Today (January 7, 2019): My 2019 trips that I am most excited about.
At the end of the past year, I reflected on my most memorable travel experiences of 2018. But now that 2019 is finally here, it’s time to look forward and share with you 10 great trips that I am planning for the coming year and that I am looking forward to share with you in my Wednesday blog posts (which always feature a flight trip reports and luxury hotel reviews).
If you have some tips and suggestions for my upcoming trips, please share them in the comments section below!
In spring 2019, I am going on a short weekend trip to Columbia, to attend the wedding of one my best friends in Cartagena. I had different options to choose from regarding my flight from Europe to Columbia, and in the end, I booked a transatlantic flight in Business Class on a B787 Dreamliner of Avianca from Madrid to Bogota (I could also have flown Iberia or Lufthansa but decided to try Avianca for the purpose of this blog, since I have already covered the Business Class products of Iberia and Lufthansa). Avianca is the flagship carrier of Columbia and the second largest airline in Latin America, after LATAM. Avianca is also the world’s second oldest airline after KLM, and celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2009, when it was announced that it would merge with TACA. Avianca’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners have 28 seats in Business Class in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout, and the premium product gets excellent reviews on other blogs, so I am looking forward to this flight. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make nice trip report!
The lush strip of land called Bora Bora lies in the South Pacific Ocean’s most mesmerizing lagoon and has, as you probably expect, some pretty awesome beaches. Luxurious bungalows nestled over ridiculously clear waters with Mount Otemanu as a tropical backdrop put Bora Bora in the bucket list of many travelers. I am planning a week-long (return) trip to Bora Bora in October, which should be the end of the dry season. I will stay at the St Regis and Four Seasons resorts, both of them representing the best French Polynesia has to offer in terms of accommodations. I also intend to stay at the The Brando Resort on French Polynesia’s private island of Tetiaroa – an atoll composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a sparkling lagoon 30 mi (50 km) northeast of Tahiti. It was in this natural wonderland that actor Marlon Brando settled down and finally found his home (hence explaining the name of the resort). I will fly to French Polynesia in Business Class on Air Tahi Nui via Tokyo for just 25 USD and 80,000 miles American Airline miles. I am also exploring the possibility of visiting Easter Island on my way back home, since LATAM operates direct flights between Tahiti and Easter Island. Easter Island is home not only to monumental statues, called moai, but also to the famous Rapa Nui lodge.
Dutch carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of my favorite airlines in the world. I love KLM’s super-friendly cabin crew (in their oh-so-recognizable blue cabin attendant uniforms) and the carrier’s attention for design elements – such as Marcel Wanders tableware, the Jan Taminiau amenty kit, and the Delft Blue miniature Dutch houses (filled with gin). KLM is currently completing the retrofitting of its A330 aircraft with new World Business Class cabin interiors and seats, created by renowned Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. The Business Class cabins of all KLM’s Boeings 747, 777-200 and 777-300 have already undergone this transformation. KLM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners already have the new-style World Business Class cabins. KLM’s new World Business Class features full-flat seats, in-seat power, improved privacy, and a brand-new personal entertainment system with an 18” screen, HD quality films and a touchscreen navigation menu in 12 languages. I have booked a Business Class ticket on one of KLM’s A330s for my trip to Rwanda early 2019 (more on that below). I keep my fingers crossed that KLM will have finished the refurbishment of its A330 fleet by the time I am flying them (the old product is underwhelming), so that I can report on the (hopefully great) product.
In summer 2019, I will follow in the footsteps of Dr Livingstone and brace for one of thé ultimate trips that one can make in a lifetime. I will travel from the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to South Africa’s magnificent Mother City Cape Town, an epic journey that will bring me through the vast wilderness of Namibia and Botswana, covering all of Southern Africa’s highlights. I will hike in the Fish River Canyon, spot wildlife in Etosha National Park, track predators in the Okavango Delta, watch the sun rise over the world’s highest dunes in Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, and get sprayed by the world’s largest sheet of falling water at Victoria Falls. I will end my journey in pure chill in my favorite city on earth, Cape Town, with its stunning beaches, beautiful mountains, inviting vineyards, spectacular drives, and tons of trendy bars and fine dining restaurants. En route, I will stay in some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife lodges, including the terrific Belmond properties and & Beyond safari lodges in Botswana, as well as some of the ultraluxurious Wilderness Safari camps, such as Mombo Camp and Abu Camp in the Okavango Delta, Little Kuala in Sossuvlei and the new Hoanib Skeleton Coast lodge in Namibia’s remote area of the Kaokoveld.
