Weekend in Kosovo, off to the Olympics, secrets of the Big Apple: Takeoff travel news

Palenque ruins, Mexico

ADVENTURE

Into
the obscure
Fancy a weekend in Kosovo?  There are few corners of the globe that are
not comprehensively explored, but Intrepid Travel has revealed four new
destinations it says will sate the appetite of the most adventurous explorer.
The tours are the first wave of unusual locations in its new Expedition range,
which could see you uncover your inner Indiana Jones in a southern Mexican
jungle, hike in the Svaneti region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia,
get in the thick of the Rabaul Mask Festival in Papua New Guinea or sail the
ancient Lake Ohrid on a journey through Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. The 15-day journey
through the Balkan states costs from $1795 a person and departs September 5. See intrepidtravel.com/theme/expeditions.

GEAR
Crumpler off to
the Olympics
Melbourne luggage brand Crumpler is packing its bags for Rio and
joining our athletes as the official supplier of luggage to the 2016 Australian
Olympic Team. It will be kitting the team out with the Vis-à-Vis trunk
78 centimetre trunk, a hard-shell case bound by sturdy fabric belts and handle for easy,
secure hauling. Currently, the Vis-à-Vis range comes in a black shell, with red,
lime, black or clear handles. The Olympic colour range is yet to be revealed, and
will tie in with the team’s formal uniforms, designed for the seventh time by Sportscraft.
The competition and training uniforms, footwear and casual clothing will again
be designed by Adidas. Expect the big reveal around mid-2016. Crumpler’s
Vis-à-Vis range comes with a lifetime warranty, and the range also includes a 68-centimetre trunk, a 55-centimetre cabin bag and an
attaché case. The 78-centimetre trunk costs $545. See crumpler.com.au.

KIDS

Best seat in the
house
Intrepid families will love this simple bag, which is
designed to pack up your kid’s car seat and protect it when you’re on the move.
The bag is padded on all sides so you can include the car seat as checked-in luggage,
and is made from water-resistant fabric. It can also be worn as backpack for a
hassle-free, hands-free trek through the airport when you’ve run out of arms
pushing trolleys and reining in children. Great for those who prefer to
BYO car seat on driving holidays, the bag measures 45cm W x34cm H x45cm D. The
JL Childress Black Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag costs $69.95. See
thestorknest.com.au.
FOOD/TRAIN
Silver service, gold-rush route
The scenery is fabulous in the Canadian Rockies, but the food can
be great, too. The Rocky Mountaineer train network is adding 840 SilverLeaf
Service seats to its Rainforest to Gold Rush route, which journeys deep into
the Canadian Rockies. This train route deviates from the best-known Rockies
route from Vancouver to Toronto, and instead veers north to visit the ski mecca
of Whistler and Jasper via the gold-panning city of Quesnel. The SilverLeaf
class lets you dine in style, with local beers and wines from the British
Colombia’s Okanagan Valley. A two-day rail journey from Whistler to Jasper (or in reverse)
costs from $1865 a person. See rockymountaineer.com.
HOTEL
Northern newcomer
Brisbane’s CBD is currently enjoying a wave of new hotel
openings and the latest, Capri by Fraser, threw open its doors on April 1. The
Albert St property blends hotel and residence with 239 studios and one-bed apartments,
pool and gym as well as a restaurant bar and cafe by celebrity chef and paleo
poster boy, Pete Evans.  Expect design
touches including vertical garden walls and art installations as well as
ergonomic workspaces in the rooms. E-travellers can check-in by iPad and the
e-Concierge, while the rest of us will appreciate the 24-hour gym, in-room kitchenettes,
room service and laundry with Xbox Kinect. This is Fraser Hospitality’s fourth
Australian property, with Fraser Suites in Sydney and Perth and Fraser Place in
Melbourne. Capri by Fraser’s opening special costs from $179 a night, which
includes wi-fi and parking (Friday – Sunday nights) on stays until June 30.
Located at 80 Albert St, Brisbane. Phone 1800 110 800, see capribyfraser.com.
BOOK
Big Apple secrets
If you, like half the world, have a passionate affair with
Manhattan, tuck this modest book under your arm before you decamp to New York.
Its title is self-explanatory; Seeking
New York: the stories behind the historic architecture of Manhattan – One Building at a Time
. The book is based on the blog Daytonian in Manhattan, written by Tom Miller, a NY police inspector
originally from Daytonia, Ohio. His curious mind digs into the histories of 55 of
the borough’s buildings (there are many, many more on his blog), describing property
speculation in 1820s Canal Street, the impoverished Lower East Side at the turn
of the 20th century, great real estate coups and architectural
intricacies. There are grand triumphs and small stories: it’s also a history of
the people that made the city. “Never stop being a tourist, never stop looking
up,” says Miller. Costs $29.99. See allenandunwin.com.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 

Luxe lodges, tennis scores and the magnificent Magna Carta: Takeoff travel news

Havana, Cuba, one of the New7Wonders Cities

A special congratulations to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who made it through to the Australian Open quarter finals last night! Read more about what he’s up to, below.

