The changing face of travel offers a bouquet of experiences, designed to give you the getaway
of your dreams.
By ANAND KAPOOR
The way we travel has changed over the last few years. Driven by a deep sense of purpose, we have become more discerning of how we spend our precious few days of a much-needed break each year. And since the idea of a fun holiday is different for each person, a vacation can range from fulfilling a long-held desire, to giving back to society and the planet, or even learning a new skill. Regardless of your idea of the ideal getaway, it’s likely to fall under one of three main categories: aspirational, experiential, and inspirational.
The flavour of the season! Most travellers are constantly seeking that one dream experience—a bucket list, luxury holiday they have saved up for and want to relish and enjoy. A trip on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is an aspirational favourite for many. Nothing expresses romantic luxury and old-world charm like a train journey across Europe. Operated by Belmond courtesy of LVMH, this ultra-luxurious adventure features a series of specially commissioned suites, each inspired by a European city: Paris, Venice, Istanbul, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. Every suite contains a double bed (something truly unusual on a train), a lounge area, and a full bathroom. One of its most popular routes culminates in Venice, where you can continue the experience by staying at the Cipriani, a Belmond property, where they can arrange a private breakfast or sunset drinks at the Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
For a taste of the regal life, the 800-year-old Ashford Castle in Ireland is a royal deal to please the senses. Step back in time at this living and working ‘museum’, straight out of Downton Abbey. Considered one of the most plush and romantic hotels in the world, a weekend with your loved one here will be a memory that’ll last a lifetime. The current property owes much of its existence to the Guinness family, founders of the famous Irish Stout, who hosted some of the most influential and famous people in its heyday. Activities mirror the pastimes of its erstwhile inhabitants and include shooting, boating, golf, and riding. To add to the romanticism, Ashford has created a sumptuous hideaway cottage in its vast and magical grounds. Whether you go for a second honeymoon or your first, it’s a memory that will last forever and will look great on your Instagram feed!
While there is a fine line between aspirational and experiential travel, the latter definitely deserves its own category as it’s not just about luxury but immersion, as well. This involves gaining a close understanding of local cultures, cuisines, and more. Gastronomical experiences are at the top of the list. The Amanwella, a luxe beach resort in Sri Lanka, takes fishing for your own supper to another level. As the sun glides over the ocean at 6 am, join Wasantha, a local fisherman, to learn the traditional handline method of fishing. After engaging in the activity for about two to three hours, you can bring back whatever you catch. You can then either work with the hotel’s chef or you can leave it to them to prepare a sumptuous feast to enjoy on the beach! This is also a great way to bond with kids and get them to understand a new culture whilst getting to know the locals and learning about their livelihood—and you will never take a fish supper for granted again!
The cultural heritage of Japan is beguiling, to say the least. And the Nakasendo Trail, an ancient route between Tokyo and Kyoto, is a great trip with friends, solo, or with older kids. The route offers a five-day walk, and you can stay at uniquely Japanese ryokans (traditional inns) along the way for a truly authentic experience. When in Tokyo, make a short stop at the Kanagawa district, only an hour away, and experience Gora Kadan, a showcase property that takes the traditional ryokan experience to the next level. A great way to pamper yourself after the trek! It’s no secret that the Middle East is a veritable feast for the senses. The historic capital of AlUla in Saudi Arabia encompasses several key towns along an ancient trading route, including Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit here gives you the opportunity to experience mystical tombs, dramatic sandstone outcrops, and traditional dwellings amongst rarefied monuments, both natural and man-made. This travel through time, best witnessed by living and staying in the area, serves as a great couples’ adventure.
One of the most luxurious ways of doing this is at the dramatic, tented villas of the Banyan Tree AlUla, a desert retreat in Ashar Valley. The surrounding rock formations and the stillness of the setting are almost cathartic in the sense of timelessness they inspire.
From being cathartic to positively transformational, this form of travel has a self-reaffirming effect on the soul. And it allows you to give back to the world, either environmentally or physically. Moreover, it can be as diverse as finding inner peace to renovating historic buildings. For those seeking an adventure to a hidden kingdom, scenic Bhutan is the place to be. Staying with a local family at their farmhouse provides an insight into why this is the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’. Experiencing the daily rituals of the villagers, participating in cultivation and harvesting activities alongside farmers, picking seasonal fruits and vegetables, and eating authentic Bhutanese dishes make for a truly immersive experience, and allow for a greater understanding of the global community and our individual role in it.
If the environment and sustainability appeal to you and your partner, then the two sister properties of Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia and Shinta Mani Mustang in Nepal may just be what you are looking for. These luxury camps present the creative ethos of world-renowned architect Bill Bensley, combining world-class design with holistic conservation. While Shinta Mani Mustang is both a cultural and spiritual journey set within the remote unspoilt Mustang Valley of
the Himalayas, Shinta Mani Wild engulfs you in a jungle environment amongst waterfalls, dense forests, and stunning views. Staying here allows you to be actively or passively involved in preservation as it funds the community. Head out on a patrol with the forest rangers
or participate in any of the ongoing research projects. Either way, your stay has a direct impact on protecting the local flora and fauna whilst you luxuriate in the care and attention offered by the property. Essentially, whichever direction your desires and travel dreams take you, there is always a perfect holiday fit. You just need to find it.