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With warm, vivid-blue waters, kaleidoscopic underwater scenery and powdery white beaches, the tropical islands of the Indian Ocean are pure paradise – think Robinson Crusoe, with luxurious linens, sun cream and a way to leave, if you can force yourself. Hospitable people, sumptuous hotels and world-class restaurants and spas make them wonderful places for honeymooners, couples and families seeking relaxing beach holidays. From the bustling island of Male to the idyllic, paradisiacal islands of the southern atolls, island hopping by boat or seaplane is a fantastic way to explore. Pick your beach, or even your own island, and let someone else transport you to your own personal corner of nirvana. The islands are easily combined with Africa or Sri Lanka, where you can get a hit of safari or culture (or both) by discovering ancient cities and civilisations and incredible wildlife.
But the Indian Ocean is a destination in itself – the Maldives, composed of 26 coral atolls and hundreds of islands, is one of the world's most popular travel destinations, and is a diving mecca that yields fabulous marine life on practically every descent. Mauritius was once the crossroads of the African and Arabian trade routes and encapsulates a melting pot of cultures. The Seychelles is made up of 115 islands, and you can see everything from tangled jungle (Praslin) to incredible hiking routes (Mahe) and of course, tranquil beaches (everywhere). The Indian Ocean is more than just a beach destination, but the beaches are an ideal place to start.
The Indian Ocean with A&K
It's often dreamed about, but rarely done. Our guest, recently returned from the Maldives, spent two days alone on a pristine paradise island: a tiny coral fringed lagoon around a ring of white sand and splatter of tropical jungle. There were no annoying insects, no humans, just a raised four-poster bed built by a luxury resort with crisp white linen and iced boxes of drinks and snacks, with evening meals delivered by speedboat and served by waiters. 'It was incredible,' he reported. 'Castaway life as imagined by Ralph Lauren.'
It's just one of many extraordinary experiences A&K can arrange for you in the Indian Ocean, from dancing in an underwater nightclub to submarine trips and feeding sting rays. Along with well-established relationships with stunning resorts, we use the very best guides and arrange easy island hopping - flights are rarely more glorious - along with seamless connections with Africa and India.
Whether it's your honeymoon or luxury holiday, travel to the Indian Ocean with Abercrombie & Kent and we'll reveal impossibly perfect white sand, waving palm fronds and exquisite marine life.
The low-lying necklace of the Maldives, straddling the equator, pioneered the over-water villa. Vast emerald lagoons and coral frescoed with multi-coloured blizzards of fish are par for the course, but the expanding range of private island resorts now offer everything from Michelin-starred chefs and underwater spa treatments to tree house villas.
Further south, the Seychelles now boasts superb shabby chic castaway resorts including North Island - Prince William's choice for the royal honeymoon. The flat-topped atolls and lushly forested granite mountains offer heavenly nature - several have their own environmental programmes - including the planet's largest fish, smallest frog and heaviest tortoise.
And don't forget stunning Mauritius. Its wonderful coastline, premium hotels and excellent water sports, come with Hindu temples rising out of the sugar cane, historic tea plantations and fabulous local cuisine.
Even if you don't have your own Robinson Crusoe Island, the Indian Ocean offers an awful lot - and with A&K it's all possible.
Our experts can tailor-make the perfect holiday to suit your individual requirements, however, if you need inspiration or a starting point, below are some of our suggested trips and experiences:
Here's a selection of some recent articles to whet your appetite:
Big Five: Island Escapes
Peter Island Resort & Spa, British Virgin Islands
Mountainous and jungle-cloaked with secluded coves and idyllic beaches, Peter Island has played host to an impressive array of visitors including explorer Christopher Columbus, Hollywood heavyweight Robert De Niro and footballer Rio Ferdinand. Reached only by boat or helicopter, the island began life as a resort in the 1960's and has always maintained a wonderfully laid-back and romantic atmosphere. With world-class diving, delicious private picnics, cooking lessons, horticultural tours and a blissful spa, there are plenty of ways to enjoy island life. We recommend heading to The Loop to watch the sunset whilst tucking into a fruit and cheese platter - delivered to you alongside your tipple of choice.