NEWS: Seven new wonders

Vigan, Doha, Havana: how many of the New7Wonders Cities
have you visited – or could hit on the world map? The New7Wonders project let
people vote on modern day wonders, from cities to natural features, to
determine our modern-day Pyramids.

The final list of top seven cities is Beirut
(Lebanon), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur
(Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia) and Vigan (Philippines).

“La Paz in Bolivia is the
highest capital city in the world (and) the city’s buildings cling to the sides
of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards while Durban, South Africa’s
third largest city, has really come alive since its World Cup makeover in
2010,” says says Fiona Hunt, managing director of Adventure World. “Cuba, stuck
in a colourful, colonial time-wrap, is a truly fascinating and incomparable
city,” she adds. “The list demonstrates how people are seeking out unique,
off-the-beaten track and largely untapped destinations.” See new7wonders.com, adventureworld.com.au.

KIDS: How to make lunchtimes cooler

Whether your kids are braving the frigid temps of the Antarctic
or the sultry climes of an African safari, these cute meal and lunch sets are
great comfort for those who like to travel with familiar friends. Armed with
your polar bear, team the melamine table setting (cup, bowl, plate and cutlery)
with the Lunchie, an insulated bag that keeps food just right – warm or cold –
with a water bottle on the side.

Made by New York based Skip Hop for kids on
the move, there are a range of animals from bugs to zebras, some with matching
backpacks.The Skip Hop Lunchie costs from $24.95, and Mealtime gift set costs from
$39.95, from David Jones. See davidjones.com.au.

TECH: Mapping the Magna Carta
This year is the 800th anniversary of King
John’s sealing of the Magna Carta, a peace treaty, statement of liberties and
the creation of the rule of law. Follow the story across England, from Salisbury
Cathedral to London’s British Library, Runnymede in Surrey and Lincoln Castle,
William the Conquerer’s stronghold where the Great Charter was signed.

Six new
self-guided trails create two- and three-day itineraries through English towns
and cities, tracing the document’s history and visiting the four original Magna
Cartas. See magnacartatrails.com,
visitengland.com.

FOOD: Italy for the Epicurious
There is more to Italian cooking than just lasagne
(although that’s an extremely good start). Let your guide show you on this
15-day tour of Italy, from Rome to Venice, with Tuscany, Modena and Assisi also
on the itinerary. The Country Roads & Vineyards of Italy tour
includes tasting Brunello di Montalcino with its makers, watching
Parmigiano-Reggiano being produced and finding yourself in vinyeards of Soave,
as well as Insight’s Signature Dining experiences. Feed your cultural soul with
a private tour of the Vatican, a gondola ride in Venice and a stay in the
Tuscan Villa San Paolo in San Gimignano. Costs from $5389
a person, twin share and departs September 2, 2015. Phone 1300 301 672, see insightvacations.com.
AIRLINE: Kyrgios in full flight
Canberra teenager Nick Kyrgios is best known as the tennis
player who thumped world number one Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year. The
19-year-old, who has a Greek father and Malaysian mother, is now the newest
ambassador for Malaysia Airlines. “While I was born and brought up in
Australia, I’m really proud of my family culture and very close to my Malaysian
family,” he says, adding he has flown with the airline since he was a boy.

The
airline has 81 direct flights to Malaysia from Australia and New Zealand, and
onward to 60 destinations including London and Paris via its A380. Kyrgios is
currently ranked 50th in the world and kicks off his first full year of tennis
at the opening of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, tomorrow. The Nick Kyrgios Summer Spectacular
airline deals will start on January 21. See
ausopen.com, malaysiaairlines.com.


LODGES: Luxury with a green edge

Get ready for a dose of lodge
lust: the National Geographic Society has created a global collection of 24 boutique
hotels that are dedicated to sustainability and luxury, and includes three of Australia’s
most unique properties.

The lodges range from Bhutan to British Columbia, and
include Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and two resorts owned by
Baillie Lodges, Southern
Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island and the tented camp Longitude 131°, which faces
Uluru. 

Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia

The properties were rigorously vetted for their
sustainable tourism practices prior to inclusion. “These lodges demonstrate
that sustainability and a world-class guest experience can go hand-in-hand,” says
Lynn Cutter of National Geographic. Guests booking a stay at either Baillie
property through National
Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will have
exclusive experiences including private dinners and cooking classes using
indigenous ingredients. See nationalgeographiclodges.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday. 

