Spas: Best for a peerless pampering
Huvafen Fushi, Maldives
Contemporary resorts rarely equal impeccable service, but the two come together here. Guests stay in ocean-facing bungalows, dine in an innovative raw-food restaurant one of a handful at the resort and unwind in the world’s first underwater spa. The glass-pod treatment rooms are submerged in turquoise waters teeming with tropical fish, taking desert-salt exfoliations and pepperberry foot rituals to a whole new level.
Essential Escapes offers seven nights’ B&B from £2,450 per person, based on two adults sharing. Includes Emirates flights and speedboat transfers (020?7284 3344; www.essentialescapes.com)
Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort Al Areen
Poor old Dubai. The prize for the largest spa in the Middle East goes to up-and-coming Bahrain. Larger than three dozen tennis courts, the complex contains an extensive treatment centre, a garden hammam (a world first), and a dozen private pavilions for holistic massages and monsoon showers à deux. But we’re most intrigued by an ice igloo and rain-mist corridors in the Arabian Desert! Whatever next?
Five nights with Tropical Locations in a Desert Pool Villa on a B&B basis in November costs from £3,069 per person. Includes flights and transfers (020?7229 9199; www.tropical-locations.com)
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos
A tiny Caribbean island, Parrot Cay is dominated by this Christina Ong-designed resort, with its cool, white rooms, terracotta floors, and muslin-draped four-poster beds with ocean views. You’ll free your mind with yoga, prana-yama and pilates, and have your stress rubbed away in the COMO Shambhala Spa; the Indonesian and Balinese therapists specialise in healing treatments.
Essential Escapes offers seven nights in a double room on a B&B basis from £1,675 per person. Includes British Airways flights, and transfers by private car and boat (020?7284 3344; www.essentialescapes.com)
Explorer holidays: Best for Bruce Parry types
Playing with piranhas in the Pantanal
Forget the Amazon. If you’re after an eco-adventure, the Pantanal, a beautiful region in central southern Brazil, offers plenty to write home about: kayaking on lakes, trekking through rainforest before a spot of surfing to wind down. There’s also anaconda hunting and fishing for piranhas to be had, plus a night in Rio de Janeiro before you fly home.
Black Tomato itineraries are tailor-made, with prices from £1,999 per person, based on two people sharing. Includes all flights and transfers (020?7610 9008; www.blacktomato.co.uk)
We’re all going on a Russian bear hunt
Oh, those Russians. Their majestic brown bears thrive on the spectacular volcanoes of Kamchatka, in the country’s far east so this mountain-hiking trip offers two Boys’ Own adventures in one. Three, if you count the helicopter transfers that pick you up daily from your wilderness base at Two Yurts Lake, the bears’ favoured feeding ground. You can also bathe in steaming hot springs or hike up to the craters of the most active volcanoes on the Ring of Fire, the fault line that circles the entire Pacific.
Explore! offers a 15-day ‘volcanoes and bears’ trip to Kamchatka from £3,699 (plus taxes) per person. Includes flights (0870 333 4001; www.explore.co.uk)
Eye to eye with Everest
Not many can say they’ve seen the top of the world. Even fewer can say they’ve done it in style. The 14-day Royal Nepal Spectaclar offered by top-drawer African experts Ker and Downey is a five-star trek, culminating with a mountain flight that gives you an eye-level view of the Earth’s highest peak. You hike between luxury camps (with en suite rooms, beds with down pillows and a nice homely touch, this hot-water bottles), and there’s rafting and elephant riding along the way.
Price on application (00 97 761 523 701; www.kerdowneynepal.com)
Safaris: best for wild, wild life
Walking with big cats
Up-and-coming Zambia is one of Africa’s best game-viewing destinations. Here, tracking lion and leopard is best done on foot or by canoe. Original Travel sends groups into the great unspoilt South Luangwa National Park escorted by armed scouts. At night, the brave at heart can sleep out under the stars. Prices from £2,360 per person with Original Travel. Includes British Airways flights, six nights’ accommodation, transfers, meals, local beverages, lodge activities and National Park fees (020?7978 7333; www.originaltravel.co.uk)
Act the leopard prince
Surprisingly for a leopard reserve, Londolozi an exceptional game park in South Africa’s Sabi Sands region is changing its spots. Established in 1926, the intimate camp is refurbishing, putting the bush back into the safari experi-ence. After a day’s tracking, guests can now relax in an outdoor granite bath in total seclusion perfect for honeymooners.
