ARCADIA’S TOP 5 EXOTIC DESTINATIONS
Arcadia Co-Founder David Mannix was asked by online journal Travel Wanderlust to nominate his Top 5 exotic destinations for post-pandemic travel. We all need something to look forward to, so sit back and be inspired by these incredible bucket-list adventures.
AL-ULA – SAUDI ARABIA
The fabled oasis of Al-Ula is home to some of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the Middle East. This beautiful valley in northern Saudi Arabia has over 7,000 years of continuous history and was home to a succession of great civilisations including the Dedanites, Lihyanites, Nabataens and the Roman Empire.
One of the most impressive highlights of Al-Ula is the UNESCO World Heritage Listed site of Hegra, also known as Mada’in Saleh. Hegra was a principal Frankincense route town built by the Nabataeans, who, having grown wealthy from the taxes imposed on camel caravans passing through their capital Petra (in present day Jordan), expanded the borders of their kingdom south in order to bring them closer to the Red Sea ports.
Al-Ula has only been visited by a privileged few. With the Kingdom recently opening up to travellers for the first time in living-memory, now is the time to be amongst the first to see the monumental rock-cut tombs, remarkable temples and colossal landscapes of this ancient crossroads.
SEPIK RIVER – PAPUA NEW GUINEA
With over 1000 distinct cultural groups and 800 different languages, Papua New Guinea is the most culturally diverse country on the planet. The legendary Sepik River offers a tantalising glimpse into some of these complex cultures and the rewards are rich for those who venture to this remote region.
Often compared to the Amazon river, the Sepik is surrounded by swamps, lakes and thick rainforest and has been a pathway to the mountainous interior of Papua New Guinea since colonisation. The people of the Sepik travel by dugout canoe and have developed a fantastic tradition of carving and house construction. Some tribes such as the Iiatmul are known for their ritual scarification. The marks are unique to the individual and can have various meanings associated with the ancestral crocodile totem.
If you go on a tour to Papua New Guinea, travellers can visit traditional spirit houses and hear from elders about ancient practices, superstitions and connections with the river that are still a prominent feature of everyday life. It’s easy to see why this area has captivated art collectors and traders since the first artifacts from the Sepik appeared in international museums and galleries in the early 20th century.
MERO PYRAMIDS – SUDAN
Half buried beneath the sands of northern Sudan are the remains of an extraordinary series of civilisations that includes three times the number of pyramids than in Egypt.
The remarkable archaeological sites of Meroe, a semi-desert landscape between the Nile and Atbara rivers, was the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power from the 8th century BCE to the 4th century CE. It was the royal city of the Kushite Kings, the Black Pharaoh’s, and it was from here its rulers controlled all of Egypt for close to a century. The site features incredible pyramids and temples that testifies to the exchange between the art, architectures, religions and languages of both Upper and Lower Niles.
Entering the jewel of the crown, the Royal Necropolis of Meroe, simply takes your breath away and (unlike in Cairo!) you are likely to have the place to yourself. Each pyramid has its own funerary chapel with the walls are fully decorated with bas-reliefs that show the King’s life and offers to the gods. Still well off the tourist trail, this wild region of extraordinary archaeological interest and beautiful landscapes is as exotic as it gets.
OMO RIVER – ETHIOPIA
Since the time our ancestors populated East Africa over 3 million years ago, this ancient realm has been constantly inhabited by hominids. Today’s custodians in Ethiopia are the eighteen or more seasonal nomadic tribes known as ‘The People of the Omo’.
The tribal diversity of the World Heritage Listed Omo River region is unparalleled and represents one of Africa’s last unchanged cultural groups. Shielded from outsiders by geography and Ethiopia’s status as one of only two African nations never to have been colonised, the customs and traditions of these nomadic tribes have remained intact for generations.
When you travel to Ethiopia, it is possible to visit various tribal groups on the banks of the Omo, stay in their villages, experience their fascinating cultures and ceremonies and gain a first-hand insight to perhaps the greatest unanswered question for humanity – where did we come from?
GONUR DEPE – TURKMENISTAN
One of the true wonders of the ancient world, Gonur Depe is a 4,500 year old city which was once the capital of the Oxus River culture.
Agricultural settlements have existed here since the 7th Millennium BCE, however Gonur is unlike any other settlement discovered so far. Unearthed in the 1970’s, this astonishing site has been identified as an ancient centre of Zoroastrianism, a religion based on the opposition of good and evil. The complex is made up of two fortified palaces dating from 2400 to1800 BCE. The ruins have given archaeologists a startling insight into early Bronze Age life, with the burial sites of kings and their horses, pots still holding foodstuffs and the hearths of individual dwellings and water systems still largely intact.
Located in the remote Murgab River Delta of eastern Turkmenistan, travellers can camp beside these mesmerising ruins and experience Ishlekli – a traditional nomadic Turkmen meal. Layers of dough are filled with lamb and spices, then cooked beneath the fire in hot sand – the perfect way to finish a day of exploring this magical city.