Some of the world’s finest hotels have accepted hundreds of thousands of new guests: honeybees that reflect a commitment to sustainability.
In an era when chefs and consumers are obsessed with conscientious sourcing and sustainability, restaurants are turning to local artisanal producers of cheeses, vegetables and meats. For a natural, sustainable sweetener that cannot get more local, luxury hotels around the world are converting rooftops into honeybee farms, a movement embraced by environmentalists and hotel guests alike.
Author Leslie Day, a naturalist who is passionate about her native New York, has spent a career documenting the city’s birds and trees. Her 2018 book Honeybee Hotel chronicles the rooftop garden and beekeeping operation at Midtown Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. The book is a loving celebration of the iconic hotel, now undergoing a $2 billion renovation, and the natural world that doggedly prevails in the Big Apple.
Dr. Day — she holds a doctorate in science education from Columbia — was inspired by the Art Deco property’s conversion of its 20th floor rooftop into a bountiful garden and honeybee farm in 2012. The transformation not only enhanced the hotel’s culinary offerings, but brought together a community of humans to care for colonies totaling approximately 300,000 apis mellifera honeybees. Pleased to see other hotels emulating the Waldorf Astoria’s efforts, Day suggests, “This is a strong statement that a hotel cares about the environment and cares about the ingredients they serve their guests.”
Mandarin Oriental Paris
Ojai Valley Inn
Day reports bees thrive in urban settings and notes even Manhattan is surprisingly hospitable to bees. “Before the chefs and staff put in the garden, the bees would fly to Central Park — about a beeline of a mile away from the Waldorf Astoria — to forage on flowering plants,” reports Day. “The city offers a veritable feast for pollinating animals,” she insists. A strong proponent of urban beekeeping, Day observes, “City beekeepers develop a relationship with these amazing little animals and help them stay healthy by monitoring the hive throughout the year.” She says of the challenging hobby, “It’s a relationship that brings you close to the natural world, even in an urban environment.”
David Garcelon, the chef Leslie Day features in Honeybee Hotel, arrived at the Waldorf Astoria after previously nurturing bees at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. His beekeeping at the Royal York, starting in 2008, was the genesis of a worldwide “Bee Sustainable” program adopted by more than 20 properties in the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts organization. Now hotel manager at Fairmont Banff Springs, Garcelon is attempting to overcome a restriction of introducing honeybees, a non-native species, into Canada’s Banff National Park.
“It’s not often you’re able to do something groundbreaking in a hotel over 100 years old,” recounts Garcelon of his bee program at the Waldorf Astoria. “There was a great deal of excitement when we added the hives, a lot of ‘buzz’ in the media as well,” he says. “However, the most rewarding aspect for me was seeing the look on guests’ faces when we told them we produced our own honey in Midtown Manhattan, then being able to take them to see the hives,” explains Garcelon, who appreciates any ingredient that has a story to tell.
Thanks in part to Fairmont’s aggressive program, the practice of hotels caring for honeybees is not confined to North America. In London, 350,000 bees reside on a third-floor garden at St. Ermin’s Hotel and in Paris, the very chic Mandarin Oriental — it is located on the fashion-forward Rue Saint-Honoré in the 1st arrondissement — has been honeybee-friendly since 2012. The honey produced by those Parisian bees is used in the hotel’s various restaurants and bars, including the Michelin two-starred Sur Mesure under the direction of chef Thierry Marx.
The Mandarin Oriental’s legendary beekeeper, Audric de Campeau (pictured with his companion on the rooftop of the hotel on page 26), has also introduced beehives to iconic Parisian monuments like Les Invalides and Musée d’Orsay. “Bees are an important part of the pollination cycle and often thrive in urban environments such as Paris, which has been a pesticide-free zone for the past ten years,” explains Mandarin Oriental’s general manager Philippe Leboeuf. To help restore the decreasing honeybee population and to contribute to biodiversity, the hotel maintains two rooftop hives hosting 100,000 Buckfast honeybees, a breed that adapts well to city life.
“Due to the specificity and the diversity of Parisian flowers, the Mandarin Oriental honey has a unique flavor, rich and complex,” reports de Campeau, describing it like a master sommelier. “It has a powerful and persistent scent of red fruits, and tastes wonderfully round in the mouth, with a bright, fresh finish,” he assesses. In addition to chef Marx and pastry chef Adrien Bozzolo, bartenders use the house honey in a cocktail of Champagne, yuzu liqueur and jasmine tea.
Most people outside the state are unaware of it, but Utah is known as the “Beehive State,” and the Waldorf Astoria Park City continues the practices of its flagship property in New York. Master beekeeper Debrah Carroll, who also serves as kitchen manager at the hotel’s Powder restaurant, maintains approximately 60,000 honeybees adjoining the onsite herb garden. Looking to become more sustainable in its food practices, the Waldorf Astoria initiated the program in 2014, complementing its emphasis on utilizing local ingredients. “The local sourcing is plentiful in our mountains, but we also wanted to have something, literally, from our own backyard,” explains Carroll, who concedes Utah’s dry climate presents challenges for beekeeping.
