The 50 best travel finds of 2014 from around the globe


MS Europa

The 516-passenger Europa 2 is the newest ship in Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' fleet of four boutique expedition ships and the younger sister of the more formal but equally highly-rated Europa. Europa 2, the world's highest-rated ship, is a contemporary designer's dream – light, airy and spacious – and the staterooms, restaurants, bars and pool deck are uber-stylish but comfortable. And the service from the bilingual German-English crew can only be described as psychic. 

Sally Macmillan


Toko Japanese restaurant, Dubai

Dining in Dubai is a celebrity affair, with the city's most successful restaurants helmed by big names such as Nobu, Gordon Ramsay and Pierre Gagnaire. Now Aussies are getting in on the culinary action. But our first contender comes courtesy not of Neil Perry or Tetsuya, but via a restaurant known only to dedicated Sydney foodies. Toko Sydney, an izakaya-style diner, has long been a favourite with the inner-city crowd. Toko Dubai faithfully delivers the original's best elements – flavour-packed food, sleek decor and friendly service – to serve up a little slice of Sydney in the desert.

Ute Junker


Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Headphones

Cables are just so yesterday, and these compact Bluetooth headphones have transformed my travels. They're on-ear rather than over-ear and thus not noise cancelling but they make up for that with full, rich sound, light weight and sheer comfort.  Battery life is phenomenal, way more than the 15 hours that Bose claims, and there's a built-in microphone for taking incoming calls. RRP $329.

Cocoon Grid-It Organiser

The ultimate clutter killer, the wide elastic rubberised grips on this semi-rigid base grip my charger, phone, eye mask, pens, travel adapter, those pesky cables and all the other junk that I seem to need in-flight. Available in different sizes, but my version also has a handy pouch on the reverse for stowing my tablet.

Mini Cree LED Flashlight

Let your light shine, especially when there are dark and slippery streets between you and home, or even or reading the menu in that candlelit bistro. This military-styled torch takes a single AA battery, fits in your palm, casts an umbrella-size pool of light around your feet and it's cheap as chips.

Sea to Summit Travel Duffle

Silky-thin but tough, this zippered bag is ideal for those times when you're experiencing severe suitcase bulge from overenthusiastic shopping, or dealing with wet and/or smelly clothes. Weighing in at just 80 grams, the travel duffel swallows 40 litres of bulky excess baggage yet squishes down to a fist-size bundle.

Michael Gebicki


Four Seasons, Bora Bora, Tahiti

Forget perky parasols or hollowed-out pineapples. The ultimate tropical cocktail doesn't need chichi accessories; it just needs to meet three criteria. It should be a long drink, allowing you time to mull over the day's big decisions: which sarong to don for dinner, say. It should taste of the destination, so that in future, that distinctive flavour instantly transports you back to this moment. And lastly, it needs picture-perfect surroundings. Which is why you can't got past the vanilla mojitos at Bora Bora's Four Seasons resort. A blue lagoon, pristine white sand, heady Tahitian vanilla: tropical perfection.

Ute Junker


Epic Ski Pass, Vail, US

When queuing at a ski-lift in Vail Colorado, don't be alarmed when an attendant points a gun at your chest. They're simply registering the Epic Pass around your neck – a system that's quick, easy and brings skiing into the digital age. From here on, your mountain action is being tracked: download the EpicMix phone app and you can see how many vertical feet you've skied, which trails you've carved, where you've eaten — everything except where you've stacked. Unless of course an EpicMix photographer happens to capture it, then you can see that too. The one-year A$849 Epic Pass is good for 12 Vail Resorts in America (including Vail and Beaver Creek) plus Niseko (Japan) and Verbier (Switzerland).

Max Anderson


Roe, Portland, Oregon, US

Portland is already responsible for bringing us hipsters, food trucks and craft beer; now the on-trend Pacific Northwest city brings foodies a new way to dine – restaurants within restaurants. Roe at Trent Pierce's successful Block and Tackle is a pearler of a seafood restaurant, tucked to the rear of his buzzy upscale fish house. Booked weeks in advance and open just four nights a week, the 30-seat Roe is entered via a heavy wooden door. Inside is another world of glowing chestnut and gold walls, low lighting, and superb four or seven-course chef's tasting menus featuring the likes of Hawaiian butterfish sashimi with shaved foie gras, truffle, white soy ponzu, yuzu tobiko and shiso.

