Your New Year’s resolution? Get out of your comfort zone with these travel spots
Your New Year’s resolution? Get out of your comfort zone with these travel spots
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA
South Korea, as they say, has Seoul. But beyond the Gangnam style of the capital city, travelers can find stunning sites in Pyeongchang County, known for Odaesan National Park, with trails crisscrossing the Taebaek Mountains. With Buddhist temples, rural vistas and winter sports galore, the cozy region is a nice contrast to the stereotypical high-rise life that most tourists would expect. The area will also host the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics – so expect this cool destination to get very hot, very quickly.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
If it is global events you are after, the Argentine capital will flourish as a hub for sports, politics and the arts throughout 2018. The eyes of the world will be on the G20 Summit, almost every nation on earth will participate in the Youth Olympic Games and the yearlong Art Basel initiative will ensure bursts of visual brilliance around the city. But “BA” already has world-class art galleries and all the gourmet brilliance to bring out your inner bon vivant.
Bhutan, the last great Buddhist kingdom on edge of the Himalayas, is unsurprisingly replete with monasteries, fortresses (known as dzongs) and incredibly-dramatic landscapes. You will need a head for heights — and lungs for altitude — if you really want to explore some of the peaks, but lodgings vary for every budget. Expect ultra-affordable accommodations dotted around the diminutive nation, as well as luxurious new openings, such as Amankora in Bumthang. The country has only been developing tourism since 1974 — and just 287 visitors showed up that year.
THE AZORES, PORTUGAL
Portugal’s volcanic archipelago is now served by more flights than ever. And while Sintra and the Algarve are impressive enough destinations, places like São Miguel Island are a hybrid of worlds, blending European culture with South American exoticism on the cobbled streets of Ponta Delgada and UNESCO’s Angra do Heroismo, a charming 18th century city. There is also oodles of nature across the nine main islands, with geothermal hot springs, incredible flora and whale watching at Faial or Pico, 1,643km west of Lisbon.
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
The cradle of human civilization and the birthplace of the coffee bean, Ethiopia is a surprising destination for many. Made famous for famine and crises, the nation is often written off as a destination for leisure, but Addis Ababa is a great base from which you can explore — and has much to offer in its own right. Highlights include the fourth century home of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant and the medieval castles of Gondar. And if you fancy yourself as the modern Indiana Jones, the 12th century churches of Lalibela, carved from stone, and the grass-roofed monasteries of Lake Tana, from where the Blue Nile flows, are essential viewing.
TASHKENT AND BUKHARA, UZBEKISTAN
What sounds like an obscure location to the uninitiated, Uzbekistan was once the heart of the iconic Silk Road trading route, which passed through Bukhara and Samarkand. The modern former-Soviet nation has retained so much of its rich history, evident through its striking architecture, and the Muslim-majority nation is both affordable and safe for all-comers. People have inhabited Bukhara for more than 5,000 years and a visit to the UNESCO-listed city center is tantamount to a trip back in time. Expect a crossroads of cultures, with Persian and Russian influences, evident in food, art and more.
Norway is often hidden in the long winter shadow of its Scandinavian sisters, but the country’s capital is set to celebrate a special year. Queen Sonja and King Harald V with celebrate 50 years of marriage, while each blowing out 80 candles for their respective birthdays. Visitors can expect an incredible roster of events, including celebrations for the 10th birthday of the Oslo Opera House. But irrespective of when you visit, expect cultural delights at an array of museums and plenty of Instagram opportunities across the quaint city spots — not to mention the nearby scenic fjords.
While Sharm El-Sheikh has waned in popularity and Cairo is more stifling than ever, many Egyptian locals choose to staycation in El-Gouna. The modern resort town on Egypt’s Red Sea, near Hurghada, is built along the shore and on small islands and is known for its lagoons, coral reefs and sandy beaches. It is a kitesurf paradise and the bustling Abu Tig Marina is decked with vibrant restaurants and bars. Literally translating to “The Lagoon,” the dedicated tourist resort dates back to 1989 and boasts 18 hotels — one for every hole on the golf course designed by Gene Bates and Fred Couples.
