Travel + Leisure’s Editor in Chief Shares His Favorite Destinations of 2015
2015 was my first full year as Editor in Chief of T+L, and in that time I had a lot of pivotal travel experiences all over the world — from South America to Africa, and a few places closer to home. Here are some of my favorites from a year of exploring.
Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
The Fourth of July always makes me crave an all-American getaway. I recently spent the holiday at the Lodge at Glendorn (doubles from $500), a small resort tucked beside the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. Glendorn was established in 1929 as the summer retreat of the Dorn family, who made their money in oil, and what makes it special is how much it has retained the personality and eccentricities of a family compound. Most of the accommodations are private cabins, each unique (the rustic Forest Hideout is my favorite), and the activities on the property are a legacy of the particular interests of the Dorns: flyfishing, tennis, skeet and trapshooting, lakeside bonfires with s’mores. I found it all perfectly charming.
Central Valley Wine Region, Chile
My husband, Charles, wrote a guidebook to Chile years ago and knows the country well, so he recently suggested it as an easy last-minute trip. As anyone who knows me knows, I’m passionate about wine; this would be the perfect opportunity to educate myself about a wine region I’d wanted to know better. I’m also a serious hotel junkie, and I’d had my eye on Viña Vik (doubles from $1,850; 2-night minimum), which was just opening its doors in Chilean wine country. Wine-country hotels the world over tend to follow a few familiar themes — intimate scale, lots of stone and rough-hewn beams, expansive views, good food — and if they often deliver a high degree of comfort, they also rarely offer many surprises. Viña Vik was the opposite, from its curvilinear winery designed by Smiljan Radic to rooms that pursue an idea (say, an homage to Piero Fornasetti) down to the smallest detail. It felt original, refreshing, and what started as a whim became one of my most memorable trips of the year, all because of where we stayed. It was a reminder that a great hotel can be a destination unto itself.
Charleston, South Carolina
There are few better ways to get a read on a place than through its food. On a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, the dining I did at outstanding restaurants like the Macintosh (entrées $12-$34) and the Ordinary (entrées $15-$32) and Leon’s Oyster Shop (entrées $10-$22) — hyper-local ingredients, dishes rooted in tradition yet playful and modern in technique — was a direct and clear expression of what’s going on in that city in a broader sense, a newfound creative energy that’s sparking all kinds of interesting ventures.
London, United Kingdom
In London recently I was blown away by the Rosewood (doubles from $564). In addition to the kinds of things you’d expect (thoughtful service, luxurious finishes), the hotel brims with imaginative touches: beautiful caged birds in the lobby, televisions disguised as smoked mirrors, the staff’s stylish tartan uniforms. I also tried out the Shangri-La Hotel, at the Shard (doubles from $498), and can report that the views really are spectacular — from a skyscraper’s vantage point Big Ben and St. Paul’s look like toy models, and you realize you’ve never seen the city in quite this way.
Park City, Utah
Park City Mountain Resort, in Utah, is one of the country’s most popular ski resorts. I was recently there myself, and stayed at the absolutely fantastic Montage Deer Valley (doubles from $265), which provides access to both downtown Park City and the Deer Valley runs. For a great meal of seasonal dishes try Fletchers (entrées $24–$44), and for a truly wild ride, don’t miss the Comet Bobsled at Utah Olympic Park.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
After reporting a story in Kenya, I traveled south to the Serengeti in Tanzania and stayed at the year-old Namiri Plains (doubles from $1,590, all inclusive), an eight-tent camp from Asilia Africa that manages the delicate act of combining safari chic with eco-consciousness and a light footprint. But the best reason to go is the location, a secluded, undeveloped part of the park that was formerly closed to tourism. The place is crawling with cats — lions and cheetahs, especially — and you’ll hardly see another vehicle except those occupied by your fellow guests.
Skeleton Coast, Namibia
One of my most memorable trips was a stay at a camp called Serra Cafema, in Namibia (doubles from $588, all inclusive). The property itself is beautiful, with stylish tents along a river in an Edenic landscape. But what I loved most about it was the chance to meet the Himba, one of Africa’s last nomadic peoples. Although they have absolutely been touched by the modern world, they continue to observe their own customs, covering their bodies with ocher pigment and braiding their hair in elaborate styles. Meeting someone whose life is so different from your own can, in a tourism context, be a fraught experience. But I’ll never forget sitting with a Himba grandmother one afternoon and talking to her about the changes she’d seen in her lifetime, and answering her questions about my life in a big city thousands of miles away. I can’t speak for her, but in that moment I felt we connected across generations and genders and cultures in a way that was simply human.
Tofino, British Columbia
I remember back in 2002 when the Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island (doubles from $360), in British Columbia, was named the top hotel in the continental U.S. and Canada in our World’s Best Awards for the first time. We photographed it for the magazine, and I’ll never forget the images that came back: there was something about the way the shingled inn sat naturally in its environment, the views from its perch above a perfect beach, the quality of the light. I resolved to go.
I didn’t actually make it to the Wick until over a decade later, when I decided that the new Editor of T+L ought to finally experience a property he first discovered thanks to our readers. The Wick is indeed a pretty magical place, and my visit was full of exactly the things I’d hoped for: misty mornings and fiery sunsets spied from bed, from the balcony, even from the bathtub; long walks along the water and under towering cedars; the freshest seafood, perfectly prepared; an expert pine-scented massage.