Holidays of a lifetime
As we look forward to emerging from a winter of confinement, researchers have found that the next holiday we take could well be the most important of our lives – and we’re happy to concur. Read on for John O’Ceallaigh’s suggestions for how to plan your very own trip of a lifetime
Get back in the driving seat
As we tentatively refamiliarise ourselves with the broader world this summer, it makes sense that our first holiday should be in the friendly embrace of an old favourite. And, no matter how many times you’ve been, it’s impossible to tire of Italy. My dream Italian road trip begins in Venice, downing Aperol spritzes and admiring the Grand Canal from the terrace at The Gritti Palace. Onwards, I’d go to Grand Hotel Tremezzo, an Art Nouveau palazzo with a Wes Anderson-worthy façade and open-air swimming pool embedded directly in Lake Como, before scooting through the galleries of Florence and concluding my itinerary at the recently renovated St Regis Rome, a handsome base for explorations of the Eternal City.
If you’re happy to splurge, the thought of clamouring throngs in Italy’s most popular museums and galleries needn’t be a worry. From Florence’s Uffizi to the Vatican Museum, many of Italy’s cultural attractions facilitate intimate and romantic private after-hours tours.
Rediscover culture and colour
Lockdown life has been drab and monotone, but immersion in India’s glorious technicolour should fully jolt sagged spirits back to life. A good starting point is the Golden Triangle, a vibrant trail of treasure-laden palaces and bejewelled temples connecting Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Best known is the white-marble Taj Mahal in Agra, which glows peach come sunset and is almost overwhelmingly beautiful, but each city holds marvels. In the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, the Maharaja’s City Palace is a confection of buttercup yellow and emerald, with one notable doorway decorated with strutting peacocks. In Delhi, the Red Fort is a brooding sandstone citadel.
Easily added to a Golden Triangle itinerary, Udaipur is home to one of the world’s most magical hotels. Only accessible by boat and seemingly afloat, Taj Lake Palace is an all-white former summer pleasure palace, where cascades of fragrant rose petals are scattered over new arrivals and elaborate dance recitals are held in the candlelit courtyard.
MAKE THE ULTIMATE LONG-HAUL JOURNEY
Our world is full of wonders, but nowhere else I have been can compete with the sense of awe that enveloped me, daily, in Antarctica. The northernmost part of this formidable frozen continent, the Antarctic Peninsula’s soaring ice cliffs, slate-grey seas and shimmering icebergs provide an unblemished backdrop for intrepid cruise itineraries.And, for all its glacial grandeur, this is a region that teems with life. Here, penguins spring from the water like dolphins; nonchalant seals sunbathe on slowly drifting floes; and pods of orcas, graceful and deadly, torpedo past in pursuit of prey. This biting, pristine setting is challenging, demanding and uniquely life-affirming.
Venturing from one desert to another, explorers can precede their Antarctica voyage by flying BA’s longest direct route, to Chile’s capital Santiago, to access the Atacama before venturing to the country’s southernmost city, Punta Arenas, to commence their cruise. This curious settlement’s pubs draw intrepid types keen to share travel tales, while its grand cemetery is one of the world’s most beautiful.
The city break returns
Having closed its borders in response to Covid, tourism-dependent Thailand is especially eager to welcome travellers back in 2021. One of Asia’s most compelling capitals, Bangkok provides a surprisingly serene backdrop during dazzling helicopter city tours or when chartering a private boat to admire the colourful temples that line the Chao Phraya River. Stay at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, the city’s undisputed grande dame, to retain that sense of calm before submitting to a week of proper old-school luxury at beachside Four Seasons Koh Samui. (Though energetic types can also book sparring sessions at the resort’s Muay Thai boxing ring.)
Bangkok’s superb street food is served quick-sharp and sells for a song, but a more leisurely – and airconditioned – immersion in Thai cuisine awaits at Bo.lan. Here, vibrant dishes showcase regional specialities rarely encountered by foreigners. Behind the scenes, Bo.lan’s proprietors follow sustainability practices that make this one of the country’s most environmentally progressive restaurants.
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