Cox & Kings

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Contenders, ready!…difficult destination decisions

| 10 Mar 2020

Our fascinating world often spoils us for choice. There is so much to see, and often not just one but two places offering similar sights or experiences. It can be hard to take the plunge and decide which to visit.

From competing cities to comparable natural wonders and wildlife habitats, Cox & Kings’ Eleanor Lawrence picks out some of these destinations and puts them head to head, weighing up their relative merits to help you choose. You’ll find that they all have something to offer that the other doesn’t, but maybe one will appeal to your own particular preferences more than the other.

Latino Lifestyle:

Rio de Janeiro vs. Buenos Aires  

There can be nothing more fiery than Latino rivalry. Both these South American cities possess flare, with some saying that the Brazilian city of Rio is the more exciting of the two. This beach lover’s paradise doesn’t only light up during the world-renowned carnival period in February. Samba clubs keep the atmosphere lively from dusk ‘til dawn year round. Maybe it’s something to do with its glorious weather and stunning setting between forested hills, white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, all gathered beneath the loving arms of the giant Christ the Redeemer statue. Nothing is done in half measures here, including the hearty cuisine; rice, black beans, meat and veg are a staple, coupled with heady cocktails.

Ipanema beach, Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro

On the surface, the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires with its more European influence looks positively reserved. But don’t forget that, after the Spanish colonial period, this European influx came in large part from Italy – hardly a quiet bunch! Passion is not in short measure here. Take the tango, for instance. This hot-blooded dance will rival any samba show. There’s carnival time here too, which might not be as famous as Rio’s but is just as fun minus the unmanageable crowds. And while there may not be beaches and the weather is more seasonal, the city makes up for it with its enthusiastic interest in the arts. Edgy art galleries, cinemas and an abundance of theatres litter the city. In terms of gastronomy, Rio’s meaty fare is no match for an Argentine banquet. Add a healthy dollop of Italian influence to this and some would say that Buenos Aires comes out top in terms of cuisine.

La Boca district, Buenos Aires

Colourful houses of La Boca, a district of Buenos Aires with a strong Italian influence

Whether you’re a culture vulture and more inclined towards Buenos Aires or in search of the more relentless rhythm of Rio, you can experience both on a number of our small group tours to South America.

Gorilla Trekking:

Rwanda vs. Uganda

Tracking and encountering mountain gorillas in the wild has to be up there as one of the world’s top wildlife experiences. There are so few left in the wild and just a handful of groups habituated to humans that can be viewed by a limited number of visitors per day. So which ones to meet? Rwandan or Ugandan? To ensure maximum gain with minimal environmental impact, Rwanda is opting to charge a high price of $1,500 per permit to see the gorillas. Accommodation comes at a high price too. However, the money that feeds back into the economy is evident in the better infrastructure not to mention the community projects that are popping up everywhere. Added to this are the shorter travelling times within this small country and the fabulous scenery of Volcanoes National Park, where the gorillas live.

Mountain gorilla from Susa group, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Uganda, on the other hand, is taking a more inclusive approach. A permit here will put you back $600 ($700 after 1st July 2020), less than half that of the Rwandan permit. For the cheaper price you’ll have to put up with a more primitive infrastructure as well as longer travelling and trekking times in this much larger country. But there’s more on offer too: meet indigenous tribes in Bwindi, go chimp trekking in Kibale and add on safari drives to your trip.

Family of chimpanzees, Kibale Forest, Uganda

Family of chimpanzees, Kibale Forest, Uganda

So if you’re on a budget and looking for more than just gorillas, opt for Uganda, but if you’ve saved up especially for a first-class gorilla tracking experience then go to Rwanda. We offer separate group tours to both countries: check out our Classic Uganda wildlife tour and Rwanda Primate Safari.

Call of the Wild:

The Amazon rainforest  vs. the Pantanal wetlands

Brazil encompasses two of the world’s great wildlife regions. The Amazon is the obvious one. This is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and to experience it will heighten every sense within you. It’s choc-a-block with wildlife, but in their jungle home they hold all the cards.  Your eyes will be darting everywhere in an effort to catch a glimpse of that elusive, rare bird or spot a paw mark in the soil; your ears will be pricked to the exotic sounds of animal calls and rustling leaves; and your nostrils will be filled with the rich, natural aroma of the rainforest. Through all this snakes the world’s longest river, a sight to behold in itself.

Frog, Brazilian rainforest, Brazil

But don’t forget the Pantanal. While by no means as big as the Amazon, it nonetheless holds the title of the world’s largest tropical wetland, and if you really want to spot wildlife then this is the better place for it. Without all the dense vegetation it’s much easier to catch sightings of caimans, monkeys, armadillos, toucans, macaws, anteaters… even jaguars if you’re lucky. The list goes on. Exploration is easier too with options to go wildlife spotting on foot, by boat, on horseback or 4×4.

