LUX checks into the Bellevue Palace, Bern, Switzerland.

Le Lobby is a true classic reborn, a convivial meeting place to exchange views and discuss weighty matters over drinks as well as sushi and sashimi.

The wow factor:

The walk from the train station in the Swiss capital of Bern, to the Bellevue Palace, takes in some traditional cobbled streets and a stretch along a hilltop, alongside some Swiss government buildings. Walking into the grand atrium of the Palace, you pass through a gin bar and onto a terrace, at the end of the same hilltop, from where the ground drops away into a pastoral Alpine view of meadows and forests. There are even cows grazing on the hillsides: all of this from the most city centre luxury hotel of a capital city. All very Swiss.

Breathtaking views from the comfort of your own room

People watching:

Smartly dressed Swiss gentility were all around us; conversing quietly behind their Chopard necklaces and Audemars Piguet watches. The hotel, which was built in 1865 and rebuilt in 1913, is a place where such people have come for generations.

overlooking the River Aare or the Bernese Alps, each room has unique features

Show me to my room:

Our suite had a view out to the Alps: from our balcony we could see the white slopes of the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, the triangular Jungfrau and frightening Eiger, in the far distance. Inside the suite, this was truly a palace of a hotel in the traditional sense: antique furniture, thickly carpeted rooms, huge marble bathrooms and acres of space.

The open kitchen at Noumi Restaurant celebrates world food ideal for combining and sharing. Taste experiences in bowls and from the grill, including vegetarian variations, which are inspired by simplicity

Come dine with me (and other things):

The lobby, with its ornate Belle époque atrium, is the place for a drink when the weather doesn’t suit the terrace with a view outside: the speciality is gin, and it’s a power broker type of place for Switzerland, with important besuited men sipping at Martinis, all in surroundings more dramatic than, say, Claridge’s. But the real surprise restaurant action is downstairs at Noumi Bar & Grill; here you walk into a different universe from the traditional elegance of the best of the hotel, with a DJ spinning tunes in a booth, open plan kitchen, speakeasy lighting and a funky atmosphere. Food is best described as modern wealthy Asian: poke, tataki, simple grilled steaks. Ingredients are of superb quality and the kitchen’s touch is light but delicate. Very vibey, if rather out of keeping with the rest of the hotel. We could eat there every night.

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lakeside hotel
lakeside hotel

The Lakeside building of La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich which dates back to 1909

The venerable Eden au Lac, one of the landmark lakeside hotels in Zürich, was recently taken over by the flamboyant La Reserve group, and transformed into a luxe-chic destination for every destination. LUX checks in and samples the champagne on the rooftop

The Wow Factor

The rooftop terrace of the Eden. Sitting on a corner table, wearing a light gilet against a cool breeze blowing from the Alps. The rosé champagne you are drinking has a pedigree related to the hotel: this is no ordinary house fizz, but a champagne made by Michel Reybier who owns both the La Reserve hotel group which the Eden belongs to, and some of the most prestigious wineries in the world, including Châte au Cos d’Estournel, and this champagne house, Jeepers. Sitting here, you are distinctly amongst the Zürich in crowd.

People Watching

Behind us, two paper thin American women were discussing travel, plans, deals, and their yoga routine. A gentleman from southern Europe wearing a rare Patek Phillipe, who would have looked very at home in the Yacht Club of Monaco, is sipping cocktails with a young lady. The people here are international, glamorous, wealthy, and wanting to show that they are here.


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Show me to my room.

Our room faced out from the front of the hotel, over the lakeside road and directly onto a park and the bathing area of Lake Zürich. A small balcony was an excellent place for breakfast with a view of the forest of hills on the other side of the lake. The opera house is almost next door: this is a very centrally located hotel. The bed with the centrepiece of the room, with the bathroom behind. here it is all about high quality material finishes and details: the wood marquetry is exceptionally beautiful, reflecting the craft traditions in the nearby Alpine forests but presented in a contemporary way, with plenty of shiny metals and exquisite accessories from the glassware to the in room amenities.

green tiled kitchen, chefs

The street level Eden Kitchen which features all day dining

Come dine with me (and other things)

We loved La Muña, the rooftop Japanese Pacific restaurant and bar, which has been designed as an imaginary yacht club by Phillipe Starck. As well as the
superb quality of drinks (as one would expect from this group), the maki, sashimi and ceviches were exquisite. When the weather was less good, we dined inside: no views, but a chic cosiness and intimate style.


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This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 Issue of LUX

Reading time: 2 min
bedroom with view of safari

LUX recommends our top hotels to check into this year. Compiled by Olivia Cavigioli

Glenmorangie House, Ross, Scotland
For a retreat into the Scottish Highlands, whisky distiller’s Glenmorangie House is the place to go. The brand just recently celebrated 180 years of craftsmanship, their single malt distilled and encompassed by the idyll of the Highlands, ‘Glenmorangie’ translating to ‘Valley of Tranquility’ in Gaelic.

Situated along the coastline on the Easter Ross Peninsula, the house is a a stone’s throw away from the distillery so guests are immersed in the whisky making process and the land from which it is crafted. Designer Russel Sage brought the brand’s protected Tarlogie Springs to the Tasting Room, and the barley fields to the guilded Morning Room, curating the hotel with the Glenmorangie story in mind.

The brand hosts an exclusive weekend, ‘A Tale of Tokyo Experience’, in collaboration with drink connoisseurs Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, where guests can experience the mythologies of two whiskey making cultures. Celebrating Glenmorangie’s new whiskey, marrying Japanese processes and flavours with the classic Highland drink, the weekend offers a cocktail masterclass and Kintsugi cup-making, a touring of the distillery, and unique dining experiences by design of Head Chef John Wilson, as guests will partake in both a Scottish Highland diner and A Tale of Tokyo inspired tasting menu.

