The numbers astound even as they boggle: 17,000 islands (or is it 20,000?), 8000 inhabited (or is it 11,000?), 300 languages spoken (or is it 400?); the list goes on.
The world’s fourth most populace country - 240 million and counting - is a sultry kaleidoscope that runs along the equator for 5000km. It may well be the last great adventure on Earth. From the western tip of Sumatra to the eastern edge of Papua is a nation that defies homogenisation. A land of so many cultures, peoples, animals, customs, plants, features, artworks and foods that it is like 100 countries melded into one (or is it 200?).
And we’re talking differences that aren’t just about an accent or a preference for goat over pork, we are talking about people who are as radically different from each other as if they came from different continents. No man may be an island but here every island is a unique blend of the men, women and children who live upon it. Over time deep and rich cultures have evolved, from the mysteries of the spiritual Balinese to the utterly non-Western belief system of the Asmat people of Papua.
Venturing through the islands of Indonesia you’ll see a land as diverse and unusual as those living upon it. Look at Sulawesi on a map, say what you think, and you’ll save yourself the cost of an ink blot test at a shrink. Or view Sumatra from the air and be humbled by a legion of nearly 100 volcanoes marching off into the distance, several capable of blowing at any time.
Dramatic sights are the norm. There’s the sublime: an orangutan lounging in a tree; the artful: a Balinese dancer executing precise moves that make a robot seem loose-limbed; the idyllic: a deserted stretch of blinding white sand on Sumbawa set off by azure water and virescent jungled hills; the astonishing: the mobs in a cool and glitzy Jakarta mall on a Sunday; the humbling: a woman bent double with a load of firewood on Sumatra; the solemn: the quiet magnificence of Borobudur.
Experience endless miles of aquamarine coastline, sun-bleached ancient ruins, strong feta and stronger ouzo. The Greek landscape thrills, and Greek people are passionate about politics, coffee, art and gossiping.
Satisfy Your Senses Let the Greece you’ve been imagining ﬁll your senses, whether it’s through the pulsing nightclubs of Mykonos or the solemnity of Meteora; the grandeur of Delphi or the earthiness of Metsovo; the rugged Cretan hillsides and the lush wildﬂowers of spring. You’ll quickly become acquainted with the melancholic throb of rembetika (blues songs) and the ability of the ancient sights to unleash an imagination you might not have realised you had. You’ll also encounter thought-provoking modern art and a vivacious contemporary music scene, stumbling across galleries, live music and impressively modern museums in the most unexpected places. Greece balances its past, present and future in a way managed by few other countries. The result is a country with endless cultural pursuits.
Tempt Your Appetite Greeks pride themselves on their cuisine and as some of the most hospitable people on the globe, they will go out of their way to ensure you are well fed. The tang of home-made tzatziki and the aroma of grilled souvlaki are just the beginning. The Greek menu is ﬁlled with scrumptious cuisine that oﬀers an adventure at every mealtime. Basic ingredients like feta and olive oil are at home in kitchens across the country, but it’s the regional dishes and styles of cooking that make travelling around the country such a culinary joy. Turkish and Italian legacies are woven throughout many dishes and you’ll discover islands or towns known for distinct ingredients. Cheeses, herbs and mountain greens you might never have heard of compliment local seafood, meat and veggie dishes. The secret of Greek cooking is often found in the back garden where many of the ingredients are freshly gathered and produced. These days, a renaissance in traditional cooking means that chefs are increasingly taking time-honoured recipes to new gourmet heights.
Stretch Yourself It’s easy to understand how so many myths of gods and giants originated in this vast and varied landscape, with wide open skies and a sea speckled with islands, where days melt from one to the next, while you relish the white-sand and palm-fringed beaches. But Greece oﬀers endless activities and is a magnet for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Wander along cobbled, Byzantine footpaths, hike into volcanoes, watch for dolphins and sea turtles and cycle through lush forests. Greece also oﬀers some of the world’s top kitesurfing, diving and rock-climbing locations. Be brave. Be passionate. Be Greek.
Perhaps the ultimate in long haul luxury, the Maldives is currently enjoying incredible growth again having bounced back from a series of disasters in the past few years including the coral bleaching wrought by el Niño and the horror of the 2004 tsunami. Indeed, so superior are its beaches, so cobalt blue its waters and so warm its welcome that the country has become a byword for paradise whether it be for honeymooners, sun worshippers or divers.
