Top boutique luxury travel agents share their 2020 bucket lists
Venture off the beaten track and explore remote and untouched destinations with the top tips of these luxury travel experts. Nature as a wellness trend continues to shape our travel itineraries for 2020, helping us all to unwind, recharge and connect with ourselves. Here are our top destinations to add to your bucket list
Argentina and Chad
“Top of the list in Latin America would be Northwest Argentina’s “La Puna”, a high-altitude desert and the South American altiplano’s best kept secret due to its remoteness. An 180,000-square-kilometre area studded with active and dormant volcanoes, pumice stone fields, vast salt flats, 10-million-year-old fossil dune fields and extremely rare pools of stromatolites (3.5-billion-year-old cyanobacteria, the oldest organisms on earth!) and virtually no tourists. This vast area 180 times larger than Hong Kong gets less than 1,000 tourists per annum compared to almost 70,000 who visit Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni across the border. And quite simply the Puna Desert contains some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.
In Africa I would recommend Zakouma National Park in southeastern Chad in Central Africa, managed by African Parks and the continent’s most successful conservation story in recent times. Zakouma has an abundance of wildlife and birdlife congregating in the park during its short safari season from January-April. I was lucky enough to visit Zakouma with some clients this year and in my first couple of days on safari, I had seen more mammals and birds than I had seen in all my 20+ years of safaris combined – and I am always on safari. To put things into perspective, almost 40,000 tourists visit remote Antarctica during its five-month season while this area we stayed at in Zakouma only takes 100 adventurous and conservation-oriented travelers each year. It was what I imagined wildlife densities and numbers were before the Europeans arrived in Africa and the numbers are simply mind-blowing.”
~ Jose Cortes, Co-founder of A2A – Safaris Journeys
Follow A2A – Safari | Journeys @a2asafaris
Guatemala and Armenia
“Up until now, this hidden gem of Guatemala has only been on the radar of locals, risk-taking backpackers and travel industry folk, accessible only to travelers for a quick day trip due to lack of accommodations, never truly having the chance to immerse yourself in the remote and jaw-dropping region. A Black Tomato luxury Blink camp changes that, making overnight stays possible while maintaining the undiscovered, unfettered environments which make Semuc Champey so spectacular.
Armenia has a raw and authentic quality about it that is extremely difficult to find. Right on the cusp of starting to commercialize and building up for mass tourism, the destination is rich with ancient culture and tradition, sweeping landscapes of the Caucasus Mountains and stunning original architecture. Ideal for travelers seeking a genuine and impactful cultural journey free of tourist traps and manufactured experiences, Armenia in 2020 should be a must-see before the droves of tourists discover this cultural hotspot.”
~ Tom Marchant, Co-founder of Black Tomato
Follow Black Tomato @blacktomatotravel
See also: Top 10 Wellness Retreats in the World
“Just off the coast of Northern Madagascar, in an archipelago hidden in a lost sea, lies Miavana, a resort that has rightfully earned adjectives I seldom use: amazing, unbelievable, incredible. Picture a place so remote and isolated, you have to get there by helicopter, and fly over breathtaking national parks and beyond.
During your stay at Miavana, you will enjoy walk in a secluded beach, world-class snorkeling just a few steps from your villa, and private walks in a lemur forest. The design merges seamlessly with its, environment creating a paradisiacal balance of comfort and contact with nature. The service and the food are on a level to match the wonders of this secluded haven: simply superb.
Marvellous Miavana is set on the island of Nosy Ankao, a helicopter ride away from some of Northern Madagascar’s best national parks and reservations. Whether you wish to marvel at the Tsingy – Madagascar’s stone forests – or spot the Golden Crowned Sifakas, a magnificent species of lemur, you will have expert guides at your side to make the experience even better. Come night, you’ll conveniently return to paradise.”
~ Andrea Oschetti, Founder of Blueflower
South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Spain and Italy
“Some increasing destinations we are seeing are still within the African region as our growth has significantly increased in both South Africa, Tanzania and also repeat adventure travelers to Namibia, Botswana, Rwanda and even Ethiopia.
South Africa is a fantastic ‘first timer’ destination for would be Africa travelers. This country bridges the gap between modern day luxury, culture, safari and value for money unlike any others. However, we have come to notice that even first timers to Africa are eager to visit specialized safari destinations in Southern or Eastern Africa instead. Their hopes set on witnessing natural wonders such as the endangered mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, the Great Migration in Serengeti NP within Tanzania or the Red Sand Dunes and vast open spaces of Namibia.
Europe proves to increase in demand as well, especially in Spain and as usual and expected, due to its diversity in offerings – culture, gourmet and historical sites which suit different demands of travelers. Also, there is an increasing popularity in Italy, especially the wine regions of Chianti and Tuscany – culinary travel has transcended “trend” to become its own niche, with amazing food and drink now considered essential to any trip. Italy is definitely a not-to-be-missed destination in 2020.”
