By Scott Goetz
Whether rediscovering the Caribbean by regatta, venturing along the Silk Road by private jet or exploring Southeast Asia on new cruising vessels, these journeys following the paths of great explorers past deliver modern luxuries in surprising ways.
And whether you choose to complete them in part or in full, we present the best tours in emerging elite destinations with itineraries—curated by top industry pros—that guarantee the right level of luxury and incorporate the glamour, spirit and romance of travel’s Golden Age, a time when the journey to the destination was as important as the destination itself.
Canadian Fur Trade Route
The exploding demand in Europe for beaver fur in the 17th century resulted in the growth of the fur trade, which became key to the development of the Canadian interior.
French “voyageurs” paddled upstream in birch bark canoes from Montreal and Quebec City to reach fur trading posts strategically located along waterways where Native Americans would trade their pelts for supplies. Hudson’s Bay Company’s need to find new sources of fur forced a push west, resulting in the exploration of the Pacific Northwest.
Only recently have modern voyagers been able to explore the beautifully wild expanse of the fur trade route in pure luxury. Start off in picturesque Quebec City, then Montreal for a foodie walking tour. Stop in for a fitting at Harricana for ethical, recycled fur fashions (www.harricana.qc.ca). Dine at Maison Boulud, inside the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton. Next, experience the voyageurs’ river life near Ontario by canoeing the aquatic thoroughfares, rife with rapids, that crisscross northern Quebec (www.blackfeather.com).
Fly to Winnipeg, the jumping off point to Churchill, stay at Fort Garry Hotel, then charter up to see the polar bears from a private Tundra Buggy with Frontiers North Adventures (Contact: Owner Lynda Gunter, (204) 949-2050; email@example.com; www.frontiersnorth.com), or join expert guides and walk with the polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Jet over to Jasper and drive the scenic highway to Banff where Fairmont’s historic resorts in Banff and Lake Louise provide five-star passage on the Continental Divide. In summer, paddle in a glass-bottom canoe or saddle up for a guided horseback ride (or ski powdery slopes in winter). Stop at the Four Seasons in Whistler before heading to Vancouver.
A 1950s seaplane whisks you to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort for salmon fishing, brown bear watching and horseback riding. Fly by seaplane to Desolation Sound and sail along the Inside Passage of Vancouver Island on the Pacific Yellowfin, a yacht built in 1943 and recently outfitted with state-of-the-art technology for whale watching and kayaking.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal’s $200 million renovation preserved its 1912 details while ushering the building to a new level of luxury. The 4,700-square-foot Royal Suite, the largest in Montreal, comes complete with 12 rooms and butler service (about $5,028 a night; www.ritzmontreal.com).
The Belvedere Suite at historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise delivers two stories of jaw-dropping views of the lake’s emerald waters and Victoria glacier (about $1,239 a night; www.fairmont.com). With spectacular views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, Four Seasons Whistler’s Presidential Suite (pictured) features high ceilings and large, secluded balconies with an outdoor dining area and gas fireplaces (about $2,735 a night; www.fourseasons.com) Book a prospector-style Luxury Ensuite Bathroom Tent at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort for king beds, heated floors, propane wood stoves, plus antique dressers and oil lamps on the grounds of an eco-luxe Canadian safari camp (from $6,125 per person for three nights; www.wildretreat.com).
Taste the flavors of Quebec, canoe like a fur trader, polar bear photo safari, private dogsledding, helicopter over the Rockies, fish on the historic Pacific Yellowfin yacht.
WHEN TO GO
Summer for the entire tour; for winter activities, go in January or February; October and November bring the best polar bear sightings.
From $50,000; Entrée Canada creates custom journeys across Canada and can include any segment of the above experience.
Entrée Destinations’ Owner Marc Telio
+1 (604) 408-1099
Sailing the New World (007 Style)
Christopher Columbus completed four voyages from Spain between 1492 and 1503 with the goal of establishing a new trade route to Asia.
