Anthea Milnes follows her nose around the world, from the Cardamom Hills of India to the Perfume river of Vietnam, to discover which places leave us with aromatic memories



Wake up and smell the coffee on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. You can stay as a guest of the region's Chagga coffee growers and let your hosts introduce you to the hills where the coffee plants are grown, as part of a six-day tour with Tribes, the Fair Trade Travel Company (01728 685971; The sweet smell of the unroasted arabica beans has been likened by some to blueberries. The price per person, including return flights from London and five days' full board, is £895. The trip also includes five days' exploration of the African bush with a Masai guide.

If that sounds too energetic, you could settle for appreciating the aroma of this much-loved stimulant in one of the world's best coffee shops. Vienna is the traditional home of the coffee-house and in the city's first district, the most established houses include Central, a meeting place for artists dating back to 1900, and Mozart, an opulent 200-year-old café, replete with mirrors and chandeliers. Viennese coffee is generally a blend of two-thirds dark-roast beans and one-third medium roast, so not quite as strong as the espresso you get in Italy. Speciality coffees include "melange" – a long espresso with frothy milk on top – and kleiner and grosser Brauner – small and large coffee with cream. For more information see


From the Chandi Chowk market of Delhi to the souks of Marrakesh, spice stalls provide an aromatic and colourful spectacle. To trace more than 40 spices back to their source, travel from mainland Tanzania to the forested interior of Zanzibar. A half-day spice tour from historic Stone Town with a local operator costs about £20 per person. Typically, the owner of a smallholding takes you around a patch of forest, picking out roots, bark and seed pods which turn out to be familiar household spices such as cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns, turmeric and nutmeg. The scent of drying cloves is pervasive. The Imaginative Traveller's "Exotic Spice Island" mini-break (020-8742 8612; offers you the opportunity to add a short break in Zanzibar on to a longer Africa tour. Return flights from Nairobi, a tour of a spice plantation, two nights' hotel accommodation near Stone Town and two on the beach in north-east Zanzibar costs £725 per person.

Across the Indian Ocean, Kerala in southern India is another popular option. Cox and Kings (020-7873 5000; offers a 10-day tour called The Spice Lands of Kerala, taking in tea plantations and a stay in the Cardamom Hills, and costing from £995 per person.


In Madagascar, the scent of vanilla wafts across the island, although most is grown on the north-east coast. Visitors can buy vanilla pods or beans in the local markets, particularly in the capital, Antananarivo, where they are sold for about a quarter of the UK price. Malagasy restaurants make full use of this indigenous ingredient, serving up dishes such as poisson à la vanille or poulet à la vanille, followed by crème brulée à la vanille. A 12-day Madagascar Overland itinerary with Rainbow Tours (020-7226 1004; costs from £2,425 per person, based on two sharing. This includes visits to Antananarivo, to the Nosy Be island where wet vanilla can be found, and to Madagascar's wildlife-rich national parks, as well as international and domestic flights, transfers, a guide, and B&B accommodation.

Vanilla's perfect partner is cocoa, and nowhere is its mouthwatering aroma more widespread than in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was in ancient Mexico that Mayan priests made the first hot chocolate drinks and Aztec emperors filled the royal coffers with cocoa beans. Although Mexico now produces only a small percentage of the world's cocoa beans, the city of Oaxaca is still a chocaholic's paradise. From large chocolate factories to small workshops, and from the main market to the city's many restaurants, the rich, sweet smell is omnipresent. Make sure you sample the local mole – a spicy chocolate-and-chilli sauce, served with savoury dishes such as turkey, chicken, pork or fish. Exsus Travel (020-7292 5050; offers a seven-night package to Mexico from £1,285 per person. For this, you get two nights in Mexico City and two nights in Puebla on a room-only basis, flights, transfers, guided tours of Mexico City and Puebla, three nights and a mole meal in Oaxaca, and a tour of the city's chocolate factories.


How about a whiff of refreshing citrus fruits to cleanse your palate? In Central Florida's citrus groves you'll find family favourites such as navel oranges, valencia oranges, temple oranges, honeybell tangelos and ruby-red grapefruits. The groves are at their musky best when the orange blossom flowers in spring, while the citrus smell is strongest during the peak picking season in autumn. However, you can track down orangey smells throughout the year at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. This pink spa palace to the north of Fort Lauderdale draws on the local produce to provide treatments such as a citrus anti-ageing facial and a grapefruit wrap. A one-week holiday at the Boca Raton Resort and Club with Wentworth Travel (01344 844622; costs from £931 per person and includes seven nights' accommodation, flights from London and private car transfers.