Constance Tsarabanjina Lodge, Madagascar
Located on a remote islet in the paradisiacal Mitsio Archipelago, Tsarabanjina Lodge combines castaway simplicity with Constance comforts to offer barefoot luxury at its best. Surrounded by vivid-blue waters, kaleidoscopic underwater scenery and powdery white beaches, you can do as little or as much as you like here. Take a trip to meet the lemurs on the nearby island of Nosy Komba, or watch the sun set behind the volcanic Frères islands to a ballet of tropical birds. When you're done with exploring and rejuvenated after a snooze in your private hammock, the beach bar is the place to be. It only closes when you're ready to leave, and the mango martinis are to die for.
Refugia, Chiloé Island, Chile
The largest island of the Chiloé archipelago - until recently one of the most isolated on earth - is a stunning natural wilderness. Rich in folklore, the island is a melting pot of ancient traditions and Hispanic culture, and there are charming little villages, costal treasures and three national parks to explore. Opened in 2012, Rufugia Lodge is the island's first luxury offering- an intimate 12-room gem with dreamy views over the water of Reloncavi Sound and the distant Andes peaks. Stylish yet homely: large glass windows make the most of the views, whilst the restaurant serves up delicious local fare accompanied by fantastic Chilean wines. From unwinding in the outdoor Jacuzzi to penguin safaris, rainforest treks and sailing trips; the experiences you have here are guaranteed to stay with you long after you return home.
Cappella Lodge, Lord Howe Island, Australia
Just two hours from Sydney, Lord Howe Island is one of Australia's best kept secrets. Subtropical, untouched and brimming with rare birds, flora and fauna: the island is a collage of soaring volcanic peaks, turquoise lagoons, lush vegetation and spectacular coral reefs. A real adventure playground, activities include bird-watching, surfing, guided hikes, snorkelling and diving, to name just a few. At the southern end of the island, the nine-suite Cappella Lodge provides a luxurious and eco-friendly base with beach-house chic interiors, a relaxed vibe and top notch contemporary Pacific cuisine. After an action-packed day, book yourself in for the three hour 'Dreaming' package at the Capella Spa - guaranteed to leave you feeling balanced and renewed.
Denis Private Island, Seychelles
With unspoilt surroundings, bags of character and the moto "The island is yours - Do as you will, without disturbing others", Denis Private Island is pure magic. Just half an hour by seaplane from the main island of Mahé, the 25 cottages are hidden among the lush foliage, just yards from the vivid crystalline waters. Spacious and elegant, the cottages offer privacy and comfort aplenty. We love the open-air bathrooms, and with no televisions, mobile phone signal or keys, this really is the place to simply kick back and unwind. A haven for turtles and rare sea birds, the wildlife is also a major draw; don a snorkel and head to the lagoon for encounters with triggerfish, clownfish, parrotfish, pirouetting rays and gliding turtles.
Big Five: Spring Breaks
Famous for its archaeological treasures, lip-smacking food and unmatched zest for life, Mexico is in full swing in Spring: celebrate the Spring Equinox at the spellbinding Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, witness the great Monarch Butterfly migrations in the highlands of Michoacan and tuck in at the Cancun and Riviera Maya Food and Wine Festival. February through to the end of April is also whale-watching season on the wild pacific coast of Baja California. One of the longest peninsulas in the world, here you can see a greater variety of whales and dolphins than anywhere else on the planet.
From the vast open plains of the Serengeti to the snow-dusted peaks of Kilimanjaro and the dazzling white beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania has so much to offer. One of its biggest draws, the wildlife in Tanzania is spectacular; here you'll discover big game, flamingo-filled soda lakes and playful chimps. If you visit in the Spring you'll also find its plains are full of young, as many species - from the big cats to the plains game - give birth before the long rains begin. For the ultimate safari experience, we recommend topping off an exhilarating game drive with a reviving sundowner and a night spent out under the stars at our luxurious mobile camp.
