Romancing the river
By its very nature, river cruising is a far more intimate affair than sailing on the behemoths that navigate the open seas. With most of the world's great old cities located along waterways, river cruises are the best way to explore them. Think lazy days spent soaking up the local scene, both on and off the boat; minimal dawdling; unpacking only once; and no fears of motion sickness. The flat-bottomed shape of river ships ensures a smooth ride.
At this time of the year, with winter melting away and summer yet to swelter up, cruise touring in Russia and the Ukraine is a particularly good idea. With Viking River Cruises offering 'two-for-one' offers, there's an added incentive to take the plunge. The 'Waterways of the Czars' will take you from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 13 days.
Spend the days touring the two premier cities' important landmarks-Moscow's Kremlin and Red Square, St. Petersburg's Pushkin, Peter and Paul Fortress and the Hermitage-and discover Russia's heartland through visits to the ancient villages of Yaroslavl, Uglich and Goritzy. Prices start at Rs 1.42 lakh per person. If it's Ukraine that you fancy, take the 12-day 'Footsteps of the Cossacks' cruise on the Dnieper river. Tour palaces, monasteries and botanical gardens in Kiev, Yalta and Odessa, learn about the country's maritime history in Sevastopol and immerse yourself in Cossack traditions in Zaporozhye. Priced at Rs93,726 per person. Accommodation is in staterooms done up Scandanavian-style for choreographed cosiness. Every stateroom is an "outside" room-with a river view through a picture window or French balcony. www.vikingrivercruises.comMountain high
Calling the mighty-hearted (and nimble-footed). While attempting to traverse the entire Great Himalayan Trail, the world's longest and highest trekking trail, might be too ambitious, a 34-day Makalu and Everest trek, which forms part of the trail, is coming up courtesy World Expeditions. An intensely tough trek, you've got to be of sound mind-and body-to try this. But needless to say, the pay-off is magnificent. The best part: you will have the legendary Himalayan climber Stephen Venables as your guide, not to mention a team of crack Sherpas looking after you. This trip runs from March 13 to April 15, and will cost around Rs3.17 lakh, which is exclusive of airfare but includes all accommodation, internal transport, meals and fees. Joining in Kathmandu. For more information, log on to www.worldexpeditions.comSavour Japan in the springFor the culture vulture
At Kyoto, Japan's original capital city, watch Japanese women celebrate the Hina Matsuri doll festival this March and pray for their daughters' health and happiness. Choose to stay at a Ryokan, which is a traditional inn filled with futons, antiques and kimono-clad staff. Hiiragaya Ryokan is a good option with stays starting at 228 (Rs 16,729) including breakfast and dinner.
www.hiiragiya.co.jp/en/For the foodie
Tokyo, the neon-clad home of the pickled sea-slug and horseradish chocolate, has sped past Paris, London and New York to become the most delicious city on earth with the most 'stars' in the Michelin Food Guide. Not surprising when you consider that the city can satiate the most discerning of palettes with restaurants dishing out gourmet French food as easily as noodles and sashimi.
www.gnavi.co.jp/enFor the outdoorsy
While all four of Japan's seasons are distinctively spectacular, spring is particularly breathtaking owing to the gorgeous cherry blossom. To savour them at their best, head to Tohoku where the Hirosaki-koen Park has 2,600 trees of 50 varieties of cherry blossoms. Make your next stop at Hokkaido, where the Matsumae-koen Park boasts 10,000 cherry trees of 250 varieties.
www.japantravelinfo.comWalk the isle
In an increasingly-connected world, imagine stepping into territory that's far removed from the Twittering world of Blackberries, laptops and social networking. We're talking about Lupita Island Resort and Spa at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. Built on a 110-acre private island, it offers the unbeatable sound of silence and uninterrupted views of Africa's second-largest lake. The resort is accessible by air (it has its own private airstrip on the mainland) and a 15-minute boat ride from the mainland. Surrounded by a combination of dense indigenous forest, open grassland and rocky outcrops, the resort is designed to blend in with the environment. It has 11 sumptuous suites and two family cottages, placed over 30 metres apart for privacy, as well as a lake cruiser that sleeps six and is available for trips to Mahale Mountains Chimpanzee Park and Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Lupita is offering special rates for March and you can get a cottage for $1,560 (Rs68,685) per cottage. More details on www.firelightexpeditions.com