Carroll reports guests respond well to the uber-local honey, particularly when presented in the honeycomb. “The Waldorf Astoria honey has a wonderful wildflower flavor that works in various dishes and cocktails,” says the master beekeeper, citing seasonal fruit plates, salad dressings, candied pecans, and cheese or charcuterie boards, as well as a signature cocktail called the Astoria Tonic. VIP guests are treated to tours of the hives and garden, dressed in protective gear.
Dedicated to educating people on the virtues of beekeeping, Carroll reveals some extraordinary facts about honeybees that engender a greater appreciation for the house-made honey hotel guests drizzle into their tea. For instance, it takes 12 honeybees an entire lifetime (which is typically six to seven weeks) to generate a single teaspoon of honey, and in order to create a pound of honey, a hive of bees must travel 55,000 miles.
One might not expect 4,200 acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains to be a magnet for sophisticated epicureans, but Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm most certainly is. Almost everything that arrives on the dining table is produced on the premises, and that includes honey overseen by farmstead manager and beekeeper Dustin Busby, whose resume includes celebrated restaurants The Fat Duck and The French Laundry. He manages at least seven hives of European honeybees with access to tulip poplar, wildflowers and sourwood.
Most prized is the honey from sourwood tree blossoms, known for its sweet and spicy qualities, a hint of anise and agreeable aftertaste. Busby explains that factors such as time of harvest, weather conditions and even the specific portion of the hive from which the honey is extracted can influence taste. He is constantly developing new recipes for using the honey in the resort’s preserve kitchen and recently created a blueberry-elderflower jam using the house-made honey in place of sugar.
“Seeing the hives and talking about our bees are part of our garden and farmstead tours,” reports Busby. He adds, “More involved tours of the bees, including suiting up and looking at the hives or even collecting honey, are conducted from time to time on special request from guests.” Blackberry Farm honey is one of the many artisanal food products sold directly to hotel guests.
Blackberry Farm raises virtually everything served at the resort, including house-made honey.
Honey produced at Ojai Valley Inn reflects the flavors of lavender, avocado, and citrus.
The Ojai Valley Inn is just 80 miles from downtown Los Angeles, but feels like another world. From its 220 acres in an idyllic coastal valley, guests enjoy access to the ocean and vineyards, as well as championship golf on site. The Farmhouse — this is a culinary event center directed by acclaimed chef Nancy Silverton — reflects the Inn’s commitment to food and wine. Guests who tour the retreat’s apiary in protective suits enjoy tastings of different honeys whose flavor profiles result from pollination of local plants like avocado, lavender and citrus.
“We’re extremely proud of our beekeeping program at Ojai Valley Inn, not only because it provides us with an amazing estate-curated product that we can offer our guests, but also because we believe strongly in good stewardship of the natural resources of the Ojai Valley,” reports executive chef Truman Jones. Emphasizing the positive ecological impacts yielded through the care of those prolific pollinators, he adds, “It gives us a huge return on our efforts by propagating the flowers and various fruits of the Inn and the entire Valley.”
In San Francisco, nearly a dozen hotels maintain rooftop beehives, including the Clift Royal Sonesta, which uses honey from its “Bee Sanctuary” in craft cocktails at its legendary Redwood Room. The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, ranked among the world’s finest resorts, has also developed a strong apiculture program and Philadelphia’s Sofitel at Rittenhouse Square accommodates 480,000 honeybees on its rooftop garden, showcased in dishes at the hotel’s Liberté Lounge.
The beekeeping operations at these luxury hotels are an offshoot of an urban beekeeping movement that has become trendy in the last 20 years. The tasting notes of backyard honeys, sometimes sold at farmers markets and gourmet shops, mirror the flora of an area, even a specific neighborhood, much like a wine reflects its vineyard’s own terroir.
In addition to mesmerizing guests, keeping bees at hotels helps alleviate a crisis-level decline in the honeybee population that threatens entire ecosystems and adversely impacts food production for a hungry world. Master beekeeper Debrah Carroll reports that 80 percent of all flowering plants must be pollinated to survive, and that more than a third of the world’s food supply is dependent on pollination by insects like honeybees.
Addressing her nostalgic Waldorf Astoria, scheduled to reopen in 2022, naturalist Leslie Day comments, “I’m very hopeful the new management will read my book and bring the bees back.”
Honey from the rooftop of the Clift Royal Sonesta is incorporated into cocktails at the historic Redwood Room.
Photo by Sally Guillaume.
These three travel companies offer sustainable opportunities to see — and even help save — the planet.
Ahead of its time when it was originally founded in 1996, South American travel operator Aracari is highly regarded in the sustainable travel industry. Founder Marisol Mosquera defines sustainable travel simply as travel that does not destroy the
destination, which in today’s standards means low impact, low-volume tourism. These pillars of tourism have been part of Aracari’s mission since it began, in order to promote natural landscapes.
