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Travel experiences that qualify as once-in-a-lifetime are those that leave us changed, and linger long. This could be the memory of seeing the sun slip into a silken ocean, or those times we lose our way, but end up finding a bar we haven’t stopped raving about since.
While you can’t necessarily plan for these kinds of magical, remember-for-the-rest-of-your-life moments (they’re often the result of being in the right place, at the right time), you can give yourself a darn good shot at it by heading to the right places.
To help you do just that, read on to discover Rough Guides’ recommendations for destinations that are well-placed to deliver once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences in 2022. Trips that’ll lodge in your heart and furnish you with lifelong, talking-point memories.
For a full-on feast for the senses in Europe, a trip to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast sits near the top of the olive tree. Think art and history that’ll awaken your inner aesthete, food and wine that’ll leave you longing to dine in similar style on a daily basis, and captivating landscapes of rolling hills dappled by pines, cypresses, and medieval masonry.
You might want to begin your sumptuous Tuscan sojourn in the region’s impossibly elegant capital. From mooching around Ponte Vecchio in search of unique art and jewellery, to being entranced by the treasures of the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence is a city that wears its opportunities for memorable moments on its well-tailored sleeve.
This being Tuscany, you’re never far from off-the-beaten-track, stop-you-in-your-track scenery. For example, the ancient vine-cloaked trails of the Chianti region are perfectly placed for unforgettable walks and wine-tasting tours.
Next, for something entirely different (but every bit as stirring), head south to Naples. Like its dramatic Mount Vesuvius backdrop, this is a firecracker of a city. From the depths of its subterranean caves, to world-class museums that teem with ancient artefacts, Naples smoulders with edgy allure, with the treasures of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast within easy reach.
Whether walking the cliff-carved Path of the Gods for sweeping views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, wending your way between bayfront bars, or taking trips to idyllic islands, la dolce vita awaits at every turn.
To make your Tuscan trip all the sweeter, you could consider a tailor-made option - like all Rough Guides’ itineraries, it’s 100% customisable to satisfy your appetite for authentic Italian cuisine and culture.
It’s true to say that taking an immersive trip around Japan really is the stuff of once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences. Nothing but exhilarating from the moment you set foot in this diversely rewarding country, especially if you begin your adventures in Tokyo. Head to Tsukiji Outer Market for fun food experiences (like learning to make your own sushi) before touring the Asakusa District, home to the incomparable Senso-ji Temple.
Come evening, it doesn’t get better than enjoying a dinner cruise on the Sumida River, an experience that’s all the more enchanting between mid-March and early May, when the cherry blossoms bloom.
After taking in Tokyo’s ultramodern energy and timeless tradition, more serenity can be found in the 17th-century town of Takeyama. Located in the Japanese Alps, this region is known for its sake breweries and traditional streetscapes, with the Hida Folk Village on hand to quench culture cravings.
Venturing to Kanazawa’s coastline also comes highly recommended - it’s known as the “hidden pearl” for very good reason. For a soul-stirring experience that’ll induce you to slow down to drink in its beauty, explore the waterfalls, fountains and tea houses of Kenroku-en Garden - the very epitome of Japanese elegance.
Rich in shrines, temples and palaces, visiting captivating Kyoto might turn out to be the cherry on top of your Japanese travels. Nishiki Market offers regional food specialties and hand-crafted souvenirs in glorious technicolour surroundings, while the beguiling Gion district is the perfect place to take part in a traditional tea ceremony and appreciate geisha culture.
For more inspiration, and to start planning your own unforgettable trip to Japan, take a look at Rough Guides’ suggested itinerary.
Very often it’s the people we meet during our travels that make them memorable. Even more so when those encounters are coupled with extraordinary landscapes and hands-on cultural excursions. All of this can be enjoyed in exhilarating style during a culture and community-focussed trip around Columbia.
From the heights of Bogota, to the Caribbean coast, this show-stopping Southern American country presents travellers with countless opportunities to enjoy memory-making experiences that might also make a difference to the places you visit, and people you meet.
Stunningly sited in the shadow of the Andes, Colombia’s bohemian capital Bogota is blessed with cosmopolitan contemporary verve, captivating colonial architecture, and a thriving food scene. Satisfyingly for travellers looking to travel more responsibly, Bogota is also home to a host of eco-minded entrepreneurs whose businesses benefit local communities - take a workshop tour to support these talented designers and artists.
Alternatively, to support local farmers while enjoying coffee you’ll never stop going on about, venture to Zona Cafetera. Colombia’s main coffee-growing region offers unforgettable food experiences (from sampling said coffee at a plantation, to taking Colombian cooking classes) with spectacular mountain scenery as your backdrop. It’s not a bad spot for bird-watching and nature walks, either.
Then there’s the undeniable magic of Cartagena. Long a draw for artists, writers and musicians, the allures of this colourful Caribbean coastal city are as clear as the sea that fronts it. Think quaint cobbled streets, majestic plazas, elegant arcades, and restaurants serving ceviche and mojitos that pack a mighty punch.
If that’s set your heart racing, take a look at Rough Guides’ Colombian community experience itinerary, with additional options for travellers who are into nature and adventure, art and music, or fancy a break that blends beautiful beaches with culture. Better still, they’re all fully-customisable.
Wondering where to travel to enjoy restful rejuvenation without shirking opportunities to get back to nature and soak up culture? Taking a bliss-focussed trip to Sri Lanka might just be your cup of locally-produced tea. The yoga and meditation techniques you’ll learn will serve you well for a lifetime, and you’re not likely to forget the soul-stirring landscapes and temples in a hurry, either.
Nestled between emerald rice fields, mountains and a lotus-ringed lake, Ulpotha Eco Village is a paradise for travellers looking to immerse themselves in yoga, Ayurvedic treatments and breath-taking natural beauty. After early morning yoga sessions, boating, bathing and walks in wildlife-rich forests await.
Unforgettable cultural treasures are within reach, too, among them Sigiriya Rock, a spectacular UNESCO Heritage Site fortress. For dizzying views (and a cardiac work-out) climb the 1200 steps to its summit. Culture vultures will also want to spend time in Kandy, capital of the last Sinhalese Kingdom, and Sri Lanka’s second largest city.
Surrounded by lush mountains and set around scenic Bogambara Lake, Kandy is home to the revered Temple of the Tooth, so named because it’s believed to contain the Buddha’s tooth.
En route to grand old Galle, be sure to visit Koggala Lake, a freshwater lagoon speckled with tiny islets. Galle itself is a wonder of winding streets, boutiques, and historic attractions, principally its UNESCO World Heritage Site fort. There are plenty of yoga retreats in the area, too, including beach-front, Indian Ocean beauty spots that deliver magical sunsets you’ll never forget.
If you’re yearning for the kind of extraordinary experiences outlined in this article, Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips offer you the chance to choose from existing (fully customisable) itineraries, along with trips to over 60 other destinations. Alternatively, if you fancy creating your own perfect trip from scratch, let Rough Guides take the hassle out of planning your next adventure so you can focus on what really matters - making memories that’ll last a lifetime.