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While there’s nothing like having the best of both worlds, that’s not always easy to come by. You might have decided to take that well-deserved break with your life partner, new partner, or best friend, but then what? One of you might want to chill out on a tropical beach, while the other is up for finding the Big Five on a safari. Even if you’re going it alone (in which case, great decision - solo travel is one of life’s great adventures), you might be mulling those same destination dilemmas. Beach versus bush. City centre boutique versus rural retreat.
But fear not if such quandaries are holding up your holiday plans. The following four incredible dual destination trips - as recommended by Rough Guides’ experts - are designed to let you have your cake and eat it, not least because they can all be customised to satisfy your personal wanderlust tastes. These are experiences of a lifetime that deliver the best of both worlds, wherever in the world you choose to go.
Though vast, with smart planning, it’s possible to combine the varied delights of Argentina and Chile in a single trip. Foodies and culture vultures, for example, could look to enjoy a wine country trip that also takes in exhilarating city life and stunning mountain scenery on either side of the border.
Beginning in Buenos Aires, after treading the cobblestones of pretty Plaza de Mayo and the traditional San Telmo neighbourhood, you could spend your evening kicking back (or kicking up your heels) with dinner and a tango show at the legendary, luxurious Café de los Angelitos. After absorbing Buenos Aires’s unforgettable ambience for a few days, hop on an internal flight to Salta to access the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Quebrada de Humahuaca, where uniquely colourful landscapes and cultures unfold along a cracking gorge.
After visiting the Lerma Valley (south of Salta, it lays bare a chain of historic towns and dramatic ancient rock formations), board a domestic flight to Mendoza - a great base from which to explore the high-altitude, high-class wineries of the Uco Valley. Taking a High Mountain Tour here is recommended, with iconic Mount Aconcagua a real highpoint, along with hiking to Los Horcones Lagoon - a gorgeous glacial landmark that’s guaranteed to take your breath away.
A short flight over the Andes will swoop you into Santiago. Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes, Chile’s capital brims with historic attractions and all the buzz you’d expect from a modern metropolis. From here, you won’t want to miss visiting Valparaiso, Chile’s main port, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Famed for its colourful cliff-top buildings and steep funiculars, it’s a stunner you won’t forget in a hurry. The same can be said of vibrant Viña del Mar (AKA the Garden City), where first-class contemporary cuisine and lively nightlife merge with old-time charm, beautiful beaches and archaeological wonders, courtesy of the fascinating Fonck Museum.
If that’s stirred your interest in taking a dual destination trip, bear in mind that this rewarding route is just one way to experience the double delights of Argentina and Chile. As an alternative, you could, for example, start out in Santiago and explore the awe-inspiring Andean Lakes before winding your way to Buenos Aires.
If you’re looking for a range of back-to-nature wildlife-watching experiences but don’t want to cut back on comfort, exploring Uganda and Tanzania while staying in top lodges might be your bag. What’s more, this dual destination trip can easily be converted to a trio if you fancy zipping over to Zanzibar’s sun-drenched beaches.
First up, you’ll need to fly to Rwanda’s hilly capital, Kigali. After absorbing the city’s cultural highlights (it’s home to a thriving art and fashion scene), arrange for a guide to take you to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park over the border in Uganda. Traversing majestic mountain valleys, sparkling lakes and steamy jungles, the six-hour drive is possibly one of the world’s best examples of the journey being the destination. That said, on arriving at your destination, an already mind-blowing experience ramps up even further. Sitting high in the clouds, the reserve is known for its rare and remarkable primate residents (the dramatic cones of the park’s three dormant volcanoes are pretty remarkable, too). Depending on weather conditions, and where the gorilla families have decided to spend their day, tracking them might take anything from two to six hours. Once found, you’ll spend a soul-stirring hour in their company.
After returning to Kigali, take a flight to Tanzania for the next leg of your East African adventure. Arusha is a great base, with lovely lodges well-situated for sightings of the region’s wildlife, such as those found in iconic Tarangire National Park, where the river at its heart is a vital source of water for the elephants its famed for.
Given that Ngorongoro Crater is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, you definitely won’t want to miss it during your trip to Tanzania. With over 120 species of mammal, including all the Big Five, this is a prime place to see the endangered black rhinoceros and huge numbers of mud-bathing hippos getting down and dirty. Lake Manyara National Park is another indisputable highlight. Known for its baboons and tree-climbing lions, it’s also home to over 400 bird species, including dazzling flocks of pink flamingos, ravishing lilac-breasted roller birds, and countless birds of prey.
To make your East African adventure an organisational breeze, you could consider booking a tailor-made trip that’ll smoothly take you from meeting mountain gorillas, to encountering the Big Five, to the beaches of Zanzibar. Alternatively, you could experience East Africa through an itinerary that focuses on Kenya and Tanzania (remember, all suggested itineraries are exactly that - suggestions that can be tailored to your needs).
