1000 Amazing Places

For my Fabulous Women monthly minute I was inspired by the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. I have had this book for a number of years and I add a few more of those places every year but if I were to rewrite the same book I would give it a different title, I want to see lots of amazing places while I am fit and healthy enough to enjoy them and I don’t want to associate my passion for travel with death and knows when that will be anyway? I would certainly remove a few and add a few. My copy of this book 974 page book was published in 2003 so it is out of date and many places have changed and my idea of the 1000 places I would most like to see and enjoy would be a different choice from that of Patricia Schulz and if each and every one of us were to write a similar book your choices would be different from mine or the author and collaborators of the book. Most certainly Cloud Forest in Singapore, Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Petronas Towers in KL deserve their entries in my imaginary book which I will call 1000 Amazing Places. To get a feel for the imaginary book that my potential customers might write, I asked two Fabulous Women groups to write down their wishlist destinations on a slip of paper so here are the results . I haven’t been able to do all of them as I would need to write a book of my own

Surprisingly, the most popular destination was Bali but this goes with the general trend. As a destination, it is enjoying a revival. Bali suffered badly from the Bali bombings and it has taken many years to recover from that as Garuda stopped flying to the UK for 14 years and most of the other European airlines followed suit making it a really awkward place to get to so there was insufficient airlift and demand dropped. A few airlines including Qatar and Emirates have recently introduced services direct from their respective hubs in Doha and Dubai providing practical and competitive routes from several UK airports which will at least double the capacity and the demand from the UK which is great news for Bali. What Bali has lacked in airlift, it has made up for with a huge range of accommodation from very cheap hostels,  lovely little boutique spa retreats like the Zazen, romantic luxury villas  to huge 5* chain hotels like the Hyatt and these provide excellent value. Two other benefits of Bali as a destination is that most of the beaches are within 20 minutes of the airport and also it is one of the few destinations in the Far East that tends to have better weather in our summer than in our winter. Although there are many beach hotels that have spa facilities I would recommend combining a few days at one of the beaches with a few days in Ubud which has beautiful, natural, peaceful and relaxing surroundings suitable for yoga and meditation and still only an hour away from the airport.  Bali also combines well with a stopover in Singapore or the Middle East.

Several wishlists for Australia which is an amazing destination, so huge and so diverse, I currently have a client out there driving along the Great Ocean Road before flying to Ayers Rock/Uluru and then doing a tour of the Kimberleys in North West Australia.Itinerary options are endless using a wide network of domestic flights, rail, self drive and buses and in the cities public transport is frequent and efficient. Flights to Australia are currently less expensive than flights to the USA so even with the cost of accommodation being generally quite high most of us have willing friends and relations with a spare room for part of your stay and many different options to sneak in a stopover or two along the way which most people do.The most economical time time to fly is about now, between April and June which is autumn and also September to November and the most expensive time is over Christmas so if you take advantage of a seat sale at one of the off peak times it can actually be really good value even with airport tax being around £600 per person

Another surprising choice was Iceland which I am going to lump together with Scandinavia which was also on the list. Iceland appeals to two main audiences, the winter season for the Northern Lights and summer season for the amazing volcanic activity and long summer days. There are few places on earth that are as volcanically active as Iceland hence the ash cloud which bought Europe to a stadstill. The most popular time to visit Iceland is January or February which is also the coldest but you don’t have to venture that far from Reykjavik to see the Northern LIghts or to bathe in the Blue Lagoon. Self drive is a good way to get the best from Iceland and it is surprisingly affordable. Both Iceland Express and Easyjet have affordable flights to Reykjavik but it is worth remembering that Iceland is very expensive to eat out so a hotel that includes at least breakfast would be the best option. There were a couple of wshlists for Scandnavia, so I will include them with Iceland. No volcanoes in Norway or Sweden but the further north you go the most likely to see the northern lights in winter and the midnight sun in the summer. Even as far south as Bergen it is light until at least 1130 at night and again at 4am so blackout curtains are needed to get a good night sleep in the summer months. Norway in particular has a really good network of domestic flights and trains and another great option is a working ferry with Hurtigruten. There are many scheduled and low cost flights to Norway, Sweden and the Baltics so it can be very good value but worth remembering that hotels are of quite a basic standard so best go for a new hotel and cruises are another good option and there is a vast selection to choose from value to luxury. In the winter there is some good skiing in Norway, Sweden and Finland at really good prices but much of this is floodlit skiing because there is so little daylight. It is also common to have temperatures of -30 so be very careful to wrap up suitably. There are also trips in December beyond the Arctic circle to see Santa to Sweden and Finland . A few of the day trips have been withdrawn as there is not really enough time so a 3 day trip is a better option. Scandinavia opens up many possibilities from a 2 night city break in Stockholm to a combined rail/ferry/cruise itinerary so you can virtually name your budget.

Although possible to do Japan and China independently I would suggest a proper guided tour. Some of these can represent really good value as they get preferential rates on hotels and ground arrangements and often language can be a real problem so an English speaking guide can be useful too to avoid eating snakes or cockroaches! Recently China has made it easier to visit the country briefly by introducing a visa exemption for short stopovers up to 72 hours through some destinations so a short visit is now much easier. There are some great value fares to Australia and the Far East via China. In Japan a rail pass is a good way to get around and a traditional a Ryokan is an alternative option and can be incorporated into a tour .

Venice is another destination to name your budget but it is worth compromising here. Doing Venice on a budget means staying in Mestre which is really horrible but staying right on Grand Canal with a Lagoon view with a private speedboat transfer even for a couple of nights will be really expensive and definitely for a once in lifetime experience so the best compromise for affordability is a 4star hotel on one of the smaller canals maybe 5 or 10 mins walk from Grand Canal and a public transfer from the airport.

Antarctica was on the list. No shortcuts here. Antarctica is for the rich, lottery winners or that trip to save up for many years. The best compromise is to fly to  Ushuaia in southern Argentina or to a southern Chile and take a Zodiac from there to see glaciers and incredible wildlife, not quite Antartica but thousands of pounds in the difference.

New York is a destination that has increased in price in recent years so the best way to do this on a budget, seat sales are one option, Norwegian Air low cost is another option and thirdly Aer Lingus where you can clear customs in Dublin. Staying in a slightly less fashionable area like Brooklyn can represent a good saving.

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