Stretching from the Himalaya mountains and the Ranthambore jungle to the beaches of Goa and the lush tropical greenery of Kerala, India is larger than life, with a population that exceeds a billion, 23 official languages and more than a million square miles of land. With more than 5,000 years of history and an amazing array of natural landscapes, it could truly take a lifetime to experience all that India has to offer. And while India inspires, astonishes and enlightens many who tread her soil, deciding where to visit in the country is probably the one thing that causes me headaches and indecision, since India is so vast and varied. Like many first-time visitors, I will focus on the destination of Rajasthan, because of its opulent palace-hotels, ancient forts, and safari drives. I will stay at the two Indian outposts of Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. Set on a former royal hunting ground, Amanbagh recalls India’s Golden Age of pomp and palaces, while luxe tented camp Aman-i-Khás borders the untouched jungle of a tiger preserve, where daily safaris seek out the largest of cats as well as hyenas, crocodiles and chital deer. I will also stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas Resort near the iconic Taj Mahal, and the famous Oberoi Udaivilas and Taj Lake Palace properties in Udaipur.
Each year, I take a week-long holiday on the Maldives, and this year, I am returning to one of my favorite resorts: Soneva Fushi (so except some more Soneva clips on my Youtubechannel!). Soneva Fushi, the first ‘Robinson Crusoe’ style hideaway in the Maldives, is set on the privately owned tropical island of Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The island – which is 1,400 m (4,600 ft) long and 400 m (1300 ft) wide – ranks among the largest islands in the Maldives. Apart from the crystal clear waters, white beaches and tropical climate, the island’s unusually rich vegetation offers a unique natural experience. Massive, multi-bedroom, fairytale-like luxury villas and private residences are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools. Intuitive service is provided by Mr/Ms Friday butlers who know what you want before you want it. A stroll on the island’s spotless beaches invariably summons up Robinson Crusoe stories.
Contact me to receive complimentary Soneva ambassador benefits at Soneva Fushi (e.g. upgrade, resort credit, and a personalized Soneva experience).
In 2016, Air France welcomed its very first Boeing 787. Today, the flagship carrier of France has 7 Dreamliners in its fleet, operating flights to several long-haul destinations, such as Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Bamako (Mali), Bogota (Colombia), Boston (United States), Detroit (United States), Guangzhou (China), Montreal (Canada), Nairobi (Kenya), Male (Maldives) and Osaka (Japan). The Boeing 787 features Air France’s most recent Business Class cabins. There are a total of 30 Business Class seats, with a 42-inch (106 cm) pitch, configured in a 1-2-1 layout, with direct aisle access for all passengers. Each Business Class seat converts into a 2 meter (6.5 ft) fully-flat bed, with Air France saying that “everything has been designed to ensure an impeccable quality of sleep, with soft seat cushions, a silky duvet and an XXL feather pillow”. Each passenger also has a 16-inch (41 cm) wide HD touch screen. I have previously flown Air France on several occasions before I launched my blog/vlog, so I am happy to fly them again (on the Paris to Male route), enabling me to experience their newest Business Class offering and make a trip report and clip about the experience.
Qatar Airways is one of my favorite carriers for flying Business Class. And the airline – which is still facing difficulties following a severe diplomatic crisis in the Middle East – took its Business Class product to a new, unprecedented level last year. The so-called ‘QSuite‘ offers the industry’s first-ever Business Class double bed, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the centre four seats allow colleagues, friends or families traveling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialize together. Each seat is crafted with thoughtful and luxurious details such as hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing, bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, privacy and style to Qatar Airways’ Business Class offering. The Qsuites are currently available on carrier’s newly delivered A350-1000 aircraft; in addition, Qatar’s B777 fleet is retrofitted with QSuites at an estimated rate of one aircraft a month. I have booked myself into a Qsuite for my trip to the Seychelles (Paris to Doha). Let’s just hope that Qatar does no make a last-minute aircraft swap since that would ruin the opportunity to make a nice trip report :). I will publish my trip report in March 2019.
Spotting a wild gorilla in the African jungle is on many people’s bucket list and ranks among my favorite wildlife experience in the world. Mountain gorillas are the most majestic, and sadly, rarest apes of all non-human primates. Only 700 of these magnificent creatures remain in the world, all of them found in the border area between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A guided gorilla tracking takes anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, and allows you to spend one hour with the apes once you found them. I have previously spotted mountain gorillas in Uganda’s magnificent Bwindi National Park (more than a decade ago), an awesome adventure inspired by my emotions after seeing the movie Gorillas In The Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey. Early 2019, I am traveling to Rwanda, which is emerging as one of the most exciting new luxury destinations in Africa. I will be staying at two of the countries most exclusive lodges, One&Only Nyungwe House which is situated on a working tea plantation on the edge of Nyungwe National Park (and the first of two new One&Only resorts to open in Rwanda) and ultraluxe Bisate Lodge, which is managed by Wilderness safaris and comprises only six spacious forest villas, offering a luxurious base from which to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla experience. I will publish my Rwanda trip reports in February.
