For the adventurous soul, the thrill of going somewhere new and far from the crowds is undeniable. Combine this with an exotic culture and cuisine and the holiday may open your heart and mind in a way that you never thought possible. And yet you needn’t compromise on style and luxury, whatever the type of holiday you take. Our destination experts know just the place for you, even in the most unlikely places in the world. So, whether you want a wildlife or safari experience, great rail journey or expedition-style cruise, our experts can handpick luxury lodges, hotels and encampments that are rich in the unexpected. That means everything from beguiling landscapes and cultures, to rare experiences that can alter the way in which you see the world. It’s time to seek out our new smart luxury.
A classic, luxury safari is often at the top topping travel wish lists. And, increasingly, it needn’t mean compromising on comfort either. We also know that a chance to explore Africa in style isn’t just about your accommodation; your world-class wildlife escape is about the incredible safari experience that comes with it. Luxury safaris should include incredible private guides, naturalist-led game drives, quieter off-the-beaten-track settings or even the chance to search for wildlife from the air, perhaps in a hot air balloon or on a wing safari. Then, whatever the day brings, each evening you’ll return to fine dining back at camp, perhaps served around a roaring fire where you can swap stories about your close-up animal encounters.
Our favourites include Jack’s Camp in the heart of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, one of only two permanent camps in this surreal wilderness. Here, you can hang out with habituated meerkats, walk with the San bushmen and learn about their lifestyle, quad-bike in the centre of the pans and relax in a tented camp furnished in traditional East-African 1940s safari style. Expect amazing views and a tented swimming pool. Elsewhere in Botswana, stay in a private concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve at Sanctuary Baines’ Camp, an intimate camp where the suites stand on stilts with star baths and sky beds on private decks. Enjoy walking and night game drives, or take to the waterways in a traditional mokoro dugout canoe or the air in a helicopter. Be sure to make the most of a rare opportunity to walk with elephants as well.
Otherwise, in Tanzania, put yourself in the path of the Great Migration by staying at &Beyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp or Sanctuary Kusini, built around an elevated kopje hill. Here, you’ll be able to take in a natural wonder – the thundering of thousands of wildebeest and their accompanying predators. Then, to the east, revel in the unusual stilted treetop suites shaded by ancient mahogany trees at &Beyond Lake Manyara Lodge. Here, your elevated perch lets you immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the canopy between game drives, sessions in the treetop spa and dining experiences in the outdoor boma fire.
For a rare and memorable experience, travel into the desert to truly escape the hurly burly of the modern world. Go in search of shimmering vistas, intense colours, clear skies, vast starscapes and utter tranquillity. Of course, there’s plenty of indulgence to be had. The elegant stone-and-glass villas of &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge provide an exquisite base in the Namib Desert, among some of the world’s most impressive dunes. During the day explore with quad bikes or hike to beautiful locations in the company of a local guide before surrendering to sheer silence and romantic luxury. Options include intimate picnics in the desert and sitting out looking for a shooting star in the pitch-dark night sky – there’s even a skylight over your bed.
Elsewhere in the country, stay at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, set in the most remote area of the Kaokoveld. Here, you can enjoy the best viewing of desert-adapted elephant, lion and giraffe right from your luxury tented camp. Spend your days on a safari with a difference in the company of expert guides or take to the air to skim across the sands of the windswept coast, spot shipwrecks and uncover remote fur seal colonies. In Australia, Longitude 131° is the luxurious base camp close to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in the country’s Red Centre. Here you’ll share exclusive wilderness experiences with just a handful of others once most of the visitors to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park move on, leaving it to its Aboriginal guardians. Take advantage with bushwalks around the base of Uluru and the chance to dine out on sumptuous Outback fare in delightful seclusion, below the wonders of the southern night sky. Then, end the day sinking into a deep slumber in a designer, luxury tent that’s just a stone’s throw from the sandstone monolith.
In Chile, you can temper the harsh rigors of life in the Atacama with such luxurious retreats as Tierra Atacama, where outdoor activities are effortlessly combined with creature comforts in their adventure-spa philosophy. The private adobe cottages of Awasi Atacama provide an alternative, more boutique offering, with the finest customised excursions set up for all guests and a highly personalised service making this among the best retreats in South America.
A great rail journey comes with an implied air of romance and grandeur. As you’re carried through stunning scenery, the landscapes rolling past your windows, suited attendants serve up champagne delights and a gourmet dining experience, informed by the train’s route. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a step back to the glamour of the 1920s, complete with impeccable white-gloved service, fine dining experiences and truly stunning interiors. Although the service between London and Venice is the iconic, classic journey, routes also link Verona, Budapest and Vienna for an equally romantic escape. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the original, nine-day journey from London to Istanbul, the height of indulgence with added historical relevancy.
Outside of Europe, Rovos Rail in South Africa provides the continent’s smartest sleeper train, with services between Cape Town and Pretoria. Here, attention to detail is paramount. A gong precedes lunch and dinner and, if you let the staff know what you like to drink, they’ll stock it in your private compartment. The attendant assigned to your car will take care of pressing your laundry and there are even goggles in your cabin so you can stick your head out of the window to marvel at the landscapes. Regardless of the wonders of the train, the region itself is the main draw, with some of the world’s finest wildlife-viewing on offer.
The same can be said of the Andes, which provide the backdrop for the Belmond Andean Explorer, South America’s first sleeper train. Rumbling from Cusco to Arequipa, it connects many of Peru’s big-ticket sites. Keep an eye out for condors, toast spotting them with a perfect pisco sour or head to the Observation Car located in the caboose for a cocktail under the stars. Don’t forget to bring the baby alpaca wrap left in your room as it’s cold in the mountains. Then, retire to the onboard spa ahead of dinner and, after eating, fall asleep at 14,000ft ready to awake in unforgettable surroundings.
A private yacht or an expedition-style cruise to a remote or unusual region is an excellent way to combine adventure and insight. Indeed, the most intimate and exclusive way of exploring the great limestone pinnacles of Vietnam’s Halong Bay is onboard a traditional junk, with the Halong Violet among the finest offerings. Boat trips will bring you to deserted beaches and unspoilt fishing villages, Tai Chi classes immerse you in your surroundings and Vietnamese cookery classes connect you with the local flavours. That’s if you can tear yourself away from the epic sunsets. For the ultimate romantic escape though, you can’t beat the Princess Junk. It features just a single suite and a crew of five that include your own private tour guide, chef and waiter.
Then, in Indonesia, board the Alila Purnama to explore the Spice Islands. This superyacht masquerading as a traditional phinisi schooner appeals to those with a taste for adventure, offering kayaking, snorkelling, paddle boarding and scuba diving alongside picnic lunches and intimate beach barbecues. Alternatively, secure a berth on the MV Stella Australis to explore the fissured collection of waterways and fjords in Patagonia, drifting between Argentina and Chile in the lee of great mountains and permanent icefields. Want to explore the world’s great waterways instead? Take to the Aria Amazon in Peru, Aqua Mekong in South East Asia or The Strand Cruise in Myanmar to drift through history and landscapes in complete immersion. You’ll stop to undertake shore excursions throughout in between watching out for wildlife, soaking in the outdoor Jacuzzi and sampling the delicious local dishes whipped up by the chef.