Can you remember a time when your days were spent marveling at the world around you? When afternoon naps were a daily occurrence and evenings were passed beside the flickering amber flames of a camp fire? When playtime was so all consuming that time seemed to disappear?
How long ago was it? Days? Months? Decades? Since childhood? Never?
For me, it was less than a month ago on safari in Botswana.
At Inkaterra, they’d never leave us stranded on a muddy riverbank for more than an hour waiting for a wayward boat.
At Inkaterra, they provide complimentary flashlights and organic bug repellant.
At Inkaterra, the kerosene lanterns were clean and gleaming, not coated with black soot so thick they barely illuminate the room…
The comparisons kept surfacing. I couldn’t seem to help myself. That’s the problem with great service; you’re forever doomed to compare everything else to that standard. Once spoiled by five-star treatment, every inefficiency and oversight in the competition becomes glaringly obvious.
Such was the case for me recently after two separate stays with Peruvian luxury hotelier, Inkaterra.
From breathtaking voyages through the icy waters of Antarctica and an incredible wildlife cruise through the Galapagos islands, to sailing through the beautiful remote islands of the Indonesian archipelago and touring the African bush aboard your own floating hotel, traveling by boat is a great way to take the stress out of a vacation and to explore some of our planet’s last frontiers.
Looking for ideas for your next vacation? Here’s an A-list of luxury cruises handpicked by the travel specialists at Exsus Luxury Holidays.
There’s something lavishly indulgent about checking in to a luxurious hotel with the singular intent to settle in and relax. No early morning wake up calls. No planned excursions. No returning home more exhausted than you arrived.
Such was the case recently when my husband and I checked in to Peru’s Aranwa Sacred Valley spa hotel for a peaceful getaway.
Arriving to eleven thousand feet in elevation during a Cusco winter requires certain indulgences: oxygen-infused air, heated floors, relaxing spa treatments, late mornings and long afternoon naps.
Lodgings are scattered up and down the steep streets of the ancient Inca city. But we selected the 43-room Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel, stylishly converted from a 16th century mansion, as much for its modern conveniences –oxygen-enriched rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi,and heated flooring–as its sophisticated aesthetic and ideal downtown address.
There are a few places so special, so unique, so dreamy that I can’t help but recommend them to everyone and anyone: Jicaro Island Ecolodge, a tropical private island hideaway in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, is one of those places.
It’s been a few months since we left Nicaragua behind for continued travel in Latin America and extended stays in Ecuador and, now, Peru. Yet I frequently find my thoughts traveling back to our time at Jicaro - awakening to the roar of howler monkeys, morning cups of coffee enjoyed on our casita’s private deck, daily massages at the lakeside spa, sunset paddles in the shadow of sleeping Volcán Mambacho, and delicious meals of innovative organic Nicaraguan cuisine.
What makes Jicaro so special? That’s easy…
“How long are you staying?”
It’s a common question among hotel guests in foreign lands.
“Three months,” however, is not a common response.
We fielded this question often during our recent three-month stay at Hotel la Bocona, the intimate six guest room boutique hotel in Granada, Nicaragua, we called home this winter.
Hotel living wasn’t the original plan, but when finding a vacation rental got complicated, we decided to get creative. Even for gypsy travelers like us, though, committing to an extended hotel stay, sight unseen, was a bit of a leap.
We liked the fact that the hotel was set in a private beautifully restored colonial mansion and that half our room rate would go towards the support of a local educational and charitable organization. We liked that it was situated two blocks off Granada’s bustling Central Park in one of the city’s most historic and fashionable residential neighborhoods, putting the city at our doorstep. And, we liked that the room was a palatial 1,400 square-feet with soaring ceilings, hand-painted tile floors and two king sized beds.
Exploding fireworks. Tolling bells. High volume music. Tooting car horns. Sound is omnipresent in Latin America; the vibrant soundtrack of every day life. But from the cozy sling of a hammock on the veranda of a private casita at Hacienda Puerta del Cielo Ecolodge & Spa, it felt as if Nicaragua had gone silent.
It was early December, mid-way through a three-month stay in the nearby Colonial city of Granada where the town had been rocking for days in boisterous preparation of the upcoming Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebration. At the Hacienda, however, perched atop a remote hillside with unimpeded views of tangled jungle, smoldering volcano and glistening lake, there wasn’t even a whiff of noise on the balmy breeze. As if to make the point, soundless butterflies the size of dessert plates fluttered about the resort gardens.
