TRAVELS WITH NINA

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

World’s Best Feel-Good Destinations: SHM Traveller

Travelling to renew our minds, bodies and spirits is nothing new. There’s the mention of the Dead Sea’s therapeutic waters in the Bible, 18th century elites were always soaking in one mineral spa or another, and people have been making spiritual pilgrimages all over the world for thousands of years. With our increasingly fast-paced modern lives, however, we crave holidays that will help us rebalance, refresh and reboot, to leave us feeling like the best versions of ourselves.

The 30 mind-expanding, body-enriching, spirit-uplifting corners of the globe featured here are ones you can’t possibly leave without feeling a million dollars. From the canyons of Oman to Tibet’s sacred Mount Kailash, to Portuguese surf spots and alfresco mineral springs in Japan, these places offer disarming natural beauty, spiritual significance, or ability to help you relax and reconnect to yourself.

We hope they inspire you to make your next trip one that feeds your mind, body and spirit, and that fuels your sense of wonder for our magnificent planet.

MIND

JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA, US

WHAT IS IT A national park in south-eastern California.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Experiencing the silence of the vast desert, filled with spiky Joshua trees and bare-rock outcroppings.

DON’T MISS The Integratron. A magnet for spiritual questers, this bright white dome offers “sonic healings”.

WHERE TO STAY The two-bedroom geodesic Dome in the Desert, Joshua Tree from $258 a night airbnb.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN March-April brings pleasant temperatures and wildflowers. You’ll be far from services and reception; carry water and snacks. nps.gov

SATELLITE ISLAND, TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA

WHAT IS IT Private 34-hectare island in south Tasmania’s D’Entrecasteaux Channel.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Sitting on the jetty, eating oysters you’ve just shucked.

DON’T MISS Walking or kayaking around the island’s rock shelf, passing dolphins, seals and albatross.

WHERE TO STAY You’ll have the whole island, including the Summer House and Boathouse, to yourself. From $1200 a night. satelliteisland.com.au

MAKE IT HAPPEN Drive from Hobart to the Bruny Island car ferry, then to Alonnah Jetty where Satellite’s manager will collect you in a boat. Avoid brutal Tassie winters. discovertasmania.com.au

JUKKASJÄRVI, SWEDEN

WHAT IS IT Town of about 550 people in far north Sweden.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Watching the northern lights do their otherworldly thing.

DON’T MISS Jukkasjarvi kurka, the oldest church in Lappland (1608), and Nutti Sami Siida reindeer yard.

WHERE TO STAY Icehotel, the largest snow and ice accommodation in the world. From $175 a night. icehotel.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Best chance to see the lights September-March. visitsweden.com

AORAKI MOUNT COOK, NZ

WHAT IS IT New Zealand’s highest mountain (3754 metres) on the South Island.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Reaching the glacier lake at the end of the two-hour Hooker Valley Track walk.

DON’T MISS The Tasman Glacier and surrounding iceberg-filled lake. glacierexplorers.com

WHERE TO STAY The Hermitage, with jaw-slackening views of the craggy peaks. hermitage.co.nz

MAKE IT HAPPEN In spring. It’s not too cold, wildflowers are out, but you still get snow caps. newzealand.com

VINICUNCA MOUNTAINS, PERU, SOUTH AMERICA

WHAT IS IT Rainbow-coloured sandstone mountains on the Ausangate Trek, Peruvian Andes.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Taking in the mountains’ psychedelic reds, yellows, blues and greys.

DON’T MISS Spotting condors, pumas and bobcats, bathing in hot springs, and visiting Sacred Valley tribes en route.

WHERE TO STAY Simple lodges tucked into the mountains.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Crooked Compass will get you there on their Wild Peru tour. crooked-compass.com

LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA, CENTRAL EUROPE

WHAT IS IT Glacial lake with an iconic island.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Promenading around the lake, surrounded by swans, pines and gondolas.

DON’T MISS Hiking through forest trails to Bled Castle.

