At times, it is easy to become dispirited about the world’s apparently finite travel resources. The genuinely exotic and profoundly foreign can seem to be in chronically short supply. And then, suddenly, you become aware of an entirely new area of the world, about which, even after years of globetrotting, you had been completely oblivious.
Overcrowding in the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania? No need to worry: Unspoiled Malawi has become the safari country of the moment. And then there are places like Albania and Uzbekistan, relieved from tyranny 30 years ago, that are now seeing the advent of upscale hotels, sophisticated restaurants, even high-speed trains. Or a thoroughly familiar place, like Marseilles, which undergoes an abrupt and entirely unforeseen change of personality. So the world turns out to be bigger than you had supposed, and the possibilities for life-changing travel, rather than being sadly diminished, prove to be reassuringly extensive.
Here are some of the places — some familiar, some unfamiliar — which, in the opinion of Hideaway Report editors, you will likely being hearing more about in the 12 months to come.
The ancient city of Marseille continues to leave behind its gritty industrial past and forge a new identity as a city in the sun with a thriving cultural scene. The renovation of the city is also attracting young people from all over France. These newcomers include many chefs who have given the city some of the liveliest and most innovative restaurants in Europe.
Most notably, Marseille has developed a thriving southern French bistro scene, with cooking based on produce from nearby Provence and the catch of the day from local fishermen. A perfect example of the genre is Cédrat, where young chef Eric Maillet serves a chalkboard menu that changes daily but runs to dishes like a salad of pumpkin and sweet potato with passion fruit vinaigrette, and skipjack tuna with green curry sauce, braised fennel and pears.
Two other tables not to miss are chef Alexandre Mazzia’s Michelin two-star AM Par Alexandre Mazzia for its spectacular tasting menus, and La Mercerie, a popular downtown bistro with excellent cooking by British chef Harry Cummins. It includes dishes like gnocchi with lamb-and-black-olive ragout, and grilled turbot with artichokes and spinach.
Uzbekistan, a sprawling Central Asian nation of 33 million people, contains an important stretch of the Silk Road, the route along which camel caravans transported silks, spices, porcelain and other goods from China to Europe, from the second century B.C. until the 18th century. It is now attracting growing numbers of adventurous travelers, who come to see the spectacular architecture and monuments of Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva and to shop in their bazaars.
Driving this fledgling popularity are the policies of Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the Uzbek president, who has launched a series of infrastructure projects that make it much easier and more comfortable to travel here. A new high-speed train has opened between Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva. And new hotels in Tashkent, the country’s capital, and simplified visa procedures are also facilitating tourism.
Many travelers still choose to join tours rather than travel independently, and one of the most interesting ones, starting later this spring, is the 10-day “Jewels of the Silk Road” train journey offered by Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, a well-regarded British company.
The Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts are famous as the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We love to visit Tanglewood in July or August for a few days, enjoying the music and an indulgent stay at either Wheatleigh or Blantyre in Lenox. The town has year-round cultural attractions, art galleries and specialty boutiques. But now, the Berkshires have also become a wellness destination.
In 2019, the famous Canyon Ranch spa began offering weight-loss programs and exercise regimes in addition to spa treatments. Now, Miraval plans on opening a nearby resort this spring. It intends to compete directly with Canyon Ranch, promising “an unrivaled wellness experience.” After our recent Italy sojourn — a thinly disguised excuse to consume mass quantities of wine, pasta and gelato — comparing the merits of the two resorts’ nutrition programs might be a wise idea.
With a long, unspoiled coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Albania is quickly emerging as one of the most interesting and offbeat destinations in Europe. From 1944 to 1985, it was one of the most isolated countries in the world under the dictatorship of Communist leader Enver Hoxha. He allied the country with China under Mao Zedong and blanketed the country with hundreds of circular concrete sentry posts as part of a paranoid self-defense policy, intended as a response to possible “imperialist” and Soviet invasions. At Hoxha’s death, in 1985, Albania had become the poorest country in Europe and required an arduous transition from communism to capitalism and democracy.