A movie trailer of experiences – snorkeling with rollicking sea lions, hiking among giant cacti, photographing leaping dolphins, and whales so close you can hear them breathe– replays often in my mind’s eye as high-definition and heart-pounding as any Hollywood production.
It’s been months since our yacht adventure in Mexico’s nature-rich Sea of Cortés, but the mind-movies surface often– triggered by conversation, photographs, or the sheer joy of conjuring up images of one of our planet’s most amazing places.
There’s something soul-soothing about a vacation where Mother Nature takes center stage. Where, amidst the wind, clouds, sunrises and unrestrained land and seascapes, the daily drama and media headlines take a backseat to wonder and awe. American Safari Cruises’ voyage through one of the world’s richest marine environments brings Nature up-close-and-personal.
Discover the Pampered Side of Ecuador At Exclusive Haciendas
World-class spas. Healing hot springs. Glamorous hacienda accommodations. Just because you’re eager to discover Ecuador’s rich and colorful past, doesn’t mean you have to forfeit contemporary service, cuisine and comfort. Well, that’s what Judy Carvalhal, founder of Ecuador travel outfitter, Enchanted Expeditions, believes.
Luxury travelers can now discover the Pampered Side of Ecuador on Enchanted Expeditions’ new hacienda hopping package.
Just outside La Paz, Mexico, Costa Baja Resort & Spa has upped the luxury ante in a region of Baja California still delightfully undiscovered.
I’d been running full throttle for months when my husband, Hank, and I booked a pre-cruise stay at Costa Baja Resort & Spa in La Paz, Mexico. Somewhere between preparations for a year (or more) of nomadic wandering in Central and South America (more soon!) and looming deadlines, I decided that a pre-adventure respite in a luxurious resort would be the perfect place to kick back for a few days.
There are many who mock a resort stay (too mainstream, not for serious travelers)…for the very seclusion I was hoping to find. There’s something about exquisite service, tranquility and gracious hospitality that soothes a life-exhausted soul.
Hot on the heels of being voted No. 1 in Canada on the Condé Nast Traveler 2011 Gold List, King Pacific Lodge, A Rosewood Resort, has announced a romantic summer getaway for couples, epitomising the very ‘best of the best’ at this floating wilderness lodge. Their new ‘Treat Them Like Royalty’ romance package celebrates the sublime experiences that King Pacific Lodge is lauded for: an inspirational environment, high-octane adventures and lavish accommodations.
The adventure begins with arrival by floatplane right to the dock, and continues with a heli-picnic on a private island with white sand beaches, bounded by turquoise waters. Couples are treated to a private dinner, created by a dedicated chef who customizes every dish; an in-room couples massage; and a private wilderness concierge to assist with planning adventures from kayaking to whale watching. Digs for the stay - 1750 sq ft and two floors of luxury - will be the heavenly Princess Royal Suite, with panoramic views of the ocean, the rainforest and the nearby waterfall.
Part Western commerce center, part culture capital, Denver exemplifies the art of relaxed urbanity. It’s sophisticated but not pretentious: small-town friendly but not provincial.
Beyond hightailing it to the mountains via Denver International Airport, it had been years since I’d visited the Mile High City. But a recent pre-ski city break revealed a hip, oft-overlooked and glitzy inner-city scene that’s channeling that Western charm into new restaurants, upscale boutiques and art galleries.
The latest star in Denver’s upscale vibe is the city’s most exclusive address - the Ritz-Carlton Denver. Just two blocks from the city’s fashionable heart and mile-long café-filled pedestrian promenade, the 16th Street Mall, the luxury hotel is an ideal base for travelers seeking to add a little Town to an up-Country visit.
Listed below are a few of my favorite discoveries and reason enough to add a Denver City Break to your next Colorado vacation.
In the film, THE HOLIDAY, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet play two strangers, one living in England and the other in Los Angeles, who agree to swap homes temporarily. If you’re like many moviegoers who came out of the film dreaming of starring in your own luxury home swap, now you can.
The movie became one of the inspirations for one of the hottest travel trends this season, Luxe Home Swap where luxury homeowners can get the most out of their vacations by swapping in style. Whether you fancy skiing in the Rocky Mountains or winter sun in the Caribbean, Luxe Home Swap is the savvy traveler’s way to holiday in style and blend in like a local.
My husband, Hank, and I are big fans of home exchanges and have been able to enjoy extended stays in exotic locales, for little more than the cost of staying home, as a result. And while home exchange websites have been around for decades, Luxe Home Swap has come up with a model that levels the playing field for swappers with style.