One of the most important ways Aracari maintains such high standards of sustainability is by educating guests throughout their trips, to “treat the local communities and sensitive environments with great respect,” Moquera states. To follow through, the company works tirelessly with the other businesses they work with to help ensure their self-imposed regulations are effective across the board. For example, Mosquera says the company seeks boutique hotels that are more stringent on standards like waste management, energy consumption, community involvement, et cetera. With these methods incorporated into their business model, Aracari is able to fulfill
clients’ travel needs while making a smaller impact on the surrounding environment.
“People travel to learn and experience new things, and our region is very rich with cultural and natural attractions,” Mosquera says, attractions that they strive to find new ways of highlighting through their bespoke travel tours. One upcoming tour in May 2020 is an eight-day excursion in Bolivia, hosted by National Geographic photographer Max Milligan, based in Kachi Lodge which is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Nestled next to Tunupa Volcano, these transparent igloo tents afford wonderful views and a unique sense of isolation while guests enjoy delicious food, hot water and comfortable accommodations.
Kachi Lodge | Bolivia
Kachi Lodge is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.
Photo courtesy of Aracari.
Guests can travel to archaeological sites like Machu Picchu with Aracari’s Peru tours.
Photo by Marcella Echavarria.
Another tour featuring Milligan is an adventure through the mountains of Peru at El Albergue Ollantaytambo, where guests can visit local communities, archaeological sites like Machu Picchu, and an organic garden that stretches from the glacial snowline to the tropical cloud forest.
Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya
Photo by Stevie Mann.
Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya
Cottar’s Safari Camp provides an authentic and individualized safari experience by ensuring a legacy of wilderness, wildlife, comfort and security.
Photo courtesy of Steppes Travel.
Steppes Travel creates eco-luxury holiday trips that are tailor-made for people who are interested in wildlife. While it highlights giving a behind-the-scenes look into many different sensible wildlife environments and discovering different cultures, at the core, Steppes Travel focuses on giving back to the environment and communities their teams visit. An avid traveller himself, Rob Gardiner fit in perfectly at Steppes Travel as the Commercial Manager for the Africa sector with his overall knowledge and love for travel. “I love the people that you meet, I love the lessons that you learn from it, and I think it breaks down barriers, changing our perception of different places and alters our prejudices,” Gardiner says.
Gardiner says that the company’s focus on sustainable travel is driven by a need to look after the communities they visit and keep those wilderness areas as pristine as possible. Steppes Travel also works with community members and conservation groups to ensure proceeds are given back to those areas, noting that, as a whole, travel can be a force for good. “If you’re lucky enough to go to Zambia, Tanzania or Botswana on safari, for example, there should be money that goes back into the local economy so they too are incentivized to look after what they have.”
Regarding the tours, Gardiner says that the wildlife aspect is what helps keeps sustainability in mind for both guides and travellers. He notes that often these trips provide a unique educational experience, granting travellers a new, real perspective on conservation while taking part in projects like tracking rhinos in South Africa or working on a jaguar safari project in Brazil. Tourists can go further by becoming ambassadors for certain regions and work with communities around the world to be more conscious of endangered environments.
“As much as possible, we don’t believe in cocooning our clients away from the streetlife in Delhi or living with a nomadic family in Mongolia,” Gardiner affirms. “I think it’s about getting to know the people and about having that personal human connection.”
According to Sally Guillaume, owner and founder of sustainable travel company Undiscovered Mountains, her reasons for starting the company were driven by a personal drive to create a better world, “to do things in a way that everyone benefits without exploiting people or environments.”
Focusing on trips located in and around the French Alps, Guillaume wanted to steer away from mass tourism and “build a sustainable approach to tourism both for the communities and the rich natural environments they live in.” In doing so, she built a business that not only focuses on preserving natural environments, but also helps clients to discover authentic Alpine communities, not usually found in mainstream Alpine travel.
Guillaume’s vision of a sustainable world includes less consumerism and a deeper appreciation for experiences. And while Undiscovered Mountains, Steppes Travel and Aracari are all model companies, there is a long way to go in sustainable tourism — from updating local infrastructure to promoting lower-impact travel methods such as train or “green” vehicles. She notes, however, the ethical standards of travel companies have become more and more important consumers in recent years, as well as the destination and activities involved.
From touring preserved natural environments with abundant wildlife and flora on the southern French Alps, to immersive tours in both Nepal and Norway that are launching soon, Undiscovered Mountains will continue to make its mission about serving the environment, which has always shaped the culture around them. “The type of food people eat, the architecture of old buildings, the choice of where villages are situated is all to do with how people have survived living off the land of the mountains for centuries.”
The French Alps
Travelers can learn to paraglide and fly above the mountains on one of Undiscovered Mountain’s paragliding courses.
Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.
The French Alps
From ski touring to dogsledding with huskies, …
Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.
The French Alps
Undiscovered Mountains offers a wide assortment of winter activities that are fully customisable, all in the French Alps.
Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.
All photos courtesy Tourradar.com
Now that the holidays are over and business is back to usual, it’s time to get excited about where you’re traveling in 2020.
