Looking for holiday options that will create memories you won’t forget?
If we were to heed the saying “we only live once”, we would do well to embark on the craziest, most surreal, and possibly once-in-a-lifetime journeys available. From heading into space to deep caves with glowing worms, here’s to making memories from a place that’s out of this world.
If space is the final frontier, us mere mortals may be able to conquer it (or at least be in it) soon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA, announced in June 2019 that they will be opening up the International Space Station (ISS) to tourism, with the first mission as early as next year. NASA has contracted Boeing and SpaceX to handle these trips. With the famed Elon Musk helming SpaceX, the rocket company he founded, hopefully future space travellers won’t have to worry too much about safety. What about the cost? While NASA hasn’t revealed how much it’ll take to bounce around in space for a holiday, we can draw some estimates from the US$22,500-a-day expense used for supplies such as food and air, and US$11,250 for daily toilet services. So no, it’s not going to be cheap. But if you can afford it for your honeymoon, you’ll really come close to giving your loved one the stars and the moon.
What’s more magical than the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle? Located in Bavaria, Germany, the ancient keep, known as Neuschwanstein Castle, is one of the most famous attractions in the world. But that’s not all. It stands amid an extremely scenic setting of the Alps and idyllic villages. Did you know Hitler’s famed holiday retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, is also in Bavaria, perched on top of the Bavarian mountains? With German beer, sausages, ski resorts and endless medieval history and architecture, this place truly has something for everyone.
If you’ve seen James Cameron’s Avatar, you’ll remember the extraordinary jagged mountainous landscape, which was inspired by the pillars of sandstone rock in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in northwest China. The national park, China’s first, is so large it requires two to three days to explore fully. Also in the park are other natural wonders such as the Spirit Soldier’s Gathering, a cluster of 48 rocky towers standing in formation, as well as the tranquil Gold Whip Stream and the world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge, suspended between two mountains. Needless to say, this is a photographer’s dream as there is breathtaking scenery at every turn. If you like hiking amid an otherworldly landscape, this is the place to go.
A must-see for Lord of the Rings fans, the home of the Hobbits in New Zealand is famous around the world. Nestled in the gentle and lush prairies of New Zealand’s North Island, the Hobbiton movie set was a significant location used for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film series. It is mainly served by guided tours, which will cover every aspect of this magical place. The most famous attraction is of course the hobbit holes, which might just inspire you to design your own home to match its warm and comfortable interior. Food plays a big part of a hobbit’s life, and cafes like the Green Dragon inn, a replica of the alehouse seen in the movies, offers delectable sandwiches and special brews. You can also learn about the history of how the set of Shire was built while being driven through the picturesque landscape.
This underrated part of southeastern Europe looks like it had been plucked out of a fairy tale. With cobbled streets, old stone buildings and meandering rivers, this is the place to go to immerse yourself in fascinating Ottoman architecture. Start with Sarajevo, the capital, which is one of the most intriguing cities in Europe. East meets West as Catholic cathedrals, Orthodox cathedrals, mosques and synagogues appear with every dozen steps or so that you take. Located in a narrow and long valley with surrounding mountains, Sarajevo is also called the city of sunsets. When you’re done, venture to Mostar, Bosnia’s best-known city. Old bridges criss-cross turquoise waters, while its famous Blagaj Tekija Monaster, which was built by monks in the 16th century, sits at the base of a cliff in a small village. The latter is a gorgeous sight, with elements of Ottoman architecture as well as Mediterranean style. For somewhere truly romantic and with a distinct “old Europe” vibe, Bosnia is hard to beat.
This mysterious kingdom came to fame for being one of the happiest and most peaceful places on Earth, and its sheer beauty might be why. Situated in the Himalayas, the small and predominantly Buddhist nation is filled with massive monasteries and covered in lush forests and majestic peaks. Be sure to try your hand at archery, the national sport, and visit the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, the temple built on a cliff-face. Trekking is also a must-do, because Bhutan is free from the crowds that plague Nepal. The only drawback? Tourists must pay US$250 per day during high season and US$200 in low season. So be sure to pack your itinerary to make the trip worthwhile.
Some say the word “fairy” originated in Scotland, and no wonder; its name means “cloud island” in Old Norse and the location is filled with mysterious moors, jagged mountain peaks, deep lochs, and staggering sea cliffs. For outdoor activities, start with camping along the Sligachan Old Bridge and waking up to the Black Cuillin mountains and endless, rolling fields. Then there is the famed Fairy Pools of Glenbrittle, which feature multiple waterfalls in vivid hues of blue and green. Wildlife lovers will have much to see, with scores of deer, rabbits and sheep roaming free. While having no shortage of natural beauty, the Isle of Skye also has many world-class restaurants such as the Edinbane Lodge Restaurant and Loch Bay Restaurant. For delicious Scottish fare, visit The Ferry Inn and Ellishadder Art Cafe.
Often likened to “the valley of the moon”, this dramatic landscape of sandstone mountains and Martian-red sand will make you feel like you’re on another planet. The largest valley in Jordan is also ancient, having been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times. Wadi Rum offers adventures such as trekking. camel safaris and camping. Guided tours are the best way to explore this exacting environment, through which one can visit the Dead Sea and local villages for food. In a nutshell, Wadi Rum feels elemental and raw, and is perfect for a serious adventurer in need of the kind of solitude provided by vast deserts. No surprise that the Academy Award-nominated movie The Martian was filmed here.
Volcanoes around the world are revered for their destructive power and majesty but Mount Bromo is often described to be in a league of its own. Sitting in a plain called the “Sea of Sand”, one can reach the active volcano from the nearby mountain village of Cemoro Lawang by walking for 45 minutes or via a guided tour. Either way, be prepared to be astounded by the sheer majesty of the Bromo, the surrounding mountains and a titanic stretch of crater that surrounds them. Be sure to catch the sunrise from the nearby Mount Penanjakan, and prep your cameras for not just Bromo but also the vast desert-like sands. Other activities include horse riding and having tea in the restaurants and cafes that also offer great views.
Nothing says otherworldly more than luminescent worms hanging from a limestone cave while you look up from a boat in a river. Waitomo, derived from the Maori words for “water” and “hole in the ground”, can be explored either via walking or a guided boat tour. Either way, in the immersive darkness of the cave, the wonders of the glowing worms will touch you like a shooting star. If you’re feeling up to it, there are tours that include abseiling, climbing and water-rafting.
By Weetee Neu, October 2019 / Updated November 2019