Sheriden Rhodes

The Lark, Santa Barbara, California, US

There's a choice, you can sit on a 24-seat communal table where talking to strangers is encouraged, perch in a makeshift train compartment or comfortably kneel at a real church confessional – apparently popular for marriage proposals. Opened in late 2013, at The Lark in Santa Barbara's "funk zone", they're passionate about the seasonal fresh fare from Dungeness crab to salads of caramelised winter pears and red kale. Dinner is paired with wine from next door's Les Marchands wine bar run by star of the Somm documentary (about those that sit the master sommelier exam) Brian McClintic. A fabulous Californian experience.

Andrea Black

11, 12, 13, 14 & 15 BEST BARS

Cloud 9, floating restaurant and bar, Fiji

Picture this: A bar – decorated with day beds and funky beats – in the middle of the ocean, near one of the best reef breaks in the world. This is Cloud 9, a short speed-boat ride from Malolo island in the Mamanucas, Fiji. Once moored close to Cloudbreak, the pontoon bar has reopened on nearby Ro Ro Reef, after the police decided it was a little too close to the killer surf spot. As well as cool cocktails, the bar boasts Italian wood-fired pizza. We watch a school of barracudas leap from the cyan waters, convinced this must be a mirage.

Tracey Spicer

Miss Moneypenny, Noosa, Queensland

People watching is a delight in Noosa, when the buff and the beautiful hit the sidewalks. Take a ringside seat at Miss Moneypenny, one of the newest additions to Hastings Street, and order up on the seafood share boards and an 80s cruise ship drink, their signature pina coladas – we're in the tropics, people! The open-air bar-cafe-restaurant spills into the street, ideal for seafood Sundays or Saturday's late-night supper

Belinda Jackson

Potato Head Folk, Singapore

The first Potato Head outside of Bali, Potato Head Folk, has landed in Singapore's Keong Saik Road. It is four floors of fun with The Rooftop Garden, sultry second-floor bar Studio 1939 and Three Buns Dining Kitchen, plus the expected playfulness such as Enid Blyton-inspired murals and kitsch chicken-wire animal sculptures on the roof. Combine a Saik Daquiri (rum, mirin, yuzu juice and fresh lime) with a Smokin' B-Boy burger (beef patty, double-smoked cheese, beer and treacled cured bacon and barbecue ketchup and mayo).

Paul Chai

The Great Georgiana, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Sure, one of the owners is an Australian (former Melbourne bar Yah Yah's owner, Dominic Tracy) but this no themed establishment for expats. With an architecturally designed rustic fit-out, dinner-worthy shareplates, cheeses and charcuterie and some of New York's finest DJs playing vinyl records nightly, this is the coolest new bar in an already supercool borough. There's a reason celebrities such as Kristen Wiig hire it out for private parties, the candlelit Great Georgiana offers low-key non-hipster cool. Just don't ask for a Crownie.

Andrea Black

Bar Stories, Singapore

At first glance, this is the kind of uber-cool drinking establishment to have me massaging my temples while saying "Woosah". There is no sign out front, it's located up a nondescript stairway, beside a nondescript shop, and there's no way you'd realise it was there unless you were "in the know." There is also no drinks menu. You simply tell the bar staff what you're into and let the expert mixologists do the rest. But what sounds like hipster hell is actually ridiculously good fun. Sure you pay a few bucks more for the cocktails but the ingredients are all top notch, servings generous and the flavours to die for. The ambience is also a model of contemporary, minimalist cool.

