Sustainable bucket list guide for wildlife lovers
1 March 2024
It’s never too early to start planning your next trip of a lifetime. Whether you know exactly what countries are on your travel bucket list, or you need a little inspiration to nudge you towards the ‘book’ button, we’ve gathered our top 10 travel destinations for 2024 to fuel your dreams of enthralling new adventures.
These scintillating and surprising 2024 vacation ideas have been chosen for their glorious scenery, cultural intricacies, incomparable natural wonders or their off-the-beaten-path experiences. We’ve also highlighted the ‘best time to go’ so that you can easily start planning a trip with our locally-based travel experts.
The best time to visit Japan is generally considered to be spring (March to May) or fall (September to November). Both seasons have pleasant weather and the landscapes are beautified by cherry blossom and vibrant golden leaves respectively. Of course, they are also the most popular times to visit so planning ahead is recommended, particularly for spring’s sakura season. If you are planning to go to the mountains or Hokkaido’s national parks, then June to August is still a good time to visit, but bear in mind that the rest of the country will be in the throes of the hot and humid rainy season.
If you’re ready to take the plunge on a big trip this coming year, a veritable wonderland of diverse experiences awaits you in captivating Japan. Everything from traditional forested villages in Takayama to Tokyo’s quirky, fast-paced metropolis; ancient ornate temples, sakura-dappled parks and a deep cultural appreciation for nature and spiritualism, all exist here within the borders of this proud island nation.
For many from the West, a visit to Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so the quintessential route from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka is definitely on the cards. Considering Japan’s globally respected food scene, our locally-based partners offer a tour of Japan’s highlights with a culinary twist.
If you’re seeking to visit during the summer, then June, July and August are the very best months to visit Norway – July featuring the famed midnight sun. For a winter wonderland of Northern Lights and dog sledding, visit December through February.
There’s endless fantasy-fulfillment to be had in mesmerizing Norway. Famed for its Viking heritage, intricate network of fjords and the spectacular Northern Lights, there’s a sense of seasonal adventure here that urges you to go forth and explore.
The key word here is ‘seasonal’, as Norway has something different to offer all year round. This far into the northern hemisphere the landscapes shift with the seasons, with a magical winter period (December through February) bringing snow-covered mountainscapes, frozen lakes and long, starry nights. It’s the perfect time for activities such as overnight igloo stays, snowboarding, dog-sledding or going to winter festivals.
If you’d prefer the sun-warmed activities of the summer, capital Oslo comes to life between May and August; with a dynamic waterfront, numerous outdoor music events and lively Vigeland Park packed with locals and visitors enjoying the bright days and lighter evenings. The coastal city of Bergen is also particularly charming at this time, when the brightly coloured wooden houses overlooking the fishing port are at their most vibrant.
To create the perfect Norway itinerary – whether it’s cruising the majestic fjords, whale watching or getting your fill of Scandinavian city life – our locally-based experts can help. They are perfectly positioned to create the ideal Norway itinerary for you.
Visit in July to take in the flamboyant Vincy Mas Festival.
Intrepid sailors have long lingered in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; this Caribbean archipelago is a true tropical paradise. Those who aren’t familiar, however, should know that it’s far from your typical ‘fly and flop’ Caribbean beach destination. There’s a strong cultural pride woven into the local life and rich surroundings here, which means a trip to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lingers on the senses long after you’ve returned home.
This is never more prominent than during the Vincy Mas Festival – the perfect reason to travel to the islands in July. One of the biggest festivals in the Caribbean erupts in a cacophony of calypso dance, steel drum music and street performances that celebrate their proud heritage and its historical and cultural significance on the world. After 12 days of dancing parades, live music and parties it culminates in a Mardi Gras flourish. If you’re after a beat-filled boogie on the street alongside your beach relaxation, this is one you can’t miss.
Aside from the parties, the Grenadines have some of the world’s most stunning beaches that stay relatively uncrowded; the island of Bequia alone, for instance, boasts Princess Margaret Beach, Friendship Beach and Lower and Industry Bay. For snorkeling and diving, all kinds of marine life is visible in the beautifully calm waters of Tobago Cays – from turtles and dolphins to flying fish. To incorporate Vincy Mas into your Caribbean vacation, get in touch with our locally-based travel experts who will gladly help.