With guaranteed warmth, a captivating culture and spellbinding landscapes, Morocco has all the appeal of an exotic location and yet is just a short-haul flight away. Arguably at its best in the Spring when the country is lush and green, and temperatures are comfortable, there is plenty to tempt you here from bustling cities to remote desert landscapes and the windswept Atlantic coast. Spring in the Atlas Mountains is particularly pretty, as the hills and valleys come into bloom against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Fabulous mountain retreats and guest houses provide comfort and relaxation, and you can stroll through the valleys and explore traditional Berber villages.
Although the Spring may not be the peak time to visit Cambodia weather-wise, the 'rainy season' is rarely as dramatic as it sounds. It generally means a tropical shower in the morning, clearing the air ahead of a glorious day on the beach or late afternoon - a perfect time to visit the spa. Hotel rates are often much lower and the crowds that descend on the country from December-February are long gone, leaving you to explore the countries mesmerising temples, relaxed leafy cities and a whole host of gorgeous, unspoilt islands in relative solitude. Experience castaway luxury at its best at Song Saa- Cambodia's first private island resort.
So much more than a beach destination, Turkey has stunning landscapes, a magnificent coastline, classical cities and an intriguing and unique culture. In Spring, the climate is pleasant enough to enjoy both the cities and the coast, and the landscape comes alive with flowers. A proud, historic city and Turkey's cultural capital, Istanbul is one of our favourite European cities, where time can be spent wandering the many districts, sharing delicious meze dishes and haggling with the sellers at the Grand Bazaar before an evening cruise to the 12th Century Maiden's Tower aboard a traditional kayak.
Big Five: Foodie Hotspots
It's hard to imagine a visit to Italy which doesn't involve indulgence. For the Italians, enjoyment of good food is simply a way of life. The principle of Italian cuisine is actually quite simple: fresh, natural ingredients prepared simply and with care. There are abundant food and wine-related activities on offer in the country. Some of our personal favourites are pizzamaking lessons in Rome, heading into the Tuscan woods in search of truffles and porcini mushrooms - and then preparing them with a local chef - and visiting wineries and olive oil producers for a glimpse into how the country's high quality produce is made.
Food is something of an obsession in Japan, and the cuisine is considered one of the finest and most unique in the world. The focus is on the freshest of ingredients and a delicate balance of flavours and textures. At high-end restaurants, food is elevated to an art form and is complex and technical yet tastes clean and fresh. At street level you can enjoy delicious yakitori grilled meats and bottled beer whilst sitting on makeshift benches. The cities of Tokyo and Kyoto are the best places to enjoy cooking courses, which we can easily arrange for you.
Home to around 50 of the best restaurants in the world, South Africa is no less than a foodie paradise. The South Africans have exacting standards, and the land produces an enviable bounty of delicious, quality produce which lends itself to fantastic and inventive cuisine. Private bush dinners prepared by your own personal chef come as standard, and there are innumerable Michelin starred restaurants and unique dining experiences to be had, not to mention private tours at some of the world's best wine estates. Le Quartier Francais, an exclusive boutique hotel situated in the heart of the Franschoek Valley, offers excellent cookery classes.
From sizzling street food to home cooked dishes and the finest royal cuisine, Vietnam's food is unfailingly delicious. Food is an integral part of everyday life in Vietnam, so much so that a famous proverb dictates that people should 'learn to eat before learning to speak'. Since good food is such an important part of a visit to Vietnam, we have designed a culinary tour to get you right to the heart of the nation's cuisine, offering the chance to explore local markets, learn about street food and enjoy cookery lessons with expert chefs and local families.
