From a tranquil break in the secluded island of Pantelleria and a reinvented African safari to Japan’s best kept secret, some ideas to tickle your wanderlust
Travel, once the domain of explorers, adventurers and traders, eventually became more accessible to other members of society, albeit those at the wealthy end. Boarding a train, plane or ship for leisure was a luxury in itself, regardless of the destination. But then after World War II modes of travel, especially air, became mainstream and just about anyone with means could pack their bags and visit more far away destinations.
So, the need to cater for the desires of those wanting to differentiate themselves from the masses emerged and resulted in the rise of luxury accommodation and first-class travel. Eventually however, in the ‘80s and 90’s, luxury travel became somewhat homogenised with the arrival of five-star hotel chains.
This has led to the more discerning luxury traveller of today, demanding a more individual form of indulgence, but not one defined by gold taps and designer furnishings. Luxury travel has shifted from expensive to unique, authentic and singularly local experiences that deliver a strong sense of place. While the luxury destinations bucket list is constantly changing, one common trend amongst high-spenders now seems to be the focus on immersive experiences, ones that will create emotionally fulfilling travel memories.
Here are five of my favourite authentic luxury travel experiences.
TRUE MEDITERRANEAN LIFE
Have a true Mediterranean reclusive and exclusive experience by staying in a dammuso, Pantelleria’s iconic Arab-style dwelling made up of thick volcanic dry-stone walls, vaulted ceilings and domed roofs to collect rainwater. Sikelia is a luxurious 20-suite hideaway created out of an ancient dammuso. Its simple elegance is firmly integrated with the natural way of life of Pantelleria, an island which is a mix of Italian and Arab cultures, located 100km off the coast of Sicily and 60km east of Tunisia. Its rugged landscape has long captivated discerning travellers like Truman Capote, Sting and Giorgio Armani, who have kept it a closely guarded secret.
Pantelleria is one of the few places left to still offer a window into authentic Mediterranean life. Eating like a local is the only option in Pantelleria, as its restaurants all serve similar fare focused on ingredients grown on the island with plenty of aubergines, olives, tomatoes and the world-famous Pantelleria capers. While Zibibbo grapes, grown nowhere else in the world and whose meticulous cultivation is the only agricultural practice on the Unesco World Heritage list, are used to make the island’s famous dessert wine Passito di Pantelleria.
OLD MEETS NEW IN JAPAN
Experience the epitome of Japanese service, hospitality and innovation all in one by taking the most futuristic and luxurious rail ride through the beauty of Eastern Japan on the Train Suite Shiki-Shima. The 10-car train accommodates only 34 passengers in 17 suites, all seamlessly combining traditional Japanese aesthetics with a futuristic spirit and each offering comfortable beds and a bathroom with shower and lavatory. The train has two observation cars, a five-star lounge, a dining car featuring a menu devised by a Michelin-starred chef and all service on board is done by butlers.
The train, which embarked on its maiden journey on May 1 this year, is fully booked until June 2018 and reservations have to be requested by application and may get allocated by lottery.
The Spring, Autumn and Winter itineraries (4, 3 and 2 days) along with the special ‘Season for East Japan’ trips have been designed to give a prime view into the beautiful scenery of eastern Japan, the local industry of each region and the unique culture that permeates Japanese daily life.
RE-INVENTED PRIVATE SAFARI
How more authentic can a safari get than being able to immerse yourself in the wilderness of the Laikipia foothills, Kenya, in an enchanting family home where baboons scratch at the earth a few metres from the breakfast table and giraffes, elephants, rhino and many other species come to drink from the pool?
Arijiju, named ‘the most beautiful house in Africa’ by Conde Nast Traveller UK, is a remarkable exclusive-use retreat in the Borana Reserve for up to 10 guests. The contemplative space, which draws inspiration from the Swahili vernacular, Ethiopian monasteries and the Kenyan tradition of grouped rooms, is designed to work with nature as its grass-covered roof and rough stone walls make it appear as if it’s part of the landscape.
The 14 resident staff, including rangers, butlers, chefs and a masseuse, ensures every need is catered for and with touches likes lighting crackling fires at bedtime or delivering coffee to your room when you wake, you feel like you’re staying at a friend’s fabulous personal retreat.
GET PERSONAL WITH THE AMAZON
Explore the Peruvian section of the Amazon river, one of the world’s last great unexplored regions, aboard the luxurious vessel Aria Amazon. The boat features 16 design suites with panoramic floor-to- ceiling windows and king-size beds, an observation deck, a lounge, a bar, a small library, a gym and a massage room. The 24-crew member Aria is staffed with world-class naturalist guides who lead guests in small groups by skiff to first-hand encounters with Amazon wildlife from pink dolphins and piranha, to monkeys and three toed sloth, to toucans and macaws.
In February and October 2018 select Aria Amazon expeditions will be joined by Jean-Michel Cousteau, who will lead talks and excursions on some of the same Amazon stretches he first visited decades ago with his famous father. A truly unique opportunity to connect and immerse oneself with the environment.
ART ABOVE ART
A stay at The Silo Hotel in Cape Town is an experience that even the most discerning traveller will struggle to match with any other hotel elsewhere. Located inside a disused concrete grain silo dating from 1921, The Silo Hotel is a celebration of art, style, architecture and design; a tribute to timeless glamour and contemporary luxury.
The hotel sits above the Zeitz MOCAA, the recently inaugurated museum that houses the continent’s largest collection of contemporary African art. With the unique and varied collection of African art specifically selected to complement the exceptional interiors of each of the 28 rooms, The Silo Hotel offers an extension to the artistic journey of the museum and an individualised experience for each guest.
• The writer is an experienced consultant with Travel Counsellors. Read more about her travels here: www.travelcounsellors.ae/claudia.corbelli
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