12 extraordinary travel experiences for 2021 and beyond
At cazenove+loyd, our knowledge means we understand exactly what it takes to deliver a journey beyond expectations. We are continuously developing new and unrivalled experiences with the world’s best guides, so that our clients can enjoy our fascinating regions in the most exciting ways possible and are left with a deeper understanding of a place.
From visiting the majestic Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan after hours to walking with emperor penguins in Antarctica, below are 12 extraordinary travel experiences, described by our experts and clients, which we would love to arrange for you on your next trip.
Climbing to sacred heights in Ethiopia
“Ethiopia is like no other country I’ve explored anywhere else on the African continent. The layers of history and religion that were shared by our local guides were phenomenal. One of our most memorable experiences was climbing up to Abuna Yemata Guh, a small rock-hewn church at 2,580m in the Gheralta Mountains of the Tigray region, which can only be reached on foot. Part of the way up the sandstone pinnacle – vertical in places – had to be ascended barefoot with our amazing local guides showing us where to put our hands and feet. Women make this treacherous climb with babies on their backs. Halfway up the cliff, we walked along a narrow ledge with a sheer drop on one side to reach the church. It was certainly heart pounding but the views were awe-inspiring and it was breathtaking to see the wall paintings, dating back to the 5th century, hidden inside this little church known as Ethiopia’s ‘chapel in the sky’. – Cara Maitland, Africa + and the Indian Ocean Destination Expert
A private exploration of Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan
“Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, with its unique and impressive setting, closes to members of the public and tourists at 5pm. However, we can arrange exclusive access to the fort for our clients, which I was able to experience for myself when I was there. We drove up to the fort, whose sheer size was jaw-dropping, where we were met with a glass of champagne and views over the whole Blue City. We felt very privileged to be greeted and shown around by the head curator, who has worked all over the world. After a brief introduction, we were guided through the fort’s beautiful, intricate rooms and given special access to the historical royal bedrooms and private rooms normally closed to the public. It was an unforgettable experience to be able to wander around after hours with this fascinating man.” – Venetia Stanley, Asia, Australasia + the Middle East Destination Expert
Walking among emperor penguins in Antarctica
Imagine standing on a seemingly endless icy plain among more than 6,000 emperor penguins and their fluffy, young chicks, surrounded by Antarctica’s stark and otherworldly scenery. Here, the landscape is white as far as the eye can see. These surprisingly tall penguins – up to 4ft high – are totally unafraid of humans and come within a few metres of you, immersing you in the noise, commotion and the sheer beauty of it all. Nearby, elephant seals and fur seals laze, Antarctic skuas scavenge and southern giant petrels fly overhead. Due to the penguins' remote habitat, this is one of the greatest and least-seen wildlife events on the planet. At night, you can camp nearby and wake up to the sounds of these incredible animals chattering away. For keen wildlife photographers, this may be the ultimate experience.
Flying to Everest in Nepal
“The conditions were perfect for flying by helicopter to Kalapatthar, one of the best spots for views of Everest. Soon, we were soaring over huge lakes and ice falls still dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. Captain Pasang Sherpa, our pilot guide pointed out the skyline and the infamous Khumbu Pass. The views were staggering. We spotted a handful of people climbing – just tiny dots, their minute size demonstrating the magnitude and greatness of these magnificent peaks. We descended to 5,300m and leapt out onto the snow. We knew we only had five to 10 minutes at this incredible spot as the air was so thin. The clock was ticking. The helicopter blades kept spinning, their noise adding to the dramatic effect of the scene. We stood under the strong sun, feeling slightly giddy from the altitude as we looked up at Everest standing defiantly before us. These mountains are enchanting and powerful, and being in their presence is, without a doubt, the most adrenaline-fuelled and precious experience I have ever had. You cannot fail to be moved by the sheer scale of these peaks and by the stories of those who have reached their summits.” – Miranda Challen, Head of Marketing
Experiencing history unfolding in Israel
“We travelled north to the Golan Heights and Mount Bental, from where you can admire stunning views as far as Syria. Sadly, this is an area that has been repeatedly battered by conflict throughout history. From here, we set off on an exhilarating experience: a two-hour jeep ride through an agricultural kibbutz and then off-road into the demilitarised zone along the Syrian border to see Israeli army bunkers. Our very experienced guide here was ex-military and it was only through his connections that we were able to cross into this area. His guiding and knowledge was second to none as he enlightened us on Israel’s culture and its relations with its neighbours. We were able to see abandoned Syrian villages not too far in the distance. It was a fascinating and sobering experience that really brought this terrible conflict to life.” – Venetia Stanley, Asia, Australasia + the Middle East Destination Expert
Meeting the Māori in New Zealand
“I was privileged to have my first experience of Māori culture and its practices on Mount Titiraupenga, in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island, with Delani, who met me one crisp and sunny autumn morning. As we walked through this protected private land owned by Delani’s tribe, the local Ngāti Tūwharetoa, we heard the booming call of the rare, native Kokako bird who loyally made this hallowed area its breeding ground. We spent the day here in these mystical forests with members of the tribe, learning about this very special and distinct culture, connected so deeply with the rhythms of the natural world. Our day commenced with a pōwhiri, a traditional Māori welcome. It is best not to say too much about this incredible experience, but it went deep into the spirituality of the Māori and was something I will never forget.” – Penny Buckley, Head of Sales and Asia, Australasia + the Middle East Destination Expert
Swimming with manta rays in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands
“Swimming with mantas in Raja Ampat, one of the most sought-after places to scuba-dive on the planet, has to be up there at the top of most diving enthusiasts’ wish lists. I soon found myself effortlessly gliding between glorious reefs that were alive with fish. Within minutes, the waters around us appeared to darken with shadows, and as I rotated towards the surface, there, just an arm’s length away, were two giant manta rays soaring above my head, dancing in the streaming frames of light. Before long, I was resting on the soft, sandy ocean floor, watching as seven of them gracefully swooped around us like birds of the sea. These safe, curious and inquisitive creatures were within touching distance of us. This was an incredibly humbling experience, and one I will remember for a long time.” – Antonia Black, Asia, Australasia + the Middle East Destination Expert
Sleeping under the stars in the African bush
“In Lower Zambezi National Park, I spent a night high on a ridge of the Zambezi Escarpment. It was a matchless and nerve-tingling experience to snuggle down on a comfortable mattress suspended a metre above the ground, with nothing but a mosquito net between me and the carpet of stars overhead. This contraption, known as a Tentsile Tree Tent, takes the ‘sleepout experience’ one step further. Out on the escarpment, the sounds of the night rang loud in my ears as I tried to fall asleep: lions called, hyenas laughed and the soporific humming orchestra of the nightjars, cicadas and tree frogs reverberated in the night. The rosy glow of dawn gently woke me, as the golden orb rose above the rugged horizon and the African bush began to stir, with white-browed robin chats, tropical boubous and other birds beginning their morning chorus in the nearby miombo woodland, dotted with amarula, tamarind and rain trees. The spectacular view of the valley below slowly unravelled – stark, brown and parched at this time of year but breathtakingly beautiful nonetheless. On a clear day after the rains, you may see herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and antelope in the lush valley below, with the Zambezi River and Zimbabwe beyond.” – Laura Birtles, Executive Editor
Riding with Mongolian eagle hunters
It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to travel to Bayan-Ölgii, a small aimag in western Mongolia, during the Sagsai Eagle Festival. The excitement starts in the early morning as you ride the five kilometres from your camp to Eagle Hill. In the chilly dawn, plumes of dust rise from galloping horses, all converging on the same point. Through the haze, a mass of vehicles, people, camels and horses looms into view. The atmosphere is bustling: despite it being a hobby for most of the year, eagle hunters take great pride in their birds and the annual festival is taken very seriously. While the eagles are, without a doubt, the main event, the festival also allows a chance for the skill of riders to be tested. By far the most exciting and unusual competition is known as bushkashi (the less exotic-sounding translation being ‘tug of war with a goat’). ‘Kiss and Catch’ is another favourite, involving a husband-and-wife team galloping down the track, the former attempting to dodge the latter’s enthusiastic whipping. Besides copious quantities of Mongolian vodka, Kazakhs celebrate with music afterwards, and when the games are over, you are treated to hours of Mongolian folk songs about blue skies and the homeland. This festival stands out for its raw authenticity: it is an unrehearsed, unchoreographed chaos of competition and celebration. If you’re looking to get off the beaten track and do something really different, nothing compares.
Staying in an airstream camper van on Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats
“We spent two blissful nights of our honeymoon in an airstream camper van, exploring the salt flats, with no phone signal and only each other for company. It was by far the most unique and breathtaking sunset I have ever seen. We were lucky enough to be taken by our guide to some areas of water for incredible reflection shots. This was particularly special as the wind carries the rainwater over the flats, particularly at night, so water can be tricky to find. While staying in the campers, we were accompanied by an amazing chef who cooked up some seriously unreal meals using local Bolivia quinoa. We were very spoilt with the delicious meals as well as the fully stocked bar. We didn’t see anyone else for two days.” – Chloe Hunter, client
Exploring Osaka, Japan’s Kitchen
“From family-run ramen bars to tiny sushi counters tucked away in basement mazes, the gastronomic choices in Japan are endless. My trip ended with a bang in Osaka, where I spent two days eating my way round the city known as ‘Japan’s Kitchen’. My guide took me down a very dimly lit alleyway with little cafes and unassuming, narrow doorways. She led me into a small shop where a husband and wife were making taiyaki, a fish-shaped sandwich with red-bean paste inside. Next was Kuromon Market, where I was offered a miniature octopus skewer stuffed with a quail’s egg. Interesting to say the least! I was also urged to try momiji tempura, which are deep-fried maple leaves. Tasty, light and very moreish. Our final stop was Kuromon Ichiba, a food market that serves up some of the freshest fish in Japan. My guide was keen to dispel the myth that the best sushi was always found in Tokyo, so she led me straight to Maguroya Kurogin. This is the first shop in the Kansai region to sell Pacific tuna, and as we sat at the bar, we watched it being sliced and served in bright-pink blocks to a never-ending queue of eager diners.” – Venetia Stanley, Asia, Australasia + the Middle East Destination Expert
Learning from a Head Lama in Bhutan
“As I walked among the forest of fluttering prayer flags, I could see the snow-clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas laid out before me with Bhutan’s highest peak, Mt. Masanggang, in all its glory. Upon entering the temple, I was guided into a small room, where a bright-eyed and smiling monk stood to greet me and we sat on his blanketed floor. The room was covered with colourful tapestries, books, presents from guests, holy offerings, prayer beads and photographs of his pilgrimages. It was his place for prayer and rest, and I felt very at home but also very privileged to be there. Over milk tea and kabzey and zow (Bhutanese snacks of biscuits and roasted rice sweetened with butter and sugar), the Lama told me about his life. In this intimate setting, I felt very comfortable asking many questions and he was gracious with his responses. I found it inspirational to learn about the philosophies at the heart of Buddhism from such a holy man.” – Penny Buckley, Head of Sales and Asia, Australasia + the Middle East Destination Expert