The ever-growing travel list: lodges to love in Peru, Tanzania, and Brando in French Polynesia

I’ve confessed already to being a list tragic, and now I have yet another new travel list, thanks to National Geographic
Their new Unique Lodges of
the World collection has 24 good reasons to get out of town and head for the wilderness. 
I stayed in Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro, at the foot of the Tiger’s Nest  monastery in Bhutan, and it’s absolutely charming, with the most spectacular views from its windows, as you can see. Minimalists would have a hard time in this hotel, which is decorated in wildly colourful Bhutanese motifs, and built in amongst the rooms is a temple made from 450-year-old timbers from the Gangtey Monastery, and its resident monk. It’s also the country’s sole 100 percent locally owned five-star hotel.  
It’s also pleasing to note that Australia is punching well above its weight, with three beautiful properties on board. 

The full list of lodges is:
 

·      
Fogo Island Inn, Canada
·      
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
·      
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
·      
Kapari Natural Resort, Greece
·      
Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
·      
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Lizard Island, Australia
·      
Longitude 131°, Australia
·      
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
·      
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
·      
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
·      
Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
·      
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
·      
Sayari Camp, Tanzania
·      
Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
·      
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
·      
The Brando, French Polynesia
·      
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United
States
·      
Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
·      
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
·      
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan

For more
information about National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, visit www.nationalgeographiclodges.com.  

Cheeky views and eco-tours: travel news from Sydney to South America


GEAR: Undercover views
New York, Paris, LA – you’ve been around, so let your knickers
do the talking with prints of these iconic cities. Cheeky Australian design
company Stonemen has teamed up with artists and photographers across the world
to splash their work across our derrieres. The digitally printed, 360-degree underwear
is seamless, which means no lines interrupting your view of LA. The fabric is 95 per cent cotton and 5 per cent elastane. Men’s boxer, brief and trunk cost $44.99 each,
women’s brief and cheeky cost $39.99 each. See stonemen.com
AIRPORT: Help for the harried
Sociable Sydney loves to make friends, right from the
moment you hit the tarmac, with Sydney Airport’s ambassador program, which has
been operating since 1999. The volunteer ambassadors now sport smart blue
uniforms inspired by our blue skies and harbour, and can check real-time flight
information and tap into language translation applications on their new iPad
minis. The ambassadors are found in T1 and T2, and can also help with departure
cards and directions to taxis and trains. The team will be bolstered by
another 50 Mandarin-speaking Red Ambassadors over the Christmas and Lunar New
Year periods to welcome an influx of Chinese tourists. Download the Sydney
Airport app for flight information and to find out about becoming an ambassador
at sydneyairport.com.au.

TOUR: A cause for paws

If tracking jaguars deep in the Costa Rican jungle sounds
like your cup of adrenaline, use your eco-passion for good and join a volunteer
project that helps protect the endangered big cats’ environment. The projects,
which run from two to 12 weeks, are based in a research station in Jalova, in
Tortuguero National Park, reached only by boat. Day-to-day activities might include
setting remote tracking cameras to collate data, monitoring jaguars’ prey and
exploring their hunting grounds – the rainforests and beaches of Central
America. Jaguar populations in the Americas have plunged from 400,000 to around
14,000 in the past 60 years, and GVI has been organising volunteer work abroad
since 1997. Jaguar conservation programs cost from $1995 a person, two weeks. Call
1300 795 013, see gviaustralia.com.au.

GEAR: Hidden lens
Discerning thieves love it when you advertise whether
you’re packing a Canon or Nikon. Instead, sling this courier-style bag across
your body and keep your preferences to yourself. The Sling III packs a compact DSLR
camera, an extra lens, phone and a padded pocket to fit a 10-inch tablet. The
pocket is suspended within the bag, providing protection for when you drop the bag
on a table or floor, while the outside pockets can fit a water bottle or energy snacks that
will keep you shooting from sunrise to sunset. Internally, the inserts can be
moved to custom-fit your camera and keep extra lenses snugly safe, an interior
mesh stops keys and pens from wandering and it comes with a removable shoulder pad.
Rip out the inserts and it’s just a damned handy bag. The LowePro Passport
Sling III costs $99.95. See lowepro.com.
FOOD: Chef leads a culinary safari
Join chef Martin Boetz, of Longrain restaurant fame, on a
culinary tour of South Africa. The German-born chef will lead a small tour of
up to 10 guests on a 15-day tour through the country. The journey starts in
Johannesburg with a stay at the boutique Ten Bompas hotel, and highlights
including the Soweto township followed by a four-day safari. Expect cooking
classes and foraging for the kitchen in a three-day stay in the wine lands of
Franschhoek, soaking up luxury accommodation and award-winning food at Le
Quartier Français hotel and the fruits of the earth with a coveted seat at Babel
Restaurant. The culinary adventure wraps up in Cape Town with shopping and, of
course, dining from the city’s best tables. Departs March 2015, prices to be
confirmed. See moroccobypriorarrangement.com.

