Words by Sue Bryant
Fifty-four Commonwealth countries marked the occasion of King Charles III's coronation. The buzz is building from Australia to Antigua as to where the newly crowned King and Queen Consort will visit on their next big Royal tour. Plans are already underway for what could be the biggest ever journey around the Commonwealth since Queen Elizabeth II’s 168-day tour in 1953 and 1954. So, which countries may receive a visit over the next year or so? Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and South Africa, as well as several Caribbean islands, are all strong contenders and, although details are yet to be revealed, there’s no time like the present to plan your very own Commonwealth holiday…
Canada enjoys a long history of Royal visits and a warm relationship with the United Kingdom. In fact, Charles and Camilla visited in May 2022 to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee, visiting Newfoundland, Ottawa and remote Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. This was the King’s 19th visit and the Queen Consort’s fifth. There’s no reason why a repeat shouldn’t be on the cards, as Canada is a vast country, with exceptional natural beauty.
Perhaps you’d follow in the footsteps of The Prince and Princess of Wales, then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who visited Western Canada in 2016 with tiny Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Their tour started in Vancouver, a sleek, cosmopolitan city encircled by water and mountains. One of the most thrilling ways to get your bearings here is on a floatplane tour, soaring over lush Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain, as well as the high rises of Downtown.
Jump on the ferry over to much quieter Vancouver Island, watching out for pods of orcas from the boat, and explore the dazzling Butchart Gardens. Then head inland over the craggy Canadian Rockies to the mountain resort of Whistler, hemmed in by towering peaks and gorgeous at any time of year. Learn about First Nations culture, gaze at the roaring cascade of nearby Shannon Falls, and travel even deeper into the pristine wilderness to Jasper National Park. This is the location of Maligne Lake, famed (and much photographed) for its astonishing azure water, and the vast, creaking Athabasca Glacier, which you can explore with a glaciologist. Banff National Park, equally beautiful, is the place for hiking, boat rides, epic mountain views and, if you’re lucky, bear spotting.
King Charles is said to be a great fan of New Zealand, visiting 10 times, most recently with the then Duchess of Cornwall in 2019, on a tour of Auckland, Waitangi, Christchurch and Kaikōura. Waitangi, of course, is central to New Zealand’s modern history. Located in the Bay of Islands, a jewel-like archipelago scattered across a turquoise sea, this is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the Maori and the British Crown, establishing British law in the country.
You can visit Waitangi and other highlights on a cruise of the North and South Islands. Marvel at Milford Sound, where sheer-sided mountains plunge into the sea, and the university town of Dunedin, named after the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, its streets are lined with elegant Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Christchurch, too, has a distinctly British vibe; here, you can even punt on the Avon river, although views of the jagged, snow-capped Southern Alps are a firm reminder that you’re a long way from home. Napier, with pretty Art Deco architecture, is gateway to the vineyards of Hawke’s Bay, as well as wild coastal scenery and forested hiking trails. From Tauranga, you’re spoiled for choice between the geothermal springs and Māori cultural sites around Rotorua, the mysterious glow-worm caves of Waitomo and, for movie buffs, the bucolic Hobbiton film set in Matamata. Cosmopolitan Auckland, meanwhile, deserves a day or two for its galleries, coffee shops, surf beaches and glorious views of sailing boats in the harbour.
The late Queen Elizabeth II had a deep affection for this island, where she lived briefly as Princess Elizabeth, while Philip, then her new husband, served in the Navy. The couple also ended their six-month Commonwealth tour in Valletta in 1954 and were joined by a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, both on their first overseas trip.
Her Majesty’s legacy can be seen everywhere—making this craggy, history-packed little island a strong contender for the forthcoming royal tour. Visit flower-filled Upper Barrakka Gardens, on top of Valletta’s ramparts, and look for the tree that the late Queen planted in 2007 to celebrate her 60th wedding anniversary. As you explore Valletta’s narrow streets, imagine the freedom that Princess Elizabeth enjoyed when she could stroll the city alone. Some things have changed since then; you’ll see superstar architect Renzo Piano’s dramatic new City Gate and the new Muza, Malta’s national community art museum. But others endure; don’t miss St. John’s Co-Cathedral. The spartan facade conceals an opulent, gilded interior, one of its highlights being Caravaggio’s exquisite but grisly canvas of The Beheading Of John The Baptist.
Visit the serene hilltop town of Mdina and wander the silent streets. Hop on the ferry to sleepy Gozo, where in 1954, The Queen unveiled the monument of Christ The King in Independence Square, in the heart of the tiny capital, Victoria. And make time to enjoy the natural beauty of this fascinating archipelago.
New South Wales has already announced a visit by King Charles III (possibly accompanied by The Queen Consort) in October 2024, to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the NSW Legislative Council. This will be the first time a reigning king has set foot on Australian soil.