His first landing was in the Bahamas archipelago, not Japan as he believed, nor were the subsequent discoveries of the Caribbean’s Greater and Lesser Antilles coastal China. Through many hardships and peril, he never realized he hadn’t made it to Asia nor that he had sailed throughout the Caribbean, what is now the yachting playground of the Western Hemisphere.
If only Columbus had a GPS (or any number of other high-tech gadgets that make sailing the Caribbean today more Bond than Crusoe). This year, follow Columbus’s path into a New World adventure that celebrates the 50th anniversary of 007 films. Start in the Bahamas’ Nassau, where a martini “shaken not stirred” awaits on Burgess Yachts’ sleek and sexy Lady Linda. The 187-foot, six-cabin superyacht will cruise you along the unspoiled cays of the Exumas (a 365-island chain) for Bond-worthy stops like Thunderball Grotto near Staniel Cay for a Sean Connery-style snorkel into the cave ($322,000 a week; www.burgessyachts.com).
Check into David Copperfield’s private island Musha Cay, where you’ll become Bond with M.U.S.H.A. Force, a day-long, live-action super-spy adventure complete with pyrotechnics and helicopters as you battle enemy agents with secret weapons, codes and laser beams. Escape to Oracabessa Bay on Jamaica’s north coast, where Ian Fleming wrote every Bond novel at Goldeneye. Visit nearby Discovery Bay (Columbus’s15th-century preferred anchor drop) and dive into the Green Grotto caves at Runaway Bay used in Live and Let Die.
Jet next to the British Virgin Islands to Necker Island, which lies across the channel from Virgin Gorda, whose idyllic racing waters are legendary. Sail the 105-foot Necker Belle (from $110,000 weekly) in one of two Caribbean premier regattas: The BVI Spring Regatta and the YCCS Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta. While regatta festivities and The Baths on Virgin Gorda beckon, trust that the party is always better on Richard Branson’s Necker where the staff is as cool as the tropical breeze and you can dive into a Bond reality by hopping in the Necker Nymph submarine ($25,000 weekly) for an underwater flight over coral reefs and sunken vessels.
Fleming’s personal writing desk—birthplace of James Bond— can still be found in the master 007 bedroom of the expansive, idyllic Fleming Villa at GoldenEye Hotel & Resort. A property renovation in 2010 unveiled two new swimming pools, two restaurants and poolside and cliffside cottages (from $5,500 a night; www.goldeneye.com).
Necker Island’s Temple House (Richard Branson’s home) is available until summer 2013 when the new Great House that replaces the one that burnt down one year ago is unveiled. Other accommodation includes Necker Belle, a four-cabin luxury catamaran. The new Beach House features an impressive bar and a second-story dining table that seats 40 guests ($42,500 a night for up to 16 guests; www.virginlimitededition.com).
Snorkel in Thunderball Grotto, shoot pool on Houdini’s table on Musha Cay, dine in a candlelit cave, live-action spy games, Old World treasure hunts, write at Ian Fleming’s desk, kite surf, BVI regattas, underwater exploration on Necker Nymph.
WHEN TO GO
February or March
Full expedition rates vary; see rates listed above
Burgess Yachts’ Matt Emerson
+1 (212) 223-0410
Goldeneye General Manager Jenny Wood
+1 (876) 622-9007
Virgin Limited’s Katrina Gomez
+1 (877) 577-8777
The Inca Trail
The mystery of the Incan civilization and the old Incan routes, an extensive array of north-south trails, have allured travelers for generations.
Stretching more than 14,000 miles from Ecuador to Chile across the Andes, a series of trails connected by suspension bridges enabled runners to hurry unimpeded with a message or caravans of llamas loaded with bales of raw materials and precious fabrics and make progress through the varied terrain of jungle, desert and rugged highlands. It was these same trails that Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, intent on Incan gold, used to conquer Cusco in the 1530s and, later, by Hiram Bingham, who discovered the iconic Machu Picchu while leading an expedition along the trail.
