The French colony of Puducherry is home to some of the most hip cafes in the country, undisturbed beaches, and the experiential township of Auroville.
► Be it a film festival, coffee roasting class, water therapy, or yoga, the township of Auroville has something for everyone.
► Take a walk around the only sea facing French quarters of Puducherry that reeks of its historical past.
► French architecture and luxurious setting of La Villa give a break from cookie-cutter stays.
► Stay at Temple Tree Retreat to be closer to all the action at Aurovilte.
“For a heritage experience, Earth Cafe located at Palais du Mahe, offers artisan hand-pulled espressos and home-baked cakes. Dreamer’s Cafe in Auroville brews great South Indian coffees along with Italian affogato and healthy smoothies.”
A significant seaside town during the centuries of colonisation, Thalassery is the land of three Cs: Circus, Cakes, and Cricket as all these three found its entry to India, here.
► Drive your car onto the sands of Muzhappilangad drive-in beach, voted by BBC as one of the world’s top six beaches.
► Go hunting for speciality oysters all across the town, from the beach to the bus station.
► Ayisha Manzil Homestay was built in 1900 in traditional Kerala style-architecture. The bungalow has deluxe rooms, a pool overlooking the sea, and serves delicious Mopilah dishes.
► SwaSwara Resort overlooks the Om Beach and it is one of the best wellness properties along the Konkan coast.
A temple town till the late 90s, Gokarna is fast becoming the go-to beach destination for travellers who are looking for a quieter version of Goa. The Hindu pilgrim town, away from the coast, has ancient temples: the Dravidian-style Mahabaleshwar Temple, the Maha Ganapati Temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, and Bhadrakali Temple, a shrine to Goddess Uma, the protector of Gokarna are the most popular sites.
The small fishing town of Malvan has everything you want from a coastal holiday—beaches, water sports, medieval forts, and most importantly, excellent seafood.
► Take a ferry from Malvan to the famous Sindhudurg Fort built by Chattrapathi Shivaji.
► Scuba dive or snorkel in the Malvan waters and experience under-water life of the Arabian sea.
► Stay with the Samant family in a cottage surrounded by spice, coconut, banana, and beetle nut plantation at Maachli. Go to a heritage village, learn the nuances of Konkani cuisine, take farming lessons, or simply appreciate nature at this eco-friendly homestay.
A colony of merchants, Surat was once known for its silk weaving and brocade fabrics. Even today, you can visit its bazaars and buy silk saris and embroideries. The city is also famous for its diamonds: Surat is the world’s largest diamond processing cluster. A makeover is on the cards for the city to transform it into a smart city with automatic fare collection system, intelligent traffic control, solar street lighting, and a skywalk.
► Get spooked on the haunted Dumas Beach known for its unique black sand.
► Download the Heritage Walk app and discover historic monuments, Hindu and Jain temples, and heritage homes in the city.
► On the banks of Tapti, The Gateway Hotel Athwalines is a great option—the highlights include river-view Gateway Suite, multiple dining options, and a spa.
► Stay in one of the 170 rooms of The Grand Bhagwati which is designed for an urban traveller.
At least 30 per cent of safari-guide training is about learning to evade death and acute suffering, both for I you and your guests. Encounter the Mozambique spitting cobra, for instance, as I did in our camp kitchen one morning, and you risk being hit by a shot of venom that can blind you from eight feet away.
Once you’ve got a grip on how to avoid this and countless other potentially lethal species, the process is exhilarating, and at times extremely challenging— something I discovered during a stint at Eco Training, a professional guide school near South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Over four weeks, the school’s instructors taught me and 18 other aspiring guides to identify 90 bird calls, 12 frog calls, and 60 trees. We learned to locate the constellations, dug around in different types of soil, and squished a whole lot of dung between our fingers.
We were taught a trick called ‘kudu ears,’ which involves cupping your ears to mimic the giant-eared antelope. This allowed us to catch the faint rumble of an elephant in a thicket, and save our guests from being trampled. Within days, we were looking in entirely new ways at the bush, the tracks, the scat, scanning the mall with the beady eye of an African fish eagle. Then we came to the important stuff, like how to keep guests entertained when you’ve seen nothing but impalas for the past hour. “Know your arthropods,” advised David Havemann, our stern South African instructor, who could spin the life cycle of a fig wasp into a drama worthy of Game of Thrones.
But for many of us would-be guides, the biggest challenge was graduating from the obsession with the Big Five most people arrive on safari with. Our goal? To have guests feel as inspired by insects, birds, and grass as by a group of playful lion cubs, and leave the bush, as I did, overcome by the profound, symbiotic beauty of it all.
