A Dozen to Dream About
Every November, for the past years, we’ve attended a remarkable travel show in Marrakech—PURE Life Experiences. It’s where we go to take the pulse of the travel industry (oh no, did I just use that word?), meet with some of the hotels and people we work with, and sniff around for new and noteworthy places.
As usual, I returned to Toronto last week with a bag full of business cards (and another bag full of carpets). Here are a handful of hotels and experiences that we’re most excited about. Many of these places are newly, or not yet, opened. All of them are on our radar for future research. In the meantime, we’ll be doing some daydreaming:
Palais Namaskar (Morocco)—In a city already brimming with over the top gorgeous hotels, it’s kind of amazing this Marrakech hotel was able to find a new way to drop jaws. I actually stayed here for a few nights while at the show and woke up each day as if in a spacious, stylish, sybaritic dream.
Last Frontier Heli (British Columbia)—Imagine a heli ski reserve in the Canadian Rockies with 9 500 square kilometres (3 600 square miles) of private terrain. Ridiculous, but not as insane as the annual snowfall. Are you ready for this? 65-100 feet. Clean off your goggles and read that again. Feet.
Hud Hud Travels (Oman)—Sleeping amongst sand dunes in a luxurious tent under the stars must rank in every good traveller’s top ten things to do in a lifetime. I would’t previously have thought of Oman as the answer to those prayers, but this remarkable outfitter has changed that.
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge (Bhutan)—For years, lodges in the landlocked Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan came in only two varieties; Rolls Royce or Trabant. Which is to say, ultra polished or ultra basic. At long last, the landscape is changing and this charming upper-end lodge is emblematic of a new breed. The BMW of Bhutanese lodging, as it were.
Awasi Patagonia (Chile)—We’ve been major fans of the intimate Awasi lodge in the Atacama desert for a while. Their new lodge in Patagonia is set to be even more spellbinding. Just 12 villas, numbing views of Torres del Paine National Park, and comprehensive rates that include a private 4X4 and guide for exploring.
Su Gologone (Italy)—We all need more Sardinia in our lives. Just look at the character and colour of this getaway in the interior of the island. It’s the bright-hued anti-thesis of cookie-cutter travel.
Aqua Mekong (Vietnam & Cambodia)—After a few years of operating the two top boats in the Peruvian Amazon, Aqua’s newest vessel slides into the Mekong in sometime in 2014. It’s poised to set a new standard for sailing from Saigon or Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and should metaphorically blow all other boats out of the water.
Dwarika’s Resort (Nepal)—Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu has long been the top place to stay in town. Their new property, just an hour out of town, looks like a dreamy place to retreat for a few days of harmony and well-being. Oh, and you’ll want to stare at the majestic Himalayas for a while as well.
ION Hotel (Iceland)—Okay, so perhaps ‘ice land’ is an off-putting term to hear at this time of year. But take warmth in the knowledge that this crisp contemporary hotel has a 10 metre natural hot pool and is a short drive from several geothermal sites.
Muang La (Laos)—It’s not like the little country of Laos is in immediate danger of being overrun by tourists. Still, we’re always keen to learn about hotels like this one that are even further off the unbeaten path. Muang La promises an authentic few days for anyone willing to make the extra effort to get there.
Ultima Thule Lodge (Alaska)—And you thought Muang La (see above) was remote. This fly-in only lodge in out of the way Alaska is seriously in the middle of nowhere. And it certainly strikes us as somewhere special. Pristine wilderness and massive mountains.
Paws Up (Montana)—What with all that daydreamin’ I think it’s time to kick up our feet, no? Here’s where I’d like to catch my breath, hang out with my family and watch a river run by.
Charlie is no stranger to Marrakech, having lived there for a year in the mid ’90s. Every time he returns, he’s drawn to the medina and the maze-like streets of the souk (market area). If you agree to keep it triple top secret he just might tell you where to find his rug guy. And his silver guy. And his knackered wood guy.