The agenda is yet to be revealed but, given Charles’ love of classical music, a performance at the stunning Sydney Opera House seems likely. Camilla is president of trade association Wines of Great Britain, so will no doubt be keen to sample some of the great Semillon and Shiraz wines at vineyards in nearby Hunter Valley.
With a gorgeous coastline and big skies, New South Wales lends itself beautifully to a road trip. Why not follow the coast road all the way from Sydney to boho-chic Byron Bay in the far north of the state? This is the spot to watch surfers ride majestic waves, salute the sun at a yoga class, feast on fresh seafood at an award-winning restaurant and take a sunset stroll to the lighthouse, which marks continental Australia’s most easterly point.
India is the most populous country in the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth II visited three times during her reign. In fact, one of her most precious possessions was said to be a handkerchief given to her by Mahatma Gandhi at her wedding to Philip in 1947.
India was under British rule for 200 years and much of that legacy remains—the language, the legal system, even the passion for cricket. But visit Rajasthan and you’ll be swept away on a far deeper historical journey as you gaze at desert forts, exquisite palaces, dazzling bazaars and the rippling dunes of the great Thar desert. Touring is best as there’s so much to see and you can take in everything from Hawa Mahal, the rose-pink Palace of the Winds, in the royal city of Jaipur, to Ranthambore National Park, where Royal Bengal tigers roam wild. Across the state border in Uttar Pradesh, the Taj Mahal, arguably the greatest monument to love ever built, is essential, and infinitely more beautiful seen up close, thanks to its exquisite inlaid marble, gleaming domes and gardens.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was the first head of state to be hosted by King Charles III when he was welcomed at Buckingham Palace last November. A return visit, then, is surely on the cards. Historically, the two countries have a long friendship; the late Queen, for example, is said to have been on first-name terms with Nelson Mandela. In fact, the young Princess Elizabeth celebrated her 21st birthday in South Africa, while on tour with her father, King George VI. The now King and Queen Consort last visited in 2011, with Charles returning alone in 2013 to attend Mandela’s funeral.
The Rainbow Nation encompasses a vast range of experiences, from world-class game viewing in the national parks to wild, rugged coastline pounded by both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Cape Town is arguably South Africa’s most beautiful city, a cultural melting pot with ravishingly good looks, a thriving culinary scene and the historic Victoria & Alfred waterfront, named after Queen Victoria and her son. Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, is a sobering sight and a fascinating visit.
You can go from here by road through the Cape Winelands and along the Garden Route, 190 miles of wild, wooded coastline dotted with pretty towns such as Knysna, famed for its oysters, when in season. No trip to South Africa is complete without visiting one of the game reserves, where you can look out for the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo.
Apart from Malta, Cyprus is the only Commonwealth country in Europe outside the UK. Britain retains a military base here and there’s a close relationship between the two countries; in fact, the Princess Royal visited in January and King Charles III and the Queen Consort received the Cypriot president and his wife at Balmoral shortly afterwards.
Should the invitation be returned, the Royal couple could find themselves in this sun-drenched corner of the eastern Mediterranean, feasting on sumptuous Cypriot meze, sampling fine wines grown on the slopes of the Troodos Mountains and touring the island’s antiquities and remote monasteries. The resort town of Paphos is famed for its archaeological sites, where you can see intricate mosaics that once belonged to four Roman villas, and the clifftop Tombs of the Kings, a grand necropolis dating back to the 4th century BC. And, while many people come for the beaches and sunshine, the island has a beautiful interior, whether you’re visiting winegrowers around the hill village of Omodos, near Limassol, or hiking the narrow chasm of the Avakas Gorge near Paphos on the lookout for birds and delicate wildflowers.
The Commonwealth islands of the Caribbean have a long-standing legacy of royal visits; William and Catherine, Prince and Princess of Wales, were the most recent, in March 2022, touring Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee.
In Jamaica, the couple explored the heritage of reggae music. You could do the same on a day trip to Nine Mile, birth and burial place of Bob Marley. Or take a tour to see the lush inland and forested Blue Mountains. Try a catamaran cruise, snorkel over coral reefs, drift along the Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft, or join a beach ride at sunset. Stay at Round Hill, a former pineapple plantation that’s hosted Hollywood royalty, overlooking a half-moon sweep of silver sand.
Or go on a luxurious cruise of some of the Caribbean Commonwealth nations, waking up to a different view every day. Pretty ports of call include St Lucia, its coastline defined by the twin peaks of the volcanic Pitons, or laid-back Grenada, where the scent of the island’s spices infuses the air. St Vincent and the Grenadines are emerald-green, jungly islands fringed by some of the most exclusive beaches in the Caribbean, while on St Kitts, once known as the ‘Gibraltar of the West Indies’, fans of military history will be fascinated by Brimstone Hill, a British-designed 17th-century fortress.
This article first appeared in Good Housekeeping in May 2023.