Unique Homes and Tourradar.com have rounded up all the buzziest destinations for the year ahead so you can start planning your next great adventure!
If you’re hoping to reconnect with nature this year, Costa Rica is the answer. It’s where tropical backgrounds are the norm, as is exotic wildlife, robust coffee flavours and the relaxing wellness retreats waiting for travellers beachside.
Stroll across suspension bridges up in the forest canopy and find yourself completely and utterly face-to-face with Mother Nature while in the dreamy cloud forest region of the country in Monteverde. 90% of Costa Rica’s energy is created by renewable sources, and they’re on track to become one of the first carbon-neutral countries this year. Play your part by choosing to spend vacation time in a country that’s going above and beyond to make a difference to our global climate crisis.
Just in case activities like hiking volcanoes, surfing and zip-lining through lush hilltops isn’t your thing, Costa Rica is also home to cities tailor-made for an escape, from San Jose to Puerto Viego. While there’s something for everyone in Costa Rica, the natural beauty and jungle life definitely come first place.
It’s been a couple of years now that people have been talking about Bhutan and for good reason. The country proudly boasts a nearly untouched natural landscape that will stun even the most well-travelled among us. Already the world’s only carbon-negative country, taking a breath of fresh air means something entirely different in Bhutan.
Nestled tightly in the Himalayas, you’ll find plenty of mountain trails capable of delivering you some awe-inspiring views in Bhutan, like those of Paro Taktsang – also known as Tiger Nest – it’s an iconic sacred Buddhist monastery that sits cliffside. There’s also the chance to see ornate palaces from as far back as the 17th century and national parks that are home to rare and exotic wildlife like the Himalayan black bear and red panda.
If you’re hoping to make 2020 the year for some spiritual respite, a visit to the world’s real-life Shangri-La is in order.
Easily enjoyed in under a week, the Emerald Isle is full of pursuits that balance adventure, nature and history with ease.
The only road trip you’ll need for 2020 is along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500-kilometer route that you can tackle in parts during your first visit. Embrace the elements along this sprawling route and enjoy discovering small-town life, coastal landscapes and secluded beaches across the country.
The sooner you visit, the faster you can start conquering your resolutions. Just make sure your trip itinerary includes a stop at the Blarney Castle where the famed Blarney Stone is located. As the legend goes, those who hang upside down and lay their lips on the stone is bestowed the gift of gab, which will help to ensure you get everything you want and more out of 2020.
Home to one of the world’s most impressive networks of waterfalls, Argentina is teeming with extraordinary natural wonders that put travellers in the centre of it all. For example, visitors to the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls can enjoy kilometres of trails that will take you in and out of lush forests and within arm’s reach of the waterfalls themselves. If you’re in search of something a little cooler, then Glaciar Perito Moreno will not disappoint. You can witness the soaring beauty of this glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. And thanks to the park’s extended network of steel catwalks and platforms, Perito Moreno is one of the world’s most impressive and accessible glaciers.
You want a city escape with fiery music, and experimental takes on classic dishes, Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, is an essential stop on your 2020 adventures. Argentinians know their way around beef, and their steaks will wow your tastebuds. You can end your night in Buenos Aires by visiting a tango bar and working off your dinner in a flurry of dance moves taught to you by local experts.
Looking to include world-class wine? Just head to Mendoza (Argentina’s wine country). You can learn how the grapes are grown and cared for in the thick of it all. We promise once you’re walking alongside the farmers, hearing their stories firsthand, a glass of Malbec will taste all the more satisfying.
Want to learn about other potential travel destinations? Visit Tourradar.com for more opportunities!
Courtesy of Explorer Chick.
Women are influencing all facets of the travel industry as they acquire more spending power.
Not only are women earning and spending more in 2019, but they’re traveling differently — from the activities pursued, to the destinations visited, to the companions chosen. And they’re making an impact. Women currently make 70 percent of all travel decisions, according to Bridget Brennan’s “Why She Buys.”
“It’s a really interesting time for women globally — more and more women are getting an education, having careers, managing their own finances and disposable income. As a result, these women are beginning to seek travel experiences that are purely for themselves,” says Lauren Bates, founder
of Wild Terrains — a women-only group travel company that supports female-owned businesses.
Although it’s not the case for all women, more female travelers are breaking away from “stereotypical” female-catered trips. Instead of yoga retreats, spa weekends and relaxing getaways, women are pursuing high-intensity travel experiences, driving the rise of Adventure Travel — travel that typically involves physically challenging outdoor activities.
Seventy-five percent of travelers pursuing nature, adventure, or cultural trips are women between the ages of 20 and 70, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.
“Women have always been a force in the travel industry, but social media has really brought that to light,” says Nicki Bruckmann, founder of Explorer Chick, an adventure travel company for women. “It’s moving from a dream to a reality for many women. Women who may have daydreamed about world travel are seeing that yes, they too can travel the world and have incredible experiences.”
