World's Greatest Dream Trips 2013
Follow T+L’s expert advice to bring your dream trips to life.
Cruising the fjords of Norway. Beach-hopping around Kauai. Seeing the new Seven Wonders of the World. For the first time ever, we asked Travel + Leisure followers on Twitter and Facebook, and veteran travelers we encountered on the streets of New York, to tell us about the destinations they most want to experience.
Romana Lilic tweeted that her ultimate escape would be visiting Mexico’s uninhabited Espiritu Santu Island. Baja Expeditions obliges with trips that include stand-up paddleboarding among dolphins, hiking, and sleeping under the stars.
For Kari Pitman, wanderlust inspires a foodie trek around China. She might start at Black Sesame Kitchen, which offers courses on northern Chinese staples as well as intimate 10-course dinners in a traditional courtyard house amid Beijing’s alleyways.
Read on for more advice on how to make dream trips a reality—and find out which destinations are on T+L editors’ wish lists.
For more help planning the trip of a lifetime, consider enlisting one of T+L’s A-List travel agents.
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
EDITED BY JACQUELINE GIFFORD AND BROOKE PORTER
Reported by Andrea Aguilar, Christine Ajudua, Jennifer Chen, Frances Hibbard, Katie James, Sarah Khan, Alexandra Marshall, Heidi Mitchell, Valerie Waterhouse, and Jane Wooldridge.
“Fjords, hiking, fresh fish, culture, less time in the city and more in a boat.” —@Girlintheshire
Ships from Hurtigruten (from $1,286 per person) sail the country’s dramatic fjords. There are multiday cruises with set itineraries, or you can use the ships as ferries, stopping to fish for cod in Troms or hike in Geiranger. To see Pulpit Rock from the water, book the 14-day coastal cruise through Seabourn (from $8,499 per person), which includes a boat excursion from Stavanger that passes the towering cliff.
“Visiting the locations in Roman Holiday, my favorite movie.” —Naomi Thompson, via Facebook
See 11 iconic spots, including the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Mouth of Truth, on a chauffeured day tour with Stefano Rome Tours (from $490 for up to three people). Margutta 54 ($$$), a tiny hotel of four former artists’ studios near Piazza del Popolo, is a stone’s throw from where Joe Bradley (played by Gregory Peck) lived at 51 Via Margutta.
“Forget the tourist sites. I want a romantic day with my husband in the City of Light.” —@Ashleymuldoon
Stay: The St.-Germain landmark L’Hôtel ($$$)—whose 20 rooms are outfitted with damask silks and antiques—comes complete with a hammam in the vaulted stone basement. For showstopping Eiffel Tower views, there’s nothing better than the Shangri-La Paris ($$$$).
Eat: At Drouant ($$$), chef Antoine Westermann serves dishes such as bouillabaisse and roast suckling lamb in a century-old space. The sidewalk terrace is shielded by greenery—but if it’s total privacy you want, reserve the upstairs Salon Colette, with just a table for two.
Do: Skip the Bateaux-Mouches and cruise the Seine in luxury with Art et Thème (from $230 per person), which will arrange a dinner aboard one of the private Yachts de Paris. Also included: a guided, cut-the-line tour of a riverside museum of your choice (yes, that includes the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay).
“There’s no place more glamorous. St. Tropez really has some of the best restaurants, night life, and people watching!” —Mekleat Sahle, 28, equity sales associate
We’re excited about the new-and-improved Hôtel de Paris ($$$$); dating back to the 1930’s, it just reopened after 20 years. Nearby, Hôtel Byblos recently unveiled Alain Ducasse’s Mediterranean restaurant Rivea ($$$$). For the best beach club scenes, head to the classic Le Club 55 or of-the-moment Bagatelle.
“The south of France, to visit fields of lavender and sunflowers and ride on a canal boat down a river.” —Bonnie Coss Beauchamp, via Facebook
Board the new Catherine for Uniworld’s (from $3,399) eight-day jaunt from Avignon to Lyons. Step off to explore Tarascon’s Provençal architecture, the fifth-century village of Viviers, and more.
