If you’re seeking travel inspiration for the year ahead, we’ve got some ideas for you. Our luxury travel specialists dug deeper in 2013 and are now looking ahead to seek out the most thrilling and captivating travel experiences and destinations out there in 2014. Below is our short list of travel experiences to consider, from fresh takes on classic destinations to completely new and off-the-radar experiences.
Uncovering Iran’s Many Layers
For adventurous travelers seeking to discover a destination before the others, a custom trip to Iran is a perfect choice. Our access, insider knowledge, and the lifelong friendships we’ve made with the Persian people enable us to design unforgettable tours to this remarkable and often misunderstood Middle Eastern gem. We invite travelers to see Persians living their day to day lives with passion and open hearts, fiercely proud and willing to share it to you.
Synonymous with grace, poetry, and the apex of civilization, Persian history is a living tradition stretching back over three millennia. With sixteen official UNESCO World Heritage sites and over fifty on the tentative list, Iran is a historian’s dream. Travelers to Iran can expect to stroll through the ancient city of Persepolis (buried by sand and lost for hundreds of years); shop the local bazaars for exquisite handicrafts found nowhere else in the world (we loved the antiques moon shawls); and explore the majestic and captivating ruins that speak to its former glory and the reign of the Achaemenids, the first royal dynasty of Persia. Iran’s countryside will be an unexpected highlight on any Iran tour. Travel deep into Kandovan’s rock dwellings, speaking to the timelessness of the region; visit the breathtaking mosques, dotting the countryside; and explore the coastal villages that make Iran one of the Middle East’s most fascinating destinations.
After Ken’s 4th journey to Iran he explained, “Many travelers want to witness a country before other people get there, and for visitors to Iran, they will see a virtually unspoiled ancient civilization with an unwavering and incredibly compelling cultural identity, which is only enhanced by Iranian people today.” So much so, that Ken believes visiting Iran is unlike being a guest in any other country; quite an endorsement considering the notches on his travel belt. “Hospitality must run through Persian blood… I am humbled by how warmly received I am as an American.”
For a peek into one of our luxury tours to Iran, take a look at staffer Matt LaPolice’s Iran photo essay after his journey there. Contact us to learn more.
The Africa of Your Dreams: Botswana
The landlocked country of Botswana is the quintessential Africa you dream of as a child, packed with wildlife, picture-perfect landscapes, and thrilling local culture. In 2014, we have even more reasons to go: as of January 1st, there will be no more hunting in Botswana! President of Botswana, Lieutenant General Ian Khama, stated that ecotourism has become more and more important to Botswana’s economy and the issuance of hunting licenses had fueled poaching resulting in “catastrophic” declines in wildlife, while preventing sustained growth in the tourism industry. We applaud this smart step forward, Botswana! Also in 2014, the Okavango Delta will be nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Luxury travel in Botswana conjures up images of floating along the Okavango Delta’s lily-lined waterways in a traditional mokoro, up close encounters with Africa’s most iconic predators, and the other-worldly landscape of the Makgadikgadi Pans–one of the only places on earth where the curvature of the earth can be seen. Located just north of South Africa, Botswana is largely covered by the Kalahari desert, but unlike the arid regions of many parts of Africa, the Okavango Delta and Chobe River provide a year-round water supply that attracts the great herds of the majestic creatures Africa is known for. Botswana tours through the Moremi Game Reserve provide you with the rare opportunity for heart-pounding wildlife encounters, and Chobe National Park provides unbeatable views of some of Africa’s largest herds of elephants.
But, your luxury Botswana vacation will feature more than just extraordinary glimpses of wildlife without the crowds. Travel in Botswana has received a lot of attention for the destination’s extensive conservation efforts; tours are both breathtaking and sustainable, and the guides and lodges exemplify African luxury at its finest.
Ever since staffer Matt LaPolice’s visit earlier this year on his way back from Myanmar, South Korea has our full attention. South Korea is a dazzling country that offers visitors a colorful assortment of regions to explore. From rural mountain towns to busy urban streets lined with world-class museums, restaurants, and shops, there are many options for luxury travel in South Korea. Whether walking the streets of the global powerhouse of Seoul or hiking the sublime peaks that rise majestically from the mists around Mt. Seorak, South Korea tours are sure to leave you infatuated with a country too often overlooked by Western travelers.
With Absolute Travel’s South Korea tours you can experience the best of all this country has to offer; from the local culinary scene, to the Buddhist temples of Gyeongju, to the romantic subtropical island of Jeju. Enjoy some urban sophistication or add adventure to your luxury South Korea vacation with a picturesque hiking trail or sailing voyage. With Absolute Travel, private luxury travel to South Korea is backed by the security and expertise of our knowledgeable travel consultants and personal guides. Our South Korea private luxury tours are handcrafted to suit your interests and needs and will leave you with an experience beyond words. We are particularly excited about a stay at the Park Hyatt Seoul‘s stunning property in the Gangnam area, whose bathroom was voted one of the world’s sexiest! Reason enough to have a layover there!