Start in Cusco, Peru the old capital of the Incan empire. Roam the streets and markets where Spanish colonial churches, monasteries and palaces perch atop exquisite Incan masonry. After a visit to the Pre- Columbian Art Museum, dine inside the glass box of Coque Ossio’s MAP café and explore modern twists on traditional Peruvian cuisine at Tammy Gordon and José Francisco Giraldo’s Cicciolina. Head next to Machu Picchu via the Orient-Express Hiram Bingham train, named for the Yale lecturer who discovered the ruins in 1911, where you’ll overnight to spend the early morning hours exploring the ruins and hiking to secluded waterfalls, petroglyphs and hidden temples, all before the hoards of tourists arrive. Jet south to the 12,500-foot Lake Titicaca, an important stop along the old Incan trade route. Row through the reeds on kayaks, take an exclusive tour of the floating reed islands and learn about the area from which the Incas believed their Gods came. Finally, veer out of the Andes to Iquitos to visit the headwaters of the Amazon, where Incan runners would venture to collect the feathers of exotic birds for Incan royal costumes.
In Cusco, immerse yourself in a unique mix of local design and colonial splendor at the 11-suite Inkaterra La Casona. Book a Plaza Suite and soak in a large marble bath or dine privately next to your stone fireplace in the restored 16th-century manor house, located off a flower-filled plaza (about $590 a night; www.inkaterra.com).
Enjoy the jungle of Machu Picchu from a 3,000-square-foot Villa at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Two adjoining guest suites, each with a terrace, offer a heated plunge pool overlooking a lush garden and come complete with butler service, fireplaces and marble baths with indoor and open-air showers (about $844 a night per person; www.inkaterra.com).
Book a top-floor Corner Suite at the new Relais & Châteaux Titilaka Hotel, set on a private peninsula with dead-on views of Lake Titicaca and receive exclusive access to the remote and indigenous portion of the local lakeshore markets and weaving cooperatives off the tourist path ($1,450 a night; www.titilaka.com).
Visit local Amazon tribes while sighting scarlet macaws, pink dolphins, monkeys and three-toed sloths from the luxury of the Deluxe Master Suite aboard the four-suite Amazon river cruiser, Delfin I. Each suite has a private terrace and whirlpool bath to cocoon you in luxury ($3,405 per person for a four-day, three-night excursion; www.delfinaamazoncruises.com).
Travel at dawn to an ancient petroglyph and absorb the timeless spirit of Machu Picchu, search for the Andean Cock of the Rock at a river observatory, paraglide more than 20,000 feet over the Sacred Valley and Cusco’s Sacsayhuamán ruins, hot-air balloon above the Sacred Valley, kayak Lake Titicaca
WHEN TO GO
April/May or October/November
From $16,500 per person for a party of two
The Road to Mandalay
The exotic riches and colonial splendor of Southeast Asia seduced many heads of state, entertainers and writers of the early 20th century to set out on grand tours of the mysterious “Far East,” where they lived in the opulent hotels of Hong Kong, Indochina, Thailand and Burma for months at a time.
Writers Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward, Graham Greene, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad glamorized their adventures with such in- toxicating prowess that their haute Asian haunts became legend. Nearly a century later, these grand colonial hotels, treasured symbols of Southeast Asia’s allure, still stand as bastions of luxury—destinations in their own right just as important as the historic sites along the roads that link them.
Ker & Downey’s “Southeast Asia Colonial Splendor” tour sends travelers on a colonial-rich thrill ride into history with an itinerary that juxtaposes early 20th-century tux-and-sequined glamour with high-tech stays and innovative excursions.
