High-end holidays: A look at some of the world’s most exclusive luxury destinations

Viceroy Bali. (Supplied)
Updated 10 January 2019
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High-end holidays: A look at some of the world’s most exclusive luxury destinations

  • A list of luxurious travel spots
  • Destinations all over the world

DUBAI: Here are some of the world’s most luxurious holiday spots:

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada
From $1,493
Fancy a stay at the end of the world? This boutique hotel on a remote island isn’t easy to get to (quickest way: charter a helicopter), but it’s well worth the journey for the astonishing views and the opportunity — through a sponsorship program — to spend time with locals and really get to explore the area’s culture. Of course, that’s optional, you’re equally welcome to simply lounge around in one of the rooftop hot tubs as well. This really is a place for lovers of the outdoors and nature, though. Take advantage of the guided hikes and the knowledgeable, mostly local, staff and lose yourself in the sparse beauty and unique atmosphere of Fogo Island.

Viceroy Bali, Indonesia
From $818
Recently voted the world’s best resort by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, the Viceroy is situated in the “Valley of Kings,” close to Ubud, and offers jaw-dropping views of the gorgeous jungle landscape and wildlife that surrounds the 25-room resort. The private villas, spa, fine dining and acclaimed customer service combine to offer a truly spectacular experience that should appeal to romantics and adventurers alike, and has resulted in almost-unanimous top ratings for the Viceroy in online reviews.

Constance Moofushi, Maldives
From $1,300
This all-inclusive resort on a small private island is perfect for those looking for a beachside escape, especially watersport enthusiasts — the resort boasts its own house reef, but is also less than an hour’s boat ride from some of the best diving spots in the world. Constance Moofushi has 110 rooms, all with great sea views, although some are more equal than others, perched directly above the water. This isn’t a destination for culture vultures, but if you want to lounge around in the sun and sand, sampling some great food and drink, then this idyllic resort will take some beating.

Pikaia Lodge Galapagos, Ecuador
From $4,680 for 3 nights (minimum stay)
“Designed for the environmentally conscious, physically active and adventurous traveler,” according to its website, this beautiful destination is situated in every evolution fan’s favorite location, the Galapagos Islands, and offers a — for once non-clichéd — once-in-a-lifetime experience in one of the world’s most bio-diverse environments. The islands’ otherworldly landscapes are magnificent, and the 14-room Pikaia Lodge is perfectly placed (on top of two extinct volcanic craters, 450 meters above sea level) to afford guests the best possible views of them. Set in 31 hectares, including a private wild giant tortoise reserve, Pikaia Lodge claims to have its own mosquito-free microclimate.

Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort & Spa, Oman
From $233
This resort combines two hotels — Al Waha (262 rooms) and Al Bandar (198 rooms) — both with breathtaking views over the waters of the Arabian Gulf and the cliffs that enclose the resort’s beaches in its private inlet, accessed via a man-made tunnel through the mountains. Snorkel in the turquoise sea and track sea-turtles, or simply lounge on some of the finest beaches in the Gulf. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of opportunities, from kite-surfing and kayaking to jet-packing. The resort boasts nine restaurants as well as an art gallery, and shops selling local crafts. Those in search of pampering should visit CHI, The Spa, which offers a vitality hydro pool, herbal steam room and an ice fountain, alongside its 12 treatment villas. This is luxury at a bargain price.

Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
From $77,500 per night for exclusive use
If you’ve got the cash to splash, then you and 29 friends can rent this private island as your exclusive holiday resort from owner Richard Branson. As you’d expect, for that price you get some serious ‘barefoot luxury’ to enjoy — from the abundant local wildlife, great sailing, diving and swimming locations, through yoga, tennis and kitesurfing, to spa treatments, and themed parties on some evenings. If you save a bit of space in your suitcase, you can also help the local community by bringing in medical supplies or educational aid. There are also a few excursions available to nearby islands.

The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India
From $603
A few hours drive from Delhi this classy retreat has the feel of an old-school safari camp (only with air-conditioning and high-speed Internet). With spacious private tents situated among mango and lemon groves, featuring teak floors, canopied four-poster beds, and standalone, claw-foot bathtubs — and each serviced by a personal butler, of course — visitors will feel like they’ve gone back in time. You may well be greeted by elephants on arrival, and on the twice-daily game drives, you could spot leopards, bears and even tigers — or take the river safari to track down the Gharial, India’s endangered crocodilian. Romantics, meanwhile, can treat themselves to a three-hour couples massage at the spa.

