38 Global Greats

For 38 years KQ has carried travellers to many of the world’s great marvels. To celebrate the anniversary of our launch, we’ve picked 38 of the most memorable experiences you can enjoy on our network – from sensational cities to secret gems, and from World Heritage treasures to wildlife wonders

Paris1 Eiffel Tower, Paris
It’s slender yet curvaceous, monumental yet willowy, technically marvellous yet marvellously organic. Hard to believe, but when the Eiffel Tower (toureiffel.paris/en) was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1889 it attracted serious criticism. Today, of course, it’s the iconic emblem of the French capital and the world’s most-visited tourist attraction – around 7 million people gaze in wonder at the 324m-high iron lattice each year. Take the lift to the top for spectacular views across Paris.

2 Hong Kong
The ‘Fragrant Harbour’ is now a forest of hyper-high-rise skyscrapers – but no less captivating than it was 150 years ago when it was a nascent British trading colony. It’s still fragrant, too, with the aromas of every kind of Asian and global cuisine. Board the venerable Star Ferry just before 8pm to enjoy the spectacular nightly Symphony of Lights from water level in Victoria Harbour, or take the tram to the Peak for a loftier perspective.

3 Hanoi
There’s a millennium of history packed into the Vietnamese capital’s Old Quarter alongside the Red River. There are sights to seek out, sure: One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, lovely Ngoc Son Pagoda on Hoan Kiem Lake and the unique water puppet shows. But the best thing is simply to stroll among the flower-toting cyclists and pho bo (beef noodle soup) pedlars, smiling at stallholders and drinking in the atmosphere.

4 Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaeo & Wat Pho, Bangkok
Royal grandeur and spirituality, both so close to the heart of the Thai capital, are embodied in this trio of unique monuments. The Grand Palace (palaces.thai.net) and Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, gilded and decorated beyond your glitziest imaginings, contrast with the ancient living monastery next door – Wat Pho (watpho.com), home to a vast reclining Buddha as well as dozens of monks and a respected massage school.

5 Grand Mosque of Djenné, Mali
The Sahel-style mosque in central Mali, first built in 1280 and reconstructed in 1907, is the largest and most spectacular of the mud-built constructions around the country – indeed, in the world. The mud rendering its walls is rejuvenated by thousands of volunteers after each rainy season.

6 Stone Town, Zanzibar
If you don’t get lost in the old city of this fabulously historic trading port, you’re not trying hard enough. Wander the winding alleys of old Stone Town, between houses built for Arab and Indian merchants during the 19th-century slave boom, and try to navigate by recognising the ornate bronze-studded doors. Explore Palace Museum and House of Wonders to get a feel for those heady days.

7 Rock churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
Some nine centuries ago, eleven monolithic churches were carved into the rock – unique symbols of Ethiopia’s pious orthodox Christianity. Most spectacular is Bete Giyorgis (St George’s), a cross-shaped russet marvel constructed on the orders of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela.

8 Coastal forts, Ghana
From 1471, when the Portuguese arrived on the West African coast, dozens of castles and forts were built along what became known as the ‘Gold Coast’, after the trade that initially dominated till the 17th century, when slavery took over. Today, castles at Cape Coast, Elmina and elsewhere still recall that hideous trade.

9 Great migration Kenya/Tanzania
Wave after wave of wildebeest, mingling with hundreds of thousands of Thomson’s gazelles and zebras, sweep across the plains of the Serengeti and Masai Mara in a vast circuit, south to west to north and back again. Preying on them are prides of lions and crocodiles lying in wait as the herds cross the Mara and Grumeti rivers – all creating arguably the world’s most compelling wildlife drama.

10 Mountain gorillas Uganda/Rwanda
There are few wildlife encounters as emotional as coming eye to soulful brown eye with a gorilla in the wild. No wonder: these beautiful primates share over 98% of their DNA with humans, and display emotions, too – laughter, sadness, affection. Their habitat has been hit by deforestation and their population reduced by poaching, so only small pockets of lowland and mountain gorillas survive in the wild, making an ape encounter ever more precious. Family groups of mountain gorillas are found in the high, lush mountains on the western borders of Uganda and Rwanda, offering opportun-ities to trek to find these wonderful creatures. Join a guided hike into Bwindi Forest National Park (Uganda) or Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) for the best chance of an emotional meeting.