Start in Hong Kong with a British Colony daily tradition and fire the Noon Day Gun at Causeway Bay, cruise Aberdeen and the Harbour in a yacht, then check into Mandarin Oriental to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Head to Kowloon for high tea at the newly renovated Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong’s grand dame, then embark on a helicopter tour from the rooftop. Jet next to Vietnam’s capital to explore the Old Quarter on a culinary tour that reveals the burgeoning street food scene of modern Hanoi, then heli-transfer to Ha Long Bay and board a private junk to soak in the arresting beauty of the lime- stone karsts. Continue to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, where the opera house, Notre Dame Cathedral and central post office grant a glimpse of Viet- nam’s French past. An exclusive (and exhilarating) shopping tour to the city’s top boutiques by Vespa is followed by a sunset bar hop at The Rex, Caravelle and Majestic, preferred watering holes of Greene, Coward and Maugham.
Next, forge up the Mekong aboard British Indian colonial river cruiser The Jahan for tai chi lessons, village tours by private sampan and cooking classes. Follow the paths of steamship passengers on their way to the “Lost Kingdom of Angkor” by disembarking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Raffles Le Royal, est. 1929. Sip the Femme Fatale created for Jackie O in the hotel’s Elephant Bar, then helicopter to Siem Reap to the former king’s guesthouse (now the Amansara) where she stayed. Visit Angkor Wat and the ruins of Bayon and Ta Prohm and end with a private champagne stroll through the jungle temple at moonlight. Turn back time in the French colonial gem of Luang Prabang, Laos and rise early for the daily ritual of giving alms to the monks before tour- ing the natural wonders on elephant back. Jet next to Bangkok for a respite that allows time to explore the legendary Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, and the city’s hot new hotel, The Siam, where you have the choice of overnighting in an Author’s Suite or a historic Thai home once owned by silk merchant Jim Thompson. Book a therapy journey at Sodashi’s Opium Spa and dine at MO’s Lord Jim’s followed by a Jazz nightcap in the Bamboo Bar.
End your journey with a seven-night expedition into Myanmar (Burma), a grand tour requisite for colonials and a newfound modern hot spot thanks to political changes. Embark on The Orcaella (launching July 2013) from Yangon to Bagan, where you’ll cruise far north, dropping anchor at key cultural sites where little has changed since Kipling wrote his famous poem Mandalay. Your road to Mandalay ends at Inle Lake before returning to Yangon for a final historic stay at The Governor’s Residence. TOP
2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, the first hotel in Asia to have bathtubs in every room. The seven-room Mandarin Suite offers double-height ceilings in the sitting room, a dining room for 12, wraparound balcony, private spa suite and decor with Gerard D’a Henderson murals and a framed Qing Dynasty court robe. Enjoy access to the salon’s master Shanghai pedicurist who boasts a one-month waiting list. Sample 1963-inspired menus in The Krug Room and enjoy three-Michelin- starred restaurants (about $8,774 a night; www.mandarinoriental.com).
The Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, revamped in 1992 after decades of faded glory, maintains the original hardwood floors scuffed by many a literary giant. The 1,894-square-foot Grand Prestige Suite in the Opera Wing has a dining area for eight, private spa and spacious tub (about $3,251 a night; www.sofitel.com).
Amansara’s Pool Suites feature a combined sleeping and living area, king- sized bed, private garden and private plunge pool. Designed by French architect Laurent Mondet, the hotel was built as a royal retreat for the King of Cambodia in 1962. Dinners in the great round hall are delicious affairs, and the spa offers readings by a local psychic ($1,250 a night; www.amanresorts.com).
The Amantaka Pool Suite at Amantaka in Luang Prabang, Laos features a large veranda, living room and spacious outdoor area with private garden, relaxation sala and large pool. Built in renovated French colonial buildings from the early 20th century, the hotel has become an integral part of the city’s landscape ($1,700 a night; www.amanresorts.com). The
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has withstood the test of time and is still, after 125 years, considered one of the best hotels in the world. Book the Joseph Conrad Suite (about $1,531 a night) in the original Garden Wing, which has a four-poster bed and terrace overlooking the Chao Phraya or The Royal Oriental Suite, the hotel’s best with timber panel details, a stunning art col- lection, rattan sitting room, dining room, two balconies and panoramic river views (about $4,397 a night; www.mandarinoriental.com).
