The Lindis wilderness lodge in New Zealand
Apause on travelling for most has, in some cases, provided one shiny silver lining: there’s extra money to splurge when can you go away at long last. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we should enjoy things while we can — so why not go all-out on your next big holiday? We’ve picked out the trips that will reward you for saving your hard-earned cash, from kicking back on private islands in the Maldives to going on safari in style.
1. Party time on Mykonos
Best for Cycladic delights
Mykonians don’t think they have the best party scene in Europe, they think they have the best nightlife in the world. So if you’re planning a special get-together with family or friends, put this indefatigable Greek island on your radar. Villa Elia Aspro makes the perfect pad. Its classic Cycladic white-on-white minimalist architecture has been designed so that every window has uninterrupted views of the sparkling Aegean and provides the ideal frame for sunsets. The house sits above Elia beach, arguably the best bay on the island, which is also home to an excellent fish restaurant right at the water’s edge.
2. High-end Tokyo and Kyoto
Best for indulgent stays
If you can have a dull moment in Japan you deserve an award. It is always intriguing, and interest in its inscrutable culture has rocketed during lockdown. Explore fast-paced Tokyo from Aman Tokyo, where the exquisite rooms resemble the inside of a shoji lantern and have killer views of the Imperial Gardens, Tokyo Sky-tree and Mount Fuji. Then immerse yourself in artistic Kyoto at Shinmonzen, which Paddy McKillen, the perfectionist owner of Claridge’s, spent ten years transforming into a modern ryokan with nine riverside suites. The team here specialises in customised experiences such as mindfulness meditation at Kenninji, the city’s oldest Zen Buddhist temple.
3. Private islands in the Maldives
Best for luxury family adventure
Why settle for one private island when you can have three? The hot new place to stay is the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, which is strung across a trio of tropical dots, with 100 sleek pool villas, specialising in peel-me-a-grape indulgence. Unlike most Maldivian resorts, this place has space for five restaurants and bars, a spa with nine overwater treatment rooms, a Ritz Kids Club and tennis courts. It also has Fari Marina Village on its doorstep, which has a buzzy beach club, live music, designer stores and eight more dining options. You won’t get claustrophobic or bored.
4. Zambia walking safari
Best for sustainable luxury
When Norman Carr pioneered the walking safari concept in the 1950s his competitors thought he was mad. Nowadays his thoughtful approach is acknowledged as the most sustainable and stylish way to see Africa. The secluded Valley of the Leopard in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park was one of his favourite stomping grounds and you can trace his footsteps on this seven-day circuit. Camps are roughly three-and-a-half hours apart and as you hike you will feel part of the landscape, learn bush skills and track lions. Carr would approve of the light-touch lodgings. Typical is Luwi, which has only five cosy tents peeking out from an ancient mahogany tree grove on to a floodplain that attracts hippos.
5. Winelands by rail
Best for taste of South Africa
Forget the Big Five. South Africa has the quintessential quintet: wildlife, poignant history, world-class gastronomy and culture, and a fabulous nostalgia hit, the last courtesy of the vintage carriages of Rovos Rail. So after seeing Cape Town and Robben Island, recapture the heady Victorian age of adventure on a train journey to the Winelands where things get bang up to date with some of the world’s best modern wines and fusion restaurants. Next stop is Pretoria station for a deep dive into African culture at the art galleries of Johannesburg’s regenerated Maboneng Precinct. A one-hour flight takes you to the Sabi Sands Wildtuin reserve and those all-important sightings of lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard.
6. Take time out in Mexico
Best for barefoot chic
Built as a hideaway for a demanding Italian duchess, Hotel Esencia is on speed-dial for supermodels craving TLC Tulum-style, which means Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid among those making Esencia’s poolside look like a Vanity Fair cover. The 38 rooms rock barefoot-boutique styling: airy, understated, acres of white with pops of colour. New for this year is the Taiyo restaurant, serving traditional Japanese dishes by the sushi master chef Masayuki Komatsu, whose fans include the Beckhams. For extra bragging rights the resort sits on Xpu Ha, the Mayan Riviera’s finest stretch of sugar-white sand. Set your watch to margarita time.
