Unearth Mayan mysteries at Chichen Itza
Posted: 21 September 2016
Following on from last week’s blog, we continue on with our list of ‘must-sees’ and unmissable travel experiences that we think should be high up on everybody’s bucket list. Broaden your horizons, from Mexico to Marrakech, and see the world’s most unique natural wonders, man-made marvels and sporting events to remember, with our list of destinations designed to inspire everyone.
7. Unearth the Culture of the Mayan Coast
Known as the Mayan Coast, or the Riviera Maya, Mexico’s stretch of coastline, hemming the Caribbean Sea on the Yucatan Peninsula, offers an irresistible mix of fascinating ancient culture, intriguing traditions and some of South America’s most beautiful beaches. A top ecotourism destination, the natural beauty of the area is unspoilt by overdevelopment and straying off the beaten path will lead you to discover tucked away villages where local traditions thrive. It is also one of the world’s top destinations for scuba-diving and snorkelling along the expansive coral reef, or in the surreal underground sinkholes, known as ‘cenotes’, that look like a scene from a fairytale.
The archaeological sites are probably the main draw of the Mayan Coast, though. The 13th Century fortress city of Tulum is one of the most photographed, perching prettily on the beachfront, overlooking the tantalisingly blue Caribbean Sea – be sure to remember to take your bathing suit when you visit for a quick dip! A couple of hours drive away, you can also check a New Seven Wonders of the World item off your list at Chichen Itza. Here, the stand-out structure of the Temple of Kukulkan demonstrates the importance of Mayan astronomy; with 365 steps – one for each day of the year – the spring and autumn equinoxes reveal the shadow of a snake, winding down until it meets its stone head at the pyramid’s base!
8. Delve into Dubrovnik
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, the magically medieval city of Dubrovnik is Croatia’s crowning glory, and quickly becoming one of Europe’s most sought-after city breaks. Its formidable walled town centre is the main draw, having stood its ground through many conflicts throughout the ages, from invasions by the Venetians and Ottoman Empire, to the more recent 1991 conflict; stop by one of the fascinating museums to learn more about the complex history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cobbled streets, craggy rocks and marble walls cut a dramatic scene, one that has understandably become the backdrop to the tales of war in Game of Thrones, and one of the best ways to see it all is to glide above the patchwork of red-roofed houses with a cable-car ride to the top of Mount Srd. At the top, relax at the cafe and enjoy the breathtaking coastal views, while more active types might prefer to follow the walking trail back down to the bottom.
9. See the Magic of Marrakech
One of the most evocative places of Morocco, Marrakech must be experienced to be truly believed. Having stood for close to a thousand years, this former Imperial city is also known as the ‘Red City’ for the hue of its thick stone walls. The biggest attraction is the 11th Century UNESCO-listed medina – an architectural wonder wound out of a maze of bustling streets. The market stalls here are magnetic, with each souk roughly grouped by its wares – whether leather, wood, lanterns or richly embroidered clothing – making for a feast of sound and vision for the senses. The square of Djemaa el-Fnaa is the busiest, with fire-eaters, belly dancers and acrobats lining the dusty streets, while the skyline is characterised by the seventy-seven-metre Koutoubia Mosque – the largest in Marrakech, listen out, as five times a day a voice calls the faithful to their prayers.
For adventurous types, the High Atlas Mountains preside over the city, stretching over four-hundred miles. Head here for a hike through the mud-thatched villages, hardly touched by the passage of time, before heading back to your luxury hotel for a taste of the country’s deeply flavoursome and fragrant cuisine. Stay at Sir Richard Branson’s gorgeous Kasbah Tamadot for an incredibly luxurious, authentic experience in a spectacular rural location.
10. Wade into the Okavango Delta
One of the finest and most exclusive safari destinations in the world, Okavango Delta, in Botswana, is one of the most sought-after experiences in Africa, offering fantastic wildlife encounters, ultra-high-end safari lodges, varied activities and fewer visitors than many other safari regions. Featuring one of the most unique natural occurrences in the continent, Okavango Delta is characterised by its watery plains, cutting a stark contrast to the surrounding Kalahari. One of the world’s largest inland river deltas, the rain falls in the middle of Botwana’s dry season, filling the lagoons with life preserving water for the number of endangered animals that reside here, such as cheetah, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, African wild dogs and lions. Rather than flowing out to sea, the waters remain still and are soaked back up into the landscape. One of the best ways to experience this ecological wonder is with a traditional mokoro journey; ride the very pulse of the region in one of these dug-out canoes, and glide the shallows among the papyrus reeds as dragonflies and kingfishers whizz past.
11. Sail Away to Bermuda
If you love both sailing and sunning yourself in the glorious Caribbean sunshine, next year’s America’s Cup Yacht Race will be an unmissable treat to add to your yearly travels. 2017’s contest will take place in tropical Bermuda, one of the most unique islands in the Caribbean, where Sir Ben Ainslie’s will lead his Land Rover BAR team in hopes of winning the trophy and bringing the following years competition back to England, where it all began back in 1851 . As the pinnacle of international sailing events, and with the United Kingdom’s hopes in the balance, no water enthusiast should miss this opportunity to cheer on the gleaming yachts from all over the world from some of the most prestigious beaches in the Caribbean.
Set to be held in the iconic Great Sound, a stunning natural amphitheatre, the top challenger will face the reigning champions, Team USA. Furthermore, the perfectly timed opening of the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club offers some of the island’s finest accommodation, and can proudly claim itself as the official Hotel of the 35th Americas Cup. Qualifying races are held from 26th May 2017, with the final showdown, presented by Louis Vuitton, taking place on 17th June – if you are planning a Caribbean getaway next year, don’t miss out on one of the world’s most anticipated events!
12. Go Putting in Perthshire
You don’t necessarily have to travel far from home to check an item off your bucket list. In Scotland, one of the United Kingdom’s finest and most recognisable luxury hotels, The Gleneagles Hotel, can be found. The heritage of this sprawling estate dates back to 1924, when it was coined ‘The Palace In the Glens’, and even featured its own railway station just minutes away. Having celebrated its ninetieth anniversary in 2014, The Gleneagles Hotel boasts almost a century as one of the most prestigious retreats in the lowlands, boasting an indulgent ESPA Spa and a number of traditional leisure pursuits, including an equestrian school, falconry, gundog school and clay-pigeon shooting.
One of the finest features of the estate, though, is the world-class golf courses, a clear bucket-list worthy point for any golf fan. Blended into the breathtaking rolling hills, the three championship courses offer challenges for all levels of abilities, though experienced players will love teeing-off on the fairways that inspired the likes of Jack Nicklaus and James Braid, where the 2014 Ryder Cup took place.
For more information and inspiration for your next luxury bucket-list holiday, to obtain a quote or to make a booking, please call our expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 505.