Where to go when: summer 2017
From the America’s Cup sailing tournament in Bermuda to wildlife-watching in Africa, here’s a list of the many travel experiences summer affords.
Rwanda’s long dry season kicks off in June, and that’s the perfect time to head out on foot to see the country’s rare mountain gorillas. Within the Volcanoes National Park, there are 10 groups of gorillas that have become habituated to humans, and can be observed from a safe distance on guided treks from the park headquarters. And, as the name of Africa’s oldest national park would suggest, the views of the Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanic cones rearing up through the Afro-alpine forests aren’t bad, either. In 2017, however, it’ll be possible to stay in style between treks. Wilderness Safaris is opening its first Rwandan lodge, on the cusp of the national park. Bisate Lodge opens in June and features six luxury-hut-style rooms with free-standing baths, generous balconies and decor with a distinct local flavour.
All-inclusive rooms at the Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris cost from $1,400 (Dh5,138) during the dry season. Gorilla-trekking permits, costing $750 (Dh2,752) per person, can be arranged through the lodge. Qatar Airways offers flights to Kigali from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, via Doha, costing from Dh1,390
When you think about Bermuda, apart from the shorts and the Triangle, not much comes to mind. It’s fair to say that Bermuda falls under the radar somewhat, but that’s likely to change between May 26 and June 27 when the tiny North Atlantic island (it’s not in the Caribbean, despite often being lumped in there) becomes the centre of the yachting universe.
It’s the host venue for the 35th America’s Cup, with the races taking part in the Great Sound, the large natural harbour in the south-west of the island. Beyond the sailing, though, Bermuda specialises in colonial heritage – particularly notable at the massive Royal Navy Dockyard complex – and rather spectacular pink-sand beaches. Horseshoe Bay in the south is justifiably the most revered of these.
The Fairmont Southampton has an 18-hole golf course, sprawling spa, beach club and nine on-site restaurants, and is offering rooms for US$803 (Dh2,947) per night during the regatta. Flights from Dubai to Bermuda via New York cost from Dh5,500 with Emirates, code-sharing with JetBlue on the New York to Bermuda leg
From June 1, the Croatian capital of Zagreb becomes the newest spot on the Emirates route map. Weather-wise, it’s also a good time of year to discover the country’s split personality before the July and August tourist onslaught begins. Zagreb belongs to Central Europe, with Habsburg architecture and some excellent modern museums, of which the Museum of Broken Relationships is the most thought-joltingly provocative. The Adriatic Coast, meanwhile, is sun-drenched, beautifully lazy and often gorgeously hip. Dubrovnik, in particular, is full of plush clifftop hotels and Game of Thrones filming locations. Between the two, there are islands that range from laid-back old-school Mediterranean to party HQs.
Kensington Tours offers a customisable 10-day Croatia Explorer package with private guides and four- to five-star accommodation, starting in Zagreb and ending in Dubrovnik. This includes several island stops, kayaking excursions, visits to the World Heritage-listed Diocletian’s Palace in Split and a visit to the mountain-surrounded Plitvice Lakes in the north. Prices start from $4,790 (Dh17,579). Return Emirates flights from Dubai cost from Dh2,860
In Arctic Norway, July is a month where the Sun never really sets. And in the rest of the country, it means extremely long days. With temperatures about as high as they get by Scandinavian standards, it’s the perfect time to cruise up the Norwegian coast, dipping into several fjords on the way. Crystal Cruises sends the Crystal Symphony up into the Arctic on an 18-month high-end voyage in July, with the excursions on offer including the precipitously steep journey on the Flåm railway line into the mountains. There are also opportunities to go kayaking from Bergen, take on a husky ride from Tromsø and bounce along the fjords on a Rib boat in several destinations. The high point is reaching the North Cape – supposedly Europe’s most northerly point – but prepare to spend a lot of time staring out of the window and gawping in wonder.
The 18-night North Cape Discovery cruise on the Crystal Symphony with Crystal Cruises includes all food and drink, plus butler service while on board. It costs from $8,220 (Dh30,167), starts in Copenhagen and finishes in Antwerp, a short train ride from Brussels. Emirates flights from Dubai going into Copenhagen and out of Brussels, cost from Dh2,750
Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary on July 1, known as Confederation Day. Festivities will kick off around the country, with capital city Ottawa going the whole hog on street parties, concerts and fireworks displays. But the other major eastern cities – attraction-packed Toronto, free-spirited Montreal and historic Québec City – will also be pulling out all the stops.
The long summer evenings at this time of year make it the perfect time to hop among these four cities by train – they’re all on the same line, and just a few hours apart. Independent bookings can be made from Via Rail Canada (viarail.ca), but for more structure TruExperiences Tours runs an 11-day, small-group Eastern Canada Experience tour, which also tags on Niagara Falls and includes stays at premium city-centre hotels. Highlights such as the Hornblower cruise at Niagara Falls, admission to Toronto’s CN Tower and guided tours of all four cities are also included.
Prices for the 11-day Eastern Canada Experience plus Niagara Falls tour from TruExperiences Tours start from $2,887.50 (Dh10,597) per person. Emirates has daily return flights direct to Toronto from Dubai, starting from Dh8,370
July is in the middle of Cambodia’s rainy season, but that means far fewer tourists to share the ancient Angkorian temples with. Temperatures aren’t as fierce as earlier in the year – expect daily averages of 27°C – and rain showers tend to be short and heavy rather than relentless. Plus, Emirates launches the first direct flights from the UAE to Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on July 1. It’s a lovably chaotic city, where the main tourist attractions are related to the country’s dark 20th-century history. Both the Killing Fields, where victims of the Khmer Rouge were murdered, and the Tuol Sleng prison, where they were kept in appalling conditions, are harrowing but eye-opening. Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor, is a 320-kilometre drive away, around Lake Tonlé Sap.
The highly recommended About Asia Travel specialises in tailor-made itineraries, but also offers a 10-day Great Lake Circuit private tour taking in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the charming colonial city of Battambang, staying in five-star or boutique accommodation. Prices start from $2,797 (Dh10,264). Direct flights on Emirates from Dubai to Phnom Penh start on July 1, and cost from Dh3,100
Wyoming, United States
On August 21, a solar eclipse will pass over the United States, starting in Oregon and finishing in South Carolina. The two biggest cities in the path of the totality are St Louis (head to the south side) and Kansas City (head to the north side) in Missouri. The best viewing, however, will be away from the city lights. There is no fail-safe location for good viewing, though, as it’ll all come down to weather conditions. The south-western desert states that traditionally offer the best chance of clear skies are not in the path, so heading slightly north of them is probably the best bet. The southern end of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming fits the bill here. And, even if there’s cloud cover, it’s the perfect time of year to explore the mountain, wildlife and geyser-strewn landscape of the American West.
Most specialist tours are now sold out, though Intrepid Travel still has spaces on its 18-day US Eclipse and Canadian Rockies tour, which will view the eclipse from around Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Also included are natural wonders such as the Craters of the Moon in Idaho and the Glacier National Park in Montana. Prices start from $6,300 (Dh23,121), with return flights on Emirates from Dubai to Seattle costing from Dh7,600
Northern Territory, Australia
The wet season peters out in April or May, and by now the roads and tracks of Australia’s rugged “Top End” are well and truly open. Darwin, the Territorian capital, is an odd mix of outback toughness, bohemian hippy shtick and Asian influences. The Mindil Beach night markets are full of crafts, food stalls and street entertainers, but everything goes quiet for the sunsets, which turn the sky into a blazing canvas of reds and oranges. The Top End’s real appeal is beyond the city, though. Litchfield National Park is all giant termite mounds, waterfalls and swimming holes, while larger neighbour Kakadu offers dramatic floodplains, crocodile-watching cruises and ancient aboriginal rock art at Ubirr and Nourlangie.
Venture North runs a five-day, small-group, four-wheel-drive tour of Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land and the Cobourg Peninsula starting from 3,290 Australian dollars (Dh9,113). Accommodation is in boutique camps, while waterfall swims, indigenous cultural experiences and wildlife-watching detours are thrown in. Singapore Airlines flies to Darwin from Dubai via Singapore, with prices starting from Dh4,410
While the rest of the Gulf roasts, the Khareef monsoon season in southern Oman brings much-needed sprinklings of rain, plus cooler temperatures. August sees relatively mild average daily temperatures of approximately 25°C. Banana plantations, water-filled wadis, dainty waterfalls and the Land of Frankincense Museum are among the attractions for those who want to venture out, but the new Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara offers ample excuse for hotel-based R&R. There’s a temperature-controlled outdoor infinity pool, diving centre, a spa with a hammam, and three restaurants including a specialist South East Asian option.
Sea-view rooms at the recently opened Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara cost from Dh1,107 per night. The other option here is the Salalah Rotana Resort, a 400-room, five-star joint that’s now Oman’s largest free-standing hotel. The sprawling new property is interlaced with man-made waterways. Rooms start from Dh917. FlyDubai flies direct from Dubai to Salalah, starting from Dh1,060 return
Now firmly into the South Pacific’s (relatively) dry season, September is a fine time to live out those castaway island fantasies. Island-hopping yacht charters are one option, but the newly opened Kokomo Island fits the bill for completely getting away from it all in shamelessly lazy luxury. The private island resort is part of the Kadavu Archipelago and is surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef – the fourth largest in the world and widely recognised as one of the best sailing, diving and snorkelling destinations with gorgeous coral gardens. Venture a little farther to encounter turtles, swim with manta rays or admire the whales. Arrivals are either by seaplane or helicopter from Nadi International Airport. The resort boasts a white-sand beach, which is surprisingly rare in Fiji, and every suite comes with a private pool.
A week’s stay at the Kokomo private island resort costs from $13,446 (Dh49,346), and Padi dive courses are available for an extra fee. Flights to Nadi International Airport in Fiji cost from Dh6,120 from Abu Dhabi with Etihad, with a Virgin Australia Airlines code-share from Sydney
The Bavarian Alps
The snow maybe a few months away yet, but for those equipped with hiking boots rather than skis, September offers near-perfect conditions for exploring the mountains between Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria. In between stints on foot, there’s the chance to take the novelty steam-powered cog railway from St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut to the summit of the Schafberg mountain. Once up there, you can admire the surrounding waters of Wolfgangsee Lake and the Dachstein glacier. Explore Mondsee in Austria’s Vöcklabruck district; the pretty lakeside town houses the medieval Mondsee Abbey, which was the filming location of the wedding scene in The Sound of Music. Other things to do include cable-car rides that cut out much of the onerous uphill hiking and boat rides that head across glacier lakes.
Butterfield & Robinson runs a six-day walking holiday, suitable for beginners, that takes in many of the region’s highlights. The tour includes stays in the area’s most lavish hotels, and finishes things off with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Prices start from €4,875 (Dh18,866), with return flights on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Munich costing from Dh3,390
The Ruaha National Park is the rather underrated sibling of Tanzania’s better known Serengeti and Ngorongoro areas. Located 500 kilometres and a short flight away from Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Ruaha is the largest game reserve in the country. It’s in a transitional zone, which means it pulls in an unusually large variety of antelope and birdlife, but the real stars are the prevalent big cats. Cheetahs and leopards are in abundance, while lions can be spotted in prides of 20 or more. September is near the end of the dry season, which means the bush has thinned out and water is more scarce – thus the wildlife tends to congregate around the remaining watering holes, making the animals easier to spot.
Jabali Ridge by Asilia, the first luxury lodge in Ruaha National Park, opens in September. With an elevated position, infinity pool and tents so kitted-out that you’d be hard pushed to notice they’re tents, rates start from $750 (Dh2,752), including game drives. Direct return flights on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Dar es Salaam cost from Dh1,700
Updated: May 21, 2017 04:00 AM