Find further details of Florida citrus tours taking in orange and grapefruit groves, ice-cream makers, marmalade producers and more at


It's not just the English who love their rose gardens. In fact, the world's leading exporter of roses is Ecuador. The country's Andean highlands provide perfect growing conditions for the flowers; a combination of stimulating sunshine and fertile volcanic ash. One of the most popular plantations is the Flor de Gala in Cuenca which produces more than 100 varieties of roses, as well as 100 varieties of other decorative flowers. Each rose species is housed in its own vast sweet-smelling greenhouse as different roses require different temperatures and conditions. At the vast local flower markets, a dozen red roses typically sells for a mere US$2/£1.25. Sunvil Latin America (020-8758 4774; offers tailor-made fly-drive tours to Ecuador. A 10-day trip costs from £1,488 per person including return flights to Quito, car hire and B&B accommodation.


Rows of blue lavender form one of the most recognisable images of Provence. True Provençal lavender, grown at an altitude of 2,400 to 4,500 feet, has been used for aromatherapy since Roman times to aid relaxation. However, producing essential oil from lavender is a labour-intensive process; it takes 100 kilos of lavender flowers and stems to distil just one kilo of lavender essence. The harvest takes place in midsummer. To immerse yourself in the smell, stay at Les Lavandins, a restored farmhouse where there are more than 12 acres of fragrant fields. In high season the price per week for this two-bedroom property with a pool is £900 (020-8743 5577;


Create your own scent not far from Provence in the town of Grasse on the Côte d'Azur. The centre of the perfume industry for more than 400 years, Grasse is home to an array of "parfumeries", which make the essences used by the likes of Lancôme and Dior. The focal point for visitors is the Musée International de la Parfumerie (00 33 4 93 36 80 20; Here, you can find out how perfume is made and create your own with the help of a "nose" – a professional perfume smeller (1 June - 30 September 10am-7pm; 1 October-31 May 10am-12.30pm & 2pm-5.30pm; €4/£2.75 per adult, €2/£1.38 per child between the ages of 10 and 16, free for children under 10). The French Travel Service (08702 414243; offers five nights' B&B at the three-star Hotel des Parfums in Grasse from £389 per person, including travel by Eurostar and TGV (express train).


In Japan the art of concentration through incense is perfected in kodo, the Japanese incense ceremony, which along with the tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arrangement) is considered one of the three refined arts of Japan. It takes years to perfect, but this is roughly how it works: you fill a ceramic Kodo Cup two-thirds full of white-rice ash, then push a piece of heated charcoal into the middle, place a plate on top of the cup, and then place a small block of incense on the plate. Finally, you hold the Kodo Cup close to your nose and "listen" to the subtle aroma. The wood of the agar tree is the ingredient that distinguishes Japanese incense from other kinds. Other ingredients include spices and sandalwood.

The Shoyeido Incense Company (00 11 81 75 212 5590;, with shops in Kyoto, Tokyo and Sapporo, was established in 1705, and its flagship Kyoto store sells 500 varieties of incense in the form of sticks, stones, coils and blocks.


Perhaps you would prefer to lie back and inhale the fragrance of frangipani blossom on the Perfume river in Vietnam? Start at the former capital, Hue, and travel upstream on a dragonboat to the tombs of Vietnam's former emperors. Make a stop at the serene Thien Mu pagoda before progressing to Minh Mang's tomb, set in gardens of pine and frangipani. The best time of year to smell the delicate white bell-like frangipani flowers is between February and April. Audley Travel (01869 276222; can arrange tailor-made packages to Vietnam incorporating a trip up the Perfume river from £1,595 per person for 14 nights.


You can give your nose a break in the polar regions. There are very few smells in the Arctic and Antarctic, partly because ice and snow have no smell, and also because in cold temperatures, objects retain their aromatic chemicals, although penguin guano is a notable exception.

Sail in the wake of Scott and Shackleton on Quark Expeditions' (01494 464080; Great Explorers tour. A 23-night trip aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov takes you through towering icebergs to the Ross Sea where you will see penguins, whales and seals. This experience doesn't come cheap; triple cabins start from US$11,950/£7,450.


New Zealand's 'sulphur city' bubbles with energy

There are plenty of fetid, foul-smelling places around the world, but one of the best known is Rotorua in New Zealand, also called "Sulphur City" or the "Spa of the South Pacific". Here, the smell of rotten eggs rises along with clouds of steam from bubbling mud, erupting geysers and rainbow-coloured pools and lakes. Towering volcanoes are a reminder of the landscape's turbulent past, while vents letting off steam from subterranean volcanic activity can appear in the strangest places, even in the middle of golf courses. Most hotels in Rotorua give guests access to their own private geothermal spa, and many also offer treatments that make use of the mud. Cheapflights (0870 444 7224; is currently offering return flights from London Heathrow to Auckland from £528 per person with Malaysian Airlines. Rotorua is about three-and-a-half hours drive from Auckland. For more information visit