Whether it’s a walk through pristine forest in Japan or a cooking lesson in the Estonian countryside, sometimes the most cherished travel memories are not of the big-ticket variety. While the world’s largest cruise ships offer their own kind of holiday fun, those in search of a more boutique holiday experience could very easily fall in love with small ship cruising. With a more nimble vessel and fewer travelling companions, small ship cruising offers the perfect combination of old-world luxury and authentic, exclusive travel experiences. You never know what you’re going to discover at the next port…
Gems of Japan
Located on the west coast, Kanazawa is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. Luckily for visitors, the city is relatively compact, with the most important sights located around the green core that is formed by Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenroku-en Garden. Set on a hilltop, Kanazawa Castle Park offers views in all directions and on a clear day you can see as far as Mt Hakusan (2,702 metres). For a peaceful and contemplative walk, a visit to Kenroku-en Garden is a must. Part of the joy is simply wandering around and enjoying the perfect vistas and quaint traditional tea houses dotted amongst the green expanse. Kanazawa is also known for its exceptional handcrafts, such as lacquerware, Kutani-style pottery.
Nagasaki is another exceptional place to visit in Japan, for all sorts of reasons. Most notably, there is the legacy of World War II, and wandering through the Nagasaki Peace Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden is an experience you will never forget. Away from the city, in the Nagasaki region, a beautiful place to visit if you have time is Todoroki Gorge. Here you’ll find the breathtaking Todoroki Falls, named after the deafening roar made by the water as it hits the plunge pool. Surrounded by lush greenery and tall trees, it is a refreshing escape for any traveller.
A land of fire and ice may not sound like the most relaxing holiday destination but if it’s unique and unforgettable experiences you’re after, Iceland is hard to beat. The capital, Reykjavik, is the perfect introduction to Iceland’s culture, as you’ll discover at the Reykjavik Art Museum and the National Gallery. Cafe culture is also big in Reykjavik so even though you’re at the top of the world, good coffee is still thankfully easy to find. The real reason to visit Iceland, of course, is for the dramatic scenery, and once you leave the capital behind, your own momentous travel experience can really begin.
One of Iceland’s highlights is the enormous Vatnajokull Glacier – so vast that it is often called an icecap. The 600-metre thick sheet of ice sits above active volcanoes, one of which erupted in 1996, gouging out an unusual crater in the ice. Another remarkable only-in-Iceland experience is to explore the geothermal wonder of the boiling mud pools at Namaskard and the steam vents of Lake Myvatn’s craters.
Estonia’s capital on the Baltic Sea is a fascinating place to explore. The cobblestone Old Town is true to its fairytale reputation, considered by UNESCO to be an “exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a medieval northern European trading city”. While popular with tourists, there are still secrets to be uncovered. For example, at one special point in Town Hall Square, a stone marks the location from which all five of the city’s medieval spires are visible. Another hidden gem is the little lane between Vene and Muurivahe Streets, known as St Catherine’s Passage, where craftspeople still make and sell their handmade treasures.
The Pristine Kimberley Coast
The wild and breathtaking coastline of Australia’s Kimberley region is simply one photo opportunity after another. And that’s before you even leave the ship. In this part of the world, there is so much natural beauty to behold. Standout sights include the Buccaneer Archipelago which is home to more than 800 islands, the King George Falls – the highest single-drop falls in Western Australia, and the Kimberley’s mysterious Bradshaw (Gwion Gwion) paintings, dating back some 20,000 years.