beach-chic vibe, what comes out of the kitchen is serious fare showcasing goodies such as Fleurieu Peninsula venison and organic olives from McLaren Vale next door.
Dream to reality: Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com) has regular flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Adelaide. Star of Greece (starofgreececafe.com.au) is at Port Willunga, an hour's drive south of Adelaide. Stay at Willunga House (willungahouse.com.au).
The experience: Be charmed by Malaysia's colonial past.
Toby jugs, horse brasses, hunting prints and cream teas – these are hardly the things you might expect to find in a steamy Malaysian jungle. But they abound at Fraser's Hill, a beautifully preserved hill station from the British colonial era. These days Bukit Fraser (founded by a colourful Scot, Louis James Fraser) attracts ornithologists (there are more than 270 species of birds), golfers, hikers, anglers and nostalgia buffs looking for a mock Tudor tearoom serving perfect English scones.
Dream to reality: Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) has regular flights from Australia to Kuala Lumpur via Singapore. Fraser's Hill is 103km from Kuala Lumpur. Catch a train from KL to Kuala Kubu Bharu and then take a local taxi. More information: tourism.gov.my.
The experience: Gaze upon Shirakawa-go's super-sized farmhouses.
Tucked into one of Japan's snowiest valleys are ancient farmhouses built on a super-human scale, with thatched roofs so steep they look like hands joined in prayer. Gassho means "to pray" and it's the name given to these World Heritage-listed wonders, many of them guest houses. What's more, they're photogenic all year round: snap them during the winter evening "light-ups", in spring when villagers gather to re-thatch roofs, in summer when they're reflected in flooded rice paddies, or in autumn during the annual fire drill.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) flies regularly from Australia to Tokyo. From there, take a train to Nagoya and another to Takayama. From Takayama, rent a car or take the 50-minute bus ride to Shirakawa-go in Gifu prefecture. More information: jnto.org.au.
The experience: Swim with whale sharks and stay in tented luxury in Western Australia.
You'll feel far from cast away at Sal Salis. The eco-sensitive encampment of nine supremely comfortable tents is set against the dunes just a few metres from the pristine waters of Ningaloo Reef, last year declared a World Heritage site. Crisp outback luxury extends to high thread counts but few mod cons. That matters less with whale sharks just beyond the fringing reef from April to July, and a staggering array of other marine life year round.
Dream to reality: Qantas (qantas.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com) have regular flights to Perth and Skywest Airlines (skywest.com.au) operates daily flights from Perth to Learmonth Airport. For more on the camp, go to the Sal Salis website (salsalis.com.au).
What is your dream travel experience? Share your thoughts - post a comment below.
- Good Weekend