11 Starling murmuration, England
As the light fades, clouds gather in the skies of England and Wales and thousands of starlings swirl and spiral in incredible shapes before settling in to roost at dusk. It’s a mesmerising dance best seen on cold, still evenings on the Somerset Levels, at Aberystwyth Pier or Brighton’s West Pier.

12 Lemurs, Madagascar
Ring-tailed, ruffed, mouse, diademed, brown, dwarf, bamboo, woolly, sportive… more than 100 species of lemur have been classified, all found only on the Great Red Island. Watch for dancing sifakas, listen for the plaintive song of the indri and hope for a rare sighting of the bat-eared aye-aye.

13 Whale sharks, Djibouti
The world’s biggest fish, 12m long and speckled with constellations of white spots, gather between October and February at the Gulf of Tadjoura off Djibouti. Diving and snorkelling trips offer great opportunities for swimming with the gentle, filter-feeding behemoths.

14 Sardine run, South Africa
Each year, usually in June or July, millions of sardines swarm east from the Southern Cape towards Mozambique, hunted by tens of thousands of dolphins, gannets, sharks – and humans. The water boils with the turbulence as the fish and their predators churn the surface of the ocean; consider scuba-diving among the action.

15 London
Waterloo Bridge isn’t the most beautiful structure in the world – but gaze to either side and you’ll see the big icons of London queueing up to greet you: St Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin and the Shard to the east, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye to the south. You’re also within steps of Trafalgar Square, where lofty Nelson’s Column is guarded by huge lions and artistic treasures line the walls of the National Gallery; it’s just a hop further to Leicester Square and the shops, theatres and bars of Soho and the West End. Over the bridge in the other direction, meanwhile, lie the National Theatre and cultural hub of the South Bank.

16 Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Take the world’s tallest service elevator to the world’s highest observation deck on the 124th storey of the world’s tallest building for 360-degree views across Dubai. At over 828m, the Burj Khalifa (burjkhalifa.ae) is breathtakingly high – and beautiful, to boot.

17 Shard, London
Architect Renzo Piano’s vision for the UK’s tallest building wasn’t just a monolithic monument – he foresaw a ‘vertical city’, a place for people to live, eat, play and enjoy the capital. Soar to the open-air viewing gallery on Level 72 (theviewfromtheshard.com) to gaze across hundreds of landmarks and 1000 years of history.

18 Opera House, Guangzhou
Nestling into the banks of the Pearl River in one of China’s most dynamic cities lies this striking monument to culture. Like a pair of smooth boulders, Zaha Hadid’s extraordinary structure, its granite-and-steel frame patterned with tessellated triangles, houses an asymmetrical auditorium and performance space hosting classical music, experimental theatre and other arts. Construction cost 1.38 billion yuan (US$200 million) – and in terms of beauty and inspiration, it was worth every yuan.

19 Tribes of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia/Kenya
The peoples of the Lower Omo Valley are renowned for their ornate body decorations, extraordinary rituals and the amazing diversity of their customs and dress. The Mursi are known for stick fights and the plates worn in the lower lips of the women; the Bumi create patterns in their skin through scarification; beautiful body painting marks the Karo; and the Hamer sport elaborate hairstyles and undergo coming-of-age ceremonies involving bull-jumping. To undertake a journey through this remote, arid region near the Kenyan border in Ethiopia’s far south, plan ahead: find an experienced guide who will respect the customs and lifestyles of these unique people and can help you understand the cultures you encounter. The best time to visit is late June to September, when many ceremonies and rituals take place – but be prepared for heat and rain.

20 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Among the great museums and galleries of the world, the Rijksmuseum (rijksmuseum.nl/en) is lauded as one of the finest, mostly for its collection of some 2000 pieces from the golden age of Dutch art, including masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn (notably The Night Watch), Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals – and look out for a moody self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh. But that’s just a fraction of the total of about a million pieces covering art and history spanning the years since AD 1200, with fine examples of sculpture and porcelain as well as painting. During summer 2015, a selection of more than 20 sculptures by Spanish artist Joan Miró will be on view in the museum’s gardens (till 11 October).