Whether it’s supporting women who want to explore the Grand Canyon, cruise along the Nile River or float in the Dead Sea, the travel industry is shifting as it begins to focus on women, and their increasing desire for exploration. A growing number of female-catered travel companies are popping up, curating female-focused group travel experiences.
“A generation ago, women-only travel was an oddity,” says Debra Asberry of Women Traveling Together, a female-
catered travel tour company. “That is no longer true, but it is not widely known that women-only travel exists. Only when a woman starts searching for a travel solution for herself does she discover the myriad of choices out there.”
The growing desire for female-catered travel is closely tied to the type of trips women are pursuing.
“I could only find women’s group trips that were activity-specific, focusing on things like yoga and trekking,” says Bates, of her experience prior to launching her business. “That frustrated me on a personal level, because I’m a more dynamic traveler…. It also frustrated me on a broader level, because I believe globally we tend to market to women in a very one- or two-dimensional way that misses the mark on what women are really craving in terms of experiences.”
“Nothing like [Wild Terrains] existed when we started. There were women-only travel companies, but none of them were actively supporting women hotel owners, artists, chefs, designers, architects, and historians in the destinations they visit. We’ve seen a surge in women-owned businesses globally in the last decade. The only way to ensure they keep growing is to support their businesses.” — Lauren Bates
Photo courtesy of Wild Terrains.
Horseshoe Bend, Utah
“In 2014, I found myself in the wake of a divorce. My break-up presented me with ‘the greatest gift of all’ — a do-over. There I was, an athlete, an adrenaline junkie, and rearing to go experience the world but I was out a travel buddy…. I chose to use my second chance at life to create a company that empowers women to be adventurous. There was no way I was the only other woman out there in this predicament.” — Nicki Bruckmann
Photo courtesy of Explorer Chick.
Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland
“I wanted to do more than just offer trips for women. I wanted to focus exclusively on the woman traveling solo. I wanted her to feel like a priority on our tours, not an afterthought. I had been a solo traveler on a traditional couples tour and felt like a 5th wheel. It was depressing and lonely, but my other option at the time had been to plan my own trip and go by myself, something I did not feel safe doing alone.” — Debra Asberry
Photo courtesy of Women Traveling Together.
Courtesy of Explorer Chick.
Old Havana, Cuba
Courtesy of Damesly.
Courtesy of Explorer Chick.
“I often hear (and as was my case as well), that women just don’t have friends or family they can travel with in the way in which they want to travel,” says Bruckmann. “This is especially true for our adventure trips, since the itineraries are more challenging. So, instead of downgrading their vacation or compromising, women are booking group trips that meet their travel needs.”
Plus, these female-led businesses are not simply offering one-of-a-kind travel experiences, they are connecting and empowering women across the globe.
“When you have the non-judgemental support of 10 cheering women as you stand on the edge of a waterfall 35 feet in the air, your fears shrink, your courage grows, and you make that leap,” Bruckmann says. “Women overcome their fears on these trips, which often carries over into their daily lives.”
Kelly Lewis, CEO of Damesly — a boutique tour operator for women, says “it is very rare, in my experience, that women will find us just because they want to go to a specific destination. I think women find us when they need to, because they want to travel and they want to make friends.”
“Wild Terrains exists for women from all walks of life, in all stages of life. We want to give women not only a safe space to explore the world, but also a space to nourish their creativity and build relationships with each other,” Bates adds.
In a quiet, gated community in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, this grand home offers 24-hour security. Inside, the welcoming stairway at the entry leads to the great room and main living, which open to the pool area.
“As you walk down the stairway entrance you feel like you are walking into a grand ballroom,” says listing agent Jaime Gould of Coldwell Banker St. Croix Realty.
The home also features three bedrooms, three full and one half baths, a one-bedroom apartment and a two-car garage.
“This home is good for people who like to entertain and have guests stay with them,” says Gould. “Each bedroom has its own area, so if you need to get away or have peaceful quiet time you can.”
All photos courtesy Balcon Media Group.
No matter the destination, travel can often leave lasting impressions on visitors who want to experience new things. For those inclined to travel coast-to-coast, Trails of Indochina has become one of the most pioneering boutique tour operators in Southeast and East Asian countries. Having just marked its 20th anniversary, the firm continues to stay true to founder John Tue Nguyen’s approach to tourism by highlighting immersive experiences for a high-end audience.
Hang En cave, Quang Binh province.
When Nguyen was a young boy growing up in Hue, Southeast Asia barely had a tourism industry. These days, the region ranks among the world’s most sought-after vacation destinations with travellers flocking from all corners of the globe to sample its diverse array of experiences: a compendium of offerings spanning everything from culinary-themed discoveries and rip-roaring adventure to idyllic honeymoons at bucket-list resorts.
“Since the start we’ve been focused on delivering unique tailored tours in Asia,” Nguyen says. “What sets us apart from other tour operators is that we really believe in developing exclusive products and aim to deliver those to our customers in the most personalized way possible.”
