As travel slowly returns, we’re focused on taking the trips of a lifetime.
First, our most beloved places invited a return to travel. Visiting familiar haunts from Iceland to Italy last year, we're thrilled to rejoin the world a little at a time. We found sights, sounds, and colors more vivid than ever – reminders that travel’s allure is truly timeless – and now we’re ready to dream big again.
Welcome to the joyful renaissance of epic journeys. This is the year of going far, and of celebrating our lifelong love for crossing borders. “We all have these places that, when we first heard about them, we swore we would see them for ourselves someday,” says Virtuoso travel agency owner Scott Largay. Whether they’re etching perfect lines into Hokkaido powder or trekking Rwanda’s lush forests in search of endangered gorillas, travelers are heading to the very edge of the map. “ ‘Someday’ is now,” Largay says. For 2022, we’ve found places to spark that sense of long-awaited discovery, with effervescent spirit adding urgency to now.
Uncover Secret Slovenia
Europe’s undiscovered wine country is crowned by a soaring alpine playground. Visiting now earns “I was there when” bragging rights.
“Slovenia is absolutely beautiful,” says Virtuoso advisor Leah Smith. Intimate geography puts the cobblestoned squares of capital Ljubljana’s UNESCO-listed core within day-tripping distance of seaside villages and three major wine regions that, with limited U.S. exports, still fly under the radar. Knock on tasting-room doors to meet vintners face-to-face – it’s like hopping a time machine to explore Tuscany before the rest of the world was in on the secret. An hour away from the capital, find day hikes along sections of the new 168-mile Juliana Trail, which hugs the edge of Triglav National Park, with its hanging valleys and high peaks. “As a hiking destination, it’s hard to beat,” Smith says.
Honeycombed inside a thirteenth-century island edifice, Otocec Castle Hotel’s 16 rooms and suites offer medieval chic with views of the Krka River. The 182-room Kempinski Palace Portoroz is belle epoque glitter and formal gardens steps from the Adriatic. Private tours by Artisans of Leisure depart Ljubljana for a week of food-and-wine sampling from the Julian Alps to the Adriatic.
Bloom in Costa Rica
Nature-powered wellness hands travelers the ultimate tropical reset button.
Sprawling over 180 acres of jade-canopied mountains, the Auberge Collection’s new 50-casita Hacienda AltaGracia embodies soulful retreat in southern Costa Rica, where the resort opened in November 2021. The country’s pura vida spirit suffuses the area, from a coffee plantation to riding trails and The Well, a 20,000-square-foot holistic health facility. Charter flights link AltaGracia with capital San José, where onward travel puts the country’s astonishing biodiversity within reach. After waking to a dawn bird chorus in Arenal Volcano National Park, visitors might then make the drive around Lake Arenal and to the south, for instance, to hike upward into the Monteverde cloud forest, then head to the coast to settle in for a sunset or two on a Guanacaste surf beach.
Go Inside Arenal Volcano National Park, 50 villas at Nayara Gardens open to personal gardens with views of the active volcano; adjoining property Nayara Springs has 35 adults-only villas featuring private thermal plunge pools. The jungle-shaded spa and villas at 56-room Hotel Punta Islita are set amid Guanacaste forest, and a shuttle whisks guests to nearby sandy beaches.
Tackle Tasmanian Trails
Isolated but accessible, Tasmania combines pristine wilderness with serious gourmet and cultural cred.
New mountain-bike trails at St Helens and the Bay of Fires – with yet another network under construction in Queenstown – cement Tasmania’s status as an up-and-coming adventure hub. And while Australia has been off-limits to international travelers, there’s hope that the country will reopen during 2022’s first quarter. “Tasmania is blessed by nature,” says Virtuoso travel advisor and lifelong resident Robyn Sinfield. “We have sea cliffs, rugged coastline, and stunning beaches.” From a lookout on Bruny Island Neck, visitors can track the world’s tiniest “fairy” penguins, while hikers watch for elusive Tasmanian devils in Cradle Mountain’s wilderness. Seaside capital Hobart is the cultural heart, with art at the waterside bunker-museum Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and stylish bars for sampling the island’s celebrated sparkling wines and farm-to-table foods. Best of all, it’s just a one-hour hop by plane from Melbourne.
Set above Hobart’s lively harbor, the art-filled, 11-room Islington Hotel opens to gardens with views of Mount Wellington. Three days in Tasmania are the centerpiece of a 14-day sailing with Windstar Cruises linking hip Melbourne and New Zealand’s fjords.
Channel Colombian Cool
This charismatic South American country gets the attention it deserves.
“From the mountains to the sea, Colombia is just breathtaking,” says travel advisor Misty Jones, naming Bogotá’s street art, desert off-roading, and coffee country as her favorite experiences. Dirt roads through the latter, called the Zona Cafetera, can turn espresso tastings into all-day affairs, but Colombia’s not limited to rugged adventuring. Within Cartagena’s city walls – built to fend off persistent pirates – colonial style at hotels Casa San Agustín and Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena brings a touch of romance. “Cartagena is on the ocean, so you can do evening cruises,” Jones says. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
A customizable ten-day trip from Big Five Tours & Expeditionstakes in Colombia’s most vibrant cities, slowing down for Zona Cafetera explorations and relaxation on palm-shaded Barú Island.
Blaze a Path in Saudi Arabia
A kingdom newly opened to tourism can tantalize and challenge visitors in equal measures.
Saudi Arabia evokes desert for days, but those swaybacked dunes silhouette modernist sculptures, jewel-toned reefs, and an archaeological treasure chest. “Because the area is only now opening up for the world to see, the sites are virtually untouched,” says advisor Jay Johnson of the Nabatean ruins surrounding cultural hub Al ’Ula. Ottoman architecture meets pristine coral formations at Red Sea port Jeddah, while Riyadh is an oasis-turned-capital-city spiked with glimmering towers.
