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
True, the world is getting smaller. But there are still so many new paths to uncover, local flavors to sample, and customs to share. Our list this year celebrates beauty around the globe. From timeless natural wonders, to hidden gems, to changing urban landscapes. Get out there and make the most of the year ahead.
Machu Picchu may feature on all the postcards, but Peru boasts no less than 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – from the lesser-known northern ruins of Chan Chan to the colonial charm of Cusco. Visitors are also catching on to its booming gastronomic scene. With Lima home to three of the World’s Top 50 Best Restaurants in 2015, there’s never been a better time to discover the culinary capital of South America and explore the unrivaled variety Peru has to offer.
U.S. NATIONAL PARKS
There are 407 breathtakingly diverse national parks in America. This year’s 100th anniversary of the National Park Service makes it a perfect time to celebrate the wealth of beauty in our own back yard. From the sculpted towers of Lower Antelope Canyon to the glowing lava in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, nature lovers have plenty to explore.
Thanks to rapid expansion of the Panama Canal, this fascinating country is opening doors for luxury and adventure travel. Non-stop flights from New York make it an easy weekend getaway. Old Panama City has the timeless charm of Cuba. In just over an hour from the city, land smack in the rainforest. Explore the lovely colonial port town of Portobello, a UNESCO heritage site. For something really special, take a cruise through the Bocas del Toro islands, passing charming villages and exotic wildlife along the way.
This legendary border between Zambia and Zimbabwe also happens to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Arrive by air, road or on the luxurious Rovos Rail and stay at a choice of five star lodges nearby. Once you’ve explored the largest curtain of water in the world, and had your fill of white water rafting and gorge swimming, a safari is an easy add-on.
It’s easier than ever to hit the “Spice Isle” with nonstop Delta and Jet Blue flights from JFK airport.
Nicknamed for forests fragrant with nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa, this former British colony is gaining appeal with Americans thanks to a variety of activities and top notch accommodations including Spice Island Beach Resort and Calabash Hotel & Spa. Hike through the rainforest to Seven Sisters waterfalls, explore any of the 15 shipwreck dives, or visit the world’s first underwater sculpture park.
Italy is the number one destination for F1S leisure clients. But where to go once you’ve hit the classic highlights? We think Puglia is the under-the-radar answer. The high heel of Italy’s boot is best known for its beaches, but has everything from UNESCO heritage sites, to castles, unique shopping, gastronomy and nightlife. Spend the night in a cave hotel, tour the medieval towns behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo, or harvest olives in Italy’s largest olive oil producing region.
Vibrant and alive describe Spain’s capital, a city which blends majestic avenues and royal landmarks with an effortless cool in culture, food and fashion. We’re thrilled to make it home to our newest office as well. The food scene has been blowing our minds – from the bustling tapas bars to the Michelin-starred restaurants and gourmet markets bursting with goodies. Later this month, food lovers will rejoice at Gastrofestival Madrid, a two-week culinary celebration by 400 local establishments. The art scene is equally vibrant from the Prado to indie galleries to the upcoming ARCO Madrid contemporary art fair in February. We can’t wait.
YUNNAN PROVINCE, CHINA
With China tourism continuing to open up, lesser known regions such as Yunnan province are piquing our interest. In this southwest region lies the mythical Shangri-La, as well Dali and Lijiang, all known for their untouched beauty, while offering luxury accommodations. The brand new Amandayan Hotel is ideally perched below Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang. The exquisite Banyan Tree Ringha is set high in the Himalayas in Shangri-La. Yunnan is also home to three of China’s most famous rivers – the Yangtze, the Pearl and the Mekong, which host an abundance of incredible animal and plant species.
If a South Pacific getaway is your idea of heaven, Fiji is the answer. There are 333 islands in the archipelago, including the slice of paradise from the Tom Hanks film “Cast Away.” Naturally there are day trips to visit it. There is plenty to do – or not – for families and couples alike. Scuba diving is the most popular activity with some of the best coral reef diving in the world. Luxury options range from private islands resorts to beautiful thatched-roof bure huts in eco-friendly sanctuaries. Enjoy beach combing, snorkeling safaris, world class golfing and island hopping. Or visit one of the traditional villages for a warm welcome.
NINGALOO REEF, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
While the Great Barrier Reef gets worldwide attention, Ningaloo Reef on the northwest coast is one of Australia’s best kept secrets. It’s truly a haven for eco-tourism. One of our favorite inspirations is Sal Salis, a luxury bush camp, which is the perfect base to explore the pristine wilderness above and below the sea. Swim with whale sharks and humpback whales (new in 2016). Or step back in time at nearby Mandu Mandu gorge, where fossils and artifacts tell the 30,000 year history of human habitation.