We love India especially in the cooler months of Oct/Nov and Feb-March, and private group trips are becoming popular here, partly perhaps of the success of the lovely (and very funny) recent film ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’!
We’re tipping Sri Lanka to be the next big Asian destination for Kiwis – and it has the benefit of being a year round destination.
Formerly known as Ceylon, this teardrop shaped island has something for everyone; history, scenery, wildlife and beaches. Here are some of the ‘must do’s’ :
- Anuradhapura was the capital of Ceylon in 400bc and remained so for 1400 years and was the site where Buddha’s teachings were first taught. Princes Sangamitta brought a sapling from India and this tree is now the Sacred Bodhi tree which inspired the whole temple complex, and is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world, with an uninterrupted history going back 2000 years.
- Polonoruwa is another ancient capital that is worth a visit and as it is a thousand years younger than Anuradhapura, the remaining temples are in a much better state.
- Sigariya is a rock fortress; it has famous frescos, had an elaborate water garden and is now most famous for it’s starring role in the 1982 Duran Duran video for the song “Save a Prayer”!
- Ceylon was of course part of the British Empire and to escape the heat the British staff would head for the hills. Nuwara Eliyah is fantastic, he stayed at the Windsor Hotel, just near the golf course, and dined in the supper club, a great colonial throw back!
- Kandy This is the capital of the hill country and home to the Sacred tooth, something you will come across as you tour round Sri Lanka. It is the second city and a very famous cricketing venue.
- Wildlife and Beaches Sri Lanka has 18 national parks and is famous for leopards, elephants and turtles. The south-west of the island is home to the most famous beaches but there are many more around the island.
When to go – Sri Lanka is a year round destination
And then there’s our old favourite – the Himalaya – we’ve been arranging treks in Nepal & India for decades, and Bhutan a little more more recently. We know the tour operators very well and love nothing more than to get the maps out and to discuss the different route options with our clients.
As we recently celebrated the Queen’s birthday and 60th anniversary of the coronation, our thoughts turned to the 60th anniversary of Sir Ed’s incredible achievement and of course the amazing mountain kingdom of Nepal. Here’s our ‘must dos’:
- Kathmandu – the starting point for all treks, there are many sights to see in town such as the Pashupatinath Temple, Durbar Square – the historic centre of the city, and just outside of town, the Stupa at Bodhnath with the ‘all seeing’ eyes.
- Pokhara – On the banks of Lake Phewa, this is the starting point for all the treks into the Annapurna range; great for a post trek celebration or just a nice place to sit by the lake, admire the views and have coffee and cake.
- Chitwan National Park – Nepal’s first and most famous national park where you can go on Elephant-back Safari to spot rhino and, if you are really lucky, tiger. Visit the elephant nursery and bathe an elephant!
- Everest – there are a great selection of Everest viewing treks available from 13-23 days; this is a great experience but hard work because of the altitude, treks start at 3800m.
- Sightseeing flights available from Kathmandu for a great close up view of Everest.
Families – Nepal is becoming more popular with families; start in Pokhara then embark on a short Annapurna trek; combined with a safari in Chitwan it’s a great family holiday with lots to see and do for the kids.
When to go – You are going because you want to see the mountains; so the best times for this are March/April and October/November. It can be very chilly at altitude at these times but you will be well prepared for the weather & destination!