30 Dream Destinations
Published: April 2009
By Laura Begley Bloom, David Herndon, Michael Gross, Richard Alleman, Stephen Drucker, Hillary Geronemus, Matt Lee, Ted Lee, Eleni N. Gage
From the lush hills of New Zealand to the coral beaches of the Maldives, we've combed the world for the most idyllic places, where you can't help falling in love all over again
MALAYSIA The quiet waters of Malaysia offer a direct antithesis to other Asian beach getaways. Few Americans have even heard of Langkawi, a cool jungle landscape off the Malay Peninsula's northwest coast, where the pervasive calm is broken only by the crash of a wave. WHERE TO STAY The waterfront Four Seasons Langkawi (800/332-3442; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $450) has 91 teak-shingled pavilions.
MAURITIUS Adrift in the Indian Ocean, 1,250 miles east of Africa, the island of Mauritius has luxurious resorts and a multicultural soul. Four centuries of colonial experimentation have yielded a curious mosaic of Hindu temples, mosques, and Chinese pagodas, set amid waterfalls and volcanic peaks. WHERE TO STAY The decidedly Gallic Prince Maurice (800/735-2478; www.princemaurice.com; doubles from $942) offers service that is suave and precise.
SOUTH AFRICA Game parks blanket the land of the Big Five. One of the most luxurious is Singita, a 38,000-acre private reserve next to Kruger National Park that is such a celebrity favorite, it has been called Hollywood in the bush. WHERE TO STAY The five lodges that make up Singita (800/545-1910; www.singita.com; doubles from $2,372, including all meals and excursions) range from the tribal-chic Ebony to the mod Lebombo.
TIBET On a remote plateau thousands of feet above sea level, between India and China, Tibet is known as a sacred land of seers and sages. The magic begins on the flight to Lhasa from Kathmandu, when you first see Mount Everest looming above the cloud cover, and continues in the open countryside, where barley fields sit next to a broad river and white massifs guard the distant horizon. OUTFITTER A guide must accompany all visitors. Work with an experienced travel agent or tour operator such as Geographic Expeditions (800/777-8183; www.geoex.com; from $300 per person per day).
ENGLAND The lush, temperate southeastern counties of Kent and Sussex are home to the 90-mile High Weald Landscape Trail. Hand-painted wooden placards posted along the road inform walkers what's in season at local farm shops, which are tucked away down narrow lanes. Towns are usually no more than seven miles apart: on foot or in a car, you can cover a lot of ground in a few days. WHERE TO STAY The quarters at Read's Restaurant with Rooms (Faversham; 44-1795/535-344; www.reads.com; doubles from $275) overlook the gardens.
IRELAND The emerald landscapes and deserted beaches of Ireland's wild west have long attracted painters, poets, and romantics. Explore the majestic coastline of the Ring of Kerry; the Lakes of Killarney; and the flat, untamed moorlands of Connemara, then step into one of the many pubs for a pint of Guinness. WHERE TO STAY Situated on Lahinch Bay, Moy House (800/323-5463; www.moyhouse.com; doubles from $295) is a perfect base for touring County Clare.
NEW ZEALAND Thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the secret is out: this preternaturally beautiful place of sheep and hobbits is a honeymoon heaven. Expats are even moving here, drawn not only by the pastoral setting, but also by affordable waterfront real estate. OUTFITTER The walking tour of the South Island with Butterfield & Robinson (866/ 551-9090; www.butterfield.com; $6,995 per person, double, including all meals) covers four regions.
CHIANG MAI Thailand's cultural capital is an outsize village where old-time street life, craftmaking, and folk rites are on vivid display. Traditionally, it has attracted a more respectful and curious traveler. That's changed a bit as Chiang Mai has grown into a minor metropolis, but it's still the art and architecture—particularly temple design—that keep visitors coming. WHERE TO STAY At the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi (800/ 526-6566; www.mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $350), guests can learn basketry, weaving, and woodcarving.
ESSAOUIRA With its strong breezes, this Moroccan beach town—known as Wind City, Africa—is one of the world's top windsurfing and kite-boarding spots. But there's more to it than water sports: the local calendar is studded with world-class music and arts events, and galleries show internationally known artists. WHERE TO STAY Built around a courtyard, Riad Gyvo (212-44/475-102; www.riadgyvo.com; doubles from $120) is a stylish medina house turned hotel.
HELSINKI Chairs, vases, wallpaper—the Finns do it all with style. Take Finlandia Hall, the massive white Alvar Aalto edifice, or Hvitträsk, Eliel Saarinen's house, which has become something of a shrine. The Church in the Rock is a miraculous place—not for religious reasons, but for its breathtaking interpretation of what a church can be: it looks like a flying saucer, landed in the middle of Temppeliaukio Square. WHERE TO STAY The 39-room 1952 Palace Hotel (358-9/ 134-561; www.palace.fi; doubles from $285) retains its retro feel.
