Geoffrey Kent, experiential travel expert and founder of Abercrombie & Kent (A&K), has listed his recommendations for what should be seen and done in 2015:
Rivers of Southeast Asia
Why do it: Travel along these historic rivers offers a comfortable way to explore remote regions and glimpse the daily lives of their people. Cruising along the Mekong River reveals remarkable landscapes, stilt villages, incredible birdlife, wing-tipped pagodas and remote Buddhist monasteries. But for a glimpse of old Indochina, there is no more eye-opening destination than Myanmar, and no better way to experience the romance of a bygone era than by cruising the Irrawaddy River aboard the new all-suite Sanctuary ‘Ananda’.
How to do it: Cruising the Mekong: Siam, Saigon & Angkor Wat (12 days from $7,995); Myanmar & the Irrawaddy (10 days from $5,295)
GK Travel Tip: Rise early to visit the fascinating Cai Rang floating market in Vietnam…and bring your camera, this is the place to capture brilliant photographs of daily market life.
Why do it: India is bigger than life, but one common thread runs through it — it stirs your senses from every direction. Accordingly, there are distinctly different ways to explore the country. View the magnificence of the Taj Mahal, then venture deeper into the heartland of rural India as you cruise the Ganges River. Combine culture with rich wildlife viewing, from elephants and rhinos to lions and the true king of the jungle, the endangered Bengal tiger. Experience a bygone era of elegance travelling on the Maharaja Express. Or take in the highlights travelling in comfort by private jet, ending in Hyderabad with a gala three-day festival of gourmet dining, local entertainment and five-star hospitality hosted by Geoffrey Kent at the legendary Taj Falaknuma Palace.
How to do it: India & Nepal: The Taj Mahal, Mt. Everest and a Ganges River Cruise (16 days from $8,595); India: Lions, Tigers & the Taj Mahal (15 days from $9,995); India: Royal Palaces & a Luxury Train (12 days from $11,995); India by Private Jet (15 days from $28,995; includes Gala Chairman’s Event with Geoffrey Kent)
GK Travel Tip: India is one of the most consistently rewarding places to visit in the world and I can think of no better way to celebrate it than in a manner worthy of the maharajahs of old.
Why do it: Experience Africa's abundant natural treasures in unparalleled comfort and luxury. Recapture the romance of a bygone era as you travel aboard the beautifully restored Rovos Rail, winding through the mountain ranges, Winelands and grasslands of South Africa. Watch wildlife gather at the river, from the decks of the ‘Zambezi Queen’ luxury riverboat. See the vast herds of elephant in the Okavango Delta, the biggest inland delta in the world. Explore the Moremi Game Reserve, the predator capital of Africa. Here, the drama of life unfolds at every turn, whether during game drives in 4WD vehicles or on the water.
How to do it: Southern Africa Safari by River & Rail (13 days from $11,995)
GK Travel Tip: To relax in complete comfort after a day filled with adventures, listening to the sounds of the bush and seeing the spectacular starry sky- that is one of my favorite things.
Why do it: What better way to get the next generation to understand another culture than by exploring with all five senses? Climb the Great Wall by cable car…then ride down by toboggan. Visit the Terra Cotta Warriors before making a clay soldier of your own. Hands-on experiences include a cooking school in Shanghai, a kite-making factory, a lesson in wushu (Chinese martial arts) and the chance to ride (or pedal) a pedicab through the winding alleys of Beijing's hutong district.
How to do it: Family China & the Yangtze (12 days from $6,295 per person; children save $800)
GK Travel Tip: Adults and kids alike will delight in seeing pandas in their natural habitat. The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center has just been awarded the prestigious “Global 500” honor by the United Nations.