~ Charlotte Harris, Director of Charlotte Travel
Chile, Rwanda, and Siberia
“If my love for Latin America was born in Brazil, it was in Northern Patagonia that I fell completely head over heels. Tucked away in a corner of Southern Chilé lies the breathtaking Aysén region, one of the most tranquil places in the world and one that I yearn to return to in 2020.
My next bucket list destination takes me to Rwanda, where I’ll be travelling through the jungle on foot in search of gorillas. This is an experience that requires both patience and perseverance, but the end result is truly moving and unparalleled to any other wildlife encounter.
Last but not least, a trip to Siberia in the winter is a must for me. Snowmobiling, dog sleigh rides and dining on the frozen waters of Lake Baikal set the tone for a whimsical winter wonderland.”
“Last year, one highlight of our travels with now one-year-old Hunter in Morocco. It’s a fact that all Moroccans are super baby friendly, and the astonishing architecture just opened our baby boy’s eyes. We want to expose him to more Arabic influences and that’s why my bucket list destination for 2020 is Oman. The perfect way would be to hop on a luxury catamaran to sail along the rugged, raw coastline of the Gulf of Oman. Dolphins, turtles and whales inhabit the Arabian sea, and are frequently spotted off the coast. Then moving on to the breathtaking vistas of the Hajar Mountains, or the towering dunes of the Wahiba Sands where a private tented camp functions as a base to explore sand dunes, oases and wadis.”
~ Chance Xie, Co-founder of Journeys by Chance
For me the ultimate bucket list experience of a lifetime will be to explore the Russian Far East wilderness, unspoiled and inhospitable. Off-limits as a military zone for many years, the Kamchatka peninsula was closed to the world and now reveals landscapes and wildlife seen by few. It’s a place where heaven and hell collide, life and death in a delicate balance. Volcanoes create a land of fire and ice, where the powerful brown bear roams freely. It feels like a place that needs to be visited a couple of times. I chose this destination as I recently befriended a lady that owns a big red Sikorsky helicopter that operates heli ski charters to the peninsula to ski from the tops of volcanoes down to the fjords. Besides being one of the world’s must-visit destinations for heli-skiers, its location on the edge of the Pacific Ocean means it has abundant, high-quality snow and the scenery is truly spectacular. For non skiers, 2020 and 2021 will see more hotels open up and it will not be long before a high-end lodge operator will venture out into the area, I hope to be the first to visit!”
~ Hsu-Yung Lau, Co-founder of Journeys by Chance
“One of the key travel trends for next year is getting off the beaten track and exploring remote places that are untouched by mass-tourism. For 2020, Scott Dunn invites guests on bespoke journeys to rural China where they can reconnect with the great outdoors and be fully immersed in the country’s picturesque landscape. On the top of my bucket list is exploring the remote Yunnan province, a melting pot of ancient history, rich cultures and spectacular natural beauty. Scott Dunn offers a fantastic mobile glamping experience through the region with Caravan Liotard, a camp made of elegant bell tents inspired by the ancient Tea Horse Road concept.”
~ John Taker, Global Product Director of Scott Dunn
Follow Scott Dunn @scottdunn_travel
“Rwanda is high on the list for 2020. The reintroduction of lions and black rhinos into Akagera National Park allows for both gorilla trekking and a classic Big 5 safari in one complete itinerary. Singita and One&Only both recently opened properties in the destination providing the destination’s first luxury accommodation experiences. The One&Only Nyungwe House was the brand’s first opening followed by the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, nestled in the foothills of Virunga Volcano Range. Singita Kwitonda Lodge is situated further north in the high-altitude cloud forest of Volcanoes National Park, where one-third of the world’s mountain gorillas live. Gorilla trekking is especially an exclusive experience, with only approximately 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild and a strict one hour per day contact maximum per gorilla family. Both Singita and One&Only work with the local rangers to curate their own gorilla trek experiences.”
~ Erina Pindar, Managing Director of SmartFlyer
“For 2020, I am most excited about building out our uniquely-designed private adventures in the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia. Over the years, we have scouted and selected two wonderful remote locations, where we build bespoke ger camps for clients to live alongside nomadic Kazakh families of horse breeders, and eagle hunters. Needless to say, there are spectacular opportunities to both hike and horse ride, and to fully immerse oneself in such time-honored cultural traditions as eagle hunting. Perhaps, most remarkably of all though, in this hyper-connected world of ours, it is the chance to spend time off the grid, to reconnect with family and friends, and simply just get back to nature that for many of us (myself included), seems to touch a powerful, almost primordial sense of our ‘natural self’, that often leaves the strongest memories. Summer (June to August works best), we are also offering a new wild dining experience to complement these unforgettable experiences.”
~ Adrian Bottomley, Founder of Whistling Arrow
Follow Whistling Arrow @whistlingarrowhk