For a long time, going on safari basically meant one thing: observing wildlife from the inside of a jeep. These days, however, discerning travellers want to go deeper. Instead of being told about the animals, and efforts to conserve them, they want to participate—whether spending the day with an anti-poaching unit or taking part in arhino-relocation mission.
According to Michael Lorentz, of safari specialist Passage to Africa, the itinerary of the future is driven by experience, rather than by creature comforts. “It has become about what you did, the people you met who are making a difference,” Lorentz said, noting many guests want privileged access to one-off conservation missions, such as witnessing African Parks’ translocation of elephants in Malawi. Even first- timers booking safaris to iconic parks in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Zimbabwe are demanding a more meaningful experience, according to Karen Zulauf of safari outfitter Deeper Africa.
A typical Deeper Africa trip to Zimbabwe, for example, would be led by some of the country’s most prominent conservationists, such as Mark Brightman of the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit, and include an afternoon with the Shangaan people, former hunter-gatherers now at the forefront of community conservation in Gonarezhou National Park. As Zulauf put it, “Connecting our guests with the right people and projects reframes the way they view Africa, and the way they present it to others.”
You won’t know you’re nearing Arijiju until yon have already arrived. The house is built into the Laikipia foothills north of Mount Kenya, its grass-covered roof and rough stone walls making it appear, from afar, like part of the landscape. The effect is one of inevitability—as if the property were always meant to be there.
Most visitors come to Kenya for the wildlife, and the 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy surrounding Arijiju teems with all manner of creatures. But, unlike most safari properties, this lodge feels like a destination in itself. Built as a vacation retreat by a Londoner with African roots, it’s now available for exclusive-use rental. The 14-person staff, which includes butlers, chefs, and a masseuse, is warm and attentive, lighting crackling fires at bedtime and delivering coffee to your room when you wake. That human touch gives the five-bedroom property an intimate, homey feel, like a fabulous friend’s personal retreat.
Beyond the occasional campaign-style piece, Arijiju has none of the typical safari-lodge trappings—no Masai prints or mosquito-netted beds, and the only thatched roofs are those of the outbuildings. Instead, relaxed luxury reigns: rugs are layered on the hardwood floors, and linen sofas are draped with rabbit-fur throws guests can use to ward off the evening chill. The decor takes more inspiration from India and Morocco than from Kenya, yet everything about the house is in keeping with the spirit of Laikipia. That’s in large part because Arijiju puts all eyes on the landscape that surrounds it. Massive glass doors overlook a forest of acacia and African olive trees, and beyond the elevated terrace, the grounds are open to the wilds. Baboons scratch at the earth a few yards from the breakfast table. In dry stretches, giraffes and elephants come to drink from the pool.
There are game drives, of course, and you can see it all—even rarer animals like Grevy’s zebras and both black and white rhinos are flourishing in Borana and neighbouring Lewa. But on the slim chance your favourite animal should elude you, any disappointment will be quelled the moment Arijiju’s flickering lanterns announce your arrival home.
Alvear Art Hotel – At the younger, more casual sister of the famed Alvear Palace—one of Buenos Aires’s most famous hotels—guests can expect a similar level of service in a more relaxed setting. Ask for the sprawling Art Suite on the 15th floor for spectacular views of the Rio de la Plata. If your room doesn’t have river vistas, head to the rooftop swimming pool for some of the best panoramas in town. Artesano, the hotel’s vintage-inspired cocktail bar, has a fantastic drinks list by star mixologist Renato Giovanni.
Faena Hotel – The glamorous Faena hotel set the style benchmark for Buenos Aires when it opened in Puerto Madero in 2004. The Philippe Starck-designed rooms can verge on ostentatious, but guests are guaranteed VIP treatment whether at the hammam or by the pool. Drop by the nearby Faena Art Center to take in impressive rotating exhibits of contemporary art, or book a table for the hotel’s sexy, if pricey, Rojo Tango dinner show. The Library Lounge is a great spot to kick off an evening with cocktails and live music.
Home Hotel – When it opened in 2005, Home Hotel put the Palermo Hollywood neighbourhood on the map, and quickly became the go-to lodging option for cool kids and design aficionados. The carefully curated, Scandinavian-influenced decor includes Florence Knoll furniture and vintage Willi am Morris wallpaper. A small basement spa caters to Long-haul travellers, with jet-lag treatments such as a California massage and hot healing bath. Book the spacious Garden suite for your own splash pool.
Aramburu Restaurant – This bistro, the more relaxed spin-off of chef Gonzalo Aramburu’s celebrated Aram burn restaurant, sits on the cusp of the edgy Constitucion barrio. Starters such as steak tartare with mustard ice-cream are designed for sharing; the succulent lamb chops are a particular highlight. Sommelier Nazareno Gonzalez oversees the wonderful, well-priced wine list. Stick around after dinner for a drink at the new secret basement bar, Under.