Review of The Fontenay Hotel Hamburg
Today (January 23, 2019): Review of The Fontenay Hotel (Hamburg, Germany)
In 1816, Hamburg-based shipbroker John Fontenay acquired a unique plot of land on the beautiful shores of the Alster lake in the heart of the city. Today, it is the site of the Fontenay Hotel, which offers lakeside luxury at its best. The Fontenay is a reflection of modern Hamburg: open-minded, cosmopolitan and exceptionally welcoming. A homage to the Hanseatic city, the luxury hotel is tailor-made for the many national and international visitors who come to discover and rediscover Hamburg. The hotel’s Hamburg-born star architect Jan Störmer titled his initial drawings ‘timelessly modern, modern classic’ and his fascinating, sculpture-like architecture mirrors the fluid lines of the lake and surrounding parkland, creating the perfect balance between nature and urbanity. Flooded with daylight, all 131 rooms and suites feature parquet flooring, walk-in closets and balconies, primarily with lake views.
The Fontenay Hamburg features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Germany.
Have you ever stayed at The Fontenay Hamburg? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The Japanese call Hamburg “The green city in the woods” – and not without reason: 27 per cent of Hamburg comprises natural areas. The Fontenay Hamburg is situated in one such natural area on the southwesterly shore of the Alster Lake. It’s a beautiful place of nature and tranquillity, right in the heart of the city. It can be described as an urban resort. The residential area around the property features expansive parks, numerous foreign consulates, and the University of Hamburg. Alster Lake itself is always a draw with its park-inspired shores and water sports activities, including paddle boarding, sailing and rowing.
- To capitalise on Hamburg’s abundant urban greenery, local architect Jan Störmer envisioned a ‘Hotel in the Park’ concept when he began his first drawings for the property. The amorphous shape of the nine-story hotel building with its sculpted roofscape rises from three intertwining circles. The facade features wide glazed surfaces, white and gleaming ceramic elements, and fluid lines that evoke the Alster lakeside. The hotels’s unique architecture blends seamlessly with its surroundings, creating a balance between nature and the white urban sphere. The organic shape means the hotel has no backside; it’s surrounded by trees on the lake’s shore and flooded with light.
- The circular design theme continues inside the hotel, with the three circular wings intertwining and narrowing in the center, hereby revealing two open spaces that are linked by the stylish ground floor lobby: a landscaped patio and – the hotel’s centerpiece – a 27 m (88ft) high, glass-walled atrium. The latter is fitted with satinised, scaled panels of varying shades and LED strips. The highlight of the atrium is the light sculpture by Dutch firm Brand van Egmond featuring dozens of LEDs fitted to curved steel branches. Due to the hotel’s organic, curvaceous architecture, all the furniture has been individually selected and designed, such as the semi-circular 25 m (82 ft) long sofa and the enormous carpet in the atrium.
- Flooded with daylight, every one of the 130 luxurious rooms, which include 17 suites, faces outwards. Inspired by circles, the sculptural architecture of the building is mirrored in the interior room concept: all rooms feature a trapezoid layout with curved walls and open up to floor-to-ceiling windows with private balconies. During my visit, I stayed in a ‘classic room’, the hotel’s lowest room category. The room was equipped with fine parquet flooring, two lounge chairs, a desk area, and a queen size bed. It featured a soft color palette of light beige, green onyx walls, warm whites, turquoise and royal blue. The ensuite bathroom came with one sink and a rain shower. A touchpad allowed to conveniently open and close the blinds, to choose between different lighting scenarios, or to adjust the air conditioning in the room.
- The stunning Fontenay Spa is located on the hotel’s 6th floor, high above Hamburg’s rooftops with calm, uninterrupted views of sailing boats on the Alster Lake . The light-filled wellness area features a wide range of facilities, such as a Finnish panoramic sauna, an aroma-quartzite steam room, various multi-sensory showers, and beautiful relaxation lounges with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. There are 4 treatment rooms including a private spa suite equipped with its own sauna, steam room, whirlpool, double day bed and TV lounge. The spa’s highlight is a the 20m (66 ft) indoor pool which connects to a rooftop pool on the hotel’s magnificent sun terrace. The wellness area also features a state-of-the-art gym, with modern cardiovascular and weight training equipment.
