Spectacular travel experiences for 2001

The year of living adventurously - that's what 2001 portends. We can travel higher, further, wider and deeper than ever before. Our tips for the coming year range from the South Bank of the Thames to the South Island of New Zealand, as far as the line of totality in the solar eclipse.


2001: A space odyssey

2001: A space odyssey

If space is your personal final frontier, these are seven wide open places where you can have the world to yourself. The Llanos of Venezuela; the Gobi Desert of Mongolia; all of Baffin Island, the largest isle in the world that is part of another country; the long, slender finger of (mostly) nothingness called Baja California; the nation of Mauritania; the Huila Plateau of Angola; and Caithness, Scotland.

Three lost cities

Jerash, a miraculously preserved Roman city, stands barely 20 miles north of Jordan's capital, Amman. Elegant columns line the half-mile-long promenade; the flagstones may be rutted with chariot tracks, but they are still in better condition than the average Jordanian highway.

Four or five thousand people lived in Akrotiri before the island now known as Santorini exploded, nearly four millennia ago. Their two- and three-storey buildings bear witness to advanced engineering - and to artistry, with vibrant wall paintings and elaborate pottery depicting a sophisticated society.

At Petra, back in Jordan, all the grace of classical architecture has been imposed on a wild, beautiful landscape. Three centuries before Christ, the Nabateans cornered the market in incense and decided to build a city in the desert. The greatest structure is the monastery, carved out of the highest peak.

Four empty beaches

Aughris, west of Sligo City, Republic of Ireland; Catlins Forest Park, near Papatowai, South Island, New Zealand; Calgary, Isle of Mull, Scotland; and Cape Scott, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Three Balkan beauties

Now that the rump of Yugoslavia has a democratic government, 2001 is the year to tackle the mountains and your preconceptions on the way to fine city of Novi Sad, Serbia; the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers in Belgrade; and the resort of Budva, Montenegro.

Five French ferry ports - and a Belgian bonus

When your ship comes in to the docks at Calais or Dunkerque, you may reasonably be dismayed by the surroundings. But most French ferry ports are attractive, intriguing and French. St Malo is a beautiful walled city where the Rance river flows into the Channel. Cherbourg has plenty of good places to eat along the Quai de Caligny and, just inland, the Place Centrale. The main drawback for Caen is that its two great abbeys are some way from the Channel port, 10 miles northeast at Ouistreham, that stole its name. Slipping smartly past Le Havre, flattened in the war, Dieppe is the gem of the Cÿte d'Albâtre - with a medieval castle set amid limestone cliffs and some superb seafood. Boulogne has virtually fallen off the cross-Channel map, which means it has regained much of its character.

Best of all, though, is across the border in Belgium. Ostend is more than just the loveliest place you can reach from Dover; it comprises an elegant seaside resort, an old fishing port and the hub of the finest coastal tram in Europe.

Six midsummer twilights at sixty degrees north

St Petersburg, where the "white nights" of June dapple a shimmeringly beautiful city with twilight; Helsinki, now less than £100 from Stansted; Bergen, where seven hills form a loose scrum around Norway's second city - a day's voyage from Newcastle; Shetland, Britain's northernmost islands, where you can watch the sun slumping into the sea from the desolation of Unst or the comfort of Scalloway; Anchorage, where suburbia slams into wilderness and survives; and Magadan, stranded on the north side of the Sea of Okhotsk in the far east of Siberia.

Three islands that are not

Street names like Surf Avenue and Neptune Boulevard allude to the former grandeur of Coney Island, the spit of land that dangles from the borough of Brooklyn into the Atlantic. There are also huge, rusting seafront attractions. The awesome geometry of a derelict rollercoaster is the more startling for its silence.

The Isle of Dogs is home to Britain's biggest buildings - the Canary Wharf tower and a couple of under-construction skyscrapers - and the location for one of the best little train journeys in the world, the Docklands Light Railway. Absurd little driverless pods swish along the elevated track, providing a superb vantage point for the mixture of design and decay on the Isle of Dogs.

Lille in northern France earned its name from l'île, an island in the middle of the Deule river, though the capital of French Flanders is firmly fixed on dry land. The city covers the architectural repertoire from Flemish Golden Age to post-modern via Art Nouveau, plus the best beer in France.

Three whale-watching locations

Bahia de Bandera, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; off Ardnamurchan, Scotland; Glaspé Peninsula, Province of Quebec, Canada.