The Strand may be the most famous colonial hotel in Yangon, but the top suite to book is the 2-Bedroom Junior Suite at The Governor’s Residence. Located on the second floor of a 1920s teak mansion, the suite offers colonial and antique furnishings, a large terrazzo bath, double sinks and Burmese wood carvings ($595 a night; www.thegovernorsresidence.com).
Helicopter over Hong Kong, street food and gallery tour in Hanoi, private cruise in Ha Long Bay, guided tour of Ho Chi Minh City, cycling in the Mekong Delta, tour of Angkor Wat, blessing from a monk, Khmer cooking class, moonlit toast in the jungle temple, tour of Luang Prabang, elephant-back trekking in Laos, witness a traditional Novitiation Ceremony of local monks
WHEN TO GO
November through February
From $60,360 per person for a party of two
The Silk Road
No one evokes travel and adventure like Marco Polo, the first Westerner to document the cultures and customs of Central Asia and China through tales of his journeys on the Silk Road.
Stretching more than 4,000 miles from Istanbul to Beijing, over towering mountains and across desert sands, this trade route opened up the exchange of goods and ideas between Europe and Asia. Most of the countries of Central Asia remained a mystery to modern historians until their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991; newly reopened to visitors, these Silk Road jewels are a must-see for today’s intrepid elite travelers.
Silk Road Treasure Tours, owned by native Uzbekistani Zulya Rajabova, leads adventures through the heart of Central Asia and the Silk Road. Start your odyssey in Istanbul, where you’ll browse the sights and sounds of the Grand Bazaar then explore the jewels, carpets and silk clothing of Topkapi Palace, many of which made their way to the sultan from the East. Fly next to Baku, Azerbaijan, the door to Central Asia. This land of Zoroastrian fire and modern oil reserves in the Caucasus is now a world-class destination for fine dining and nightlife. Spend a few days in Turkmenistan’s capital city of Ashgabat, to see the Tolkuchka Bazaar and the world’s largest carpet at the National Museum, and shop for a telpek—the hat that Marco Polo wore. Skirt the red sands of Kyzyl Kum desert to Bukhara, Uzbekistan, an ancient living city and trading center (think trade domes and covered bazaars) where several routes on the Silk Road converge. Move on to Samarkand, a city that impressed Alexander the Great and is known for the mosaics, turquoise tiles and glazed bricks of Registan Square. Attend a music festival and try the same wines Marco Polo drank. Head up to Lake Issyk-Kul for horseback riding in the mountains, ending with a sunset champagne toast. Pause at the Chinese border for a stay in traditional nomadic yurts. Pass through Kashgar and the edge of the Gobi Desert, as you head east to see the army of Terracotta Warriors of Xian, where Marco Polo spent 17 years as personal aid to Kublai Khan, before viewing the Great Wall and ending the journey in Beijing.
Çiragan Palace Kempinksi’s Sultan Suite, part of a palace overlooking the Bosphorus built by an Ottoman Sultan in 1867, is one of the largest in Europe, boasting panoramic views, soaring ceilings and a historic¤marble hammam (about $38,996 a night; www.kempinski.com).
One of the newest Four Seasons, located on Baku’s waterfront promenade, boasts the 3,055-square-foot Khazar Presidential Suite that echoes the charm of the city’s Beaux Arts-style mansions. It features a full-size salon, dining room, media room, private elevator, multiple balconies and a personal spa (about $7,641 a night; www.fourseasons.com/baku).
The Imperial Suite of the Aman at Summer Palace, just outside Beijing, comprises three pavilions surrounding an inner courtyard. Guests enjoy private encounters with master artisans who recreate the beautiful crafts that fueled the Silk Road trade (from $3,900 a night; www.amanresorts.com).
