By Tim Tan Worldwide Specialist

For many, a journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the ultimate holiday for a special occasion; an iconic combination of five-star service, 1920s glamour and world-class gastronomy. But, if your birthday, anniversary, honeymoon or other celebration falls between the end of November and the beginning of March, the train cannot run due to weather conditions. Luckily, there are a whole host of spectacular – and just as iconic – luxury rail journeys and holidays that make for the perfect celebration. Worldwide specialist Tim Tan explores the alternatives, from the contemporary delights of Peru's most luxurious train to Scandinavia's world-famous ice hotel.

Eastern & Oriental Express

From the very same people who brought us the Orient Express, Asia's just-as glamorous version stirs the same feelings of 1920s glamour and opulent indulgence as its European original. And, with private butlers, gourmet wine-paired dinners and champagne toasts in the convivial bar car, it makes for a truly luxurious special occasion. Starting in either futuristic Singapore or the electric streets of Bangkok, settle back among gleaming wood-panelled corridors and silk furnishings as you weave through rice paddy fields and jungles in Malaysia and Thailand, disembarking for included excursions that range from cooking classes in local restaurants to market tours. It's made all the better by the fact that you'll enjoy the region's cooler, drier weather between December and February.

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Eastern & Oriental Express between Singapore & Bangkok

Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru

For the adventurous couple or family, the Belmond Andean Explorer is one of Latin America's most iconic – and luxurious – journeys. Plus, our winter means summer in Peru, with temperatures that are perfect for exploring. Flowing rivers and snow-capped peaks are showcased from sleek, contemporary suites, your celebration toasted with gastronomy that's truly gourmet, sommelier-matched with, of course, only the best South American wines. Head out to the observatory car to view the alpaca-dotted plains before culminating it all at that iconic Incan ruin of Machu Picchu.

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Belmond Andean Explorer

Maharajas’ Express, India

While India can be swelteringly hot, December to February is one of the most pleasant – and driest – times with temperatures hovering in the 20s. It's not only the ideal winter sun destination, but also home to one of India's most luxurious experiences: a journey on the Maharajas’ Express. Greeted, naturally, by a jostling chorus of dancers and musicians, step on board among wood-clad carriages and gold-gilded furnishings before settling down to locally-inspired gourmet dining, with off-train excursions including everything from champagne sunrises at the Taj Mahal to local dinners with a Rajasthani family. It all makes for a celebration you'll talk about for years to come.

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Restaurant car, Maharajas' Express

While luxury train journeys are wonderfully memorable for special occasions, there are also a whole host of other options that make for the perfect winter break for when you really want to celebrate.


ICEHOTEL, Sweden

While for many, a holiday means sun, embracing the throes of winter can be just as memorable for that special occasion. And, we think there's nowhere much better than the ICEHOTEL, that iconic ice-carved construction in the northern reaches of Swedish Lapland. Picture snuggling up under reindeer skins in ethereally-lit ice-carved rooms, warming up with a morning glass of hot lingonberry and sauna before embarking on all manner of romantic adventures like husky sledding through snow-silent forests. It’s all a perfect prelude to the likes of ice menus and ice-bar drinks, interrupted only by the aurora alarm that lets you know when the Northern Lights have made their appearance.

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Art Suite, ICEHOTEL

Tropical getaway in the Maldives & Sri Lanka

Poolside drinks, toes-in-the-sand dining, beachfront spa treatments…for many, a tropical getaway is as celebratory they come. And, from private dining on your own island to sunset boat trips, a visit to the Maldives ticks all the boxes, particularly for an anniversary or honeymoon. With white-sand shores and world-class service, a stay at Baros Maldives will see you indulge with private pools, spa treatments and open-water restaurants. Plus, it's all preluded with a chance to explore the verdant tea plantations and UNESCO-listed icons of Sri Lanka, where you'll do everything from meeting elephants and cooking classes to snorkelling and diving.

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Baros Maldives

Luxury safari in Tanzania

Put simply, a safari is one of the world’s most thrilling experiences. Catching sight of an elusive leopard crouching in a tree, colliding wildebeest on their great migration and elephant herds trudging past your open truck are moments that will truly stay with you forever. It's a fabulous way to celebrate a special occasion – and Tanzania offers the best of it all. With December to February offering fewer crowds in its vast national parks, there's chances to stay in remote, luxury tented camps in the middle of the baobab-dotted bush, coming back after Big-Five game drives to sundowners under the stars and gourmet cuisine. And, if you like, it's all wonderfully culminated on Zanzibar’s paradisiacal shores. 

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Cheetahs, Tanzania

Gorilla tracking in Rwanda

An unforgettable travel experience is a phrase that's perhaps too readily bandied about, but coming face-to-face with a mountain gorilla is truly deserving of the title. As you trek through the jungles of Rwanda, you'll immerse yourself among cute babies and huge silverbacks, watching as they interact in their natural habitat. Celebrate it all back at luxury lodges that vaunt the likes of gourmet dining, swimming pools and spas, alongside the chance to track golden monkeys and stay in stunning lake-side hotels. What’s more, Rwanda’s short dry season falls between December and February, meaning ideal trekking conditions.

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Mother and baby gorillas, Rwanda

Antarctica cruise

A visit to the Antarctic is once-in-a-lifetime experience for most, and when better to experience it than on a special occasion? Imagine waking up to breaching whales, calving icebergs and hundreds of penguins while toasting an anniversary or birthday with a glass of champagne. Celebrating over Christmas is particularly memorable, but anytime during our winter is an excellent time to travel; it won't be hot, of course, but the height of summer in this wild frontier often comes with crisp blue skies and sunshine. Alongside it all, you’ll indulge in open champagne bars and fine dining, your personal butler on hand to attend to your every need.

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Penguins, Antarctica

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