TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

DREAM DESTINATIONS: GOOD WEEKEND MAGAZINE

ANTARCTIC PENINSULA

THE EXPERIENCE: You’re sitting in your chic cabin, sipping champagne as icebergs drift by your open balcony doors. You would take more photos but you don’t have much time: there’s a massage on offer in the on-board spa, before a lecture on whales in the theatre. With four-course meals, cocktail bars, a pool, hammam and spa, it’s quite a departure from the style in which Antarctic explorers such as Roald Amundsen travelled.

There’s no place on earth infused with quite as much mystery and enchantment as Antarctica. The great white continent, our planet’s largest frozen desert, tops most travellers’ bucket lists. There’s the serenity of the icy plains and sculptural glaciers, the sense of last-frontier adventure in this place where ice and weather dictate itineraries, and the thrill of seeing some of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife – whales as big as buses, pudgy penguins and sleek seals.

Most magical of all is Antarctica’s nothingness. Surrounded by all that silence and solitude, even the most cynical among us are forced to reexamine their place in the scheme of things.

Most journeys there involve crossing the Drake Passage, one of the world’s most perilous bodies of water. Two days of seasickness, however, are forgotten the moment you see your first iceberg looming above you like some marble-hewn sculpture, or take your first crunchy steps across the continent past hundreds of curious penguins.

There are countless highlights, such as passing through the Lemaire Channel flanked by sheer, ice-draped cliffs, seeing whales breach beside you in Wilhelmina Bay and watching fur seals play among mist-shrouded whaling station ruins on Deception Island.

IDEAL FOR: Intrepid couples or solo travellers.

PRICE: APT’s 15-day Classic Antarctica tour, from $16,490 a person; aptouring.com.au.

AUSANGATE, PERU

THE EXPERIENCE: Look at photos of Peru’s Rainbow Mountain and you’ll immediately reorganise your travel plans. Striped turquoise, turmeric, rose and lavender from mineral deposits, it’s only by seeing it in the flesh that you’ll convince yourself the images weren’t photoshopped.

A four-hour drive from Peru’s cultural capital Cusco and a few hours of hiking will get you there on a day trip. Consider taking five days to trek the Ausangate trail: at more than 5000 metres above sea level it will be truly life-changing and challenging. Luckily, the scenery en route – glacier-flanked valleys smattered with llamas and alpacas, mountains worshipped as gods – will make every step worth it. You’ll likely only see a handful of other hikers the whole time, too.

Each afternoon, before the weather gets wild, you’ll bunker down in traditional mud-brick lodges. Hot showers and fireside wines await, before dinner overlooking the mountains and glaciers. The ultimate reward, however, awaits back in Cusco: a feast that could include alpaca carpaccio, cuy (guinea pig) and pisco sours at Gaston Acurio’s Chicha restaurant; chicha.com.pe.

IDEAL FOR: Couples, solo travellers, small groups. Moderate fitness required.

PRICE: Crooked Compass runs an 11-day Wild Peru itinerary, including the Ausangate trek, at $5769 a person; crooked-compass.com.


THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN PRINT AND ONLINE HERE

Leave a Reply