7. Lodge life in New Zealand
Best for wilderness adventure
New Zealand hopes to welcome back tourists by next summer, putting this much-loved bucket-list country back on the agenda. Its hoteliers haven’t taken their foot off the gas in the past two years, though, opening extraordinary new wilderness lodges such as the Lindis on South Island, eight off-grid rooms that blend seamlessly into the Huxley mountain range, which offers off-the-scale hiking and fishing. Old favourites remain pretty irresistible too, including the Marlborough at the heart of Christchurch’s wine country, with ten contemporary rooms converted from a 1910 convent and set in 16 acres of gardens and vines. While on North Island the Bay of Islands provides your insight into Maori culture as well as the best diving sites and beaches. All on your doorstep at Eagles Nest, a 75-acre clifftop estate overlooking the bay’s 144 tropical dots.
8. Authentic Kenyan safari
Best for wide-open plains
With just four game-drive vehicles and 40,000 acres, Mugie Conservancy in northern Kenya is not the sort of place that goes in for the unedifying four-wheel-drive crocodile. Safaris come with the promise of sightings of rare wildlife such as Grevy’s zebra and Jackson’s hartebeest. Guests can dig deep, joining the blood hounds and their handlers on anti-poaching patrols, or simply soak up the atmosphere at Mugie House’s smart infinity pool and nine cute cottages. Team with time exploring Lake Naivasha’s mountains and lakes and a few nights under canvas at Governors’ Camp in the Masai Mara, a location for the BBC’s popular Big Cat Diary TV shows, and you have the perfect African escapade.
9. Ultimate Australia
Best for Down Under highlights
Australia is home to one of the world’s oldest cultures, and nowhere on the planet has reefs to match the majesty of Queensland’s or desert that outranks the Red Centre. You have to take a selfie with Sydney’s architectural masterpieces as a backdrop and experience a sunset at Uluru, but this itinerary also packs in three nights at stylish Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, time in Cairns to hike in the rainforests and, in total contrast, two nights of out-and-out luxury at Lilianfels, a historic country mansion in the world-heritage-listed Blue Mountains, where you might even experience a sprinkling of snow.
10. Portugal uncovered
Best for beach and city
Lisbon is a pocket rocket of a capital. There’s the old town’s Instagrammable, vertiginous streets, mysterious alleyways and tiled façades, a vibrant social scene and historical heft thanks to its Moorish past. But, unlike so many great cities, Lisbon still has soul and jealously guards its cultural integrity. Coimbra, the seat of Portugal’s oldest university with its own beautiful cathedral, is a worthy diversion en route to Porto for port wine tastings at the Douro Valley’s wonderfully authentic bars. For many Portugal is synonymous with beaches, so bolt on a week at the contemporary splendour of Vila Vita Parc near the whitewashed town of Carvoeiro.
11. Chic Dorset hangout
Best for A-list staycation
Nearly half of Dorset falls within designated areas of outstanding natural beauty, but despite the stiff competition, Lulworth Cove’s alluring arc of shingle beach and Durdle Door’s mesmerising arch would be most locals’ call as their favourite spot. Lulworth Cove House is within walking distance of this treasured corner of the Jurassic Coast, allowing you to time your excursions to evade the tourist hordes and really appreciate the area’s natural assets. Other reasons this ten-bedroom uber-property will make you cheerful: plush decor with plenty of room for that big family reunion as well as a cinema room and an indoor heated pool that opens out on to immaculate lawns and wide-open sea views and sunsets.
12. Glamour on the French Riviera
Best for upmarket nostalgia
Downton Abbey decamps to the French Riviera for its latest film version, released in March. But the front seat of a vintage Citroën 2CV beats the front row of the cinema for lapping up Provence’s medieval towns and endless lavender fields. This motoring itinerary includes one day behind the wheel of this classic French car, and there’s also time for guided tours of Roman ruins, flamingo spotting in a nature park near Arles and a perfume workshop in Grasse. For your last day’s drive you switch motors and jump into a snazzy sports car, ideal for the glamour-soaked drive from Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to Monaco.
