Juliet Twena: My bucket list destinations, part two

WELL, if last week’s compendium of extraordinary experiences and encounters didn’t inspire you, perhaps the combination of the phenomenal news of a vaccine and this, the remaining bucket-list contenders, will raise your spirits and give you the confidence to go for it.

2021 is sure to be the year of making dreams come true and ticking off those long-awaited adventures.

So, without further ado, here are my final five!

The Antarctic – an eternal winter wonderland

VENTURE to the southernmost point of the world on this once-in-a-lifetime expedition. On many a bucket list, earth’s frozen frontier conjures up images of shimmering snow, colossal glaciers and icebergs.

Massive, magnificent and unforgiving, Antarctica is a continent of superlatives that will leave your mind searching for words to describe it. Each day presents a new discovery, whether you’re cruising through ice-choked waterways, trekking through chattering penguin rookeries, or watching minkes and humpbacks breaching in the unspoilt waters. Those fortunate enough to explore Antarctica’s vast expanses return home forever changed by an experience so awe-inspiring that it reaches to their very core.

India – the land of temples, tea and tigers

I HAVE obsessed over India for years and have now travelled to both the south (a great introduction) and the north (for perhaps the more seasoned traveller). I can’t quite tell you why the fixation, I just know I was drawn to this land of spices, notorious street food and roads inhabited by the ‘holy cow’ and I had to get there.

One of the oldest civilisations in the world, India is a mosaic of multicultural experiences. With a rich heritage and a myriad of spectacular temples and attractions, the country is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south.

A stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, is worth the high price tag with direct views of the Taj Mahal in the distance. And for those wanting an authentic south Indian experience I highly recommend a stay on a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerela.

Once described to me as an assault on the senses, India isn’t always for the faint-hearted, but if it is on your list (and it should be) then it does not disappoint.

Egypt and Jordan

WITH a list as short as ten I’ve been a bit cheeky and combined two places in one. Double the fun, or so the consultant at Trailfinders Dublin told me many moons ago when I was looking to get away after a very busy festive season in hospitality. Who knew that a few years later I would be living there?

My spiritual home and where I spent almost two years working, Egypt has an incredibly special place in my heart. Not only is it home to the last remaining Wonder of the World and temples too numerous to list, it is home to some of the most incredible people I have had the pleasure to share a city with and call it home. I never once felt unsafe and loved nothing more than strolling down the streets of Cairo in the small hours when the city was still buzzing with life. The call to prayer, the incessant honking of car horns (a language of its own) and the street sellers peddling their wares, may sound like hell to some but for me it wrapped me like a secure cosy blanket and I miss it to this day.

No trip would be complete without a visit to the Pyramids of Giza; however, I would also suggest a trip the Pyramids of Dashur and Saqqara. These two earlier examples help put everything into context and gives you a real insight into an ancient civilisation that we are still to fully understand. I could go on to describe the sights and must-see towns of Luxor and Aswan which feature in all good itineraries, but you’ll just have to get in touch for that.

What I will say is, if you are contemplating travelling to Egypt, I would highly recommend coupling your journey with neighbouring Jordan. In total contrast Jordan has a far superior infrastructure, economy and general standard of living and without boring you with the politics this is largely due to the reign of King Hussein and subsequently King Abdullah II, who ascended to the throne in 1999 after his father’s death. The diversity of landscapes and people of Jordan may surprise you.

I recommend all to experience the serene and humble lifestyle of the Bedouins in the desert of Wadi Rum by camping with them for a night. Explore what the progressive and fast city life in Amman has to offer and of course the Unesco world heritage site of Petra is a must.

Cruising

IN the last ten years or so, cruising has been the fastest-growing sector in the travel industry and I have seen it climb its way to the top of many a client’s bucket list. Gone are the days when cruising was just for the retired or wealthy. With the innovation of state-of-the-art ships such as the Celebrity Edge, the high-end Silver Seas or the family-orientated Royal Caribbean, the industry is a far cry from what you might think.

Whether you want to embark on a family adventure with enriching shore excursions, feast in gourmet restaurants, relax watching concerts under the stars or be entertained by spectacular stage shows, there’s a perfect cruise for everyone. And the best bit is how you get there.

Another big plus to cruising is you can book from two to three years in advance on deposit which makes saving for your dream holiday a much more feasible option for many. For the most part everything is included in the price and therefore cruising can represent incredible value too. Definitely one to think about.

Private island getaways

THE dreamiest of all the bucket-list contenders is an indulgent private island retreat. And why not start at the most sought after of all the private islands, Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island? Located a 30-minute boat ride north-east of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, these 74 acres of pure paradise comfortably host 22 with the option to accommodate a further 16 on the neighbouring Moskito Island. On your own private island fun-themed parties, Casino nights or whatever your heart desires can be effortlessly organised.

But if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea (are you mad?) than perhaps the Society Islands of French Polynesia might appeal? Delivering on every aspect of the hype, turquoise waters and peach-pink sand welcome you to your dream holiday. Vahine Private Island and Marlon Brando’s untouched Tetiaroa are just two on a long list of options. Many feature ultra-luxurious villas with direct outrigger access to a sanctuary of motus.

And finally, something a little closer to home is the island of Zaya Nurai, Abu Dhabi. This Asian-style haven in the Persian Gulf is home to one of the world’s leading luxury villa resorts. Imagine romantic dinners under the stars or over the water’s edge with private chef and butler. It’s one I’ll be adding to my ever-growing list!

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