High-end holidays: A look at some of the world’s most exclusive luxury destinations

Viceroy Bali. (Supplied)
Updated 10 January 2019
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High-end holidays: A look at some of the world’s most exclusive luxury destinations

  • A list of luxurious travel spots
  • Destinations all over the world

DUBAI: Here are some of the world’s most luxurious holiday spots:

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada
From $1,493
Fancy a stay at the end of the world? This boutique hotel on a remote island isn’t easy to get to (quickest way: charter a helicopter), but it’s well worth the journey for the astonishing views and the opportunity — through a sponsorship program — to spend time with locals and really get to explore the area’s culture. Of course, that’s optional, you’re equally welcome to simply lounge around in one of the rooftop hot tubs as well. This really is a place for lovers of the outdoors and nature, though. Take advantage of the guided hikes and the knowledgeable, mostly local, staff and lose yourself in the sparse beauty and unique atmosphere of Fogo Island.

Viceroy Bali, Indonesia
From $818
Recently voted the world’s best resort by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, the Viceroy is situated in the “Valley of Kings,” close to Ubud, and offers jaw-dropping views of the gorgeous jungle landscape and wildlife that surrounds the 25-room resort. The private villas, spa, fine dining and acclaimed customer service combine to offer a truly spectacular experience that should appeal to romantics and adventurers alike, and has resulted in almost-unanimous top ratings for the Viceroy in online reviews.

Constance Moofushi, Maldives
From $1,300
This all-inclusive resort on a small private island is perfect for those looking for a beachside escape, especially watersport enthusiasts — the resort boasts its own house reef, but is also less than an hour’s boat ride from some of the best diving spots in the world. Constance Moofushi has 110 rooms, all with great sea views, although some are more equal than others, perched directly above the water. This isn’t a destination for culture vultures, but if you want to lounge around in the sun and sand, sampling some great food and drink, then this idyllic resort will take some beating.

Pikaia Lodge Galapagos, Ecuador
From $4,680 for 3 nights (minimum stay)
“Designed for the environmentally conscious, physically active and adventurous traveler,” according to its website, this beautiful destination is situated in every evolution fan’s favorite location, the Galapagos Islands, and offers a — for once non-clichéd — once-in-a-lifetime experience in one of the world’s most bio-diverse environments. The islands’ otherworldly landscapes are magnificent, and the 14-room Pikaia Lodge is perfectly placed (on top of two extinct volcanic craters, 450 meters above sea level) to afford guests the best possible views of them. Set in 31 hectares, including a private wild giant tortoise reserve, Pikaia Lodge claims to have its own mosquito-free microclimate.

Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort & Spa, Oman
From $233
This resort combines two hotels — Al Waha (262 rooms) and Al Bandar (198 rooms) — both with breathtaking views over the waters of the Arabian Gulf and the cliffs that enclose the resort’s beaches in its private inlet, accessed via a man-made tunnel through the mountains. Snorkel in the turquoise sea and track sea-turtles, or simply lounge on some of the finest beaches in the Gulf. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of opportunities, from kite-surfing and kayaking to jet-packing. The resort boasts nine restaurants as well as an art gallery, and shops selling local crafts. Those in search of pampering should visit CHI, The Spa, which offers a vitality hydro pool, herbal steam room and an ice fountain, alongside its 12 treatment villas. This is luxury at a bargain price.

Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
From $77,500 per night for exclusive use
If you’ve got the cash to splash, then you and 29 friends can rent this private island as your exclusive holiday resort from owner Richard Branson. As you’d expect, for that price you get some serious ‘barefoot luxury’ to enjoy — from the abundant local wildlife, great sailing, diving and swimming locations, through yoga, tennis and kitesurfing, to spa treatments, and themed parties on some evenings. If you save a bit of space in your suitcase, you can also help the local community by bringing in medical supplies or educational aid. There are also a few excursions available to nearby islands.

The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India
From $603
A few hours drive from Delhi this classy retreat has the feel of an old-school safari camp (only with air-conditioning and high-speed Internet). With spacious private tents situated among mango and lemon groves, featuring teak floors, canopied four-poster beds, and standalone, claw-foot bathtubs — and each serviced by a personal butler, of course — visitors will feel like they’ve gone back in time. You may well be greeted by elephants on arrival, and on the twice-daily game drives, you could spot leopards, bears and even tigers — or take the river safari to track down the Gharial, India’s endangered crocodilian. Romantics, meanwhile, can treat themselves to a three-hour couples massage at the spa.