Guy Wilkinson


Woody Creek Tavern, Aspen, USA

You might not associate an upmarket destination like Aspen with a decidedly downmarket pub like the Woody Creek Tavern, but this is the mountain town at its finest: a local haunt with good food, cold beer and a complete lack of pretentiousness. The Woody Creek's most famous resident drinker and troublemaker, Hunter S Thompson, is, sadly, gone but his anarchic spirit lives on in this ramshackle establishment with its poster-strewn walls and jam-packed tables. Literary fans need only mention Thompson's name to a staff member and the stories will start pouring out, tales of a feisty drinker who won't soon be forgotten.


17, 18 & 19 BEST FESTIVALS

Montreal Jazz Festival, Canada

Imagine a festival without mosh pits and queues. A place where music-loving adults could catch great live shows in comfort. The city of Montreal did just that, and came up with the Montreal Jazz Festival, a concept so successful, it's still going strong after almost four decades. For 10 days every summer, Montrealers enjoy an unrivalled series of acts from across the musical roster – Bebel Gilberto to Diana Ross, St Vincent to the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Five open-air stages in the city centre host one free concert after another. World-class performers, no attitude: it's heaven for music lovers.

Ute Junker

First Coat Festival, Toowoomba, Queensland

Toowoomba CBD. 19 artists. 17 walls. One weekend. Earlier this year the inaugural First Coat Festival was a shock success, taking the Australian cultural landscape by storm. Over two days some of the most talented international and home-grown street artists transformed walls around Toowoomba beyond recognition, turning jaded brick and plaster facades into explosive, colourful murals. A joint initiative between between the arts community, Toowoomba Regional Council and, ironically perhaps, GraffitiSTOP, the project was welcomed by the wider community at large and is scheduled to take place again in May 2015.

Guy Wilkinson

Tjungu Festival, Uluru, Northern Territory

In the Anangu language Tjungu means "meeting together", and this year for the inaugural festival, Casey Donovan sang, model Samantha Harris paraded, Wakagetti dancers performed, and chef Mark Olive held a bush tucker masterclass on the grounds of Ayers Rock Resort. Come nightfall we all enjoyed a moonlight cinema experience of indigenous short films. Add to this dot painting, boomerang throwing and cultural tours of the national park and it makes for four days of good food, learning and great company. Just announced, Harris and Olive will be making another appearance for the 2015 festival and there will be an Indigenous Australians at Warexhibition. The Tjungu Festival takes place on April 23 to 26,



Small city, big stadium, huge change. The new 53,000-seat stadium – fashioned from the old Adelaide Oval – is heroic, historic and slap-bang in the centre of a sports-mad city. Overnight it has brought in more cash, more people and, best of all, more energy (there's also a public tour of the Oval and its museum). Sitting on the rapidly rejuvenating river precinct, it is only a short walk across the new river bridge to the neighbouring eat streets, including always-reliable Rundle Street and the nascent lane-life in Leigh and Peel streets. To confirm that Adelaide really has got the best of all worlds, scoot just 25 minutes (and 1,000m) up the Freeway into the bucolic Adelaide Hills – a wine region of 50-plus cellar doors that actually starts inside metropolitan

Max Anderson


What you see is what you probably always get in terms of Sydney and Melbourne but Brisbane, still basking in its G20 afterglow, is a different proposition entirely. The Queensland capital is evolving more rapidly than any other Australian city and gradually shedding its overgrown country town image without losing its appealing easy-going nature. In addition to its growing embrace of the culinary and cultural arts, it is pleasing to see the city actively restoring its glorious Queenslander homes, particularly for purposes of upmarket accommodation. The nine-room Spicers Balfour, owned by Graham "Skroo" Turner, founder of Flight Centre was the first with the more modest, though no less impressive, Heal House, a three-bedroom upmarket guesthouse-cum-boutique hotel, recently;;

Anthony Dennis


OK, so it may have been pushing it a bit (make that a lot) when it was declared earlier this year to be the world's most liveable city by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) a few months ago. But there's no doubt that, with an impressive array of boutique and design hotels and some new attractions, such as the edgy Hotel Hotel and the stunning National Aboretum, the bush capital is well on its way to achieving the ambition of its new chief minister, Andrew Barr, of Canberra becoming the world's coolest little capital. Watch out,