KIDS: Floating arcade to Tassie
Test the waters as a cruising family with a mini-cruise –
no passports required – when you journey to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania. Aside from the regular features of cinema, games arcade and Pirate Pete’s
Playroom for younger kids, summer day sailings include face painting, trivia,
discoes and Tassie wildlife stories. Kids also get a free activity pack. The day sailing season
runs from December 20 until April 13, 2015. Costs from $86 adults/$35 children
from February to April, or $41/$101 in December and January. Phone 1800 634 906,
see spiritoftasmania.com.au

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Travel news: Takeoff November 9

FOOD
A moveable feast
Plan a DIY food tour around Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula on its new hop-on, hop-off sightseeing
bus, which launched yesterday. There are 18 stops on the two-hour circular route, which wends its way from Sorrento, famous for its vanilla slice, to Portsea for a pint in the Portsea pub’s scenic beer garden and down to Point Nepean National Park, where former PM Harold Holt disappeared. There are cellar doors and hot springs on the route and plenty of suggested walks to compensate for the abundant
crop of too-cute village cafes. The open-top double-decker bus runs 365
days a year, from 8am to 6pm. A 24-hour ticket costs $35/$20,
adults/children, or $60/$35 for a three-day pass. See
peninsulaexplorer.com.

GEAR
The suede persuader

You’re the girl-about-town who needs to keep her hands free for hailing taxis, making canny shopping buys and shaking on a deal with the locals. But you’re just not into backpacks. The roomy Ellie Satchel stashes all your kit into a stylish swag with plenty of internal pockets, and its detachable cross-body strap sets you free. Available in six coloured suedes including black, a blue peacoat and coffee bean (pictured), for a quintessentially Australian look. Available in Ugg Australia stores, including the new Sydney Arcade location. Costs $219.95. See uggaustralia.com.

WEBSITE
Rate and review
Know your tour before you pack your bags and head into the great unknown with the new website from travel giant Trafalgar. The tour company, which has over 230 journeys on its books, now includes feedback from past guests, who have reviewed and rated their experiences on the independent feedback behemoth feefo.com. One to watch is the reception of its new boutique
Hidden Journeys, which aim to show the secret side of some of our best-loved destinations, including Hong Kong and France, as well as Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and the little-explored Newfoundland coastline in Canada. See trafalgar.com.

NEWS
Brazilian beauty
Now that football fever has calmed down, and before the hype of the 2016 Olympics, it’s time to slip under the sheets with the Brazilian beauties Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Lovely Luxe guides promise to show you the real deal with the two new city guides. Expect Rio’s beautiful boutiques, secret shopping finds and back-door walking tours. Sao Paulo needs a little work to discover its beauty, they’ll admit: let the guides walk you through great street art and smoking hot chefs’ tables. The compact guides will cosy up easily in your back pocket. Cost $12.99 each. See luxecityguides.com.

AIRLINE
Kids get wings

The newest frequent flyer club on the market is aimed squarely at kids. Tigerair’s new Junior Captain’s Flyer Club rewards kids on the move with a club badge when they fly five times with the budget airline. Kids can get a crew member or captain on duty to sign their log book, which is included in the new Toby Activity Case, stuffed with maps, games, trivia cards, pencils. The case costs $15 for sale onboard, and another $4 will score a kids’ snack-pack from its summer inflight menu, which has vegan, gluten-free and end-of-day options (read: wine and cheese). Tigerair flies between 12 Australian cities and into south-east Asia via Perth. See tigerair.com.

KIDS 
DIY space exploration
Aspiring astronauts, your how-to handbook has arrived. The newest round of kids’ titles from Lonely Planet includes ‘How to be a Space Explorer,’ which will help your eight-year-old negotiate the freezing temperatures of deep space and navigate black holes. It’ll also help parents who are hazy on such concepts as gravity, light years and rocket-ship propulsion. Other new titles include three activities and sticker books aimed at kids three and above, ‘Adventures in Busy Places’ (think Dubai shopping malls), ‘Adventures in Cold Places’ (Sweden and Peru) and ‘Adventures in Wild Places’ (Kruger National Park). ‘How to be a Space Explorer’ costs $24.99 with an eBook also available on iBooks and Amazon. ‘The Adventures In…’ books cost $12.99 each. lonelyplanetkids.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Travel deals: French Polynesia

A local woman from the Sacred Valley, Peru.

Take me to… Tahiti! Or Peru. I’m not fussy. Or perhaps one of the fabulous new hotels of the world, including the Sofitel So Singapore or Australia’s own new regional art hotel, The Schaller Studio in Bendigo. 

Check out their opening specials, as well as a Kids Do Paris tour, in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
VICTORIA
Ski two days free at Mount Buller with a seven-night package
at Buller Central hotel. Get a seven-day lift pass for the price of five
days, daily breakfast and one dinner. Book by August 31, travel June
28-September 7. From $1405 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 019 130, see
studentflights.com.au.