Luxe Home Swap is the brainchild of entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow, who came up with the idea when she was thinking about booking a winter vacation away for her and her family. Debbie was sick of spending 80% of her travel budget on a hotel, where she still wouldn’t feel like it was a home away from home.
“I took a look at the main home exchange sites out there, put my home up on a few of them and found that there was a real problem. When I listed my funky home in Marylebone, Central London on a few of the sites, I was bombarded with 30 to 40 messages a day from people with properties that didn’t match with mine asking me to swap,” says Wosskow. “I then looked for other nice homes, and there were some there but they were really difficult to find. Plus the existing home exchange sites looked horrible and obviously had been built a long time ago. Clearly it wasn’t the same glossy experience as booking through a travel agent. So I came up with the idea for Luxe Home Swap – a stylish home exchange site for people with homes they’re proud of that lets you holiday like a local
How to erase the stress of 30 travel hours? Hotel du Vin, Glasgow. Superb Scottish hospitality and pampered comfort.
We’ve all been there. Dazed and confused after hours, or days, of travel. Barely functioning and in desperate need of a warm welcome and a pillow-top bed. Gone are the days when I could arrive and hit the pavement running. Instead, I’ve taken to landing for a couple nights in a cushy retreat and easing into the local time zone.
With 30 travel hours behind me, the Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens proved to be exactly the respite I’d hoped for and more. From the moment I stepped into the fire-warmed reception lounge and greeted with a soothing dram of whisky, I felt like the favored house guest of a gracious host.
Located in a Victorian terrace in the fashionable West End of Glasgow—with monumental stain-glassed halls and room décors that range from opulent suites to a discreetly elegant style—the luxury boutique hotel is spread out internally over five three-story town houses.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s taken me a decade to get here. ‘Here’ being the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, one of the nation’s best resort spas, located on secluded tribal land in the New Mexico high desert near Albuquerque, less than 200 miles from my home. It’s enchanting, culturally authentic, and a road trip away. Throw in gorgeous landscapes, Native art, indigenous spa treatments, nationally ranked golf, award-winning dining, and it’s easy to see why the resort topped our wish list when my husband, Hank, and I decided to look locally for a weekend getaway. We couldn’t have chosen better.
We moved to New Mexico from the East Coast a dozen years ago and have explored more of it than many native New Mexicans, but it still feels exotic and slightly alien, another world altogether. More than its legendary land and sky, New Mexico is an ancient, mystical place that seems to bypass my head and go straight to my heart.
Tamaya, known as “a quiet and special place,” is a small Pueblo with a rich history dating back more than 1,000 years. Today, the old Pueblo of Tamaya lies on the north bank of the Jemez River on the Santa Ana Pueblo, nine miles from the resort.
Receive the Royal Treatment in South Africa With South African Airlines Vacations ‘Safari Royale’ Air-Inclusive Vacation Package
South African Airways Vacations is offering a package fit for royalty, with nine days of 5-star luxury stays in Cape Town with tours, plus a safari and flights on South African Airways, Africa’s most awarded airline. The “Safari Royale” package features four nights at the 5-star Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Residence, a lavish enclave in the heart of Cape Town’s metropolis. Its intimate and relaxed atmosphere will serve as a regal retreat after days filled with excitement experiencing all the spectacular attractions that Cape Town has to offer. A full-day Cape Peninsula Tour and a half-day Winelands Tour included in the package will ensure that guests get to experience the must-see vistas of the Cape region.
After time spent at the “Fairest Cape,” guests will jet off to the Savanna Private Game Reserve at Mpumalanga in Kruger National Park. Situated in the famous Sabi Sand Reserve area of Kruger, a stay in the lodge’s 5-star luxury suites, plus outstanding safari cuisine and game drives with exceptional opportunities to view the Big 5
We’re just back from a stay at Seattle’s quintessential waterfront lodge, the Edgewater Hotel. Perched above the waters of Elliott Bay on Pier 67, the luxurious landmark was the perfect compliment to an Alaska wilderness voyage. The hotel topped the charts in both service and location.
Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Edgewater Hotel is Seattle’s only waterfront hotel and a local favorite. My Seattle friends had nothing but compliments for the legendary landmark and its award-winning Six Seven restaurant. With good reason. Dining at Six Seven, watching the buzz of harbor traffic cruise by, was as delightful an experience as it was delicious. An innovative menu highlights seafood, meats and produce sourced from throughout the Pacific Northwest. The organic sea asparagus from neighboring Bainbridge Island that accompanied our Alaska halibut and king crab legs was a standout. The combination of salt and sea with the fresh sweetness of the seafood had us talking about the meal for days afterwards.