The region is dotted with medieval hill towns, including Gordes, Saignon, and Roussillon, in the rocky Luberon Mountains. But our favorite is Fontaine de Vaucluse. Take in the hamlet from a canoe on the Sorgue River, available for rent in town.
La Chassagnette ($$$)—a farm-to-table restaurant in Arles—sits in a large garden ringed by roses and sunflowers. Try the local octopus with courgette trompette (an indigenous “trumpet” zucchini).
The 15-room Domaine de la Baume ($$$$), in Tourtour, the former estate of Expressionist painter Bernard Buffet, is home to olive groves and a chapel.
“To see the Dolomite Mountains.” —@Melisamelling
Walk Alpine meadows or ski world-class slopes in the Alta Badia region, known for its pink-granite peaks and a culture that feels part Italian, part Austrian. Tour operator Cari Gray suggests splurging on San Cassiano’s Rosa Alpina ($$$), where you can enjoy a lunch of mushroom risotto and speck in the hotel’s mountainside badia (hut).
Lake Garda, Italy
“I fought there as a young man during World War II, and I’d like to return.” Edwin Fancher, retired psychoanalyst, 90
Don’t miss Isola del Garda, a private island in the lake’s center, reachable by vaporetto. You can tour the neo-Gothic, Venetian-style villa. And while we love the luxurious waterfront hotels, intimate Locanda San Verolo ($$), a restored 18th-century farmhouse four miles inland, offers great value.
“Watch a Wimbledon match on Centre Court, have strawberries and cream, and drink Pimm’s.” —Stacey Morris, via Facebook
Packages through the Wimbledon Experience (from $1,750) include hotels (the Savoy and St. Pancras Renaissance are among the options), lunch at the private Gatsby Club—where you can order your Pimm’s—and afternoon tea, complete with fresh-picked Kent strawberries and cream.
“Historic sites and delicious food around the country.” —Robert Tatum, via Facebook
T+L A-List agent Joel A. Zack can arrange visits to Pergamom’s Asklepion—a Roman healing center where the physician Galen practiced in A.D. 157—and meals at Asitane ($$), which uses 17th-century recipes from Ottoman palace kitchens. Like Agatha Christie did, spend the night at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah ($$$).
“Take our adopted kids back to their homeland.” —Gena Parsons, via Facebook
In Moscow, ride bikes through revamped Gorky Park and check out the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. T+L A-List agent Greg Tepper recommends the Ritz-Carlton ($$$$) and Ararat Park Hyatt ($$$$$), both just steps from the Kremlin.
“I would love to go on long drives, exploring, feasting, shopping.” —Sharmani Ilangovan, via Facebook
Start in Bilbao, with a sampling of pintxos (Basque tapas) at Restaurante Víctor Montes ($$), before heading west on A-8 to Santander, where the waterfront Hotel Real ($$) is an ideal base. The port city has white-sand beaches, chic boutiques such as Carot (34/94-222-2873), and romantic restaurants—try the Iberian-ham croquettes at Deluz ($$$). Continue west on A-8 to the prehistoric caves and 14th-century palaces in Santillana del Mar and hike up Monte Corona, in Caviedes. Last stop: the fisherman’s village of Comillas, known for its Catalan Modernist architecture, including Gaudí’s summer villa, El Capricho.
“Amalfi Coast and Capri!” —Rita Lawrence Edwards, via Facebook
In Positano, you’ll have your pick of classic hotels, such as Le Sirenuse ($$$$), with its decadent champagne and oyster bar; Il San Pietro ($$$$), which has a private beach; and Hotel Palazzo Murat ($$), the summer residence of the king of Naples in the 19th century. For a leisurely lunch, the family-run trattoria Lo Scoglio da Tommaso ($$$), in Massa Lubrense, serves addictive fritto misto and linguini alle vongole. In the nearby town of Amalfi, tour the intricately inlaid Arab-Norman Duomo and Moorish cloisters before checking in to the cliffside Hotel Santa Caterina ($$$$), where the rooms have hand-painted tile floors. It’s just a short hydrofoil ride over to Capri and J.K. Place ($$$$), a cliffside villa with 22 rooms, and La Fontelina Beach Club ($$$$), whose straw-thatched terrace overlooks the Faraglioni rocks—and is the ideal spot for paranza (crunchy fried fish).