Bunga Raya Island Resort, Malaysia
From $1,245
A secluded hideaway just off the coast of Borneo, this small resort island consists of 47 sumptuous hillside villas (fully equipped with all mod cons) with views out over the beach to the South China Sea. Explore the tropical jungle — either on foot (one four-hour trek will take you across the whole island), or by zip line — and the warm waters, by sailboat, kayak or paddleboard. Scuba diving is also available. Wind down at the spa, which offers both Asian and Western treatments. Guests can order a romantic private meal in a beach pavilion, or dine at one of the resort’s well-reviewed restaurants, some of which require a boat journey to reach.

 


Catch the coastal chic of Biarritz

Biarritz is one of the best surfing locations in Europe. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 June 2019
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Catch the coastal chic of Biarritz

  • The French seaside town mixes old-world glamour with a very modern surfing scene
  • This patch of Basque Country — less than 20 miles north of the Spanish border — has a windswept, relaxed charm all its own

DUBLIN: It’s hard to put a finger on what makes Biarritz so special. Maybe it’s the faded charm, maybe it’s the sprinkling of stardust that the numerous guests (the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra) brought to the city, or maybe it’s the low-slung surfer’s vibe, but this patch of Basque Country — less than 20 miles north of the Spanish border — has a windswept, relaxed charm all its own. It’s something of a hidden gem, with surfers, Parisian hipsters, retired French tourists and a smattering of in-the-know Europeans descending here every year.

Its most recent heyday was during the 1950s, when luminaries including Sinatra and Coco Chanel visited. From the 1960s onwards, Biarritz’s star fell, with Hollywood and the European elite favoring France’s Riviera as a holiday destination. Yet recent years have seen the town emerge back into the spotlight — although these days you are more likely to see surfers rather than film stars, as the town has embraced its position on France’s rugged southern Atlantic coast.

There are countless surf schools, and Biarritz is the birthplace of the sport in Europe. The (reportedly) first surfer here, appropriately enough, had Hollywood connections. Peter Viertel, a screenwriter, was in town as the movie he had co-written, “The Sun Also Rises,” was being filmed there in 1957. The long, wide sandy beaches provide the perfect place to learn, with the crashing Atlantic surf offering ample big waves to ride.

The town is small enough to explore in an afternoon, with countless cafés and restaurants dotting the narrow streets. There’s plenty of shopping too, with local boutiques such as Jox & An (which sells rope-soled espadrilles) next to the likes of Gucci and Duchatel, which features labels including Nina Ricci and Belenciaga. Indeed much of the town’s charm is seeing moneyed old French couples in their designer clothes rubbing shoulders with dreadlocked surfers in board shorts.

It might officially be in France, but Biarritz is Basque country, something very much apparent at Caroe, which mixes Basque and Nordic cuisine. This minimally designed pintxos bar specializes in local seafood and serves up everything from monkfish foie gras, smoked eel and trout gravlax. If you prefer a venue overlooking the water, head to Alaia, an ultra-stylish beachfront joint on Socoa Beach, 30-minutes south of Biarritz. You can enjoy lamb, mashed-potato pancakes, and hake and cabbage in front of the bobbing fishing boats. If you prefer to eat on the go, or grab something for a picnic on the beach, head to Les Halles market, which is filled with stalls dishing out sumptuous fare: from local goat’s cheeses and anchovies in olive oil and vinegar to limoncello jelly and hazelnut bread.

The most salubrious lodging in town is the Hotel du Palais, the brainchild of Eugenie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III, who chose a patch of hillside overlooking the Bay of Biscay for the Imperial residence. The hotel became the center for France’s elite, who holidayed at the sumptuous building and held balls, picnics and fireworks displays, while welcoming world leaders and royalty from around the world. These days the hotel retains all its old-world glamour, and its breakfasts are worth the room price alone.

There’s not a whole lot to do in Biarritz, but that’s sort of the point. It’s a place to while away the hours in a café, or to take long walks on one of the numerous beaches. It’s a place to relax in, not to do too much. If you do want to exert yourself, then there are a number of surfing schools where you can learn to ride the waves. Most offer similar courses (and prices), with La Vague Basque being the best reviewed. All ages and nationalities come here to learn to surf, so don’t be shy about getting that wetsuit on.

After a reviving dinner, head to the promenade and grab yourself an ice cream. One of the great French pastimes is people-watching, and the cafés along the promenade offer the perfect place to watch the world go by. Part French, part Basque, and with a wonderful mix of elegance, cool and Fifties chic, Biarritz might just be the best beach town in France.