Cheap – tick, cheerful – tick, colourful – tick. The 7200 islands of the Philippines easily give the island of Bali a run for its money (and indeed your money). The nation of 100 million has a flourishing tourism industry catering to domestic (and Korean) demand for resort holidays that are heavy on the white sands, palmy jungles and turquoise blue seas. Pretty, yes. Overrun, no. Socially, the Filipinos are pretty laid-back and their culture is as hybridised as their cuisine. Spanish colonial rule has left the biggest mark not least in terms of architecture and the dominance of the Catholic faith, making for a curious twist on the Asian holiday. Rather like Bali 40 years ago, remote corners are still being discovered by adventurous travellers.  And how cheap is cheap? Well, top-notch resorts charge $2 for a local beer while locally manufactured western brand goods – Vans, Levis, Wrangler – can be found for about half the price they sell for here. (Let's face it, Bali's outlet stores charge prices comparable to outlet stores back home.)

Max Anderson

Langkawi, Malaysia 

No bogans, no booze (well, just enough to keep everyone jolly) and no brats (read: Schoolies). Oh, and add to that, a relatively small population and comparatively little development. Just a short flight from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Langawi is an island destination for those who want it get away from all of the above. It's also home to a must-see wildlife-rich system of mangroves, classified as a UNESCO Geopark, and what many consider one of south-east Asia's best beaches, Datai Bay. It can be accessed by perhaps Malaysia's most gracious resort, The Datai, designed by the respected Singapore-based Australian architect, Kerry Hill, and set in steeped, dense jungle that tumbles all the way down to the sea with views across to the southern extremities of Thailand. In low-season don't be surprised if you and a crab-chasing monkey are the only souls on the beach.;



Hudson, New York State, US

The small town of Hudson, two hours north of New York City, was first settled by the Dutch and flourished because of the whaling industry. Last century it all went to ruin, and turned into a ghost town with impressive architecture. You wouldn't guess any of these things by visiting today, though. Now hundreds of New Yorkers flock to Warren Street to trawl through 51 antique stores every weekend, squabbling over taxidermied elk heads and walnut armoires. Stellar coffee, taco trucks, fascinating bookstores, and 24 restaurants had turned Hudson into one of the best (and most beautiful) overnight escapes from the Big Apple. 

Lance Richardson


Beechworth, Victoria

It was at the Beechworth Courthouse that Ned Kelly, who commited to stand trail for the murder for which he was subsuently hanged. Such is life on modern-day Beechworth that he may be surprised to see many of this town's heritage buildings transformed into fashionable, top-notch bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and bed and breakfast. A far cry from jail food. But he'd certainly still recognise the town itself since it has been beautifully and tastefully preserved in much of its 19th century glory. Stay at the stylish, smartly renovated One on Last, linger over a local drop at the Cellar Door Wine in picturesque Ford Street and dine at the Japanese-influenced Provenance, one of Australia's most lauded regional restaurtants. The local tourist office runs some lively and informative walking tours of a town that oozes history and class at every step.,



Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami, Istanbul

It begins with a shower, and the instruction to lie on a hot stone in a cavernous, marble-tiled room. It then continues with a towel-clad attendant who delivers a hot scrub with soapy water, a rough exfoliation, a deep rinse, a massage, a hot towel, and an order to proceed into the lounge. It ends with a soft chair and a cup of mint tea. This is the traditional hamam experience at Kilic Ali Pasa, an establishment that has been easing the aches and pains of Istanbul residents since the 1500s, when this beautiful bathhouse was constructed. A treatment here is the perfect, relaxing window into Turkish culture and history.

