What’s on your bucket list?
Have you got a travel bucket list? Are these fantastic places on it? They should be! Muddy picks the brains of fab independent travel consultant Sarah Watts to see what she recommends.
Dreaming of climbing Kilimanjaro or sailing the Seven Seas? Want to spot a Komodo dragon or visit Easter Island with the kids before they fly the nest? We’ve picked the brains of Pewsey-based Sarah Watts, our fave personal travel consultant, for her travel bucket list. And it’s a good one…
Based in the heart of the aurora zone in the Norwegian Arctic, the city is widely regarded as one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights. Easily accessed from the UK with a direct flight from London, Tromso serves as a popular destination year after year and offers excellent aurora views from September through April. The city itself is a lively affair, with more pubs and bars per capita than anywhere else in Norway.
Swedish Lapland – combined a trip to see Santa!
Arriving at the zenith of the Swedish wilderness is richly rewarding, for Kiruna provides a quality aurora show without the tourists. Populated by just 18,000 people, a journey into the Arctic is like a journey to the unknown. Or stay at the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, a place with fewer than 600 inhabitants. You can catch the lights between October and March here, although it’s not uncommon for a display a little earlier and later during periods of extended clear weather.
Iceland’s capital remains a favourite choice for many travellers. Brimming with geothermal pools, volcano tours and quality culture, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the Northern Lights altogether. We recommend you don’t though, as the display is astonishingly recurrent. Like Tromso, the best months to see the Aurora Borealis are between September to April.
Remote, wild and beautiful, there aren’t too many places that will make you feel more detached from the modern world. Pair that with a colourful blanket of solar wind and magnetic interference and the Northern Lights in Canada might just be the best natural experience imaginable. You can see the show as early as late August, running throughout the winter months until early spring.
Rovaniemi, Finish Lapland
Situated north of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is the epitome of snow laden wilderness. By day, go husky dog sledding, ice fishing or embark on a snowmobile safari building up to the epic evening – Northern Lights in Lapland. With a similarly Scandinavian September – April optimum viewing time you can plan trip to suit you, but as it’s also the home of Santa, it’s the ideal place to take the kids for a Christmas to remember.
See Santa Claus in Lapland
I have always wanted to do this, so I’m going to persuade with you these perfect five reasons to go this Christmas!
Some call him Santa Claus, others Father Christmas but he’s in every child’s thoughts. Life is busy and children grow up so fast. Visit Santa in his home in Finnish Lapland and you’ll all treasure the fairytale memories that you’ll make forever.
Some have a bucket list, others have a wish list but they often include going to the Arctic. Book the trip to see the big man and you can tick it off. Visit Saariselka (250km north of the arctic circle) and you can keep the whole family happy with the wide range of incredible experiences to enjoy.
Some send Christmas cards, others festive emails – you can also send a letter to the real Santa. Send them by Christmas magic mail before you leave, Santa reads them all and when you have your private meeting in his hideaway log cabin, he will chat to you about your letter
Some dream of glimpsing Santa and his reindeer galloping across the sky, others want to gaze at the dancing Northern Lights – visit Santa in lapland and you may see both.
Awesome activities – Imagine a romantic reindeer ride swishing through the winter wonderland or whooshing along in their own snowmobile – even the children can drive their own Skidoo. How about a husky sled ride shouting ‘mush mush’ as you race along in a sled pulled by excited husky dogs whilst you’re snuggled underneath a cosy blanket in the snow.
Our favourite things to do in these gorgeous isles…
Go snorkelling or scuba diving – the fish and coral are amazing, but its the rest of the wildlife that is incredible – turtles, rays, reef sharks and if you’re really lucky dolphins. The water is warm, clear and close to shore very gentle which means that even the smallest members of the family can join in if they’re confident in the water.
Stay in a range of luxurious accommodation – beach villas, bungalows and over water villas are just one of the options. The ultimate option has to to be the overwater villas where you can just lounge around listening to the sound of the water below you, stay in privacy and take a swim whenever you fancy.
Take a boat tour – there’s a wide range of boat options available from island hopping, snorkelling & diving trips or heading out to see dolphins or even whales if the time of year is right.
Take part in water sports – being an island nation there are so many water sports to choose from. Some resorts have organised sports like water polo and many have motorised and non motorised water sports on offer – anyone for paddle boarding over that crystal blue ocean??
Relax on powder white sands – need I say more?
See the Orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra
There are 3 species of orangutan in the wild the Sumatran and Bornean and a recent species, the Tapanuli which, believe it or not, was only discovered in 2017. They are the largest tree-dwelling animals on Earth. Though adult male gorillas climb up to the canopy to feed, they do not spend much time there and are basically terrestrial. Adult male orangutans, reaching a weight of 140kg or more, spend over 90 per cent of their time in the treetops, eating ripe fruit, young leaves and the occasional termite or vine. Adult females spend even more time in the canopy. It is believed that there are only 800 individuals left in existence so the time to see these creatures is running out!
Well, it’s got to be Oz, right? Our recommendations on things to see and do in Australia:
Sydney Harbour Bridge – harness your inner adventurer and climb the heritage steel through arch harbour bridge for a view of the city that you’ll never forget. The tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134m tall and the worlds second widest span bridge at 48.8m wide.
Hug a koala at Australia Zoo in Queensland – Steve Irwin known as the crocodile hunter established the zoo in 1970 and it is home to over 1200 animals including many of Australias iconic creatures – Koala, Kangaroo, Crocodiles, Snakes and Wallabies.
Visit Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park (Ayres Rock) – the rock itself is called Ulruru and is a UNESCO sacred site for the Pitjantjatjra Anangu (aboriginal people) of the area. The sunsets and sunrises in this area are second to none and will make for photos that you’ll stare at for years to come
Visit The Whitsundays – a collection of 74 islands which lie between North Eastern Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Either base yourself on one or go island hopping to see more of these beautiful islands.
Take a road trip down the 151 miles of the Great Ocean Road to see the remaining Apostles from the original 12 – how many can you count?
Well, what are you waiting for? Give Sarah a call now!
Not Just Travel – Sarah Watts, 7c High Street, Devizes SN9 5AF, Tel: 07824 884585, sarahwatts.notjusttravel.com