Moorea Pearl Resort, French Polynesia

FRENCH POLYNESIA

Spend 10 nights in an overwater suite for under $5000.
Includes five nights in the Moorea Pearl Resort, five in the Tikehau
Pearl Beach Resort, two in Tahiti and international flights. Travel
November 1-December 10, January 10-March 31, 2015. From $4790 a person,
12 nights. Phone 1300 858 305, see airtahitinui.com.au.

Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio, Victoria, Australia

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Stay at Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio and save $55 with its
opening special, from $125 a night, until August 30. A Stay & See
package includes tickets to Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions and midday
checkout. From $195, August 2-November 9. Phone 1800 278 468, see artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.

SINGAPORE
Check into the new Sofitel So Singapore, pictured, and save
40 per cent with a Weekends@So offer, which includes a Saturday-night
stay in the 19th-century French-style rooms, Saturday champagne brunch
and Sunday all-day breakfast. From $515 until December 31.See sofitel.com.

Sofitel So Singapore

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Grab a friend and book a South American holiday with flights
and your friend flies free with LATAM, saving up to $2800. Tours include
the 20-day Highlights of South America, from Santiago to Lima, from
$8695 a person, twin share. Book by September 30. Phone 1300 196 420,
see travelmarvel.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Book a two-night midweek stay at the four-star Pelican Waters
resort on the Sunshine Coast and pay half price until November 30.
Includes a free night and a round on a Greg Norman championship golf
course. From $310, quote PEL019. Phone 1800 213 422, see pelicanwatersgolfresortandspa.com.au.

Tourwatch: Life in the Himalayas

Experience mountain life in the Indian Himalayas with a
high-altitude stay in Ladakh. Base yourself in one of six traditional
village houses, renovated to rustic luxury, and walk between local
villages, visiting schools, markets and monasteries.

Raft on glacial rivers the Indus and Zanskar and lose
yourself in a landscape of snowy mountains and serene lakes until end
September. Includes meals, private chef, guides, tours and private car.
From $5670 a person, twin share, seven nights. See shaktihimalaya.com.

Kids do Paris

Let your kids see what all the fuss is about on Paris’ famous
Left Bank with a three-hour family walking tour. Run by a Parisian
mum, options include pastimes such as sailing toy boats and riding the
merry-go-round in le Jardin du Luxembourg and a visit to the national
history museum. Join your kids or leave them with the qualified guide.
$164 for kids seven-12 years (max five children on a tour) and adults,
$128 for kids three-seven years. Search code 3151_KIDSRIGHT on viator.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.    

Boasters with the mostest: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s highest bar, Ozone, in the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

 Biggest, highest, most blindingly expensive. Belinda Jackson
rounds up the ultimate travel experiences, from super-luxe to just plain
boastful. 

LAND
Longest walking track

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 4264 kilometres from the US-Mexico
border to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Budget five
months to walk it entirely, or you can jump a pony, as the trail is also
open to equestrians. Yep, there are bears in there (pcta.org).

Longest train journey
The legendary Trans-Siberian generally wins this category,
with the 9289km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Lake Baikal
taking seven days. But as train guru the Man in Seat 61 points out (seat61.com),
the honour for the longest continual journey should go to the No. 53
Kharkiv (Ukraine)-Vladivostok route, about 9714km, another seven-day
epic.

The world’s highest train journey, on the Qinghai-Tibet railway

Highest train journey
More than 550km of the 1956km Qinghai-Tibet railway is laid
on permafrost. Every train has a doctor and enough oxygen for every
passenger, and the highest point is Tanggula Pass, at 5072m. It also
passes through the world’s highest and longest rail tunnels.

Highest bar

Drink in the views of Victoria Harbour at Ozone bar in the
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Kowloon side. Set on level 118, it’s 468.8
metres above sea level (ritzcarlton.com).

Biggest building
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828
metres, with 124 levels. It also has the world’s fastest elevators and
highest restaurant (At.mosphere on level 122, 442m) (burjkhalifa.ae).

It holds the crown until 2018, when the 1000-metre Kingdom Tower in
Jeddah, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, is complete. Another design by
Burj architect Adrian Smith, expect fewer nightclubs (kingdomtowerskyscraper.com).

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen

Best restaurant
Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant (noma.dk)
is back on top, bumping Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca off the perch as
the 2014 winner of the authoritative San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (theworlds50best.com). Judges name the winter potato cooked in fermented barley as chef-owner Rene Redzepi’s standout dish.


Best ethical travel destination
The Bahamas has been named Ethical Traveler’s greenest
destination, taking into account its environmental protection, social
welfare and human rights.
Others in the top 10 include Chile, Latvia and Mauritius (ethicaltraveler.org).


