Royal vacations are the stuff of myth and murmurs. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was caught on camera having her toes sucked by her financial advisor in St.-Tropez. In the days before she died, Princess Diana was seen in Sardinia lounging on the yacht of a then little-known billionaire playboy, Dodi Al Fayed. And a fairytale proposal between the future King of England, Prince William, and his college sweetheart, Kate Middleton, took place in a remote wilderness lodge facing Mount Kenya.
Royals might have day jobs like no one else’s, but when they choose to get away from it all, their vacations become iconic—and at times infamous. Titled aristocracy can pick anywhere in the world for their playground, but season after season, you will find them in the same sandboxes.
“I’m very fond of Greece,” says Princess Padmaja Mewar, 31, of Udaipur, India. (The House of Mewar is the world’s oldest dynasty, dating back 77 generations to A.D. 734.)
“With its own beauty, culture, and heritage, I love it. I feel different there than I do anywhere else in the world; it’s probably the only place that I feel I can relax.”
While heads that wear the crown can’t always rest easy, they do take breaks. Travel + Leisure takes you to the regal island retreats and elite wilderness resorts where the nobility pack their tiaras away and let loose.
The summer season sees imperial yachts anchoring off Europe’s majestic ports of call, like Costa Smeralda on the Italian island of Sardinia, where Saudi princes own many of the villas that dot the shore and sloping hills.
In winter, nobles seek the peerless beaches of Mustique, a three-square-mile Caribbean island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. With only one small hotel, the island—which was “discovered” by Princess Margaret in the 1960s—is an exclusive club for villa rentals, with weekly rates that rival the cost of college tuition.
And for wind-whipped, adrenaline-filled Christmas, the slopes of the Swiss Alps have long provided sovereigns like Prince Charles with excitement and exclusivity. The short days of winter also leave plenty of time for après-ski partying with the well-heeled.
While royal destinations might be grander than our simple ditch-the-desk getaways, the vacations themselves might not be so different after all—filled with relaxation, adventure, and an opportunity to leave the royal pains of everyday life behind. —Sarah Rose