India Beckons in 2014
From the foothills of the Himalayas to the lush tropics of the south, luxury travel in India is the ultimate experience for many travelers. The richness and variety of possible experiences make it one of the world’s most alluring destinations, and an excellent choice from honeymooners to historians. Absolute Travel’s team of luxury travel specialists are proud to offer a unique series of itineraries, highlighting the arts, cuisine, wildlife, history, style and spirituality of India.
Our travelers can learn why Varanasi is the heart of this incredibly spiritual country, and float along the lifeblood of the city—the holy river Ganges—to better understand the extraordinary rituals that take place daily on its banks.
In the northern Himalayan foothills, you can take time to focus inward at one of the world’s most renowned wellness retreats and appreciate the healing energy of this remote region. We also recommend heading to the jungle for the ultimate safari experience — to witness a tiger in the wild. Foodies: We’ve visited home kitchens, streetside stalls, and royal palaces to learn the techniques of northern and southern cooking traditions, and we love introducing you to the families, chefs, and locals behind the naan, biryani, curries and chutneys!
While you may find yourself overwhelmed by the dazzling range of experiences possible for private luxury travel to India, Absolute Travel is here to help you build a customized India tour that showcases the many sides of this incredible country. Whether you’re interested in the region’s culture, history, food, luxury hotels or all of the above, our team is happy to design a luxury tour of India you will never forget.
Sri Lanka’s Wild Side
Whether exploring the brilliant emerald green tea country, strolling the narrow streets and colonial heritage of Galle, or kicking back on the southern coast’s palm-fringed beaches, Sri Lanka tours leave visitors wishing they had just a few more days to enjoy this beautiful land. Now we have another reason for you to extend your visit—the wildlife.
Despite its small size, Sri Lanka is home to other notable wildlife and luxury wildlife tours are on our radar in 2014. Elusive leopards, wild elephants, boar, sloth bears, and a dazzling bird life from peacocks to hornbills roam this surprisingly diverse island. We actually can’t think of another country that has the variety of experiences that Sri Lanka does; from the glistening Indian Ocean where sea turtles glide through the waters to emerald-green hillsides and leopard-packed national parks, the range of climates and countryside make Sri Lanka a perfect destination. Many people are able to enjoy their Sri Lanka safari in privacy–with virtually no other travelers in sight–pretty much unheard of if you’ve been on a luxury safari in Africa. Don’t miss a game drive at night, when you’re more likely chance to see the elusive nocturnal leopards. After all, this beautiful island is actually home to the largest population of leopards in all of Asia.
And although Sri Lanka’s coasts are on the map for excellent surfing opportunities, there’s another reason we’re captivated by the deep blue waters: whale watching in Sri Lanka means witnessing the blue whale, the largest mammal on earth. With so little known about these commanding animals, seeing them in the wild is truly a privilege we wouldn’t miss. Learn more about our Sri Lanka tours here.
Discover the New Burma
Myanmar has had our attention for years, and it remains at the top of our list in 2014 for its unwavering sense of place, magnificent cultural treasures, charming hotels, and the warmest people we know. Now that the ban on travel has been lifted, the time to go is now—before the rest of the world discovers what they’ve been missing. Even with the addition of more visitors, Burma still transports us to another time. This Southeast Asian gem has an uncanny ability to slow us down and encourage us to be present. We are drawn to Myanmar for the authenticity of the region and the character of its people—locals who can finally share their wondrous home with the rest of the world.
We want our clients to discover the Myanmar that lives beyond the headlines and glossy magazines: Buddhist pilgrims gathering at the country’s many pagodas; the magnificent remains of Bagan’s golden age; colorful Irrawaddy River cruises, and the solitude of Inle Lake. Myanmar is one of our favorite destinations, and our luxury travel specialists’ rich knowledge of its highlights and lesser-known experiences and longstanding relationships with the Burmese people make our Burma tours unparalleled. Speak to our team about creating a customized, luxury Myanmar tour; we are also happy to design a tour of Myanmar in conjunction with other countries like nearby Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam.
Cowboy Country: Discover America’s Wild West
Considering nearly all of our custom journeys require a passport and two weeks, we created Getaways, a selection of travel experiences that inspired us, but were closer to home. Our tours to the wild west are some of our favorite trips in this collection; vast and remarkably diverse, luxury travel in the American West is packed with natural and cultural wonders. You can unwind amongst Wyoming’s majestic mountaintops or wildflower carpeted valleys, get spellbound by Utah’s starkly beautiful desert country, or embrace your wild side in grizzly country. The American West truly has a setting for every mood.