Chori – Choripan, the humble sausage sandwich, is an Argentinean staple, but Chori is the first place to come up with a gourmet version. Not only are the chorizos in this Palermo spot made in-house but the soft buns are several notches above the standard baguette, and sauces go well beyond spicy chimichurri. The team also mixes up the protein, experimenting with fish, black sausage, and venison. Try the regional de cordero, a lamb sausage served with yogurt, red onion, cucumber, and mint.
El Baqueano – By sourcing products from small producers around Argentina, Fernando Rivarola, the chef-owner of EL Baqueano (the name translates to “the gatherer”), has created a wholly unique tasting menu. There’s a story behind every ingredient, like the Andean new potatoes grown 9,000 feet above sea level, or the sustainably sourced pacu river fish in the clever dish called “falso bife de chorizo”—or fake steak.
El Preferido – Literary icon Jorge Luis Borges grew up on the same block as this pink-hued bar and store, which was one of his haunts. El Preferido is an old-school neighbourhood bodega, where hanging hams and stacked cans of hearts of palm are integral to the vibe. Come here for a cortado or early-evening tapas such as braised tongue.
BeBop Club – Head to this cool basement club for jazz, blues, funk, soul, and pop. Founded by noted sommelier Aldo Graziani, BeBop is located underneath his restaurant and wine bar, Aldo’s Restoran Vinoteca. Open six days a week, it hosts local and international musicians. Reserve a round table and dance to the rhythms before ordering some tapas or a burger.
Blanca Encalada – Though the original location in Almagro is now closed, the Belgrano outpost upholds its legacy as one of the best spots to hear tango music without the distraction of clicking three-inch heels or flashes of bare skin. The band normally starts around 10:30 p.m., playing to a crowd that can spill onto the sidewalk.
Floreria Atlantico – This storefront is a florist and wine store, but after the sun sets, head into the buzzing speakeasy— the entrance is through a refrigerator door. The cocktails are themed geographically, taking inspiration from Argentina’s European immigrant populations. Try the Principe de los Apostoles, a gin and tonic infused with yerba mate.
La Catedral – This former warehouse in tango barrio Almagro is rough around the edges— mismatched furniture and basic drinks—but the uneven wooden floor is ideal for learning how to dance the tango, because, unlike many other Buenos Aires bars, regulars here often invite visitors and amateurs to dance.
Think you’ve already viewed the best in class? Expand your must- visit list of world-class museums with this selection of spectacular institutions around the globe!
Built as part of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort, the world’s first art and science museum features an unusual lotus-shaped structure. While it hosts several leading travelling exhibitions from around the world, its new permanent exhibition Future World showcases 16 incredible art installations and is said to be the country’s largest interactive digital playground, exploring themes including nature, town, park and space.
Japan’s ‘art island’, tiny Naoshima boasts a disproportionate number of world-class installations, unexpected cultural distractions and world-class museums. In the latter category, Chichu Art Museum is built mostly underground – so as not to sully the island’s largely unblemished beauty – and features vast exhibition spaces largely built to complement the artworks by the likes of Monet and Walter De Maria, which they now house.
The contemporary art and design museum in the Swedish city of Umea, the former residence of Stieg Larsson (author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and others from the Millennium book/film trilogy) and European Capital of Culture for 2014, was named as one of the most beautiful university art galleries in the world following a redesign in 2012. The building itself is a thoughtful work of art, made with a facade of Siberian larch wood panelling, which will fade to a silver grey colour in a few years’ time, staggered with randomly-placed windows.
Its stark white interior is warmed by the natural light piercing through its windows, which offer scenic views from the museum’s riverside location.
The Dutch national treasure-house of art has at last re-opened after a decade-long renovation. Golden Age masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and so many more are on show alongside centuries’ worth of fine furniture, Delftware, costume and jewellery. There’s a superb Asian collection, and new acquisitions that bring the display up to the present day.
Croatia and Los Angeles
Described as a “genuinely touching window on the human soul” by Telegraph Travel’s Chris Leadbeater, the brilliant attraction showcases a bizarre collection of objects connected to romances that are no more. Subtly illustrating the tragicomedy that is love, it is now one of Zagreb’s most visited museums.
The museum opened its second branch last year in the City of Broken Dreams – Hollywood. The new collection of items studying failed relationships and their ruins follows in the footsteps of the original one in Zagreb, promising to take visitors on an emotional journey through a showcase of 115 unwanted artefacts from relationships past, exploring the “love, pain, drama, irony, humour and reconciliation” of break ups.