Ultimate worlds

We know, size isn’t everything. But while not trying to make it onto the pages of the Guinness Book of records, we thought you might be interested to read about some of the truly ‘ultimate’ experiences around the world. Our collection of superlatives includes:

The highest destination

Kilimanjaro, which stands at nearly 6,000 metres, id the highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Technically it’s not difficult to climb as the gradients are relatively gentle and there are porters to carry your gear, hence the success of Comic Relief celebrities such as Chris Moyles and Cheryl Cole. Although no Everest or K2, it is still demanding and rigorous challenge at altitude that should not be underestimated. The record ascent/descent is less than nine hours but, to allow for safe acclimatisation, six to seven days is more sensible!

Kilimanjaro

The fastest train ride

Hold on to your bento box! The Japanese so-called ‘Bullet Train’, the Shinkansen, feels more like a rocket than a loco. Launched in time for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, this pioneer of high-speed travel can gobble up the 325 miles between the neon lights of the capital and the shrines, temples and gardens of ancient Kyoto in barely over two hours (look out for Mount Fuji some 40 minutes after leaving Tokyo). Just to set the record straight, the French have recorded faster times eith their TGVs but in terms of regular services the Bullet takes the gold medal.

Japanese bullet train

The smallest island

Taprobane, lying just off the south coast of Sri Lanka, is a tiny, lush, green island which you can have all to yourself. There’s just one villa with five four-postered bedrooms on the 2.5 acres and the only way you can reach it is to wade through the knee-deep water, the house boys carrying the luggage on their heads. Once home to a French Count, Taprobane has hosted kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, artists and writers including Arthur C Clarke, who declared it was where he first learnt to wear a sarong.

The longest wall

The Great Wall of China stretches more than 5,000 miles, roughly eight times the length of the UK. No, we don’t advise clients tackle the lot – although we can take you more or less anywhere in China (west along the fabled Silk Road, north west to Inner Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, south to enchanting Yunnan or the cities of Xiâan, Shanghai and Beijing – the latter both for its historic sights and for excursions to Jinshanling, the last visited section of the Wall within reach of the city.

Great Wall of China

The highest road

The world’s two highest motor-able roads, both in Ladakh, can both be travelled on the same trip. From Manli you drive through surreal trans-Himilayan landscapes to Leh from where the route takes you to the Nubra Valley across the Khardang La, the latter being a whopping 5,500 metres. The route also claims to have the world’s highest toilet. It’s a fantastic Himilayan adventure, but you might need oxygen!

Ladakh, India

The biggest waterfall

There are five, depending on how you define size. The largest single Fall is Victoria between Zambia and Zimbabwe; the wettest according to volume of water, Niagra, in between Canada and the US; the highest, Venezuela’s Angel Falls; and the widest, the Iguacu Falls, which straddle Argentina and Brazil with 275 individual cascades stretching some 3 km.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The most adventurous drive

The Kimberley, in Australia’s northwest, has been called the last wilderness. Its main artery is the Gibb River Road, a 400-mile mostly unsealed track, built in the 1960s to transport cattle through rugged escarpment landscapes and linking some of the most awesome natural sights, including gorges and waterfalls. Travelling the route by 4WD, but only between April and October is the way to experience one of the most adventurous road trips anywhere on earth.

Nick Van Gruisen is Managing Director of The Ultimate Travel Company.

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