With our migratory impulses fettered, our longing for distant horizons shackled by Covid-19, travel is a frequent theme of our dreams. Getting away gains value by virtue of its not being within easy reach, we now consider a voyage’s deeper meaning before setting out in 2021.
1. Celebrate biodiversity - Nayara Gardens, Costa Rica
The notion of treetop adventure takes on new meaning at Nayara Gardens, where the guest rooms are literally embraced by the canopy. The jungle creeps into the gardens, with the Arenal Volcano as a backdrop. Raising guests’ awareness of the environment is the raison d’être. Naturalist guides lead hikes on the slopes of the Arenal to “spy” on the thousands of endemic or migrating birds, while respecting their habitat. And, on night safaris, discover 28 rare frog species in the ponds. Deep in the tropical rainforest, aquatic and musical worlds collide in the hoarse croaks of a male seeking a female mate, despite her being born deaf!
2. Promote positive tourism - Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, Portugal
Why Portugal? Because this country enacted a law requiring tourism companies to establish measures to manage their water and energy consumption and their waste recycling before 2027! Why Herdade da Malhadinha Nova? Because this family estate with 24 guest rooms on more than 1,100 acres of vineyards and plains, in the charming village of Albernoa, is ahead of the curve on this initiative. The owners combine rural architecture and contemporary design, encouraging horseback riding for exploring the Alentejo region and their vineyards. And craft their cuisine from ingredients mostly sourced from their farm and vineyards. The pleasures of country life!
3. Understand wild animals - Epako Safari Lodge & Spa, Namibia
Good news! The Epako Safari Lodge & Spa welcomes children, a boon for bonding as you observe the 2,000 species of wildlife roaming the reserve’s 27,000 acres. Essential, too, because future generations may never see endangered animals “in real life.” A chance to learn the secrets of cheetah reproduction in the rehabilitation boma. Were humans not watching over the survival of the 7,000 or so animals recorded in Africa, the world’s fastest land animal would soon disappear. It’s all the more thrilling to admire the great cat when, at nightfall, it comes to quench its thirst in the pond facing the lodge’s 10 rooms, accompanied by the savannah’s other animals. Unforgettable lessons in zoology.
4. Lessen mankind's toll on nature - Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, Canada
A camp of 25 canvas bungalows on the shores of a lake in a biosphere reserve. After you arrive by boat or seaplane, a horse-drawn cart takes you to Clayoquot Wilderness. There, you shake off the tensions of the world: The contemplative can watch whales or bears, the adventurous can go rafting, horseback riding, or rock climbing. But neither can fish for wild salmon or sockeye. This eco-friendly decision was made by the lodge’s owners in coordination with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to slow their decline, instead setting up spawning grounds to encourage their reproduction. Guests can be a part of these missions to preserve the wild habitat of salmonids.
5. Match gastronomy with ecology - L’effervescence, Japan
Reserving a table at Chef Shinobu Namae’s L’Effervescence restaurant means being part of a gentler relationship with the planet. You’ll not only nourish your body—your soul will feed on poetry perusing the menu, your eyes will feast on beauty gazing upon the dishes. L’Effervescence, a French restaurant in downtown Tokyo, was just awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide, along with the green star, added in 2020 to recognize chefs who combine gastronomy with ecology. Shinobu Namae, 48, a political science graduate, has long been a steadfast advocate of sustainable development, denouncing overfishing—particularly of tuna—and intensive farming. An ode to nature that enchants the senses.
6. Support local initiatives - Sujan Sher Bagh, India
For several generations, the family of Jaisal & Anjali Singh has supported local communities across Rajasthan. SUJÁN's three Relais & Chateaux camps, each a model of conservation tourism are found in unique areas of pristine wilderness and are designed to share exceptional experiences, whilst benefitting local communities as well as play a role in preserving indigenous wildlife and their habitats. At each of the camps, SUJÁN trains & employs people from the local communities to become core members of their team. A stay at Suján Sher Bagh in Ranthambhore, the original camp, shines a light on the impact of their altruistic philosophy. The lodge, ten minutes from the reserve and the 10th-century fort is adjacent to Dastkar, a non-profit entity where underprivileged women weave clothes, embroider household linens, craft accessories. Suján Sher Bagh’s clients collect souvenirs there, knowing that their purchase of these lovely objects supports a great initiative.
7. Thank Mother Earth - Le Domaine de Rymska, France
Get out into the countryside at this refreshingly rural property that’s on the leading edge of green living. Le Domaine de Rymska, renovated by local artisans using regional materials whenever possible, stretches across 200 acres. The estate is home to a mansion with five exquisite guestrooms and a restaurant supplied mainly by the Domaine’s own livestock farm, vegetable gardens, and orchard. It’s a natural wonderland of meadows, ponds, surrounding woods, and even the Canal du Centre for boating. Far from the hubbub of the world, gaze at the stars in a smog-free night sky.