Visiting during the dry season, May to October, gives you the best chance of spotting wildlife on safari, whilst also being able to make the most of refreshing swims in beautiful Lake Malawi.
First timers to Africa are unlikely to consider Malawi over the renowned tourist destinations of Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania, but there’s a huge amount on offer in what’s affectionately called ‘the Warm Heart of Africa’.
For game-viewing, Majete Wildlife Reserve is a conservation success story. Depleted of animals only 10 years ago, it now contains an abundance of extraordinary wildlife such as elephants, hippos, rhinos and big cats. Lodges here often include outdoor viewing decks where you can spend a night under the stars after a day of animal-spotting.
Your trip could also include an overnight stay in the historic family property of Satemwa Tea Estate, the first fairtrade tea estate in the country. Here you can walk the refreshing, fragrant trails of the plantations followed by tea-tasting over verdant views.
Finally, one of the largest lakes in the world, Lake Malawi, is dotted with beach-bordered islands that make the perfect coastal sojourn from the mainland. A boat to Mumbo Island grants ample freshwater snorkeling and diving opportunities, where you can spot colorful cichlid fish species. Back on shore, you can get to know the locals living in lakeside communities.
To see the best of underrated Malawi, try the dry season of May through October – this is when the rains are over, temperatures are pleasant and animals openly congregate at water holes.
If hiking, biking, sight-seeing and beach-lounging are on your agenda, then the best time to visit New Zealand is during the summer months of December to March. But to be perfectly honest, ‘the Land of the Long White Cloud’ is spectacular at any time of year.
Promising an adventure only just short of that undertaken in ‘Lord of the Rings’, the awe-inspiring natural wonderland of New Zealand beckons you to visit for your next trip. Of course, the destination that served as scenery for the iconic movie franchise receives a lot of attention for this alone – but there’s plenty more to it than that. If you’re a fan of phenomenal panoramic vistas and thrilling outdoor pursuits, you can hike, climb, bike, kayak or even bungee across the country to your heart’s content.
A tour of New Zealand’s highlights will take you from Auckland to Christchurch, stopping at the country’s most extraordinary hotspots – go the shores of glorious Lake Wakatipu to the summits of Mount Aspiring National Park; take a skyline gondola over Queenstown, then spot Hector dolphins at the Banks Peninsula. Of course, there’s the chance to go on a day trip to Hobbiton – the former movie set is situated in rural Hinuera near Matamata.
As you traverse the beauty of this remote land you’ll pick up on a welcoming spirit here – New Zealand inhabitants are known for their sense of warmth and camaraderie, and the presence of a vibrant Maori culture makes it all the more rich and engaging.
The best time to visit ‘the Land of the Long White Cloud’ varies depending on your preferences – all seasons have their charms, and the weather is always somewhat unpredictable. Get in touch with our locally-based New Zealand experts to arrange an itinerary you just can’t wait for.
Our local experts highly recommend visiting in the balmy shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) or autumn (September to October) to avoid the summer crowds.
Dreams of Greece evoke sparkling ocean vistas, white-washed buildings hugging scenic cliff edges, and fresh seafood drizzled in fragrant olive oil. All of these archetypal visions speak truth, of course – yet Greece’s iconic islands are crammed with hidden experiences that are just as glorious as the most known. To help ease the strain on areas that are undeniably stunning but somewhat struggling with overtourism – Mykonos, the Acropolis, Santorini, for instance – it’s worth planning a trip to Greece in a new way.
The islands of Hydra and Spetses, for example, can be reached easily from Athens; two romantic getaways where cars are banned. Take a breather from tourists as you amble through secluded town squares, take a donkey ride along cobbled streets, and sip wine at a quiet seafront spot as the sun goes down.
Stunning Kefalonia, particularly around Assos and its sleepy fishing villages in the north, makes the ideal haven for self-drive exploration. Even Greece’s biggest island, Crete, offers a sense of new discovery – its Apokoronas region is woven with local villages, abuzz with day-to-day Cretian life.