Indulge in famed Caspian Sea caviar at Kaspia, discover post-Communist Central Asia through the eyes of an Uzbekistan expat, after-hours guided museum visits, cooking classes, music and fashion shows, wine tasting on private estates and dinners at centuries- old medreses, private viewing of Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City and Great Wall private tour
WHEN TO GO
Spring, when there are many festivals
From $150,000 per traveler for a 14-day trip
Silk Road Treasure Tours Owner Zulya Rajabova
+1 (908) 719-7676
The White Continent: In the Path of Shackleton
Early in the 20th century, Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton ventured to Antarctica on three different expeditions, but despite his best efforts and incredible determination, he was never able to achieve his goal of traversing the continent and reaching the South Pole.
100 years later it is still not easy to complete Shackleton’s dream. To follow in his footsteps, we suggest three distinct journeys.
Begin “Lindblad’s Antarctica, South Georgia and Falklands” 23-night journey in Ushuaia, Argentina where you’ll board the National Geographic Explorer and sail the famous high seas of the Drake Passage. Arrive at the Falkland Islands, a British outpost full of ramshackle charm. Stop at South Georgia, but instead of crossing the rugged peaks like Shackleton did to rescue his crew, arrive at Grytviken leisurely by zodiac. Here, honor the explorer’s final resting place with a bottle of Mackinlay’s “Shackleton Edition” malt whiskey. Reach the Antarctic Peninsula and follow expedition scientists on a thrilling exploration upon foot, zodiac and kayak into a frozen kingdom full of penguins, leopard seals and icebergs. Cruise the length of the Lemaire Channel before returning to Ushuaia.
Board the Orion in Hobart, Tasmania to set out on “Scott and Shackleton’s Antarctica” race to the South Pole. Cruise the Sub-Antarctic islands, home to millions of penguins, elephant seals and the endangered wandering albatross. This 20-night cruise sails into the Ross Sea with a stop at Cape Royd to explore Shackleton’s hut. Venture farther into the Ross Sea to Cape Evans, and even deeper to the Ross Ice Shelf, the closest you can get to the South Pole by water. See ten out of 17 species of penguin on various landings. End your trip in Dunedin, New Zealand, a beautifully preserved Victorian/Edwardian city.
Take a tailored journey to the center of the continent that Shackleton never got to cross by flying from Cape Town to White Desert’s Whichaway Camp with Ker & Downey. Trek to a nearby oasis, take on a technical rock climb on Nunatak Mountain or kite ski on glacier cliffs. Included in the package are two continental flights: One to Atka Bay where you’ll spend the night in specialist tents at a colony of emperor penguins 6,000 strong, the other, a seven-hour flight over the vast mountain ranges, crevasse fields and endless polar plateau, 90 degrees south to the American science station and designated South Pole marker.
Book the Upper Deck–Suite on Lindblad’s National Geographic Explorer ($39,990 per person in 2013, based on double occupancy), which boasts a private balcony, feather duvets and flat-screen TVs with live feed from an ROV crow’s nest remote-controlled camera (www.expeditions.com). Orion’s Suites on Deck 5 offer a separate bedroom and living room with sliding glass doors opening to a French balcony; book #507 or #510 (from $39,455 per person for the 2014 expedition; www.orionexpeditions.com). White Desert’s eco-conscious Whichaway Camp features a main living area and six state-of-the-art sleeping pods furnished in the Old World opu- lence of African safaris (about $73,350 per person; www.white-desert.com).
Visit massive colonies of king penguins, com- memorative toast at Shackleton’s grave, discover a place on the planet that no one has ever seen before with Lindblad’s underwater Remote Operated Vehicle, sail the Ross Sea, camp on the continent, overnight with a king pen- guin colony, play and have a photo shoot at the South Pole
WHEN TO GO
The peak of Antarctica’s summer – December through February
Ker & Downey can arrange all three journeys and connect itineraries through pre- and post-adventures, or cover any portions of the path therein. Prices vary depending upon the journey.