5 of the best places to visit in 2018


In 2018, some countries will celebrate big milestones in style. Elsewhere, certain regions are opening up to visitors with an array of new tours and experiences. And, due to recent political developments, there’s a decidedly optimistic mood surrounding other countries, making them more accessible and more appealing than ever before.

The Taranaki region, New Zealand

It’s been dubbed the greatest day walk in the world, but the North Island’s crater-strewn Tongariro Alpine Crossing has a rival. The Pouakai Crossing is a vigorous yet rewarding eight-hour tramp around another venerable volcano, the dormant Mount Taranaki. He (yes, ‘he — Taranaki is sentient for the Maori) sits in haughty isolation by the Tasman Sea on the North Island’s little-trodden west coast.

Mount Taranaki

The hike may not have the sulphurous fumaroles or Martian terrain of Tongariro, but volcanic drama is still in evidence in the long-cooled layers of lava streams splurging down Taranki’s cone. Then there’s church-organ-like cliff formations, a ‘Goblin Forest’ spongy with mosses and liverworts, and tussocky wetlands rich in rare native birds. And — unlike the Tongariro Crossing — you won’t see many fellow trampers: 30 people here constitutes a crowd.

Long overlooked, the Taranaki region as a whole is opening up to foreign visitors. Stay in New Plymouth, the region’s hub town, which is an endearing mix of surf beaches, contemporary art galleries, Maori heritage museums, flower-festooned parks, and intimate, independent restaurants. Then, in the nearby Egmont National Park surrounding Mount Taranaki, you’ll find walking and cycling tracks to suit every family member’s ability.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio isn’t exactly a wallflower. This coastal megacity is, after all, the kind of place where bodybuilders flock to work out in public on the outdoor gyms lining the beaches. Minuscule bikinis are the norm on Copacabana and Ipanema. In the samba clubs of the Lapa District, you can easily spot out-of-towners: they’re the ones dancing a little less gregariously. All this fizzing confidence seems to reach fever pitch at Carnaval, the two-week-long celebration of Mardi Gras that goes under the modest alias of ‘the biggest party on the planet.’

Graffiti walking tour, Rio

But there’s a subtler, more cultural side to the city, too, and there are more options for exploring this side of Rio’s personality than ever before.

For example, it’s possible to slip behind the scenes of Rio’s carnival through guided visits to a samba school’s warehouse. Available all year round, these private tours allow you a glimpse into the work that goes into creating the fantastical floats and exuberant costumes — real passion projects for those involved. Depending on the timing of your visit, you might see sketches of potential costume ideas, or last year’s floats being stripped back down to their undercarriages — and possibly meet technicians and artists at work.

You can also take graffiti-themed tours of the city, which introduce you to its visual language. Guides are part of Rio’s street art community, and they’ll explain about the complex political nuances and interplay of meanings behind many of the murals you’ll see. Look out, for example, for depictions of angels and rats — symbols, respectively, for favela residents and the ‘ruling class.’

Bunaken Marine Park, Indonesia

Bali tends to be Indonesia’s posterchild thanks to its beachside resorts, modish bars and hillside temples — but that’s just one facet of the country. Covering an area larger than Europe, the archipelago has thousands more islands, but only a handful of visitors set foot on them each year. It’s best to explore them now, before Indonesia’s burgeoning travel industry begins to pull in larger crowds.

Bunaken Marine Park

Indonesia sits in the middle of the coral triangle, an ecoregion that stretches from Malaysia to the Solomon Islands. It’s the world’s nexus for marine biodiversity — so much so that it’s nicknamed the ‘Amazon of the Seas’ by scientists. You can snorkel and dive from most islands but for some of the best experiences, head to the Bunaken Marine Park, a cluster of five islands off the northeast coast of Sulawesi.

There are more than 50 dive sites around the islands where you can drift-dive across crevasses, canyons and overhangs festooned with coral. Giant barrel sponges dot the seabed, their wide mouths gaping upwards, and gorgonians sway in the currents like miniature trees. You might see reef sharks, barracuda or turtles, and closer to the sea floor, the kaleidoscopic peacock mantis shrimp or an otherworldly nudibranch.

There’s little choice over where to stay, but luckily at the Siladen Resort & Spa you couldn’t want for more. On Siladen Island, 22 wooden villas are dotted among tropical gardens, some built right on the beach. It’s not top-class luxury but there’s a five-star PADI school, spa and pool that leads straight onto a flaxen-sand beach. Across the water is Manado Tua, a volcanic island right on the horizon — at dusk you can watch the sun set behind its perfect cone.

Zimbabwe

With the recent changes in its political landscape, Zimbabwe is expected to become increasingly popular over the next few years. 2018 is a good time to plan a safari to the country before its parks and reserves, which have remained under-the-radar compared to many other safari destinations, get busy.

Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park — just a three-hour drive from Victoria Falls — is the largest, oldest and best-known of Zimbabwe’s wildlife areas. You can explore its wide-open grasslands on game drives in search of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant). You may also encounter cheetah, spotted hyena, and wild dog, which all prowl the plains on the hunt for grazing herds of Burchell’s zebra and antelope.

Some of the safari companies here, such as Imvelo, also run projects supporting the local communities and conservation. These range from anti-poaching movements to digging bore holes for remote villages, building new schools, and improving health care. You can visit some of their projects to learn more about their work.

The remote Mana Pools National Park is fed by the Zambezi River. Four oxbow lakes left behind by the Zambezi hold water even in the dry season, attracting bull elephant, hippo and buffalo, as well as birdlife such as purple-banded sunbirds and racket-tailed rollers.

Walking safaris are Mana Pools’ main draw. These bring out the passion and knowledge of Zimbabwe’s guides, which are some of the most qualified and experienced in Africa. As you follow your guide though the bush, they’ll pick up on bird calls, animal tracks, and explain the subtleties of the local ecosystem.

Mauritius

On the night of 12th March, 2018, the beaches will glow with the light of a thousand barbecues, the tempo of sega beats quickening throughout the evening as Mauritians celebrate 50 years of independence. This golden anniversary has brought into focus the island’s history, which is a complex clashing of colonial powers — the island passed between the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British before gaining independence in 1968.

The Oberoi Mauritius

If you’re not there to join the celebrations in March, further events are due to be announced throughout 2018. It’s the ideal time to look away from the beaches and explore the island’s cultural legacy.

You could visit Eureka, a 19th-century Creole mansion. This time capsule for the island’s plantation history wouldn’t look out of place in America’s Deep South. Château de Labourdonnais, a grand neoclassical edifice of white pillars and polished wood, offers rum tastings and tours of its traditional distillery.

Mauritius is roughly the size of London, so you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice much beach time in order to explore — you can be back with your toes in the sand by the end of the day. Some visitors linger along the coast in one of the luxurious properties that sprawl its shoreline. The Oberoi Mauritius, for example, has an in-house astronomer, while at the Shanti Maurice you can try more than 180 types of rum in their beach shack.

Craig Burkinshaw is Founder of Audley Travel. Audley Travel is a tour operator offering tailor-made trips around the world.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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Top 7 sustainable travel experiences


The ethos of sustainable travel has made leaps and strides over the last couple of years. With travellers’ becoming more interested in eco-friendly experiences, the number of innovative and luxurious sustainable experiences on offer are on the rise.  From positively impacting the local community to supporting conservation projects, it’s time for travel to make a difference.

Tree dining in Sweden

Treehotel is built on a genuine experience of nature, and the hotel fully embraces sustainable and ecological values. It’s also a member of Bee + Hive, a not-for-profit association that unites hotels offering sustainable experiences, making it easier for travellers to choose activities that help protect the local environment, community or economy. The hotel is now quite literally taking their love of sustainability to new heights with their new guest experience: tree-dining. On a wooden terrace ten metres up, amidst the canopy of the forest, guests are served a three course dinner inspired by forest flavours. Poised between land and sky, with the swaying trees and magical White Nights of Swedish summer, this is a dinner in total harmony with nature.

Sustainable travel experiences

Marine learning experience in the Maldives

Luxuriating on a Maldivian beach is a holiday fantasy for most of us. But what if you could relax in paradise, and help protect the Maldives’ marine life to boot? The Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru’s Marine Discovery Centre aims to do just that. It enriches the guest experience through once-in-a-lifetime encounters with a variety of marine creatures; all while learning about their life and habitat, and even participating in some of the Resort’s conservation projects. Think snorkelling with a marine biologist, heading out on turtle safaris, and enhancing marine life with build-a-reef sessions. Paradise just got even better.

Loris watching in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of wildlife. From leopards and elephants to sloths and monkeys, this island is a veritable utopia for animal lovers. Guests at Jetwing Vil Uyana’s can get up close and personal with a range of creatures at the hotel’s private nature reserve. It’s the country’s best site for Loris watching, and guests may even spot the elusive Grey Slender Loris on the hotel’s dedicated night time Loris Tour conducted by the resident naturalist. The Slender Grey Loris, one of world’s smallest primates, is found only in Sri Lanka and parts of India. This tiny creature is under threat through loss of habitat, but thanks to conservation efforts at Jetwing Vil Uyana, numbers have gradually started to climb again on the reserve.

Coffee experience on organic farm in Costa Rica

Started in 1985, Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort is one family’s passion project. For over 30 years their mission has been to provide the finest hospitality services to guests, whilst also offering authentic experiences with a local flavour.  As well as a luxurious inn with 100% local staff, the resort is perfect for coffee lovers, as it has a 30 acre plantation of Arabica coffee plants. Guests can tour the plantation with on-site naturalist Manolo, and discover the amazing interdependence of coffee with other flora and fauna. Birdwatchers are also in for a treat, as the plantation’s neighbouring forest is home to over 130 species of birds.

Ride bamboo bicycles in London

When you think of sustainable experiences, the sprawling, vibrant city of London may not come to mind. Despite the urban environment, the Hilton London Bankside has cleverly teamed up with Bamboo Bicycle club to offer guests the use of six custom-built bamboo bikes to tour the city. More environmentally friendly than standard bicycles, these beautiful modes of getting around were constructed entirely from scratch by hotel staff themselves, under the careful eye of experts. Robust and easy to ride, this is definitely one way to see the city in sustainable style.

Jaguar spotting in Brazil

Another member of sustainable tourism association Bee + Hive, guests staying at Refúgio Ecológico Caiman can spend a full day and evening with the Jaguar Habituation Team to spot these amazing big cats in the wild wetlands of Brazil’s Pantanal. The conservation experience helps protect wild jaguars, getting them accustomed to safari vehicles so guests can respectfully witness these beautiful animals while ensuring their environment in the Pantanal is preserved. Refúgio Ecológico Caiman is a pioneer in ecotourism, with experienced local guides on hand to show guests the delights and wonders of this part of the world.  The refuge is involved with a plethora of environmental research and conservation projects, whilst also priding itself on offering guests excellence in hospitality and gastronomy.

Community visits in Africa

An incredible safari trip can be truly transformational; holding your breath as you spot wild lions, laughing as a tribe of monkeys frolic in trees, or gazing in awe as a majestic giraffe crosses your path. But the wildlife is not the only fabulous thing about the continent, it’s often said its people are Africa’s greatest beauty. Singita, a renowned luxury safari lodges and reserves company, is deeply committed to conservation and sustainability, supporting both wildlife conservation projects and community development. The Singita Community Development Trust helps to initiate Early Childhood Development practices in pre-schools, and guests can meet local children and learn about this vital programme, as well as witness many other areas of interest and cultural significance on the community visit.

Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato. Black Tomato is an award-winning luxury travel agent and part of The Black Tomato Group, with partner brands including Studio Black Tomato, The Black Tomato Agency and Epic Tomato.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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18 of the best countries to visit in 2018


Travel and tourism is one industry that has continued to thrive in recent years, consistently out-performing the global economy, and 2018 looks to be no exception. We spoke to a number of experts in the industry to find out their opinions on the countries to visit in the year ahead. And so here are 18 of the best countries to visit in 2018. Happy New Year, everyone!

Belize, as suggested by Roger Hyde, CEO of Dulabab Travel

The tiny country of Belize has one foot in Central America and the other in the Caribbean, is an English speaking democracy and is a vital component of both the Mesoamerican Reef System and the Maya Forest; widely recognised as the largest intact block of tropical broadleaf forest in Central America. These 2 extraordinary reef and rainforest environments located in such a small geographical area offer unique adventure and exploration opportunities.

Starting offshore enjoying the simple luxury of Caribbean island life while based in a luxury villa, the pace is relaxed, the cayes and atolls providing a picture perfect backdrop for exploring the mesmerising underwater world aboard a private dive boat. Day and night diving along the barrier reef, canyons, walls and marine sink holes of this unique ecosystem will inspire as brightly coloured hard and soft corals are encountered along with schools of iridescent reef and pelagic predators.

Internationally renowned NGO scientists are on hand to offer unique insight and access while revealing the secrets of this enthralling sub-aqua world, while also offering the chance to take part in an internationally significant marine mega-fauna survey, and observe the endangered West Indian Manatee in remote lagoons. Leaving the reef behind, the journey heads west into the Maya Mountain Massif, the wild and rugged heart of Belize. The private helicopter flight will fly low over the iridescent patch reefs before reaching the coast and rapidly rising over Victoria Peak and the Maya Mountain Divide. Landing deep in the jungle, the quest begins with an exploration of the magnificent Maya site at Caracol, one of the region’s most important and impressive Maya sites. Discovering the Maya Mountain Massif is best done with a combination of 4×4 and horse back accompanied by rangers from a partner NGO, who co-manage the Chiquibul Forest while staying in a world-class lodge. The final immersive experience takes guests to a remote river for an unforgettable rainforest adventure. Inflatable kayaks and uniquely comfortable expedition camps allow guests to explore this unique habitat to the full. With luck and a keen eye, a wide range of wildlife including the endangered Baird’s tapir and Scarlet macaw.

With significant increases in both land and cruise ship tourism in 2017, as well as more direct flights from North America, visitor numbers are set to continue increasing. For such a small and unique country, with distinct local pressures impacting both the pristine marine and interior environments, we urge those who have the means and desire to travel there to do so in 2018. For an experience of genuine adventure, combined with the ability to explore and discover areas few people have ever visited, let alone enjoyed in such unique ways, Belize is a truly unique and special destination.

Bhutan as suggested by Matt Holmes, President of Boundless Journeys

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan is tucked in the Himalayas and probably isn’t on the radar for most luxury travelers, which is exactly why it should be. Bhutan is often described as Tibet before the Chinese invasion and Nepal without the budget backpackers. It is a country where spirituality is almost tangible, and Buddhist philosophy infuses all parts of culture and even government policy.

What makes Bhutan so appealing to luxury travelers? A number of 5-star properties have opened their doors across Bhutan in recent years including Uma, Aman, Taj, and Le Meridien. With their luxurious spas, impeccable service, and stunning design that fuses traditional Bhutanese architecture with a modern, elegant twist, these accommodations are oases after a day of activities. Moreover, Bhutan requires that travelers be accompanied by a guide and driver each day, and that policy has helped produce incredibly well-trained guides who speak superb English and have a boundless enthusiasm for introducing guests to their country.

A private, local Bhutanese guide is imperative to delving deep into Bhutan’s culture and history, and while they always showcase the most famous sites, they also know about the lesser-known, but equally-impressive places. So, what is there to see and do? Bhutan’s massive fortresses, called dzongs, and plethora of temples are intricately-decorated inside and out. The most famous is the cliff-side Tiger’s Nest temple complex—only accessible on foot, with stunning views of the Paro Valley and the Himalayan foothills. It’s an invigorating hike with a tremendous reward.

For the more adventurous traveler, there are opportunities to mountain bike, raft, learn archery (the national sport), and hike into rhododendron forests and up to high passes. Travelers interested in more cultural experiences can opt for a meditation session, a Buddhist astrology reading, attending a vibrant festival, or having tea with young Buddhist monks eager to practice their English.

The uniqueness of the country stems partially from its happiness index—Gross National Happiness—to measure its success. This encourages the government and royal family to develop the country in a way that benefits its citizens by preserving the culture and environment. Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country, producing more energy than it uses, and it has vowed to keep 60% of the country forested at all times. In addition, traditional architecture and the national dress are ubiquitous, making visitors feel they have traveled to a place little-touched by the outside world.

Thanks to Prince William and Kate’s visit in 2016, and several articles in the last year featuring Bhutan as a rising destination, tourism has been increasing. The country is on the cusp of exploding onto the tourism scene, making 2018 the year to go before that happens. Right now, luxury travelers will have exclusive experiences with few other travelers, and be able to witness a culture and country seemingly preserved in time.

Botswana, as suggested by Sara White, Marketing Director of Real Africa

Botswana is synonymous with great wildlife spectacles and swathes of pristine wilderness – it offers exclusive camps, romantic vistas and exceptional levels of guiding and hospitality. For a high quality, low density safari experience, Botswana undeniably excels.

But Botswana’s qualities run more than skin deep. The country stands out for its consistent commitment to conservation. Over 38% of Botswana’s land is now protected making it a clear leader in eco-tourism. Given the space and safety, rare species thrive here, from critically endangered black rhino, wild dog and black maned Kalahari lion to lechwe, puku, sitatunga, pangolin and aardvark.

The ambitious rhino relocation to the Okavango Delta is just one compelling reason to travel to Botswana in 2018. The Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern edge of the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta and the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site, is now a place that guests can see all the Big Five once again thanks to the efforts of Botswana’s government and to conservation charity Rhino Conservation Botswana. RCB’s newly appointed Royal Patron HRH Prince Harry, who is passionate about protecting iconic species, knows only too well how special this country is, spending as much time as he can there.

It’s a real privilege to be able to observe black rhino in the wild with only around 5,000 remaining in Africa. Guests can add a new dimension to their travels by enjoying a behind-the-scenes conservation experience – at certain camps it is possible to meet with rhino monitoring teams to learn more about the rhino’s return to the Okavango.

A fantastic diversity of activities from 4×4 game drives, by day and night, to walking and horseback safaris and boat excursions help guests get under the skin of Botswana. Float serenely by mokoro down the Delta’s maze of papyrus edged channels, safari in Chobe National Park, dubbed ‘Land of Giants’ where more than 120,000 elephants roam, canoe the remote Selinda Spillway, fly camping on deserted islands as you go, walk with San Bushmen in the desolate Kalahari, the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa,marvel at magical starry southern skies, visit the mysterious Savute region or witness the zebra migrations from the Chobe River and the border with Namibia to Nxai and Makgadikgadi pans, the longest-known terrestrial wildlife migration in Africa.

Brazil, as suggested by Simon Williams, Managing Director at Bespoke Latin America

In 2018 Brazil is back. After a difficult 2016 and 2017 with the positive and negative impact of the Olympics, the Zika scare stories, economic downturn and government turmoil, Brazil is finally on the up again with a number of new luxury hotels poised to open.

It was announced recently that the Six Senses group would be starting work on their first southern America project up in Baia Formosa, near Natal. Another newcomer to will be the Anantara group which will be the first Asian hotel flag to come to Brazil when it opens a flagship hideaway, Anantara Maraú Bahia Resort, in July. The property will boast a beach setting next to the Bay of Camamu on the Maraú Peninsula in Bahia, along a stunning stretch of Atlantic coastline.

The Hotel Fasano will finally open on 25th January 2018 after a number of delays but is an exciting new addition to the Brazilian luxury hotel scene. It’s the fourth Fasano property to open in Brazil and is bound to have the same high standards of the Fasano family’s three other properties in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Boa Vista. There is also a Fasano in Punta del Este in Uruguay. The Fasano group should also open properties in Salvador and Belo Horizonte within the next few months, two cities which are in need of luxury boutique properties and will offer an exciting edge. Salvador is Brazil’s best preserved colonial city, steeped in history and with a huge African population creating a diverse mix of religions, culture and music. Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third largest city, has limited luxury options at present so the new Fasano will be great for people looking to visit the stunning Inhotim Contemporary Art Museum, the largest outdoor art installation in the world or the colonial towns of Minas Gerais.

Aside from the new hotel openings, Brazil still has amazing sights for first time visitors. These include the most beautiful city in the world in Rio de Janeiro; the most impressive waterfalls at Iguassu; plus a wildlife lovers paradise with the best place on the planet to see jaguars in the Pantanal. For nature enthusiasts, the Amazon with its mighty river and rainforest is a must. For those looking for more active pursuits then exploring the national parks of the Chapada Diamantina or the Chapada dos Veadeiros should be on your list for wonderful treks and remote waterfalls while Bonito is an adventure capital. The north of the country is famed for its world calls kitesurfing and windsurfing while endless beaches provide the perfect chance for relaxation. It’s a great destination for honeymooners, couples and families and waiting to be explored.

Canada, as suggested by Paul Johnson, Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog

Canada was on pretty much all the must-visit lists of 2017 and with good reason; the year marked 150 years since Confederation and highlights included free admission to national parks across the country. But just because those celebrations are coming to an end doesn’t mean to say that Canada shouldn’t still be on your list of places to visit in 2018. There’s still a great deal of interest for visitors from around the world. Indeed, the Conference Board of Canada expects international tourist visits to be up 6.2% in 2018.

2018 is being billed as the Canada-China Year of Tourism – it’s said that more than 1.8 million Canadians have some Chinese ancestry, and Mandarin and Cantonese are the most spoken languages in Canada after English and French, so it’s likely that there will be significant growth in the number of visits from Chinese tourists. But wherever in the world you happen to hail from, there are plenty of events to interest you.

The year will kick off with one of the world’s largest winter carnivals in beautiful Québec City including snow bath, ice canoe race, night parades, snow slides, snow sculptures, shows and skating. A unique Canadian winter experience for all ages!

The Canadian Tulip Festival in May is Canada’s most colourful festival with over a million tulips in bloom across the capital as well as an artistic interpretation of the tulips by all levels of the artistic community. Inspired by the Dutch gift of tulips to Canadians in 1945, this festival is a celebration of friendship and international friendship.

In July, the annual Calgary Stampede is a ten-day long celebration with midway rides and bucking broncos that hosts, educates and entertains visitors from around the world. Also in July, and running into August, the Celebration of Light, Vancouver’s two-week midsummer fireworks bonanza, attracts more than 1.6 million spectators when the sparkles hit the skies.

