Mecca is only accessible by Muslims, who often describe the moment they first lay eyes on the city's sacred Kaaba as an overwhelmingly emotional experience. For those living outside the Kingdom, a visit to Mecca – generally spelt 'Makkah' by Muslims and in Saudi Arabia – is a lifelong dream. Coming here to perform the hajj pilgrimage is a religious obligation for all Muslims who are financially and physically able to do so.
Welcome to one of the world’s ultimate outdoor playgrounds, bursting with opportunities for adventure amid diverse and inspiring landscapes. Walk on the Wild Side With just a million people scattered across 151,215 sq km, the South Island has a population density even lower than Tasmania in Australia. Filling the gaps are the sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords that have made New Zealand’s ‘Mainland’ one of the best hiking destinations on the planet. Tackle one of the South Island’s six Great Walks, such as the world-famous Heaphy, Routeburn or Milford Tracks, or choose from one of countless other options ranging from 15-minute nature trails to multiday, backcountry epics. DOC's track and hut network makes it easy to find a way in. Meet the Locals Prepare to meet the South Island’s idiosyncratic wildlife: whales, fur seals, dolphins and penguins all frequent the coastal waters around Kaikoura, partnered by an armada of pelagic bird species including petrels and albatrosses. Endangered Hector’s dolphins cavort in Akaroa Harbour and the Catlins, while the Otago Peninsula has penguins, royal albatrosses and sea lions. Further south, remote and wild Stewart Island boasts a healthy population of NZ’s iconic but shy kiwi. Two special parrots – the kaka and the kea – are totally unmistakable as they flap and squawk, with the latter inclined to chew car aerials and unattended hiking boots. Action Aplenty Hiking (known as 'tramping' here) may be the South Island's classic adventure, but there are far racier ways to immerse yourself in its landscapes. Raft down the tumbling Buller or Rangitata Rivers, or kayak around the coves of the Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman or Fiordland. Scare yourself silly with Queenstown’s gravity-defying menu of bungy, paragliding or skydiving, or mount a mountain bike to wheel through the stunning scenery along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. During winter, go snow crazy on the ski fields around Wanaka, Queenstown or Mt Hutt.
Istanbul's strategic location has attracted many marauding armies over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans and Venetians took turns ruling before the Ottomans stormed into town and decided to stay – physical reminders of their various tenures are found across the city. The fact that the city straddles two continents wasn't its only drawcard – it was the final stage on the legendary Silk Road linking Asia with Europe, and many merchants who came here liked it so much that they, too, decided to stay. In so doing, they gave the city a cultural diversity that it retains to this day.
Gain a deeper understanding of the tumultuous pasts of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and admire their wealth of ancient treasures which serve as a testament to their history under oppressive rule
Gear up for contrasting but complementary experiences on this trip, which juxtaposes the sights, tastes and smells of relaxing Hokkaido with the cool urban, neon-lit buzz of sleek and efficient Tokyo.