Despite recent changes, the country remains profoundly conservative. “Setting politics aside, I wanted to experience for myself a region of the world that almost no Westerners have seen in order to offer clients who might be interested in the destination an honest report about what it’s like to travel there,” Johnson says. Outside major cities, most Saudi women wear veils, he says, though foreigners aren’t expected to, except at religious sites. Western travelers remain a novelty, for now: “Locals were warm, welcoming, and ecstatic to see us.”
A 13-day sailing with Silversea in 2023 stops in three different Saudi ports: Jeddah, Jazan, and the protected marine sanctuary of the Farasan Islands. An eight-day exploration of Saudi Arabia by Abercrombie & Kent includes Riyadh, Jeddah, Al ’Ula, and the petroglyphs of Hail.
Summer in the Dolomites
Italy’s winter wonderland blooms into an alpine dreamscape in warmer months.
Fairy-tale villages girdle serrated peaks in Italy’s mountain playground, where alpine escapes, known as rifugi, teeter on passes with operatic views. Local cuisine, melding the region’s Italian and German heritage, is hearty enough to fuel outings on trails that S-curve through meadows laced with edelweiss and saxifrage. Some active trips overnight at the rustic rifugi, where you can rub shoulders with an international crowd of hikers and bikers. More-indulgent surroundings can be found at spas that earned the region its rep for world-class wellness among the summits.
Backroads’ six-day multi-adventure tours stop in Selva, Corvara, and Cortina. The 93-suite Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda overlooks cliff-wrapped Lake Garda; with wooden turrets cozied against evergreen slopes, chalet like Rosa Alpina has 52 mountainside rooms and suites.
Strike Out for Haida Gwaii
Explore an archipelago of 150 rocky islands cloaked in ancient rain forest and First Nations traditions.
British Columbia’s jigsaw coast sets biodiversity hot spot Haida Gwaii apart, literally. (There’s a reason it’s known as Canada’s Galápagos.) But this is also a human landscape: Totem poles flank village sites and the shoreline by the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay. “The draw is a stunning blend of the land and sharing of culture with the Haida people in their traditional territory,” says Marc Telio, president of Virtuoso on-site tour connection Entrée Canada & Alaska. Watch for bald eagles, orca whales, and seals patrolling the waters here, or join a local interpreter to learn about Indigenous wood carving and dancing. Venturing beyond Haida Gwaii into the adjoining Great Bear Rainforest – one of the largest temperate coastal rain forests on earth – gives travelers a chance to spot all-white bears, known by First Nations people as sacred spirit bears, living among 1,000-year-old trees.
Entrée Canada combines three or four nights in Haida Gwaii at Tllaal, between the forest and beach, with a city exploration of Vancouver. Cruises by Lindblad Expeditions make Haida Gwaii a stopover on itineraries linking Sitka with Seattle or Vancouver.
Charter a Caribbean Yacht
Step aboard your own vessel for the ultimate in personalization.
The Caribbean fills daydreams with an island for every mood. Highball hedonism prevails from the shores of Saint-Martin to Anguilla, while sailors make landfall to take in laid-back, French-accented charm on Saint Bart’s and Martinique. Private charters usher travelers to regions where undeveloped archipelagoes still dot the map. Off the coast of Panama, for instance, the San Blas Islands offer castaway bliss where nature thrives – meet Indigenous Guna people on islands with just enough space for a thatched hut and a cool breeze.
Yacht company The Moorings offers skippered, crewed, or bareboat charters, with departures from Belize and the Bahamas to Grenada. Blue Parallel’s six-day private tours from Panama City include three nights aboard a catamaran in the San Blas Islands.
Gorilla Trek in Rwanda
Find endangered mountain gorillas in mist-shrouded tropical rain forest at the edge of the Congo Basin.
Five rain-forest summits mark the spot at Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, where tracking gorillas brings visitors face-to-face with the slow-moving giants. They’re not the only primates adding wonder to Rwandan forests, and more travelers are now exploring beyond Volcanoes. On the cusp of Nyungwe National Park – a spectacularly biodiverse area – the 22-room One&Only Nyungwe House opened in 2018 with wooden villas brushed by rain-forest canopy where chimpanzees and monkeys roam. Guests join trackers to follow their troops through the rain-lush landscape, assist in community tourism projects, and visit the resort’s private tea plantation to sip the most local of brews.
Ticking off three Rwandan national parks – Akagera, Nyungwe, and Volcanoes – African Travel, Inc.’s 11-day trip is for nature-chasing completists, with arrival by helicopter at One&Only Nyungwe House. A four-day gorilla trekking experience with Micato Safaris goes straight from Kigali to the Virunga volcanoes, devoting two days to encounters with different gorilla families.
Ready to Explore the World?
We have partnered with SmartFlyer, a full-service travel agency catering to high-end customized itineraries for couples and families worldwide.
Elena Borrero, SmartFlyer Travel Consultant, is a lifelong globetrotter who has visited more than 40 countries. With an initial no fee consultation, Elena’s strengths lie in getting to know her clients and executing detail-oriented, completely customized itineraries for couples and families. She specializes in luxury hotels and resorts, and her extensive industry network allows her to negotiate amenities, upgrades and VIP status for her distinguished client base. Through her decades of testing out hotspots first-hand, her product knowledge of beach destinations, Europe and even African safaris, she is well-versed to take on creating a trip in practically any corner of the world. Learn more about the benefits of working with Elena via website or email: Elena@smartflyer.com.