In Winnipeg, the largest and longest-running multi-cultural festival in the world, the Folklorama Festival presents over 44 cultural pavilions where guests can sample ethnic food, meet traditionally costumed volunteers, enjoy lively cultural entertainment, interactive fun and learn about cultures and countries from around the world.

Towards the end of the year, don’t miss the Canadian Western Agribition – the best beef show on the continent and the largest livestock show in Canada. The show is a blend of agriculture, Indigenous culture, and festive entertainment, featuring live music, shopping, and food.

Faroe Islands, as suggested by Alex Malcolm, Founder and MD at Jacada Travel

With tourist numbers in Iceland up 34.9% already in 2017, the trend to travel north is on the rise: on the whole, the entirety of the polar regions are becoming more and more popular. Not far from Iceland sits the self-governing archipelago of the Faroe Islands. There are many reasons to visit the Faroe Islands in 2018, but chief among them is that only 50,000 tourists visit a year (for now), so it is noticeably quieter than Iceland, while still being extremely welcoming to tourists.

Iceland’s lesser-known cousin has stunning green scenery, a notable lack of crime, easy access (it’s a quick flight from Copenhagen, Reykjavik or Edinburgh), extreme remoteness, and amazing nature. It’s home to the oldest parliament in the world, as well as the smallest capital city. Plus, in 2017, the island won its first Michelin Star (the restaurant KOKS, based in Torshavn). Tourists can expect epic landscapes, fantastic birding, and beautiful little villages.

From Torshavn, nothing is more than a couple of hours’ drive away, so you can easily explore everything in the area in a few days. You can spend one day meandering through Torshavn absorbing the well-preserved local culture and the next you can be hiking atop a beautiful mountain. (We love Slættaratindur, the islands’ highest mountain at 882 meters. If you’re lucky enough, from the top you can see the whole country and you may even be able to see parts of Iceland at over 550m away – the longest view on record!) The islands also have the highest promontory in the world. It’s really a place of superlatives.

2018 is a great year to visit the Faroe Islands because it’s still a relatively undiscovered region. Our favourite hotel there, Hotel Foroyar, will have a new annex opening in 2018, allowing for even more visitors to pass through its enchanting doors. Iceland saw a meteoric rise in popularity a few years ago, and we have no doubt the Faroe Islands will follow, so it’s definitely worth a trip there now. At Jacada Travel, within a month of officially launching it, we sold our first trip there. So many people are looking to go off the beaten path a bit next year, and the islands offer the perfect opportunity to do so.

France, as suggested by Sally Guillaume, Owner and Director of Undiscovered Mountains

For Brits, visiting Europe before Brexit is a bucket list must and the historical Franco-Britannic love affair pushes France to the top of that list. But that’s not the only reason why France should be on your ‘to visit’ list for 2018! With a variety of landscapes second to none, the longest coastline in Europe, two of the highest mountain ranges on the continent, thriving cosmopolitan cities, tranquil rural villages and one of the most acclaimed gastronomies in the world, France offers countless holiday opportunities, and something for everyone.

With the newly elected Emmanual Macron promising to reform France and positioning himself as a key European figure, France will also be a happening place to visit in 2018. Tourism is one of France’s key industries and the new government is investing in digital advances for tourism and focusing on quality of welcome and of course security so tourists can be reassured this coming year.

Paris itself “is always a good idea”, Audrey Hepburn once said. Traditionally known as the most romantic destination in the world, it draws excitement and curiosity on all continents. Other sites such as the Mont St Michel, the Renaissance Châteaux along the Loire River or the Lourdes basilica attract millions of tourists every year. History, culture and the many beautifully maintained monuments are a big pull factor for France. Then there are the countless culinary specialities and two of the most renowned wine regions in the world, Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Outdoor lovers adore the French Alps with Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc and the many world famous ski resorts. The range and diversity of outdoor activities for sport enthusiasts in both summer and winter make the Alps one of the top outdoor playgrounds in the world. Surfers and beach lovers flock to the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts every year in search of summer sun, which brings me to the French weather.

France’s climate, one that allows four well-marked seasons and the much sought after heat but not at the baking levels of southern Spain or Italy, is a big plus. This perfect weather is a good enough reason for millions of Germans, Brits, Dutch and other Northerners to come and soak up the sun they rarely see back home. No coincidence that the Germans still use the expression “wie Gott in Frankreich leben” (to live like God in France) to describe the ultimate state of happiness…

The Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region (aka “PACA”) is one of the areas that best sums up all the potential of attraction of the country as a whole. Located in the south-eastern corner of France, it ticks all boxes when it comes to landscape variety and perfect climate. As its name indicates, it includes the southern part of the awe-inspiring Alps, the beautiful Provence and its iconic lavender fields, and the glamorous Riviera and its famous chic seaside towns like Cannes or Saint Tropez. Benefiting a mild Mediterranean climate, it officially boasts an average of 300+ days of sunshine a year.

If you’re looking for a perfect compromise between great weather, a strong French culture, spectacular landscapes and delicious cuisine, the true hidden gem of PACA is probably its least touristic corner, the Hautes-Alpes department. Offering both a Provence feel in its southern parts and a real alpine experience in the Ecrins National Park, the Hautes-Alpes is a small paradise where you’ll find an authentic way-of-life, a preserved countryside, one of the purest airs in the country, and a countless number of activities, from bathing in the largest dammed lake in Europe (Serre-Ponçon) to climbing the 4102 meters of the Barre des Ecrins to skiing in one of the many resorts.

Greenland, as suggested by Jonny Nicol, Founder & CEO of Stratajet

An old travellers’ saying goes, ‘When you’ve seen the world, there’s always Greenland,’ and it’s true that the island remains one of the few largely unexplored territories on Planet Earth.

2018 marks the ten year anniversary of a referendum that gave Greenland autonomy over many of its national services in a step towards independence and this adds to the country’s rich history, of which its Inuit people are fiercely proud. 1,000 year-old remains of Viking settlements are well preserved in the south of the island, while a culture of music and theatre is rooted in ancient myths and sagas.

Few places boast such dramatic scenery and such raw natural beauty. Coupled with its remoteness (the majority of the island sitting deep within the Arctic Circle) and its vast expanses of open wilderness (Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world), Greenland is the perfect destination for escaping the stresses and strains of our increasingly hectic lifestyles.

But don’t be fooled by the remoteness because you’d find it hard to get bored in this most magnificent of places. Whether listening to the daunting rumble of some of the world’s most impressive glaciers or taking a boat trip through giant icebergs, some of which loom over 100m out of the water, you can’t help but be enraptured by all that is around you. The clarity and freshness of the air, too, leave you feeling invigorated beyond any sensation that polluted city life can provide.

Amongst its scattered settlements is Ilulissat, a remote coastal town in the Qaasuitsup municipality of western Greenland. Although it’s the country’s third largest city, its population of less than 5,000 makes it a peaceful haven, ideal for removing the stresses and strains of London business life. Houses in all colours of the spectrum are strewn amongst cafes, restaurants and live music venues, perfect for enjoying the local tipples, sampling the local cuisine and generally filling the evening hours in between excursions!

The nearby Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the summer, operators run midnight boat tours and you can watch nature unfold in front of you as monstrous giant white icebergs come off the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. This is the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere, moving at 25m per day, which results in around 20 billion tonnes of icebergs being calved off and passing out of the fjord every year. But despite the awesome power of this astonishing feature, you can’t help but be captured by the serenity of the place.

Visiting in mid-summer will give you endless sunlight and until you have sipped G&T watching a sunset that immediately turns into a sunrise, frankly, you haven’t lived! As life becomes more and more hectic, Greenland is a must for removing that chaos in 2018.

India, as suggested by James Jayasundera, Founder & Managing Director at Ampersand Travel

In one word, India is ‘diversity’. Glamorous and beguiling, splendid and romantic, energetic and colourful, the entire country is awash with experiences for both the daring and the cautious traveller. From the soaring snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas to the sleepy rhythmic backwaters of Kerala, it can almost be described as a collection of countries due to its vast size and dazzling array of languages, cuisines and religions. With new hotels, new experiences and new flight routes, luxury travel in India is getting better year on year, but I think 2018 will be the best yet.

The astounding ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi, once notoriously difficult to get to, now have direct flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore thanks to the Indian Government who have embarked on a Regional Connectivity Scheme, aimed to make air travel widespread, connecting remote and far flung places with major cities. I am very excited about this development, it will be a complete game-changer for the region; fascinating cultural itineraries can now easily incorporate this utterly mesmerising archaeological site. Evolve Back’s newest addition, Kamalapura Palace, was the first luxury hotel in the area (opened in 2016) and a must stay. The Ultimate Travelling Camp have also just opened Kishkinda Camp in the area, which adds to their iconic and exclusive camp portfolio.

Rajasthan, the Land of Kings, has had a thrilling revamp in 2017 with the openings of the exclusive Alila Fort Bishangarh, an impressive warrior fort turned heritage hotel, and the boutique and incredibly charming Narendra Bhawan in offbeat Bikaner. Six Senses also are due to launch their first ever Indian resort, with the opening of Six Senses Fort Barwara; a 700-year-old fort in the village of Chauth ka Barwara 110 kilometres southeast of Jaipur – it is certainly one to watch! The far flung and remote Andaman Islands will also be put on the map for those searching for the ultimate luxury in an untouched paradise, with a guaranteed burst of sunshine. The new home to the sexiest hotel in the area: Taj Hotels are opening Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Andamans this December. I am thrilled that Taj Andamans will be opening on Havelock Island in the best location on the island – Radhnaghar Beach is often cited as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. A trusted brand such as Taj opening, on what is really virgin territory, will be a game-changer and add a new dynamic to tailor-made itineraries in South India. One will be able to combine this pristine beach destination with the ancient culture and elaborately carved stone temple complexes of Tamil Nadu, or with the former French colony of Pondicherry with its own distinctive style of architecture.

Italy, as suggested by Victoria Boomgarden, President at Direct Travel Luxe

Italy is again reigning above all in the luxury travel market for 2018. Travelers are tending to visit the lesser known regions now more than ever. Everyone has already visited the main cities and now want to take a deeper dive into other regions such as Puglia and Umbria. They are looking for a richer and deeper experience and these destinations will give them just that.

For instance, those who have experienced the magic of the Tuscany region and have already seen the changing landscapes of their summer’s end may want to visit the Barolo region of Piedmont for a more unique and authentic experience. By experiencing a more dramatic landscape with steeper hills and deeper ravines, travelers will understand why even the wines of this region are more exclusive in this particular province. Wherever you venture in the Barolo region, you’ll find Italian perfection. The villages, with their seemingly impossible to navigate little streets, are, transcendent. They are immaculately neat, rivaling the Swiss obsession with cleanliness. It seems that nearly every little nook and cranny is home to a café, a wine bar, or an enoteca (a wine shop featuring local wines).

Their food is noted as Slow Food which isn’t just a buzz word here. The local culture has lived this lifestyle for generations, generally gathering their local produce and meats from no more than 20 miles away. The regional cheeses, meats and wines form the foundation of the local food pyramid. With their heavy emphasis on organic foods raised to exacting standards, one surprise was the frequent appearance of raw beef on the menu.