The raw landscapes of the American West are some of the world’s most breathtaking, and our team of luxury travel specialists can recommend the best ways to take them in. Embark on a guided expedition to witness grizzlies, black bears, wolves, and pronghorn antelope go about their days in the remote wilderness; venture out on the Snake River to fly fish its trout-packed waters, or just float down so you can pay attention for mountain bluebirds and bald eagles. Practice yoga at sunrise and add in a Native American beauty blessing, or choose to head out to icons like Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, or float down the Colorado River. We can transport you to the serenity of the west’s commanding cliffs and towering emerald green forests; invite you to witness Native American traditions and cultures or observe cowboys in action; or provide endless opportunities to spike up your adrenaline with adventure activities like skiing, trekking, horseback riding, and even authentic American safaris. Whether you’re embarking on a honeymoon, a family journey, or a solo adventure, the American West has a trip for you.
Why We’re Just as Excited About Vietnam > 20 Years Later
We were the first US-based company to bring Americans to Vietnam over twenty years ago, and we’re as excited to send people there now as we were then. Throughout the country, travelers relish in this country of contrasts: stunning rice paddy landscapes sit alongside chaotic cities, BMWs next to motorbikes, superb restaurants near locals slurping pho street side, and women wearing conical hats navigating bicycles around every bend.
Travelers who have had the luxury to travel in Vietnam can tell you that it has a range of activities for the inquisitive traveler: whether you’re a foodie, historian, honeymooner, or seeking a wild adventure, Vietnam has the perfect trip for everyone. Our custom Vietnam tours will bring you to the forefront of Vietnamese culture, history, and tradition and will introduce you to the lovely locals that bring the warmth and hospitality that will make your journey unforgettable.
The natural and man-made riches in Vietnam are awe-inspiring. One glimpse at Halong Bay will have you captivated by Vietnam, and tours past the limestone spears that jut from its waters like alien sea creatures will fill you with a mythological sense of awe. In the countryside, exquisite temples, pagodas, and tombs dot the landscape to further affirm the magical luxury of travel in Vietnam. Tours of the cities of Saigon and Hanoi bring the country to focus and allow you to see the two faces of a country that is influenced by both modernity and ancient customs. Feel the excitement of the country’s urban spirit or enjoy a more leisurely luxury Vietnam vacation, focused on the exquisite wonders of the country’s verdant jungle coastline. Sublime landscapes, beautiful art, colorful markets, and fascinating people are never hard to find in this Southeast Asian paradise, and Absolute Travel’s options for luxury travel in Vietnam give you the best of it all.
Another reason to go? Amanresorts just-opened debut Vietnam property: Amanoi. This serene beachside property that overlooks Vinh Hy Bay is named after the Sanskrit-derived word for “peace” and noi meaning “place.”
What Else Does the Land Down Under Have to Offer? We’ll Show You.
We have a particular fondness for private luxury travel in Australia, as it was the destination for Absolute Travel president Ken Fish’s first trip abroad. The land “Down Under” offer travelers a rich artistic and cultural history, a thriving culinary scene, urban landscapes that buzz with activity, and countryside that ranges from rugged outback to lush tropical rainforest. The options for luxury travel in Australia are diverse, but all exude the laidback easiness that Australia tours are known for.
We invite you to explore all sides of this South Pacific gem, from scuba diving in the iconic Great Barrier Reef and romantic evenings at the iconic Sydney Opera House to ultra-luxe adventures in the remote outback. Many adventurous travelers are looking beyond Australia’s east coast to see what else the land down under has to offer. One possibility is diving with whale sharks on the western coast—one of our favorite wildlife encounters.
Or how about discovering the ancient landscape of Australia’s Flinders Ranges on a walking safari, where you can witness 600 million years of geological history that is echoed through salt lakes, pastoral legends, and magnificent native cypress trees? We’re just as excited about introducing travelers to Australia’s lesser-known areas while they are still relatively off the radar.
Absolute Travel’s Australia private luxury tours are also often paired with trips to the neighboring country of New Zealand, and options for luxury travel in Australia and tours of New Zealand are entirely customizable and personalized. Whether you want to hit the Eastern landmarks or travel as far west as Perth, Absolute Travel is your source for the best luxury Australia vacation imaginable.
Morocco: Exotic & Close
Morocco is closer than you think; just an eight hour direct flight from New York City and you’re in an exotic world that seems worlds away. The appeal of Morocco is in its humming bazaars, diverse landscapes, mouthwatering cuisine and the fact that it is just so easy to get to. On an Absolute Travel luxury Morocco vacation, shop Marrakech’s labyrinth of souks with the experts, explore the bohemian coastal city of Essaouira, and go back in time in medieval Fes, the spiritual capital of Morocco.
In 2014 our family travel expert, Leslie Overton, is considering a visit to the land of kasbahs with her family of five. We can already picture them exploring the Atlas Mountains, riding camelback through the Erg Chebbi’s majestic sand dunes that seem never ending and discovering the Djemaa el Fna, where you can find everything under the sun, from fairy-tale lanterns, antique indigenous furniture, embroidered slippers, and any color olive you can dream up.
Of course there are many other destinations we would have liked to include on this list–China, Japan, Bolivia, Uruguay, Kenya, and Rwanda for starters…we could go on! Please get in touch us if you would like to learn more about any of the travel destinations on our list, or any others that you’re curious about.