- The hotel features two excellent dining venues: one all-day dining restaurant on the groundfloor, complemented with a gourmet restaurant and a bar located on the top floor.
- Situated on the ground floor of The Fontenay, Parkview is a relaxed restaurant with a smart-casual atmosphere, featuring massive windows and a delightful summer terrace. The classic menu includes specialties like Königsberger Klopse (meatballs in a white sauce), a chateaubriand that’s carved tableside, or half a lobster with grilled vegetables.
- Lakeside restaurant on the rooftop offers a contemporary fine dining experience with a unique blend of modern architecture and panoramic views across Hamburg. Here, high above Hamburg’s rooftops, chef Cornelius Speinle (ex-The Fat Duck) is in charge. Among the culinary highlights in the restaurant is one of the best meats in the world, the certified Wagyu Meat from Japan’s Miyazaki region.
- In addition to the two restaurants, the property also boasts two magnificent lounge areas.
- The Fontenay Bar on the 6th floor blends relaxed mixology with awe-inspiring vistas over the city. The bar features dark herringbone parquet floors made from steamed spruce, walls clad in Makassar ebony, a stunning monolithic bar, and a piano. It’s highlight is the outside terrace: all five of Hamburg’s main churches, the inner and outer Alster Lake, the Elbphilarmonics, the Town Hall and much more can be seen from this prime location.
- The atrium space houses a lounge area, where you can enjoy seasonally inspired afternoon tea created by Chef Patissier Marco D’Andrea. The lounge leads to three further spaces. The first is a chic bar, which offers exclusive products like pralines, macaroons, wine, olive oil and many more souvenir gifts. The second is a library stocked with more than 1,000 carefully chosen books, selected in cooperation with Hamburg-based book store, Felix Jud. And finally, there a smoker’s room where you can find a small, but premium selection of cigars.
- Each morning, an excellent breakfast is served at Parkview. A selection of bread, rolls croissants, cheeses from Northfriesian Backensholzer Farm, local charcuterie and smoked fish specialities with a dip are brought to the table on an étagère. Egg-based dishes like omelettes, pancakes with local speciality Rote Grütze (berry compote), or buttermilk waffles with fresh berries can be ordered additionally. The à la carte breakfast is complemented by a small buffet, offering homemade jam, whipped yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, smoothie shots, freshly pressed juice, coffee and tea, cereal, and much, much mor. For those in a celebratory mood, there’s a gourmet breakfast that includes champagne and caviar. And for something even more extraordinary, the Fontenay Hanseatic slice – rye bread with fresh beef tartar and caviar – is a dish that harks back to the days when sturgeon still roamed the River Elbe.
- The hotel is named after John Fontenay, one of the most successful 19th century merchants in Hamburg. Born in Pennsylvania, USA, Fontenay arrived in Hamburg in 1800, and swiftly made a career in the shipping business. In 1802, he married a wealthy widow, Anna Catharina Kirsten, who brought 4 children into the marriage. Despite the damaging effects of the Napoleonic wars on trade, and the family’s departure from Hamburg between 1810 and 1814, John Fontenay was able to build a substantial fortune. Following his return to the city in 1814, he used his success to purchase a range of plots outside the Wallring area, near Dammtor. At the time of his death, Fontenay owned a massive size of land in the city’s best locations. Today, many street names like ‘Fontenay Allee’, or ‘Klein Fontenay’ as well as his carefully restored home and garden point to the history of these idyllic estates. This inheritance is currently managed by the Fontenay Trust and unites the descendants of John Fontenay’s stepchildren.
- The Fontenay Hamburg is counted among the portfolio of the Leading Hotels of the World. The latter is an exclusive collection of more than 400 luxury hotels and resorts in over 80 countries. HW does not own hotels; it rather offers a reservation service for independent hotels and supports sales and marketing, advertising and public relations, financial services, quality control, and hotel inspections for its member properties. LHW has many iconic properties in its portfolio, such as such as Maia Luxury Resort in the Seychelles, the 12 Apostles Hotel in Cape Town, The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia, The Langham London, Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin, Le Sirenuse in Positano (Italy), the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam, Laucala Island in Fiji, the Setai Miami Beach, and The Ritz in Paris.
- Almost 200 members of staff look after guests at The Fontenay. They provide impeccable service and a hospitality that is always natural, authentic, heartfelt and sincere. Guests here feel comfortable, acknowledged, understood and respected.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The Fontenay Hamburg is the best 5-star hotel in Hamburg. There’s little to say against the property, although you may want to know the following ‘issues’ before considering a stay here:
- The hotel’s lowest room category – the classic room – is rather disappointing since it feels tiny and it comes with a queen size bed. All the other room categories are more spacious and feature king size beds, so I recommend to book at least a deluxe room for optimal comfort.