Greece and Turkey
“Going island-hopping on a nice sailboat in Greece!” —@Lauramarkis
Follow Odysseus’s journey on the Aegean aboard a four-masted, 360-foot yacht from Windstar Cruises (from $3,000 per person). Seven-day itineraries between Piraeus, the port of Athens, and Istanbul call on some of the region’s most picturesque isles. In Mykonos, you’ll love the whitewashed churches, thatched windmills, and boutiques that made it a favorite haunt of Jacqueline Onassis. For a sense of Roman excess, stroll through the vast ruins of marbled streets, mosaic-floored villas, and the colonnaded library in Ephesus. In Istanbul, take a few days to explore the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace—all are close to the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet ($$$$).
T+L Editor’s Pick: Iceland
“Nowhere seems more desolate and ethereal than the volcanic landscape of western Iceland. I’d take a guided tour with Butterfield & Robinson (six-day walking trips from $6,495 per person)—hiking past glaciers, riding horses, visiting the Westman Islands for a glimpse of the world’s largest puffin colony—before venturing out on my own for a drive up to the remote Westfjords.” —Lindsey Olander, Editorial Assistant
“Going with a private guide, so it’s less stressful.” —@Aumybonilla
Set on a faith-based tour? Or want to explore Tel Aviv’s thriving restaurant scene? Whichever it is, T+L A-List agent Rachel Epstein will match you with the right guide. On the horizon in Jerusalem: a Waldorf Astoria ($$$), opening at the end of the year.
“I want to visit Uganda and see silverback gorillas.” —Tatiana Macarena Molina Salas, via Facebook
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to nearly half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas, and—good news for guests of Bwindi Lodge—the success rate for sightings is more than 90 percent. Volcanoes Safaris (four days from $2,389 per person, all-inclusive) offers stays at the eight stone-and-timber bandas, which have en suite bathrooms with solar-heated water and balconies overlooking the forest.
T+L Editor’s Pick: Morocco
“I’d journey down the coast, stopping in seaside resort towns that were once garrisons and boutique hotels like L’Iglesia ($$), a 14-room gem in a 19th-century former Catholic church in El Jadida, or La Sultana ($$$), whose pool faces the lagoon in Oualidia.” —Peter Frank, Director, Editorial Product Development
T+L Editor’s Pick: Kenya
“I’d travel north to south, starting at the dramatic Matthews Range, then flying over Mount Kenya en route to the Masai Mara to watch the Great Migration at Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri camp (all-inclusive; $$$$$). The finale: the history-rich island of Lamu.” —Amy Farley, News Editor
Tanzania and the Seychelles
“A safari to see the big cats, combined with the Seychelles.” —Brianna Jellerson Simmons, via Facebook
Here’s a 12-day bush-and-beach adventure created by Melissa Hordych of luxury outfitter Micato Safaris ($13,545 per person, all-inclusive).
Day 1: Arrive at the 30-cottage Arusha Coffee Lodge, on a working plantation.
Days 2–3: Fly to Lake Manyara, then drive to Exploreans Ngorongoro Lodge, which sits on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater. The collapsed volcano is home to 30,000 mammals (including one of Tanzania’s last black-rhino populations).
Days 4–6: There’s a strong chance of seeing lions, cheetahs, and elusive leopards by Lake Masek in the southern Serengeti. From your tent’s raised terrace at Lake Masek Tented Camp, you can spot hippos as they bob in the water.
Day 7: Overnight in Nairobi, Kenya, at the historic Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt once stayed. The on-site restaurant serves a great Mombasa spiny lobster.
Days 8–12: End at the oceanfront Raffles Praslin Seychelles, where each of the 86 airy villas has a private pool.
