Travel expert Marc Fitchett picks his top five luxury destinations
Personal travel counsellor Marc Fitchett has been offering expert independent travel advice for more than 13 years. The travel guru’s knowledge of the luxury travel industry is second to none, so much so that he launched is own independent travel consultancy, Travel Counsellors, in 2006. With a CV so decorated, we thought there would be no one more qualified to pick out the top five luxury travel destinations for 2016.
Amazing wildlife, vibrant cities and world-class wines, South Africa has it all in abundance. This large, diverse and incredibly beautiful country is one of Africa’s premier safari destinations and home of the world famous Garden Route.
South Africa has so much to offer the traveller and with an excellent infrastructure and a growing number of first class resorts, hotels and guest houses, it’s easy to tour the country. Experiences and landscapes vary from the raw tropical coast of northern KwaZulu-Natal to the incredible Kruger National Park, home to the Big Five in the north east.
South Africa offers a diverse geography and a fascinating history. The Western and Eastern Cape is best visited in the warmer months from November to April whilst Johannesburg, Durban and Kruger are more comfortable in the cooler months of May to October. Most visitors come to drive the Garden Route or visit the country’s natural bush and pristine beaches, but there are plenty of fine restaurants, art and culture here too.
Cape Town and the iconic Table Mountain are a must on any visitors list and the views from this majestic mountain are truly awe inspiring. Take a trip to the Robben Island museum where Nelson Mandela was held captive and learn all about South African history at the District Six Museum. Discover fine food, smooth jazz, lush vineyards and world class dining, it’s all here in one beautiful package.
Here’s a small snapshot about on what South Africa can offer you, so you can make sure you come home with amazing memories, instead of a bunch of those dreaded what ifs!
Catch an aerial cable car up the iconic Table Mountain for a bird’s eye view of the City Bowl. There plenty of walking trails to explore and if you’d like to stay longer, then you can spend up to five nights in tented camps hiking the Hoerikwaggo Trail.
THE GARDEN ROUTE
The world famous Garden Route is a beautiful mix of ancient forests, modern golf courses, mountain hideaways, beaches and modern malls. The route is extremely scenic with humpback whales and dolphins frequently spotted. Enjoy miles of wild coastline, National Parks and a superb choice of accommodation on this unforgettable journey.
THE CAPE WINELANDS
Just an hour’s scenic drive from Cape Town and the famous Cape Winelands feels like a different world. Rolling vineyards, historic wine estates and towering mountains form the perfect backdrop in which to enjoy wine tasting at a huge choice of rural gems.
THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The world renowned Kruger National Park offers one of the best wildlife experiences in Africa. Truly the flagship of South African parks it is home to an impressive number of species including the Big Five. Aside from incredible wildlife, there’s bushman rock paintings and majestic archaeological sites just waiting to be explored.
My Favourite Hotels
The 12 Apostles
One&Only Cape Town
When considering a far-flung exotic holiday destination, Mexico always ranks near the top of the list. And while this may well be because of the truly exceptional luxury holiday resorts nestling against the picture perfect beaches of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, this country is able to boast so much more besides its tropical sands.
From the party hotspots of Cancun and Playa del Carmen to the exclusivity of Nuevo Vallarta and Playacar, across over ten thousand kilometres of the Mexican coastline, there’s a resort to amaze and astound beach lovers of all varieties. But while the scintillating sands of the Caribbean coast are beloved by millions, the Pacific coast of Mexico is simply awe-inspiring. Where else but Mexico could you snorkel in crystal-clear waters while humpback whales break the glistening surf?
To experience Mexico, it’s important to spend time uncovering the timeless mysteries of some of the country’s earliest civilisations. Mercifully, some of the best examples are just a short journey from some of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most popular holiday resort centres. The site of Tulum is best visited shortly after sunrise, when you get a real sense of the majestic of the city. But if you visit just one, Chichen Itza is a simply spectacular experience by anyone’s definition.
Many people visit Mexico and don’t venture further than its developed Caribbean coast and the mystique of the most prominent Mayan sites. These people might never know the joys of truly authentic Mexican villages, towns and cities, and their warm and welcoming inhabitants. From the bustle of Mexico City to the colonial charm of Oaxaca, Mexico has wondrous treats in store for those who go beyond the fringes.
Here’s a small snapshot about on what Mexico can offer you, so you can make sure you come home with amazing memories, instead of a bunch of those dreaded what ifs!
The coastline along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is some of the finest in the Americas. Not only will you find immaculate white sand beaches and some of the world’s best waters for diving, but there are fascinating Mayan sites to explore.
Mexico has a cultural heritage spanning back over ten thousand years – and many of the region’s earliest civilisations left a mark which remains to this day. You’ll never be far from an ancient Mayan city or a grand Aztec settlement.
Forget what you think you know about Mexican food – the chain restaurant fayre is a world from the truth. While exploring this incredible country, don’t leave without trying chilaquiles, pozole and tamales. But of course, the enchiladas are the best you’ll ever taste.
Beyond the blissful beaches and humid jungle mountains, Mexico City remains one of the most exhilarating cities in the world. In a metropolitan area numbering over 21 million people, the city is energetic, diverse and an absolute must visit on any extended Mexican itinerary.
My Favourite Hotels
Secrets The Vine
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort by Palace Resorts
Secrets Playa Mujeres
Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa
Zoetry Villa Rolandi
Thailand is Asia in miniature, representing its natural beauty, incredible culture and history as well as some of the warmest people you could ever wish to meet. With such diversity, the only question is which side of Thailand do you want to see first?
Between tropical jungles, chaotic cities and a heavenly coastline, Thailand has rich rewards for the adventurous. Beach fans will also be in their element, and with so many to choose from in Thailand, it’s so easy to find one which fits your unique vision of perfection. From peaceful seclusion at Khao Lak to Phuket parties which last from sunset to sunrise, it’s all here waiting to be discovered.
