Flight Centre reveals the best holidays for culture vultures and food lovers
We were delighted to sponsor this award because, at Flight Centre, we pride ourselves on delivering amazing travel experiences. Whether you want to go whale watching off the South African coast, or learn how to make roti in a traditional Sri Lankan village home, our consultants, together with the Flight Centre Concierge team, can make it happen. Be sure to ask our Travel Experts about adding an authentic cultural experience to your next holiday. Or maybe you prefer more of an adventure? Either way, we’ll tailor your holiday to suit you perfectly. Here are some of our favourite experiences from around the world for inspiration – and to suit all budgets.
Marvel at Halong Bay from above
Hop on a belching, spluttering motorbike and make your way from the frenetic streets of Hanoi, through terraced rice paddies and towards the sci-fi-like scenery of Halong Bay. Next, board a seaplane over the limestone formations rising from the turquoise water. The view is totally different from that offered by the wooden junk boats that pepper the waterways below. Lose yourself in vistas of dramatic caves, deep valleys and more than 2,000 islets carpeted in lush green. Finish up with steaming bowls of pho washed down with Saigon beer.
Thai elephant encounters
Located three hours’ drive north of Krabi, in Khao Sok National Park, part of southern Thailand’s largest stretch of primary rainforest, Elephant Hills is touted as one of the few places in southern Thailand that practises ethical elephant interactions. It is also regarded as the country’s first luxury tented camp, inspired by the African safari experience. You’ll get to feed and bathe these gentle giants – but be prepared to get a hose down from their trunks in return.
Paddleboard yoga Down Under
Queensland’s Noosa is the paddleboard capital of the world and its river is most beautiful at sunrise. If staying upright isn’t enough of a challenge, how about a spot of yoga as you float? Our Travel Experts can arrange for you to join a Luxe Escapes class, held in secluded mangrove channels just a short paddle from the resort town’s lively centre – and yet a million miles away. Namaste.
Bali island hop by speedboat
Skipping along the azure waters of the Bali Sea aboard a speedboat might feel like you’re on the set of a James Bond film. As the white sands of Gili Trawangan approach, a traditional cidomo horse and cart awaits to transport you onwards – there are no motorised vehicles on the three Gili Islands, so it’s a case of foot, pedal or horsepower. After time spent snorkelling and relaxing on the beach – coconut in hand – hop aboard a seaplane to Lombok, where you’ll trek through rice paddies and swaying reeds to Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep waterfalls.
Safari through the Masai Mara
The wildebeest migration has good claim to be the greatest journey on earth. Stampeding over the red-hot dirt of the Masai Mara, 1.5 million wildebeest are joined by herds of zebra and gazelle and pursued by hungry predators. It’s easy to see why it’s such an impressive spectacle. This occurs throughout the year as the animals seek out fresh water and grazing, and our guides can take you to the best spots to see it. Hang on tight to the roll bars, hold your camera close and keep an eye out for lions, leopards, elephants, rhino and buffalo.
Float on Kerala backwaters
Flamboyant Kettuvallam houseboats have been using these tranquil Kerala waterways to transport spices, tea and cashews since 3,000 BC. The pace of life is still slow, and the canals still fringed with lush palms, but these days the boats are luxuriously decorated and come with a chef. You’ll pass sleepy port villages, be dazzled by ornate temples and feast on coconut and fish curry accompanied by a shot of sweet, fiery homemade liquor.
Turn rice into roti in Sri Lanka
What do we really mean by authentic experiences? Well, let your dedicated driver and guide on one of our Sri Lankan Journeys take you on a boat tour to a traditional village. You’ll be invited into a thatched, mud-walled home where your welcoming host will show you how to pound, shake and grind rice into flour. Watch as that flour is turned into roti and enjoy this traditional bread with delicious sambal, freshly prepared with onion, chilli and coconut grated straight from the shell.
Take a chopper to a live volcano
White Island off the coast of Rotorua is one of the only places in the world where you can land on an active volcano. And approaching the hissing behemoth from above is the best way to see it. After cruising over open water, you’ll circle the lunar landscape of Whakaari (its Maori name) before touching down, navigating blistering fumaroles – vibrant sulphur formations splattered across the lava-covered ground – and striding up the scarred hillside that encases the colossal steaming crater itself.
Cruise coast to coast USA
You’ll need three weeks for the ultimate in road trips, from Los Angeles to New York in an RV with Cruise America. Stick to the quieter two-lane highways like Route 66, stopping at roadside diners for indecently large portions of ribs, steaks and stacks of maple syrup-soaked pancakes. Roll through dusty towns where cowboys still rule the range, hear the clang of church bells in the Midwest, photograph cacti in the Arizona desert, and let the bright lights of Manhattan beckon you forth as you near the East Coast.
White-water rafting in Patagonia
Buckle up as you surge through narrow passes, chutes, falls and rapids against a backdrop of towering mountains, lush canopies, granite gorges and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Chilean rainforest. This epic experience takes place on the glacially cold Futaleufú River. You’ll paddle for up to three hours a day before relaxing in the comfort of a luxury tent each evening.
Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
The best ways to spot wildlife and take in Canada’s epic topography are by foot, car or rail. Enter the Rocky Mountaineer, a world-renowned luxurious train that whisks you through the majestic Rockies. Choose one of four scenic routes, each rich in history and natural wonders – or combine two or three for the ultimate experience. Gazing through the glass-domed roof, you feel as though you’re inside the canyons, waterfalls and mountains. Add exemplary service and dining, and you’re on to a winner.