Nguyen has been widely credited for popularising unique trips and selecting endeavors that are unforgettable, from watching a master artisan weave kimonos in Kyoto and private lessons in Shodo, an ancient Japanese calligraphy style exemplifying his innovative approach.
Experiences — many of which are exclusive to Trails of Indochina — might include a master class on Hue’s imperial gastronomy with a recognized authority on the cuisine. Or an audience in Hanoi’s backstreets with one of the few remaining practitioners of Hang Trong, a traditional genre of Vietnamese woodblock printing.
Trails is the anchor to an organization that also includes Heritage Line (river cruises on Mekong, Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers), Indotrek (adventure travel) and Ancient Hue (a collection of beautifully realised traditional-style garden homes in Vietnam’s imperial capital Hue).
Heritage Line cruise to Myanmar.
Over the course of the past two decades, Trails of Indochina has notched several prestigious industry accolades at awards events such as the World Travel Awards and the Luxury Lifestyle Awards, and has expanded its destination portfolio to cover most of Asia.
“Today, travellers are more willing to explore and they have certain expectations. That’s why it’s just as important for us today as it was in the beginning to really learn, understand and to innovate with the ultimate goal of delivering unforgettable experiences to our travellers,” Nguyen says.
Imagine traveling to anywhere in the world for the most incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip. Imagine experiencing the culture of the community that resides there, the thrill of seeing a new corner of the world, and the beauty of nature around you. Now imagine being able to give back in the process. Companies are sprouting up, giving individuals the opportunity to have an exceptional trip while giving back to the community they travel to.
Photos courtesy of Off Season Adventures
Off Season Adventures allows clients to travel to destinations such as Uganda, Tunisia, Ethiopia and more — all while being immersed in the communities they’re giving back to. Tanner C. Knorr, the owner and founder of Off Season Adventures, has always had a vision of giving back, saying that “if we all contribute just a little bit to the communities and environments while we’re traveling, the world would be a better place.”
Off Season Adventures is unwavering in its belief of making the communities its clients travel to a better place than before. Earlier this year, the company installed a solar panel water pump system in the village of Kakoi, located in Tanzania. Because of this work, 15,000 people now have access to clean drinking water.
Photo courtesy of Off Season Adventures
Photo courtesy of Elevate Destinations
Not only do these companies give back in considerable ways, but the extraordinary landscape of the destinations and the connections made with the communities that reside there are already reasons to book a trip. Dominique Callimanopulos, the founder and president of Elevate Destinations, believes the most rewarding aspect is simply the connections made between the travelers and the community members of the area. “It tends to be really an exchange, it’s not just one way,” she says. “I think the travelers get at least as much out of the exchange.”
She recommends Africa more so her clients than any other destination, as she describes it as “just like nowhere else. There are very few places you could see such amazing beauty of untouched landscape.” She emphasizes, however, that Elevate Destinations is not into “one-off” visits and investments — and that the company is deeply invested in long-term community development of the destinations clients travel to.
Photo courtesy of Elevate Destinations
For some companies, there is also a focus on the environmental impact of traveling to the provided destinations. andBeyond, a company dedicated to providing luxury travel with a deep focus on environmental sustainability, offers private tours of the stunning landscapes in Africa, South America and Asia.
Photos courtesy of andBeyond
Clients are finding these trips to be evermore fulfilling and meaningful. Not only are they giving back to the communities they travel to, but there’s an underlying consensus — they get back even more in return.
No matter the destination, cuisine has become a destination itself within the world of travel, giving tourists another opportunity to indulge in the delicious delicacies that define the region.
When it comes to food, travel company Brown + Hudson aims to integrate a country’s cuisine into a client’s overall experience, to the effect that guests feel like they’ve been on a culinary tour without necessarily realizing it. The same integration is seen and felt in every aspect of the “Heart of Darkness” tour through the cities and jungles of Ecuador.
Coined a luxpedition, the tour means to tell the “untold story of chocolate through exclusive access to areas few visitors have set foot in before,” all while experiencing utter luxury and insider access.
In partnership with To’ak Chocolate, the tour highlights several natural and cultural sights, particularly within the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve, where co-founder Jerry Toth originally became passionate about cacao farming. By way of rainforest conservation, Toth lived in the middle of the forest preserve in Ecuador for many years cultivating cacao trees, deciding after some time that he wanted to take the obsession to another level.
From the beginning, he says the goal of To’ak Chocolate was to “elevate dark chocolate to the level of vintage wine and aged whisky.” To’ak Chocolate is made with the rarest cacao beans in the world, which guests on the tour have the opportunity to experience at almost every level of crafting.
At the archaeological site of Santa Ana La Florida, travelers can explore the evidence left of the first domestic use of cacau among the Mayo-Chinchipe culture, dating back more than 5,000 years ago. With a visit to To’ak’s cacao plantation in the Valle Piedra de Plata, guests can roam the forest of nacional cacao trees, one of the most prized cacao beans on Earth and a species that was almost wiped from existence.
Photos courtesy Brown + Hudson.