Forget all you think you know about Mexican food. The country has an incredibly varied and delicious cuisine, which displays indelible Aztec, Mayan and Spanish influences, as well as many more. The country's food varies from the most meticulous haute cuisine to weird and wonderful street food. The Oaxaca region is especially good for regional specialities, and you can enjoy a delicious meal courtesy of famous chef Alejandro Ruiz at Casa Oaxaca - featured in Thomasina Miers' 'Mexican Food Made Easy'. In the Colonial Heartlands, head to San Miguel de Allende and enjoy a lesson at the fantastic Sazon Cooking School.
Big, bold and beautiful: Welcome to North America
Vast, both geographically and culturally, North America is a place the just keeps on giving. Whether it's bear spotting in British Columbia, surf lessons in Santa Monica or sampling food pods in Portland, the United States and Canada offer more gob-smacking, jaw-dropping and thoroughly mind-blowing experiences than anywhere else on the planet.
THE PLACE TO BE
California's calling. Miles of golden sand and surf; laid-back, quirky cities from San Francisco to San Diego with the glamour of Los Angeles in between; the majesty of Yosemite, the wines of the Napa Valley…the Golden State has pretty much everything, and all on a grand scale. This really is the place to 'dream big'.
Off-the-beaten-path Oregon is one of our favourite states. Miles of rugged Pacific Coast, bordered by lush temperate rainforest makes it brilliant for leisurely coastal touring. Throw in the laidback city of Portland and wrap it all up in delicious local wines from the Dundee Hills, organic farm-to-fork food to make your mouth water, and humorous, charismatic people.
The birthplace of America is filled with rich history, cultural attractions, fascinating cities, scenic villages and outdoor adventures. The six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont are renowned for their vibrant Autumn colours, but whatever the season, New England is a beauty.
The raw nature of Alaska is overwhelming. This vast state, once part of Russia, is home to towering mountain ranges, thick forests, mighty rivers, open tundra and tumbling glaciers. Wildlife viewing is amongst the best on the planet; from the brown bears of Brooks Falls to the whale watching of Glacier Bay.
Home to five national parks, Utah represents the best of the Desert Southwest. Nowhere else on earth offers landscapes as stark yet beautiful or as dramatic yet intimate. Our Mighty Five encompasses the iconic Wild West scenery of Monument Valley, the majestic canyons of Zion, the mysterious hoodoo rocks of Bryce, the white water rapids of Canyonlands and the natural bridges of Arches National Park.
Howdy Cowboy! They say it's like a Whole Other Country - and it is. The Lone Star state is home to vast open prairies and swaggering stockmen on the one hand - with glitzy Dallas and boho Austin on the other. There are dude ranches galore for the real cowboy experience.
British Columbia, Canada
An intoxicating blend of cosmopolitan and rural; wild and homely; sophisticated and sleepy, BC is a paradox. The towering mountains of the Coastal Ranges, the wilderness of Vancouver Island and the Great Bear Rainforest offer square mile upon mile to explore in splendid isolation, save for the grizzly bears you may see fishing for salmon.
Home of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta is a land of staggering beauty and awe-inspiring wildlife. A land where bears roam free, bison graze in boreal forests, moose amble through spectacular landscapes. From the dizzying mountains through crystal lakes to the open plains of the east, you could easily spend months in this province alone, fishing, walking, riding, ranching.
Set on Widgeon II, a re-purposed crabbing boat which was originally a World War II-era troop carrie, the unique setting of Tutka Bay's cooking school offers inspiration to explore Alaska's regional products such as halibut, salmon and oysters.
Take in the sounds and sights of Austin's historic 6th street. Located within the city's urban core in Downtown Austin, its jam-packed with eclectic bars and an ever changing array of live music spots.
A tranquil and luxurious resort, Amangiri (meaning 'peaceful mountain') is situated on 600 acres in Canyon Point, Southern Utah, close to the border with Arizona. Soak up mesmerising views from your own private deck over the colourful, stratified rock towards the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.
A collage of gemstone lakes, lush valleys, mighty waterfalls and glinting glaciers, Yosemite National Park offers adventure in spades. An early morning start, to avoid the crowds, is well worth the effort.