The credo of Slow Food perhaps took root most strongly in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Or, perhaps, it has always just been that way. In the rough-hewn hills formed by the upheaval of the Cambrian seabed formed many millennia past, the people adhere to cultural and epicurean traditions seemingly as old as the fossil-filled sea beds that now comprise the region’s innumerable vineyards. If you find yourself drinking a Barolo, a Barbaresco, or a Roero wine, you will discover these deep ties… in the terroir that appears in the taste profile and in the rich tradition of winemaking developed over centuries.

Japan, as suggested by Hugh Graham-Watson at The Hotel Guru

In 2016 more than 20 million people visited Japan; due in part to an increase in flights from Australia and in part, no doubt, to the fact that Japan is an amazing county to visit. In 2019 Japan is set to host the Rugby World Cup, and in 2020 Tokyo will host the Olympics. Which means visitor numbers are only going to increase. But there’s still a window ahead of the curve of people who will notice this incredible country in the background of these events and realise it should have topped their travel bucket list years ago. And that window is 2018.

Japan is both wonderfully old and wonderfully new. Historic traditions, like the magical cherry blossom viewing season, are still vibrant, yet Tokyo is one of the most future-technology absorbing places on the planet. You can still be treated to the timelessness of a classical tea ceremony, but outside on the streets you’re never more than a few hundred metres from some sort of vending machine or other, where you can buy anything from hot noodles to lego, to socks, ties or even fresh eggs instantaneously. As if time is reserved solely for activities which make life richer and more beautiful. And both old and new exist side by side: immaculately manicured gardens somehow retain their tranquillity and raked Zen gravel between busy intersections, and thousands of lively old wooden temples are sandwiched between super-modern skyscrapers.

Among Japan’s highlights are Tokyo’s vibrant fish market, its robot restaurants and the bustle of Ginza, the shopping district, and Kyoto’s ancient Gion district, which is like a living museum to an ancient way of life, and its 1,800 or so Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. And you can zip comfortably between these destinations – and Mt. Fuji, and Hiroshima, and many more places of interest – on a calm and comfortable Shinkansen or bullet train, complete with reliable internet connection, reliable timetable and Japan’s constantly present politeness and respect for others. Japan’s culture really does seem to be all about making the details of your life as pleasurable as possible: food is arranged in an eye-pleasing fashion, toilets are clean, queues orderly and, if you take the time to learn a small amount of Japanese vocabulary people seem so pleased that it’s an easy place to make friends.

If it’s the perceived cost of visiting Japan that’s a downer, don’t let it be; it’s not really been that way since the 90s when the Japanese economy crashed. But it’s certainly not going to be any cheaper once viewers worldwide are as beguiled by this country’s incredible variations as they’re bound to be.

Malawi, as suggested by Tom Marchant, Co-Founder at Black Tomato

While countries like Kenya and Mozambique have long been bucket-list destinations, there’s one African nation that’s so immensely rich in wild experiences yet remains off-the-radar for most —
introducing Malawi. Dubbed ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’, this small country has already captured our hearts with its astonishingly diverse and pristine landscapes.

Relatively unknown and untouched by tourism, Malawi offers safari-lovers spectacular game-viewing in its abundance of wildlife-rich parks and unspoilt wilderness. With hardly anyone besides yourself trailing through the bush-veld, safaris in Malawi are quiet and relaxing – a rare find in game viewing experiences today. For those looking for the perfect beach retreat, bask on one of Lake Malawi’s countless white sand beaches as you look out over sun-dappled waters.

In 2018 we’ll witness the return of Lake Malawi’s ‘Lake of Stars’ – a magical, unique festival that celebrates music, arts and culture. Visitors and musicians have flocked to the palm-fringed shores of Malawi for over a decade, with the event considered as one of the most memorable music gatherings in the world. During 2016, music acts were joined by special groups of performers drawn from the country’s own Dzaleka refugee camp. With this year marking its 15 th anniversary, we’re expecting the event to be even more magical. For those curious to enjoy it for themselves, we can arrange an exclusive tour for you to make sure you don’t miss this spectacular event.

2017 saw the completion of the largest elephant translocation in human history thanks to the ground-breaking #500Elephants project (even Prince Harry himself was involved). Taking over two years to complete, these beautiful animals once vulnerable to poaching and loss of habitat now freely roam the plains of the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve – a site now considered Malawi’s premiere elephant sanctuary. As you venture on a game drive, expect a truly inspiring experience as you spot some of the 500 elephants that flourish here, as well as herds of rhinos, lions and leopards grazing the miombo woodlands and forest-cloaked plains – perfect for safari lovers.

In Liwonde National Park, we’re looking forward to the opening of a new Robin Pope Safari lodge – Kuthengo Camp. Nestled amongst the Fever Trees and Baobabs overlooking the grand Shire River, four modern, en-suite tents make up this rustic yet intimate camp. Boasting the usual luxurious comforts of a Robin Pope Safari Camp, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re the only one for miles as you sit on your private deck and admire the waterbuck grazing the plains in the evening glow. Beautiful and authentic, this gorgeous property will make experiencing this pristine Africa even more unforgettable. We doubt you’ll have room in your heart for anywhere else.

Malta, as suggested by Philip Watson CEO at eXpectations Holidays

Malta occupies an enviable location in the heart of the Mediterranean, where a rich history and culture plays out against a stunning scenic backdrop. Warm, dry weather invites holidaymakers to explore Malta’s gothic cathedrals and imposing bastions throughout the spring and summer whilst home-cooked Maltese cuisine caters for all seasons.

From the capital Valletta in the south to the picturesque islands of Gozo and Comino in the north, Malta offers an intriguing stay for all and was duly voted in the Top 25 Destinations by TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards in 2017. Couple this was the festivities and celebrations that await next year as Malta becomes the European Capital of Culture and you have one of the best places to visit in 2018.

Kick-start the New Year with a flash of colour in the capital city of Valletta, joining proud locals for a dramatic firework display and a night to remember. Spend the morning after the night before strolling the impressive Grand Harbour taking in both the Upper Barakka Gardens and Medieval Fort St. Angelo. Discover the incredible art and architecture of Malta at St. John’s Co Cathedral, a testimony to Gerolamo Cassar, and the Grandmaster’s 16th Century Palace.

Capture the essence of culture with a night of opera at the Manoel Theatre and peruse the treasures of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. Secluded coves and hidden beaches await in the north of Malta on the islands of Comino and Gozo with the former permanently inhabited by only 3 residents!

Crystal clear waters lap against a soft sandy beach in Dwejra Bay whilst the quaint, yet colourful, “Popeye Village” offers a fascinating day trip for families wishing to visit the home of this popular fictional character. Mellieha Bay creates a safe haven for families and couples seeking a laid-back coastal holiday with local amenities at your fingertips. Dive into the depths below to explore hidden shipwrecks and colourful marine life upon one of the numerous scuba diving hot spots around the island.

Traditional Maltese cuisine is both hearty and flavoursome from the rustic Rabbit Stew and Kapunata (Maltese Ratatouille) to Italian inspired desserts of kannoli. Wash down your new found favourites with a tipple of Maltese vintage, including Gellewza and Ghirghentina which more than hold their own on the International stage. As an island nation, Malta enjoys an abundance of seafood cuisine. A trip to the Marsaxlokk fish market is the best way to experience this, with eye-catching tuna and swordfish amongst the catch of the day.

Experience Malta in all its glory, joining the celebrations in the European Capital of Culture and make 2018 a year to remember.

Mauritius, as suggested by Jennifer Atkinson, CEO at Inspiring Travel Company

A timeless favourite for a honeymoon or indulgent family holiday to the Indian Ocean, the island of Mauritius has got fresh appeal for 2018 travel. Surrounded by some 177km of spectacular coastline, and with a maritime, tropical climate that ensures balmy temperatures year-round, it’s a classic destination for a five-star break. Home to world-class golf courses, stunning national parks, and hotels that are renowned for their exceptional service, little wonder Mauritius is a luxury travel destination that consistently remains popular amongst travellers.

So why choose a 2018 holiday to Mauritius? There are several reasons this Indian Ocean isle will be in the spotlight. Firstly, on the 12 March 2018 the island will celebrate 50 years of independence, following more than 300 years of colonial rule by the Dutch, the French and most recently the British. This colourful history, mixed with strong indigenous, Creole and Asian influences, has resulted in a rich and varied culture today; a culture which has created the most incredible food in my view. Mauritius will also be seen on the big screen in Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s second collaboration, Serenity. Plus, the end of 2017 saw the re-opening of luxury resort One&Only Le Saint Géran following an extensive $200m renovation. New guest rooms and suites, new culinary concepts, two new pool experiences and new fitness and spa offerings have enhanced the already ‘wow’ resort, with the exclusive Villa One being the pinnacle of the superlative new accommodation options. And December 2017 also saw the LUX* group open Grand Gaube, a reimagined resort with interior design by Kelly Hoppen and a wealth of culinary experiences.

My top tip for travel to Mauritius is to begin your luxury experience the moment you land by adding access to the airport’s YU Lounge to your booking. All your arrival details will be seen to (baggage collection, passport control etc.), and you can refresh after your long flight so you arrive in resort ready to ‘holiday’! For a dream duo, my personal suggestion for 2018 would be to twin Mauritius with another of our ‘hot’ destinations for the year; South Africa. July 2018 marks 100 since the birth of Nelson Mandela, making it a great time to visit Mandela’s South Africa to discover more about the man, his rise from prisoner to president, and his legacy.

New Zealand, as suggested by David Troya, CEO at Glamping Hub

Life’s simple and often-overlooked pleasures await in New Zealand—it’s time to become an honorary Kiwi in 2018. Animal lovers will appreciate that only 5% of New Zealand’s population is humans. Fans of the sea will be thrilled to know that they’ll never be more than 79 miles from the water, no matter where they are in the country. Wilderness seekers will relish the fact that a third of New Zealand’s entirety is made up of national parks.

Feed your body’s need for adventure in New Zealand, from skydiving in Queenstown to canyoning in Auckland. There’s no better place to soak up some sun than Great Barrier Island—a mere 90 miles from Auckland — and learn to surf than Manu Bay in Raglan. Get your blood pumping on a hike around Fiordland National Park, or skip the legwork and take a plane, helicopter, or car into the infamous Milford Sound, arguably New Zealand’s top natural must-see.

When it’s time to press pause on outdoor activities, take a moment to learn a little about the Māori culture, language, and traditions. Since AD950, these indigenous people have made up a large part of New Zealand’s rich history and continue to have a strong presence in the country to this day. Visit a marae and let the Māori welcome you into their whānau—and don’t pass up the chance to try some Māori hāngi dishes.

Your total immersion into the New Zealand way of life and all things Māori doesn’t have to stop there, however, and in fact, we recommend that it doesn’t. The annual New Zealand Festival, taking place this year from February 23 through March 18, is an event not to be missed—particularly this year’s opening ceremony. Created by the creative team at A Waka Odyssey, the festival’s commencement will begin with a special gathering and theatrical piece featuring the waka—the canoes crafted by the Māori people on which they first came to New Zealand approximately 800 years ago—and in honor of the famous Pacific explorer and great chief of Hawaiki, Kupe.