Ben Groundwater

Artesian mud baths, Eulo, Queensland

Picture yourself surrounded by trees, lanterns and thousands of kilometres of wild desert, sipping a cold beer in a hot mud bath, watching the final rays of sun burn amber through scorched gum trees. In the tiny settlement of Eulo, you can do just that, letting your body soak up the healing potassium-and-magnesium-rich waters of the Great Artesian Basin, thought to be more than 20,000 years old. And, as if that wasn't idyllic enough, this unique spa facility also doubles as a boutique winery and date farm, so you can pick up a bottle of plonk on your way




Romania's troubled history and reputation for sad orphanages and pickpocketing gypsy immigrants overshadows the reality: this is one of Europe's least crowded, cheapest and most delightful destinations. Its cities buzz with youthful energy, its old towns are newly renovated: medieval Sighisoara, baroque Brasov and Sibiu, art nouveau Timisoara. Its landscapes range from the bird-rich Danube Delta to the alpine heights of the Carpathian Mountains. Gorgeous castles (such as utterly fabulous Peles Castle, former summer residence of the Romanian royal family), venerable villages, churches aglow with frescoes and clip-clopping horses and carts provide delightful countryside far removed from the brooding Dracula stereotype.


Noto Peninsula, Japan

Even the Japanese don't visit the Noto Peninsula on their country's western coast. There are a few reasons for this: the first is that there are rumours North Korean spies snatch people from the beaches; the other, more logical, argument is that it is one of the few places in Japan without a train line. Nonetheless, it's a pity anyone would miss this strange, finger-like peninsula, because it's home to sensational shrines and temples, wonderfully violent, dramatic coastlines, dolphins that swim so close to shore you can see them from the beach and, um, the world's longest bench. Best of all: no crowds.

Jamie Lafferty


OK, so it does welcome half-a-million Aussie visitors a year, compared to Bali's 1 million. But Malaysia has had a frightful, still-difficult-to-reconcile, year following the loss of two passenger jets by its national carrier and it could do with a bit more love. Based on its attractions alone, it certainly warrants it. The wonders of its natural and man-made diversity is underrated. Its main city, Kuala Lumpur, while not an excitement capital, is one of the more affordable in south-east Asia, with Malaysia boasting two splendid showpiece World Heritage-listed colonial towns, Malacca and Georgetown. Then there are old favourites such as the Cameron Highlands and Langkawi as well as some of the best bargain eating in all of Asia.


Delhi, India

Journey: Blue Line, Dwarka Sector 12 to Connaught Place; a 2005 line on a 12-year-old metro system. Experience: Bang-on-time, fast, safe, clean, perfectly air-conditioned, running every few minutes (right up until 11pm), and costing just 23 rupees (45 cents) for a 40-minute journey.  NEvaluation: 10/10. A metro system that serves a city of 10 million is a major achievement. A metro system that does it this well is a miracle.  Addendum to chief executives of Australia's metro systems: do us all a favour – invest in a 23-rupee ticket and see how it's done.

Max Anderson


Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, US

Shigera Ban's provocative museum not only raises the erudition of this already exceptionally cultured town but also places Aspen firmly on the international art map. The boxy $45 million museum, which replaces the 35-year-old Aspen Art Museum on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, is an astounding mesh of materials that seriously pushes the envelope. It is Ban's first American museum, and one that has divided the wealthy resort town. Go for the art, the fantastic food at So Cafe – Aspen's only public rooftop space – and the 360-degree views of the Rocky Mountains seen through mesh-shrouded, peek-a-boo windows.

Sheriden Rhodes


Governors Coffee House, Suva, Fiji 

Revisit the old-world charm of the South Pacific at Governors in Suva, once the residence of a Fijian high chief and Pacific statesman. Inside the restored colonial estate are white vaulted ceilings, wall-to-wall framed vintage photos and posters of movies filmed in Fiji, while old copies of the Fiji Times serve as placemats. Try Fiji's signature dish, Kokoda (raw fish marinated in lime), the stuffed crab back or enjoy a cool cocktail on the shady verandah overlooking the period garden.

Sheriden Rhodes


Jean-Paul Gaultier Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria 

Playful, cheeky, self-deprecating: not the words usually associated with fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier delights in smashing the mould; remember the conical bra he strapped onto Madonna in 1990? Haute couture comes alive with moving catwalks and interactive mannequins, the exhibition has already travelled from San Fran to Stockholm. But in Melbourne, the only showing in the Asia Pacific, Gaultier assures us, it's almost perfect. Make a night of it with the NGV's fantastic Friday Nights program, with DJs and talks, includes admission to the exhibition. Costs $22 adults/$10 children 5-15 years (exhibition only), $28/$10 Friday Nights at Jean Paul Gaultier. Until February 8, 2015.

