Find premium experiences right on your doorstep
By Jenna Berndt
Lonely Planet’s Best City to Visit in 2018, ratings for Seville, Spain, show no signs of dimming. A city characterised by warm, honey-hued buildings that are intricately detailed and dusted in gold, Seville’s architecture is breathtaking, impressing even the most well-heeled traveller.
“Seville is a beautiful destination, home to the flamenco and Seville orange,” says Natalia Rosa, Director of Big Ambitions, a specialist travel content marketing agency.
“Plaza de Espana, one of Spain’s most spectacular squares renowned for its mix of Renaissance and Moorish style of Spanish architecture, is remarkable; as is the Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world,” says Rosa.
The most leisurely way to experience the beauty of Seville is with a horse-drawn carriage ride. Carriage drivers will pick visitors up at their hotel and visit notable sites such as the Plaza de Espana, the Cathedral and along the wide avenues and grand plazas of Parque Maria Luisa, and the lush María Luisa Park.
Seville, Spain at Spanish Square (Plaza de Espana).
Expect big, bigger and ‘wow’ from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. “The attractions are all very easily accessible,” says Robin Hilton of Development Promotions, who has explored the capital many times, often with family in tow.
Hilton recommends family-friendly YAS Island, where travellers can test sports cars on the circuit, visit Ferrari World and ride the world’s fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa.
Younger visitors will love the recently opened Warner Bro’s World indoor theme park, and shoppers can indulge themselves at the Yas Mall.
Johnathan Hollard, another frequent traveller to Abu Dhabi, recommends at least a one night’s stay at the five-star Yas Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island, where guests can watch sports cars roaring past the track from their balcony.
Hollard also recommends a speedboat tour of the Abu Dhabi cityscape, and a visit to the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, which houses high-profile pieces such as Van Gogh’s self-portraits, which are currently on display.
“My family and I also enjoyed a traditional desert safari experience, complete with dune bashing in a 4×4, camel trekking and a traditional meal and show,” adds Hilton.
Don’t leave without sipping a gold flake cappuccino or marvelling at the gold bar vending machine at the uber-opulent Emirates Palace.
Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirate
St. Petersburg can only be described as opulent. Be impressed by the glittering gold interior of the Hermitage Museum, or the fountains and gardens of the Peterhof Palace.
“We saw a definite spike in bookings for travel to Russia in 2018,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa, which includes travel companies Trafalgar, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Insight Vacations.
“Our Trafalgar Wonders of St. Petersburg and Moscow itinerary is very popular and for travellers looking for an ultimate luxury experience, I recommend Uniworld Boutique River Cruise’s Imperial Waterways of Russia, or a Luxury Gold guided land-based holiday.”
“Luxury Gold offers exclusive VIP experiences in St. Petersburg, including a private, after-hours visit to the Hermitage Museum guided by a local expert, champagne in hand. Coupled with a hydrofoil boat ride to the Peterhof Palace, sunset cruises and a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express, visitors will be transported back to the golden era of travel.”
“Istanbul has become increasingly popular for South African travellers in these last few years,” says Sue Garrett, GM of Marketing and Product at Flight Centre. “Cosmopolitan Istanbul, with its diverse neighbourhoods and mix of Eastern and Western influences, old and new, is fascinating.”
“To miss some of the crowds, Turkey makes a great off-season destination,” adds Garrett, who advises you not to discount visiting in the winter months of November to March. Just pack a warm jacket, she says.
Other unforgettable experiences are hiring a gulet, a traditional sailboat, to sail along the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, and hot-air balloon rides above Cappadocia.
The beautiful Süleymaniye mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Mozambique is the epitome of barefoot luxury. With around 2,500 kilometres of pristine coastline, beach and bush breaks are ideal, with lodges so luxurious that Robinson Crusoe would never want to leave. Hotfoot it to Mozambique for an easy-to-reach long weekend away or book a longer stay.
“Enjoy sundowner dhow cruises, romantic beach picnics on deserted archipelagos and kayak trips through the mangrove forests of the Quirimbas National Park,” recommends Natalie Tenzer-Silva, Director of Dana Tours, a Maputo-based tour operator and Destination Management Company. “Then there’s birding, snorkelling, diving and horse riding on the beach in the Bazaruto Archipelago. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to unforgettable experiences in Mozambique.”
The country’s multicultural cuisine is another drawcard. Feast like royalty on fresh seafood, such as Mozambican speciality, juicy prawns slathered in garlic or peri-peri sauce, and mangoes by the bucketload.
Vietnam is quickly becoming 2019’s favourite hideaway in South East Asia. From the motorcycle-thronged streets of Hanoi to the quiet of the Mekong Delta and the rural Ninh Binh province, Vietnam’s mix of chaos and calm is intoxicating.
Described as extremely affordable, the type of experiences available in Vietnam are worth much more than what you’ll pay. Take to the waters of Bai Tu Long Bay on a luxury cruise. The bay is right next to the more famous Halong Bay, but with only a few luxury vessels allowed to cruise here – and perhaps even more beautiful. Beat the heat sipping copious amounts of the various iced coffees in Hanoi and get dresses and suits tailored for next to nothing in the colourful lantern-strung streets of Hoi An.
Outdoor park landscape with lake and stone bridge. Gate entrance to ancient Bich Dong pagoda complex. Ninh Binh, Vietnam travel destination
With the world calling your name and a host of new and favourite destinations to discover, make this your year to travel. What are you waiting for?