22nd-24th March 2024, at £950 per room for a two-night stay in a Standard Room or Cottage.

colourful living room

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The Lana, Dubai – Dorchester Collection

rooftop pool with view of dubai

The Lana Dubai Rooftop

For a culinary whirlwind, Dorchester Collection’s first Middle East location, The Lana Dubai, is one to watch. Set to open in February 2024, the hotel is something of a gastronomical meeting of the minds in the countless dining experiences. Celebrated chefs Martín Berasategui, Jean Imbert and Angelo Musa create four distinct concepts out of the eight restaurants The Lana hosts. Accoladed with twelve Michelin stars, Martín Berasategui develops Jara, a love letter to Basque cuisine and the first of its kind in Dubai.

For modern Mediterranean cooking and cocktails, guests can flock to Riviera by Jean Imbert, who has also created High Society, an after hours lounge located on the rooftop of the hotel. Angelo Musa’s Bonbon Café will bring French patisserie with his own avant-garde approach to The Lana.

Designed by Foster + Partners, the hotel is bound in bright vistas, positioned along the Dubai Canal, a vantage point from which guests can revel in the city’s famed sunsets. The Lana’s spa, and 225 rooms and suites, with interiors designed by Gilles & Boissier, brings together the contemporary and traditional, in Dubai’s trademark style.

The Hotel is now open as of February 1st, now taking bookings. Rates start from £735 per night.

hotel resort in Dubai

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ROAR Africa’s ‘Greatest Safari on Earth’

beautiful landscape

ROAR Africa’s ‘Greatest Safari on Earth’, is  a pilgrimage through some of Africa’s most iconic destinations, as ten guests can become intrepid travellers over twelve days, going from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, to Kenya’s Great Migration and ending ceremoniously in Rwanda.

The African odyssey will bring guests to the most splendent views amidst natural phenomenons, such as Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, upriver from which guests will reside at the Matetsi, where they can immerse themselves in 55,000 hectares of protected wilderness.

Along the Okavango Delta in Botswana, guests will have the  opportunity to see Africa’s ‘Big Five’; lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Guests will stay at the Xigera property, described as a ‘living gallery’, showcasing design inspired by the Delta, and works by the continent’s most celebrated creatives. After a few days in the Mara North Conservancy in Kenya, where guests will have experienced the breadth of wildlife from walking safaris to a hot air ballon ride along the Mara river, the trip ends with guests coming into intimate contact with the world’s last wild mountain gorillas at Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

Two trips will be taking flight in 2024 aboard the ‘beyond first class’ Emirates A319 Executive Private Jet, with carbon credits matched to emissions.

August 10-22 2024 and August 25 – September 6 2024 are the two trip dates. Limited to 10 guests each and $148,000 per person.

bedroom with view of safari

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Suvretta House, St. Moritz

snowy landscape with hotel

The Suvreta Hotel

Nestled in the valley of the Upper Engadine, St. Moritz, Suvretta House offers storybook winter-scapes and a plethora of Alpine activities to its guests. The resort sits in a natural park two kilometres west of St. Moritz, untarnished by the bustle of winter tourism, promising luxurious refuge in the snowcapped Engadine, with a private ski lift providing direct access to the slopes for guests who wish to embrace the winter sport season.

Bathed in the history and culture of the region, guests can expect elaborate horse-drawn sleighs reminiscent of Schlitteda custom, where young couples would go on rides together. Other attractions include opera and culinary festivals, horse races on the frozen St. Moritz lake, and overwhelming views to accompany a Savoyard lunch from the Suvretta House mountain restaurant ‘Trutz’.

You’d however be remiss to not take advantage of the 350km of ski runs available to guests, along with 220 km of cross country skiing trails, through sunlit valley floors or the illuminated night courses. The resort has even adopted curling, with its own unique Curling Guest Club and natural ice-curling field. Guests can also follow in the footsteps of former world champions who have skated on the Suvretta House ice rink, returning to the elegance and respite of the Alpine castle.

Winter season runs from 8th December 2023 to 1st April 2024. Rooms start at CHF 630. 

hotel living space

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A sunny, snowy mountain top on the Alps with a Hotel view.
A sunny, snowy mountain top on the Alps with a Hotel view.

The hotel has dramatic views all around of one of the world’s most spectacular winter sports areas, the Dolomites in northeastern Italy

Our recommendation this ski season is for a place that blends the best of the Alps: Italian and Austrian culture and gastronomy, matchless views, astonishing skiing, and an ambience all of its own

How do you like your wintersports holiday? There’s the social whirl of St Moritz, Gstaad and Courchevel, the competitivity of Verbier and Val d’Isere…and then there are the Dolomites in Italy. Here, the vibe is so different you could be on another continent. It starts with the mountains themselves, sheer caramel coloured walls and stacks of rock, rising vertically above the curiously open and gentle slopes below.

A grey and white bedroom in a wooden chalet style room

The elegantly designed Superior Room

Then there is the culture, a blend of Austrian and Italian, but not really either – suffusing into the villages, food and people. The Dolomites are also home to the Superski area, a circuit of 1200 km of some of the most spectacular runs in the world, formed so you never have to ski the same slope twice as you tour the whole region.

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Our recommended base for exploring the area this winter is the effortlessly chic Gardena Grödnerhof, in Ortisei, at the heart of the area. (The German-Italian place names all point to the region’s mixed heritage.)

A chalet style hotel in the mountains covered in trees

The hotel is also an ideal summer destination for golfers, hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts

The family-run Grödnerhof may not be a palace like some of the most celebrated hotels in the Alps, but it’s every bit as stylish, and rather more understated, as any of its peers. Its design owes as much to Milan as it does to traditional Alpine themes; you are whisked into an effortless world of contemporary Italianate hospitality, but with a view to die for. There are two restaurants, the Gardena, in light Alpine style with Mediterranean dishes, and the Michelin-starred Anna Stuben, with a wine list to match the world’s best – and most eclectic.

Rooms are spacious and elegant and have sweeping views over the matchless Dolomites with light wood panels and cool grey tones; a blend of Austrian cosiness and Italian Bella Figura.

A wooden restaurant with white tablecloths

Anna Stuben’s Gourmet Restaurant, known as one of the best in South Tyrol, lies within the hotel

And then dash to the cable car around the corner as you are in the middle of one of the world’s most spectacular and distinctive ski areas. If you have not skied the Dolomites before, we recommend deliberately not looking out of the window of the lift as you go up and then taking a proper look at the top as the sheer scale and breadth of the view is like nowhere else. You may feel as if you are on a different planet. It’s one of the sunniest ski areas in Europe and also has among the best snowmaking facilities, so you can embark on your circuit which links to the ski areas of numerous nearby villages amid the likelihood both of fine Italian weather and crisp Alpine snow.

