What is your definition of luxury travel?
Does it include experiencing exquisite lodges set amid some of the world’s most stunning winelands in South Africa, or perhaps securing absolute privacy in an exotic Sri Lankan coastal village, or better yet, visiting a 28-tent leopard-safari lodge on a secluded island beach in Yala National Park?
If none of these destinations is on your radar, it’s time to up your luxury game.
Luckily, Robb Report is here to help. The luxury lifestyle publication recently issued its annual list of the world’s hottest luxury destinations, essential reading for anyone serious about the art of over-the-top travel.
Among the crop of sexy destinations the magazine’s editorial staff suggests visiting in 2016 are various lesser-known cities, countries and even archipelagos. There are destinations popular with the ultra wealthy yachting set, urban suggestions for contemporary art lovers and even adventure locales for those who require a bit of excitement mixed with luxury pampering.
Billed as the ultimate insider’s guide to the places to be in 2016, the Robb Report annual travel issue includes emerging luxury locations, comeback stories and places that appear to be hitting their stride.
Topping the list this year is South Africa’s Cape Winelands, an emerging destination that in previous years was viewed as a place worthy of perhaps a day trip, but little more.
The magazine makes a compelling case for changing this point of view, suggesting that an extended stay is entirely in order thanks to the proliferation of luxury offerings.
Among the notable properties here are La Residence and Delaire Graff Estate, as well as Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle, which is part of the exclusive Virgin Limited Edition collection. (Branson has spent $3.2 million on the property since 2014, creating a new spa, two restaurants and renovating guest rooms.)
“Over the years a number of high-end wineries have opened up, as well as first rate restaurants,” says Robb Report’s editorial director and resident travel expert Bruce Wallin. “It is the South African equivalent of Napa, and has been gradually emerging over the past decade and a half.”
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, is another destination receiving high marks this year from the globe trotting folks at Robb Report. A country that a decade or so ago was troubled by political issues, says Wallin, it is now the focus of much high-end development.
Among the must-see Sri Lanka properties for the luxury traveling set is Tri Lanka, which opened in December. The luxe, sustainably designed property includes unique suites spread around an island promontory on one of Sri Lanka’s finest lakes.
The country’s first wellness resort meanwhile, the 50-acre Santani, is scheduled to open this month in the Kandy hills, as is the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort on the southern coast. And not to be overlooked is one of Wallin’s personal favorites – the Dilmah Tea’s Wild Coast Camp, a leopard-safari lodge on a secluded beach.
“There are a lot of great properties opening there,” says Wallin. “But what I like about Sri Lanka is the diversity of experiences – there’s fantastic beaches, there’s the tea country experience, or you can go on safari with leopards and elephants.”
Among the other destinations on the list are Los Angeles and Paris, which may come as a bit of a surprise to some.
Paris, according to Robb Report, is primed to renew its reputation as the city of the future.
“The cancellations in Paris were rampant after the most recent terrorist attacks there,” says Wallin. “I was in France right after that. The industry was definitely taking a hit. But Americans will always go to Paris. It’s arguably the most cherished of destinations. It’s never going to go away as a destination.” She says the upcoming reopening of the Ritz-Carlton is reason enough for the luxury traveler to revisit the city.
“It is one of the most famous luxury hotels in the world,” says Wallin of the property, which has undergone a three-year renovation. “When it reopens this year, being able to see it reborn will be a major reason to visit.”
Other major reasons the magazine views Paris as a rebound kid with bright days ahead include the unveiling (in 2014) of Frank Gehry’s glass-and-steel Fondation Louis Vuitton art museum, followed last year by the opening of the Philharmonie de Paris, an acoustic and aesthetic masterpiece in the Parc de la Villette. And yet to come is the Cité Musicale, an impressive music complex that will include a futuristic spherical auditorium.
Not to be outdone, Los Angeles has seen its own fair share of cultural expansion. Of particular note is the The Broad, a $140 million contemporary art museum opened by Eli and Edythe Broad. This latest comer joins a well established art scene in the city that includes the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
And finally, among Wallin’s personal favorites on this year’s travel list are the Dolomites and Montenegro.
Having just been to the Dolemites himself, Wallin is effusive about its many assets.
“In Italy, it is one of the most overlooked places by Americans,” he says. “It gets overshadowed by more big ticket destinations. But the Dolemites offer incredible adventure, breathtaking scenery and the food is as good as you would expect anywhere in Italy.”
For those not familiar, the region, just a few hours from Venice, is dominated by stunning Alpine panoramas (think snow capped mountains, green meadows and blue skies.)
A recent addition to the area’s attractions is the Messner Mountain Museum Corones, which opened in July. The building, created by architect Zaha Hadid, is a cantilevered masterpiece perched on the 7,500-foot Kronplatz. It is the last in a series of six museums in the region dedicated to mountaineering.
And just as the Dolemites are all about mountain beauty, Montenegro is all about stunning ocean views. It has become the essential place to be if you own a super yacht.
“It’s beautiful,” Wallin explains. “The country is very small and most of it faces the Adriatic where there are all of these incredible ports and all these fingers of the Adriatic cutting into land, creating natural bays that are incredible for yachts.”
Notable developments here for the yachters of the world include Porto Montenegro’s expansion. An Adriatic Sea marina and village that originally opened it 2009, it recently unveiled a new yacht club, opened 48 new residences and expanded its marina by 200 berths. If all of that is not enough, it also hosted its first Superyacht Rendezvous (a yearly gathering that for the past quarter century had been held in Monaco.)
For those without a mega yacht – perhaps fuel up the private jet and start working your way down the list of the world’s most impressive destinations for 2016.
The full list of places to see, and be seen, this year can be found at RobbReport.com.