Belinda Jackson


Henry's House Siracusa, Sicily

This beautifully restored baroque palazzo can be found on the ancient island of Ortigia, in Siracusa, Sicily. The former nursery school has been decorated with antiques and curios and each guest room is filled with bohemian character. The hotel overlooks a pristine harbour and many rooms having wonderful views; there are also lovely vine-covered terraces for taking in the sun. The hotel is owned and operated by a delightful family, passionate about their neighbourhood and eager to offer tips about what to see and do. Bonus: the mother cooks one of the most lavish and delicious breakfasts I've ever eaten.

Lee Tulloch


The Loch, Berrima, NSW

In a world full of hot Airbandb, it's reassuring to know that there are still some inspirational pros willing to take up the fight to the amateurs. The Loch, located in  the Southern Highlands of NSW, is a Scottish-themed stylishly and cannily converted horse stables. Aside from the comfortable rooms and a spacious living area on the newly added first floor, The Loch is its Sunday Farm Shop featuring farm-ranged meats, take-home meals, fresh produce and more. There are also antiques and offbeat vintage pieces for sale, all invitingly displayed in the stalls from the property's former equine-focused life.

Anthony Dennis


Singapore Changi Airport 

Why don't all airports have one? A swimming pool, that is. The not entirely well-known open-air pool in Terminal 1 at Singapore's Changi Airport is the perfect place to while away a few hours in transit. The entry charge is a mere $S13.91  which includes use of the pool, jacuzzi, changing-room, showers, lockers, towels, a drink at the bar and free Wi-Fi. Luckily, I'd thrown my swimmers into my hand luggage at the last minute but it would be worth buying a new cossie at the airport, just to use the facilities. The helpful staff even provide plastic bags to repack your damp gear.

See also: What it takes to be the best airport in the world

Sally Macmillan 


Tempelhof, Berlin

Built by the Nazis in the 1920s, used as a strategic base during World War I, then as a vital lifeline to West Berlin during the Cold War, before eventually being abandoned in 2008, Tempelhof Airport has an incredible history. Tours of the old terminal – an imposing, eerie building – are now available in English, meaning tourists can feel the full history of this place, from its empty arrivals hall to its war rooms and bomb shelters hidden deep underground.

Ben Groundwater


Breckenridge, USA

There's so much terrain at this Colorado ski resort that you could do with hiring an instructor for the day to get an overview, even if you don't want a lesson. Even better, the new Breck Guides program can have you on the mountaintop before the lifts open to the wider public, and you can go off-piste for some great powder skiing – and also get a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the ski patrol and avalanche teams.

Brian Johnston

41, 42, 43, 44 & 45 BEST HOTELS AND RESORTS

Como Phuket, Thailand

Phuket's oldest luxury resorts lie on its west coast; by comparison, the east has been slow to develop. Taking a lead now, though, is the new Point Yamu by Como. Located at the end of a peninsula it looks out into the Andaman Sea and the distinctly unpolished limestones of Phang Nga Bay. The whole resort has a serene vibe, just the right side of sterile, as though it's all be designed by Apple. If you want something authentically Thai, then it's perhaps best to look elsewhere but, if you're after some peace, quiet and decadence, then this is place for you.

See also: Point Yamu by Como full review


Royal Pavillions, Qasr Al Sarab, United Arab Emirates

So ugly is the drive to Qasr al Sarab that you're quite in love with the desert resort before you've even laid eyes on it. A colossal incinerator and a seemingly eternal phalanx of dumper trucks do not a scenic route make. It's as though the resort is so good by way of apology for that ugliness, and the new Royal Pavilions are and even grander gesture still. Just 10 of these new units have been built, separate from the main resort, each offering in-room dining, plunge pools and Arabian luxury you've only dreamt of. Best of all, the pavilions are even further out into the gorgeous red sand of the Empty Quarter.