Read more: Hotel Crans Ambassador, Crans-Montana, Switzerland Review

A couple of perks the hotel offers are private ski tours at sunrise, with a guide, before all those other people get to the slopes, or just before sundown, when others have left (we recommend the latter, particularly after experiencing the hotel’s wine cellar the night before). And then you may have time to swim, luxuriate in the outdoor thermal baths, and admire the starlight, before dinner awaits.

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ocean villas on an island in the middle of the sea
ocean villas on an island in the middle of the sea

The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands, in the Maldives

A new resort complex in the Maldives seeks to combine ocean exploration and conservation, extreme luxury, sustainability, and a cultural vibe the islands have never seen before. Candice Tucker checks in

Fari Islands in the Maldives has been created by its developers, the Singaporean Kwee family, as a completely new type of destination for the region. As well as the usual beach and island isolation, the islands, which include three hotels, have a small cultural and resort centre called Patina Island, aimed at providing alternative distractions and activities.

I am staying at The Ritz-Carlton, on one of the islands, which is proud of its programme combining social and environmental innovation. There is almost no plastic used on the island and, increasingly, energy is generated from solar power. The ocean villas, designed by the late Kerry Hill, were built with sustainably managed timber, from sustainable European forests. The most impressive initiative is Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment programme. Guests can watch marine biologists at work, led by Cousteau, scion of the celebrated ocean exploration and conservation family. As part of the programme you can help search for plastics and ghost nets in the ocean, and work on ecological restoration around the island. Combining luxury with purpose, it is a harbinger of holidays to come.

A bedroom leading to a swimming pool that leads to the sand on a beach with plants and trees

One of the hotel’s beach-pool villas

It helps if you understand the undersea world, and for that I set off, on my first day, on the Ritz-Carlton snorkelling experience. After a short boat ride, we stopped far out to sea. Surrounded by nothing but blue water, the hotel diver said, “This is where we jump in”.

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Imagine being transported to another universe. Rainbow fish, turtles, guitar sharks (their name comes from their shape) and colourful corals of pinks, purples and oranges. I had arrived on the film set of Finding Nemo. Watching the hotel divers remove abandoned nets, without harming sea life, brought home the delicate balance between observing and protecting this precious world.

A room with two massage beds overlooking the sea

A treatment room inside the Polo mint-shaped spa

Personalised luxury is the new buzzword in the travel industry, and I found it here – or, it found me. One day I commented innocently on the quality of the chocolate cookies at dinner. The next day, on returning to my room, I found that a bath had been prepared, with coconut bath oils – and a plate of the chocolate cookies on the side. And waking up each morning, pressing a button next to my bed and seeing the uninterrupted view of the turquoise Indian Ocean, became a daily ritual I couldn’t tire of. The décor in the room was a mix of light browns and whites, reflecting the colours of the island, leading to a private infinity pool and round sun lounger, offering complete privacy to enjoy the view.

At the centre of the 39 ocean villas is a Polo mint-shaped building, which is the spa. The only noises you can hear are the wind and sometimes the splash of a flying fish. Now, imagine walking round the inside of that Polo with a view of the sea on the inside and scores of treatment rooms on the other, each with the same tranquil vista.

A a white and light brown bedroom with a bath overlooking the sea

Ocean-pool villa

The beach, carpeted in powdery white sand, and the occasional hermit crab, meets the turquoise sea, which becomes increasingly transparent the closer you peer. When I was feeling more sociable I visited the buzzing Patina beach, the social centre of the islands, with its pool bars, art galleries and upscale food trucks. However, as an urban dweller, I was more tempted to spend time back at the Ritz-Carlton relaxing, where palm trees hang over sparsely spaced sun loungers, spread across the white sand, making you feel not isolated, but rather exclusively pampered. The only interruption was the occasional offering of fruit sorbets and beverages. For me, it was the perfect spot to read, and dip into the sea when I felt like it.

A woman standing by a food truck

The Tum Tum food trailer, serving up Asian street food, at the Fari Marina

The social centre of Patina does allow for a wider variety of cuisines and styles of dining than you might get in most resorts. Arabesque, an Indian-Arabic fusion restaurant, a link to the history of the Maldives, demonstrated the cultural crossroads. I recommend the Goan fish curry, cooked with coconut, tamarind and local reef fish.

In fact, the Fari Islands offer seven restaurants. One evening I dined at Iwau, the Ritz-Carlton’s Japanese restaurant, at the chef’s table under the stars. The tasting menu was presented as abstract art, an explosion of colour on each plate. The slow-cooked buttered salmon teriyaki, with asparagus and avocado cream was the highlight.

a vegetarian pizza on a wooden cylinder tray

Vegetarian pizza at the hotel’s beachfront Eau Bar

The Italian at the Ritz-Carlton, La Locanda, is a hub for all-day dining. Guests can order off-menu. On a whim, I asked for pasta with seabass and tomatoes, which the chef quickly prepared to perfection. Warm focaccia infused with garlic was a satisfying starter.

The resort’s operators are fond of saying that the combination of art galleries, beaches, restaurants and cultures mean Fari Islands has a hint of St Tropez to it. That may be true, but in terms of marine life, conservation and space, it offers rather a lot more.

a cinema on a beach

Ritz-Carlton cinema

The Cousteau Connection
At the heart of the Ritz-Carlton is JeanMichel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment programme. This is personally run by the 84-year-old celebrated veteran of ocean exploration and film making. The programme introduces guests to ocean conservation through education and interaction. Activities range from using ocean drones to spot sea life and searching for ghost nets to collect, to learning to pilot a submarine. Scuba diving (for anyone from the age of 10) and snorkelling allow guests to witness the rich marine life along the reefs.