One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BCE and with the growth of the Armenian economy, tourism is now a delight. Gourmet restaurants, shops, and street cafés were not commonplace during the Soviet era, but the capital city now blends the aesthetics of its past with modern sensibilities — all for a snip of the price of many European alternatives. From the dancing fountains of the Republic Square to the ruins of the Urartian city of Erebuni, Yerevan has charm galore.
While millions are pinning Zanzibar on their Pinterest boards, there are alternative options along Africa’s east coast that deliver just as much for your money. With Arab and Portuguese forts, medieval towns and the deserted ruins of Swahili, the island of Lamu is dripping with heritage. Expect well-appointed, authentic townhouse accommodations, serene beaches, sleepy markets and surprises around every corner in the narrow streets of Lamu Town. Unlike other Swahili settlements which have been abandoned along the East African coast, Lamu has continuously been inhabited for over 700 years and it is no wonder UNESCO has named it a Heritage Site.
Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai
- The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island
- Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic
DUBAI: Bulgari, the venerated Italian design house, has just five hotels around the world. And even in Dubai — a city crammed with luxury hotels — the Bulgari Resort manages to seem exclusive. The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island, offering guests some respite from the city’s often-hectic atmosphere, even though it is literally minutes away from the pulsing heart of Dubai.
Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic. Master architects Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel — who are responsible for all the Bulgari hotels worldwide — have used a neutral color palette and custom motifs, such as coral-inspired lacquered steel parapets and mashrabiya-patterned accents, to give the hotel a sense of place.
Here, luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers, with fine materials — from Italian marble to sumptuous silks, impeccable attention to detail, and touches including the signature fragrance that wafts around you from the second you enter.
The hotel is responsible for a couple of firsts for the brand, including its ‘Little Gems’ kids club — where children are entertained with bespoke activities such as cooking classes and treasure hunts while their parents enjoy some downtime — and the global debut of the Bulgari Marina & Yacht Club, which has its own pool and recreation facilities, signature seafood restaurant, and 50-berth harbor.
All rooms and suites feature a walk-in closet, spacious balconies, smooth one-touch button controls, and bathrooms with standalone tubs boasting enviable views — making for some excellent Insta-fodder. The signature trunk-style mini-bar is as funky as it is functional, and the trendy basket beach bags are perfect for stashing your souvenirs — including designer knick-knacks from on-site concept store La Galleria.
The one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas offer private pools and butler service, but you don’t want to miss the resort’s circular central pool, where luxury cabanas with oversized daybeds and on-call service invite you to lounge the day away. Just adjacent is the crescent-shaped private beach, with the gentle waters of the Arabian Gulf offering perfect swimming conditions, even if the tip of the seahorse-shaped island mars the view slightly.
Whether you opt for a beach-and-pool day or a Dubai-sightseeing trip, your evening should definitely be devoted to the quintessentially Italian aperitivo experience at Il Bar, where an oval-shaped chrome counter provides a social centerpiece, and an outdoor terrace offers marina views. The seriously chic Il Ristorante (by lauded Italian chef Niko Romito) is just next door, and shares the terrace. Its tiramisu is one of the best in town, as is the freshly baked rustic bread.
Offering a more pared-back dining experience are La Spiaggia, a beachside restaurant and bar, and Il Café, the Bulgari take on a casual all-day dining destination which still features jaw-dropping design, and, in line with the whole ‘nothing is too much trouble’ service ethos, serves breakfast all day.
That ethos extends to the spa too, where therapists provide the ultimate in pampering using top-shelf products, including La Mer, in a soothing nature-inspired space. The use of rare precious materials, including grey Vicenza stone and green onyx, infuse the environment with a subtle opulence.
A 25-meter indoor swimming pool with its own cabanas, extensive facilities (including a shower offering a “Caribbean thunderstorm” experience), and private hammam, plus an exclusive Lee Mullins training program at the state-of-the-art gym complete the impressive recreation facilities at the resort.
If you’re looking for a classy, authentic ‘slice-of-Italy’ experience in the Middle East, then the Bulgari Resort Dubai is where you should check in.