- The Fontenay Spa with its pool area is also open to non-hotel guests when they book a cosmetic treatment or massage. Although the clientele and vibe is chic and upscale, some guests may not like the fact that they have to mix with non-guests on the pool deck.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like The Fontenay Hamburg (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: you can earn hotel points or spend them for a free night at The Fontenay with LHW’s loyalty program, Leader’s Club.
- Room tip: book at least a deluxe room category; otherwise you may end up in a disappointingly small classic room with one queen size bed.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Hamburg is best visited between April and May (spring) or September through November (autumn), right before or directly after the summertime high tourist season. You’ll contend with fewer tourists, enjoy somewhat mild temperatures (the city’s weather is notoriously finicky), and also experience Hamburg as the locals do, at its laid-back best.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hamburg can be easily reached by plane, train or car. For those coming by plane, the hotel is located a 30-minute cab ride from Hamburg Airport (HAM). Check the Wikipedia page of Hamburg Airport for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Hamburg.
Top 10 Leading Hotels of the World
Today (January 21, 2019): Top 10 Leading Hotels of the World.
The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) is an exclusive collection of more than 400 luxury hotels and resorts in over 80 countries. LHW does not own hotels; it rather offers a reservation service for independent hotels and supports sales and marketing, advertising and public relations, financial services, quality control, and hotel inspections for its member properties. LHW has several iconic properties in its portfolio, some of them ranking among the best hotels in the world. And staying at a LHW hotel got a lot more interesting this year because LHW recently launched a new loyalty program (which I will explain in my blogpost this Friday) that allows you to earn points and redeem them for free stays at LWH properties worldwide (in addition to special benefits and discounts). Here’s a list of my 10 favorite LWH properties in the world.
Which one is your favorite Leading Hotel of the World? Leave a comment.
Located on Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Ipanema Beach, star designer Philippe Starck’s first hotel in Brazil pays homage to the golden age of bossa nova. Channeling the heyday of Jobim and Gilberto, the staff wears Ocimar Versolato–inspired uniforms. Distinctly Brazilian materials like Îpe flooring and the enormous piquiá tree stump used for the reception desk are mixed with Grecian marble, 19th-century Argentinean brick and Chinese onyx. The guest rooms have Sergio Rodrigues furnishings and Starckian ear-shaped mirrors and come with private balconies affording sweeping views. Overseeing the Al Mare restaurant is a chef from Florence’s Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri, while the Renata de Abreu Spa offers La Prairie treatments.
Occupying a prime beachfront location, this exclusive 21-acre beach resort is located 20 minutes north of old Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, at Al Ghubra. The Chedi Muscat is ideally located for business and leisure travelers alike as the main tourist attractions, the financial center, three golf courses, and Muscat International Airport are only a 15-minute drive away. The Chedi Muscat, Oman’s first contemporary hotel, opened its doors in 2003. The resort offers understated elegance and a perfect blend of Omani architecture and Asian zen style. The clean white lines of the low-rise buildings are accentuated by gardens of symmetrical simplicity, with lines of manicured hedges and orderly water ponds, creating a sense of calm. All nonsmoking rooms have breathtaking views across the gardens and ponds toward the Hajar mountains and the Gulf of Oman.
- Hotel website: The Chedi Muscat
- Other accolades: The Chedi Muscat features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Oman and the world’s best urban resorts.
- Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, $100 USD resort credit, and a 60-minute massage for two for guests staying in a suite).
- Review: read my review of The Chedi Muscat here.
At the only hotel in London to offer round-the-clock, dedicated butler service in each room and suite, guests are assured their every need is well served – with thought, surprise and charm. Perfectly located between Knightsbridge, Hyde Park and Mayfair, this iconic landmark is at the heart of the capital’s beloved boutiques and fashionable neighborhoods. Celebrated as much as a destination for food and drink as a hotel, The Lanesborough is home to the Michelin-starred Céleste restaurant, an award-winning afternoon tea service, a seriously seductive Library Bar and one of London’s best cigar and cognac lounges in the city. The finishing touch in the hotel’s exceptional renovation, The Lanesborough Club & Spa is one of London’s most exclusive private member fitness and health clubs, offering hotel guests and club members access to internationally recognized experts in the fields of fitness, beauty and wellness.
- Hotel website: The Lanesborough
- Other accolades: The Lanesborough also features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in London.
- Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g.room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD hotel credit).
- Review: read my review of The Lanesborough London here.
Faena Hotel Miami Beach evokes Miami’s golden age of glamour with stunning Art Deco appeal and old-world grandeur. The oceanfront hotel features exquisitely designed spaces that transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, with restaurants from award-winning chefs including an open Fire Kitchen from Argentine chef Francis Mallmann and modern Asian cuisine from chef Paul Qui, a 150-seat cabaret-style theater with nightly live performances, and an expansive Tierra Santa Healing House spa for relaxation. The hotel’s signature Faena Butlers, available to every guestroom, are responsible for ensuring that a guest’s needs are not only met but exceeded.
- Hotel website: Faena Hotel Miami
- Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
The Sersale family, owners of Le Sirenuse, the legendary Amalfi Coast hotel, has had many illustrious members: an ambassador in the mid-18th century; a cardinal and archbishop of Naples; even a mayor of Positano, the fishing village-turned-glam resort, in the 1940’s. The palazzo that now houses the property was the Sersale’s seaside retreat, and anyone who stays cannot help but be swept up in the passion and good taste of this family. The majolica tiled rooms are filled with museum-worthy antiques, hand-picked mostly by patriarch Franco Sersale. Today, the charming Antonio Sersale continues the tradition that has transformed his family’s home into one of the world’s most personal properties. As locals will tell you, ‘Positano is Le Sirenuse’.
- Hotel website: Le Sirenuse
- Other accolades: Le Sirenuse also features in my top 10 list of the best hotels on the Amalfi Coast.
- Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, $100 USD wellness credit, early check-in, and late check-out).
Nestled in the heart of a 10-million-year-old rainforest, The Datai Langkawi is a captivating destination resort that seamlessly blends into its natural surroundings. Situated on the mystical island of Langkawi, lush tropical rainforest infiltrates the resort’s rooms, suites, and villas, through private verandas offering breathtaking views in every direction. The resort’s serene surroundings provide the perfect escape for guests looking to reconnect with nature, and to nurture the mind, body, and spirit. But if that’s not enough, Datai Bay is rated one of the top ten beaches in the world by National Geographic and, along with the resort’s surrounding jungle, is host to a wide array of wildlife, like Dusky langurs, Tokay geckos, and Sunda Colugos, just a few of the area’s endemic species.
For more than 90 years, La Mamounia has been a beloved destination for discerning international travelers. Located in the heart of the enchanting imperial city, this luxury hotel has recreated the intoxicating mood of an Oriental palace. The sprawling gardens are ripe with citrus trees, fragrant rose blossoms, ancient olive groves and a vegetable garden where one might see La Mamounia’s chefs foraging for ingredients to be prepared that evening at the hotel’s three signature restaurants. Completing the regal experience, La Mamounia’s service epitomizes Moroccan hospitality with attentive and friendly staff, always with a warm smile.
- Hotel website: La Mamounia
- Other accolades: La Mamounia also features in my top 10 list of the world’s best hotel breakfasts.
- Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP benefits when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD spa credit).
The iconic Paris grande dame has been restored to its former Belle Époque glory after a resplendent interior renovation by acclaimed architect, Thierry W. Despont. The hotel’s historic suites are named after the hotel’s most illustrious former guests (Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marcel Proust), featuring signature 19th century flourishes amid opulent contemporary comforts. The property includes three restaurants, three bars, including the famed Bar Hemingway, and gorgeous gardens and terraces with retractable roofs and heated floors, designed to be enjoyed all year-long. After long days spent exploring the city, you can keep up with your exercise regimen in the indoor pool or modern fitness center, or indulge in a Chanel skin care treatment inside a private room at Chanel au Ritz Paris, the signature Spa. And speaking of privacy, a discreet underground tunnel provides unseen arrivals and departures from the hotel for guests who value the utmost in discretion.
Guests will experience every aspect of luxury at the Maia Luxury Resort & Spa. Set on the secluded Anse Louis overlooking the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the private twelve-acre property is lushly landscaped with hibiscus, lemongrass and cinnamon. With just ten ocean-front villas and 20 panoramic villas, all with private pools, and a staff of 230, the resort insures an exceptional level of service. Pampering and wellness are also the focus at the Balinese-style spa, which offers instruction in Hatha yoga and Qigong, as well as restorative treatments performed in open-air pavilions. If guests can motivate to move beyond the resort’s beautiful grounds, the variety of water-based activities available include snorkeling and canoeing, with diving and fishing at a fee.