“I’m really interested in apartheid history.” —Zack Rodetis-Urenda, model scout/booker, 20
Book in advance for the ferry to Robben Island Museum, the prison just off the coast of Cape Town, where former inmates will guide you through the halls. For another perspective, we suggest the tiny District Six Museum, dedicated to the community that saw 60,000-plus black residents forced out from 1966 to 1982.
“A foodie trek around China, with cooking classes along the way.” —Kari Pitman, via Facebook
Start with a lesson at Beijing’s Black Sesame Kitchen, which offers courses on northern Chinese staples, including hand-rolled noodles, as well as millennia-old imperial recipes. Then head to Transit (86-10/6417-9090; $$) for a sophisticated take on Sichuan; the dan dan mian (spicy noodles) are addictive. It’s a five-hour bullet-train ride to Shanghai, where you can learn to make xiao long bao (soup buns) at the Kitchen at Cooking School. Or just enjoy them at the Huanghe Lu location of Jia Jia Tang Bao ($). For something modern, there’s Commune Social ($$$); try the sea urchin with pepper butter and baby-squid paella.
Cambodia and Vietnam
“Cruising the Mekong River through Cambodia and Vietnam.” —@Arimell
Feast on fresh-picked dragon fruit and lychees as you sail the Mekong River from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake to Phnom Penh, ending in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. The 16-day itinerary from AmaWaterways (from $3,998 per person) includes an overnight amid the eerie limestone pillars of Ha Long Bay and three days at the intricate temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Don’t miss the chance to visit Bantay Srei; though it’s less known than Siem Reap’s other temples, it is arguably the most beautiful.
“A spa day, followed by an authentic meal.” —Kerri Garrison, via Facebook
One step inside the Siam hotel’s Opium Spa by Sodashi and you’ll understand why we chose this Bangkok retreat for a relaxing day. The Sodashi experience includes a Himalayan-salt exfoliant, clay body-mask, herbal steam, and facial—plus lunch and post-treatment cocktails. As for dinner, head to David Thompson’s Nahm ($$) for the caramelized taro and coconut-turmeric curry with blue swimmer crab.
“Wandering through the beaches, backwaters, & tea plantations of the Malabar coast in Kerala.” @Joephilipose
Stay: According to Jonny Bealby of Wild Frontiers, the houseboat Lotus ($$$) brings a new level of comfort—and not just because of the air-conditioning. The two guest rooms have handmade teak furniture and private verandas.
Eat: Malabar House ($$), a boutique hotel in the heart of historic Fort Cochin, is known for its small on-site restaurant. Try the thali—but Bealby also suggests the catch of the day since “it comes out of the fishing nets that morning.”
Do: From Kochi, it’s a five-hour drive south to Kovalem, a fisherman’s beach fringed with coconut groves. Or, head east to the mountainous area of Munnar, studded with tea plantations, including Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, one of the world’s highest.
T+L Editor’s Pick: Mongolia
“Its sweeping grasslands have always held a certain unfettered allure. With Nomadic Expeditions (from $4,800 per person), I’d spend my days in the saddle looking out for golden eagles and my nights in the hand-painted gers of the nomadic Zahchin tribe.” —Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, Associate Editor
Steam from Ushuaia, Argentina, across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula on the 14-day Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent from Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (from $11,990 per person). Veteran naturalists such as author Stefan Lundgren lead hikes past penguin colonies, Zodiac land excursions, and kayak tours through ice floes, where you’ll spot leopard seals and the occasional orca. Wildlife photographers are also on hand to give photo lessons.
“A two-week trip around the country.” —@Malexgallegos
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve (4 Nights): Monteverde is a logical starting point, says Michael Kaye of Costa Rica Expeditions. Look for 500-plus species of orchids and the endangered, red and green resplendent quetzal. Opt for a chalet at the Hidden Canopy Treehouses Boutique Hotel ($$).
La Fortuna (3 Nights): Trek around the 5,479-foot Arenal Volcano, ride a zipline, and raft Class Three rapids on the Sarapiquí River. Unwind with a volcanic-mud massage at Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens ($$). Its sister hotel, the 16-villa Nayara Springs ($$$$), opens in December.