Read more: Responsible Luxury Travel: Keythorpe Hall, England

Cousteau also says the involvement of Ritz-Carlton is crucial, particularly in the Maldives. “When I was diving in the Maldives, I was surprised to see the number of dead corals. We need to do everything we can for the corals, because they are a very important part of the protection of the coastlines. Corals help to feed hundreds, maybe thousands of species, and we need to conserve everything around the Maldives. Ocean Futures’ approach, which I created to honour my father’s philosophy after he passed away, is if you protect the ocean you protect yourself, and if we protect what’s around the Maldives we will protect the people there, and we want to help as much as we can.”

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This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

Reading time: 5 min
alpine resort
alpine village

Looking down onto the Bad Moos Dolomites Spa Resort in the Drei Zinnen Dolomites

The little-known area of Drei Zinnen, in the German-speaking Italian Dolomites, offers a cultural, culinary and slopeside experience like no other, as Darius Sanai discovers

‘Atmosphere’ has become an almost meaningless word when describing a place. A hotel describes its bar as “atmospheric” as a matter of course. But a real atmosphere, in terms of travel, is not about a room, or a building, or even a town. It is about a sense of place that is imparted by the location, the light, the scenery, the buildings, the weather, people, detail… Everything.

Some places simply don’t have an atmosphere, and cannot create it however luxurious the hotels, restaurants and facilities they create. Other places have elements of an atmosphere – spectacular views, fascinating buildings – but they do not add up to a whole.

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And some places have an atmosphere that is more than the sum of its parts, that envelops you as soon as you arrive and increases in intensity the longer you stay.

Drei Zinnen is one of those places. Step out of the car that has whisked you there on a relatively easy drive from Innsbruck airport, and there is the sense of being somewhere quite apart from the rest of the world, yet not secluded, claustrophobic or shut away.

Crunching the few steps in the snow to the door of the hotel Bad Moos, you are in the middle of a wide, high, tree-lined bowl, lined with crannies, streams and villages, and backed by the dramatic fingers of the Dolomites.

gothic dining room

The gothic dining room at Bad Moos. © Hannes Niederkofler

Inside the hotel, the atmosphere is only heightened. This is an exquisitely tasteful, contemporary take on Alpine (or specifically, South Tyrolean) chic. Rooms have lavish wooden floors, fabulous wool throws, beautiful modern fireplaces, glass-walled bathrooms, and finishes and details (the furry slippers!) that puts many more hallowed luxury Alpine hotels to shame.

Read more: Auctioneer & Collector Simon de Pury on curating the Waldorf Astoria’s art collection

A wooden-lined tunnel leads to a spa zone that is split between equally large indoor and outdoor pools, and swimming through the divide that leads outdoors into the moonlit night, surrounded by snow, in winter, there’s that word ‘atmosphere’ again. Lie on the long (everything is done generously here) hydro massage rack at the far end of the pool, look down the broad open valley to the peaks of the Tre Cime mountains in the distance, spot planets and stars overhead above the gently forested slopes, and there is more of a sense of place than in many Alpine resorts.

hotel bedroom

A ‘Tre Cime’ Junior Suite. © Hannes Niederkofler

Wonderful as these facilities are – particularly for a hotel not classified as one of the region’s official palaces, and all the better for it, having none of the pomp and intrusiveness of staff looking down on you – the best part of the Bad Moos experience is in the dining room.

It’s a big area that manages to be spacious (all the best for social distancing this winter) and atmospheric at the same time, split into three broad rooms at slightly different levels. The picture windows have views out over the snow fields and over to the village, a couple of hundred metres away across the bottom of a piste.

The service is a kind of perfect concoction of the best of the Alps. The South Tyrol, where the hotel is located, was part of Austria until the end of the Habsburg Empire at the end of the First World War, just over 100 years ago. It was then taken over by Italy, and has remained in Italy ever since, albeit under an autonomous government. Like everyone else in the area, staff speak both German and Italian. There is an Austrian cosiness, a Germanic efficiency, an Italian sense of style and gastronomy – and generosity of spirit. If delicate Italian fish dishes and perfectly ethereal pasta finished with home-made Austrian strudels and tarts are not your idea of culinary perfection, perhaps a choice of some of the greatest wines of the northern Italian Alps or alternatively an icy Austrian Pilsner beer, is. The cuisine and ambience are simply transported outside onto a generous terrace at lunchtime at the bottom of the piste.

alpine swimming pool

The outdoor pool at the hotel’s spa. © Hannes Niederkofler

Ah, the pistes. It’s easy to forget about the skiing as you enjoy the originality and brilliance of the hotel, but the tree-lined slopes above and around the hotel are deceptively extensive. This is one of the most serious ski areas in the Alps, and the black run descending directly to the hotel terrace via a twist in the mountainside is officially classified as the steepest black run in the Italian Alps. The gondola to send you to the top is located directly outside the terrace; at the top you emerge onto a mountain pass, just above the tree line, with a boggling view of the Dolomites, a range that looks like it has been transported to Europe from another planet.

Read more: Artist Shezad Dawood on the endless potential of virtual reality

From here, you have a choice of entertaining red runs to take you down to a variety of excellent runs on the other side of the huge valley junction; or you can head in the other direction, and set off on the Unesco World Heritage ski trail. This tracks gently across and down the mountainside, through forests and past lakes, with a series of mesmerising views unfolding, seemingly miles from inhabitation or any lifts. You arrive at a small hotel on another mountain pass, with a couple of lifts to take you up, and from where you ski away along the mountain trail again, ending up in a long traverse at the far end of a huge meadow, in a village, Padola, that is not only in a different ski area, but in a different province of Italy, where they speak no German at all. To get back, there is a regular ski bus – although it operates with a more Italian than German concept of regularity, and it would be worth checking this season how it will operate if there are social distancing requirements still in place.

alpine restaurant

The panorama restaurant. © Hannes Niederkofler

If you’re looking for a replica of Courchevel or Verbier with sushi bars and nightclubs, and dancing till dawn, Drei Zinnen is not for you. And if you’re looking for a place to take the family and friends on an easy ski holiday with everything immediately at hand, then it’s probably not for you either – try Meribel. Which may sound strange, but let me explain. On our third day, as the sun was heading towards the crest of the mountains after another day of blue sky and deep snow, I headed, in my moon boots, across the kilometre-wide field separating the hotel from the little village of Moos. (I could have taken the bus, but that would’ve defeated the purpose.) Walking across the field you are surrounded by a 360° amphitheatre of the Dolomites. Such a view in just one of those directions would have been impressive; it was replicated in every direction, and this is at the bottom of the valley, let alone the top.