WHERE TO STAY Grand 19th-century villas, many converted into elegant hotels, dot the shore. Grand Hotel Toplice is a good one. From $240 a night. grandhoteltoplice.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Avoid midsummer crowds. bled.si/en/

ANTARCTICA

WHAT IS IT Southernmost continent, site of the South Pole.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Having a king penguin peck your boot as icebergs float by.

DON’T MISS Mawson’s huts, where Australian explorer Douglas Mawson and his crew holed up for two years more than a century ago.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Chimu Adventures are the only company heading to Antarctica from Australia in 2017. chimuadventures.com

ASH SHARQIYAH, OMAN

WHAT IS IT Eastern coastal region of this Arabian Sultanate.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Sitting by your campfire surrounded by date palms and sheer rust cliffs, after a day exploring waterfalls and natural pools at Wadi (canyon) Shab.

DON’T MISS Swimming in the emerald waters of Bimmah Sinkhole.

WHERE TO STAY Wild camping for full nature immersion.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Wadi Shab is a 90-minute drive from Muscat. Hire a 4WD; avoid the scorching summer in June-August. tourismoman.com.au

FAJARDO, PUERTO RICO

WHAT IS IT Eastern coastal city of this Caribbean island.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Thousands of bioluminescent plankton sparkling beneath you as you kayak through Laguna Grande bioluminescent bay.

DON’T MISS Snorkelling on Icacos Island.

WHERE TO STAY El Conquistador Resort has spa packages including yoga, massages and bioluminescent bay tours. From $190 a night. elconresort.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Biobays are best on cloudy or moonless nights. ecotourspuertorico.com

GOBI DESERT, MONGOLIA

WHAT IS IT Desert in southern Mongolia, a country jammed between Russia and China.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Lying on the sculptural waves of Khongoryn Els sand dunes at sunset.

DON’T MISS Hiking through lush green Eagle Valley.

WHERE TO STAY Nomadic ger (Mongolian yurts) camps.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Frui runs 14-day photography holidays to Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. frui.com.au

BODY

DEAD SEA, ISRAEL, MIDDLE EAST

WHAT IS IT Hypersaline lake, 9.6 times as salty as the ocean.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Bobbing in the Dead Sea, soaking up the magnesium, calcium and potassium.

DON’T MISS Ein Gedi nature reserve for freshwater springs, waterfalls and wildlife including leopards and wolves.

WHERE TO STAY Kibbutz Ein Gedi, a lush desert oasis. From $286 a night. en.kibbutz.co.il

MAKE IT HAPPEN Spring (April-May) and autumn (Sept-Oct) are pleasantly mild. For skin conditions, stay for a week or more to bathe each day. touristisrael.com

UBUD, BALI, INDONESIA

WHAT IS IT Bali’s cultural heart, in the mountains.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Gazing out over the rice paddies after a day of yoga and meditation, which Ubud is a haven for.

DON’T MISS Art galleries scattered around town.

WHERE TO STAY Bambu Indah. Sustainable boutique hotel with 100-year-old Javanese joglos, edible gardens and a yoga pavillion, set amid rice fields. From $125 a night. bambuindah.com 

MAKE IT HAPPEN Breezes and blue skies June-Sept. balitourismboard.org

EVEREST BASE CAMP, NEPAL

WHAT IS IT Campsite at 3500 metres below Everest’s summit, used by mountain climbers during Everest ascents and descents.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Reaching this camp at the end of your gruelling two-week trek.

DON’T MISS Learning the Sherpas’ spiritual perspective on the mountains they call home.

WHERE TO STAY Simple lodges in villages en route. intrepidtravel.com.

MAKE IT HAPPEN March-May, September-December are best. Hire a guide for about $25 a day; pack 10 to 15 kilos maximum. welcomenepal.com

TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE, SOUTH AMERICA

WHAT IS IT National park in Chile’s southern Patagonia region.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Trekking past jagged peaks, lakes and rivers, passing guanaco and condors.

DON’T MISS Taking a puma-tracking trip.