A geological eccentricity nestled in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are a series of ancient coral reefs that grew up around the sides of towering prehistoric volcanoes. These immense structures have long since sunk into the ocean, leaving behind coral islands of incredible natural beauty, now themselves being colonised by travellers seeking unbridled pampering and romance, from the modernity of Male’ to the idyllic paradise of the Southern Atolls.
This is life stripped down to simplicity – bright blue skies, all-year sunshine and fantastic diving and snorkelling in lagoons the temperature of bath water. The country embraces travellers from around the world allowing them the freedoms holiday makers require without compromising the islands’ deep Muslim faith one bit.
This is an exciting time to visit a country in developmental frenzy. Every few months brings newly opened resorts from top end boutique brands to ecologically sound back-to-nature hotels. Not cheap even at the bottom end, this is a place for a holiday of a lifetime (and that phrase suddenly takes on a new meaning here). The Maldives demands the attention of anyone looking for a uniquely indulgent break, breathtaking nature and sheer beauty that stays with you long after your tan has faded.
So many states claim uniqueness, and Hawaii does too. It now even boasts that it’s the birthplace of the USA’s 44th president, Barack Obama. But this string of emerald islands in the cobalt-blue Pacific Ocean, over 2000 miles from any continent, takes a little work to get to. So you may wonder: will that be time and money well spent?
We’re so glad you asked: cue the galloping Hawaii Five-0 theme music and watch surfers carve a thunderous ocean, Elvis croon and lei-draped beauties dance hula ’neath windrustled palms.
Hawaii, as tourist bureaus and Hollywood constantly remind us, is ‘paradise.’ Push past the hype and what do you find? Darned if they’re not right. Hawaii is hiking sculpted cliffs or diving coral-reef cities in the morning and drinking mai tais to slack-key guitar at sunset. It’s slurping juicy papayas with hibiscus flowers in your hair; it’s Pacific Rim cuisine, fiery volcanoes and cavorting whales. By serendipity and design, Hawaii is an almost flawless destination. It’s an enchanting multicultural society with roots in Polynesia, Asia, North America and Europe, and it’s an expression of nature at its most luscious and divine.
About seven million visitors come to experience paradise annually, but the islands are not as crushed with sun-baked tourists and cooing honeymooners as that sounds. If you want a cushy resort vacation, head for Oahu’s Waikiki or West Maui. For something cheaper or more adventurous, aim for the Big Island or Kauaʻi. If time is short, stick to one island and make the most of it. Honolulu is a teeming cultural and economic powerhouse, but in under an hour you can be alone in the rainforest or snoozing on white sand.
INTRODUCING THE CARIBBEAN
With amazing culture, beaches, activities and weather – not to mention the rum – the Caribbean is a joyous riot of islands offering the ultimate escape.
One Region, 7000 Islands Rocked by music, rolled by change, lapped by turquoise water, blown by hurricanes – the Caribbean is not a place anyone could call static. It’s a lively and intoxicating profusion of people and places spread over 7000 islands (fewer than 10% are inhabited).
But, for all they share, there’s also much that makes them different. Forming a huge swath around the Caribbean Sea, the namesake islands contradict in ways big and small. Can there be a greater contrast than between socialist Cuba and its neighbour, the bank-packed Cayman Islands? Or between booming British-oriented St Kitts and its sleepy, Dutch-affiliated neighbour Sint Eustatius, just across a narrow channel? Travel long enough in this region and you’ll soon discover there is no typical Caribbean.
Every Colour Everywhere Azure seas, white beaches, green forests so vivid they actually hurt the eyes – there is nothing subtle about the bold colours of the Caribbean. Swim below the waters for a colour chart of darting fish and corals. Wander along the sand and stop at the paintfactory explosion that is a beach bar, from the garish decor to the rum punch in your glass. Hike into emerald wilderness and spot the accents of red orchids and yellow parrots.
Even the food is colourful, with rainbows of produce brightening up the local markets.
You’ll also see every colour but dull at intense, costume-filled festivities like Carnival, celebrated throughout the region. And all this colour is infectious. Like birds shedding dull adolescent plumage, visitors leave their wardrobes of gray and black behind when they step off the plane and don the Caribbean palette.
Your Kind of Trip No matter what you’re looking for in an island adventure, you’ll find it here. Zero in on one perfect place or mix and match from a banquet of islands.
With so many islands, beaches, cultures, flavours and waves to choose from you are bound to have a fabulous time. Doing nothing on the sand, partying at a resort, exploring a new port of call, hopping between islands, discovering wonders under the water or catching a perfect wave above, revelling in a centuries-old culture, and finding your inner pirate are all possible.