Tuck into seasonal Canadian cuisine at the Banffshire Club. Located at the Fairmont Banff Spring, famously known as 'The Castle in the Rockies', the hotel's signature dining room uses ingredients sourced from the best local and sustainable producers, farmers and growers. Try the Angus beef tartare with pepper cress and some smoked mustard. Delicious!
Experience the wild and rugged beauty of Canada's west onboard the Rocky Mountaineer. With domed glass windows curving high over your head, the Gold Leaf carriage offers the ultimate opportunity to see much of Canada's natural beauty and wildlife, including eagles, elk and black bears.
The 2014 Hot List
With British Airways now operating direct flights from Heathrow to Santorini and Mykonos from May this year, it's never been easier to discover Greece's captivating islands. The most westerly of the Cyclades, Santorini is associated with the misty tales of Atlantis. With an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, picturesque white-washed villages teetering on the edge of an extinct volcanic caldera, multi-coloured beaches of volcanic sand, and some of the oldest wineries in the world, we can't recommend it enough. Popular all year round, and in full swing during the summer months, the island can be busy but that doesn't take away from its magic.
With small-scale entrepreneurship now permitted in Cuba and the imminent scrapping of its two-currency system, you can feel change in the air all over the island, with an atmosphere that is, for the most part, incredibly positive. Fresh back from a trip there last month, our Latin America Product Manager, Lucinda Paxton, hasn't stopped raving about the food: "As state control over the country's food supply lessens, paladares and restaurants are gaining access to previously hard-to-find ingredients with lip-smacking results. I was amazed by the array of local fresh produce and innovative fusion dishes." When you're not busy discovering Cuba's food revolution for yourself, we recommend shimmying on down to one of the capital's top musical hotspots.
As its neighbour Myanmar continues to attract the crowds, with demand far outstripping supply in the best hotels, Laos, as Laos does best, remains as laid back and tranquil as ever. From kicking back with an ice-cold Beerlao at sunset by the river, in what might just be the world's most unhurried, friendly capital city, Vientiane, to trekking forest-topped mountains inhabited by remote hill tribes in the north, and discovering the cooler climes of the Bolaven Plateau in the south, Laos offers relaxation, culture and adventure in spades. Just make sure you get there before everyone else cottons on.
Straddling Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is home to otherworldly landscapes that to the north hide dinosaur bones and legends of cowboys past, and to the south the mythical granite towers and glinting glaciers of Torres del Paine National Park. If your new year's resolution is to get outdoors and be more active, then Patagonia has your name on it. One of the most remote and beautiful environments in the world, you can trek over glaciers, gallop over vast grassy plains, kayak across turquoise glacial lakes and revel in splendid isolation. It is also rich in wildlife and birdlife, so you are likely to spot condors, penguins, wild guanaco and even pumas, to name just a few.
A mesmerising mix of rich culture, welcoming people and staggeringly beautiful landscapes, Ethiopia tourism is set to sky-rocket over the next few years with a boom in small hotels and restaurants. From the ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibela to pristine national parks, and the buzzing restaurant and nightlife scene of its capital Addis Ababa, travel here is as rewarding as it is surprising. Located in Bale National park, the newly opened Bale Mountain Lodge is one of the country's first luxury wilderness lodges. The surrounding area is home to myriad rare species, including Ethiopian Wolves, and offers fantastic trekking opportunities. We'd recommend combining a stay with a visit to the tribes of the remote Omo River Valley, one of Africa's-and the world's-last great undiscovered places.
Big Five: Detox Destinations
Body Holiday, St Lucia
The Body Holiday is based on the principles of relaxation, restorative beauty, exercise and good diet - a holistic approach aimed at helping you feel refreshed and rejuvenated by the time you leave. The resort is set on a private cove in the north west of the island and has excellent facilities including an award-winning Wellness Centre. Treatments range from massages and facials to courses of Ayurvedic treatment, Reiki and sleep restoration.
