While it has seemed 2020 is a write-off for international travel, the opposite may be true as the year wears on. To date, more than 50 countries have reopened their borders to Canadian visitors, from St. Lucia to Iceland. As well, several travel insurance providers have started offering coverage that includes COVID-19-related illnesses, with some countries, airlines and accommodations doing likewise (see sidebar).
Practical considerations aside, the fall of 2020 is shaping up to offer unprecedented globetrotting opportunities to Canadians who are willing to overlook the federal government’s globe-spanning non-essential travel advisory and endure the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their return. Many of the world’s most popular destinations are expected to experience their quietest fall in recent memory (making physical distancing more viable).
Combine this tranquility with reopened diversions including museums, monuments, parks and patios, and the six destinations that follow are primed to put a positive spin on the pandemic.
Loire Valley, France
Scenically skirting France’s longest river, the country’s largest World Heritage Site offers a picturesque amalgam of architecturally blessed towns such as Blois, Amboise, Chinon and Saumur; bucolic countryside strewn with vineyards that are especially alluring during the autumn grape harvest; and scores of chateaux ranging from ornate Chambord to riverine d’Azay-le-Rideau.
What’s new: After its 2019 debut in the lavishly renovated Château du Grand-Lucé, the 17-room Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé has since completed its Versailles-inspired gardens and opened a fine-dining restaurant.
Trip vitals: It takes a little more than 90 minutes for high-speed trains departing Paris to roll into Tours, the region’s largest city. From there, rail and bus services, tour operators, rental cars and a world-class cycling network connect visitors to the Loire’s myriad delights.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Home to Grace Bay, which is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest stretches of sand, the most-visited island in this West Indies archipelago is similarly blessed when it comes to luxurious beachfront resorts, upscale restaurants and spas, and snorkelling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing.
What’s new: Grace Bay’s tony Wymara Resort and Villas recently unveiled seven four- and five-bedroom hillside villas on Provo’s sandy south-facing coast.
Trip vitals: Non-stop Air Canada flights from Toronto Pearson International Airport resume on Aug. 29.
Boat tours of the city’s gorgeous harbour provide prime views of the famous bronze Little Mermaid statue, while cruises on the historic canal network explore landmarks such as the Danish royal family’s four neoclassical palaces and the domed Frederikskirken cathedral.
What’s new: A 40-minute drive west of Copenhagen, the Lejre Land of Legends open-air museum inaugurated Scandinavia’s largest recreated Viking hall in June. Fashioned from 1,000 tons of oak and measuring 61 metres long and 10 metres high, the “King’s Hall” hosts Viking trades such as silversmithing.
Trip vitals: Air Canada offers daily non-stop flights from Toronto Pearson to Copenhagen.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Canadian couples who managed to tie the knot this summer may be pleased to learn that this iconic Polynesian honeymoon destination is again welcoming visitors to its sand-ringed islets, rainforest-draped basaltic peaks and upscale resorts where romance meets decadence like nowhere else on Earth.
What’s new: After an extensive renovation, the newly reopened Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa is now a member of the Relais & Châteaux association of luxury hotels and restaurants. The property is offering a 30-per-cent discount on three-night minimum stays, with breakfast and dinner included, as of Oct. 1.
Getting there: Direct flights to Tahiti depart San Francisco and Los Angeles daily, with the 90-minute hop to Bora Bora provided by Air Tahiti.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Pick an exotic zoo animal and chances are it’s roaming this sprawling preserve. Serengeti National Park is widely regarded as one of the best places to spot Africa’s “Big 5” animals – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and bison – along with cheetahs, zebras, wildebeest and hundreds of bird species.
What’s new: For the month of August, the luxurious Four Seasons Safari Lodge is getting a jump on its Sept. 1 reopening with a $6,000-a-night “Serengeti Private Villa Experience” for guests staying in one of five free-standing pool villas.
Trip vitals: Ethiopian Airlines’ Toronto-Addis Ababa service allows visitors to make a single connection en route to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport. Once on the ground, most Canadians visitors rely on tour operators such as Toronto-based G Adventures, which is offering a 12-day “Serengeti Safari & Zanzibar” excursion departing Oct. 3.
More than 3,000 years after it literally blew its top, this ring-shaped island has come to symbolize beauty born of disaster. The sheer caldera towers over the turquoise Aegean Sea, with the whitewashed villages of Fira and Oia seeming to dust the cliff tops with snow. With west-facing vantage points of this calibre, it’s no wonder guests of the island’s plentiful boutique resorts often burst into applause as the sun dips below the horizon.
What’s new: The 12-suite Istoria retreat recently opened its opulent doors on the black volcanic sands of Perivolos Beach.
Trip vitals: Many airlines connect Santorini International Airport to European air hubs, while dozens of ferries arrive daily from Athens’ main port of Piraeus.
Entry requirements: Most countries that have reopened their borders to Canadians are performing health checks upon arrival and will refuse entry to visitors displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Many destinations also require negative COVID-19 test results, typically obtained within 72 hours of departure, while others, such as Turks and Caicos and Bora Bora, call for proof of travel insurance.
Travel insurance: At press time, coverage of COVID-19-related illnesses was offered to Canadians by providers such as Medipac, Ontario Blue Cross, SafteyWing and HeyMondo. Some countries, such as Portugal, are also offering this kind of coverage to visitors, with airlines and resort chains including Emirates and Club Med doing likewise. This drastically alleviates the financial risks of international journeys, and could improve the level of care in some destinations.
Quarantine rules: At press time, government regulations required Canadians returning from international destinations to go directly to “suitable places of quarantine” without delay and stay there for 14 days. Hotels, resorts and short-term rental accommodations are not considered suitable.
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