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Holidays of a lifetime

The incredible Piton mountainsAwe-inspiringHolidays of a lifetime - New York

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

What is the ultimate travel experience? Some people’s idea of a holiday of a lifetime is a luxury beach hotel, others would travel round the world visiting exciting cities and exotic cultures.

How about flying by private jet, witnessing the Northern Lights or tracking mountain gorillas in Africa?

Whether you’ve inherited some money, or are just writing your bucket list – the things you plan to do before you die – here are some ideas to help you find your holiday of a lifetime.

Few things are more amazing than natural phenomena. To view the Northern Lights is one of the most sensational experiences on Earth. Head to Iceland or Norway. Or perhaps you dream of sailing south to Antarctica to explore the last great wilderness on earth – take a 9-day classic cruise or for something more adventurous check out this Active Antarctica cruise includes activities such as snow-shoeing, kayaking, mountaineering and cross-country skiing.

If you want to discover natural wonders away from the crowds, I recommend Chile which is as diverse as it is dramatic. Explore salt canyons and volcanoes in the Atacama Desert (where, in some places, it has never rained) and marvel at icebergs and glacial fjords in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. You visit the vineyards surrounding Santiago, go hiking in the Lake District and get up close to the ancient monumental statues on Easter Island.

If you don’t mind roughing it, how about joining an overland truck adventure crossing wild terrain and visiting astonishing out-of-the-way places, bonding with your felling passengers and mucking in with cooking and setting up camp. Some trips are as long as 40 weeks, others just five days, mostly in Africa, South America or Central Asia.

For the ultimate beach holiday, it would be hard to beat the Indian Ocean. In the Seychelles, you can swim with turtles, meet giant tortoises and swim off stunning beaches. In the Maldives each resort hotel occupies its own private island surrounded by turquoise lagoons and deep blue seas. You can stay in a water bungalow on a coral beach and even have spa treatments and meals underwater. In Mauritius you will find superb hotels on dreamy white-sand beaches.

Asia has some of the world’s finest hotels and amazing cultural treasures. Take a private tour of Burma, one of the world’s hottest destinations right now, explore the ancient jungle-clad temples of Cambodia or take a tour of Vietnam to discover temples, deserted beaches and exciting historic cities.

The beaches of Bali offer peace-filled perfection, and the island can also be combined with other islands of Indonesia – could also see Orang-Utans, Komodo dragons, spectacular temples and some of the world’s greatest snorkelling. See more ideas here.

Few countries are more exotic than Japan which is both modern and traditional in equal measure. Travel between dazzling cities on lightning fast trains, visit ancient temples, explore mountains and beaches and eat some of the world’s finest food.

If animals are your passion, take a safari holiday in Botswana, home to the Big Five and some of the world’s most luxurious tented camps. You can go gorilla tracking in the mountains of Rwanda or discover lemurs in Madagascar.

In Australia you could do the golden triangle of Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru. Or escape to New Zealand, where you can rent a camper van and explore this sensational country.

If you just want to indulge, how about a luxury barge cruise in France or a holiday by private jet.

It’s just six hours flying time to the Arabian Gulf, where Abu Dhabi is an exciting, fast-growing destination with stunning beach resorts and the world’s fastest rollercoaster on Yas Island. You can head out into the desert on safari or combine it with neighbouring Dubai. Check out the latest offers.

Need more ideas? Try our fun holiday quiz to find out what kind of holidaymaker you are, and get personalised travel recommendations. You can search our homepage or see our guides to the best Caribbean holidays, and the best beach holiday destinations.

Last updated: 27 May 2016

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