Allow yourself to get back to basics and enjoy life’s creature comforts—whether it’s eating and drinking your way around the country or seeing just how many times you can get your adrenaline going, as you race from one exciting adventure to the next. 2018 is the year to let the five senses be your guide, and there’s no better place to start than in New Zealand.

Poland, as suggested by Zenon Znamirowski, CEO of PolishOrigins

Poland, famous for its legendary hospitality, is now a perfect place to find a balance between the wild, undiscovered, not obvious destination and, at the same time, intensively developing tourism. In bigger cities and popular tourist regions you will find the top-class boutique hotels in renovated historical monuments, using modern technologies, design, and trends. Wish to stay in the old Teutonic castle with a spa in the medieval cellars? Spend vacations in a small house floating on the lake? Visit a business class hotel and shopping and entertainment centre in a carefully restored, 19th century textile factory? No problem!

In the last few years, several new museums have opened; among them applauded all over the world is the exhibition in The Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk and the Emigration Museum in Gdynia.

Poland is a country with a very rich and complex history, inseparably connected with the history of the whole of Europe. What is worth mentioning: in 2018 Poland will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of regaining independence after the 123 years of partitions. For this occasion in the whole country, there will be several great art and history events, like the monumental exhibition #heritage in the National Museum in Kraków.

There is a mass of regional initiatives, interesting theme trails, specialized local tourist operators offering city breaks, tailor-made, private itineraries or genealogy tours. And there are still many hidden gems, treasures uncovered by the massive tourism and it is easy to go off the beaten path here.

Visiting the Podlasie region with the wildlife of the Biebrza National Park and Białowieża Forest, or exploring the exceptional wooden architecture of Southern Poland (some of them are even from the 15th century!) is a must. You can still find many craftsmen and folk artists working with traditional methods such as lace makers, carpenters, blacksmiths, embroidery makers and many more, where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs for your collections.

Let’s not forget to mention the cuisine: already two Polish restaurants have the prestigious Michelin star, and over 50 others are featured in the famous red Michelin guide. For those who love to eat, the fresh, local and seasonal food can be found easily everywhere in Poland. There are many modern fusion or vegan-friendly restaurants, elaborating modern recipes yet using traditional products.

Poland is very diverse: from the mountains in the south of the country, where apart from hiking and easy trekking you can try skiing or glider flights, through Masuria – “the region of the thousand lakes” where you can try windsurfing or sailing, to the Baltic coast, where several diving bases are located and kitesurfing is getting more and more popular. Although Poland has been high in the tourist rankings for several years, it still has a lot more places, tastes, and experiences to uncover and explore.

Spain, as suggested by Francesco Soriquez, Owner of The Magic of Seville Private Tours

Spain has been for six centuries the common house of ethnics, cultures, languages, religions. Its cultural elite spoke Arabic, Hebrew, Romance and Latin for centuries. Later, its ports became the bridges between Europe and America. The combined of these elements progressively created a spectacular concentration of wealth of traditions, festivals, gastronomy, architecture and art.

No wonder the country of Flamenco and the Fiesta climbed all the travel destination charts, and now occupies the top of the wishlist of the planet. At the core of the appeal of Spain is the incredible lifestyle of Spaniards, and their ability of making traveler feel what they feel. This makes Spain a luxury destination for the discerning traveler.

Spiritual luxury is to ride a pure Andalusian horse among the brave bulls in a ranch, side by side with the same matador that later lets you practice with his red cape. To be transported to an ancestral dimension by the passion of a real Flamenco session at a local’s club. To fuse with nature and connect again with your own spirit along the Camino de Santiago Medieval route. To be pulled off the crowds by a masterpiece of Goya and penetrate the soul of this land through his painting.

Locals know how to draw you into their incredible festivals and mass rituals. The year starts with the must-join Carnaval in Cadiz. The participation of the masses will leave you gobsmacked before the sensorial show of Semana Santa processions in Andalusia. Spain hosts the party that beats all parties, la Feria de Abril en Sevilla, the vertiginous bull races of Pamplona, the human towers in Barcelona, Els Castells.

Gastronomy alone is reason enough to fly to Spain: Iberico cured ham, Virgin Extra Olive oil, Sherry and Brandy cellars, tapas restaurants hopping. Back in the kitchen, true hands-on activities like joining the chef inside his Michelin-starred restaurant, and grasp the secrets of blending together the genuine ingredients. By the beach near Valencia: cooking the paella together with a Spanish family and learn the recipe they used for decades. Everywhere in Spain you can visit a small scale bodega, and after one hour you might be sharing a bottle with the owner, talking about life.

Spain also captures the imagination with the incredibly bold shapes of its historical fortresses and temples. Inside the Alhambra in Granada the spell of Al Andalus is still intact. The Sagrada Familia reveals you the secret that every architecture comes from Nature.

Finally and fortunately, the two past decades produced companies of small and medium size that provide great quality services on monumental, cultural and life-style tours and experiences. Year 2018 is the right time to book your appointment with Spain.

Sri Lanka, as suggested by Laura Hall, Director of Communications at Kid & Coe

We love Sri Lanka for beaches and smiling faces and think it makes a terrific destination for an exotic family trip. With secret beaches that even the locals don’t know much about, and areas of the country that were previously not so popular for tourists now opening out, the country is a fine place for an off-the-beaten track adventure.

October 2018 sees the live action Jungle Book: Origins hit our cinemas. Andy Serkis is both directing and bringing Baloo to the screen with a motion capture performance, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale, Tom Hollander and Cate Blanchett also star in the firm. Nevermind the Hollywood glamour though: for us, the real star is the jungle.

Catch a glimpse of the wildlife Kipling was celebrating with a trip to Sri Lanka. Elephant parades, wild safari zones and monkeys clambering over temples are just the beginning – we’re talking wildlife adventures on a wonderful scale, and the opportunity to relax and revisit them over the best cup of tea you’ll have ever tasted, up in the country’s tea plantations. Through day safaris in national parks to visits to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage to meet young elephants (just like Mowgli), there are opportunities to see everything from monkeys to leopards. The rock fortress of Sigiriya is the place to visit for history and wonder, a rocky outcrop that is said to hold the ruins of an ancient civilization.

On the coast, learning to surf, snorkelling over coral reefs and watching baby turtles flip and flap in the hatcheries on the south coast are the stuff of unforgettable memories. Galle Fort, also, is a great spot to visit, whether you like cricket, shopping or culture. The joy of this country is that once you have booked a car and a driver, you can explore easily, without being on the road or cooped up in a car for too much of your day. For shorter distances, a tuk-tuk is the way to travel, offering added breezes and views.

Sri Lanka, of course, does ceremony very well. The annual Perehera processions are something to witness indeed (complete with painted elephants) but 2018 heralds something even more special. It marks the 70th year of independence from Colonial rule in February, which will be celebrated with pride and patriotism across the country. In addition, at the start of what looks to be an event-packed year, Galle Literary Festival will be welcoming speakers as diverse as Dame Maggie Smith, Louis de Bernières and Rachael Johnson.

And for those whose thoughts turn to cricket, the nation is due to host the Independence Cup in 2018, competing against Pakistan, India and South Africa on home turf as part of year of independence celebrations. Galle Fort’s legendary cricket ground is sure to play a starring role.

Bonus entry

This last one is not technically a country so comes as a bonus entry to the 18 countries listed above.

Antarctica, as suggested by Grant Holmes, CEO at LuxuryBARED

2018 is all about experiential, adventurous travel, and there are few experiences more adventurous than a visit to Antarctica. Arguably the last great unexplored wilderness on earth, Antarctica is a pristine travel destination, with only a few tens of thousands of visitors every year. Unless you’re on a research mission, travel is largely restricted to within the months of November and March, but this is the time when some of the most amazing events can be witnessed. If you want exclusive, Antarctica is the place to go. Any visitors will see and experience things that only a select few in the world will ever encounter. Antarctica’s incredible landscape is constantly shifting and changing, meaning that visitors will seldom encounter the same sights as those who came before or after them. Glaciers and ice sheets, along with their iceberg progeny, offering truly awe-inspiring vistas stand in contrast with tiny, rugged islands, many of which have never known the footsteps of humans.

If you’re feeling inspired by BBC’s Blue Planet 2 to pursue amazing marine life, Antarctica’s wildlife is some of the most charismatic in the world. During the season when travelling is permitted, the seas and coasts of Antarctica are rich with life. There are the six varieties of seal, whose lack of land-predators allows for far closer observation than with their northern cousins. Whales of many varieties, including sperm, humpback and the colossal blue whales, can be seen, along with pods of orcas. And of course, who can forget the penguins. A large selection of different species of these wonderfully charming birds can be seen in vast numbers in Antarctica, most notably it’s the only place on the planet to see the wonderful emperor penguins in the wild. If your visit falls at the very end of the season in late March, you could be fortunate to witness the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights. While the Northern Lights get all the press, the Southern Lights are no less spectacular, with a great deal more exclusivity to boot.

The environmental concerns threatening this amazing continent mean that a visit here could be time sensitive. With continual climate change, and the global rise in ocean temperatures, 2018 is the time to visit Antarctica in all its glory. To counter these issues there are strict guidelines around tourism there, meaning that a sustainable, eco-friendly visit is almost guaranteed. Furthermore, many of the travel companies contribute to conservation and research efforts.

Antarctica is a destination which requires a considerable investment of time and resources, but the resulting experiences are ones that are utterly unforgettable and truly ‘one of a kind’.



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7 luxurious stays to make a difference this Christmas


Sometimes when we travel, it’s easy to forget about the world around us and the communities we impact along the way. Although we love ultra-luxe villas, powder white sands and first class-service, we love it even more when we find resorts that give a little something extra back – not just to us but to their surroundings. With the Christmas holidays nearly upon us, we felt it was a great time to show you retreats that not only promise some serious levels of luxury, but are deeply committed to making a difference to their local communities and environment or are supporting global causes. Who knew doing good could be so relaxing…

Camp Mara Ngenche, Kenya

Nestled deep in the heart of the wildlife-rich Masai Mara, this intimate camp is luxury that’s truly gone wild. It is well hidden under the lush greenery of its surrounding riverine forest, where ten deluxe en-suite tents offer views of the Mala or Talek rivers. Unfenced from the African bush, expect to hear hippos and hyenas grumbling and whooping as you take your outdoor showers, soak in standalone bathtubs, and fall asleep in beautiful four-poster beds. You’ll sleep soundly knowing you’re protected by a Masai guard and supporting the local community—the camp funds an impressive number of village-based projects, in particular local schools and building wells and clinics, all with their own profits.

Song Saa Private Island Resort, Cambodia

On the surface, this island retreat is all contemporary villas on pristine sands; but an ethos of sustainability and preservation is at its core. Their ‘luxury treading lightly’ approach promises an escape crafted with love and inspired by beautiful surroundings. Villas are built with sustainable materials and coral nurseries have been built to protect its ocean habitats – so expect topaz blue waters filled with colourful fish and vibrant reefs. Not to mention Song Saa funds a number of sustainability projects and delivers medical aid to nearby villages.

Treehotel, Sweden

You’d be forgiven for not spotting the ‘Mirrorcube’ – a room camouflaged by its mirrored walls deep within the silent woods and snowbanks of Swedish Lapland—it’s one of six stylish branch-hung dens that hover hidden in the forest canopy of the Treehotel. Here, not only is electricity supplied through hydroelectric power, but the hotel supports the local village with Sami-led experiences. Whether you’re strolling past the Lule River valley, taking a husky-drawn sled ride, or simply relaxing in your den – there’s no denying Treehotel’s deep commitment to nature.

