Hit the open road with a new breed of exotic fly-drives
Argentina overland? Mark Rowe selects the best brave new destinations for adventurous motorists
Sunday 09 May 2010
Sweeping round a bend high in the Alps, burning through the Australian Outback or chasing the breeze along the coast of Florida, fly-drive holidays retain their magic year after year.
If you're tempted to take a fly-drive this year, then the advice is to book early. "People got caught out last year because car hire firms had problems updating their fleets. They simply couldn't get credit," said a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta). "That's been resolved, but the consequence is that people are now booking early. There's plenty of availability, but to say 'wait and see' is not good advice."
The classic trips through the south-western United States or France are still plentiful, but this year – with a weak pound, strong euro and dollar, the recession still darkening the door, and an unco-operative volcano upwind of the UK – operators are seeking to be more inventive in their efforts to entice us abroad.
Several operators are offering new trips catering to niche markets in developing nations, such as Mozambique and Malawi, a move welcomed by Abta, though with caveats.
"If you are taking a fly-drive to a developing country, then you really should arrange the car hire in the UK. Operators will have carried out safety checks on the companies they use, but you can't assume that will always be the case with local companies if you just show up at the desk," said Abta.
If Europe is more the measure but you still want something a little exotic, try taking a Ferrari or a Mini Cooper through the Alps. Ultimate Drives is a new company offering fly-drives with classic and sporty cars through central Europe (0041 43 542 0867; ultimatedrives.net). The company offers a tour to St Moritz and the Engadine region of south-east Switzerland, which also takes in the Stelvio pass and crosses the border into Italy. Prices start at £1,250 for three nights, including hotel accommodation.
Two new sail-drive and fly-drive routes through Spain have been designed by Casas Cantabricas (01223 328721; casas.co.uk). The Camino del Este takes in Bilbao and Basque Country, while the Caminando por Galicia explores Finisterre and traditional, remote fishing villages. Seven-night packages from £470.
Norway's Hurtigruten (020-8846 2666; hurtigruten.co.uk) is best known for coastal cruises but this year the company is introducing a nine-day fly-drive holiday, travelling between Oslo and the coastal town of Alesund, along spectacular mountain routes. The package involves a short trip on a Hurtigruten coastal ship. Prices from £1,325 per person.
Tour operator Purely America (0844 804 4480; purelycapitalregionusa .co.uk) has launched a bookable website focusing on fly-drives to Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland. Nine tours, taking in themes such as the Civil War and mountain ranges, can be tailored by travellers for length, choice of car, and hotels. Prices from £989 per person for a 10-night tour.
Air Canada starts flying direct to St John's in Newfoundland at the end of this month; Prestige Holidays (01520 567222; prestigeholidays.co.uk/canada) has launched an eight-night self-drive tour to coincide with the flights. It explores the Gros Morne National Park and takes in the Trans-Canada Highway. From £1,600 per person.
Bon Voyage (0800 316 3012; bon- voyage.co.uk/spotlights) launches a British Columbia & Alberta B&B tour this summer. The 13-night fly-drive takes in Banff and Jasper national parks with stays at some characterful B&Bs, such as Minto Manor, an Edwardian mansion near Glacier National Park.
Bales (0845 057 1819; balesworld wide.com) is offering its first Golden Circle Yukon self-drive this year, taking in the Klondike goldfields and Dawson City. The route operates from mid-May to mid-September, to tie in with the seasonal opening of the Top of the World Highway that runs from Dawson City to the US border. Prices from £2,450 per person for 10 days.
Bales is also expanding its fly-drive programme in Africa, taking in a northern Namibia driving route, a 12-day self drive taking in Swakopmund, through the Namib Desert, the dunes of Sossusvlei and Damaraland where travellers are based at a camp that offers the chance to see desert elephants. Prices from £3,295.
Malawi is an emerging self-drive destination. As one travel company puts it: "There are not that many roads to get lost on." To Escape To (020-7060 6747; toescapeto.com) offers bespoke fly-drives around the country, which take in Lake Malawi and the Liwonde National Park while staying at Nkwichi Lodge on the eastern shore of Lake Malawi, in Mozambique. Prices from £3,900 for a nine-day trip.
Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is the location for a new fly-drive this year from Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; journeylatinamerica.co.uk). The itinerary weaves through Tulum, Chichen Itza and the lesser-known, jungle-enveloped ruins of Coba. Eleven days from £1,804. Journey Latin America has also launched "Argentina from the Road", a 14-day trip out of Bariloche, along the seven lakes route, fringed with alpine forests. From £2,906 per person. JLA hopes to reopen its Chile fly-drives by October as that country rebuilds after the earthquake in February.
A 19-day fly-drive winding north-south through New Zealand from Auckland to Christchurch, via Rotorua and Queenstown, is offered by Go Touring (0161-491 7688; gotouring.uk.com). Prices from £1,815. The same company has just launched an Outback Explorer Trail, an 18-day self-drive in Australia, beginning in Adelaide, taking in the vineyards of the Barossa valley and the underground houses of Coober Pedy. Prices from £2,359.
Finally, for those who fear that volcanoes and air traffic control may wade into the equation and want to remain closer to home, Shetland has been introduced by McKinlay Kidd (0844 804 0020; seescotlanddifferently.co.uk); its Shetland Fly-Drive offers three nights' B&B and four days' car hire from £495 per person, taking in the breathtaking cliffs of Eshaness.
*All prices quoted are per person, including accommodation, car hire and international flights.
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