Bunga Raya Island Resort, Malaysia
From $1,245
A secluded hideaway just off the coast of Borneo, this small resort island consists of 47 sumptuous hillside villas (fully equipped with all mod cons) with views out over the beach to the South China Sea. Explore the tropical jungle — either on foot (one four-hour trek will take you across the whole island), or by zip line — and the warm waters, by sailboat, kayak or paddleboard. Scuba diving is also available. Wind down at the spa, which offers both Asian and Western treatments. Guests can order a romantic private meal in a beach pavilion, or dine at one of the resort’s well-reviewed restaurants, some of which require a boat journey to reach.

 


Tourists follow ‘Game of Thrones’ trail in Northern Ireland

Updated 20 April 2019
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Tourists follow ‘Game of Thrones’ trail in Northern Ireland

  • Since the series began in 2011, fans have started to flock to the coastal caves and ruined castles of the British province where much of the show was shot
  • Tourism Northern Ireland estimates the magical show drew 120,000 visitors to the province in 2016

BELFAST: Wielding a replica broadsword, Indian tourist Akshay Mannur duels with friends — re-enacting scenes from “Game of Thrones” on the Northern Ireland pilgrimage trail for devotees of the blockbuster fantasy TV show.
Since the blood and guts series began its rise to prominence in 2011, fans have started to flock to the coastal caves and ruined castles of the British province where much of the HBO television production was shot.
“Every new step is like something new, it’s more than my expectations,” 23-year-old student Mannur marvelled.
“It’s a beautiful country — Northern Ireland is just amazing.”

Tourism Northern Ireland estimates the magical show — in its final season — drew 120,000 visitors to the province in 2016, generating £30 million (35 million euros, $39 million).
One in six visitors now comes to Northern Ireland to visit shooting locations, according to their estimates.
Along the largely coastal trail, a short drive outside the capital of Belfast, that popularity is clear to see.
A steady hum of buses and coaches are marshalled in and out of parking lots on strict schedules, and sleepy village shops throng with tourists.
“The last week, I think on Saturday past, we had a bus with 24 nationalities on it,” said tour guide Patrick Rogan at the mouth of the Cushendun Caves, the site of a pivotal plot point in the series.
“We had people from Patagonia, from New Zealand, from Japan, from Russia, from South Korea and Europe, so I think that tells its own story.”
Since 2012 his employer — the “Stones and Thrones” tour — has offered daily outings out of Belfast, manned mainly by guides who have acted as extras on the show.
Today they run at least two full buses a day, he said, competing with at least four other companies offering a similar service.
Other more bespoke tour services offer immersive experiences — axe-throwing, archery, and photo opportunities with a pair of wolves that starred in the epic series.

A popular comparison holds that “Game of Thrones” is to Northern Ireland tourism what “Lord of the Rings” has been to New Zealand.
But Northern Ireland’s very recent bloody past during the so-called ‘Troubles’ — when 3,500 were killed in 30 years of sectarian strife — makes the boom particularly welcome.
“The dark history that was here is coming out,” said Irish actor Liam Cunningham, a stalwart character in the series now feted as the most expensive to ever be filmed for the small screen.
“The place is blooming, and for us to have this show here and be part of that transition is joyful.”

Cunningham was speaking at the opening of a touring exhibition of costume and scenery pieces in Belfast, the same week as the new season of the series premiered.
Ranked displays of dragon skulls, intricately crafted weapons and interactive exhibits are preceded by a gallery of landscape prints, depicting the countryside shooting locations.
A caption on one image reads “Views to die horribly for,” whilst another reads “Sun, sea and savagery,” referring to the show’s reputation for bloodily killing off major characters.
They are testament to the canny local tourist board, making efforts to cement the link between their territory and the series.
“I think our association with such a global success helps to transform the image of Northern Ireland across the globe,” said John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism Northern Ireland.
“In many ways that gives you PR that you just simply couldn’t buy.”
With the final season of “Game of Thrones” under way, the fever pitch devotion to the series may be about to end.
But with spin-off projects in the pipeline and a studio tour development due to open in Northern Ireland next year, the province still hopes for tourism revenues.
“We think this still has longevity,” said McGrillen.