The early hiccups of 2022 with regard to the latest strain of COVID-19 notwithstanding, the announcement of the reopening of an ancient trail in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has got adventure lovers gushing. The newly resurrected hiking trail, which will take close to a month to cover from end to end, will cross nine dzongkhags (districts) and close to four hundred historic sites across the country. A historic Trans Sylvanian hiking trail though Romania that has been in development, is also nearing completion this year. As the exigencies of the pandemic ease into regular life, the travel world is set to witness exciting first-timers in the roster of global attractions. We list five of them that travellers looking for a one-of-a-kind dive into the stories that they have most cherished, can look forward to, as different parts of the world become accessible.
To be inaugurated in March 2022, this iconic route is the latest in Bhutan’s bundle of immersive slow-travel offerings. The trail stretches from Haa on Bhutan’s border with Tibet, in the west, to Trashigang in the east, spanning 403km. There are several itineraries available for travellers who want to do smaller sections, and the trail is both walking and mountain biking-friendly, with a number of adventure activities and cultural and wellness experiences in between.
Travelling to Bhutan: As of January 2022, fully vaccinated Indian travellers are allowed to travel with a mandatory two-week quarantine, after payment of (a) the country’s Sustainable Development charge for Indian tourists (₹1,200), (b) the Minimum Daily Package Rates for their quarantine term and for the duration of their stay in the country, and (c) charges for all tests. Travellers must also carry applicable health insurance and obtain the permission of Bhutan’s national COVID-19 Task Force. Read more at the website of the Indian embassy in Bhutan.
If you’re a fan of those good old train journey stories, don’t forget to ride a brand-new European sleeper that passes through four major national capitals. The glitzy reboot of the Orient Express—named the Orient Express La Dolce Vita—that was announced late last year starts only in 2023, besides costing a pretty penny (expect to spend close to ₹1.7 lakh per person for a ride). While the makers will successfully (and rightly) convince you that it’s worth every dime spent, why not set your sights on another epic rail journey that will chug into our lives this year? RegioJet is debuting a low-carbon, trans-Europe night train between Brussels and Prague via Berlin (London, too, depending on route modifications). Stops also include Dresden, Antwerp and Amsterdam.
Tickets go on sale in April; more details on the website.
Also bookmark: Charting a truly historical route through the middle of Uzbekistan, a new train will run from Tashkent to Khiva along the Silk Route. The current road route also passes Samarkand and Bukhara, and the high-speed train is expected to bring the 12-and-a-half-hour travel time considerably. Sitting on the Uzbek-Turkmenistan border and very close to Amu Darya, the river that Alexander the Great knew as Oxus, Khiva is a spectacular historical city that reminded this writer of a film set from The Arabian Nights.
Japan remains circumspectly closed to the world ever since the pandemic broke out. There’s still considerable uncertainty about the future of the virus, despite claims that the latest strain and greater vaccine coverage may provide populations room for negotiation with the contagion. In fact, on January 22, the country recorded 54,000 fresh cases—its highest ever. That said, Studio Ghibli is set to launch its much-awaited theme park in November, the company said in a recent tweet.
While it’s safe to not expect travel reopening immediately after, you never know. Three of the park’s five designated areas will be initially thrown open—allowing visitors to actual simulations of the physical world depicted in the movies Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Apart from nature trails on the lines of the lush scenery of Hayao Miyazaki’s much-loved animated features, the theme park also has exhibition rooms, cafeterias and other amenities. Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a little over a three-hour Shinkansen ride away.
Also bookmark: The newly opened H. C. Andersen House in Denmark’s Odense, is a captivating museum and art centre dedicated to the Danish master and writer of fairytales. While the museum isn’t completely new, the latest expansion is a peek into the writer’s creative universe, facilitated using new exhibits that make impressive use of sound, light and scenery. The ticket also covers a visit to Andersen’s childhood home in Odense and a trail around town tracing his footsteps. Find out more at the HC Andersen’s House website.
The much awaited behind-the-scenes self-guided tour to the making of the most hyped fantasy show ever, will kick off on February 4. Situated in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, where the fantasy drama was principally shot, the north-to-south studio tour offers the works, “from the hall of faces to the crypts of Winterfell”. From the initial sketches that helped bring the show to life, rich-with-detail prosthetics and props (think otherworldly dragon eggs and drinking horns) to the armoury used in the fight sequences and ornate costumes the characters wore throughout the eight seasons, the experience promises to provide a lot more than other local tours to filming locations.
For more details and tickets, visit the studio tour website.
Visualise walking through an exhibition gallery in a stunning hall made entirely of grand marble glass and measuring 2,400 square metres in area, in one of the most stunning buildings in Norway. Come June, and the Nordics’ largest museum—the National Museum of Norway—will become a reality. The 1,00,000-strong collection will boast several Golden Age Flemish landscapes, Norwegian Baldishol tapestry dating back to the mid-12th century, and, for modern art aficionados, The Scream by Edvard Munch. The new museum is part of an extensive urban development of Oslo, and the top floors afford panoramic views of the cityscape.
Also bookmark: Another major museum opening in another corner of the world is the 45-acre Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. When it launches, it will be the largest archaeological museum and the largest museum dedicated to one civilisation. Don’t miss King Tut’s funerary treasure, all 5,000 items from which will be displayed together along with his face mask.
License to Chill at Pinewood Studios, U. K.
Die-hard James Bond film fans might see their long cherished dream come true in 2022. London’s Pinewood Studios, the home of the action/espionage franchise (including the recent No Time to Die and other big-ticket actioners such as The Dark Knight, Eternals and Black Widow), announced that they will throw their gates open to the general public. Further details are yet to be known, but a visitor attraction is among the planned additions.
For more details on these openings and further developments, watch this space. For a comprehensive list of countries that allow Indian travellers, check out our tracker.
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Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.