WHERE TO STAY EcoCamp Patagonia, in geodesic domes with ceiling windows so you can stargaze from bed. Multi-day safari and adventure packages from $1100. ecocamp.travel

MAKE IT HAPPEN The brilliant spring, September-November greens are unmissable. The 130-kilometre circuit is popular; if time’s tight you can do shorter sections. chile.travel/en

GUNMA PREFECTURE, JAPAN

WHAT IS IT Mountainous, landlocked prefecture on Japan’s main Honshu island.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Soaking in the Takaragawa Onsen, taking part in the 1500-year-old tradition of Japanese mineral spring bathing. From $200 a night.

DON’T MISS Taking the Tanigawadake Ropeway gondola to the peak of Tenjindaira for autumnal forest hikes from October-November.

WHERE TO STAY At the hot springs. takaragawa.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN If you ski, visit December-April. visitgunma.jp

SILVER ISLAND, GREECE

WHAT IS IT A 60-acre private island retreat, between Evia island and the Greek mainland.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Crashing out on sunbeds at Pebble Beach after a day of yoga.

DON’T MISS Walking to the lighthouse; kayaking to spot monk seals.

WHERE TO STAY Silver Island runs six-night yoga retreat packages.Weekly packages from $1690. silverislandyoga.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Retreats run April to October. There’s no phone signal or Wi-Fi. visitgreece.gr

UPOLU, SAMOA, SOUTH PACIFIC

WHAT IS IT Samoa’s main island.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Plunging into To Sua trench, a giant tidal hole sunk 30 metres into the earth.

DON’T MISS Palm-fringed, crystalline Vavau Beach.

WHERE TO STAY Seabreeze Resort has a private beach, from where you can paddle in glass-bottomed kayaks to deserted beaches. From $390 a night. seabreezesamoa.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Avoid the wet season in November-March. samoa.travel

LA FORTUNA, COSTA RICA, CENTRAL AMERICA

WHAT IS IT Small city in San Carlos, northern Costa Rica near Nicaragua.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Watching molten lava ooze out of Arenal, one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes.

DON’T MISS Exploring the tropical rainforest in Arenal’s shadow.

WHERE TO STAY The Springs Resort and Spa has spectacular volcano views, and mineral springs. From $580 a night. thespringscostarica.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Arenal is most visible after rain; rainy season May-November. visitcostarica.com

WESTERN ALGARVE, PORTUGAL

WHAT IS IT Portugal’s southernmost, least developed region.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT “Popping up” for the first time on your surfboard, on idyllic beaches of Odeceixe, Monte Clérigo or Amoreira.

DON’T MISS Exploring Aljezur, small town of whitewashed Moorish houses and cobbled laneways.

WHERE TO STAY Tipi Valley yoga retreat with tipis, daily surf and yoga classes, massage and organic meals. Weekly retreat packages from $875. surfalgarve.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Retreats run from May-October. visitportugal.com

SIARGAO ISLAND, PHILIPPINES

WHAT IS IT Teardrop-shaped island in the Philippine Sea.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Island hopping to Naked, Daku and Guyam islands.

DON’T MISS Kayaking around the Sohoton Caves. Or surfing – Siargao is the Philippines’ surf capital.

WHERE TO STAY Dedon Island Resort for barefoot luxury. From $830 a person per night, all-inclusive. dedonisland.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Maximum sunshine is from March-November. tourismphilippines.com.au

SPIRIT

MOUNT KAILASH, TIBET, CHINA

WHAT IS IT Sacred peak in Tibet’s Kailash mountain range.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Reaching the end of the kora, the ritualistic three-day circumnavigation.

DON’T MISS A purifying dip in Lake Manasarovar, one of the world’s highest lakes, to complete your pilgrimage.

WHERE TO STAY Monasteries along the way. travel-himalayas.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Travel from April-September. Companies like World Expeditions can deal with the logistics of getting into Tibet, and to Mount Kailash. worldexpeditions.com

KAKADU NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA

WHAT IS IT Australia’s largest national park of 20,000 square kilometres.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Sunset over the Nabad Floodplain at Ubirr Rock, a sacred Aboriginal area with the world’s oldest rock art.