Ananda in the Himalayas, India
Where better to cleanse body and mind than in the beautiful Himalayan foothills, on the banks of India's holy Ganges River? At Ananda, you can relax and rejuvenate surrounded by mountains and ancient sal forests. Inside the historic viceregal palace lies one of the world's leading spa hotels, where staff and facilities are dedicated to your wellbeing.
Txai Itacaré, Brazil
In this vast and beautiful country, it is easy to feel at one with nature. Txai Itacaré nestles amidst coconut groves and rainforest,looking out over a deserted beach on Brazil's undeveloped Cacao Coast. A rustic, ecofriendly resort with just 40 rooms, Txai places an emphasis on achieving harmony between man and nature - there are no TVs in the bungalows, and many of the spa treatments are derived from natural produce from the surrounding and plentiful Bahia region.
SHA Wellness Clinic, Spain
SHA was designed by prestigious Uruguayan architect Carlos Gilardi and prize-winning European designer Elvira Blanco Montenegro. Positioned on a beautiful mountainside overlooking the sea in the agreeably warm Valencia region, this pioneering hotel-cum clinic takes the idea of a spa retreat to thenext level. SHA aims to improve wellbeing with a combination of modern macrobiotic nutrition, natural therapies and a dynamic and practical education programme.
Como Shambhala Estate, Bali
De-stress and detox at Bali's revered spa resort, where resident experts including a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic doctor and nutritionist will assist you in your quest to get healthy. Built into jungle clearings above the Ayung River, beautiful Balinese residences and communal areas are surrounded by dense tropical gardens in Bali's serene rural heartland, near the arty hub of Ubud. The Como Shambhala philosophy is of proactive holistic wellness. Their vision encompasses healthy eating, exercise and self-development, including adventure and cultural discovery.
Big Five: Romantic Getaways
Here are just five of our favourite romantic getaways, guaranteed to awaken the senses, set the pulse racing and provide peace, privacy and special attention.
1. Vietnam >
Between its mountains, beaches, booming cities and cultural diversity, you're bound to find something that tempts you in Vietnam. Southeast of Hanoi is the remarkable natural wonder of Halong Bay, where the mystical limestone rock formations - which legend tells were formed by a dragon's breath - form a beautiful backdrop to a romantic overnight cruise on a traditional wooden junk. The southern highlights include the buzzing and cosmopolitan city of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon). Wide boulevards and French colonial buildings house world famous restaurants, designer boutiques and energetic nightlife.
2. Rajasthan, India >
India offers beautiful architecture, stunning landscapes, vibrant colours, varied art, dance and music, and delicious food. There is no better place to experience the romance of the country than Rajasthan, which practically drips with beauty. Head to the 'City of Lakes', Udaipur, which has a wonderfully romantic setting, and perhaps even treat yourself to a night at Taj Lake Palace which appears to float in the middle of Lake Pichola.
3. African Safari >
We think that the experience of seeing Africa's incredible wildlife in the surroundings of some of the world's best safari lodges and camps is romantic in itself. Our highly experienced guides can organise mobile camping in some of the most incredible and remote wildlife spots on earth, such as the Ngorongoro Crater. Sky beds also enable you to sleep out under the stars in the bush, an experience which may provide you with your very own private wildlife encounter.
4. St Petersburg, Russia >
For a spot of winter romance, why not head to deepest Russia, wrap up warm and explore one of Europe's most historic and cultural cities. Beautiful buildings in various shades - from pastels to deep hues - adorned with gold design provide a backdrop to the city. An important cultural centre throughout history, today you can enjoy everything from wandering around The Hermitage art museum - one of Europe's best - to world-class ballet or simply browsing the flea markets for art pieces.
