Asia sticks to you. The joss sticks lit for the household shrines in Thailand impart a sweet perfume to the thick air. The heavenly aroma of Indian spices follows you for days. This is a spiritual place infused with the gods of past and present: the ancient spirits of the land and the family, the deities of Buddhism and Hinduism and the rules of Islam. Architectural wonders and sacred spaces abound from the Great Wall of China and the temples of Angkor to lesser known marvels in Myanmar, Nepal and Afghanistan. From sublime coastlines to snow capped mountains, rolling landscapes fed by the monsoon rains and frenetic cities fizzling with energy, the diversity of Asia’s landscapes is mind-boggling. As are their highlights from trekking Malaysia’s steamy jungles and wildlife spotting in southern India to riding horses through the Mongolian steppes, skiing Japan’s Alps and dodging falling coconuts on of the continents many remote islands. Then there’s the food. Tuck into fiery Indian curries, get adventurous with a local dish from a road side stall and gulp down a hearty bowl of Japanese ramen. With its colours, smells, flavours and personalities, you’ll find Asia is deliciously rewarding.
Few places pack the punch of Europe. From its Northern Lights to its Southern shores, this drama queen keeps on thrilling, surprising and confusing with her extraordinary wealth of sights, sounds, peoples and parties. What a history Europe has! As well as the birthplace of democracy in Athens, the Forum of Rome, the renaissance buildings and art of Florence, the graceful canals of Venice and the Napoleonic grandeur of Paris, there’s always the less expected sites such as the Moorish palaces of Andalucía, the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Turkey, the majesty of a second Venice in St Petersburg and the haunting buildings of Auschwitz in Poland. But Europe is far from limited by its extraordinary heritage. The continent leads the world in fashion, art, music, architecture and design; just see the street styles and music scenes of London and Berlin, the ground-breaking design in Antwerp, Copenhagen and Stockholm or the amazing displays of contemporary art, well, just about everywhere.
Glorious scenery your thing? Try out the awesome fjords of Norway, the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands, the volcanic dramatics of Iceland, the breathtaking Alps of France, Switzerland and Italy, and the lesser-known mountains of Spain, Slovenia, Southern Poland and Slovakia. For beach life you can fight for some sand on France’s Côte d’Azur, Spain’s Costa Brava or Portugal’s Algarve, or – far more enjoyably – discover your own pristine beach in Albania, Bulgaria or on the gem-like islands of Greece and Croatia.
How do you capture the essence of Africa on paper without using up every cliché in the book? No other continent comes close to it for scale, variety and pure, raw impact. Africa offers a travel experience a thousand kilometres from the well-backpacked, air-conditioned tourist trails of Southeast Asia or the cash-cow theme parks of Australia or Europe. Africa’s natural history alone would make a dozen visits worthwhile – where else on earth can you fall asleep to the sound of lions roaring, or watch a million flamingos take off from the waters of a remote soda lake? Parts of Africa boast scenery so spectacular they’ll damn near blow your mind, but the essence of this incredible continent isn’t in any desert, mountain or lake. It’s the spirit of the people – pushing, shoving, sweating, dancing, singing and laughing – that infects so many visitors with a travel bug so powerful they’ll never stop coming back, sometimes against all sense or reason. Africa’s not always an easy place to travel in. It can be frustrating and challenging at times. Hardships and logistical disasters can happen. But don’t believe everything you see on TV: Africa’s not a hell hole full of civil war, plague, famine and violent crime. It’s a fantastic, enlightening, surprising and intriguing continent. Try it once, and we guarantee you’ll dream about coming back for the rest of your life.
The Middle East is quite simply extraordinary, one of the world's most fascinating and rewarding travel destinations. It was here that some of the most significant civilisations of antiquity rose and fell and where the three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - were born. Left behind is an astonishing open-air museum of ancient cities and historic buildings, the stones of which still resonate with the sounds of the faithful. The Middle East is home to some of the world's most significant cities - Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and ?stanbul. The ruins of the once similarly epic cities of history - Petra, Persepolis, Ephesus, Palmyra, Baalbek, Leptis Magna and the bounty of ancient Egypt - also mark the passage of centuries in a region where the ancient world lives and breathes. The landscapes of the region are equally spellbinding, from the unrivalled seas of sand dunes and palm-fringed lakes in Libya's Sahara desert to the stunning mountains of the north and the underwater world of the Red Sea.
From the gravitas of the Sahara to the blue tiles of Esfahan, this is a region for discerning travellers, for those looking for the story behind the headline, and where the bridges between ancient and modern civilisations are everywhere evident. If you believe what the media tells you and decide not to visit, you'd be missing out on the journey of a lifetime.
Follow the heartbeat of North America through towering forests, undulating fields, high-plain deserts, pulsating metropolises and offbeat oases. Whether you plan to dive headlong into the exhilarating whirlwind of New York City, or schuss down the slopes of the Great White North, this is a continent whose boundless menu of activities and sights allow you to calibrate your itinerary to whatever level of adventure you choose. Venture on a Canadian wilderness trek, buckle up for the legendary road trip along Route 66 or explore ancient rites at mysterious Maya and Aztec ruins in Mexico. Whatever your travel dreams, North America offers a kaleidoscope of cultures, cuisines, landscapes, history and adventures.
Real travelers love South America. It’s as though the continent was built for travel; a place that excites, thrills, challenges and infuriates. Sweat yourself dizzy on an Amazon canoe ride before ending the day caiman-watching on a black-water lagoon. Brave a white-knuckle bus ride down Peruvian slopes and be astounded by endless Andean vistas. Endure Patagonia’s wind-driven rain while chasing life-affirming sunsets or simply lose yourself (and possibly your belongings) in the break-neck chaos of Buenos Aires or Salvador. The real reward, however, is the South American spirit. It seems like the entire continent approaches life with the enthusiasm of an old-fashioned road trip: windows down and stereo blaring. There is as much music as there are adventures to be had. Samba spices up the sandy streets of Brazilian beach towns, panpipes liven Andean markets, Argentine folklórica (folk music) trickles out of truck radios in the pampas, and the jolting rhythm of cumbia makes those Andean bus rides even more absurd. South America is a continent that engulfs you and changes you – your state of mind, your outlook on life. As soon as you step foot on South American soil, the transformation begins.
From the lazy beaches of the South Pacific and Micronesia where coconuts fall and time is lost to the thrumming capitals of Australia and New Zealand, this is a region where the rainforest meets the sea (and city) with jaw dropping landscapes and vibrant metropolises offering a myriad of opportunities for exploring incredible culture, festivals and food. Embrace the tyranny of distance. Whether you’re floating the sunset away in Tuvalu or floating down Tasmania’s Franklin River, the South Pacific offers more islands than you can shake a snorkel at.