Most appealing, though, will be the exclusive after-hours chocolate tasting in the Guayasamin Museum, creating a collective journey that acts as a portal into the culture, philosophy and emotions of the region.
Just as importantly, chocolate tends to play a complementary component in travel as well as dessert. Artisans of Leisure’s Food and Wine excursions provide in-depth private tours that couples the very best wine with other culinary and cultural highlights of the region, including chocolate.
For example, the “Bordeaux to Basque Country” tour includes sampling local wines, touring vineyards, viewing the architecture of several winery buildings, and sampling delicacies like chocolate found in the area.
This journey takes guests through cities and regions known for authenticity and tradition, from the half-timber houses and charming shops of Bayonne in southern France to the gastronomic capital of northern Spain, San Sebastian.
San Sebastian, Spain
Photo courtesy Artisan of Leisure.
While chocolate may not be thought of as the perfect complement to exercise, tour operators at UTracks have designed a self-guided bicycle tour that rides through the mountains and quaint cities of Switzerland, with special access to chocolatier shops and stops along the way. Tour Operator Kate Baker says the “Swiss Chocolate Cycle” tour offers the perfect balance of both travel and exercise. “Being active on holidays means you can indulge guilt free — a much better proposition than eating chocolate without being active.”
The tour will have participants cycling between cities throughout Switzerland, starting and ending in Zurich. Baker notes that “of course being in Switzerland, there are opportunities throughout the tour to taste artisan and more mainstream brands of chocolate.” In the town of Buchs, travelers will meet with chocolatiers at the Frey Chocolate visitor center to make their own chocolate bar. And after a peaceful bike trail along the Reuss River to the town of Root, travelers can experience the exciting world of Chocolatier Aeschbach, known for its tradition-conscious methods and high quality.
Other cities and destinations on the tour include the relaxing spa town of Baden, known for its thermal springs; views of the Swiss Alps through orchards and fields to the town of Sursee; a yacht trip around the bay of Lucerne; and so much more. The active aspect of the trip, Baker says, helps travelers to further witness the infusion of chocolate in many aspects of these cities. “A cyclist looks forward to every food experience, and moving between towns allows one to discover a range of cuisine.”
Top: Baden, Switzerland
Right: Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
Photos courtesy Switzerland Tourism.
Fall is in full swing in many parts of the U.S., and that means planning as many seasonal activities you can before the falling leaves are replaced by falling snow. Although it may already seem like it’s a little too cold for camping in some regions, the idyllic outdoorsy experience may still await.
If you would like to heighten your camping adventures, consider looking into a trend that allows for all the things that make camping enjoyable, but with less work for you.
Photo courtesy of Collective Retreats.
With diverse locations across the country, Collective Retreats offers various options for people seeking an authentic and unique experience. The company’s goal is that each person gets the chance to create their own “Traveler’s Mark,” a mark that represents the individual and them as a traveler.
For a traditional campground feeling, check out Collective Hill Country location in Wimberley, Texas. The retreat is located on Montesino Ranch, a 225-acre sustainable and eco-friendly area overlooking picturesque valleys, canyons and mountains. There are plenty of dining options and activities, including s’mores around a campfire and horseback riding.
Each tent accommodation has its own amenities including French Press Coffee, in-tent spa services and private decks. Enjoy waking up to a Texas sunrise and gaze at the stars during a cool night in one of your private tents.
Photos courtesy of Collective Retreats.
If you’re looking to escape to the outdoors, but want to have a feeling of city-living, book a stay at Collective Governors Island in New York, N.Y. The company’s latest retreat, the Island provides guests with famous skyline of Manhattan’s lower side. Venture out of your tent to popular parks, the Brooklyn area or Lower Manhattan.
Collective Retreat provides guests the option for a Farm-to-Table dinner that features sustainably sourced seafood and fresh produce from the Urban Farm that is located on the Island. Yoga and private boat tours around the city make this location special.
Photos courtesy of Collective Retreats.
National Parks put nature on display and Under Canvas allows guests to stay within or near their natural beauty. The luxury adventure glamping company took inspiration from African safaris. With that in mind, the founders of Under Canvas combined the safari tent with lush amenities, still keeping the rustic atmosphere.
Photo courtesy of TheNomadicPeople.
With most of the camps being near National Parks, there’s one that is sure to create a memorable time. Each spot features multiple luxury tent options for people to choose from, each with their own individual comforts, such as a viewing window above the tent’s bed for stargazing before bed.
Glamping near Utah’s Zion National Park borders the park and is located on 196-acres. The breathtaking famous red rocks of Zion provide the back-drop for the trip. Guests’ adventures include hiking trails, rock climbing and canyoneering. Wind down with you own in-tent massage and enjoy the extensive meal options provided.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie C. Russo.
Photo courtesy of TheNomadicPeople.
Photo courtesy of HeyKelseyJ_4.
Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park and be in awe at its natural beauty, bordering North Carolina and Tennessee. Go on a guided hike with a park expert or take the opportunity to tour the park from a helicopter view. Get a view of the mountains from the roaring white rapids or zipline from the mountain tops. There’s no shortage of exhilarating experiences here.