Raise yourself from the soft warm sands of Thailand’s idyllic beaches to discover some awe-inspiring cultural and historic sites. With a strong Buddhist heritage, you’ll never be far from an ornate temple complex – with Wat Pho and Wat Arun two of Thailand’s most popular attractions. Or for a less strenuous journey, there are plenty of palatial buildings in Bangkok with fascinating histories.
It’s impossible to discuss Thailand without mentioning the food. Bold and fresh flavours which pack a punch are a feature of Thai cuisine, and you don’t need to book a table to get consistently excellent seafood, stir fries and curries. Thailand’s street kitchens offer delicious fayre at great value prices. Coupled with a superb selection of teas, beers, wines and fresh juices, you can always dine in style in Thailand.
My Favourite Hotels
Centara Grand Beach Resort
Banyan Tree, Bangkok
Banyan Tree, Phuket
Anantara Hua Hin
With glorious white sands, swaying palm trees and glittering turquoise waters, the Maldives are the picture-perfect holiday destination. Synonymous with exotic luxury and exceptional hospitality, these hideaway islands are the ultimate beach lovers’ paradise.
There aren’t many holiday destinations where you arrive on a private island by seaplane. However, in the magnificent Maldives this is par for the course! As soon as you set eyes on the amazing Maldivian Atolls, you’ll be transported to a world of unrivalled luxury and sheer indulgence. A pure desert island paradise awaits.
The saying “no news, no shoes” sums up a holiday in the Maldives perfectly. If you’re looking for a tropical retreat where you can lie back, unwind and simply listen to the waves lapping against the shore, then this is the place to come. Whilst the islands’ main activity is relaxation, take time out from sipping cocktails on your sun lounger to discover the spectacular coral reefs. There’s a fascinating underwater world just waiting to be explored.
With near-perfect weather all year round, friendly locals, an abundance of holiday activities, and superb first-class resorts, it’s no surprise that the Maldives remains a favourite for those looking for their very own slice of paradise. Whether you simply want to soak up the sun or take part in the all the thrilling water sports on offer, there’s an island for you in the mesmeric Maldives!
When it comes to honeymoons, there’s nowhere quite like the Maldives! Think four poster beds in your own private water villa, romantic candlelit dinners under starry skies and moonlit strolls along the beach. The Maldives is a true honeymoon paradise.
What better way to explore these extraordinary islands than on a traditional Maldivian dhoni? Hop aboard one of these authentic wooden sailing boats and cruise through the translucent waters of the Indian Ocean. Swim, snorkel or just top up your tan on the deck!
Take a trip to the vibrant capital and get a taste of the real Maldives. Visit the Grand Friday Mosque, one of the largest mosques in South East Asia, and then stop by the handicraft shops to pick up some holiday souvenirs. Before you head back to all-inclusive luxury, enjoy a refreshing coconut juice from one of the local vendors.
RELAX AND UNWIND
There’s no better place to relax, unwind and escape the stresses and strains of everyday life than the Maldives. Stretch out on pristine white sands, listen to those crystal waves lapping against the shores and relax. If there is such a place as heaven on earth, then it’s probably in the Maldives!
My Favourite Hotels
LUX* South Ari Atoll
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
One of the world’s most famous island paradises, the Indonesian island of Bali brings together sublime beaches and spectacular mountains, ancient temples and lively modern cities, resulting in a travel experience which is nothing short of life-changing.
Bali takes the cultural wealth of Indonesia and adds magnificent views and some of the most astounding beaches you could ever wish to spend time on. Every Balinese beach has a unique character, and you’ll never see the same sunset twice. Whether you’re relaxing on a secluded cove or living it up on a party beach awaiting the sunrise, the life and soul of Bali is inextricably linked to its coastline.
That’s not to say that Bali’s appeal starts and ends at the edge of the sands. Head into the clouds with a journey into Bali’s mountainous interior, passing rice paddies and jaw-dropping ravines on the way. Ubud is one of Bali’s must-visit destinations, the region growing in prominence on the back of explosion in popularity of spa breaks, yoga and ethnic arts and culture – all of which can be experienced here in abundance.
Spirituality plays a vital role in the day-to-day life of Balinese people. Bali’s distinct flavour of Buddhism and Hinduism means you’re never more than a few minutes from a temple of some description. Some, like Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, are precariously placed on clifftops, while others are huge ornate developments, like Pura Taman Ayun. It all contributes to the ethereal sense of peace and tranquility which envelops this stunning island.
Here’s a small snapshot about on what Bali can offer you, so you can make sure you come home with amazing memories, instead of a bunch of those dreaded what ifs!
Bali’s culture is totally unique – a melding together of Buddhist and Hindu spirituality and a deep love of all forms of expressive art. As a result, there’s always a festival going on to celebrate something somewhere. Be sure to check the local calendar!
Nowhere else in Asia is the surf as reliable or awesome. If you experience water sports in Bali, you may find that nothing else quite comes up to scratch anywhere else. This is particularly true of diving, with crystal clear warm waters teeming with life.
If you’re looking for a holiday which settles the mind, body and soul, you’ve come to the right place. There’s certainly no shortage of stunning spas and tranquil massage parlours, delivering blissful treatments and therapies to leave you floating on air.
When dining in Bali, you can expect exquisite seafood served in virtually every form you can think of. Grilled, steamed, roasted, salted, minced, it’s all here and available at incredible value. Keep an eye out for Padang food from nearby Sumatra – delicious!
My Favourite Hotels
The Samaya Bali Seminyak
The Legian Bali
The Oberoi Bali
Main image above credit: pixabay.com/SuzyT