Special Recognition: Experiences | 2015 Grand Awards

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Eco-Adventure of the Year

Chasing Icebergs in Newfoundland

Icebergs glowing with a neon-like intensity off of Fogo Island
Icebergs glowing with a neon-like intensity off of Fogo Island - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Without question, the most exciting activity on our trip to Fogo Island was heading out to sea for a close encounter with the icebergs that routinely drift by. Carried on the Labrador Current, a procession of impressive formations travels a route known as “Iceberg Alley,” with the prime season being late May through June. Out on a small boat, we could quickly see that the ice was infused with streaks and dashes of blue and blue-green, which glowed with a neon-like intensity. Our skillful captain brought us close enough to confirm that the majority of an iceberg is indeed obscured below the surface. Back at the inn, we ordered our cocktails with iceberg ice, which gives off a distinctive crackly pop as it melts.

Wildlife Experience of the Year

Wildebeest Migration, Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

The wildebeest migration in Singita Grumeti
The wildebeest migration in Singita Grumeti - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The dark entrance hall of Singita Sasakwa Lodge opens onto a broad expanse of sunlit lawn, at the end of which the ground falls away precipitously to the Serengeti plains 300 or 400 feet below. From this natural balcony, the immense view of bleached grassland, dotted with acacia trees and patterned with shifting cloud shadows, is one of the grandest in Africa. It was a hot day in mid-June, and by extreme good fortune, I had timed my visit to coincide with the arrival of the main body of the Great Migration, comprising about 1.5 million wildebeest and around 750,000 zebra. From the edge of the lawn, tens of thousands of grunting animals could be seen trudging forward in long, straggling lines. It was a scene of such overwhelming splendor that I found myself dumbstruck and on the verge of tears.

Most Spectacular Hike

Walking With a Samburu Guide, Lewa Downs, Kenya

Our Samburu walking guide on Lewa Downs, Kenya
Our Samburu walking guide on Lewa Downs, Kenya - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

I have long harbored a special affection for the immense tract of wild country that extends from the northern slopes of Mount Kenya to the Matthews Range and, ultimately, the border with Ethiopia. This is a land of 50-mile views, home to the Samburu people, the scarlet-cloaked cousins of the Maasai. There, Lewa Downs is a 100-square-mile conservancy and rhino sanctuary. One afternoon, I set off with a Samburu guide to explore on foot. Having scrambled down a steep ravine to a waterfall, we then climbed to a lookout point from where the snows of 17,057-foot Mount Kenya were plainly visible through the haze. Half an hour later, we stumbled upon a pair of white rhino, which we were able to approach to within 100 feet. My guide then proposed that we track down a leopard that he had glimpsed earlier in the day. After an hour’s fruitless search, we ascended to a hilltop and sat on a warm flat rock to watch the sun go down. By the time we got back, we were walking through the bush in total darkness. For the Samburu, attuned virtually from birth to the sounds of the wild, such nocturnal prowls are not in the least alarming. For me, however, the frisson of fear was sufficient to make the experience unforgettable.

Most Memorable Wine Tasting

Erzsébet Pince, Tokaj, Hungary

Assortment of Tokaj wines from our tour and tasting at Erzsébet Pince
Assortment of Tokaj wines from our tour and tasting at Erzsébet Pince - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The vineyards of Hungary’s Tokaj region were classified 150 years before those of Bordeaux. Tokaj had a difficult 20th century, but it has reemerged as one of the world’s great wine regions. Many small family producers make superlative wines, both sweet and dry, my favorite being Erzsébet Pince. We toured the facility with its passionate owner, Hajni Pracser. After she led us through the 18th-century cellars beneath her home, we ascended to her terrace, where we sampled an array of single-vineyard dry whites and several sweet Aszú wines. The fruity 2011 Zafír Vineyard, the rare Kövérszőlő and the concentrated 2003 6-Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú are not to be missed. These bottlings exemplify the best of Tokaj, which once again crafts wines of remarkable liveliness, freshness and power.

Best Driving Tour

Two Weeks in Israel

The road from Jerusalem to Masada, along the western shore of the Dead Sea
The road from Jerusalem to Masada, along the western shore of the Dead Sea - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

About 265 miles from north to south, Israel naturally lends itself to a two-week itinerary by chauffeur-driven car. (You can drive yourself — the roads are marked in English, as well as in Hebrew and Arabic — but some cities, such as Nazareth, are extremely congested, and if you want to cross into the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, to Bethlehem, for instance, assistance is essential.) In a fortnight, you can see the whole country on a clockwise journey. We headed north from Tel Aviv to the ancient city of Acre (Akko), which provides a base from which to tour the scenic and culturally fascinating area around the Sea of Galilee. After visiting the northeast of the country and ascending the Golan Heights to gaze down into Syria, we drove south to Jerusalem via Nazareth. The next stage of our journey took us east to the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. From there we headed into the spectacular Negev Desert. The southernmost point in our itinerary, Mitzpe Ramon, is located a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Tel Aviv. Back beside the Mediterranean, our enthralling circuit was complete.

Best Itinerary

Provence on Roads Less Traveled

Garden at Domaine de la Baume
Garden at Domaine de la Baume - © Tristan Shu

Days One/Two: Take the TGV train from Paris to Avignon (2 hours, 40 minutes). Spend two nights at enchanting La Mirande hotel. Visit the Musée Angladon for its superb art collection, including works by Degas, Van Gogh and Cézanne.

Days Two/Three: Pick up a rental car and head for Tavel. Taste wine at the Tavel wine cooperative, then lunch at Auberge de Tavel (Tel. [33] 4-66-50-03-41). Drive to Uzès, one of the most enchanting towns in the south of France, and check in to La Maison d’Uzès. Visit the nearby Pont du Gard and the pottery town of Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie.

Days Three/Four: Drive to Saint-Rémy for the Wednesday street market, then lunch Le Bistrot du Paradou (Tel. [33] 4-90-54-32-70). Afterward, head to the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de La Celle, Alain Ducasse’s charming country hotel in the village of La Celle, near Draguignan.

Days Five/Six: Enjoy a wine tasting at Château de Berne in Lorgues and visit Le Thoronet Abbey. Dine and spend the night at the charming Domaine de la Baume in Tourtour.

Days Seven/Eight: Stop at the Musée Renoir in Cagnes-sur-Mer and the glassworks in Biot on your way to the delightful Hôtel Belles Rives in the Mediterranean beach town of Juan-les-Pins, where writer F. Scott Fitzgerald penned “Tender Is the Night.”

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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