10 awesome grand tours to do before you turn 100
Even in our modern age, the romance of an immersive journey still holds an irresistible allure.
So, where will you go? These 10 grand tours are a must…
1. Alaska: the RV adventure
A summertime RV adventure is perhaps the ultimate way to see some of the best of this geographically and culturally detached state, originally bought from Russia in 1867 for a bargain $7.2 million. Australian visitors love to check out what the USA got for its money, often starting in the city of Anchorage and hitting the road for too-cute-for-words Talkeetna township and big-ticket, accessible gems like the jaw-dropping Denali National Park and the massive 7800-square-kilometre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Our tip? Pick up a copy of The Milepost guidebook; you won’t have web access everywhere.
2. USA: the road trip
While we’d probably recommend going more Jack Kerouac than Hunter S. Thompson, the idea is the same: the USA is famously made to road trip. hop on a bus from LA to Vegas, or cruise the big island of Hawai’i in a shining red Mustang. Eat your way through the roadhouses of the Mid West, put the top down and gawp unashamedly at Monument Valley, or tour the wineries and wide avenues of the Carolinas.
3. India: on the railways
With beginnings harking back to the years of the British Raj, the Indian railways have grown to encompass 120,000 kilometres of track criss-crossing the Subcontinent. It’s the natural choice, then, to tour by train here – whether you’d like to barter for jewels in Jaipur or dance beneath the full moon in Goa. Travel the desert state of Rajasthan, then across to the cool climes of the northern hill stations and end up in the culinary paradise of the Punjab; strike north into the Himalayan foothills and up into quirky Sikkim; head south to the palm-fringed canals of Kerala; or east to French-flavoured Puducherry. There is almost nowhere in India you can’t reach by rail.
4. Switzerland: the great outdoors
You might have heard about Switzerland’s al fresco hotel room-cum-art installation Null Stern (Zero Stars in German) that has been open for guests the past two summers. It shows off the country’s bucolic landscape at its best, but if you enjoy being close – but not that close – to the great outdoors, consider booking yourself into an authentic Alpine hut. Online platform is like the Airbnb of the Swiss Alps, and with over 250 to choose from, you can make it a hut hop.
5. Canada: the natural wonders
Encompassing an area only slightly smaller than Europe, it’s wise to pick a province to explore to avoid road trip overload. Having said that, Canada’s famous natural wonders and friendly cities mean you can’t go too wrong – a fact not lost on its 16 million visitors every year. Dawdle through the Yukon on the achingly scenic Alaska Highway to see the world’s biggest non-polar icefield by day and the Northern Lights by night, or traverse the Rockies in Alberta, from Calgary to Jasper, to catch glaciers, cowboy ranches and those aqua lakes, including dreamy Lake Louise. For something different, drive Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail and play your way through Cape Breton Island’s six amazing golf courses. Now that’s a week well spent.
6. The Mediterranean: a languid cruise
Few places in the world can rival the Med for rugged, clear-watered splendour. Considering that the coast – from Spain, through France and Italy, and on to Croatia and beyond – is filled with almost crazily charming towns, jostling for space on the rocky shores and begging to be explored, a languid cruise makes the most sense, be it big boat or bare. Bring fabulous heels for stops such as Cannes and Monaco; a swimsuit and snorkel for oceanside Italian grottoes; and a decent camera to capture the colour and texture of Dubrovnik’s architectural wonders.
7. Scandinavia: the complete package
There are plenty of sights to get excited about in Scandinavia, from the fjords of Norway (there are over 1000) to the chalk cliffs – Møns Klint – of Denmark and cute fishing villages like Smögen in Sweden. But it’s the somewhat less tangible side of this northern Europe region that really captivates: from the Northern Lights and midnight sun to viking legend and Copenhagen cool. And most of all the wonderful approach to life encapsulated by hygge, the concept of Scandinavian cosiness that compels us not only to visit these Nordic countries, but live the life too.
8. The Camino de Santiago: the pilgrimage
This global phenomenon, (which translates to st. James’S Way), has been walked since the eighth century, and evidence of its medieval history is encountered in towns and villages along the way. Taking in plenty of gorgeous verdant countryside, The various routes of the pilgrimage (which can be undertaken in groups or self-guided) conclude in the historic (but surprisingly HIP) city of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain’s north-West.
9. Trans-Siberian: the greatest rail journey?
There are few train journeys in the world that conjure up feelings of such awe and intrigue as one along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Its longest length runs from Moscow to the Russian Far East (taking in seven nights and vast amounts of Russian landscape), and further lines connect into Mongolia and China. Small fortunes can be spent on a luxury train journey, but take the regular option for a fascinating glimpse into the world of those for whom the Trans-Siberian is a necessity rather than an indulgence.
10. Silk Route: take your time
The ancient trade route that connected the treasures of the East with the commerce of the West, from China through to Europe, has achieved mythical status as a modern travel must-do. Perhaps it is because the Silk Road attracted cultural exchange at least as much as commerce – a feature that remains today. Taking your time to travel this epic route allows for a taste of everything it offers: trekking the mountains of China, staying in a yurt in the steppes, crossing the Uzbek desert, marvelling at magnificent Samarkand and bartering your way through the bazaars in the ‘Stans’. Whether you join a tour or chart your own course, millennia of history preceding you is sure to get you into the spirit.