Now there are new hotels like The Plaza Tirana in the capital city, plus some excellent restaurants serving contemporary Albanian cooking such as the excellent Mullixhiu in Tirana. Albania also offers its visitors gorgeous beaches, magnificent mountain scenery, Roman ruins and Ottoman towns. (Albania was a part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years from the 15th century to 1912.) Although not yet a true luxury destination, Albania is still a fascinating and welcoming country of great character, which has yet to draw excessive crowds or lose its beguiling authenticity.
Some tropical archipelagoes are perennial honeymoon favorites: the Maldives, for instance, where 1,192 coral islets form a dazzling necklace of powdery white sand and limpid turquoise sea in the Indian Ocean to the south of Sri Lanka. From time to time, new areas rise to prominence.
Recently, the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal have been attracting increased attention, and had it not been for the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, that country’s Mergui Archipelago, with its more than 800 tropical islands, would by now feature regularly in the leading travel magazines and on upscale websites. However, all such areas are dwarfed by the 17,508 islands of Indonesia, which extend for 3,200 miles from Sumatra to West Papua.
An increasing number of Americans now visit the remote Raja Ampat islands, which can boast the world’s greatest marine diversity and, hence, the best scuba diving on the planet. For those who prefer to spend a majority of their time above the ocean’s surface, Misool island in the Raja Ampat archipelago now offers villas and cottages — some constructed over the water — for a maximum of 40 people in an exquisite setting of pristine nature.
Two other Indonesian islands, both located relatively close to Singapore, also provide idyllic surroundings, luxurious accommodations and romantic seclusion. Bawah Reserve, in the remote Anambas archipelago, is reached by an 80-minute seaplane transfer, while 42-acre Cempedak Island — much of which is still primary rainforest — lies 57 miles to the southeast of Singapore and is accessible by two and a half hours of transportation via ferry, car and speedboat.
As many of Africa’s best-known safari areas fall victim to overtourism, experienced travelers increasingly look to areas that once would have been thought obscure or entirely off-limits. Countries such as Gabon and Chad now offer superior wildlife experiences to the more adventurous. But for those who wish to experience the “old Africa” in comfort and security, Malawi has recently become a destination of choice.
Once desolate and depopulated, the country’s wildlife areas have been rehabilitated by African Parks, the admirable nongovernmental organization based in Johannesburg. As a result, a number of small upscale lodges and camps have opened. Two are ventures by Robin Pope Safaris, an estimable company based in Zambia. Pope himself is a legendary figure among safari aficionados, a man of deep courtesy and apparently limitless knowledge who is universally regarded as one of the finest walking safari guides on the continent.
Kuthengo Camp in Liwonde National Park has just four spacious tents, while Mkulumadzi lodge in the Majete Wildlife Reserve offers eight extremely comfortable chalets, surrounded by a 27-square-mile private concession, which is once again home to the Big Five wildlife species.
Despite the recent political upheavals and the exile of former president Evo Morales, Bolivia is still a country that is likely to attract a growing number of more-adventurous travelers, notably those who have little patience with the crowds at South America’s leading tourist destinations, such as Cusco, Machu Picchu and Iguazú Falls.
The Andean landscape is sensational — the 21,122-foot snow peak of Illimani hangs over the nation’s capital, La Paz, while on the Altiplano, the extraordinary Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, provides an unforgettable setting for cultural excursions, dramatic hikes and some of the world’s best stargazing. There, Kachi Lodge offers six remarkable and surprisingly luxurious dome-shaped suites, erected on a network of wooden walkways and platforms, plus delicious food prepared by well-known chef Juan Pablo Gumiel.
And from June 2020, the distinguished Chilean company explora is resuming its “Travesía” across the Altiplano, a spectacular journey of between eight and 10 nights, from San Pedro de Atacama to the Uyuni Salt Flats.