DON’T MISS Sunrise Yellow Water Billabong cruise, passing brumbies, buffalo and crocs.

WHERE TO STAY Kakadu Lodge Cooinda’s flash-camping option. Camping sites from $46 a night. accorhotels.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Most visitor sites open May-October. It’s stinking hot; bring your Akubra. kakadutourism.com

TABLE MOUNTAIN, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

WHAT IS IT A 600 million-year-old mountain, supposedly one of the planet’s 12 spiritual energy centres.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Meditating atop this mountain, with breathtaking city views.

DON’T MISS Cape Town’s magnificent beaches, including Camps Bay and Clifton, and exploring famous vineyards.

WHERE TO STAY Ellerman House, an elegant 11-room retreat with ocean views. From $670 a night. ellerman.co.za

MAKE IT HAPPEN Avoid the tourist deluge Dec-January. capetown.travel

VARANASI, NORTHERN INDIA

WHAT IS IT City dating to the eleventh century BC, regarded as India’s spiritual capital.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Watching the hypnotic nightly aarti ceremony, performed by Hindu priests by the sacred Ganges river, to bless cremations.

DON’T MISS A sunrise Ganges stroll to see ash-smeared sadhus, or holy men.

WHERE TO STAY Choose between a plethora of ashrams, or Nadesar Palace with its outstanding Jiva Spa. From $595 a night. tajhotels.com 

MAKE IT HAPPEN Although winter (November-February) can be very cold, it’s the least overwhelming time to explore. varanasicity.com

QADISHA (HOLY) VALLEY, LEBANON

WHAT IS IT Gorge in northern Lebanon.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Standing beneath the majestic forest of Lebanon Cedars, or the Cedars of God (some of which are 3000 years old), that God himself is said to have planted.

DON’T MISS Hiking the verdant valley, exploring caves that served as refuges for early Christians.

WHERE TO STAY Our Lady of Cannoubine Monastery for a spiritual retreat; magnificent valley views. new.antonines.org

MAKE IT HAPPEN April-Nov for the best weather. visitlebanonvalley.com

LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA, AFRICA

WHAT IS IT One of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, famous for its monolithic rock-cut churches.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Standing at the base of one of the ancient churches, carved by hand into cliff sides and caves 900 years ago, as Orthodox Christian priests chant and bless pilgrims in clouds of frankincense smoke.

DON’T MISS The nearby (ish) Simien Mountains, where you’ll find bleeding-heart baboons and Ethiopian wolves.

WHERE TO STAY Tukul Village Hotel, within walking distance of the churches. From $65 a night. tukulvillage.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN G Adventures runs Ethiopian itineraries including Lalibela and the Simien Mountains. gadventures.com.au

ORCAS ISLAND, WASHINGTON STATE, US

WHAT IS IT The largest of the San Juan islands, Washington state’s northwestern corner.

FEEL GOOD MOMENT Hiking to Turtlehead through dense fir forests, gazing out over the other 174 San Juan islands as red tail hawks fly above.

DON’T MISS Kayaking around the shore, passing whales, porpoises and seals.

WHERE TO STAY Indralaya offers retreats including silent meditation and “deep singing”. From $65 a night. indralaya.com. Or rent a house. vacationrentalssanjuanislands.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Get there by the Washington State Ferry or seaplane. visitsanjuans.com

SAHARA DESERT, MOROCCO

WHAT IS IT The biggest hot desert in the world, comprising much of north Africa. About the size of America.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Riding along the undulating ruby waves of the desert on a camel.

DON’T MISS Pondering the universe under a starry desert sky.

WHERE TO STAY Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp, a base for walking, oasis picnics, quad biking and more. From $345 a person a night. desertcampmorocco.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN By Prior Arrangement creates private Moroccan itineraries. bypriorarrangement.com

BHUTAN, SOUTH ASIA

WHAT IS IT A sovereign state in the eastern Himalayas where advertising doesn’t exist and which measures “Gross National Happiness” instead of GDP.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Ascending Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, monastery above the Paro Valley.