21 Watch Premier League football, England
For passion, pace and power, there are few sporting spectacles to match a top-flight football match in England’s Barclays Premier League (premier league.com). Some of the biggest names in world football slog it out each week: in a single game you could watch World-Cup winners Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea, Spain) and Per Mertesacker (Arsenal, Germany) testing their skills against one another, alongside the best talents from Brazil, Belgium, France, Italy, England – not to forget Kenya’s captain, Victor Wanyama, who pulls on the red-and-white-striped shirt of Southampton. In London alone there are five top-tier teams in Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Crystal Palace, plus several more in other leagues, so plenty of opportunities to watch great games – but plan ahead: tickets sell out fast!

22 Eat at Nahm, Bangkok
Thai food is invariably exciting, whether you’re sweating over a spicy red curry at a roadside shack or savouring innovative dishes at one of the country’s many fine restaurants. There’s astonishing variety, too, with regional cuisines employing distinctive styles of cooking, influenced by local and seasonal ingredients and bordering countries. There’s no better place to experience the thrilling flavours of Thailand than at nahm, at Bangkok’s Metropolitan by COMO Hotel – and that’s official: nahm was named top Asian restaurant in the 2014 World’s Best Restaurants awards, thanks to its menu of frequently changing dishes drawing from the culinary traditions of the country’s four food regions. Perhaps you’ll enjoy grilled mango salad, red butterfish curry or stir-fried soft-shell crab, but whatever you try, it’s likely to be the best Thai food you’ve ever tasted.

23 Sabi Sand safari lodges, South Africa
A safari is a journey into the heart of the African wilderness – where predators stalk their prey, vast herds graze and rumble across the savannah, kaleidoscopic birds dazzle and rare creatures lurk to be spotted by the sharp-eyed. Safari lodges provide some of the most upmarket accommodation on the planet. At the top of the pile is Singita Sabi Sand (singita.com/regions/singita-sabi-sand) private game reserve, just to the west of Kruger National Park. Spanning over 45,000 acres, the reserve hosts the Big Five – lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo – and three of the most luxurious lodges on the continent. There’s the original Ebony Lodge, shaded by enormous trees on the banks of the Sand River and newly refurbished for 2015; Boulders Lodge, with innovative organic design (and spectacular infinity pools); and the historic, exclusive-use Castleton house. Fine food, wines and fabulous wildlife-watching come as standard.

24 Cocktails at Le Train Bleu, Paris
Forget the typical railway station cafe. Gare de Lyon’s original buffet, built in 1901 and renamed in 1963 as Le Train Bleu, isn’t just a restaurant. It’s a gallery of glorious paintings, a gilded baroque-art-nouveau confection, a temple to dining and drinking. Lovingly renovated last year, it’s more opulent than ever – arguably the most indulgent place in Paris to experience the French gastronomic tradition, if you’ve remembered to book in advance. Alternatively, settle into the equally stylish bar and order the signature Train Bleu cocktail, a vodka-Curaçao-mango-lemon concoction.

25 The Oberoi Udaivilas, India
India offers a host of opportunities for living like a king – or, rather, a maharaja – in luxurious hotels set within former royal palaces. But few capture the essence of Rajasthan as perfectly as The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur. Designed in the style of a traditional Mewari palace, its 86 rooms and suites overlook serene Pichola Lake, with views across to the mighty City Palace and up to the Aravali hills. Boasting beautiful Indian decor with fabulous textiles and hand-crafted furniture, the rooms are timelessly elegant with modern comforts. Float in the long pool fronting the hotel, or picnic on the private gondola for the ultimate Raj romance.

26 Karst landscapes of Guangxi, China
The craggy limestone pinnacles that soar from the plains near Guilin and Yangshuo would be captivating enough in themselves – but the addition of hypnotically beautiful rice terraces, traditional villages and cormorant fisherman paddling tiny boats by lamplight at night makes this one of the most photogenic spots in the world. Hire a bike and pedal among sights with such poetic names as Solitary Beauty Peak, Folded Brocade Hill and Lion Riding Carp Hill.