See also: Qasr al Sarab full review

Sofitel So Singapore

Singapore boring? Have you ever stayed in any of its profusion of out-there boutique hotels, unrivalled anywhere in Asia, let alone the world? The latest, and perhaps last word, in the island state's design hotels, is the Sofitel So Singapore, a product of the normally rather restrained French-based Accor hotel conglomerate. Built inside a grand, former colonial communications building, none other than Karl Lagerfield consulted on aspects of the hotel's design, including Chanel staff uniforms and there's nary a corner of the establishment, including the guestrooms, which doesn't consist of a carefully considered design statement. The floridly decorated rooms feature towering ceilings, featuring quirky light-infused cupolas of domed European buildings.


Ritz Carlton, Kyoto, Japan

Part of the enormous appeal of Kyoto is its age, so any new property or development should be looked at with caution – or, in the case of the city planners, overt hostility. There are all manner of rules and seemingly endless inspections that need to take place before anything is signed off, so even for the Ritz Carlton brand, nothing was easy. Rather than build an entirely new property, they had to acquire the old Fujita Hotel and wholly renovated it, bringing it up to their lofty standards. Now the Ritz Carlton Kyoto, sitting on the Kamogawa River, is arguably the city's finest luxury property, old and new at the same time.


Seahaven Resort, Noosa

A stalwart in Hastings St, Seahaven has enjoyed a $16 million refurbishment and is unrecognisable from its former self. The resort eclipses the big names for blockbuster location, bang on Noosa's Main Beach. Accommodation ranges from studio boltholes to two-storey penthouses, with fully kitted kitchens, rain showers and laundries. Plan drinks on your balcony, overlooking the sea. Seahaven's three swimming pools and its beachfront barbecue.  It's a two-minute trot along the beach boardwalk for morning coffee or for dinner at Noosa's sensational restaurants. Sunrise yoga on the beach is de rigueur.

Belinda Jackson

46, 47, 48 & 49 BEST STREET ART

Valparaiso, Chile 

This Chilean port town is splashed with rich colour, from the riotously painted houses to the street art that litters many walls. Walk Valpo's steep, narrow streets and stairways and you're bound to stumble upon large murals by local and visiting artists. Street art is embraced in Valparaiso, condoned by the local government, which has resulted in a city that can at times feel like an open-air gallery. And admission is free.


Buenos Aires, Argentina

In suburbs such as Palermo, Villa Urquiza and Coghlan you'll be hard-pressed to find a city wall that hasn't been adorned with some sort of artwork. There's a huge collective of artists in Buenos Aires – some local, others imported – who express their creative and sometimes political leanings through public artwork. Some is officially commissioned, some not. But it all makes for fascinating viewing.


George Town, Malaysia

The decaying, centuries-old walls of this World Heritage-listed gem of an old city precinct, dating to 18th century British colonial rule, are the perfect canvas for a series of capitivating murals. They can be a bit gimmicky, such as "Little children on a bicycle", and you sometimes have to queue to be photographed in front of one, but they brighten what would otherwise remain a profusion of mottled grey concrete expanses. It's surprising to learn that the murals, Mirrors George Town, were created not by an Asian artist but by a Lithuanian, Ernest Zacharevic.

Berlin, Germany

It began with the wall: as West Berlin residents took to scribbling words of protest on their side of the city's hated divide, so an intrinsically linked culture of street art and protest was born in Berlin. That's no different today, in a city rich with murals that cover entire buildings, beautifully executed pieces that speak political messages and occasionally just creative genius to the city's masses. For the Berlin's best street art, head to the suburb of Kreuzberg.

See also: Berlin's street art tour: You won't find this in a brochure



Argentina and Chile

They may not roll off the tongue like Cotes du Rhone or Chianti, but the wine regions of South America – in particular Mendoza in Argentina and Aconcagua in Chile – are fast becoming go-to destinations for wine enthusiasts. Each boasts spectacular scenery in the form of the towering, snow-capped Andes as their backdrop. And each can claim its own specialty grape, with the malbecs of Mendoza and the carmeneres of Aconcagua earning worldwide recognition. A trip here is a journey into the new world of wine, a journey that's rewarded with some very good – and usually very cheap – discoveries.