TOURWATCH: Bend to pray at Kumbha Mela 2013

Surfers flex their pecs in Port Macquarie, while saints and holy men, seers and the devout bend to pray in India.

Nature lovers can also be comfort lovers, especially when
we’re talking winter in Tasmania. Admire the glory of the Freycinet peninsula,
home to the perfect crescent of Wineglass Bay, from the tub. The eco-friendly
Freycinet Lodge has just refurbished its 10 premier suites, complete with new
bathrooms (and TV) earning them a 4.5-star rating. Snap up a winter special
until August 31, normally $300 a night, rooms start from $170 a night.  1800 420 155,


The Australian Surf Festival kicks off 11-26 August in
Port Macquarie, where up to 400 surfers are expected to flex the pecs as they
fight for 25 Aussie titles. There’ll also be movies, music and art exhibits
around a surf theme. Stay three nights in a 2-bedroom riverside spa cottage in
the Sundowner Tourist Park and get a free platter of local produce, a $50
voucher to blow at the Port City Bowling Club and midday checkout. Costs from
$441 for three nights, from August 1-31. 1300 303 155,


The Fireside Festival runs throughout August, with
100-mile dinners, wine and degustation dinners in 25 venues across Canberra. Stay
two nights in a King Bed superior room at the Crowne Plaza Canberra and save 20
per cent, book until August 17 and stay until September 30. Costs from $336 a
room for two nights, including breakfast. 1300 888 180,

Spicers Balfour Hotel, Brisbane.

Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art has pulled off yet
another major coup, currently showing masterpieces from Madrid’s Prado in its
galleries, so it’s time to head north. You’ll turn heads when you let drop
you’re staying in one of the town’s hippest little hotels, the nine-room Spicers
Balfour Hotel. Set 3km from the CBD in funky New Farm, book 14 days ahead and save
$60 a night. Includes breakfast, canapés in the rooftop bar and wi-fi. Costs
from $299 a room. 1300 597 540,


Pull on your walking boots for a spring trek along
Victoria’s south-west coast and save $110 when you book the Great South West
Walk (22-25 Sept) and Great Ocean Walk (27-30 Sept).  Carrying just your day pack, the guided walk
follows well-maintained trails and includes a night in Cape Otway lighthouse
and lunch with the 12 Apostles as a backdrop. Both trips depart from Melbourne
and groups are limited to 14 people. Costs $2190 a person. (03) 9877 9540,

Katherine Gorge

See the best of the west, from Perth to Darwin, over 18
days, visiting some of the world’s greatest beauty spots: Ningaloo Reef, the
windswept limestone formations of the Pinnacles and the gorgeous gorges of the
Territory. There’s a touch of luxe, too, at Cable Beach Club Resort in Broome,
and El Questro Wilderness Park. Save $650 on coach tours departing September 6
and 29 and October 18. Costs $6345 a person. 1300 805 493,

Zipping in from the remote islands and need a pad to hole
up for the night? Or want to get to grips with the street markets of Nadi, the
Novotel Nadi and Mercure Nadi are knocking 20 percent off their room rates for
two-night stays. Includes free airport transfers, on stays until January 31.
Costs from $87 a night (Novotel) and $70 a night (Mercure). 1300 656565,

Wander the medieval cobbled streets of the rue du
Faubourg St-Antoine on the Right Bank, for a slice of Parisian life. Stay four
nights, pay three at the three-star Le Patio St Antoine when you book and
travel before August 31. Includes breakfast daily, costs $321 a person, twin
share. 1300 747 400,

It’s a country with one of the coolest soundtracks… aaah,
Cuba, you’re hip to the eyeballs. This tour covers the length of the country,
from Havana in the west to the old pirate haven of Baracoa in the far east,
with stops for the Che Guevara museum, Trinidad’s beaches and some sultry salsa
in Santiago de Cuba. Book by August 27 to for September 1 departure and
save $456 a person. Costs $1369 a person, 15 days. 1300 018 8701,

South Luangwa game drive, Zambia

There are just seven safari tents at Sanctuary Puku
Ridge, which treat lightly on the earth of the South Luangwa National Park.
Watch the sun rise from your bed, and animals gathering at the waterhole near
your tent. Stay three nights and save more than $1700 a couple, including all
meals, drinks, game viewing and flights from Lusaka. Costs $2120 a person, twin
share, until October 31. 1300 195 873,

The fish are
seriously big on Alaska’s Kenai peninsula, as are the bears. It’s Alaska’s wild
playground. Discover it in 5-star style, o a 28-day journey from Canada up to
the Arctic Circle, including seven nights cruising the Alaskan coastline,
slipping between the icebergs of Glacier Bay National Park. Couples booking before
October 19 will get one free return flight to Canada. Costs from $16,010 a
person, twin share, which includes flights for the second person travelling.  1300 723 642, 

Saints and holy men, seers and the devout: watch the
swirl of humanity as India bends to pray at Kumbha Mela, one of the world’s
largest pilgrimages. In January and February 2013, up to 60 million people will
gather in Allahabad, in the Uttar Pradesh, at the confluence of point
Hinduism’s three holiest rivers – the Ganges, the Yamuna and the ethereal Saraswati.
Devotees stretch 15km along the riverbanks on auspicious bathing days to
cleanse themselves of sin. This eight-day tour starts in Delhi and warms to the
religious theme with a visit to the holy city of Varanasi, south of Delhi,
before continuing to Allahabad, where you’ll stay in a tented camp in the heart
of the action. Costs from US$809 (A$780) a person. Unique Tourism, (02) 921

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper