x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Where to Go When: Summer season

From Vietnam's Halong Bay to the Dominican Republic, Killian Fox picks the top destinations to visit over the next few months.

Halong Bay, Vietnam. Getty Images / Gallo Images
Halong Bay, Vietnam. Getty Images / Gallo Images

May

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Praised for centuries by Vietnamese poets and scholars as one of Earth's great wonders, Halong Bay, in the north-east of the country, has been formally appreciated by admirers from all over the world. In November, the Swiss foundation New7Wonders announced the results of a global poll and provisionally named Halong Bay one of the "new seven wonders of nature".

You can see why so many people voted for it. The bay is truly spectacular, its placid waters dotted with limestone islets and pillars of rock - nearly 2,000 in total - rising dramatically towards the sky. While these are the features that make the bay instantly recognisable, it also boasts golden beaches, caves, mangrove forests and colourful coral reefs. Tourism is on the increase, but the bay's status as a Unesco World Heritage Site means that development here is kept to a minimum, and visitors should be able to continue praising its wonders for centuries to come.

Cooking holiday in Puglia

Instead of carting back souvenirs from your holidays this year, why not return home with an authentic skill that you can use to recreate the flavours of your time away? GoLearnTo.com organises holidays around learning experiences: yoga classes in Portugal, horse riding in France, photography courses in Morocco.

One particularly mouth-watering prospect is the company's organic cookery holiday in the heart of Puglia, one of Italy's greatest culinary regions. The eight-day course, beginning on May 4, centres around an airy, rustic kitchen where local cooks Maria and Zina teach you how to make classic Italian dishes such as lasagne and tiramisu, as well as Pugliese specialities such as orchiette pasta and fave e cicorie. You'll also have a chance to see where the food comes from, tour the school's farmland and local producers, and explore the surrounding area - highlights include the walled city of Martina Franca and Polignano, a cliffside town where you can dine inside a cave.

An eight-day cookery trip to Puglia (www.golearnto.com; 00 44 845 625 0445) costs £1,095 (Dh6,377) per person, full board, including tuition, excursions, transfers and taxes. International airfare not included.

 

June

Bulgari Hotel & Spa, London, June 12

This June, the UK enters celebratory mode: the Queen's Diamond Jubilee will be marked at the beginning of the month by a long weekend of festivities, including a pageant of a thousand boats on the Thames and a concert for 10,000 people at Buckingham Palace.

Just up the road from the palace, in the swanky Knightsbridge neighbourhood, there is another cause for celebration. On June 12, the Italian luxury goods retailer Bulgari will open a hotel and spa - its third so far - overlooking Hyde Park. The first new luxury hotel built from scratch in London in more than 40 years, it will feature 85 rooms and suites and a 2,000-sq-m spa and fitness centre over two floors, with a 25m indoor pool. The Italian-themed restaurant will be overseen by Robbie Pepin, formerly of Alain Ducasse's La Trattoria restaurant in Monaco, and there will also be a large ballroom and a private cinema. Jubilee aside, it's the most exciting reason to spend a few nights in London this June.

Double rooms at Bulgari Hotel and Spa (www.bulgarihotels.com; 00 44 207 151 1010) cost from £600 (Dh3,497) per night, including taxes.

UEFA Euro 2012 football tournament in Poland and Ukraine

If you're a football fan, the foremost reason to travel to Poland or Ukraine this summer is to catch the UEFA European Championships, kicking off on June 8 in Warsaw and finishing with fireworks in Kiev on July 1. Sixteen European nations take part, with fixtures divided between eight cities in Poland and Ukraine, giving fans a chance to experience what these two fascinating countries have to offer.

Warsaw is an obvious attraction in Poland but matches will also draw attention to less-explored cities, such as Gdansk, a Hanseatic port town that has enjoyed restoration in recent years; and Wroclaw, known as the "Venice of the North". In the Ukraine, host cities include Lviv, a cultural hot spot in the west of the country. Expect cultural excitement to match the drama on the pitch.

Euro 2012 tickets are available from www.uefa.com.

Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, Abu Dhabi

Absolutely no expense has been spared on this new opulent five-star hotel and spa, which forms part of a larger marina development overlooking Abu Dhabi's Eastern Mangroves district.

Opening in mid-June, the hotel offers 222 rooms and suites, a ballroom for up to 350 guests and a rooftop terrace with a 10m swimming pool. Not only does it boast the largest VIP suite in the region (the Royal Mangroves Residence), the hotel's spa also contains a 132-sq-m hammam, the largest in the UAE. Interconnecting rooms are available on every floor, making it perfect for families, and there is a ladies-only gym.

The design is modern Arabic - archways, mashrabiyas, intricate mosaics - with a trace of Thai elegance, courtesy of the luxury hotel group Anantara (it took over the management of the hotel in early 2010 after Banyan Tree pulled out). The hotel's signature restaurant, Pachaylen, means "mangrove" in Thai.

Double rooms at Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara (http://abu-dhabi.anantara.com/; 02 656 1000) cost from Dh1,100 per night, including taxes.

Early Dürer exhibition, Nuremberg

Usually regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) excelled as a mathematician, as well as a masterful painter, engraver and print maker: a true Renaissance man.

From May 24 to September 2, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, where Dürer was born and spent much of his working life, is showing the largest collection of his art in 40 years.

The focus is on Dürer's early work, and the exhibition, featuring a total of 120 items, including portraits of his parents and his woodcut, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, will aim to show his artistic development in the context of his time and the city he lived in. Half a millennium on, Nuremberg is an atmospheric city full of medieval buildings and picturesque streets. Part of the old walls, dating back to the 14th century, are still intact, and the Kaiser Castle, one of the largest medieval castles in Germany, towers dramatically over the city (http://der-fruehe-duerer.gnm.de/).

 

July

London Olympics, July 27 to August 12

Since its bid to host the Games was accepted in 2005, London has been steadily building up to the 2012 Olympics. Now that the year has finally arrived, excitement in the capital is approaching fever pitch. The Olympic Park in East London is nearly complete and new hotels have been cropping up to cater for the estimated four million people descending on London in July and August.

The opening ceremony on July 27, masterminded by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, will usher in three weeks of sports performed at the very highest level. Even if you weren't lucky enough to snag tickets, it will be well worth spending time in the city to soak up the festive atmosphere and check out the multitude of other events going on at the same time.

Running in tandem with the Games, the London 2012 Festival (June 21 to September 9) will showcase the best in dance, music, theatre, visual arts and film in venues across the city.

For details about London events, visit http://www.london2012.com.

Genghis Khan warrior-training camp in Mongolia

It's not often you go on holiday and tell people upon your return that you learnt how to shoot an arrow while out riding or light several campfires in quick succession to confuse your enemy at night.

These are only two of the esoteric skills to be picked up on the nine-day Genghis Khan warrior-training camp in Mongolia with Responsible Travel. Other skills include lassoing horses and cooking out on the open Mongolian grasslands, where the fearsome 13th-century emperor and his hordes once roamed.

Beginning and ending in the capital, Ulan Bator, the trip also includes three days of riding, during which visits are paid to nomadic families whose lifestyles haven't changed much since Genghis's day. Nights are spent in gers (tents), and warriors get to dress up in full costume. The trip departs on July 1, making the most of Mongolia's short summer season.

The nine-day camp (www.responsibletravel.com; 00 44 1273 600030) costs from £2,150 (Dh12,531) per person. International airfare not included.

Primate watching in Borneo

Of the estimated 27,000 orang-utans living in the wild, 22,000 live on the island of Borneo. Their name means "man of the forest" in Malay - they are the largest tree-climbing animals in the world - but you don't necessarily have to go deep into the jungle to catch sight of one these magnificent endangered creatures.

The Shangri-La Rasa Ria, a luxury beachside resort in Sabah, in the north of the island, boasts a nature reserve with its own orang-utan sanctuary, the only one of its kind in the region, where you can help rangers look after baby orang-utans. There's also a chance of seeing proboscis monkeys, gibbons and monitor lizards in the surrounding rainforests.

Meanwhile, on the beach, a variety of sports are available, including jet-skiing, kayaking and windsurfing. July, when there is less chance of rain, is the best time to go.

Double rooms at Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort (www.shangri-la.com; 00 60 88 792 888) cost from 870 Malaysian ringgit (Dh1,041) per night, including taxes.

 

August

High-altitude golf at Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Crans-Montana, high above the Rhône Valley in western Switzerland, is gaining a reputation as a must-visit ski resort, thanks to its après-ski attractions - Michelin-starred restaurants, five-star hotels, more than 250 upmarket boutiques - and more than 1,600km of downhill slopes.

But skiing isn't the only outdoor activity attracting visitors. The resort also boasts a magnificent 18-hole golf course, one of the highest in the Alps, with views of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Last year the Crans-Sur-Sierre club added a golf training centre that's open all year round, so while others are ploughing down the pistes, you can be perfecting your swing.

Still, the best time to go is in August while the sun is out and the greens are still green - and before the Omega European Masters, one of Europe's largest golf events, tees off on August 30.

A one-day initiation at Golf Club Crans-Sur-Sierre (www.golfcrans.ch; 00 41 27 483 44 97) costs 690 Swiss francs (Dh2,763), including taxes.

Samaná Peninsula, Dominican Republic

The Samaná Peninsula, on the north-east coast of the Dominican Republic, is considered to be the most beautiful part of the island of La Hispaniola (which also encompasses Haiti) - but until now this remote area has been largely untouched by tourism.

Where its fertile green mountains dip to the ocean, there are hidden coves and pristine beaches reachable only on foot or by water. Samaná has been beautifully preserved, with only a few resorts and hotels dotting its coastline, but an international airport recently opened at the base of the peninsula, and a new motorway to the capital, Santo Domingo, look set to bring change.

Visit now before it is transformed by development and stay at the impossibly romantic Peninsula House, a Victorian-style plantation house with wraparound balconies and only six suites. A family-run estate, it contains a collection of art from Africa, Asia and the Middle East built up over generations. The house maintains a low profile, with a hidden entrance and a long dirt drive, but no expense has been spared: you can see why it was a 2011 Grand Award winner in Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report.

Double rooms at the Peninsula House (http://thepeninsulahouse.com/; 001 809-962-7447) cost from US$693 (Dh2,545) per night, including taxes during low season (May to November).

Eat at "the next Noma" in Sao Paulo

In the world of adventurous fine dining, the brightest star of the last few years has been Noma in Copenhagen, arguably the most influential restaurant in the world right now. Head chef Rene Redzepi's practice of foraging for food has sent a generation of young chefs into local woods in search of unusual ingredients.

Over the far side of the world, in Sao Paulo - an Emirates destination - Alex Atala, the culinary wizard at DOM (www.domrestaurante.com.br; 00 55 113 088 0761) has been going on foraging expeditions deep into the Amazon since 1999, when Redzepi was a lowly trainee at El Bulli. His ambition was to bring Brazilian cuisine onto the world stage by celebrating unique ingredients such as manioc tuber, baru nut and the huge white-fleshed pirarucu fish. It appears he's achieving his goal: this year, DOM shot up to number seven on Restaurant magazine's annual list of the world's 100 best restaurants. Tables are limited and demand is high, so make sure you book well in advance if you're thinking of making a pilgrimage.