After 15 minutes, I found myself on the village High Street, and walked past a bakery into what appeared to be a mountain accessory shop but which also had a supermarket sign on it. This was the ‘everything store’ of the village, selling a unique selection of local products (south Tyrol jams, embroidery, cloths) along with high-tech ski gear, and an excellent wine selection, from tiny producers in the local area that sommeliers in Europe’s metropolises would fight over, and local hams and cheeses. Everything was in two languages, German and Italian, and their lack of similarities can make for extra fun: the wine was from the Alto Adige, Italian for Sudtirol (South Tyrol); cured ham was both Speck and Prosciutto; even the area is alternatively called Drei Zinnen or Tre Cime, and the mountain above the village (housing the main ski area) was called Helm until 1918 (and on half the signs) and Monte Elmo since 1918 (and on the other half).

Walking back to the hotel, wine bottles weighing me down, I felt that I had discovered a striking cultural and geographical part of Europe on holiday, and, just coincidentally, enjoyed some of the best and most interesting skiing in the Alps. It is a unique combination, and not for everybody, but true atmosphere rarely is. A place for intermediates, experts – travellers, and connoisseurs.

Drei Zinnen, Italy

We travelled to Drei Zinnen via Innsbruck and a private transfer, with Crystal Ski Holidays, which offers a week’s half board at the Bad Moos Dolomites Spa Resort from £1,165 per person when booked online (based on two adults) including flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and transfers. Transfer time from Innsbruck airport is around 90 minutes via an easy, mainly motorway, route.

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This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

Reading time: 7 min

bali-5 Where is the best place to combine a proper luxury holiday, ancient, unknown temples and one of the most unique dining experiences? Bali resident MARY JUSTICE THOMASSON would tell you it’s right at her doorstep. Naysayers that say the ol’Bali charm has left the island are, quite frankly, full of it. As a 10-year resident of Bali, I can testify Bali’s never been better. Our culture remains beautifully intact and the Balinese thrive in the luxury of knowing that they are living in a form or paradise where, if they play their cards right, balancing good with evil in their Hindu ceremonies (translate, parties), things generally work out.

Sashaying palms, stunning girls and smiling, happy people abound and while pretikins line the beaches, in the distance are verdant mountains of terraced rice fields and varied volcanic landscapes that dot the island, lending well to multitudes of choices for surf and turf activities.

Bali continues to win travel awards like ‘world’s best island destination’ and ‘best island getaway’ and when you consider that 20 years ago the options for food were nasi goreng or nasi campur (noodles or rice with a little meat and veg thrown in), it’s nice to know that our international restaurants, including top new players like Bambu, now compete on the stage for culinary excellence. It’s true the south of Seminyak is teaming with faddish bars, boutiques, night clubs and parties that pop all day and night so if you want to see more of the ‘ye olde’ Bali, put those pretty little pedicures to the metal and explore. In the main areas of town there are several new delights that await you but many an enlightened visitor will head for the hills of Ubud and the coasts of the North to further explore the island. bali-1 A good start is in the northwest where English-born, Cordon Bleu chef and interior designer Diana Von Cranach cranks it up a notch or two at our perennial favorite resort, Puri Ganesha. Here, Diana has opened what must be one of the smallest and most unique restaurants on the island. Liperu (which in Bali slang literally means ‘where the hell is Peru?’) seats only 10 and has a small daily menu that tantalises diners with amazing combinations of Balinese-cum-Peruvian flavours, using purely local ingredients served on small bamboo baskets that reflect the seasons. True to her favourite vegan words, it’s all “rawfully good”.

Heading for the hills of Ubud, Von Cranach also teamed up with a friend and colleague, Dutch-born Anneke Van Waisberghe, whose colonial tents à la ‘Out of Africa’ overlook the river south of Ubud and where you can dine on the edge of the world. This is a romantic and ideal setting for Diana to showcase her culinary skills and reach a larger audience, far from her tiny laid-back luxury up north. They call it Dining Within Tent and it is splendidly theatrical with a natural grandeur that sets the tone for the evening. Here, the noises of the rainforest co-exist happily with the sentimental sounds of Waisberghe’s collection of prewar songs played on an old record player that wafts out into the night, mixing with the cackles of the guests’ laughter and the katydids outside.

The lucky night I went, the dinner party theme was the ‘Happy Valley Set’, aka ‘White Mischief’, a largely hedonistic British and Irish group of aristocrats and adventurers who settled in Kenya between the 1920- 40s. My character given in advance was party girl and socialite Lady Idina Sackville and my date was given the title Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll. Hedonistic and hilarious it was indeed, and our linens and silks from the evening had to be sent out for cleaning post haste in the morning. This evening should be pre-booked before your arrival and it will go down in the memoirs as memorable. We certainly enjoyed ourselves, from what we can remember.

And why not continue the theme of tented extravagance and check out Glamping Sandat where two stylish Italians have created glamping tents on the outskirts of Ubud. Our tent was complete with our own infinity pool perched on the forest edge and a private deck for sunbathing ‘au naturel’ in total privacy – perfect for those keen to reconnect with nature while not necessarily chipping a nail. We enjoyed our chandelier-lit tent and all the mod-cons which we didn’t end up using as the open air was far more refreshing. There are five tents and two traditional Balinese Lumbung villas laid out like a rabbit’s warren, with plenty of room for roaming. It has perhaps one of the prettiest gardens I’ve seen in Bali – more English in style than Balinese – with a wonderful assortment of flora and fauna that had been carefully thought out while remaining charmingly chaotic.