Photos courtesy of Paul Joyner.
Featured photo courtesy of Collective Retreats.
The busy summer season is coming to a close, but here are a few unforgettable destinations around the world that should be shared! These curated experiences are opportunities to immerse yourself in new cultures, taste new foods, appreciate art, design, history and enjoy time for yourself to rejuvenate.
Photo courtesy of São Lourenço do Barrocal
Wild Terrains — Portugal
As the only travel company leading women-only group trips that partner exclusively with local, female-owned businesses, Wild Terrains has expanded and launched their second destination – Portugal. This new eight-day/seven-night journey takes women travelers to Lisbon, Alentejo, and Porto, where the dynamic history, delicious food, and breathtaking landscapes are just the beginning. Guests stay at stylish women-owned hotels like The Lisboans in Lisbon and Duas Portas Townhouse in Porto. Experience a Lisbon street art tour designed by Vanessa Teodoro, a South African street artist. Enjoy a tasting menu dinner at women-owned Prado with wine pairings by Portugal’s top female winemakers, and so much more!
Foraging with Portuguese mixologist Constança Cordeiro, private mixology lessons, biking through the countryside of Alentejo Visit. Travelers will learn more about Portuguese food history with cooking classes and eating your way through Porto with a food crawl. Another option is to take a day trip to Douro Valley to meet some female winemakers in the region, and so much more!
Photo courtesy of Prado Restaurant Photo courtesy of The Lisboans
Photo courtesy of Wild Terrains
On Foot Holidays — Catalonia
The hills of Catalonia are perfect for a fall getaway, with the grape harvest in full swing in September. On Foot Holidays’ self-guided hiking vacation will take you through the terraced vineyards of the famed Priorat winemaking region to the town of Porrera, where there are, of course, plenty of opportunities to sample the local wines in celebration of completing your walk. Starting at Montsant, only an hour from Barcelona, the route through quiet hills with magnificent vistas also passes two fine abbeys – Poblet and Escaladei – the former thriving and active, the latter now being restored as an archaeological site of major significance.
Did you know?
All of On Foot Holidays’ 32 routes throughout Europe are designed by a local – someone who lives near every route and is responsible for the upkeep of the route, hotel liaison and providing telephone support for all walkers during their trip. For this route, the locals recommend a stay in Barcelona at the end (or start) at one of On Foot Holidays’ hand-picked hotels or B&Bs.
Photos courtesy of On Foot Holidays
Les Ilets de la Plage – Saint Barth
The sixth edition of the Saint Barth Gourmet Festival takes place November 6-10, 2019 on the island of Saint Bathélemy. Now considered a major culinary event, the Festival’s cast of participating chefs is once again star-studded and comprises iconic figures of haute French cuisine. The Saint Barth Gourmet Festival is counted as one of the major events in the world of culinary excellence and one of the best gourmet festivals on an international scale.
The intimate, family-owned beach resort offers 12 private villas with direct access to the white sand beach and azure sea. Secluded yet central, Les Ilets has been a well-kept secret for years, combining the privacy and serenity of a villa with a hotel concierge service at an affordable price.
Photo courtesy of Pierre Carreau
Photo courtesy of Gerald Tessier
Ignacia Guest House — Mexico City
Stay in the beloved Colonia Roma neighborhood at Ignacia Guest House, a trendy eco-friendly bed and breakfast. Featuring just five unique suites, the hotel’s namesake is Ignacia, the housekeeper who took care of this 1913 colonial mansion for more than 70 years. In celebration of Dia de los Muertos, the chef will bake the traditional holiday bread for breakfast that week – Pan de Muertos or “bread of the dead,” a slightly sweet, brioche-like bread covered with orange blossom water and anise seeds.
Foodies will love Eat Like a Local Mexico City’s special Dia de los Muertos food tour where founder Rocio Vazquez Landeta shares her personal approach to the celebration. Start the day with coffee, sweet bread, and street tacos with a visit to the flower market to enjoy delicious food while shopping for candy skulls, flowers, candles, colorful papers, and more.
Photo courtesy of Jaime Navarro
The Liming — Bequia
To Caribbean locals, liming means ‘the art of doing nothing.’ At The Liming Bequia, this leisurely way of passing the time comes with added luxury. Set on the tiny island of Bequia, this boutique hideaway is refreshingly off the beaten track compared to larger islands. With lush gardens, a private marina and views towards Canouan and Mayreau, The Liming instantly rewards you for going that bit further.
Did you know?
Reopening after the off-season on November 9th, 2019, The Liming Bequia recently announced a special offer for travelers –
“stay for 7 nights, pay only for 5” – so guests can enjoy liming for even longer.
Photos courtesy of The Liming, Bequia
For similar content try the following articles; Expert Q&A: Combining Luxury Travel with Curated Wine Experiences, Traveling the Globe in Search of The New Art Deco, Experiential Travel, Docent-Led Destinations.