Meet Andrew Appleyard – archaeologist, avid ornithologist, and frequent panel guest speaker for National Geographic’s Travel Geeks. With over two decades working for Exodus Travels and having designed many of our most popular itineraries over the years, Andrew leads the way with travelling the globe, and he’s not stopping any time soon. Although our opportunities to travel the world have changed, Andrew’s passion for exploring far-flung corners of the world has not. Who better to help inspire you to create your Travel Wish List for 2021? So, we asked the man himself what 5 places he wants to return to when the world fully reopens for adventure…
1. Northern Cyprus
Andrew was quick to say that the first place he wants to go back to in 2021 is Northern Cyprus. “I’ve already done a lot of research into this region and I’m looking forward to heading back to Cyprus in spring of 2021. Years ago my wife and I put together the Exodus Walking in Northern Cyprus trip as we loved it and have subsequently been back numerous times”.
Home to vast archaeological sites and sun-dappled castle ruins, Northern Cyprus’ mix of cultural influences and historical events has made this side of the island truly fascinating, and a great choice if you’re looking to explore closer to home. Enjoy visits to Saint Hilarion Castle nestled in the Kyrenia mountains and uncover the fascinating history behind Kyrenia Castle, which dates back to Roman times and was subsequently fortified by the Byzantines then modernised by the Venetians. On our Walking in Northern Cyprus trip, you’ll also have the opportunity to wander around the ghost town of Famagusta, view the intricate stalagmites and selenite crystals in the Incirli Caves and admire the impressive 50-row theatre in the Ancient City of Salamis.
Asked when the best time was to visit, Andrew replies spring, purely because this is when “the bird migration over the Karpas Peninsula happens. With thousands of Bee Eaters and birds of prey heading into Europe, along with 21 species of orchid only found on the island, visiting during the months of spring is particularly spectacular. The temperatures are also pleasant, giving you plenty of time to explore the stunning coastline of Northern Cyprus. The rich history, scenery, and fantastic Turkish cuisine make this part of the world a must-see. The exchange rate is also in your favour here too. You’ll soon see there’s a lot is going for this Mediterranean gem”.
For foodies looking to uncover the delights of Sicilian cuisine, our Sicily Food Adventure serves up the opportunity, not only to sample some of the island’s delicious dishes and produce, but also to have a go at making them yourself with a local chef in Trapani. Combine this with visits to Sicily’s unique heritage sights like Palermo’s Monreale Duomo, the bustling fish market in Catania and the Baroque gem of Ragusa, you have a perfect balance of cultural and culinary treats.
Sicily is definitely on Andrew’s Travel Wish List. “I’ve had a love affair with Sicily for years and have explored virtually the whole island, but I keep going back for more. With incredible archaeology from multiple periods and the largest Greek settlements outside of mainland Greece, this is an archaeologists’ and any budding Indiana Jones’ dream. Whether you explore the island on foot, by bike or just on a cultural tour, people instantly get hooked and find they go back to explore multiple times.”
He continues, “And as for the food, it’s the best in Italy, and the Sicilians are quick to tell you that fact, so don’t bother trying to fight it. You’ll quickly discover that they love their coffee. Make sure you try their velvety cannoli too. While this destination is great all year round, I particularly love May in Sicily, as all the fields of wild poppies and colourful flora, flower in abundance”.
Discover spectacular desert landscapes and ancient World Heritage Sites on a trip to Jordan next year. From Crusader castles and intricate Christian mosaics to pink-hued Nabatean cities, Jordan’s striking architecture is bound to leave you speechless. Hitting the best spots, our trips include visits to the iconic Rose Red City of Petra, the ancient streets of Roman Jerash and the sacred site Mt Nebo. You also get the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea and experience the nomadic Bedouin lifestyle with a traditional Zarb dinner and an evening camping under the stars in Wadi Rum.
Andrew explains, “Autumn in Jordan is ideal. If you have the time to explore more of the country, then the Hidden Treasures of Jordan trip, which I helped design a decade ago, will allow you to delve into the rich history and culture behind the sites. At this time of year, you will have these spectacular sites largely to yourself, with the expert guides providing a real in-depth knowledge of the region.” He explains, “Whether you’re looking to hike, enjoy a cultural tour or explore on two wheels with our Petra & Wadi Rum by Bike trip, Jordan is just brilliant. You wouldn’t think it, but it’s so small that in seven hours you can get from the top to bottom of the country, as the road system and infrastructure between the major sites are very good”.
He does point out that, “Expert guides are essential when it comes to really exploring this area. Don’t short-change yourself either by trying to do Petra in anything less than 2 days, as you’ll just end up being disappointed. Personally, I always thought that seeing Petra by night was a bit cheesy and a tourist trap, but I found myself doing it a couple of years back and it was a great evening under the stars, it’s an experience not to be missed”.
In 2021, take on an exhilarating ascent, past ice seracs and ancient monasteries to the foot of the Khumbu Glacier where you reach your final destination – the Everest Base Camp. Situated 17,500 ft above sea level and encircled by some of the most iconic peaks on Earth, you’ll definitely make up for time lost in 2020 on this once in a lifetime trek in the Himalayas. Andrew explains, “I have always had a fascination with Nepal and can never tire of hiking in the Himalayan region, be it a trek to the Everest Base Camp or taking on one of the world’s classic routes with the Annapurna Circuit.”
He continues, “I’d recommend travelling later in the year when the temperature drops and the skies are clear – you’ll feel like you are in one of the most majestic, awe-inspiring landscapes on the planet. We have a deep-rooted affinity to these mountains too, as it’s Exodus’ spiritual home and has been since we led our first trip back in October 1974″.
“You could say the travel industry is the backbone of the Nepalese economy. Tourism is more vital now than ever before, especially since they have only just partially recovered from the devasting earthquakes in 2015. With expert guides whose local knowledge is second to none, comfortable teahouses, and a warm Nepalese welcome, travelling to this part of the world is a truly humbling experience, one that everyone should do at least once. I can definitely see Nepal being somewhere to spend my sabbatical”.
5. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Up for a challenge in 2021? Why not go off the beaten track and reach new heights of adventure when you climb to the roof of Africa. Taking the western approach, we follow the Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route, cross the caldera of Shira Volcano and the southern icefields of Kibo, Kilimanjaro’s highest volcano, ending the adventure reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro – the largest freestanding mountain in the world. Although this spectacular eight-day route is not for the faint-hearted, the rewards are worth it when you feast your eyes on the unforgettable views of the immense wild Shira Plateau. It’s sights like these that will be forever etched into your memory.
When discussing this particular trip, Andrew was quick to comment, “After leading countless groups up Kilimanjaro and safaris at the end of the trek, a few clients have been cajoling me to take them once more. I had vowed that I had done my last trip up there, but a bit like my old London marathon T-shirt, “Never again, until the next time”, springs to mind”.
“It’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists. Everyone dreams of standing on top of Africa, the longest uninterrupted view on the planet and seeing the curvature of the globe as the sun rises”. He continues, “ With plenty of time for travellers to get fit in 2020, I have a feeling Kilimanjaro will be a popular spot in 2021, and if you combine it with a safari, you’ll catch the migration going through the Serengeti in December. Crashing on a beach in Zanzibar after this is the perfect end to a year”.
If our travel expert, Andrew Appleyard’s wish list for 2021 has inspired you to make a wish list of your own, click here.