Given my love of travel experiences with a personal perspective, it is not surprising that many of the destinations I am most excited about for the year ahead are the creations of individuals who know and love a region and want to invite guests to explore it in a profoundly intimate way. Here are some new spots that top my list for 2015.
Sri Lanka Finally emerging after years of civil strife, Sri Lanka has become an “it” destination for travelers seeking the next great place. The ideal itinerary combines time at the tea plantations, in the cultural triangle and in the national parks for leopard spotting, and then ends at the beach. Although not right on the beach, Tri, a former cinnamon plantation turned wellness resort being launched by Rob Drummond, is only two kilometers from the sea and has a private beach club. You will be able to decompress after sightseeing and adventure and take part in the resort’s yoga and wellness program.
New Zealand Most of the “superlodges” in New Zealand are owned by foreigners. Now Mark Palmer, a Kiwi who made his fortune in the States, has bought up a prime coastal stretch of the South Island to give visitors an authentic farm experience. At his 4,000-acre Annandale property guests can choose among a range of private lodges, from a historic homestead to a contemporary glass cabin where honeymooners arrive by helicopter and have a peninsula to themselves. The option that appeals most to me is Scrubby Bay, a three-bedroom farmhouse-style villa that perfectly suits Palmer’s motto: “Stay where the world can’t find you.”
Spain Trasierra is one of those special properties, like Dar Ahlam in Morocco and Hacienda San Antonio in Mexico, that have a cult following among the super well traveled yet remain a bit of a secret. Thanks to its English owner, Charlotte Scott, this hacienda turned hotel in the hills of Andalucía has a warm, house-party atmosphere, as if guests were actually friends visiting the stylish hostess. This spring, the Scott family is opening a sister property, Trasierra by the Sea, on the coast in Marbella. With only six rooms, the hotel can be taken over by families who want a charming retreat of their own.
American West How can you not fall in love with a place that has a number one cowboy named Clay, luxury teepees and a mission to protect wild mustangs? Mustang Monument is a new eco-resort, founded by Madeleine Pickens, ex-wife of corporate raider T. Boone, where guests stay in cozily furnished teepees or safari cottages and spend their days learning about Western traditions like roping and wagon rides. It may seem a bit hokey, but as a horse lover and sucker for the romance of the American West, I cannot wait to visit. Open only from late June to September every year.
Chile Thanks to their vision and commitment to preserving pristine places, Kristine and Doug Tompkins— former CEO of Patagonia and founder of Esprit, respectively—have helped turn hundreds of thousands of acres in Chile and Argentina into protected parks. Now they have established Patagonia Park and built the Valle Chacabuco lodge on a 174,000-acre estancia that they bought, to allow visitors access to the varied landscapes and wildlife. The architects were inspired by the historic lodges in Yosemite and Yellowstone but added a Chilean estancia twist.
The South Pacific A private resort has finally opened on Tetiaroa, Marlon Brando’s island. With thirty-five luxury villas for guests, the Brando is ideal for the beach connoisseurs in our membership—and we have quite a few—with accommodations and reefs that ranks up there with those of Cheval Blanc in the Maldives, Laucala in Fiji and North Island in the Seychelles. The entire island is an eco-preserve, and guests are invited on field trips with scientists. One of Brando’s granddaughters works at the marine research center, so the family is truly carrying on his legacy by safeguarding this paradise.
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