Four nights in a fully inclusive suite costs from £3,230 per person. Includes return British Airways flights to Johannesburg and all transfers (020?7384 2332; www.cazloyd.com)
Perfect your trout pout
Nowhere beats New Zealand in the serenity and seclusion stakes, so for a high-mountain commune with nature, starting with a night’s heli-camping in the Fiordland National Park, visit Matakauri Lodge. A real get-away-from-it-all place in the bush, overlooking Lake Wakatipu on the South Island, it’s a beautiful place to hole up for a spot of boat fishing brown and rainbow trout abound to go whale-watching or swim with dolphins. Alternatively, go white-water rafting, jetskiing, or bungee from one of the highest jumps in the world.
Eight nights cost from £6,000 per person, between October 2007 and May 2008. Includes return flights to Auckland and internal flights with Air New Zealand, most meals and tours. (020?8682 5060; www.scottdunn.com)
Beach resorts: Best for sun, sea and sand
Own a piece of the South Pacific for a week
Ever considered hiring an island solely for you and a few friends? Fiji’s Wadigi Island is a private paradise in the South Pacific, which can be booked by up to six people for exclusive use. The three-acre island include three spacious suites with ocean views, infinity pool, two private beaches set up for water sports, and a team of 10 dedicated members of staff to fetch drinks as you lounge, and serve up gourmet banquets throughout your stay.
Seven nights cost from £4,906 per person (based on two sharing), for travel between February 1 and March 31, 2008 with All Ways Pacific. Includes return flights with Air New Zealand, meals and helicopter transfers (01494 432747; www.all-ways.co.uk)
Fall in love in India
One of the most luxurious beach resorts in India, Taj Fisherman’s Cove, just outside Chennai, has everything a young couple could want: secluded sea-front cottages with garden hammocks; a large pool with a swim-up bar dishing out cocktails and sunscreen; an Ayurvedic spa pavilion with an open-air treatment room and a petal-topped plunge pool for two. For even more romance, watch the sun go down with drinks served in the ‘boulder bar’, set into a rocky outcrop looking out to sea, followed by dinner on the beach, lit by flaming torches.
From £1,475 per night based on two sharing with Greaves India. Includes return British Airways flights (020?7487 9111; www.greavesindia.com
Ipanema just got hotter
Rio de Janeiro is at its hottest where the world-famous Copa-cabana Beach meets the equally illustrious Ipanema. It’s also the precise location of the brand new Fasano Hotel, a super-chic spot with Philippe Starck-designed private terraces. It’s all about the ocean views: guests can see out over the Atlantic when standing around the rooftop swimming pool, and when taking a morning shower. That’s designer dreamy. Seven nights at the Fasano in a Superior room with breakfast costs from £1,407 per person with cazenove+loyd. Includes flights with British Airways and all transfers (020?7384 2332; www.cazloyd.com
Family friendly: Best baby magnets
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand
A resort where you go from villa to beach in a horse and carriage, and have an elephant on hand for petting. The innovative kids’ club activities include classes in Thai skills such as folding lotus flowers and decorating mulberry paper fans. As they ride Nellie, you can slip off to the colonial pool bar.
Essential Escapes is offering seven nights in a double room, B&B, from £1,520 per person, based on two sharing. Includes flights with Eva Air and car transfers (020?7284 3344; www.essentialescapes.com)
One and Only Kanuhura, Maldives
With its Treasure Island setting, this place is made for pirate games, part of supervised activities at the KidsOnly clubhouse. Children are spoiled with gifts, taken dolphin watching, and get their own swimming pool. For older ones, there are banana-tube rides and a disco. Seasons in Style is offering seven nights B&B for the price of five from £1,580 per person in a Beach Villa. Includes Emirates flights and transfers. Based on two sharing, from May 11 to July 10, 2008 (01244 202000; www.seasonsinstyle.co.uk)
Beau Rivage, Mauritius
How’s this for a rarity: a tropical beach resort where families and honeymooners happily coexist. It lays claim to the largest pool in Mauritius, beautiful white-sand beaches with shallow shores (perfect for paddling with toddlers), and a glass-bottomed boat for enchanting rides with the marine life swimming below. Seasons In Style is offering seven nights for the price of six, from £1,775 per person in a Junior Suite, half-board, based on two sharing. Includes British Airways flights and private transfers. From January 6 to April 30, 2008 (01244 202000; www.seasonsinstyle.co.uk)
Paul Clements is former Acting Editor of ‘High Life’