Bali continues to surprise me and I recently toured the ‘7 Temples of Enlightenment’ with the charming Professor and Curator of The Sukarno Centre, Enong Ismail, who has partnered up with one of the most exclusive and professional tour organisations on the island, My Private Concierge. To say we were gobsmacked is a gross under exaggeration. On this tour we visited seven world heritage temples and monuments that have recently received their UNESCO certification and for the first time, fully understood the origins of Balinese Hindu religion ‘Hindu Darma’. Our journey took us through the temples as we traced the evolution of this fascinating culture. Many of the temples and meditation places we visited are not even known to locals, let alone visitors and it was a rare opportunity to be one of the first visitors to these sites which are all part of the Pakerisan world heritage listed area. bali-2 bali-4 bali-3   Our day began with tea and smart talk with Pak Ismail at his charming home amongst rice fields on a ridge just off the sacred river of Pakerisan. Pak Ismail’s passion is infectious and he has been documenting Balinese culture since 1979. He sees his rare tours as a way to give back to the society he loves and to share his wealth of information. Most of the temples have been untouched other than the weather playing a role in their appearance. After a few sights, a lovely picnic lunch was laid out in the fields, and just when I thought I couldn’t be more blown away, we went into a 10th century meditation temple that is carved into the side of a stone hill and hidden amongst the rainforest. I wondered whether Indiana Jones might make a quick appearance just to add to the unreality of it all. While there, we were met by a local priest who conducted a blessing for us, wishing us well on our onward journeys in life. His appearance, as Pak Ismail wisely told us, belied his Balinese heritage as there was a distinct Indian flair to his features. Our priest was a sixth generation priest, and indeed I felt blessed. The day finished in a large temple that, in the 12th century, leaders of the Buddhist, Hindu Shiva and ‘respect your ancestor’ religions met and agreed to create one religion for all Hindu Darma, or Balinese Hindu, as it is known today.

Bali continues to be blessed with hidden treasures that can be explored for generations to come and that is what makes this island, in my opinion, one of the best destinations in the world.;;

Reading time: 6 min
The Balmoral
Clyde Auditorium

Clyde Auditorium – Seating 3,000, it is also referred to as “The Armadillo” by Glaswegians

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, Glasgow is its biggest city. Ahead of this year’s vote on independence, RJ MALONE explores what each has to offer in terms of hospitality and soul

Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city and Britain’s second city after London (at least, until the Scots decide whether or not they wish to remain part of Britain later this year), is often gifted with slightly backhanded epithets. “Gritty”, “real”, “friendly” and, worst of all, “down-to-earth”, for example, compared with Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital 40 miles down the M8 motorway, which is “beautiful”, “historic” or “traditional”.

I rather like spending time in Glasgow. It doesn’t have the visual drama of Edinburgh’s Castle as viewed from Prince’s Street, or the tourist-postcard dream come true of the Royal Mile. But it does have plenty of striking architecture around its university, West End and central areas, a fizzing cultural program, and some fantastic, and well-priced, restaurants if you like seafood, simply rendered.

To experience the city properly, you either need to stay in a place where you can escape from its very real harshness – no creative cultural program can obliterate the bands of rain sweeping on crystal clear air from the Atlantic, whatever the month – or revel in it.

The first of these is the Hotel du Vin, One Devonshire Gardens. Fans of the boutique town hotel group will be familiar with its cleverly designed, gourmand-friendly, contemporary-cosy properties around the UK; but this is another level altogether. The group’s only effectively five-star outpost (only the vagaries of staircase connections between the grand townhouses that comprise the hotel rob it of an official five-star rating), it is on the edge of the city’s restaurant-and-bar-packed West End. Step inside and you shut the wind, rain and streetscape out, both visually and physically.

Hotel Du Vin

Hotel du Vin – The iconic hotel is known for both its service and style

It’s all about a series of grand drawing rooms, created with a very contemporary blend of pared-back chic and ornate swank. My bedroom, facing an internal courtyard, was all about swoothing swathes of drape and fabric, and a bedroom that felt like you had been whisked into a 19th-century boudoir (but with no mustiness or dustiness; everything was perfectly up-to-date). The best part of the stay, though, was an evening spent in the bar: this was another ornate drawing room, with sofas and chaises longues and coffee tables, with a bar along one side. The lighting, so often the killer in bars in drawing rooms (there’s usually too much of it and you expect your maiden aunt to drop in for tea and biscuits, not very seductive), was just dark enough. The array of single-malt Scotches would have kept a whiskiphile going for weeks; the wine list was peppered with interesting red Burgundies and new-wave new-world points; I enjoyed some local Scottish craft beer, while picking at a very pleasant board of charcuterie.

Glasgow’s heyday was at the height of the industrial revolution, when it was a port, centre of commerce and ideas, and shipbuilding centre: a sort of 19th century version of contemporary Shanghai. Its more recent reinvention involves some interesting architecture also, and a way to both see and experience it is at another of my favoured hotels in the city, the Crowne Plaza Glasgow. This sits in the middle of a new cultural and conference area, a former industrial zone across the curiously quiet Clyde river (the great shipyards were further downstream, where the waterway is mightier) from the BBC’s new Scottish headquarters, and next to a mini-Sydney Opera House known as the Clyde Auditoriam, designed by awardwinning architect Sir Norman Foster. At night, the area has a kind of Twilight Zone beauty about it, and I enjoyed sitting in the silent efficiency of my corner suite, which had a double outlook, drinking a Schiehallion beer, looking out across the river and over to the outline of the Southern uplands beyond, feeling like we are on the edge of Europe. The bar, downstairs, is pretty lively too, in a very Glasgow way.

Edinburgh has a much more formal way about it, and a far more formal beauty. I prefer the cheerful gruffness of a semicomprehensible Glaswegian taxi driver to the clipped and chipped service of an Edinburgh driver, but that’s personal. And if you are going to see Edinburgh, there is one place to see it from: its grandest hotel, the Balmoral, which sits directly adjacent to Waverley Station, diagonally facing the Castle, and at one end of Prince’s Street. Prince’s Street itself is a shopping boulevard flanked by unremarkable retail in grand stone buildings on one side, but the gardens on the other side, dropping into a dip, and then rising up to the great rock hill on which the Castle is perched, give the impression of being on the edge of the sea, the Castle a fortress rising beyond.