Tortuguero National Park (3 Nights): Kayak through jungle canals along the Caribbean coast. At Tortuga Lodge ($), the pool appears to blend seamlessly with the Tortuguero River.
Corcovado National Park (4 Nights): Hikers can explore this 100,000-acre wilderness, while surfers can hit the waves in the nearby Golfo Dulce. South of Corcovado, Lapa Rios ($$$$) has 16 luxe bungalows.
Belize and Honduras
“Visit dive sites in countries like Belize and Honduras.” —Cynnamon Schreinert, via Facebook
Most divers explore the 700-mile reef that stretches from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to the Bay Islands of Honduras one patch of coral at a time. But Royal Caribbean International (from $599 per person) offers seven-night itineraries from Galveston, Texas, with stops in Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico. Watch for dolphins near Anthony’s Key Resort, on Roatán, Honduras. On Belize’s Turneffe atoll, you may see branch and pipe coral, manatees, and green moray eels.
“My dream escape—uninhabited Espíritu Santo Island—turquoise ocean, starry nights.” —@Romanalilic
Swim in lagoons, hike the cactus-covered landscape, and learn to stand-up paddleboard among dolphins and whale sharks on trips with ecotourism company Baja Expeditions (two nights from $480 per person). Up to 16 adventurous travelers have the run of the protected biosphere reserve, an hour-long boat ride from La Paz off the coast of Baja California Sur. Meals (including fresh fish tacos with handmade tortillas) are eaten family-style, and nights are spent in simple two-person safari tents—or directly under the stars, if you prefer.
“I want to hike, eat, and drink wine.” —Shea Grimm, via Facebook
This compact island makes it easy to do all three. Live like a (well-heeled) local in Hobart’s new Avalon City Retreat ($$$$), a two-bedroom penthouse decked out with a gourmet kitchen and an outdoor tub made of Huon pine. The nearby Coal River Valley is an easy day trip for Pinot Noir tastings; come back for dinner at Garagistes ($$$), which serves seasonal dishes such as slow-roasted lamb saddle with salt-baked celeriac. Some of the best hikes can be found on the eastern coast, including an informal trek along the Freycinet Peninsula to glittering Wineglass Bay and a guided coastal walk from the eco-chic Bay of Fires Lodge (three days from $1,928 per person, all-inclusive).
T+L Editor’s Pick: Fiji
“I used to question traveling across the world for a beach, but then I discovered the remote and untouched Yasawa Island. American Express travel specialist Robin Turner suggests Yasawa Island Resort & Spa ($$$$). A private bungalow, picnics on deserted beaches, scuba diving—in a word, paradise.” —Brooke Porter, Associate Editor
The Australian Outback
“I’m not interested in the cities; I’d rather experience nature.” —Fabian Quesada, construction close-out manager, 46
Our idea of the classic outback experience? Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park’s vast central desert. Set right in the park, Voyages Ayers Rock Resort offers both lavish tented suites at Longitude 131 (two-night minimum; $$$$$) and the more rustic Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge ($$$).
“A vineyard and golf trip on New Zealand’s South Island.” —@Deejaycal424
Stay: Though Queenstown has earned a reputation for adrenaline-rush activities (bungee-jumping, anyone?), it also lays claim to one of New Zealand’s most stylish hotels: Matakauri Lodge ($$$$), on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, where the 11 cream-and-rust-colored suites have massive bay windows.
Sip: Nearby Arrowtown is the gateway to the Central Otago region, home to 200 wineries. On your way there, stop at Amisfield Winery & Bistro ($$$), which produces beautiful Pinot Gris and Rieslings; fuel up on braised lamb leg with black-leaf kale, pearl onions, and ricotta pudding at its adjoining restaurant.
Do: How about 18 holes with breathtaking mountain views? Jack’s Point, one of the South Island’s best golf courses, is less than an hour away from Matakauri. Another top spot: the Hills on 500 acres in Arrowtown, the host of next year’s New Zealand Open.