Set upon 3,500 exclusive acres Laucala private island resort is set amidst coconut plantations, sandy beaches, rich green mountains and breathtaking natural beauty. True luxury is appreciated in the privacy of the resort’s villas widely spread on the northern tip of the island. Seamless transition from indoor to outdoor living creates an inspiringly relaxed yet luxurious atmosphere. Laucala shows its most ethereal side in an iridescent kaleidoscope of sporting and cultural activities. Diving in a unique underwater world, rain forest tours, horseback riding, surfing, golfing on the 18-hole championship course, or meeting native artists. Whether you choose to dine in your villa or to visit one of Laucala’s five restaurants and bars, you enjoy dishes based on the freshest produce.
Travel guide to Indonesia – The Luxury Travel Expert
Today (January 18, 2019): Travel series: a travel guide to Indonesia.
My travel blog features a section that comprises a selection of destination & travel guides. You can find these travel guides in a menu under my blog’s header menu (indicated by the arrow in the screenshot below).
I hope these online travel guides – based on my own travel experiences – may help you to get the most out of your (luxury) trips. So far, I have published travel guides on the following destinations:
Today, I am adding a new travel guide to my blog about Indonesia. From beach and wildlife-focused escapes to journeys into the spiritual, cultural and adventure-fueled unknown, Indonesia never fails to inspire. This magnificent Southeast Asian country comprises more than 17,000 islands scattered in the Pacific Ocean, with a landscape dominated by lush rainforests, steaming volcanoes and idyllic beaches. The sheer range of experiences that you can have in Indonesia is spellbinding and will live on as sweet memories long after your holiday in the island country.
Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Indonesia with my travel guide. Find out more about:
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Weather in Indonesia can be split into two seasons – wet and dry – with warm tropical temperatures averaging 28°C (82°F) during the day, throughout the year. In most regions, the dry season spans from May to September, with the rains falling between October and April.
- The dry season – which lasts from May to September – is considered the best time to visit Indonesia, with plenty of sunshine and day temperatures in the high 70s°F to low 80s°F (26°C-29°C). Sporadic showers may occur in the dry season but are infrequent events. These months are the ideal time to travel if you are planning on sunbathing, diving, exploring cultural sites, or climbing one of Indonesia’s famous volcanoes.
- The wet season occurs between October and April with frequent rainfall that comes in the form of intense tropical downpours that tend to last for a couple of hours. November, December and January see the most rainfall. The eastern parts of Indonesia (Lombok, Flores and the islands beyond) are more affected by the rainy season than the western parts (Java, Sumatra and Bali). During the peak of the wet season, muddy back roads can be a problem if you intend to explore more off the beaten track locations and rough seas can render some islands inaccessible to smaller boats.
There are some regional exceptions. For example, north Sulawesi experiences some rain in June & July. For a detailed month to month weather report of the different regions in Indonesia, check this excellent website.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most tourists will arrive in Indonesia via Soekarno–Hatta International Airport near Jakarta or one of the airfields that serve the areas of Bali, Lombok, Yogyakarta, and Surabaya.
- Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) is the primary airport serving the capital Jakarta in West Java. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Jakarta.
- Adisutjipto International Airport (YOG) is the principal airport serving the Yogyakarta area in Central Java. Yogyakarta is the cultural heart of Indonesia and home to two of the countries most famous visited sites, the UNESCO protected temple compounds of Borobodur and Prambanan. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Yogyakarta.
- Juanda International Airport (JIA) serves the metropolitan area of Surabaya plus extended urban area in East Java. It’s the closest airport to one of Indonesia’s most famous attractions, Mount Bromo. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Surabaya.
- Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) – officially known as I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport – is the main airport in Bali and the second busiest airport in Indonesia after Soekarno–Hatta International Airport. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Bali.
- Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport (LOP) is the only airport on the island of Lombok. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Lombok.
Before you buy a plane ticket, consider reading my tips & tricks for buying the cheapest plane ticket.
Requirements for entry into Indonesia differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Prior to departure, always check with your government and your nearest Indonesia embassy or consulate what documents you need for travel to Indonesia.
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your entry into Indonesia.
- Citizens of 140 countries (including the EU, UK, USA, Canada and Australia) do not need a visa for stays up to 30 days. All other nationalities must obtain a visa from one of the Indonesian diplomatic missions.
Despite its larger size, it’s easy to travel around Indonesia since the country is well covered by public transport. However, it can be frustrating at the same time, due to frequent delays caused by weather and mechanical issues, so my advise is to keep your schedule as flexible as possible. Be aware that safety standards can vary widely when making use of public transport in Indonesia.
