Guatemala is one of the most exotic destinations of the world
Ancient jungle-shrouded cities. Far-flung islands watched over by monolithic statues. Haunting deserts where geysers bubble away ominously. The world is full of fascinating destinations. Many of them, however, are notoriously remote, requiring a gruelling series of connecting flights and more airport time than seems healthy.
However, there is an alternative. Travelling by private jet not only lets you put together a point-to-point itinerary, but also offers an onboard experience of unparalleled sophistication. Team the ultimate flying-high experience with some of these off-the-beaten-track adventures for a getaway to remember.
WHERE: Atacama Desert
WHY: Volcanoes and salt pans, soaring sand dunes and steaming geysers. Chile’s Atacama Desert – the driest desert in the world – has a distinctly otherworldly air. It’s no wonder that NASA used this remote terrain to test its Mars rovers. Atacama’s highlights include the world’s highest geyser field, El Tatio, where no fewer than 80 geysers billow steam into the air, walking the otherworldly, Valley of the Moon and the spectacular Tebenquiche Lagoon. The Atacama is also one of the best places in the world to go star gazing, thanks to a magical combination of high altitude, dry air and an absence of artificial lights.
WHY: John Ford would have loved Mongolia. The director of such classic Westerns as The Searchers was known for featuring wide open landscapes in his films, and Mongolia – with its vast steppes and rugged mountains – has those in abundance. The chance to encounter the country’s traditional nomadic culture draws many visitors, but Mongolia also has plenty of unforgettable sights, including the magnificent Atltai Tavn Bogd National Park, with its glaciers and waterfalls; the forest-fringed Lake Khövsgöl, which is frozen for half the year; and Amarbayasgalant Monastery, its 28 temples tucked into a fertile river valley.
WHY: Rwanda is Africa’s greatest, and most unlikely, comeback story. After a devastating civil war, Rwanda has reinvented itself as a luxury safari destination. The most famous attraction here is, of course, one of Africa’s last remaining populations of mountain gorillas, which can be encountered on forest treks. However, there is a lot more to see and do. Come face to face with rare golden monkeys and one of East Africa’s largest hippo populations, before relaxing on a beautiful tropical beach at Gisenyi on the shores of Lake Kivu.
WHERE: Easter Island
WHY: Destinations don’t get much more remote than Easter Island, a tiny sliver of land adrift on the high seas, and the last place on earth to be settled by humans. However, the island’s complex history – not to mention those remarkable stone statues known as moai – make it definitely worth the journey. Start your explorations at volcanic crater Rano Raraku, where the stones for the moai were quarried and where the slopes are littered with semi-completed statues. Don’t miss the deserted stone village of Orongo, clinging to the edge of another volcanic crater, and the lovely Anakena Beach, watched over by more moai.
WHY: Some cities’ names retain a certain magic long after their grandeur has disappeared. In the fabled Silk Road city of Samarkand, however, visitors are still dazzled by the centuries-old monuments of the mighty Timurlane and his successors. Samarkand’s sky-blue mosques and desert-hued minarets, domed mausoleums and madrasas, remain impressive, with their grand scale and their precisely detailed tilework. Packed with highlights from the maze-like Shah-i-Zinda necropolis to the mighty Registan complex, Samarkand does not disappoint.
WHY: Make sure your phone is fully charged for Guatemala’s endless photo opportunities. There is the World Heritage-listed city of Antigua, ringed by volcanoes, where baroque buildings fill the streets; the pretty town of Flores, perched on an island in Lake Petén Itzá; and the ruins of Tikal, one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms. If you find your energy flagging, you can revive yourself with a cup of Guatemalan coffee, famous for a complex flavour redolent of smoke, spice, chocolate and flowers.
WHY: Perched on Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, Cartagena is one of South America’s loveliest cities. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, still partly encircled by 300-year-old walls and filled with cobbled streets, sun-drenched plazas and colonial houses painted in parrot-bright colours, offers one magic vista after another. Peruse the artisanal workshops, enjoy a leisurely meal on a shady terrace, and watch the locals dance up a storm at Café Havana. Should that get old, head to the Islas del Rosario, just 90 minutes off the coast, where coral reefs are waiting to be explored.
WHY: There is only question facing travellers to Iceland: which natural wonder do you tackle first? Do you step into an elevator to travel 120 metres below the earth’s surface to step inside the magma chamber of the dormant volcano? Or do you go the full Jules Verne and trek through a tunnel inside Europe’s second-largest glacier? Do you stand awed before a geyser shooting high into the sky; walk behind a thundering waterfall; or just take it easy in a naturally-heated pool of water? In Iceland, the original land of fire and ice, it is all on offer.
From: Captain’s Choice