The Balmoral

View From The Balmoral with views of the Edinburgh Castle by night

My room had a view of all this, and an enormous amount of space besides, a mark of this grand edifice of a hotel. A small measure of Highland Park 12-year-old whisky with a single cube of ice made from Highland Spring water (why put chlorinated tap water in your whisky, in the form of a melting ice cube?) enhanced the view.

The public areas of the Balmoral are a tourist attraction in themselves; the domed Palm Court a place where locals and tourists congregate for afternoon tea, Ritz-style (be sure to book in advance) and no doubt talk of places where palm trees don’t need central heating in order to grow properly. More my style was the spa, where a chatty therapist gave me a very effective scrub and massage, amid generously proportioned surroundings.

Reading time: 5 min

There’s a whole lot more to Bali than makeshift beach bars and hippy zone-outs. Make like a dude with ANDREA SEIFERT’s guide to the island’s spectacular cocktail hotspots


This charming, family-friendly seaside spot in Canggu sits on an expansive grassy lawn that gently slopes down to meet the sparkling water. Fast becoming known as the hotspot for sundowners, the postcard-perfect sunsets have to be seen to be believed and are best enjoyed with a pitcher of Kakilima’s signature sangria. The extensive menu of Mediterranean-inspired fare offers beautifully presented tapas, fresh seafood, an excellent mahi-mahi burger and the best pork ribs in town. On weekends, you’ll find acoustic live music and a crackling bonfire to add to the atmosphere.



Renowned New York nightlife impresario Mark Baker has brought a hip, new multi-concept five-story space that is drawing Bali’s in crowd day and night. Raw food enthusiasts and art lovers can peruse the ground floor photo gallery and organic juice bar and then slip up to the roof garden terrace to take in the 360 degree panoramic views. Dinner is served at Bistro, a welcome precursor to bespoke cocktails and dancing in the sleek, opulent third and fourth floor lounge.

bali3 bali2 bali4


Old Man’s is a barefoot beach bar with a view of one of the busiest surf breaks in Bali, which just happens to be called Old Man’s. Bamboo, surfboards, Lucas Grogan murals, dogs and kids make this quite the interesting scene. Pop in any time for an easy menu of staples for the beach – baby coconut juices with bircher muesli in the morning, and a mixture of Balinese and Western favourites to fill you up once out of the surf. Live music, sunset DJs and a relaxed vibe will have you dancing here for hours.



Head south of the border to a quirky, rainbow-hued riot of Latin tunes and tasty tacos. Every night at Motel Mexicola is a fiesta in the retro tropical surrounds, filled with candle shrines, floral table clothes, bright artworks, rosaries, knickknacks, and twinkly lanterns. Food is as flavourful as the decor, and it doesn’t get any more authentic than the pork rib, a special recipe handed down to Chef Silverio by his Mexican granny. This is a place for merriment and margaritas.



Hungry carnivores come to South American fusion bar/restaurant Barbacoa to feast on whole lamb and suckling pig, slow-roasted for eight hours over an open fire. The menu also features lighter options like Peruvian snapper ceviche and grilled octopus, which can be washed down with a cold bottle of white from their wine cellar. The grand, airy fit-out marries urban exposed brick with colourful floor tiling, and the mezzanine level is home to a tequila bar with low Chesterfields overlooking the serenity of a rice paddy field, a rare sight in urbanised Seminyak.


Reading time: 2 min
Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

It may not have the adrenaline rush of free falling from an airplane but for our columnist there is nothing quite as thrilling as making a new culinary discovery – Stacey Teo

Travellers today are given the choice of dozens of kinds of adventure holidays. For me though, instead of zip lining over a 300-foot gorge or swimming with great whites, I like my adventures served to me on a plate. There is a real excitement in trying a local dish for the first time or discovering a new flavour.

In my wanderings I’ve stumbled upon some excellent places. I will never forget, and still long to return to, a busy little stall in Bangkok’s Otoko Market for their perfectly grilled Mekong River prawns. I had another memorable experience many years ago on a trip to Hong Kong where I discovered some of the world’s best egg tarts at the Tai Cheong bakery.

Those were lucky moments. Really special finds like those have been rare. In between I’ve had my share of dreadful food experiences. I know I can limit the risk by picking up a guide, and there are a lot of good ones out there, but I have made it a personal rule to go by word of mouth instead. Of course this doesn’t included big name, award winning restaurants. I don’t need a guidebook for that. I normally reserve a Michelin star, or two or three, before ever packing my bags. No, what I’m interested in finding are the places that only the locals know. Finding these little gems is the kind of adventure I want in my travel.

Basically wherever I go, I am in search of the rustic fare that forms the base for that destination’s cuisine. As a chef, I know that in order to appreciate the flower one must understand the root. Ferrán Adrià’s brilliantly deconstructed tortilla means nothing to anyone who has never had a slice of the humble Spanish potato omelette.

One of the advantages to working for a company with a multinational staff is that, without leaving the office, I can get great insider tips on local restaurants that normal tourists would never find. Before I set out on any journey I ask around to get a few pointers and now that I have a pretty good idea of whose culinary instincts to trust, the system works like a charm.

This is how I ended up at Mak’s Noodles in Wellington Street, Hong Kong. I’d been in the city countless times but it was thanks 01 to a co-worker that I enjoyed one of the best plates of wonton noodles I’d ever had. Thanks to another recommendation I also had one of the best pizzas in my life at a place called L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples where the Condurro family has been making pizza since 1870. Five generations later it is no longer a tightly held secret, especially since Julia Roberts in the film Eat, Pray, Love ate here, but the two types of pizza they serve (Neapolitana and Margherita, that’s it) are out of this world and the plainly decorated dining room still has a very local feel to it.

One sure sign of food globalisation I have noticed recently is that I am no longer being recommended just the fish and chips in England or the tacos in Mexico. Like my office, the food world has gone international and I am just as likely to hear about a good paella in Washington DC as a fantastic burger in Madrid. A recent trip to Paris was highlighted not by the French food of a famous chef, although there was plenty of that too, but by the falafel served at Chez Marianne followed by a sorbet at Maison Berthillon.