5. Buenos Aires, Argentina >
The achingly cool and sleek Argentinian capital is a place where romance is in everything, from music, dance, literature and art to food, wine and architecture. The Argentinians are passionate people with a healthy appetite for the hedonistic side of life. No visit to Buenos Aires is complete without a private tango lesson, which we will be happy to organise. Further afield, you could head to a renowned winery for a private tour, or visit an estancia to enjoy a horse ride through beautiful scenery, privately guided by a local family.
Big Five: Music Hotspots
"Music is the universal language of mankind", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Here we present just five of our favourite musical destinations.
Music is the soul of Cuba and nowhere is it felt more intensely than in its magnificent, crumbling capital. The Caribbean's largest and most vivacious city, salsa, son, merengue, jazz and rumba ooze from every corner of Havana. Shimmy down to the Copa Room or Cabaret Tropicana to experience the pizzazz of a late-night cabaret show, or find your rumba rhythm on the city's streets. Regular rumba spots include Patio de La Rumba in Centro Havana, and the atmospheric and brightly painted alley, Callejón de Hammel. For the best salsa in town head to Club 1830 on a Sunday. Whatever sound you want to move to, our Cuba team know just the place.
The self-dubbed 'Live Music Capital of the World' doesn't disappoint. Music is everywhere in Austin, with indie rock, country, gospel, folk, blues, and even acoustic hip-hop lending it a unique 'Austin sound.' Famed for its ultra-hip live music venues, such as Antone's and Symphony Square, Austin attracts some of the world's best artists. Mostly, however, you'll find Austin musicians at clubs, coffeehouses, bars, and concert halls - not to mention at the airport or supermarket. South by Southwest and City Limits, held in March and October respectively, are two of the city's biggest music festivals, attracting both big names and budding unsigned musicians.
Although a melting pot of different cultures, the sounds and rhythms of Jamaica are unmistakable. The uniqueness and creativity of its music scene was epitomised by the legendary Bob Marley, who took the sound of his generation and turned it into an anthem for freedom in the 60s and 70s. Today, reggae continues to thrive and influence genres the world over. Staged annually in Montego Bay in the third week of July, Sumfest is one of the best reggae festivals in the world, hosting the hottest names in Jamaican music past and present. Other sounds on the island include mento, ska, dub, rocksteady, jazz and dancehall.
The birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music, the beautiful, baroque town of Salzburg is a classical music lover's paradise. Festung Hohensalzburg, the town's 900 year old medieval clifftop fortress, plays host to some of the world's most renowned ensembles and orchestras. With its opulent interiors and far-reaching views over the city's spires, the Salzach River and mountains, it is one of the most atmospheric places to hear Mozart's work today. You can also enjoy sumptuous candlelit dinner concerts in the St Peter Stiftskeller restaurant, where Mozart is performed by the Amadeus Consort Ensemble, dressed in historic costume. Dating back to 803 AD, it is the oldest restaurant in Europe.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
'Strictly' aside, you can't help but be seduced by the powerful rhythms of Tango. Real roots music, the world-famous music and dance genre originated from the immigrant populations of Argentina and Uruguay, before making its way from the brothels of Buenos Aires to Argentina's social elite. Sensuous, powerful and passionate, Tango has gathered strength over the centuries and continues to evolve today. Hit the cosmopolitan streets of Buenos Aires and you will no doubt hear the sounds of Neotango or 'electro tango' floating out of bars, cafes and of course the ubiquitous milongas (tango halls). At La Viruta you can take lessons, watch demonstrations, and test your moves on the open dance floor. If you're lacking confidence, then a couple of the house cocktails should do the trick.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
With cobbled lanes, quaint courtyards and remarkable sea views, the tiny islet of Sveti Stefan was once a fortified village and dates back to the 15th Century. Its rare pink sand beach was a playground for the rich and famous during the 1950s and 60s. Surrounded by ancient cedar and pine forests, and with pristine turquoise waters, this slice of Balkan paradise has since been restored to its former glory with the opening of a sumptuous Aman resort. There are a host of water sports on offer, and if you can bear to tear yourself away from your sun lounger the beautiful surrounding area is well worth exploring.