As avoiding overcrowdedness is the name of the game here, traveling to Greece in the shoulder/low seasons when tourist footfall is much lower can be highly rewarding. With more chances to sit at the most scenic table spots and mingle with the famously hospitable locals, you can enjoy this more authentic side of the magnificent Mediterranean.
The best time to visit the Maldives is between November and April. Avoid the main holidays of Christmas and Easter for quieter islands whilst still enjoying the finest weather.
The Maldives rate highly as one of the world’s indulgent honeymoon hotspots – its languid, soft-sand beaches are ripe for sun-worshiping, reading and cocktail-clinking. That said, these exquisite islands are transforming into much more in recent years, as the Maldives is becoming a leader in sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.
With the risk of rising sea levels ever-present, marine conservation efforts are big here, and a glut of eco-hotels and solar-powered resorts are making a meaningful effort to get visitors involved. Our Maldives partners work with the Barefoot Eco Retreat, for instance; where you can combine yoga, cycling, kayaking and snorkeling excursions with options for manta ray and turtle monitoring, and watching presentations from expert marine biologists. Of course, this is still a vacation in the Maldives – so you can finish the day with a memorable candlelit dinner on the beach, before waking for sunrise salutations in the morning.
If you’re considering an eco-friendly tour of the Maldives in 2024, get in touch with one of our local travel experts. They can discuss with you how to get the most out of these resplendent isles, while doing your bit for the wildlife and environment that helps sustain their tourism.
The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands depends a lot on the wildlife that you would like to see, so speak to our local expert when planning your trip. Climate-wise there are roughly two seasons: warm and wet (December to May) and cool and dry (June to November).
If you love ticking off wildlife sightings when you travel, the Galapagos Islands are probably near the top of your bucket list. This wild and wonderful archipelago, famously favored by Charles Darwin, is essentially a large-scale observation lab – with flora and fauna that is truly unforgettable. Endemic species such as the Galapagos giant tortoise, marine iguana and blue-footed booby birds inhabit the craggy volcanic coastline, creating fascinating, almost other-worldy landscapes.
To truly experience this paradise of the Pacific, dedicate a week or more to a handful of the islands. In San Cristobal, watch frigate birds bathe in the freshwater crater lake of El Junco volcano. Soak up the serenity of flamingo lagoons on Isabela. Look out for turtles, sea lions and penguins on the Tintoreras islands, and learn more about the area’s strong scientific history at the Charles Darwin Station in Santa Cruz.
Though plenty use Ecuador as a springboard for the Galapagos, it’s so much more than that. With towering Andean peaks, spirited prairies and fertile rainforest, Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse destinations in South America. Cotopaxi and its perfectly conical volcano is well worth exploring, while capital Quito is full of ornate churches, colorful fabric stalls and chatty locals. Explore lively indigenous markets, try the home-grown food, step into ‘Mitad del Mundo’ (the Centre of the World) and inhale the fresh mountain air before you shoot off to the islands. Ask our locally-based experts about incorporating both Ecuador and the Galapagos into one incredible tour.
Visit the archipelago over New Year to take in the spectacular dhow race, or come in the dry season of July – September for wonderful game viewing on the mainland and fabulous wind conditions on Lamu.
One of Africa’s prime tourist draws, sun-splashed Kenya is renowned for its sprawling, zebra-scattered grasslands and incredible safari experiences. Its Lamu Archipelago off the north eastern coast is lesser-known, but well worth the extra distance; it’s a cluster of islands with sublime beaches, a rich Swahili heritage and long, intriguing history.
Lamu itself, the biggest of the main islands, is better developed than its neighbors Pate and Manda Island, where cars are banned and donkey is the quickest mode of transport. In Lamu you can lounge on palm-fringed Shela Beach, and gain an important understanding of pre-colonial life on the islands by visiting the local museum and Old Town. Archaeological sites show that towns have existed here for at least 1,200 years.
Many Swahili residents are talented dhow builders and sailors, and in January, Lamu hosts a spectacular New Year’s dhow race. Not only do the striking rows of sails form an exhilarating sight, it’s a lovely time of year to be on the coast – as well as visit the mainland of Kenya and go on safari. The weather is hot, yet cooled by occasional showers, the landscape lush and green from the previous months’ rains, and lots of young animals will be frolicking on the grasslands.