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

Discover the true wilderness of Africa when you stay at Bisate Lodge. Six en-suite rooms offer dramatic views of volcano peaks and the leafy canopy of the African rainforest. Don’t be misled by the thatched roofs and volcanic stone exteriors – inside you’ll find contemporary décor paired with deluxe touches. Sustainability and conservation are the core values of this property, working closely with the local community to ensure profits are felt in the wider area. Guests are even invited to join in the Lodge’s many conservation efforts and learn about the area’s endangered species.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, British Columbia

Set on its own private lake, Clayoquot combines extravagance with a deep commitment to protecting the wild. The 25 canvas tents are filled with luxe touches like rich oak floors and antique furnishings. Add into the mix a beautiful waterfront spa and private helicopter flights, and you’ve got British Columbia luxury at its finest. Their 20-year plan to repair and restore surrounding habitats is completely funded by guests and profits – so you can take pride knowing your stay will help create salmon spawning habitats or impact local research projects.

11 Howard Hotel, New York

Located in the fashionable SoHo district, 11 Howard combines modern Danish design with ‘socially conscious hyper-localism’ so that space is an art spectacle and hub for creative minds. Under the glossy exterior however is a strong community involvement. Purchase a minibar item and you’ll support global food initiative ‘Feed’. Book online and part of the profit supports the Global Poverty project. With a bold 12-story tall mural by local activism group ‘Groundswell’ on the hotel’s south face, this Nordic-cool hotel proudly wears its civic involvement and you can too when you stay.

Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil

A pioneer in ecotourism, the Caiman Ecological Refuge is considered a treasure of the Southern Pantanal. Both the Baiazinha and Cordilheira Lodge offer luxury built upon a strong focus on conservation (think gorgeous pools, private en-suites and contemporary guestrooms). Whether you’re perched next to the gin-clear lake or peeking out of the forest canopy– there’s a magical, cosy ambience here. And as if spending the day trailing through the local flora and fauna, canoeing through bays and embarking on night safaris isn’t enough, guests can join in on the many conservation projects supported by the ecolodges. Embark on the Onçafari Project and you could be spotting wild jaguars and helping the researchers protect these endangered species.

Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 of South America’s most romantic spots


For those in search of a romantic experience that’s different from what’s found in a typical vacation package, South America offers some of the most amorous destinations in the world.

These getaway havens not only mean dinners by candlelight, long dreamy-eyed walks on the beach, and accommodations with all the creature comforts, they stand apart for their own special romantic appeal …where there’s something inimitable yet somehow unidentifiable in the air.

Steeped in romance, these South American retreats are places where you can cuddle up under the stars, samba across the dance floor or look into each other’s’ eyes while dining by flickering light. As your cupid, we our pointing our bow and arrow toward five of the continent’s most romantic spots.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Cidade maravilhosa (“The Marvelous City”)

With its magnificent views, year-round tropical sunshine, pulsing nightlife, and famously good-looking locals, the tropical setting of Rio oozes excitement and passion – the perfect romantic getaway.

Though known for its endless white-sand beaches and cool tides wherever you might wander, couples trying to decide between “sun and surf” or bright lights and big city action can find all of the above. Indeed, this tropical city provides a full slate of vibrant culture, sumptuous dining, hip nightlife and fantastic shopping. For a romantic getaway with that special someone, Rio will ensure you’re never come up short for ideas for truly memorable romantic moments.

Its main tourist attractions boast some of the greatest landmarks in the world. A cable-car ride up Corcovado mountain to marvel at the Christ Statue and the jaw-dropping view of the “Sugar Loaf” – a romantic indulgence that even the unavoidable crowds can’t ruin.

You or your mate might actually be the famed “Girl from Ipanema” as the two of you stroll along that beach or others like Copacabana or Leblon. Similarly, you can time your visit to experience one of the world’s most sensual festivals: Carnaval – an annual event that crosses the line between what’s romantic and what’s categorically sexy.

In addition to Rio’s own host of attractions and experiences, there are scores of other unspoiled nearby spots that offer lovers an escape from the crowds. If the two of you have time to spare, be sure to take a short trip to the beautiful “Costa Verde” (Green Coast). This captivating stretch of pristine beaches, paradise islands and the well-preserved 17th-century port town of Paraty is well worth the journey.

All and all, Rio is a city that will have your senses tingling and your pulse racing. As a destination for a romantic getaway, it’s hard to beat.

Buenos Aires: Dubbed the “Paris of South America,” you might find that it’s better

Buenos Aires… The very name of this Argentine capital city evokes images of sensuous tango dancers, fine Malbec wine world-class opera and thick juicy steaks.

Though these classics alone make for a formidable romantic cocktail, this thriving cultural center provides even more opportunities to ramp up the passion. Possessing an astounding variety of hues, aromas, styles, traditions and architecture, it’s easy to see why Buenos Aires has made it as one of the most popular destinations in South America.

By day, a traveling duo with a passion for urban life will find all the romance they need. Lovers in Argentina’s capital can spend their days strolling through the city’s bohemian neighborhoods, visiting cutting-edge art galleries, checking out the city’s upscale boutiques, or gazing up at the neoclassical, Greco-Roman and Art Deco architecture.

In the evening, you can set down to what is arguably the best cuts of meat in the world, and later head out to tango your way to romance. In glamorous clubs such as Rojo Tango or Tango Porte you can watch professional dancers perform the world’s sexiest dance, while on Sunday afternoons, you can even join in the fun in clubs and plazas scattered about the old San Telmo barrio.

It’s easy to get swept away by Buenos Aires’ diverse culture and colorful nightlife, and it’s equally easy to understand why the city has been dubbed the “Little Paris of South America.”

Galapagos Islands: Follow Darwin’s footsteps in the “Enchanted Isles”

A romantic getaway should be one that’s outstanding …one you will never forget. Many couples follow the crowds to more traditional spots like Hawaii or the Bahamas, though a vacation in the Galapagos Islands will take out of the cliché as you travel to a place of extraordinary wildlife and untouched landscapes. The Galapagos will leave the two of you feeling like you’ve been transported to another world.

Located 600 hundred miles off the South American coast, these “Enchanted Isles” are easy to reach, filled with extraordinary populations of unique wildlife, and — with less than 200,000 visitors annually — one of the more intimate destinations in the world.

In these islands, you can relax and enjoy the amenities of a luxury hotel combined with exotic wildlife and the mesmerizing sunsets. Rent a bike, ride the waves, snorkel the seas, dive the blue deep, kayak tandem or hop on horseback. Add candlelit dinner overlooking clear blue waters, gorgeous white-sand beaches, and pure relaxation to the mix – not to mention snorkeling together alongside sea lions, tropical fish, sea turtles and rays – and you’ve got all the ingredients for a perfectly romantic trip.

Retreat to your luxurious cabin in a sleek white catamaran, or to charming accommodations in one of the island’s fun little port cities, then the next day begin the romance all over again. It’s a romantic experience you won’t get anywhere else, and might not have the chance to do ever again.

Cartagena, Colombia: “Your only risk will be wanting to stay”

A celebrated destination for romantic vacations in the Caribbean, the old city of Cartagena is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved cities in South America.

Just a 5-hour flight from New York City, this tropical Caribbean city possesses all the makings for your perfect fairytale getaway. Here you’ll find colorful colonial mansions with 360-degree ocean vistas, cobblestone streets framed by bougainvillea in bloom, the unworried atmosphere of palm-frilled plazas, and of course screen-saver-worthy beaches that likely exceed your expectations.

Most visitors stay in Cartagena’s walled “Old City,” the stunning historic quarter that’s ripe for romance with dreamy ocean breezes, charterer-brimming boutique hotels and vibrant nightspots year-round.

For couples seeking a bit of romance, Cartagena beckons. In the evenings, the Old City is at its best as the hawkers roll away and allow plazas to turn into dance floors for locals and visitors alike. For foodie couples, note that the Old City is king when it comes to ceviche. At any of the restaurants, you can try the Colombian specialty fish and rice dish cooked in coconut with plantain – simply subline when enjoying the sunset and the ocean breezes. In the clubs and bars, you’ll discover that the bartenders are wildly creative, infusing their liquors and masterminding daily drink specials.

Amazonian Riverboat Cruise: Romance in the rainforest

How can you really impress the one you love for a honeymoon, anniversary Valentine’s Day or just as a treat? What not go beyond the usual greeting cards and roses to dazzle your soulmate with a journey deep into the heart of the exotic Amazonian rainforest? Named as one of the world’s “New Seven Wonders of Nature,” the Amazon is an almost mythical ecosystem whose richness and wonder continues to lure adventurous travelers from all walks of life.

For couples, as an alternative to luxury cabaña, consider an all-inclusive riverboat cruise. On these, you can sit back, relax and drink your complementary glass of champagne while watching the Amazon rainforest pass by. But don’t worry at all about getting bored – from dawn till dusk you have the option of participating in various Amazon jungle excursions and activities: from spotting sloths and monkeys and watch brilliantly colored tropical birds overhead, Pink dolphin watching, piranha fishing, kayaking, jungle trekking, visits to remote indigenous communities and more! Of course, all of these activities are optional; so if you prefer a day of relaxing on deck or in your guest suite, you can simply enjoy the view and each other.

After a full day taking in the rainforest sights and sounds you can savor pisco sour with the setting sun from the top deck roof or lounge before sitting down to delicious a romantic candlelight meal in the ship’s restaurant (or privately in your honeymoon suite), before finally snuggling up under plush Egyptian cotton sheets.

Your soulmate, a passport and the yearning for romance and adventure are all you need to turn your dream getaway into reality!

Endowed with an unequaled variety of natural wonders and an amazing array of stunning destinations, South America is the perfect place for couples seeking their romantic getaway. Take long walks on sun-kissed beaches, explore quaint colonial towns, sip a Pinar sour amid cool breezes on the Caribbean coast, or enjoy the sensual delights of tango with a candlelit dinner. Amazingly amorous shared adventures are plentiful on this enchanting continent.



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Best Restaurants in Rio | Andrew Harper


The interior sushi bar at Sushi Leblon – Rodrigo Azevedo

June 25, 2017 | By Andrew Harper

Until recently, the culinary scene in Rio was not highly regarded, the oft-repeated joke being that the only way to eat well was to catch a plane to São Paulo. Fortunately, things have improved.

GERO IPANEMA

The interior of Gero Ipanema with its brick walls and distinctive lighting

Daniel Pinheiro

Owned by Rogério Fasano, a fourth-generation member of the renowned hotelier-restaurateur family, this fashionable establishment serves classic Italian cuisine. However, there are plenty of culinary clues to remind you that you are in Brazil. For example, you might find on the menu “Carioca-Roman” salt cod, right out of the Portuguese repertoire but enlivened with pine nuts and tomato. You’ll also be impressed with the wine list, which has a fine selection of Italian bottles, as well as surprisingly good Brazilian reds. The restaurant, with warm brick walls and well-executed lighting, is handsomely decked out with black-and-white pictures of the city.

