Ashley Lane rounds up the countries to visit, festivals to attend and hotels to stay in this autumn.
• Read this and more travel stories in Ultratravel magazine, out with The National on Thursday, September 29.
The capital of Queensland has seen its fair share of hotel openings this year, including Rydges Fortitude Valley (AUS$167 [Dh467]) per night, including taxes) and Mantra Richmont Hotel ($105 [Dh294] per night, including taxes). The Johnson, a luxury boutique hotel, is the newest addition – having opened earlier this month – and is located on the doorstep of the city’s central business district. The property takes its interior cues from Australian abstract artist Michael Johnson and features 87 suites and two penthouses. ($180 [D504]) per night, including taxes). Botanists will want to head to Brisbane’s International Garden Show, located at Pine Rivers Park, which runs from October 6 to 9. The event will showcase Queensland’s gardening style, and will include landscape-gardening displays – for large and small spaces, talks and workshops, and courses. The Isuzu Queensland Open, part of the PGA tour of Australasia, will take place from October 20 to 23 at The Brisbane Golf Club. Take advantage of the milder climes with a day tour of the city. Australian tour operators JPT Tour Group offer a tour of South Bank Parklands, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and Mt Coot-tha lookout, in addition to a serene river cruise.
October marks peak trekking season in Nepal – a mere four hours and 20 minutes flight from the UAE – with plenty of noteworthy treks and excursions on offer. Exodus offers a 13-day trekking experience around Annapurna Massif, located in north-central Nepal. Stops include Ghandrung, Dhampus, Phedi and the Chitwan National Park. The longest festival in the Nepalese calendar, Dashain, will take place from October 2 to 16, and symbolises the victory of good over evil. Celebrations include fairs, typically organised by each village, and kite flying. Deepawali, or the Festival of Light, is also observed this month. Celebrations will commence on October 30, and visitors will find candles, lanterns and coloured tinsel lining public places and homes during the three-day event. The recent opening of the Meghauli Serai lodge by Taj, located in Chitwan, offers visitors a close-to-nature experience. A total of 29 villas and rooms are available, including one presidential suite, in addition to butler service, jeep safaris, canoeing excursions, and elephant bathing and feeding sessions. Rates for a villa start from US$127 (Dh466) per night, including breakfast and taxes.
The Annapurna in Luxury tour from Exodus starts from Â£2,139 (Dh10,394) per person, and includes accommodation, breakfasts, internal flights, transfers and taxes. International flights not included. Fly Dubai and Etihad fly direct to Kathmandu, with return flights starting from Dh2,035 per person, including taxes
Croatia’s capital is slowly making a name for itself, after years of the Adriatic Coast claiming the spotlight – in 2014 alone, Zagreb saw a 12 per cent growth in tourism. The tail end of the high season will see several noteworthy events, including the 11th edition of the Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival. Classical musicians from around the world will showcase their talent from October 7 to 15. Perforacje, an annual live art event that takes place across four Croatian cities, will run later this month and will showcase artwork by artists from Croatia and other Balkan countries. If, however, you’re in the mood for something more physically challenging, make sure to sign up for the 25th Zagreb Marathon, which takes place on October 9, and will begin and end at Ban Josip Jelacic Square, located in the centre of the city. The centrally located Westin Zagreb recently underwent a renovation, giving its lobby, some of its rooms, the Kaptol restaurant and Rendez Vous cafe a much-needed facelift. Prices start from €267 (Dh1,104) per night, including taxes. Explore the city by foot with one of Zagreb Tours’ day tours. Visitors will explore several of the city’s most notable sites – including Zagreb Cathedral, The Funicular, and Gradec – over a four-hour period.
Hungary’s capital is one of the better-known destinations for European Christmas markets, making it an ideal destination for picking up more traditional holiday gifts. The Christmas Market on Vörösmarty Square is considered by some to be the most popular in the city. Visitors will find everything from crocheted items and traditional fur hats and gloves, to pressed-flower jewellery and handmade chocolates, along with free musical performances. Visitors will also want to book into the recently opened Ritz-Carlton, Budapest, which is in walking distance of the market itself. Located close to St Stephen’s Basilica and the Danube, the new property boasts 170 guest rooms, an indoor pool, urban spa and several eateries (€346 [Dh1,431]) per night, including taxes). November 11 marks the yearly celebration of St Martin’s Day. Visitors will find various events and activities around the city, including the St Martin’s Day Artisan Fair, held in the courtyard of Vajdahunyad Castle. Explore the Danube river with Cox & Kings’ private eight-day river cruise. Travellers will start in Vilshofen, Germany, with a walking tour of the 2,000-year-old city of Passau, and then stop off in Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.
The Romantic Danube River Cruise starts from €2,195 (Dh9,084) per person, based on a two-person share, including accommodation, meals and taxes. Direct flights on Emirates start from Dh4,610 return per person
Palm Springs, California
Late autumn marks one of the best times to visit Palm Springs. As it’s not peak season (January to April), visitors will find cheaper hotel rates and fewer tourists, ideal for checking out the surrounding national parks and green spaces. Californian tour company Desert Adventures offers an excursion through the Joshua Tree National Park. The tour, which runs for five to six hours, includes a narrated tour of the Coachella Valley, a guided hike to Hidden Valley, and stops at Key’s View Overlook. The city has also seen several hotel openings over the past year. The Arrive hotel, built by one of Facebook’s founders Ezra Callahan, opened in February in the Uptown Design District of Palm Springs. This boutique-style hotel, admittedly, caters more to the well-heeled Millennial crowd. Appropriately, traditional hotel services – room phones for example – have been replaced with more modern options; guests can text down to the front desk for everything from room service to reservations (US$189 [Dh694] per night, including taxes). Though San Diego is home to the long-standing Comic-Con International, Palm Springs will welcome its own event for the first time this month. Though on a smaller scale, the new event will see big names that will rival its San Diego counterpart.
The Joshua Tree National Park Tour is priced at US$200 (Dh734) per person, including lunch, hotel pickup (subject to availability) and taxes. Emirates and Etihad both fly direct to Los Angeles, with return flights rates starting from Dh4,146 per person
George Town, Penang
November marks the end of monsoon season and the lull before the crowds appear in December. Take advantage by strolling through the quiet streets of the Penang capital and enjoy several festivals taking place then. The George Town Literary Festival, set to run from November 25 to 27, is a celebration of world literature in poetry, prose and the spoken word. Each year the event draws authors and orators from around the world. The Edison George Town hotel, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, opened in July. The boutique property boasts 35 guest rooms and is located within walking distance of a number of the city’s museums – including the Chocolate and Coffee Museum, Camera Museum and the Penang Time Tunnel 3D Museum. Those with a bit of time will want to book Bamboo Travel’s 14-day tour of Malaysia that includes city tours and self-guided excursions of Singapore, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, George Town and Langkawi. Visitors will visit Singapore’s Parliament House, take in panoramic views of Kuala Lumpur from the top of the KL Tower, and explore one of George Town’s oldest Malay markets.
The Marvellous Malaysia package starts from Â£2,325 (Dh11,302) per person, based on a two-person share, and includes accommodation, meals, transfers and taxes. Malaysia Airlines, Etihad, and Emirates all fly via Kuala Lumpur, with return flights starting from Dh1,610 per person
Source: art & life