Inle Lake (Myanmar)
In Myanmar’s north eastern Shan State, at the heart of the Shan Plateau, is the freshwater Inle Lake. Covering an expanse 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide, Inle Lake is home to countless flourishing communities and breathtaking scenery, and will reward your trip with unforgettable experiences.
Manoeuvring by boat through long scenic channels, you will encounter the intriguing lifestyles of the Intha people or ‘children of the lake’. Buy fresh produce from the farmers who cultivate their floating gardens on the water or shop at the ‘5 Day Market’ alongside locals who buy spices, fish and flowers for their own rickety wooden homes. Purchase hand-rolled cigars or hand-woven wares from artisans who spend their days crafting them in traditional fashion. Back on the water, leg-rowers glide past you in their teak boats, one leg precariously wrapped around the oar while the other skilfully balances on the very tip of the vessel.
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. UNESCO referred to the Galapagos Islands as a ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’ and you will find species here that can be found nowhere else in the world. Marine iguanas, giant tortoises and seemingly endless finch species are among the creatures that prompted Charles Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection’, following his visit to the Galapagos Islands in 1835. If you ever wondered what life was like when dinosaurs roamed the world, you can get a pretty good idea here.
The Galapagos Islands’ barren volcanic landscapes, expansive white beaches and soaring mountain peaks make for one of the world’s leading destinations for photographers seeking spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. While the islands have become a popular itinerary for exploration in recent years, they retain an otherworldly feel.
Playa Pilar (Cuba)
Cuba has become one of the must-see destinations for 2015 and the destination is brimming with culture. If you long to venture off the beaten track from the resorts of Cayo Coco or Cayo Guillermo, head to the serene beach of Playa Pilar.
Stretching just over a mile in length, Playa Pilar is often rewarded with the title of best beach in Cuba; no mean feat considering that the country has over 300 of them. It will take an hour’s drive along a bumpy and winding road before you arrive at Playa Pilar, but the incredible view of the shoreline as you emerge from the wooden bridge makes the trek worthwhile. The underdeveloped coastline has little other than ramshackle huts serving coconuts and a lone restaurant serving fish fresh from the sea. Calm days see glass bottom boats visit Playa Pilar to take beachgoers out to the bordering reef, though this is as close to an excursion as you will ever see.
The beach was a favourite fishing spot of American author Ernest Hemingway and became known by the name Playa Pilar in recognition of Hemmingway’s boat, the ‘Pilar’.
Thanks to its position as the southernmost town on earth, Ushuaia is often referred to as ‘The End of the World’. Thankfully, a trip to the Argentinian town certainly doesn’t come with the slightest hint of apocalypse and is actually very pleasant; brightly painted houses line the harbour, vast expanses of forest tower over the town and snow-capped mountains sit in the distance.
Take a trip to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where you can ride ‘The End of the World Train’; a diesel locomotive that was once used to transport Ushuaia’s inmates. Stunning wildlife and spectacular scenery are in abundance at Tierra del Fuego, while a catamaran ride along the Beagle Channel will put you up close with penguins, seals and sea lions.
Ushuaia is an intriguing port of call on Cunard’s World Cruise programme, with Queen Mary 2 calling at the town in 2016.
You needn’t venture far from your doorstep to leave behind the beaten path. Located a mile into the waters of the Solent, Spitbank Fort is a truly unique adventure.
Originally built to protect Portsmouth harbour from an attack from Napoleon III, the historic port has since been converted into a stunning resort. The original features of the port have been retained, with an immaculate luxury edge provided courtesy of indulgent bedrooms, haute cuisine dining in the Officer’s Mess, three bars, and a rooftop hot tub, fire pit and sauna. A speedboat crossing will jet you across the Solent and you will be greeted with a glass of champagne at the other side.
If you’re looking for something off the beaten track but want to retain an element of luxury, Spitbank Fort is something special. You can even hire the whole fort for the princely sum of £5,000 per night.
Michael Wilson is the Managing Director of Bolsover Cruise Club, the UK’s number 1 independent cruise agent based near Chesterfield in Derbyshire UK.
Image by AnyMotion under cc license