Yacare Caiman crocodile with fish, Pantanal, Brazil

Yacare caiman with fish, Pantanal, Brazil

For those in search of their inner Tarzan, opt for our Classic Brazil private tour exploring the Amazon by cruise boat or from a jungle lodge. If the chase is of no interest and you’re looking for a virtual line up of wildlife then head to the Pantanal on our Brazil: Wildlife & Waterfalls private tour.

Water World:

Victoria Falls vs. Iguazú (Iguaҫu) Falls

Waterfalls may not be the main factor when it comes to deciding your holiday destination but it’s good to know what you’re getting when it comes to these two awesome but seemingly similar natural wonders. All of them make a spectacular and memorable stop on any holiday but each offer different experiences.

Victoria Falls, Zambia, with a rainbow

Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border

Mosi ao Tunya, meaning ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, is the much more evocative local name for what we know better as Victoria Falls, named by the British explorer David Livingstone in 1855. This natural border line between Zambia and Zimbabwe does indeed appear to smoke. Based on its overall width and height, this is the largest sheet of falling water in the world. It produces a relentless rumble and a mist of water that can rise up to 500 metres. You can’t get up close to the falls by boat but there are some spectacular viewpoints, particularly from the Zimbabwean side, or get an aerial view by helicopter. Cox & Kings offers several private itineraries including a stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel, set within the national park itself and with easy access to the falls.

Take a boat up to the Iguazú Falls

Iguazú (Iguaҫu) Falls on the Brazil/Argentina border

Iguazú (or Iguaҫu) Falls is nothing less than a tropical paradise shared between the countries of Brazil and Argentina. Forested islands packed with lush vegetation hang precariously along the edge, breaking the waters up into 275 separate falls. Butterflies and parrots flit through the flumes of water while rainbows arc above the spray. There are walkways that lead right up to some of the cascades or catch a boat safari. Many of our group tours to Brazil and Argentina include a privileged stay at the Belmond Hotel das Caratas on the Brazilian side, with access to the walkways around the falls once the day trippers have gone.

Moroccan Medinas:

Fez vs. Marrakech

Opinion upon the historic centres of these two ancient cities is bitterly divided. The medina in Fez is just too medieval for the tastes of some people. True, it has grit… and grime, but the authenticity of this city is palpable. Explore a living labyrinth of passageways (preferably with a guide if the idea of getting lost induces panic rather than delight): peruse the wares of local artisans, peer beyond wooden doorways into intricately tiled courtyards, dodge the cats and donkeys and gawp at market stalls displaying everything from tasty sweets to not-so-tasty severed camel heads. The 11th-century leather tanneries are a particularly powerful hit on the senses: the pong is terrific (a combination of cow urine and pigeon poo used to clean the animal hides) but get beyond this and you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of the fascinating manual process of naturally cleaning and dying the skins, a method that has remained unchanged since medieval times.

Tannery, Fez, Morocco

The leather tanneries, Fez

In comparison, some might say that Marrakech is just a showy attraction that’s lost its real character. Yes, this is a more tourist-friendly medina, but it sparkles against the more earthy flavour of Fez. Walk between walls of glinting lanterns, shiny leather goods, sequined skirts and cloth every colour under the sun. Djemaa el fna square is the highlight where a circus show of street performers will ensnare you. Visit in the evening when the market stalls fire up their smokey grills beneath glowing lights and the musicians really find their voice. It’s not Disney but there’s certainly an Aladdin’s cave atmosphere about it all.

Djemaa El Fna Square with Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech

Djemaa el fna square at sunset, Marrakech

If time is on your side and you’re looking for more than just an exotic short city break then join our Moroccan Explorer: Mystical Cities to Desert small group tour, which visits both of these former capitals.

Living the Urban Dream:

Sydney vs. Melbourne

There’s so much going for both of these Australian cities that it’s hard to figure out which is the more appealing of the two. Who could pass up on Sydney when it holds two of Australia’s most iconic monuments: the harbour bridge and Sydney Opera House? Pricey restaurants make the most of the harbour views but there’s also a superb casual dining scene in the suburbs. But you don’t have to be a city slicker to enjoy Sydney. There’s a huge focus on the great outdoors here, with easy access to beautiful beaches and glorious national parks where you can hike to your heart’s content.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge and opera house, Australia

Sound good? Well so does Melbourne. This trend-setting metropolis is jam packed with culture. There’s the National Gallery and Arts Centre, classy theatre performances and a happening music scene. It’s not all high brow though; the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), which has hosted some of the world’s biggest sporting events over the years, is a must-see for sports fans. Café culture is taken to a new level here, as is eating out, which is an absolute treat for every budget. And while there might be less sun, surf and sand, the striking coastal scenery of the Great Ocean Road is just a short drive away. Unbeatable.

Hardware Lane, Melbourne, Australia

Café culture on Hardware Lane, Melbourne, Australia

Join our non-exclusive group tour, Australian Highlights, to experience the charms of both of these two cities. Likelihood is you’ll find it hard to decide on a favourite.



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