8. Exemplify ethical - Maslina Resort, Croatia
For those who created the Maslina Resort, reconciling tourism and ecology was the highest objective. Facing the Adriatic near Stari Grad, an ancient city named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the five-star hotel is surrounded by nearly eight acres of pristine nature and is the embodiment of responsible luxury. Local craftsmen and materials, a façade camouflaged by wooden shingles, natural textiles in the 50 guest rooms and three villas, and chlorine-free swimming pools combine to form a healthy, virtuous environment. In the 86,000-square-foot vegetable garden, guests marvel at the organic fruits and vegetables that Chef Patricia Yeo cooks up and the aromatic herbs used in the spa, mixed with local essential oils. The ultimate in goodness and beauty!
9. Grow your garden - Gravetye Manor, United Kingdom
Less than forty miles from London, you can admire William Robinson’s horticultural masterpiece. Irish by birth, the father of the English garden, mixing native and exotic plants in disheveled, wild flowerbeds, lived in Gravetye Manor and died there in 1935. The owners of this romantic, 17-room country house, with tall chimneys rising from a verdant paradise, are working to restore Robinson’s masterpiece, including the superb Victorian greenhouses and vegetable garden. Tom Coward, the head gardener, whose passion is bewitching to visitors, leads tours and, in answer to intelligent questions, reveals his gardening secrets—and those of William Robinson. Let your thumbs go green!
10. Live the slow life - Pikaia Lodge, Galapagos Archipelago
It will take your breath away: Only the green hills, the blue Pacific, and ivory beach as far as the eye can see. Pikaia Lodge, located on Santa Cruz Island, one of the 19 of the archipelago, and built with sustainable materials and techniques to reduce its footprint, overlooks a jaw-dropping landscape. It was here, in 1835, that Charles Darwin conceptualized his theory of evolution. The archipelago’s isolated location, more than 600 miles from any coastline, protects its species from disturbances. If you walk quietly and slowly along the shore, you may encounter iguanas and giant tortoises straight out of prehistoric times. On the ocean, you could meet fur seals and humpback whales. An ode to slow.
11. Connect with nature - Fontenille Menorca - Torre Vella, Spain
When you become finca owner on the island of Menorca, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, you must respect extremely strict renovation laws. After purchasing Torre Vella, an abandoned farmhouse with fields stretching down to the Mediterranean, the owners of the Domaine de Fontenille collection followed these rules to the letter. With a local architect, they renovated the buildings. Then, with guidance from an agronomist-oenologist, they replanted 500 acres of land with vineyards, aromatic herbs, pasture land for sheep, meadows for horses and donkeys—an idyllic setting that you can savor when you stay in one of the 17 rooms. With the added bonus of organic cuisine and an equally organic spa. A supernaturally natural stay.
12. Support staff shareholders, Castle Hill Inn, United States
Quite a comeback! Like many other Rhode Island mansions, the Castle Hill Inn, built in 1875 and formerly the home of a wealthy marine biologist, has become a luxury hotel. How so? It was acquired in 2018 by its staff, in true worker-co-op style. Now the sole owners of this jewel glittering on the shores of the Atlantic, the employees take care to preserve its reputation and beauty, and anticipate every wish a guest might have. What’s more, like the former owners, they support local producers through the Farm Fresh Rhode Island cooperative. Entrepreneurial spirit worth celebrating.
13. Bathe in the forest - Hôtel Grad Otočec, Slovenia
A river runs through it. The Grad Otočec Hotel is a medieval castle, transformed over the centuries by local craftspeople with select materials. It rises from an island encircled and crossed by the Krka River. The setting is matchless and pristine, a place to fish for trout or Danube salmon, paddling along the water, learning about sylvotherapy (also known as forest bathing), practicing “farm fitness”—gardening in the organic vegetable garden, under the owner’s benevolent eye. The lush birdsong that awakens guests starts each day on a sweet note. The surrounding nature soothes away tension and stress. The body comes alive again; the mind generates positive images and ideas. Pure rural therapy in a country that is the planet’s first certified Green Destination.
14. Embrace carbon neutrality - Huka Lodge, New Zealand
New Zealand set a clear political and civic objective and wrote it into law: carbon neutrality by 2050. And you will believe it can happen when you stay at Huka Lodge, on the North Island of this country on the edge of the planet. Built a century ago on the shores of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge is surrounded by virgin lands, clear lakes and streams. It offers guests who care about the future of the planet activities that dovetail harmoniously with nature. The chef, Paul Froggatt, is locavore in principle and in practice. Respecting a “from field to table” philosophy, he sources from neighboring organic farmers and breeders. An enlightening experience!