Pasikudah Bay, Sri Lanka
Having recently opened up to visitors, Sri Lanka's north east coast is home to stunning, palm-fringed, white sand beaches, with sea so calm and clear it's like stepping into a giant bath. Despite having one of the longest stretches of shallow coastline in the world, Pasikudah Bay remains largely untouched. Don a snorkel and you'll find yourself nose-to-nose with the multi-hued tropical fish and intriguing crustaceans of the sun-dappled Indian Ocean. Currently, just a few small boutique hotels are dotted around the bay, and we'd recommend you enjoy them while the area is still quiet and unspoiled.
Seal Bay, Australia
Just 15 kms off the south coast of Australia, Kangaroo Island is a wildlife haven - perfect if you like your beaches a little more rugged. Here you can see pink pelicans wheeling through the sky, sleepy koalas in the trees, and pairs of little penguins making their nightly pilgrimage to the shore in Penneshaw. Wallabies, brush-tailed possums, kangaroos and fur seals also inhabit the island. Although not a swimming beach, Seal Bay is home to Australia's third largest colony of Australian sea lions and offers some of the best beach walks we know of, bringing you up close and personal with these fascinating animals.
Taipus de Fora, Brazil
The Brazilian equivalent of the English expression 'just my cup of tea' is 'é minha praia' or 'that's my beach' - a wonderfully apt expression for a nation famous for its vibrant beach culture. A long sweep of pure white sand, located on the Bahia state Maraú Peninsula, Taipus de Fora is arguably one of Brazil's most magical beaches. With giant coconut palms, natural reef pools, crystal clear waters and a distinct lack of crowds, it's a fantastic place to kick back and relax caipirinha in hand. If you're feeling more adventurous, some of Brazil's best surf is just around the peninsula.
Manafiafy Beach, Madagascar
Renowned for the diversity of its flora and fauna - most of which can be found nowhere else on earth - Madagascar is a nature lover's paradise. With azure blue seas and miles of white sand fringed by lush tropical forest, the remote Manafiafy Beach, located on the south-east coast of the island, offers beachside escapism at its best. Well sheltered, the beach is an excellent spot for swimming and snorkelling. Meet the local fishermen bringing in their catch, explore the inland mangroves by canoe, catch a boat over to the nearby islands for picnic lunches, or take a night walk in the littoral rainforest. From June to November you can also view migrating humpback whales.
Bucking the Trend
We have become used to the notion of when is the best time to go to a particular destination, 'best' being a function of the weather and holiday periods, creating the dreaded 'peak season'. To everyone's frustration, this is when airlines and hotels increase rates and when rooms are in high demand.
If you are able to travel during the shoulder season, or off-peak, our advice is - do so! Crisp snowy winters in Japan, spectacular 'firefalls' in Yosemite National Park, dolphins in Madagascar, and migration river crossings in the Autumn await. The 'rainy season' is rarely as dramatic as it sounds (although we would recommend avoiding the monsoon rains in Southern India or hurricane season in the Caribbean), and the effects of climate change mean the 'classic' safari seasons have shifted and are less distinct.
A key advantage is of course price. Off-season, you enjoy the same facilities and levels of service but you may pay a fraction of the price. And in addition, it will be much less crowded. The essential character of any country is a constant, local life continuing regardless of the weather. Local festivals and community activities often, quite deliberately, fall out of season.
Our Islands & Retreats team are experts in designing the perfect holiday to suit your personal needs, interests and budget. Their intimate knowledge of our hotels and resorts featured in our portfolio, together with our own network of offices throughout the region, allows us to offer unique in-depth knowledge, unparalleled insider access and the VIP service for which Abercrombie & Kent is renowned.
Read about our lastest experiences in our Travel Blog pages.
To find out more about our Islands and Retreats team, click on the consultant links below or call them on 01242 850 302 or enquire online
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A&K will be our tour company for every future journey; we have no doubt of that. Our experience overall has sold us on A&K.
- Lisa Lewis