If you’d like to visit Lamu Archipelago as a secondary stop, but prioritize game viewing on the mainland, the dry season of July, August and September may be your best bet. As well as the special New Year boat race, dhow sailing occurs on Lamu throughout July to April when wind conditions are ideal. Get in touch with our local Kenya experts who can advise on the itinerary that works best for you.
If you’re visiting for the whales, then time your trip to be around May or June, which are particularly good months for spotting blue or sei whales as they migrate through the waters.
Commonly referred to as ‘the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic’, you’ll soon see why the Azores deserve the affectionate moniker. This Portuguese archipelago is actually around 950 miles away from the mainland; and with its green-sloped volcanoes, pristine lakes and waterfalls hidden by lush conifer forests, any trip here will stir a sense of adventure that will make it the highlight of your year.
Sao Miguel is the main island of the Azores, home to three active volcanoes – Fogo, Furnas and Sete Cidades. A typical day includes trekking volcano trails, past caldera lagoons and emerald vegetation abuzz with wildlife, and stopping to go wild swimming in mineral-rich hot springs. Bring your swimming gear on every excursion, as one of the biggest appeals of the Azores is getting wet at a moment’s notice.
The Azores is also primely located for dolphin or whale-watching, as hundreds of them inhabit the surrounding waters. May and June are particularly great months for sightings of baleen whales – blue whales or sei whales, for example – which migrate across the Atlantic at this time of year. Join one of many whale-watching boat trips leaving Pico or San Miguel islands to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants, but if you don’t, you’re almost guaranteed to see sperm whales and dolphins breaching the ocean’s surface.
Join one of many whale-watching boat trips leaving Pico or San Miguel islands to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants, but if not, you’re almost guaranteed to see sperm whales and dolphins breaching the ocean’s surface. If you’re seeking a true island getaway next year, the Azores are an explorer’s dream – get in touch with our locally-based experts to start planning right away.
Our experts say that the best time to visit the Balkans is during the shoulder seasons of April through June and September through November when the weather is mild and the popular cities aren’t overly busy.
The Balkans should be high on the list of any traveler who loves to go off-piste. The term covers eleven countries, so we’ve picked out just a few you should definitely consider – Albania, Romania, Slovenia – if you’re wanting to go somewhat off-the-beaten-path on a trip to Europe next year.
Constantly overshadowed by its neighbors (including tourist heavyweight, Greece) Albania is slowly emerging as the next big thing in beach getaways. One could spend days appreciating its pristine coastline, with its western-facing beaches on the Ionian Sea getting as gorgeous a sunset as any of its rival destinations.
Albania’s natural landscapes, such as the alpine walking trails of Valbona Valley National Park, are also stunning, stoking an addictive sense of unspoiled escapism. Sun-seekers, hikers and nature lovers alike are in for a treat.
For something completely different, you can’t get more gothic mystique than Romania – with Transylvanian towns, scattered baroque monasteries and spired castles that hark of Dracula’s legend.
As well as the alluring, somewhat crumbling aesthetic of its architecture, there’s also the forested Carpathian mountains, and the unique cultural quirks of its fantastic capital, Bucharest. Absorb all the multi-faceted history, people-watching and sprawling vistas you can when in this Eastern European gem.
Finally, the fairytale quality of Slovenia is at last being acknowledged by mainstream tourism – so if you like the idea of horseback riding past the exquisite castle of Lake Bled, you’d better visit soon.
Slovenia’s swathes of green forests, pristine lakes backed by the Julian Alps and its general lack of pretension makes it a real dream to explore. The youthful capital of Ljubljana makes for a rewarding city break if you’re short of time.
This is just a tiny snapshot of what the Balkans has to offer. Get in touch with any of our travel experts to visit one or more of them in a multi-stop tour.
If you’re inspired to book your next big travel trip for 2024, start making it a reality – get in touch with any of our locally-based experts today. They’re on the ground, ready and waiting to help you plan the trip of your dreams, exactly to your requirements.
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