DON’T MISS Bumthang Valley, home to some of the kingdom’s oldest Buddhist temples.

WHERE TO STAY COMO Uma Paro, a stylish 29-room resort that offers yoga and Himalayan camping adventures. From $630 a night. comohotels.com.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Tourists pay $US200 a day, including all accommodation, internal transport and food, whatever their itinerary. bhutan.com.au

SHIRAZ, IRAN, MIDDLE EAST

WHAT IS IT A city of culture and poetry in south Iran.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT Standing in the 18th-century Vakil Mosque, surrounded by breathtaking tile work.

DON’T MISS Hafez’s tomb, a memorial and gardens dedicated to the poet Hafez. Carpet shopping at Vakil Bazaar.

WHERE TO STAY Niayesh Boutique Hotel in the old quarter. Private rooms from $46 a night. niayeshhotels.com

MAKE IT HAPPEN Skip high prices and crowds during Nowruz (Persian New Year) March-April. itto.org

 

 

FIVE PLACES THAT CAN BE BAD FOR YOU (BUT STILL MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD)

IBIZA, SPAIN

Legendary for sun-soaked parties and world-famous nightclubs, Ibiza will give your liver hell. But the White Isle’s turquoise waters and undeniable buzz still make you feel fabuloso. See ibiza.travel/en

PARIS, FRANCE

Although French women supposedly don’t get fat, foreign people visiting France do. But there really is no more adored city on this planet. See parisinfo.com

KHO PHANGAN, THAILAND

This island’s famous full moon parties will leave you feeling foggy. It’s worth it, though, because it’s exceptionally gorgeous – especially if you search for the more secluded bays. See kohphangan-tourism.com

NEW YORK, US

You won’t sleep – there are simply too many fabulous restaurants and bars to explore – and you’ll return home looking more haggard than Keith Richards. But New York will make you feel like the world is your oyster. See nycgo.com

PIEMONTE, ITALY

Drinking your body weight in Barolo and Barbaresco every day and then gorging on pasta and pizza won’t be great for your waistline. Piemonte’s stunning baroque architecture and rolling vineyards, however, are worth the months of boot camp you’ll have to do once you’re home. See piemonteitalia.eu/en

 

 

GOOD TO GO – EXPERTS’ BEST PLACES FOR MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT

KIRSTEN SHANKS
Naturopath, Founder and Director of Orchard St.

“Sivananda Ashram in Kerala, India. Daily yoga classes, 5am Vedic chanting, ‘sutra neti’ nasal cleansing – each practice an exercise in devotion and an opportunity for mindfulness. The moments of peace and clarity provided a deep shift in my perception, and a limitless resource of compassion that has remained for me to tap into in the 10 years since my visit.” See sivananda.org.inorchardstreet.com.au

MELISSA AMBROSINI
Bestselling author, speaker and wellness guru

“Aro Ha, New Zealand. There’s something magical and sacred about that land, combined with one of the best retreats I’ve experienced. I was in awe daily and all my senses were taken on a journey.” See aro-ha.commelissaambrosini.com

TOM CRONIN
Meditation teacher, speaker, author and coach

“Bagus Jati, an hour north of Ubud, Bali. On the edge of a deep gorge amid lush rainforests, it’s a place of deep serenity to stretch, breathe, meditate and immerse in the healing stillness.” See bagusjati.comtomcronin.com

LUCINDA MILLS
Founder and director One Hot Yoga

“Sleeping under the stars in a luxury swag doing the Arkaba Walk. Traversing the rugged and magnificent Flinders Rangers for four days and enjoying pared back luxury. Between ancient earth and vast sky, it reminded me of my own irrelevancy, which I found so peaceful.” See arkabastation.comonehotyoga.com.au

LEE HOLMES
Cookbook Author, nutritionist and yoga teacher

“Barberyn on Sri Lanka’s south-east coast, a retreat that’s also a wonderful facilitator for the Ayurvedic way of life. The only ‘doing’ required by you is to close your eyes and gently surrender to its nurturing ways.” See barberynresorts.comsuperchargedfood.com

 

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