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
It’s time to update your bucket list. One of our favorite travel trends this year is finding luxury in far flung places. Our picks are more than just Instagram-worthy spots to visit. We chose them to help you connect with a destination in a meaningful way.
With 7,000 years of history, this island-nation is having a moment. The industry darling has seen tourism soar by 35% in the past year alone. The trend should continue for the 2018 European Capital of Culture, home to one of the largest concentrations of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From ornate Baroque architecture, a world-class dive site, and Mediterranean cuisine, there is plenty to explore. Accommodations range from boutique and luxury hotels, to palazzos, villas, and 400-year-old farm houses.
Colombia wins our vote for best destination of discovery. The Andean beauty excels in all travel touch points: culture, food, history, outdoor adventure, and nightlife. Bogota is buzzing with nuevo Colombiano fare and world class museums. Northwest of the capital, gracious haciendas dot the mountainsides of the Coffee Triangle. Cartagena captivates with colonial charm. Island hoppers can enjoy the unspoiled beauty of San Andres and Providencia. And adventurers can explore the natural treasures of the Amazon.
Two decades after a brutal civil war, Rwanda has emerged as one of the world’s safest countries, according to the World Economic Forum. Trekking with mountain gorilla is the draw here, and the country is committed to building a high-end tourism business. One&Only Resorts is set to open two hotly anticipated luxury lodges. The 22-room Nyungwe House is named after one of the world’s most ancient forests, and home to chimpanzees galore. One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is cushioned in the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range, where the rare and majestic mountain gorilla roams free.
With a stunning stretch of Caribbean coastline, Nicaragua is on the brink of ‘discovery.’ Go now while the country’s colonial towns, wide lakes, awesome volcanoes, tropical islands, pristine beaches and friendly locals leave visitors feeling like a pioneer in one of the region’s least known, yet beautiful destinations. Eco-friendly resorts like Nekupe, Mukul and Jicaro Island Lodge are paving the way for a new type of luxury.
Ready for under-the-radar European luxury? Switzerland’s reputation as a financial powerhouse has long overshadowed this all-season destination, whose incredible natural beauty, wellness expertise, and vibrant cultural scene deserve attention. Indulge in Zurich’s exploding culinary scene. Discover Basel’s fantastic art museums. Experience the thrill of skiing in the Andermatt. And pamper yourself at the newly renovated Grand Resort at Bad Ragaz, a mecca of thermal wellness and healing since 1869.
CANOUAN, THE GRENADINES
If you haven’t yet heard of this tiny island playground of the rich and famous, you will now. Mandarin Oriental just took over the Pink Sands Club, a posh resort with 26 lavish suites and 6 villas. A mere five-square miles, the former British colony is home to white sand beaches, lush hills, and one of the longest barrier reefs in the Caribbean.
Getting your Asia fix is easier than ever thanks to new non-stop flights to Chengdu from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The capital of China’s Sichuan province is grabbing attention for its big-city feel yet relaxed vibe. A paradise for international shopping and gastronomy, the city also has plenty of outdoor pursuits. Chengdu is the panda capital of China. If your dream is to volunteer with the cuddly Giant Pandas, a visit here is a dream come true. Stay at Temple House, a sanctuary of cutting-edge design and ancient tradition.
The ultimate party city is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. If you need a good excuse to let the good times roll in 2018, now’s your chance. The Tricentennial has a whopping 160 festivals planned throughout the year – all focusing on the city’s rich history. Some exciting boutique hotels are cropping up including the NOPSI Hotel (sister property to Middleburg, VA’s historic Salamander Resort) in the CBD. The riverfront will be the site of the new Four Seasons Hotel in 2019.
The ancient Silk Road spanned from China to Turkey. Three of its major points – Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand – are found in Uzbekistan. Thanks to a growing interest in international tourism, landmarks have been painstakingly restored to their former glory. History buffs can marvel at medieval mosques, ancient forts, and intricate mosaics. A metro system will help you get around the capital Tashkent. High speed trains and modern roads link the cities.
THE ARCTIC AND ANTARCTICA
Two of the most remote regions on the planet are easier than ever to access in style this year. Luxury cruise lines such as Crystal, Ponant, Quark, and Silversea are introducing purpose-built expedition ships that offer a bird’s eye view of the fragile ecosystems in the Arctic and Antarctica. With the polar ice caps rapidly changing, this once in a lifetime experience is more urgent than ever.