ANGUILLA Although it's still a long way from being overdeveloped, the 16-mile-long island of seemingly endless beaches is becoming more sophisticated with each season. Everyone's buzzing about the new hotels, restaurants, and "super villas" (a local specialty). Yet the Anguillans themselves have remained totally unpretentious. WHERE TO STAY The Moorish fantasy Cap Juluca (888/858-5822; www.capjuluca.com; doubles from $750) is all whitewashed, domed buildings.
MALDIVES Treasured by ancient sailors, and more recently by tourists, for its translucent waters, this archipelago off the west coast of India is now home to some of the world's most luxurious resorts. The locals believe that the color blue has healing properties—and, indeed, watching this curling surf induces a meditative trance. WHERE TO STAY The seven cottages and the spa at Soneva Gili (Lankanfushi; 949/640-1198; www.sixsenses.com; doubles from $1,645) are set on pilings in the middle of a lagoon.
ST. BART'S Half-clad Europeans join Hamptons refugees for five-star balconies and beaches, late-night hot spots, and the best shopping this side of Miami. WHERE TO STAY Designer Christian Liaigre's redo of the 37-room Le Sereno (590-590/298-300; www.lesereno.com; doubles from $728), set on Grand Cul de Sac beach, is the talk of the island.
ST.-TROPEZ The French Riviera town is once again attracting royalty of a kind—Diddy, DiCaprio—to its cafés and 15th-century alleys. As you sit over a morning pastry, watch Tropezians heading for the market, ships' stewards rushing to supply the yachts, and scooters swerving to avoid the disco stragglers. WHERE TO STAY With its hillside location and monied clientele, the 95-room Byblos St.-Tropez (33-4/94-56-68-00; www.byblos.com; doubles from $630) has been the hostelry of choice since 1967.
SEYCHELLES A thousand miles from civilization, these 115 coral and granite isles in the Indian Ocean were once thought to be the original Eden. They're now luring honeymooners with private-island resorts that offer maximum luxury while embracing the country's vibrant Creole culture. WHERE TO STAY Wildly expensive, but sublime, North Island (800/735-2478; www.north-island.com; doubles from $3,283) is a high-style nature sanctuary with just 11 villas.
VANCOUVER ISLAND Off the west coast of Canada, this windswept isle has pristine beaches surrounded by old-growth rain forests, and a buzzing food scene in its chief city, Victoria. For a true end-of-the-road experience, head to Tofino: all forest, beach, and mountains. WHERE TO STAY Cantilevered over the surf, Wickaninnish Inn (Tofino; 800/333-4604; www.wickinn.com; doubles from $260) is the place to watch romantic storms.
ALASKA At the frayed end of civilization, on the Alaska Peninsula, there are no roads and no trails, except for those carved out by moose or bears. Only the tallest peaks have names, and though the bay is called Nakalilok, the river that feeds into it is unlabeled. outfitter The simple accommodations offered by Alaska Wilderness Safari (800/211-4753; www.rodgunresources.com; seven-night safari from $4,495) are snug and dry.
COSTA RICA About the size of Switzerland, Costa Rica is home to four percent of the planet's wildlife species, and many of them are found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. From San José, you can visit a fiery volcano, hike in a cloud forest, and tackle Class Four rapids, all in one day. WHERE TO STAY Once you've done the tough stuff, enjoy some R&R at the beachfront Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (Guanacaste; 800/332-3442; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $695).
IDAHO The northern Rockies are spectacularly scenic, with a slew of summer adventure options, from hiking to biking. Rafting on the Selway River in the Nez Perce National Forest, you'll race down stretches of thunderous white water into crystalline pools filled with rainbow trout. outfitter Perfect for couples who like roughing it, the American River Touring Association (800/323-2782; www.arta.org; five-day trip $1,680 per person) has scouted campsites all along the river. Expect campfires, roasted marshmallows, and bone-chilling ghost stories.
UMBRIA Even with its sweeping vistas and crumbling Roman ruins, Umbria doesn't get as many visitors as Tuscany. You can cross both of its regions on a Country Walkers tour. Beginning in Siena and ending in Orvieto, you'll amble through medieval towns, past vineyards, and along centuries-old paths. outfitter Leave the hotels and meals to Country Walkers (800/464-9255; www.countrywalkers.com; seven-day trip $3,348).
JAMAICA This Caribbean favorite has flavors to please every palate. At the James Bond-ish Goldeneye, Pamela Clarke turns out grilled beef tenderloin and curried shrimp; Round Hill's best breakfast includes the national dish, ackee and cod; Scotchies specializes in all things jerk. WHERE TO STAY The luxurious Round Hill Hotel & Villas (Montego Bay; 800/972-2159; www.roundhilljamaica.com; doubles from $550) is set on a former pineapple plantation.
