It's hard to believe it’s already December! With the holiday season fully underway, we’re featuring some of our favorite places to unwind in front of a fireplace this winter—hopefully with some of your favorite people. Speaking of winter, we’re highlighting a recent trip to the Scandinavian Arctic, complete with a viewing of the Northern Lights. Beaches more your speed? We’ve got the lowdown on some of the best hotels in Anguilla. From all of us at First in Service, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. Cheers to 2019!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Our annual Hot List is always an F1S favorite to create. After much discussion from our resident experts and clients, we present the 10 places you should visit this year. Our criteria ranges from emerging destinations, notable events in 2017, and an influx of luxury properties.
If the name is unfamiliar now, it won’t be for much longer. Our new First Lady hails from this strikingly beautiful country next to Italy. The size of Massachusetts, this European gem boasts a diverse landscape, delicious food and wine, and affordable luxury. Plus it’s only an hour’s drive from the Venice airport.
K-beauty, kimchi and the upcoming Winter Olympics are all trending. Why not get ahead of the curve and head straight to the source? South Korea’s capital blends old and new. Ancient palaces co-exist with towering skyscrapers. Public transportation is world-class. Work up an appetite by hiking along the stunning mountains. Then indulge in the red-hot food scene at night.
Canada turns 150 this year, and the national parks are free. One very special way to celebrate is onboard the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer. Guests travel through some of the most majestic passages of the Canadian Rockies. The flagship journey begins in Vancouver and ends in the Rocky Mountain resort towns of Banff and Lake Louise.
Guatemala is a perfect postcard for Central America. The magnificent ancient ruins of Tikal. The emerald-green Lake Atitlan surrounded by active volcanoes. Colorful colonial towns like Antigua. What it lack in tourists, it makes up for in raw beauty. Boutique hotels like La Lancha are not only luxurious but also eco-friendly.
Sado Island, Japan
While Kanazawa is getting a lot of attention for its up-and-coming arts scene, this tiny – and remote – island stole our hearts. Visitors can expect to be swept away by an untouched way of life – with farming, fishing, and a strong music culture. Enjoy traditional family inns, authentic cooking and easy insider access. Don’t expect luxury. Do expect amazing value and charm. The journey from Tokyo is about 3.5 hours by train and hydrofoil.
The Cook Islands are a castaway’s paradise. While Fiji and French Polynesia grab the attention, this South Pacific archipelago won’t be under the radar for long. Its 15 tiny islands only hold 18,000 inhabitants. Aitutaki is the most fabled of the islands with lagoons rivaling Bora Bora. Welcoming locals, the addition of upscale properties, and a laid-back charm make it ideal for both families and honeymooners. Air New Zealand’s recent launch of its 777 nonstop from LA will definitely catch on.
The small country of Oman packs in plenty for the adventure traveler who craves luxury. This year more 5-star international hotels will open than ever before, including Anantara and Kempinski. The rugged landscape is both lush and mountainous, with beaches and desert. Sports enthusiasts can try dune-bashing, wadi-bashing, mountain biking, and camel riding. The blend of ancient tradition and Arabian hospitality add to its allure.
Getting to this wonder of the world has never been easier. Last month, LATAM Airlines introduced air service into Puerto Natales, eliminating the need for a stopover and extra driving time. Now visitors to the 935-square-mile Torres del Paine National Park can spend more time in awe of Mother Nature instead of at the airport. We recommend Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, just by the park entrance.
Tanzania has more than earned its fabled reputation. Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Great Migration. The pristine isles of Zanzibar. And the lost world of Ngotongoro, home to the endangered black rhino. The crater floor of this volcanic range is teeming with the world’s greatest biodiversity. Asilia’s new Highlands Camp in the Ngotongoro Conservation Area is part of a new breed of luxury camps. Enjoy sweeping views from the comfort of your domed suite, complete with king beds, double showers and wood-burning stoves.
Can one island really have it all? Gaze into the Indian Ocean along pristine beaches. Spend a day whale watching or on safari. Explore ancient sites. Visit the famous tea plantations. Adventurers can hike up the Rock Fortress in Sigiriya. Seafood lovers can indulge in the catch of the day – every day. There are plenty of chic and contemporary resorts with winning hospitality.