Holidays to captivating cities around the world

Lorna Cowan / 12 December 2016

BBC1’s Planet Earth II has been a joy to watch over the past five weeks. And last night's final episode (11/12/16), which focuses on ‘cities’, will continue to amaze avid wildlife fans.



Animals don’t just live in wild habitats, they also share cities worldwide with thousands of people. Peregrine falcons thrive amongst New York’s sky scrapers and during the winter months, around five million starlings descend on Rome to perform a spectacular aerial dance high above the city’s tourist spots.

However, a man-made environment differs greatly from the natural world and if animals are to survive in urban settings, they need to overcome their fear of man. 

The final episode of Sir David’s Attenborough’s marvellous documentary shows footage of creative creatures across the globe learning new tricks and skills to make sure they get a meal, whatever hurdles they need to jump.

This week’s captivating ‘cities’ episode of Planet Earth II takes us to Toronto, Harar, Jaipur and Mumbai – all destinations you can easily visit on a Saga holiday.

Reach for the sky in Toronto, Canada

In this week’s Planet Earth II, the team follow raccoons who have made their home in Toronto, a dynamic metropolis and the most populous city in Canada.

Nightly they go in search of food, finding new and inquisitive ways of getting their paws on something tasty. Rummaging around in ‘raccoon-proof’ bins, they’ve even been known to take a ride on some of the city’s public transport.

The vibrant city also features on the itinerary of Saga’s Highlights of Eastern Canada tour. Although famous for its magnificent skyline, there are plenty of shops, cafes and galleries to explore around the harbour too.

An optional excursion will take visitors to Toronto’s tallest landmark, the CN Tower. Lifts whisk you up to the 113th storey in just 58 seconds, where you’ll have the chance to take in spectacular views. If you’re feeling brave, you can even walk on a glass floor, some 1,122 feet above the streets below.

Other destinations on this tour include Montreal, Ottawa and Québec City, North America’s only walled city north of Mexico. While here, visit the Petit Champlain Quarter, full of boutiques and bistros, then La Citadelle in the historic district of Old Québec.

Alternatively, join an excursion not far from the city to Montmorency Falls, one of Québec’s natural attractions. The impressive waterfall is 272 feet high - around 100 feet higher than the more well-known Niagara Falls.

Cool mountain peaks and even ‘cooler’ cities, Canada offers a world of experiences Find out more here.

Enjoy a historical holiday in Harar, Ethiopia

The walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia also features in this week’s Planet Earth II.

Two hyena clans have roamed the city streets during the evenings for the past 400 years, and at times the filming team found themselves surrounded by over 100 of them fighting for scraps of meat left lying around by the city’s butchers.

Although spotted hyena are feared by many, residents of Harar invite these predators into their city, believing that every time they cackle, they’ll consume evil spirits. One family even hand feed these wild animals.

Hyenas, the second largest land predator in Africa after the lion, is not the only wildlife visitors may encounter on a holiday in Ethiopia.

The country’s national parks are alive with many interesting creatures, including the coyote-like Abyssinian or Ethiopian wolf, as well as the gelada monkey and ibex wild goat.

These parks are also the natural habitat of over 800 species of birds and 20,000 types of butterflies and moths.

Saga’s escorted tour around Ethiopia, An Antique Land, allows holidaymakers to unravel the timeless mysteries of this ancient country, and includes visits to four UNESCO-listed sites.

Some of Africa’s most important religious and historical sites can be found in Ethiopia. The 11 medieval rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are still places of pilgrimage and devotion.

The best known is the cross-shaped church of St George, which has been dated back to the late 12th century.

Also on the itinerary is a trip to Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Take time to look around the ornate Holy Trinity Cathedral and the National Museum, home to a skeleton some three million years old, known only as ‘Lucy’.

Fast forward to today and any trip to the country wouldn’t be complete without a meander around a colourful market. While in the capital, head to the chaotic Merkato, even just to the outskirts, to see one of the largest open-air markets in Africa.

But a more enjoyable shopping experience can be had at Bahir Dar. Near the lakeside you’ll find stalls selling fragrant spices, coffee beans and handmade crafts, all suitable to bring home as a souvenir.

From the medieval city of Lalibela to the peaks of the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia is a joy to explore Find out more here.

Take a tour around Jaipur, India

Macaques are mischievous little monkeys, and around 20,000 of them now reside in Jaipur, the capital of India’s Rajasthan state.

In this week’s Planet Earth II, viewers will see them making daily raids on fruit and veg stalls in the city, working in gangs and demonstrating clever thieving tactics.

The documentary team used state-of-the-art filming techniques to capture these highly social animals in action, agilely travelling over the city’s rooftops. It makes entertaining watching in this week’s final episode.

The city of Jaipur, which is also known as the Pink City because many of its buildings were painted the colour in the 1870s before a visit from the Prince of Wales, is on the itinerary of several Saga holidays to India, two of them being The Golden Triangle and Tiger Trail and North India: A Grand Tour.

Jaipur’s highlights include the famous Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a five-storey building with 953 sandstone windows, erected so women of the royal household could watch life on the streets below without themselves being seen.

The Jantar Mantar observatory, a UNESCO World Heritage site, will also astound keen astronomers, while the City Palace, in the centre of the Old City, will delight everyone.

Wildlife fans, however, will love the chance to get up close(ish) to India’s glorious tigers. Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan’s first tiger reserve, is just 80 miles from Jaipur and famous for its 22 diurnal tigers who wander around in the daytime.

A toothless tiger by the name of Machall happily poses for tourists, while another, Romeo, is known to live up to his name, flirting with the females.

Sambar deer, small Indian mongoose, Indian foxes and marsh crocodiles also frequent the park.

Marvel at the sights in Mumbai, India

The Planet Earth II team also travelled to Mumbai in India to film leopards living in the city. After a night out, locals walk home in the darkness, oblivious to the fact leopards are strolling the streets beside them.

However, despite the fact that 200 people in Mumbai have been attacked by leopards in the past 25 years, when the film crew captured the big cat using infrared cameras, it was stalking out a family of piglets.

And with the noise of a bustling city in the background, unfortunately for one little pig, its approach was concealed.  

Mumbai, the wealthiest city in India, is the final destination on Saga’s Echo of the Empire tour, specially designed to celebrate India’s 70 years of independence.

The trip allows holidaymakers to discover the true heritage of the British Raj. And when in Mumbai (known as Bombay until 1995), a walk around the Fort Mumbai area will take you back to colonial times.

With its dazzling breadth of experiences and deep spirituality, India never fails to delight the senses and uplift the soul. Find out more here.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.