Ideal country combinations
Why have one country when you can have two? Or even five? From new direct flight routings to a river cruise that conveniently links up a variety of destinations.
Here, our specialists talk about countries that make ideal combinations for a multitude of reasons.
India and Bhutan by David
Tiger's Nest Monastery, Bhutan
Taj Mahal and Yamuna River, Agra
Combining a visit to India and Bhutan means you can see the Taj Mahal and the Tiger’s Nest Monastery on the same trip. One is arguably the greatest monument to love ever built, the other is an equally impressive feat of engineering in a completely different setting – golden-pinnacled white towers teetering on a cliff edge.
The flight from Delhi to Paro in Bhutan takes you from the hustle and bustle of New Delhi (with the Taj Mahal a three-hour drive away in Agra) to a tranquil Buddhist mountaintop kingdom. And there’s an added bonus – some flights connect via Kathmandu, so make sure to gaze out of the window for incredible views of Mount Everest as you fly past.
Oman and Zanzibar by Francesca
Turquoise waters of Zanzibar
Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman
Turquoise blue waters of Zanzibar
Oman Air now flies direct to Zanzibar, which was itself under Omani control in the 1600s. Start in Oman and spend time in the capital city of Muscat – very much Islamic in feel and architecture, with little Western influence. Then head to the desert of Oman’s Empty Quarter, participating in activities such as quad biking, sand sliding and Wadi visits.
A visit to Zanzibar, on the other hand, is much less strenuous. It has some of the best beaches I’ve ever visited – ideal for a few days’ relaxation. The sand is white and silky; the sea a bright turquoise. You can even reef walk on Zanzibar’s beaches when the tide is out and see the intricate corals up close.
Laos via China, Burma and Thailand by Eleanor
Mekong River, Laos
Monks, Luang Prabang, Laos
Fisherman on Inle Lake, Burma
Setting sail from Jinghong in China's Yunnan province, the colonial-style RV Laos Pandaw takes you from the upper reaches of the Mekong through parts of China, Burma and Thailand before arriving in Laos. En route, you’ll pass Chinese botanic gardens, forgotten corners of Burma (Myanmar), Thailand’s Golden Triangle and completely undeveloped Laotian riverside villages.
I loved stopping at Laos’ UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, where golden temples glisten, robed monks walk the streets and restaurants serve delicious Thai-French fusion cuisine (try the traditional Laotian dish of laap washed down with a cold beerlao at the Coconut Garden restaurant).
From Luang Prabang, the boat continues south through rugged karst landscapes carved from fast-flowing rapids. I’m happy to report that our cool-headed captain navigated the swirling currents with ease, and we ended the journey in Vientiane, Laos’ capital, which has excellent international flight connections.
South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania (on Rovos Rail) by Chris
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Table Mountain, Cape Town
Elephants in Hwange National Park
Rovos Rail journeys vary in length: you can opt for anything from a two-day trip in South Africa, racing from Cape Town to Pretoria, to a mammoth 15-day voyage from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, taking in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania along the way. For my part, I recommend embarking on a rail journey after a city break in Cape Town.
After you have watched the sun rise from Table Mountain, leave Cape Town and travel through the Karoo region of South Africa, before going on to Botswana and Zimbabwe. You may see the diamond mines of Kimberley and stop to safari in Hwange National Park, before finishing at the mighty Victoria Falls in Zambia.