Combining Guatemala and Belize in a single trip is an unparalleled experience for travellers who want the best of five worlds. Culture, cuisine, heritage, underwater exploration, and blissful beach chilling - it’s a bona fide case of having your cake, eating it, and bringing plenty back to savour for years to come.
To kick things off in style, you could base yourself in a boutique hotel in the vicinity of Guatemala City. With its elegant interiors, garden courtyard, roof terrace and pool, El Convento in historic Antigua is a great option. What’s more, this UNESCO designated town offers easy access to a host of attractions - museums, volcano hikes, coffee plantations and world-class restaurants. Featuring several pyramid temples, palaces and two ballcourts, Iximché, capital of the late Mayan kingdom from 1470, is an absolute must-visit.
After checking out of your boutique bolthole, head to Chichicastenango in the Guatemalan Highlands. Just a few hours south of Antigua, it’s the perfect place to pick up locally-made gifts, with its sprawling market a trove of textiles, masks, crafts and pottery. It’s also a paradise for foodies, with opportunities to taste traditional Mayan dishes at interactive culinary demonstrations. Known for its Mayan communities, and circled by lush volcanic hills on the shores of Lake Atitlán, further cultural experiences (weaving traditions and Tz’utuhil shamanism) can be found around Panajachel.
Next up, you could take a short flight from Guatemala City to Flores to visit Tikal National Park. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was one of the largest cities in the Mayan Kingdom. Top tip - it’s worth timing your visit to catch the sunset. Witnessing the golden hour surrounded by tropical forests, with the calls of howler monkeys and parrots ringing across the canopy is utter magic. The same is true of visiting El Mirador, a Mayan settlement set deep in the rainforest that’s only accessible by air - arrange a helicopter trip for the ultimate awe-inspiring adventure.
As a contrast to the epic rainforests and archaeological attractions you’ve visited in Guatemala, fly from Flores to Belize City. Then take a local flight to Placencia to board a boat to handsome Hatchet Caye. Here you can snorkel in the company of loggerhead turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, countless tropical fish, and nurse sharks, or simply soak up the sun on the Caribbean shores of this luxurious private island.
If it’s luxury you’re after, consider taking a twin-centre trip of a lifetime to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It’s the perfect combo if you want to reward yourself with some well-deserved R&R on paradisal palm-fringed shores after being enchanted by ancient cultural sites and larger-than-life wildlife.
After landing in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s heady, hectic capital, base yourself in Dambulla to explore the island’s Cultural Triangle region. If you have a head for heights and a hunger for heritage, it doesn’t get better than hiking to the summit of Sigiriya. Otherwise known as Lion Rock, this spectacular UNESCO Heritage Site fortress was built by King Kashyapa back in the 1st-century AD. Created to remind pilgrims that Buddha was Sakya-Sinha (Lion of the Sakya Clan), the massive (and massively impressive) platform of lion paws carved into the rock is a staggering feat of ancient architectural ingenuity. If the two-hour, 1200-step climb to the summit sounds too much like hard work, wandering the gorgeous water gardens, and marvelling at the frescos and majestic lion sculpture is rewarding enough.
More cultural treasures can be enjoyed at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s second most ancient kingdom, and formerly the country’s commercial and religious heartland. Exploring the palaces, temples and dagabas (dome-shaped shrines) of this colossal ancient city is worth taking your time over. Then, for a colossal experience of a different kind, visit Minneriya National Park (between Polonnaruwa and Habarana) to see up to 300 elephants gathered around the ancient Minneriya water tank.
No trip to the Cultural Triangle would be complete without spending time in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second largest city, and capital of the last Sinhalese Kingdom. Backed by lush hills and set around a lake, it’s home to the famed Temple of the Tooth, so named because it’s believed to contain the Buddha’s tooth. As such, it’s the country’s most sacred temple, with the tooth kept in a golden casket, and its walls a bedazzlement of intricate carvings. From Kandy, travel south to glorious Galle. With its World Heritage Site fort perched over the Indian Ocean, winding cobblestone streets, beautiful boutique hotels, and welcoming café culture, it’s a great place to spend a few days before flying to Malé in the Maldives.
And breathe. This is a place to unwind, to stretch out on powder-soft sand, to be embraced by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Then, once you feel 100% recharged, a world of water-based adventures awaits (or you could always just order another cocktail and carry on with your relaxation regime).
If you’ve been inspired by these dual destination delights, Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips offer you the chance to choose from existing (fully customisable) itineraries that cover the options recommended above, along with trips to over 60 other destinations. Alternatively, if you fancy creating your own trip from scratch, the Rough Guides team can connect you with a local expert who will personally curate an experience that’s perfect for you. Let Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips take the hassle out of planning your next adventure, leaving you to focus on enjoying it.