By Ritika Jain
March: After-exam vacay
Tokyo: Let a teacher show you how to make plastic food (displayed in restaurant windows all over Japan) in a guided workshop; get Ninja training; see Sumo wrestlers; visit Harajuku’s fashion street; have a picnic under the cherry blossoms at Yoyogi park; visit the Ghibli Museum or Cup Noodle Museum; collect Gachas and dine/shop at any of the underground train stations. Tokyo has all kinds of surprises in store for you.
Kyoto: Attend a tea ceremony with a Geisha at Gion; try all kinds of exotic icecreams, Mochi, Ramen and Sushi; collect Kokeshi dolls, paper fans and pretty stationery; trek up Fushimi Inari Taisha and buy souvenir Torii gates or a sacred Kitsune fox figurine; rent a Kimono; stay at a hundred year old house; see Shinto shrines; dip into an Onsen (hot spring bath) or Ryokan (open-air bath). There is so much to experience!
Masai Mara: March is a good time for Safaris and game viewing, and for meeting Maasai people–the unique pastoral warriors. Experience their rhythmic music and jumping dance; try the staple Ugali (cornmeal dish) with stew, Nyama Choma (roasted goat) and Sukuma Wiki (sautéd greens). You’ll also get some amazing photo-ops with their colourful clothing and vast landscapes as backdrops.
June: Summer hols
Lima: Learn to make chocolate from scratch, learn about its origins and take some home after signing up for a workshop at ChocoMuseo, a popular cafe in the capital city.
Cusco: Make a day trip to the ruins in Sacred Valley or the Inca city of Pisac; spot baby Alpacas walking around the countryside and buy colourful woollens and blankets from the locals.
Machu Pichu: From Cusco, walk the Inca trail that culminates here (recommended with teens only because it’s a tough four-day hike).
Yosemite national park is at its prettiest in June, with grey wolf sightings, wildflowers and the falls. There are the giant Redwoods and granite cliffs at Sequoia national park. Mammoth and June Lakes in Sierra Nevada mountains are popular for skiing, camping and hiking trails. Besides the beautiful outdoors, Disneyland, La Brea Tar Pits (fossil excavation sites), Calico ghost town near Barstow (a preserved mining town from the wild west days), Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and California Science Center are hot attractions for children.
Destination: London and the English countryside
Take a Harry Potter London tour or the Afternoon Tea Bus tour; climb aboard the ship Cutty Sark on the Thames riverbank in Greenwich; watch kid-friendly productions like Matilda or The Lion King; visit the lovely Regent’s Park for the zoo; take part in interactive workshops at Tate Modern–London’s best contemporary art gallery and visit the Imperial War Museum for the tanks and planes.
For a relaxed vacation in an idyllic location, take a day trip to the charming Cotswolds with its thatched roof cottages, the coasts of Devon, Dorset or Dover, Stratford-upon-Avon (a medieval market town and the birthplace of Shakespeare), the historic Bristol harbour or the Great Missenden parish for the Roald Dahl Museum.
October: Festive break
Bucharest: Marvel at the Stravopoleos monastery or the historic Bellu cemetery, gorge at the Vilacrosse passage cafes and lose yourself at Carturesti Verona (book and music store/tearoom), and visit old town especially for Gioelia ice-cream.
Brasov: Celebrate Halloween with ghosts and vampires. Take a late night tour of Bran Castle, the place that closely resembles the description in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Opt for easy treks/biking in charming villages of Magura or Viscri, 25 km away or take the Tampa cable car to spot wild black bears along the way.
Sighisoara: Besides the famous medieval fortified citadel, there are other hidden treasures here. Go biking till Malancrov (4 hour round trip with stop at Apold church) or visit the Breite Ancient Oak Tree Reserve, home to a variety of birds and wildlife. Be sure to check out the art and craft store at Corund to buy souvenir Easter eggs, leather bags or pottery.
Visit the picturesque lake district and the extraordinary village Hallstatt–the setting for the classic movie The Sound of Music. Also see the Mirabell Palace and the Marionette theater for productions like The Nutcracker and The Magic Flute. For nature lovers, there are Werfen Ice caves–the largest ice cave system in the world.
Mexico City: Learn about Aztec history at the archaeological site of Teotihuacán, an hour away from the city or you could visit the Museum of Anthropology. Buy delish Mayan chocolate, Barro Negro Pottery or colourful blankets for souvenirs. Taste Churros, Conchas (sweet bread rolls) or Cocada (baked coconut candies). If you’re adventurous, visit Popocatepetl National Park to get a glimpse of El Popo, Mexico’s most active volcano.
Oaxaca: Visit ancient Mayan temples, sample traditional Tamales or Mole (a thick sauce made of spices, nuts, chili and chocolate) or even edible grasshoppers! Celebrate Día de Muertos or the Day of the Dead, when Mexicans congregate to remember deceased loved ones in a three-day fiesta. Sugar skull candies, marigold and paper decorations, children and adults dressed alike in skeletal costumes and makeup, offering of food like pan de muerto (a sweet bread made especially for the festival) are traditional ways to celebrate.
Istanbul: Marvel at the majestic Christian/Islamic architecture at the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque and glimpse into the Ottoman empire at the Topkapi Palace. Walk through underwater tunnels in Emaar aquarium or have a picnic by the Bosphorous. Climb into a military plane’s cockpit, ride in vintage cars and even a real submarine at Rahmi M Koç Museum or simply take a tram ride around the city centre. Savour the traditional Baklava and candied fruit or try the fresh cheese with olives.
Cappadocia: Book a hot air ballon ride for an aerial view of the fairy chimneys, stay in a cave hotel, see the murals of Cavusin church or hike around the underground city of Kaymakli.
December/January: Winter hols
Helsinki: Walk around to see a concentration of the best Art Nouveau buildings, including the railway station and National Theatre. Visit the Burgher’s House, the oldest preserved wooden residence in town. See some gorgeous orthodox churches and monasteries. Do not miss the fortress of Suomenlinna, spread across six islands, to learn about their nautical history and for some stunning views. Also, sample traditional Nordic pies and cinnamon buns.
Lapland: Apart from the phenomenal midnight sun and Northern lights, Lapland is best known for being Santa’s hometown. Whether it’s a private family meeting with Santa himself, a sleigh ride with real reindeer, ice fishing or living in a glass igloo or an Arctic treehouse, nothing is impossible in this magical, snowy land.
Go on a safari at the marine park or see over 250 species of birds at the bird park; visit Taman Nusa cultural park to learn about Indonesian history; watch the famous fire dance in the breathtaking Devdan show; dine atop a bamboo tree house or a pirate ship; head out to the ocean in a submarine or enjoy natural hot springs. There’s gorgeous craft to take home too–beaded baskets, crazy helmets, wooden masks, Ikat fabric, rattan bags and coconut shell lamps.