No matter what country or even continent, if you’re looking for the most luxurious treatment of all, read on
Maybe you’ve decided 2019 is the year you’re really going to treat yourself to that dream holiday. The one where you splurge completely and refuse to feel guilty. Good for you! Everyone needs that once in a while. You’ve probably got some ideas as to what it should involve: gorgeous weather, amazing food, a beach or two, a posh hotel and total relaxation.
You’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the best luxury destinations the coming year has to offer.
St Barts, as it’s known, is a tiny, volcanic island of 25 square kilometres perched on the eastern edge of the Caribbean. A French overseas territory, it’s now known for its marine reserve and collection of wonderful beaches.
The beaches are divided into two categories: the windward side (unprotected from the wind and the weather, very popular for sports such as windsurfing), and the leeward side (sheltered and quiet). It is to these beaches the beautiful people come, bringing a touch of the French Riviera to the Caribbean. Still not that well known as a destination, the beaches are a mixture of romantic getaway and exclusive parties.
There are around 25 hotels on the island, most with fewer than 15 rooms, so you can expect fabulous personal service; even more so if renting a private villa.
The main social event, though, is New Year, when the bays fill with luxury yachts, and celebrities, party people and the generally wealthy congregate to see in another year. All in all, however, the island only sees around 200,000 tourists every year, so no matter when you visit, you can still be one of the special ones.
No longer simply a target for backpackers, Cambodia is becoming somewhat of a go-to destination for luxury retreats, be they yoga-inspired, vegan-influenced or generally to do with that all-encompassing buzzword “wellness”. Even if none of those is your thing, you’d be hard-pressed to find such choice for such relatively good value.
The beaches are clearly the main selling point and there are a number of world-class private beach resorts with the latest in spa treatments, rustic-looking-but-still-state-of-the-art rooms and dining, and all surrounded by a landscape that you only ever see in films.
If you want all the luxury but with the chance to see more than just the beach, even the iconic Angkor Wat has got in on the act, with a luxury spa resort just 10 km from the site, featuring villas dotted throughout lush, tropical gardens, some with their own private jungle glades featuring spa areas and whirlpool hot tubs.
Perched between the mountains and the sea, Sintra is one of the capitals of European Romanticism. A town (and corresponding region) Lord Byron called a “glorious Eden”, and where Robert Southey, Hans Christian Andersen, and Richard Strauss all stayed during their lifetimes.
Today it stands proud, historic, and opulent; a centre of Portuguese gastronomy and culture, and one of the wealthiest places in the country. Castles, palaces, royal estates, and gardens jostle for position on the wooded hillsides as grand town houses and cobbled squares dominate the town proper. Beaches stretch forever along the Atlantic coast and you could be forgiven for thinking the rest of the world was utterly inconsequential.
A few of the (many) royal palaces and houses have been turned into luxury hotels, so to live like royalty, any of these will serve you well. On the less grandiose side of things, there are some more down-to-earth options such as bed and breakfasts in the town, but even in these you’ll be woken to the smell of coffee and the warm sea breeze.
Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Swimming with dolphins, hot air balloon rides, endless beaches, and gently rolling vineyards are the order of the day on the Mornington Peninsula. This crop of land to the south-east of Melbourne is a beautiful collection of towns, villages, and scenery that rewards a relaxed attitude with a love of the finer things.
A lot of the activities you’ll find are based around the wonderful food and drink possibilities in the area, with local restaurants and vineyards offering tasting menus galore, or the local markets pulling you in with all manner of sights, smells, colours, and tastes. The local seafood is incredible as well but if you don’t fancy eating it, instead you can go snorkelling or scuba diving in the clear waters around the coast or head out in a fishing boat to catch your own.
There are a number of boutique hotels to choose from, many of them standing in acres of their own parkland, farm, or vineyard giving you ample opportunity to stroll in the evening air as the sun goes slowly down or, if you really feel the need to spoil yourself, relax in the geothermal hot springs of the region’s spas.
Los Cabos, Mexico
A place to be pampered as well as a place to party, the two towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo on the Baja Peninsula also come supplied with some of the most glam resorts, beaches, clubs, and restaurants in Mexico right now.
It’s also a favourite holiday spot for, among others, George Clooney, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Lopez — all of whom have holiday homes here.
The stretch of land between the two towns is around 30 km in length, and in that area there are pristine beaches, the azure waters of the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, golf courses, organic farms that supply the restaurants with the finest foods, and a number of spas and health resorts for when it all simply gets too much for you.
A little further afield, the town of Todos Santos is a wonderful example of 18th century colonial architecture and is home to artists, craftspeople, poets, jewellers, and sculptors who came for the history and beauty of the area, but can also be found lying beneath the coconut trees on the shore, as you will be.
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
This 50 km stretch of stunning Sorrentine coast has been a favourite with the smart set for decades, and is still somewhat of an exclusive place to holiday. It calls itself the world’s best “vertical landscape”, and with 13 Unesco protected towns spilling down to the sea in a cascade of steps, lanes, and cliffs you can see what they mean.
Because of the vertiginous nature of wherever you stay, within five or ten minutes from the beach, you can be high up in your five-star hotel, sitting on the balcony and gazing out over a Mediterranean sunset. The range of hotels means you’ll always feel exclusive, from rooms in a converted 13th century monastery to rustic bed and breakfasts, or even getting the millionaire’s treatment in rooms on a rented yacht.
Want to ramp that 1960s film star vibe up to the maximum? Rent a little car or a scooter and head off to explore the fishing villages that dot the coastline, stopping to enjoy the delicacies freshly caught that day before winding your way back, a picture-perfect depiction of Italy at its most glamourous.