Four examples of dark tourism

In Hiroshima, the bleakest testimony to recent history is the scorched shell of the former Chamber of Commerce. The now-thriving Japanese city adopted this skeletal steel frame, the "A-Bomb Dome", as its emblem. This was the only reinforced-concrete building in central Hiroshima, and endured while more fragile structures were obliterated. Even though it is ringed by young green trees, the scorched and twisted shell haunts the city skyline, a grotesquely deformed survivor of the most lethal weapon ever used, on 6 August 1945.

The Battle of Trafalgar was fought out on 21 October, 1805, within sight of a bleak Andalucian headland where today a lighthouse clings to the sand only a little more steadily than do the scraggy grasses and timid thistles.

At the War Crimes Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, even 25 years after the conflict ended, many visitors are American veterans seeking emotional cleansing. Decked around it are souvenir stalls selling anything from shrapnel to uniforms.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is actually a pair of death camps in southern Poland. Any attempt to depict the full horror of the Final Solution is bound to fail, but the chilling location on bleak marshland gives some dimension to the appalling tragedy.

Six Washington monuments

When George W Bush takes over in the American capital next month, he will find that much of Washington DC is devoted to the darker side of tourism: from the Ford Theater and the Lincoln Memorial to the Holocaust Museum, via the Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

Europe in miniature - three blink-and-you-miss-it countries

Gibraltar: The scruffy streets at the foot of "The Rock" are full of Spanish shoppers in search of cheap cigarettes and a cut-price version of England. Evidence of Britain's tenure survives: at the Trafalgar Tavern, you can pay for your Full English Breakfast with Bank of England notes. Across the road, the Trafalgar Cemetery bears witness to those who died after the battle.

Liechtenstein: Hemmed in by Austria and Switzerland, the Rhine and the mountains, Liechtenstein is barely bigger than the stamps that help create its fortune: a mountainous crumple of territory measuring 15 miles by four. Heavy green firs cling to steep hillsides, which themselves unfurl to soft-focus meadows peppered with houses in primary colours, while the capital, Vaduz, brims with art: a Henry Moore sculpture plonked casually on a lawn, a fine collection of 17th-century Flemish paintings in the National Art Museum.

San Marino: Most British memories of this hilltop country stem from difficult soccer games. But besides the soccer pitch, the nation inland from the Adriatic has some beautiful medieval relics in the capital. And the local footballers could beat the Vatican City any day. `

Four appealing airports

Chicago O'Hare: No longer the busiest in the world (Atlanta has taken over), but definitely one of the grandest airports.

Amsterdam: The spectators' gallery gives the best views and photo-opportunities in Europe. And for long connections, a golf-driving simulator, a casino and dozens of shops help fill the time.

Kansai: The new Osaka airport, built on an artificial island, is more than five years old but still looks like the first airport of the 21st century.

Athens: Athens? You cannot be serious. The present two-terminal arrangement is a disaster, but the new airport due to open in March, at Spata, is promised to be an improvement. That won't be difficult.

Mexico City: The airport is almost in the middle of the city. So you can be sipping a Dos Equis on the top floor of the Torre Panamericana half an hour after landing.

Four city squares...

The Zocalo in Mexico City is reputed to be the biggest in the world, and is a cultural conglomeration of pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial and bold 20th-century architecture.

Red Square in Moscow runs Mexico close for scale, and has the added attractions of a capitalist department store (GUM), a communist leader (Lenin) and a colossal palace (the Kremlin).

Potsdamer Platz began life as one of the most important public spaces in Berlin. It became a no-man's-land, then Europe's biggest building site. Only now, in 2001, is the scale and vision evident at the heart of the German capital.

Forum Magnum, the newest square in London, just a beret's throw from the Eurostar terminal. Suddenly the East Façade of County Hall has been opened up - as has a branch of the Fish! restaurants and a Starbucks.

...and a circle

The largest stone circle in Europe is in Wiltshire, but it is not Stonehenge. Nor, sadly is it complete. But the remains of the three-quarter-mile circumference at Avebury are magnificent: tall, lean shafts of ragged stone exploding from grass chewed smooth by a platoon of sheep, interspersed with dumpier slabs of rock.

Space: The final frontier

Yawn. Every year since 1985, some publicity-seeking enterprise has promised holidays in space. While the notion has more chances of success these days than space station Mir does of landing safely, space is more accessible.

Space Center Houston is much more than a worthy scientific institution: it is the best little theme park in Texas. After a hike around the rockets, which reveals just how ludicrously large the Saturn V actually is, you are free to indulge in some final-frontier fun. You can see the flight deck of a Shuttle, try on an astronaut helmet and walk through the Skylab trainer - a padded-cell version of the rotation spaceship. Your stomach's sense of gravity is defied by rides which exert G-forces you never knew existed.

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