Most expensive tours
With a spare million dollars, you can spot 18 endangered
species in 12 countries, with one-tenth going toward conservation
projects (naturalworldsafaris.com). Otherwise, $1.5 million will let couples visit all 962 UNESCO
World Heritage sites. Put aside two years. Its other tours include the
10 best photo spots, for $130,000 (includes cameras), and the 10 most
luxurious suites in 21 days for $359,000 (veryfirstto.com).


AIR
Biggest airport
The busiest airport by passenger numbers is
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, US, handling 92
million travellers a year, but yet again, Dubai gets in on the act: on
completion in 2027, its $32-billion Al-Maktoum International airport
will be able to accommodate 160 million passengers a year (dwc.ae).

Best airport
Singapore’s Changi airport consistently rates one of the
world’s best, taking out first place in Skytrax 2014 World Airport
Awards, followed by Incheon (Seoul) and Munich airports.
Sydney Airport was ranked Australia’s best, at No. 21 (worldairportawards.com).

Best airline
Air New Zealand was named AirlineRatings.com’s 2014 airline
of the year, with Qantas the best economy airline, while Skytrax 2013
World Airline Awards rates Emirates as the world’s best, followed by
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, with Qantas coming in at No. 10. (worldairlineawards.com).

Safest airline
Qantas holds the record as the world’s safest airline, with a
fatality-free record since 1951, says airlineratings.com, rivalled by
Air New Zealand, according to jacdec.de.

Most luxurious airline lounge
For those of us fortunate enough to get a look in, Lufthansa
first class lounges were named the world’s best first-class lounges
while Qatar Airways took the business class gong at Skytrax’ 2013 World
Airline Awards (worldairlineawards.com).

Longest flight
Like to watch movies? Qantas’ ultra long-haul flight from Sydney-Dallas is the longest flight by distance, at 13,804km (qantas.com.au).
Should Turkish Airlines enact its plans for an Istanbul-Sydney route,
it would take the crown for its 17-hour, 14,956km flight (turkishairlines.com).

Ultimate airline travel experience: A three-hour flight on
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $260,000, taking you 100km
above the earth, travelling at three times the speed of sound. Includes three days’ space training (virgingalactic.com). For a more modest $128,300, you can fly around the world in 24 days on Four Seasons’ new Boeing 757 private jets (fourseasons.com/jet).

SEA

Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship

Biggest cruise ship
The godmother of Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, is super-sized Shrek ogress Princess Fiona. At 362 metres long and more than 225,000 tonnes, it can take
6295 passengers. The liner has 24 elevators, the first Starbucks at sea
and Broadway hit Chicago on show.
Its position will be usurped by another RCI ship, as yet unnamed, in 2016 (royalcaribbean.com).

Largest superyacht
With two helipads and a missile defence system, you can hire
Eclipse, owned by Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, for $2 million a week, excluding running costs.
At 162.5 metres, it’s the world’s second-biggest private
yacht after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s new
180-metre yacht, Azzam, complete with armour-plated master suite.
The Azzam is not for hire.

Best beach
Brazil’s Sancho Bay on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha wins best beach, according to TripAdvisor.com.

Longest beach
Brazil wins again, with the 241km Praia do Cassino Beach. Gippsland’s Ninety-Mile Beach comes in fourth place. Whitest sand beach in the world: One for the home team,
according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach is Hyams
Beach in Jervis Bay, 2½ hours from Sydney.

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

Best island
If money is your measure, you can rent the Caribbean’s
Calivigny Island in Grenada, for a cool $1.55 million a week. Sleeping
50 guests, it comes with a 173-metre yacht for your use (calivigny-island.com).More accessibly, the TripAdvisor community has voted Ambergris Caye, in Belize, its top island for the second year running (tripadvisor.com).

World’s highest pool
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s pool, is the world’s highest at 490 metres (ritzcarlton.com), towering over Marina Bay Sands’ dizzying infinity pool, 55 storeys, or 198 metres, above Singapore (marinabaysands.com).

World’s biggest pool
Running alongside the ocean, the lagoon pool at the San
Alfonso del Mar resort, in Valparaiso, Chile, is 1013 metres long,
earning its Guinness Book of Records entry. The 8 hectare, 250
million-litre saltwater pool is a pleasant 26 degrees and has a
100-metre waterslide (sanalfonso.cl).
Its sister lagoon, in the Egyptian resort city Sharm el-Sheikh,
reportedly covers 12 hectares and a Dubai project, under way, will cover
40 hectares.

The world’s largest pool, San Alfonsa del Mar, Chile

BEDS
Largest hotel
By room count, the three-star Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow,
Russia, with 7500 rooms, is largest. Most of the world’s mega-hotels,
with 4000-plus rooms, are in Las Vegas.