Gero Ipanema
Rua Anibal de Mendonça 157, Ipanema. Tel. 21-2239-8158

LASAI

Vegetais and batata emulsão at Lasai

Rubens Kato

In a business overpopulated with unrestrained egos, chef Rafa Costa e Silva is an exception. He could well be otherwise, as he is a wizard at taking favorite Brazilian ingredients and flavors and giving them delightful and innovative twists. Costa e Silva scours the local markets and works with trusted providers to create a menu that changes daily, supported by a fine selection of Brazilian wines.

Lasai
Rua Conde de Irajá 191. Tel. 21-3449-1834

OLYMPE

Scallops with tucupi and caviar, water yam and coconut purée at Olympe

Tomas Rangel

Claude Troisgros, a scion of the famous gastronomic dynasty, employs Brazilian ingredients in recipes informed by classical French technique. Expect dishes such as roasted sea bass with green apple, celery, lemon confit and shiitake-bacon consommé, or duck breast with passion fruit, caramelized endive and foie gras.

Olympe
Rua Custódio Serrão 62, Lagoa. Tel. 21-2539-4542

PALAPHITA KITCH LAGOA

The view from Palaphita Kitch Lago

Palaphita Kitch

This fashionable outdoor bar on the shore of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is where affluent cariocas (citizens of Rio) come for caipirinhas and light meals (bruschetta, fondue) in leafy “Amazonian” surroundings. The prices are outrageous, but the views are memorable.

Palaphita Kitch Lagoa
Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, Ipanema. Tel. 21-2227-0837

SUSHI LEBLON

A variety of sushi available at Sushi Leblon

Rodrigo Azevedo Fotografia

A Rio institution for more than 25 years, this lively restaurant serves a full menu of Japanese cuisine, as well as exemplary sushi and sashimi. Try the house specialty drink, a “caipisake,” a caipirinha made with sake instead of cachaça. Reservations can be hard to come by.

Sushi Leblon
Rua Dias Ferreira 256, Leblon. Tel. 21-2512-7830

ZUKA

Rack of lamb with corn couscous and a foie gras reduction at Zuka

Rodrigo Azevedo

This sleek, wood-paneled establishment serves contemporary cuisine with Brazilian inflections. The restaurant is known for its large, coal-fired grill, so look for the celebrated charred tuna with tagliatelle and horseradish, and the delicious bife de chorizo (corresponding to sirloin) with rustic potatoes and truffled cream.

Zuka
Rua Dias Ferreira 233B, Leblon. Tel. 21-3205-7154


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Andrew Harper is the editor of the Hideaway Report, a luxury travel newsletter that first appeared in 1979. He travels anonymously and pays his own expenses in pursuit of unique properties that offer unusually high levels of personal service. Hotels have no idea who he is, so he is treated exactly as you might be.



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9 of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world



 



There are hundreds of thousands of different waterfalls across the world in many different countries, both in prominent locations, and secret hideaways. All of the waterfalls I am going to describe are spectacular, exhilarating, beautiful, and often a popular tourist attraction in that area. Some waterfalls are better known than others, but whether it’s a planned trip or an added gem to your itinerary these breath taking waterfalls are a must.

Gullfoss, Iceland

Gullfoss waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvita River in the southwest of Iceland. It is also known as Golden Waterfall, as due to when the sun shines the waterfall takes on a golden brown colour. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland; it has two cascades before reaching the 2.5km crevasse below, the first which is 36 feet and the second which is 69 feet. The waterfall is the largest in Europe and is part of an eponymous nature reserve, to ensure it is protected for all to enjoy its natural beauty.

Gullfoss-Falls,-Iceland

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Angel Falls is located in the western sector of Canaima National Park in Venezuela. Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world, falling from a height of 3230 feet. There are many different ways to observe the falls; fly, canoe or hike. Should one wish for a bit more adventure, abseiling down the falls is a real thrill, but involves some rock climbing first! Although this does take two days, the views and adrenaline rush are worth every second.

Angel-Falls

Iguazu Falls, Brazil

Igauazu Falls, also known as Iguassu Falls and Iguacu Falls, are located on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. There are 275 individual cascades making it one of the natural wonders of the world. The falls stretch out over 2.7 km and a height of 200-269 feet. The best way to see the falls in their natural beauty is through the special walkway, which has been built around the falls which allows tourists to see it up close. The falls are so incredibly beautiful that they have been used as the backdrops for many different films. If one allows a couple of days to see this incredible waterfall, it is worth viewing from both the Brazilian side and the Argentinian side. They both offer unique and jaw dropping experiences and of course both countries will claim their side is better!

Iguazu-Falls

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. With a width of 1.6 km and a drop of 354 feet, it’s not a surprise that the spray of water can be seen from miles away. One special vista is from the Knife-edge Bridge, as visitors can enjoy the best view of the Main Falls as well as the Boiling Pot (where the river parts and heads down the Botoka Gorge). Falls Bridge, Devils Pool and the Lookout Tree offer panoramic views across the Main Falls.

Victoria-Falls

Niagara Falls, US and Canada

One of the worlds most well known falls, Niagara is a shared name for three individual waterfalls, which make up part of the international border between Canada and the US. The individual falls are; Horseshoe Falls, America Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. As there are three cascades, Niagara Falls has the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. Located on the Niagara River, the falls have a drop of 177 feet. Although it may not be the tallest waterfall in the world, the combination of the width of the three falls and the volume of water make it a truly spectacular sight. Take a boat trip – the ‘Spirit of Niagara’ into the falls and see the mesmerising power of the water up close along with the spectacular sight of the falls from a different perspective – it’s a really fun and must do experience.

Niagara-Falls-2

Huangguoshu Waterfall, China and East Asia

Huanggushu Waterfall, which translates to Yellow Fruit Tree it is the largest waterfall in China and Asia, located on the Baishui River in Huanggushu Waterfall National Park. It is 243 feet high and altogether there is an impressive 18 falls. Make sure you plan your visit around the morning sunrise, as this is when rainbows appear, which create a truly magical moment not to be missed. A path has been cut into the cliff behind the fall, which gives visitors a beautiful view of the water-curtain and the flowing river below.

Huanggushu-Falls

Plitvice Lake Waterfalls, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the largest National Park in Croatia and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Register. The national park is world renowned for its beautiful collection of lakes and their distinctive colours. There are two waterfalls, Veliki slap, which is 255 feet, and Galocaki buk, which is 82 feet. Both waterfalls contribute to the beautiful 16 lakes.

Plitvice-Falls

Mackenzie Falls, Victoria, Australia

Based in Grampians National Park, Victoria, the waterfall is 114 feet, and there is a beautiful area at the top of the falls – a lookout point where visitors are able to see down the falls and appreciate the views of the higher drops which cannot be seen from below. The falls are year round flowing, unlike some other falls in the national park, due to the humid weather and droughts throughout the year. The waterfall is beautiful, with two tiers and both with pools that link them – this is definitely a fall to see while in the National Park.

Mackenzie-Falls

Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Wales

Meaning the Fall of the White Meadow, based in the Brecon Beacons National Park (on the Western side). There are spectacular waterfalls of all different sizes, colours and beauty in the National Park, but one which really stands out is the Sgwd Clun-Gwyn waterfall. There are two cascades in the waterfall that can be viewed from above by following the footpath, or from the river below. It may only be 40 feet, but the sheer beauty of this waterfall should not be missed.

Sgwd Clun Gwyn Falls

Mike Kelly is Director at Oxford Private Travel.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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10 exceptional wildlife experiences in Latin America



 



It doesn’t matter what type of holiday or trip you are looking for; Latin America has something to offer everyone. There are idyllic beaches, fascinating historical sites, exciting adventurous activities, off-the-scale luxury hotels and award-winning restaurants to name but a few. However, if you are interested in wildlife, the options are endless. From sweeping mountainous valleys, to coral reefs and thick rainforests to some of the driest deserts in the world, this unique continent has an incredible array of habitats that support an even more astounding concentration of wildlife. Take a look at our recommendations for the best wildlife experiences;

1. Birdwatching in Colombia

With just under 2000 species of bird, there is no other country in the world which has as many bird species as Colombia. The variety is spectacular, colourful and unique – much like the country itself. Now, it is possible to visit this incredible part of the world in luxury, and enjoy areas such as the ‘Coffee Zone’, Tayrona National Park, the Tatacoa Desert and the Guajira coastline in style – all of which offer an abundance of birds and other wildlife.

Hummingbird

Recommended place to stay: Hacienda San Jose

Hacienda-San-Jose

2. Watching bears in Peru

The spectacled bear of South America is one of the rarest bear species in the world – second only to the giant panda of Asia. This shy and solitary creature is not easy to spot, as they live far out in the forests of the Andes mountains and rarely stray close to human settlements. However, recently, there has been an increase in the number of bears being spotted at Machu Picchu – Peru’s most popular tourist attraction. With a selection of luxury hotels now close to this UNESCO World Heritage site, why not take a visit to the historic ruins and keep your fingers crossed for a glimpse of this enigmatic bear.

Machu-Picchu

Recommended place to stay: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo

Inkaterra-Machu-Picchu

3. Snorkelling and scuba diving in Fernando de Noronha

Latin America is not widely known for scuba diving sites, but the small archipelago of islands off the coast line of Brazil are fast becoming one of the best in the world. This jewel in the Atlantic Ocean is another of Latin America’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, and also boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Baia do Sancho. Visitors to this paradise who wish to dive or snorkel can expect to see spinner dolphins, turtles, rays, groupers, huge shoals of multicoloured fish, various corals plus nurse, reef and lemon sharks.

Turtle

Recommended place to stay: Pousada Maravilha

Maravilha

4. Whale watching on the Valdes Peninsula

Argentina certainly isn’t at the top of the list when people think of whale watching, however, it is one of the best places in the world to see southern right whales. Every year hundreds of these gentle giants migrate up the coast to nurse their young in the shallow bays here, making it possible to see these wonderful creatures from the beach! In addition, the peninsula is also home to pods of orca, who prey on the pups from the many sealion colonies along the shores.

Southern-Right-Whale

Recommended place to stay: Hotel Territorio

Territorio

5. Penguin spotting in Antarctica

The 17 species of penguins that we share our world with can all be found in the southern hemisphere. A luxury cruise to Antarctica and the surrounding islands of the Falklands and South Georgia will allow visitors to spot some of these charming and charismatic birds at very close quarters. Of course, there’s not only penguins to be seen in this remote and unspoilt wilderness, there are also whales, dolphins, seals and plenty of airbourne birds to keep any wildlife enthusiast happy.

Antarctica

Recommended luxury cruise: National Geographic Orion

Orion

6. The Amazon Rainforest

Arguably the continent’s most famous natural wonder and one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, the Amazon rainforest needs no introduction. Spanning across 9 countries, there are many different options for visitors. There are hundreds upon thousands of species to spot here, including some unusual species such as poison arrow frogs, tapir, ocelot, arapaima, tarantula, caiman and many species of parrot. In recent years the standard of accommodation has increased dramatically and it is now one of the most sought-after luxury holidays.