NAPA VALLEY Besides having vineyards that rival Bordeaux's, and rolling hills worthy of Italy's Piedmont, Napa is home to some of the finest restaurants in the country, including the famed French Laundry. WHERE TO STAY There are plenty of places to rest, from tiny inns to spas that use ingredients just plucked from the ground. Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford; 800/348-5406; www.aubergedusoleil.com; doubles from $600) offers both.
VALENCIA A decade ago, Spain's third-largest city was off the radar. Now, orange blossom-scented Valencia, boosted by its new gastronomic standing, has arrived. Hip Valencianos head to Burdeos in Love; intrepid foodies go to the less polished Grau neighborhood to seek out restaurants that serve salt-grilled cigalas (crayfish). WHERE TO STAY The inviting Hospes Palau de la Mar (34-96/316-2884; www.hospes.es; doubles from $303) is housed in a pair of mansions.
ATACAMA At 8,000 feet above sea level, Chile's Atacama Desert has altitude to make you feel heady and weird beauty to make you wonder if the water is spiked. There are salt flats at the end of unmarked roads. At El Tatio, walk amid steaming geysers; it is the earth ablister. WHERE TO STAY A white Cubist assemblage, Explora en Atacama (56-2/206-6060; www.explora.com; from $2,060 per person for four days, including all excursions and meals) has perfect desert views.
LOS CABOS These days, locals refer to Mexico's Baja Peninsula as La Frontera, the frontier, because it remains largely undeveloped, except for the peninsula's tip at Los Cabos, where the desert blooms with luxe resorts. But you can still find a quiet spot to relax with a chilly Pacifico beer and a succulent shrimp taco. WHERE TO STAY At the 56-room Esperanza (866/ 311-2226; www.esperanzaresort.com; doubles from $575), the Technicolor sunsets look digitally enhanced.
PHOENIX Everyone in this desert oasis is either trying to relax, in the middle of relaxing, or reflecting on some recent attempt to relax. Exactly what they are so tired from, who could say, but this golf-happy city has long been regarded as the cure. Lately, resorts have been piling on the indulgences and adding spas, the icing on the relaxation cake. WHERE TO STAY Located in Paradise Valley, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain (800/245-2051; www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com; doubles from $310) is that rare hotel that is every bit as breathtaking as its setting.
BRAZIL The seven-square-mile island of Fernando de Noronha is protected by the country's environmental agency. Result: The 16 immaculate beaches, set between craggy cliffs and volcanic rock formations, are virtually deserted, except for spinner dolphins and sea turtles. WHERE TO STAY The surreal emerald waters of the horseshoe-shaped Baía do Sueste are on view from the four bungalows at Pousada Solar dos Ventos (55-81/3619-1347; www.pousadasolardosventos.com.br; doubles from $230).
GREECE The Eptanissia, or "seven islands," of the Ionian Sea are fertile and green instead of stark and whitewashed, and have a distinctive culture that developed through centuries of Norman, Venetian, French, and British rule. Corfu is the best-known island; untamed Paxos has 2,500 residents and some 250,000 olive trees. For recluses, Antikýythira has a population of just 70. WHERE TO STAY Rent a villa through Simply Ionian (44-208/541-2202; www.simplytravel.com; villas for one week from $610).
MAUI Georgia O'Keeffe was inspired to paint landscapes out on the remote Hana side of the island, known for its rugged beaches, horseback riding, and simple charms. The famous Blue Pool, an oceanside waterfall, is accessible only to those willing to ford a river and clamber over volcanic boulders. WHERE TO STAY A flashback to old Hawaii, the Hotel Hana-Maui (800/321-4262; www.hotelhanamaui.com; doubles from $425) has cottages inspired by plantation houses.
TASMANIA Perhaps because it's the last stop before Antarctica, this heart-shaped island off Australia seems more remote than its mother country. Rain forest oases and deserted white-sand beaches are just two types of natural wonders here. More than a third of the isle is protected parkland, where you'll spot every species of marsupial—including Tasmanian devils—in the open bush. WHERE TO STAY The nine-room Hatherley House (Launceston; 61-3/6334-7727; www.hatherleyhouse.com.au; doubles from $185) combines Georgian and Victorian architecture with all the modern amenities.
Written by Richard Alleman, Laura Begley, Stephen Drucker, Eleni N. Gage, Hillary Geronemus, Michael Gross, David Herndon, Matt Lee, Ted Lee, Peter Jon Lindberg, Rick Marin, William Middleton, Pankaj Mishra, Heidi Mitchell, Shane Mitchell, Kevin Raub, Kim Brown Seely, Bonnie Tsui, Tom Vanderbilt, Mark Van de Walle, Philip Watson, Jeff Wise.