13. Camino in style
Best for Santiago de Compostela meets the Orient Express
You can walk the Camino de Santiago, Spain’s famous pilgrimage, along with the 340,000 or so other souls, risking blisters, backache and tendonitis. Or you can track the route from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela from the comfort of the panoramic lounge on the El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo train and its wood-panelled 1920s Pullman suites, which are climate-controlled and have squidgy Regency sofas, double beds and en suite massage-shower-cum-saunas. Other onboard distractions include live jazz and gourmet, wine-paired dinners. Disembark to stretch your legs at stops including Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, the Picos de Europa National Park and the golden sands of Las Catedrales Beach in Ribadeo.
14. Ferraris and gastronomy in Italy
Best for gourmet petrolheads
Food and fast cars are national obsessions in Italy, so make like a local under the guidance of the country’s greatest chef, Massimo Bottura. His restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena has a waiting list to rival the Glastonbury ticket queue, but stay at his super-stylish Casa Maria Luigi country house outside town and you can also sample his signature dishes. You’ll enjoy slow-food experiences such as tours of artisan balsamic vinegar and parmesan producers, and then hit the accelerato — literally. Bottura has just opened Ristorante Cavallino in nearby Maranello, the home of Ferrari, where lunch is wisely scheduled for after you’ve completed your laps of the Modena racetrack in a Ferrari Challenge Car.
15. Get spiritual in India
Best for the maharajah experience
There is no better place to power down from the stress of the pandemic than Vana. This glamorous destination spa in Dehradun is a modern-day maharajah’s palace, within easy reach of feelgood activities such as a dunk in the sacred River Ganges, sunset in Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga (and where the Fab Four sought enlightenment), and hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Ayurveda is the central focus, but also try the Sowa Rigpa, the traditional Tibetan wellness system. The team all trained at the revered Men-Tsee-Khang Medical and Astrology Institute that the Dalai Lama established in 1961. Happy om-ing.
16. Sri Lanka’s coast and jungle
Best for leopards and reefs
Improved transport links and cool new hotels make Sri Lanka’s bounty of timeless temples, golden beaches, tropical safaris and colonial history even more irresistible. It’s now so easy to combine the interior’s lush tea plantations with watching elephants and sloth bears in Yala National Park. Even if you don’t spot a leopard here, you’re guaranteed a sighting of a big-cat paw as the incredible new Wild Coast Tented Lodge’s layout mimics the elusive animal’s footprint. Finish at Cape Weligama, a surfers’ paradise that’s within striking distance of the ancient town of Galle.
17. Drive the Canyonlands
Best for great American road trip
Arizona and the Canyonlands are the stuff of dreams for petrolheads, offering driving itineraries immersed in numinous desert scenery, motoring along pencil-straight, empty roads and taking in some of the most captivating sections of Route 66. The arrival of the eagerly awaited Ambiente hotel in early 2022 adds an extra cool dimension. Embedded in the red rocks of Sedona, Ambiente is North America’s first “landscape” hotel, a term for resorts that blend into the natural topography. Its 40 cube-shaped rooms are wrapped in floor-to-ceiling bronze-tinted glass, with minimalist interiors including rough wood furniture and rooftop fire pits to watch those starry dark skies.
Need to know
The trips above feature multiple departures unless stated. At the time of publication trips marked “Flexible booking” had a refund or future credit policy if you are prevented or prohibited from travelling due to Covid-19. Cancellation policies vary between tour operators and are subject to change. Please check with the tour operator before booking.
Other luxury trips to try
Here’s a selection of some of the best luxury itineraries from our Times Travel partners.
- Find your dream villa with Oliver’s Travels
- Pick from the best boutique and luxury hotels curated by Mr and Mrs Smith
- Splurge on a luxury holiday anywhere in the world with British Airways holidays
And if you’re still unsure of where you want to go or what type of holiday to book, get in touch here and one of the Designer Travel experts will be in contact to help you arrange your perfect tailor-made break.
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