The agents on T+L’s A-List agree on one thing: travel deals may not be this good again for a long time. These five places topped their lists.
Chile and Argentina
T+L Travel Agent Advisory Board (TAAB) agent Paul Niskanen, of Cruise Masters/Concierge Travel Advisors, has been sendingclients down Chile’s southern coast on Holland America itineraries for vastly reduced ratessince the beginning of the year. Other agents are creating itineraries with guided treks throughthe rugged landscape in Patagonia or the Atacama Desert (with overnights at luxe lodges such asExplora, in Patagonia, and Awasi, in San Pedro de Atacama).
The pluses down under are hard to argue with: a great exchange rate, increased service from theU.S. (Delta launched an Atlanta-to-Sydney route last summer), and one-of-a-kind experiences, suchas bush walks with Aborigines. Says Diane Hilliard, “You can do it all: experience culture inSydney, get lost in El Questro Wilderness Park in Western Australia, or just relax on the beach atQualia,” a new resort on Hamilton Island.
As Cape Town ramps up to host the 2010 World Cup and expands its hotel scene—from a newOne & Only to the Taj Cape Town Clifton and countless B&B’s along thecoast—some of its top tour operators are offering never-better perks, such as extra nightstagged to safaris, free bush transfers, and complimentary stays in hotels in Johannesburg and CapeTown.
“A stable currency, gorgeous nature, and surprising deals at the moment,” saysMollie Fitzgerald of the Alpine country’s latest benefits. Other agents cite the renaissanceof properties such as the Dolder Grand and La Réserve Genve; and the appeal of smaller cities,like Bern and Lausanne.
Cruise Masters/Concierge Travel Advisors, Portland, Ore.
Niskanen excels at advising travelers who believe the main attraction is the destination, rather than the ship. He is well acquainted with hundreds of port cities in Europe, Asia, and South America, and can recommend excursions, restaurants, shops, and private or self-guided tours in each one. He’s also traveled along the Nile and the Yangtze as well as every major river system in Europe.
Insider find: The medieval hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence is a lovely shore excursion from Marseilles. You can tour the limestone caverns of Carrières de Lumières, and, in St.-Rémy-de-Provence, stop in to visit chocolatier Jöel Durand.
Specialty: Cruising, Southern Africa
Annual trips to emerging and bucket-list angler destinations such as Russia, Iceland, and Norway make Fitzgerald an expert on when and where to fish. She also provides packing tips that are unique to the sport, like bringing an electric bug swatter and making sure you have the best flies for the any river. She’s especially excited about how many women she now sees casting a line.
New Favorite: The Limay River Lodge, on the border of the Argentine provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro, is outfitted with a cozy central fireplace and well-stocked wine cellar. It’s the only lodge on the banks of the Limay River, where anglers are likely to see larger-than-average rainbow and brown trout.
Specialties: Fly-fishing, India
Excited about: The Seychelles. The breadth of nature and growing number of luxury resorts make it a destination to satisfy many agendas. Known for: Totally custom itineraries, with a pronounced cultural aspect—architectural, culinary, sociopolitical. Hilliard has lived in Israel, Jordan, and all over Southeast Asia; her understanding of the immersion experience is her secret weapon (as is her large Rolodex of top guides and historians, personal chefs and boutique winemakers, private drivers and pilots, and much more). Years as agent: 40. Specialties: Asia, South Pacific. Consulting fee: $750.
T+L's Travel Advisory Board Member, 2010