27 Okavango Delta, Botswana
The vast flood plain that, at its peak, extends over 16,000 sq km is home to 482 bird species, more than 130 species of mammal, 1000-plus plants and 94 dragonflies. It also offers a sanctuary for rare and endangered creatures including African wild dogs, as well as the world’s largest elephant population. Board a traditional mokoro and explore the planet’s most beautiful wetland.

28 Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
Lace up your hiking boots to explore the trails along the ‘Dragon Mountains’, a 243,000-hectare range of basalt outcrops on the Lesotho-KZN border. Head to Royal Natal National Park to tackle the trek to the Amphitheatre, a vast semicircle of vertiginous cliffs looming over the Tugela River.

29 MT Kilimanjaro, Tanzania/Kenya
At 5895m high, Kilimanjaro isn’t just the tallest peak in Africa – it’s the loftiest freestanding mountain in the world. Formed by volcanic activity around one million years ago, its snow-capped peak looms above the East African plains.

30 Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe
At 1700m wide and with a drop of 108m, the waterfall known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ – creates the world’s biggest curtain of water. View from the bridge, from a hot-air balloon, from the Devil’s Pool at the very lip of the falls, but make sure you see this immense wonder at least once in your lifetime.

31 Seychelles
For millions of years, the waters of the Indian Ocean have lapped the shores of this lonely archipelago of 115 islands. The result? The finest white-sand beaches backed by surf-smooth boulders and shady palm trees. Picking the best beaches is an impossible task – there are so many beauties to admire – but consider Anse Lazio on Praslin, its shallow waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling; remote Petite Anse on La Digue for solitude; or Bird Island for revelling in nature.

32 Thailand
That Thailand’s strands and specks are beautiful is no secret. But with over 3000km of coastline and many hundreds of islands, you’ll be sure to find one that matches your own personal dream – and with distinct climates on the shores of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, there’s guaranteed great weather somewhere, all of the time. For diving and snorkelling try Ko Similan or Ko Tao; for dramatic karst rock stacks, visit Railay at Krabi; for parties, go to Ko Pha Ngan and Samui; for tranquility, head for Ko Chang, Ko Kood or Ko Mak; and nip to Ko Samet for pristine white beaches with easy access from Bangkok.

33 Swahili Coast, Kenya
Mix relaxation with culture on a beach break on Kenya’s coast. The laid-back island of Lamu is the quintessential place to kick back on the Swahili Coast, with historic architecture and plenty of beaches and islands on which to chill out. But look south, too: Watamu and Malindi boast beautiful sandy beaches and terrific snorkelling on the reefs close to shore, with the chances of swimming with REALLY big fish – whale sharks often coast past.

34 Mauritius
With dramatic mountains, glorious beaches and wonderful wildlife, Mauritius is much more than a fly-and-flop holiday island. There’s much to do – try surfing at Le Morne; and natural wonders – with Aldabra giant tortoises introduced from the Seychelles and underwater sea life to be spotted by snorkellers at Blue Bay.

35 Pyramids of Meroë, Sudan
Some two and a half thousand years ago the Meroitic kingdom of Kush thrived near the Nile – in Nubia. The 200-plus steep-sided pyramids that dot the sands at Meroë, 200km northeast of Khartoum, are among Africa’s most intriguing secrets.

36 Historic Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Established as a port in the seventh century, the Saudi city retains a historic core that was designated a World Heritage site last year. Admire the carved windows of the ancient neighbourhood, and visit Bait Al-Naseef, a 19th-century merchant’s house, once home to King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud and now a museum.

37 Mefou Primate Park, Cameroon
Enjoy a face-to-face encounter with western gorillas and the world’s largest monkeys – mandrills, baboon-like creatures with vivid scarlet-and-blue snouts – at Mefou, which rescues orphaned and injured gorillas, chimps and monkeys. Tour the park to learn about our primate relatives and the work of Ape Action Africa (apeactionafrica.org).

38 Bat migration, Kasanka, Zambia
Probably the greatest wildlife spectacle you never heard of takes place each November in central Zambia. When the rains begin, some five million straw-coloured fruit bats roost in swamp forest – and fill the air at dusk in one giant, whirling mass.