- Air travel is the quickest and most convenient way of getting around Indonesia, and sometimes the only way to reach certain parts of the archipelago. Most routes are flown several times a day, although plane schedules – particularly on smaller airlines and to less-visited destinations – can be unreliable and infrequent. There are several domestic airlines in Indonesia, and the competition between carriers means that tickets are usually cheap, especially if you book in advance. Tickets can be booked online via the airlines’ websites:
- In Java, trains are considered one of the most comfortable, fastest and easiest ways to travel. In the east, the railway service connects with the ferry to Bali, and in the west with the ferry to Sumatra. Some of the most popular train journeys run between Jakarta and Yogyakarta, and Yogyakarta and Surabaya. Most trains can be booked online and offer three classes:
- Executive (eksecutif) – air-con with mandatory reservations.
- Business (bisnis) – no air-con but mandatory seat reservations.
- Economy (ekonomi) – no air-con, crowded and unreserved.
- While there are ferries between Indonesia’s main islands, flying is almost always the faster and more reliable way to cover distances of any note. Public ferries run regularly on the shorter crossings between neighboring islands, such as between Sumatra and Java, Java and Bali, and Bali and Lombok. Ferries from Java to Bali are particularly popular among tourists: the ferry departs Ketapang in east Java many times a day, 24 hours a day, to make the 30-minute crossing to Gilimanuk in western Bali and there’s no need to book in advance (you can just arrive at the ferry port and buy a ticket for the next crossing). Check with shipping companies, the harbor office, travel agents or hotels for current schedules and fares.
- Coach and bus travel is an option when you are traveling in Indonesia on a budget. There are several categories of bus travel, such as long-distance buses, and short-distance minibuses (widely known by their Balinese tag, bemo). Long-distance coaches generally have air conditioning, reading lights, reclining seats, in-bus entertainment showing Indonesian films. It is, however, the most time-consuming means of getting around.
- One of the best ways of getting around in Indonesia is by hiring a car and a driver. It gives you the freedom to explore the scenic beauty of the country. Having a driver takes away the stress of having to navigate the small roads or worrying about getting lost, and they can also help with any translations. Private transfers can be booked via most hotels.
INSPIRATION, HIGHLIGHTS, & TRAVEL TIPS
There are several good reasons why you should put Indonesia on your bucket list:
- Visit Borobodur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple
- Visit Prembanan, Indonesia’s most beautiful Hindu temple
- Explore Borneo by river
- Climb Mount Rinjani in Lombok
- Track orang utans in Sumatra
- Relax on the beaches of Bali
- Stay at ultra-luxe resorts
- Face the dragons in Komodo National Park
- Watch the sunrise at Mount Bromo
The following, in-depth articles may also inspire you and help you plan your holiday to Indonesia:
It’s impossible to suggest one itinerary for Indonesia, but I hereby share with you a two-week schedule In Java and Bali based on my own travel experiences in Indonesia. Three weeks are recommended though if you have more time and want to travel at a more leisurely pace or add some other islands to your itinerary (e.g. Lombok, Sulawese, Sumatra or Borneo).
- Days 1-4: make Yogyakarta your port of entry in Indonesia and explore the temple compounds of Borobodur and Prembanan (recommended hotel: Amanjiwo)
- Days 5: take train to Surabaya (6 hours) followed by a 3 hour private car transfer to the Mount Bromo area, for a visit to the volcano the next morning (recommended hotel: Jiwa Jawa Bromo)
- Dag 6: watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo and visit the caldera, followed by a 7 hour private car transfer to the Ijen area (recommended hotel: Jiwa Jawa Ijen).
- Day 7-10: midnight visit to the Mount Jien to watch the Blue Fire, followed by a boat trip to Bali (30 min) and a private car transfer to the Ubud area (recommended hotel: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve).
- Days 11-15: transfer to the Uluwatu area in the south of Bali for a couple of days of relaxation in Bali’s most spectacular coastal area (recommended hotel: Six Senses Uluwatu).
RECOMMENDED LUXURY HOTELS (+ REVIEWS)
Consider visiting my top 10 lists if you are eager to know how I rank Indonesia’s top hotels, based on my own experience:
Below, you find my reviews of luxury hotels in Indonesia (with pros, cons, & tips to save money per hotel).
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu, Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Bulgari Resort Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali (Indonesia)
- Review of Amankila, Bali’s best luxury hotel
- Review of Amandari (Ubud, Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobudur (Java, Indonesia)
- Review of Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Bali, Indonesia)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (Ubud, Bali)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: Villa Sungai, Bali (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: the Viceroy Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali’s most spectacular hotel
- Hotel review: COMO Shambhala Bali (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: Soori Bali (Indonesia)
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