Why do it: Despite all the talk about travel restrictions to Cuba being loosened, currently the only way most Americans can travel there legally is through a fully licensed people-to-people program. Immerse yourself in the country’s rich culture, art, cuisine and music through one-to-one exchanges with local residents. Meet a local farmer as he prepares a cassava specialty, followed by a chance to sample farmstead cheese and guava jam. Learn about the history of the revolution during a visit to Birán, home to a museum replica of Fidel Castro’s birthplace home, and learn little-known details of the first armed action of the Cuban Revolution. Meet local musicians during a private Buena Vista Social Club-style concert. Try your hand at making traditional tinajones (earthenware pots) and later meet with local artists whose work is on display at hotels in towns around the country.
How to do it: Cuba: Across the Island: People to People (13 days from $7,495)
GK Travel Tip: Visiting places on the eve of great change affords a rare glimpse into the heart and soul of a culture. Travel can change lives and attitudes, and most importantly, build bridges between people.
Why do it: A bucket list destination for centuries, there has never been a better time to travel to Egypt. Not only is the country buzzing with renewed optimism, but its many fabled sites are free of crowds and open to in-the-know travellers. Discover the secrets of the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities with your expert Egyptologist. Relax on a scenic four–night Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan aboard an award-winning Sanctuary Sun Boat, stopping at off-the-beaten track Denderah, Edfu and Kom Ombo. Enjoy guaranteed entry into one of Egypt’s legendary pyramids, which you literally explore from the inside out.
How to do it: Egypt & the Nile (10 days from $4,995)
GK Travel Tip: The experience for tourists in Egypt right now is as welcoming and upbeat as I’ve ever seen it, plus the ability to see the pyramids without crowds won’t last long.
Why do it: World famous for its ancient ruins, spectacular scenery and colonial architecture, Peru can now add cuisine to its international appeal. Voted “Best Culinary Destination in South America,” Peru can also claim Lima as the continent’s culinary capital. Sophisticated and inventive, the Peruvian culinary scene is one of the world’s most exciting. Guests can sample the country’s remarkable local produce, scour markets with a local chef and take part in a cooking class, as well as taste local specialties like ceviche. Or venture beyond Lima to the Amazon rainforest, the source of so many of the local ingredients found in this innovative cuisine.
How to do it: Peru: Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley (9 days from $5,695); Amazon Adventure: Rainforest & River Cruise (9 days from $6,295)
GK Travel Tip: Explore the upper reaches of the wild Amazon in luxury on a cruise. What better way to understand the local cuisine than to see where so many of the indigenous foods come from.
Why do it: Though steeped in tradition, parts of Japan are stylishly modern. Tokyo is as cosmopolitan a city as you’ll find with its skyscrapers, neon lights and fashionably-dressed citizens. But travellers can still glimpse ancient cultural traditions, from kimono-clad geishas in Kyoto to Shinto shrines. There’s incredible architecture, fascinating history and world famous gardens, not to mention poignant reminders of the 1945 attack on Hiroshima. Leading the country into the new millennium are cutting edge art installations on Naoshima Island and amazing hi-tech hotels. Then there are those cherry blossoms…
How to do it: Classic Japan (10 days from $8,995)
GK Travel Tip: A visit to Kyoto is like travelling back in time. Founded in the seventh century, it is home to so many of Japan’s national treasures. Marvel at the 1,001 statues of the Goddess of Mercy at Sanjusangendo Temple, visit Kodai-ji for a lesson in Zen meditation, or take part in a tea ceremony.
Wonders of the World… in one extraordinary globe-spanning journey
Why do it: Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Istanbul. These are some of humankind’s most enduring achievements, places that have drawn travellers for centuries. Join 50 privileged guests on a privately chartered Boeing 757-200ER with custom-designed Italian leather lie-flat seats. End the journey in Marrakesh with A&K founder Geoffrey Kent.
How to do it: Wonders of the World by Private Jet (24 days from $108,000)
GK Travel Tip: Ride a camel through the pristine Erg Chebbi dunes to A&K’s exclusive desert camp. The handcrafted caidale-style tents once welcomed dignitaries in Moroccan palaces. Watch the sun set over the dunes and enjoy an unforgettable dinner under the stars with a traditional performance by local tribesmen.