Most expensive hotel room
At $73,177 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel
President Wilson is on the banks of Lake Geneva, with views of Mont
Blanc. There are 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a Steinway grand piano and yes,
it’s bulletproof. More modest rooms start at $483 (hotelpresidentwilson.com).

Tallest hotel
Six of the top 10 tallest hotels are in Dubai, including the tallest, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which tops 355 metres (marriott.com). At 488 metres, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is taller but is ruled out as the building is not solely a hotel.

Smallest hotel
Central Hotel, Copenhagen, 2.4m by 3m, including a minibar and photos of Ronnie Barker (the owner’s a fan), $360 a night. (centralhotelogcafe.dk).


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Get going: trek to Tibet

The new Shangri-La, Tibet

 From Tibet to Canberra, we’ve got it all covered this weekend for the best travel deals around. Obviously, the theme is to get high: in the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains or Peru’s Machu Picchu.

GO NOW
TIBET
Make the trek to the hotel everyone is talking about, the new
Shangri-La Lhasa, at 3650 metres above sea level, which opens on April
17. Its opening offer includes breakfast and dinner, mini-bar and 3pm
checkout, until June 30. From $498 a night. 1800 222 448, shangri-la.com.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Check in to the five-star Mount Lofty House MGallery, overlooking
Adelaide, and get a bottle of wine and country breakfast included with
midweek bookings (Sunday-Thursday) until September 26. From $169 a
night. 1300 132 799, lastminute.com.au/deals.

GO SOON
NEW SOUTH WALES
Celebrate autumn in the Blue Mountains at the premier
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. Stay two nights midweek in a
suite with a private pool, all meals, two nature activities and $100 spa
credit, until June 30. From $1250 a person, two nights. (02) 9290 9733, wolganvalley.com.

MALAYSIA
Cook up a hot shopping trip in bargain-friendly Kuala Lumpur and stay
at the city’s newest hotel, Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar, for $90 a
night. Book by May 31 for stays in the chic suburb until September 30. pullmanhotels.com.

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Spend 20 days discovering the icons of South America in 2015,
from Peru’s Machu Picchu to Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer, and
your companion gets free flights from Australia. Book by September 30.
From $11,995 a person, twin share. 1300 723 642, scenictours.com.au.

VICTORIA
The Novotel St Kilda’s “wine and wind down” deal is back.
Book a non-bayview room from $209 a night and get six bottles of wine
worth $200. Includes car parking and breakfast. Until December 30. Quote
“wine and wind down”. (03) 9525 5522, novotelstkilda.com.au.

Tourwatch

Heli-safari on Fiji’s Sigatoka River

Hell-raising on a heli-safari

Fast and fabulous adrenaline-seekers have a new home in
southern Fiji. Take a 15-minute helicopter or 30-minute small plane
flight over tropical mountains and the Coral Coast then jet boat down
the river on a half-day Sigatoka River safari tour, visiting
traditional villages for a kava ceremony and lunch. Costs $365
(heli-jet boat combo), $535 (small plane-jet boat combo), see helitoursfiji.com.

Kids deal

Questacon, Canberra

Act up in the act

Discover a miniature village, experience an earthquake and
meet an elite athlete with the Canberra City YHA’s Family Fun
three-in-one package, which includes entry to Cockington Green,
Questacon and the Australian Institute of Sport. Save 15 per cent, from
$484 for two nights in a family en suite room until October 30, (02) 6248 9155, yha.com.au. YHA membership to more than 4000 hostels worldwide costs $32
adults, kids under 18 join free with a parent. Non-members pay 10 per
cent extra.