Sloth

Recommended lodge: Juma Amazon Lodge

Juma

7. Costa Rica

It’s very hard to pin point a single place to visit when it comes to Costa Rica and areas in which to see wildlife. The whole country is small than Lake Michigan in the USA, yet it holds a mind-boggling 5% of the worlds biodiversity. Due to its tiny size, it is an extremely easy place to travel around, and if you have 2 weeks to spare, there are plenty of opportunities to see a wide range of animals and birds. Some of the best wildlife encounters include humpback whales, nesting sea turtles, hundreds of colourful butterflies, sleeping sloths and the elusive but beautiful quetzal.

Toucan

Recommended places to stay: El Mangroove

El-Mangroove

8. Jaguar safari in the Pantanal

For those who wish to see a truly majestic creature up close, look no further than a jaguar safari in the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil. A boat trip downriver will get you within a stone’s throw of this impressive big cat, an experience that is not easily forgotten. Between July and October jaguar can be frequently seen along the river bank, along with other wildlife including capybara, caiman, tapir, giant anteaters and hundreds of bird species. Seeing this wildlife bonanza should absolutely be on your travel bucket list.

Jaguar

Recommended places to stay: Caiman Ecolodge

Caiman-Ecolodge

9. Puma tracking in Torres del Paine National Park

If you want to continue the big cat theme, you could head to the southern cone of South America and take a trip to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. If you can manage to drag your eyes away from the breath-taking scenery, this pretty part of the world is also home to puma. This shy cat, which feeds on guanaco (the wild cousin of the llama), is notoriously hard to spot – but a real treat for wildlife enthusiasts could be to take part in the new puma tracking itineraries that some hotels offer. Living alongside the puma’s which call this remote landscape home, are other interesting species such as grey fox, huemel deer, rhea, skunks and armadillo.

Puma

Recommended luxury hotel: Tierra Patagonia

Tierra-Patagonia

10. A luxury cruise in the Galapagos Islands

Last, but certainly not least, the Galapagos Islands are a timeless classic for anyone wishing to see a multitude of bird and animal species on land, in the sea and in the skies. This collection of islands is home to some of the rarest and most unusual creatures on earth, and what better way to witness this spectacle than on a luxury cruise? Many yachts offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime liveaboard experience which will allow guests to see famous residents such as blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and giant tortoises.

Galapagos

Recommended luxury yacht: Sea Star Journey

Sea-Star

Simon Williams is Director of Bespoke Latin America.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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7 alternative safaris to take you off the beaten track



 



To come face-to-face with the incredible wildlife that walk this planet is surely one of the greatest adventures. But there’s more than one way to enjoy a safari these days than just sitting on a jeep. If you’re looking for a real heat-thumping wild encounter that gets you closer and takes you off the beaten track, then try one of these alternative luxury safaris. From chimp tracking to sea kayaking, paddle-boarding safaris to diving with the Big Five of the ocean, each one of these safaris come with adventure guaranteed.

Walk with elephants in Nepal

Forget traditional elephant safaris, for a really wild thrill nothing beats exploring on foot with these gentle giants. Tiger Tops’ jungle-based Tharu Lodge is the first in Nepal to offer walking safaris with elephants and their guiding team is second-to-none. Nowhere else in the country can you get closer to these incredible animals and immerse yourself in their day-to-day, from breakfast in their tented elephant camp to helping out at snack time. But it’s the elephant walks that steal the show—the experience of a stand-off between the rhinos, leopards and tigers that roam Chitwan’s lush jungle with elephants as your personal guard is one of those rare, spine-tingling safari moments.

Elephants Nepal

Jaguar spotting in the Pantanal

Look beyond Brazil’s Amazon and you’ll find another unique wildlife experience that’s sure to be off-the-radar for most. The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetlands and its ethereal wide-open marshlands never fail to inspire our inner Attenborough. Take a water safari into the interior and keep your eyes peeled for the jaguars, peccaries, bobcats, wild boars and endless birdlife that together make this one of our favourite off-beat safaris.

Pantanal Jaguar

Chimp tracking in the Mahale Mountains

Most safaris, you’re intent on seeing the Big Five—rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard—but the best wild encounters are always the ones that are hard won. Set adrift on a remote island off Western Tanzania, Greystoke Mahale luxury camp is one of Africa’s hidden gems. Here you spend your days tracking the island’s families of chimpanzees. After an hour or two’s search, the experience of sitting quietly on the forest floor with baited breath, watching these creatures feeding, foraging and bonding, is a privilege worth waiting for.

Chimpanzee Mahale Mountains

Paddle-board and heli-safari in the Okavango Delta

The flowing waters of Botswana’s Okavango Delta is one of the most thrilling safari experiences in the world. For a twist, a stand up paddle board (SUP) safari through the maze-like rivers puts you in pole position to spy the myriad animals drawn to the water’s edge including hippos, antelopes, wildebeest and more. You’ll be able to float deep into the Delta, and reach parts otherwise inaccessible to get a completely unique view, stopping on isolated islands to cook your own bush meals on the way. End at the paradisical Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, stranded in the Delta’s very heart, and for a final adrenaline rush take a heli-safari to see your route from above.

Paddle boarders Botswana

Take an Arctic safari

For a riff on the traditional safari, intrepid adventurers can swap bush for snow on at the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. Strategically located close to one of the last beluga nurseries on earth, you can choose between a sea kayak, raft or SUP safari to watch these unique graceful animals, or while your time away fishing for Arctic char. If you’re a photographer set on snapping some arctic wildlife, you’re in one of the top locations to get that all-important Kodak moment with arctic foxes, polar bears and seals. Basically, adventure lies at every turn.

Beluga Whale

Balloon over the Serengeti

See the Serengeti form a completely different perspective, drifting above in a hot air balloon. At the gentle pace of an African breeze, you’ll get wide-angle views of the migrating wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle, as well as the lions, buffaloes and cheetah that call these magnificent plains home—all a-blaze in the golden African sun. Then, land and indulge yourself with bush dinners with your Masai guides at one of the luxury camps; a magical way to really appreciate the incredible array of wildlife that only the Serengeti can provide.

Hot Air Balloon Serengeti

An ocean safari in South Africa

Already have Africa’s Big Five crossed off your list? Then what about the Big Five of the deep? A tailor-made underwater safari into South Africa’s wildlife-rich waters is really the trip of a lifetime. So, if you’ve ever wanted to cage-dive with sharks, be entertained by whales, dolphins and seals as they frolic at sea, or paddle with penguins on Boulders Beach, then add South Africa’s ocean safari to your bucket list. The bonus? All that delicious South African wine to wind-down with afterwards.

Whales South Africa

Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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The 5 best restaurants of Rio de Janeiro



 



Rio de Janeiro, “a cidade Maravilhosa”, latest host to the Fifa World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, serving up local Brazilian dishes, exotic tropical foods, and gastronomic fusions that will blow your tastebuds’ mind. Some of the most delicious foods on offer are the Brazilian staple, Feijoada, a dish prepared with black beans, salted pork, smoked ribs and smoked sausage, as well as another national dish, Moqueca, a stew made with fresh fish or shrimp, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, and oftentimes, coconut milk. Both of these dishes go perfectly with an ice cold beer – we recommend the local artisan cold beers, the favorite of the good Cariocas.

Rio christ the redeemer

Many of the country’s renowned chefs moved to the city looking to show off their gastronomical talents. Below, we’ve listed the best places to have an awesome cuisine experience in Rio de Janeiro.

Restaurant Oro

O Oro Restaurant, an winner of the famous Michelin Star, specializes in fine Brazilian contemporary cuisine. The renowned chef, Felipe Super, author of the award-winning book “Cozinha Brasileira da Vanguard”, one of the top five Gourmet Gastronomy books in the world in 2013, is truly a gastronomical magician. Since 2010, the restaurant has prepared new, and oftentimes revolutionary, dishes which have changed the restaurant scene in Rio. The restaurant serves select regional dishes which vary according to the season. The restaurant’s wine list is equally world renowned, Cecilia Aldaz, famous wine connoisseur from Mendoza, Argentina, stated that O Oro is a primer local for the excellent pairing of fresh, local, innovative, Brazilian food with award-winning wines.

restaurante oro rio

Fasano Al Mare Restaurant

Fasano Al Mare, a restaurant located in the Lobby of the Luxury boutique Hotel Fasano, right in front of Ipanema Beach. This restaurant serves up the best Italian food in the city. It serves up select dishes based on freshly caught seafood, which earned the surname “Al Mare” to honor the Ipanema sea, right in front of the restaurant.The renowned Chef, Paolo Lavezzini from Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence runs the house. The menu contains some of the most diverse aspects of Mediterranean cuisine, with a special focus on fish and seafood. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily in the lounge and on the pleasant terrace. The restaurant also offers a private setting, surrounded by white linen drapes.

restaurante fasano al mare rio

Restaurante Aprazivel

Restaurante Aprazivel is one of those charming places that everyone wants to go to. Aprazivel is naturally decorated, with native plants and flowers, and a beautiful rustic roof. Located in a neighborhood of artists, the restaurant is very Bohemian, and frequented by tourists and locals alike. Local and relaxed, Aprazivel serves up fine Brazilian food, with local Brazilian drinks of high quality, such as the award-winning homemade Cachacas.
Do not be surprised if you see some famous celebrity enjoying the cuisine of Aprazivel.
If you want to impress your love, book “The tree house” for a special, romantic dinner. The menu is a feast of classic traditional dishes presented by Mineira Ana Castilho, combining Brazilian and international cuisine. For a real treat, taste the moqueca with roasted palm heart.

restaurante aprazivel rio

Sawasdee Thai restaurante

An excellent dining option in the city of Rio. Originally a small boutique restaurant in Búzios, Sawasdee has expanded to two other locations in Rio de Janeiro. Since 2007, it has been conquering the hearts and tastebuds of locals and tourists alike. The reason for Sawasdee’s monumental success is the perfect blend of Thailand’s complex flavors with Rio’s charm. Serving up delicious asian dishes, in particular Thai, com with fresh, local Brazilian ingredients, such as their famous pork ribs, which are smoked and caramelized with honey, then sprinkled with sesame seeds, or the delicious shrimp with tamarind.The menu composed by the award-winning chef, Marcos Sodré, is dynamic and always has new features up his sleeve. With every season, new dishes enter the menu, in addition to the classics of Thai gastronomy, it is easy to find recipes from countries like India, Vietnam and China. Sawasdee is the perfect place to enjoy a good oriental food with a Brazilian flare.

restaurante sawasdee rio

Confeitaria Colombo

Founded in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants, Joaquim Borges de Meireles and Manuel José Lebrão, Confeitaria Colombo is a part of fabric of Rio’s history. It’s architecture and environment allow you to have an idea of what Belle Époque would have been like in the then capital of the Republic of Brazil. Belgian mirrors. Italian marble countertops. Confeitaria Colombo enchants everyone that visits it, including famous writers, poets, politicians, celebrities and the upper class of Rio. Famous for their delicious Portuguese sweets, varieties of tea, and one of the most sought after places for a luxurious breakfast. Ten years ago under new leadership, Colombo contracted to “command” its kitchen the talented chef Renato Freire with all the experience in pâtisserie and gastronomy in general, acquired in the seven years in which he worked in Europe. With all the good restaurants to enjoy in Rio, one can’t miss Confeitaria Colombo.

restaurante confeitaria colombo

Luiz Alegre Silva is the Founder at See You in Brazil.

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