15. Encourage sustainable hospitality - The Little Nell, United States
America’s poshest ski resort—Aspen, Colorado—is a five-star experience. But if you care about the planet, stay at The Little Nell, the only five-star property in the United States to be ISO 14001-certified in environmental management. To proactively protect the planet, its managers have adopted responsible policies: reducing energy use, installing solar panels, serving cuisine from principally local ingredients, funding the employee-run Environmental Foundation, to which guests are invited to contribute, to lessen the impacts of climate change. Lastly, the Eco-Luxe Program reduces laundry, plastics, and vehicle use on and around the property. A breath of fresh air for a suffocating world.
16. Go back in time - Cirqa, Peru
Sleeping in one of the 11 rooms at Cirqa evokes the glow of privilege, the thrill of adventure. This former monastery dating from 1540, like its city of Arequipa, is at a lofty 7,660 feet above sea level, surrounded by three volcanoes. The well-preserved 16th- and 17th-century colonial buildings, all in white, hand-hewn volcanic stone, form a remarkable architectural ensemble that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Taking the scenic road to Titilaka, you reach the highlands, where herds of breeder-raised llama and alpaca coexist with the wild hordes of guanacos and vicuñas. Pastoral scenes that have remained unchanged for centuries. Like Arequipa.
17. Watch marine life - Glenapp Castle, Scotland
It would be called, by some, a “folly”—a romantic residence with an unbridled architectural style. Glenapp Castle, a riot of towers and turrets, built in 1870 by famed architect David Bryce, sits majestically on a hill overlooking the Irish Sea. Leaving the cozy comforts of the 17 wood-paneled rooms, you could spend a night or two in the hotel’s tent camp staked downstream on the coast. From that starting point, come morning, you can boat along the archipelago of the Hebrides, between the islands of Ailsa Craig, Arran and Holy Island, in pursuit of dolphins, as hundreds of enormous seabirds fly overhead. A true sea safari.
18. Rest and recharge - Taubenkobel, Austria
A winemaker’s home with the bewitching charm of a doll’s house, a cocoon of soothing comfort just 30 miles from Vienna. Taubenkobel does have a fairytale feel about it, with its white outer walls, its 10 hushed and cozy rooms opening onto the garden, its wide pond suitable for summer swimming, and the hiking trails bordering the property. You can traverse them on foot or by bike to burn off the two-star cuisine of Chef Alain Weissgerber. He owns the premises with his wife, Barbara Eselböck, daughter of the first owners, at once manager and sommelier herself—a most attentive duo. Home sweet home!
19. Discover traditional living - Bellevue Hotel & Spa, Italia
Go back in time at the Bellevue Hotel, where Valle d’Aosta lifestyle and traditions are preserved and practiced through paintings, objects, furniture, the staff’s period attire, as well as the themed tables and menus at the gourmet restaurant. It is also a leading-edge property in how it minimizes plastics, recycles most of its waste, uses hydraulic energy produced in Cogne, and serves glacier water for drinking. The new spa beguiles, as well, with treatments using local botanicals and the organic line from Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the world’s oldest pharmacy, founded in Florence four centuries ago. A blend of romanticism and realism.
20. Steep your senses in pine, In Lain Hôtel, Switzerland
If you love family epics with happy endings, you’ll love the In Lain Hotel Cadonau. A wonderful story being written these days by Dario and Tamara Cadonau, owners of this 14-room gem, where Dario’s ancestors lived 450 years ago. Born to a long line of carpenters, Dario, alongside his carpenter brother, Marco, crafted all of In Lain’s furniture in Swiss pinewood, an alpine tree renowned for its soothing and invigorating essences. “In Lain,” in fact, means “made from wood” in the local Romansh dialect. The outdoor sauna looking out on the mountains is also redolent with this characteristic pine fragrance. Dario practices his primary profession of chef in the three restaurants, including at Vivanda, awarded a Michelin star in 2020.
21. Visit your dream destination - Le Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
These days, it’s hard to be a globetrotter. But that’s a blessing in disguise! Wade through all the border authorizations for a fabulous journey, but just one. The trip of lifetime, unforgettable. Set down your suitcases in one of the 20 chic cabins at Le Nuku Hiva, overlooking Taioha’e Bay. Luxury Robinson Crusoé-style—the perfect place from which to explore the Marquesan land painted by Paul Gauguin, sung about by Jacques Brel. In this unspoiled Eden, you feel reborn, joining the locals in dances like the Haka Manu, the Bird Dance. Savoring fish prepared by a fisherman. Swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Anaho, the world’s most beautiful bay. Spend time in paradise and reconnect with humanity’s roots.