The new world order: Myanmar and Sri Lanka our must-do destinations

Stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka. Photo: Alamy
Myanmar and Sri Lanka top the list of must-do destinations,
industry experts agree. 
CHRIS ZEIHER
Lonely Planet
My pick for 2014 is Riga, the art nouveau jewel of the
Baltics. The Latvian capital is a twin to Prague, minus the fleets of tour
buses and crowds, and is the 2014 European Capital of Culture.Next year is all
about indulgence for me: I’ll be travelling to stunning Waiheke Island off
Auckland to celebrate my birthday.
DAVE BOYTE
Skyscanner.net
Brazil will be in the limelight, thanks to the football World
Cup. We’ve seen increased interest in Myanmar and Cambodia and Sri Lanka is a
rising star: visit the fort town of Galle. Mount Kinabalu (4095 metres) is the
highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea: let’s see if I am up for
it.
SUJATA RAMAN AND GEOFFREY KENT
Abercrombie & Kent
Sri Lanka is still remarkably unspoiled, with ancient cities,
tea plantations and hill stations vying for attention alongside amazing
wildlife, temples and golden beaches, while Myanmar is a truly spiritual
destination. In 2014, you will be able to travel along the Ayeyarwady River on
the boutique river cruiser, Sanctuary Ananda, through stunning landscapes.
JAMES THORNTON
Intrepid Travel Group
Myanmar is Asia’s hottest new destination: get even further
off the beaten track and set sail around the 800 islands of the blissful Myeik
Archipelago. Sri Lanka is rising in popularity, and with all eyes on South
America for the World Cup, my tip is to escape the crowds in Colombia.
Outdoor dining in Istanbul. Photo: Getty Images
SALLY GODFREY
Homeaway Holiday Rentals
Internationally, Dubai, Istanbul, Phuket, Kyoto and Tel Aviv
are receiving strong booking inquiries for 2014, while domestic mainstays are
Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Sydney. Rising stars include Seminyak, Boracay and
Goa and the holiday rental market is becoming more popular in South-East Asia.
I will be hitting the slopes of Queenstown, sunning on a Bali beach and catching
some weekend respite on Phillip Island.
ROWENA FITZGERALD
Mr and Mrs Smith
Lanterns in Kyoto. Photo: Getty Images
People are looking for accommodation that offers an authentic
connection to the destination, such as smaller, locally owned boutique hotels
like Brody House in Budapest or Claska in Tokyo. We’re seeing a surge in
interest in Japan, prompted by its distinctive pop culture and increased
flights. I’m going to Costa Rica and Belize for their beautiful beaches,
incredible diving, and unspoilt rainforest. I hope to stay at six-suite hotel Kura.
RICHARD MOLE
Byroads Tours
Sri Lanka is safe, easy to get to and great value, has an
excellent range of accommodation and offers both beaches and culture. In many
respects, it’s the new Bali. Myanmar is another one on my list. It still lacks
beds, so prices are unreasonably high, but it’s seen as Asia’s last frontier.
Cuba is in the same category – go before it changes forever! My left-field
prediction is Iran. The new government is clearly trying to build bridges with
the West.
THE LEGGY LOVELIES
Luxecityguides.com
Why sprint madly through an overcrowded airport when you can
transfer leisurely and luxuriously via riverboat? We like Heritage Line’s
(heritage-line.com) vintage-inspired fleet for South-East Asian jaunts. For gastro-travel, Copenhagen, Lima, Bangkok and Tokyo are
emerging as envelope-pushing culinary destinations. Pack your elastic-waist slacks! There’s very good bang for
your buck. Quaint boutique hotels and delicious street foods keep it cheap,
cheery and culture-savvy. South America is booming but we also intend to escape the
crowds in Mongolia and Myanmar.
 

The delights of Noma in Copenhagen. Photo: NY Times
SIMON McGRATH
Accor Hotels
After slowing in 2012-13, Bali is becoming popular again for
Australians. Our top picks are Sydney for its great 2014 events line-up,
Tropical North Queensland for beach and adventure travel and Adelaide, just
named in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 roundup, with a focus on culture
and the arts. With an increase in low-cost airlines flying into Adelaide and
Cairns, accessibility has never been easier. I’m heading to Terrigal, NSW,
close to home, for a great Australian beach holiday.

Compiled by Belinda Jackson for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers

Do Peru with divas or Prague on a pittance: Travel deals & kids on the road, August 11 2013

African drumming for families at the Darebin
Music Feast, Sept 18-29, musicfeast.com.au

Forget play doh, get the kids to shake it with an African drumming session this school holidays. Otherwise, hit Perth with a budget, Peru with a bunch of divas or find a bargain in Prague’s historic old town in this week’s domestic and international travel deals.

GO NOW: WESTERN
AUSTRALIA, PERTH
Save on stays in a four-star self-contained
studio apartment at All Suites Perth, with midday
checkout and free wifi included on two-night stays Friday to Sunday until early
December. Normally $300, costs $256, two nights, quote “Studio Stay 2
Save 20%”. 1300 88 7979, wotif.com/hotelW4628.
GO SOONER: PERU
& ARGENTINA
Get a five-star stay and half-day city tour of Lima when
you book a 14-night tour of Peru & Argentina by August 30. The group will cover Macchu Pichu, fabulous Buenos Aires and Mendoza.
Departs 10 November, quote ‘SHPERU’, $7699, travellingdivas.com.au.
Staré Město: Prague’s evocative old town.

GO LATER: CZECH
REPUBLIC

Stay four nights, pay for three in a range of Prague
hotels from November 1 until December 28  including the four-star Hotel Leonardo, from $50 a night with breakfast. 1300 363
554, beyondtravel.com.au.
KIDS
Let your little musos get their groove on at the Darebin
Music Feast, in Melbourne’s inner-north in the upcoming school holidays,
18-29 September. Expect pop-up performances spaces, CD launches and shows by
young artists including Miss Eileen and Yorque, African drumming workshops and
family go-go dance classes. Free (some require bookings), musicfeast.com.au