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

Before my last trip to London a colleague steered me to a little place called Brindisa in the Borough Market where I had a chorizo roll served with rocket and roasted Navarrico Piquillo peppers. I had to wait out the 20-minute queue that snaked its way into the market (I had been warned) but the smoky intense flavour of the barbequed chorizo was well worth it and probably just as good as anything I could get in Spain.

Next up? A colleague from Montreal who insists there are two stops I simply must make if I’m ever in the city. One is to a humble little establishment called Patati Patata for an order of what she says are the very best fries in the world. The secret apparently is to use a little basil in the frier. The other is to Schwatz’s deli for a thin sliced pastrami sandwich. Normally I’d choose New York for my Jewish deli sandwiches but I’ve dined with this woman numerous times. I know her and trust her taste, so I’ve promised myself that if I ever make it to Montreal I will make time, and room, for both.

Reading time: 4 min
Stubai Valley - Four family-friendly skiing areas cater to all aptitudes

Stubai Valley – Four family-friendly skiing areas cater to all aptitudes

Jackson Hole or Hokkaido? Courchevel or St Moritz? None of the above, says Darius Sanai, rediscovering a childhood passion for why Austria offers one of the most involving ski experiences of all

For a sport that essentially involves the same thing, namely gliding down a mountainside with your feet attached to fiberglass boards, skiing divides opinions quite dramatically among its connoisseurs. If you play golf, you will more likely than not admire the same courses as other golf savants; mountaineers agree that Nanga Parabat and K2 are likely to exercise you more than any other peak; drivers aspire to the Nürburgring.

But ask 10 experienced and affluent skiers their opinions on where the best place is to ski and you will likely receive 10 opinions. A powderhound might insist on Jackson Hole. A lover of open pistes (and diamonds) will cast her vote for Courchevel. Fans of vertical drops (and gourmet lunches) will urge you to visit Zermatt. Heli-skiing fanatics will go for the Alberta back country; expert ski/socialisers will favour Aspen. And so on.

And they may all be correct, for skiing has so many sides to it, both on the slopes and in terms of what happens before, afterwards and in between. One of the prominent categories of aficionados is the Austria-lover. While this may seem a rather broad church — affiliated to a country, rather than a single resort — it shares a common range of loves, and I have to admit that I am becoming part of it.

To be an echt Austriaphile, you need to satisfy various conditions. You need to be an admirer, and consumer, of that country’s unique tradition of gastronomically high-achieving, comfortable, familyrun, small luxury hotels. These are never part of a chain, and often idiosyncratic, but are run to exacting standards of hotel keeping that would make many a luxury chain blush. They are as precise in their standards as Swiss watches; indeed Switzerland has a similar tradition, although its luxury mountain hotels tend to be bigger, grander, and more generic (and less gastronomic) than the Austrians.

Spa Facilities - Relax in the indoor or outdoor pool with views of the Tyrol mountains

Spa Facilities – Relax in the indoor or outdoor pool with views of the Tyrol mountains

You need also to admire wood-panelled cosiness, in quantities that can sometimes be kitsch, and are now sometimes melded with contemporary chic. You should favour friendly Alpine village-style service over highly trained service staff who could be replicated from an island resort. And you have to tolerate idiosyncracies: slopes that do not link up as well as some of the slickest purpose-built resorts and mountain areas that sometimes require a walk from your hotel (although the advent of ski depots on the mountain has taken the pain away from this element).

I am not new to Austria. I learned to ski there, in the era of long skis and Franz Klammer, and having since skied pretty much the best of Europe, North America and Africa (although not Japan’s Hokkaido, which remains on the must-ski list), find myself irresistibly attracted to it again now I have a family of my own learning to ski. Partly it is because of the superb standard of the Austrian ski instructors; partly it is because the country is so well served by Crystal, the excellent UK ski tour operator; and partly it is for all the reasons outlined above.

And as it is time to be planning your winter’s hit of snow and mulled wine, I can heartily recommend you replicate our own experience last winter; if you are not an Austriaphile already, it is likely to convert you.

Our chosen destination was not one of Austria’s world-famous names (St Anton, Lech, Kitzbühel), but a village (Neustift) in a valley (the Stubaital) that was previously unknown, even to me. The decision was informed by the fact that Neustift has a highly-rated family-run luxury hotel, the Jagdhof, with indoor and outdoor pools; it also has snow-sure glacier skiing at the Stubai glacier, a few kilometres down the valley; and it is amazingly near Innsbruck airport — a mere 25 minute transfer, which, when you have car-sick children to worry about, is a holiday game changer to the three to five hours each way required by many of the big resorts in France.

The Stuben - Enjoy an extensive breakfast spread and award-winning cuisine in the expansive restaurant

The Stuben – Enjoy an extensive breakfast spread and award-winning cuisine in the expansive restaurant

The Jagdhof appeared slightly unprepossessing at first, as it is tucked on a road exiting the village of Neustift; it is only on entering that you realise that its gardens, views and open spaces are on the other side, onto which our room, a family suite in the annexe, fortunately looked. Our balcony was vast, big enough to cross country ski on, and it sat above meadows and parkland covered with thick snow, and a view down the valley towards the glacier on which we would be skiing. The bar at the Jagdhof, where we went every evening for the pre-dinner aperitif, is all alcoves, wooden panels and super-professional bartenders, exactly as an Austrian hotel’s bar ought to be. There was no attempt to mimic urban bar chic in terms of décor, and although there was an extensive cocktail list, we delved instead into the quite superb list of Austrian and other European wines. Occasional wine drinkers may be familiar with refreshing Austrian Grüner Veltliners and fruity Rieslings, but Austria also has an array of distinctive, characterful, soft and layered red wines that don’t see broad distribution outside the country. They go very well with post-skiing evenings, sitting in the intimate restaurant across the corridor from the bar, sipping as temperatures drop outside. Blaufrankish and Blauburgunder from Burgenland, Pinot Noir from the Wachau: these warm but approachable reds also matched the intricate cuisine served in the restaurant. Char, trout, salmon and turbot were fragranced, always perfectly cooked, and nuanced rather than overwhelmed by their accompaniments; lamb was a mountain staple. Desserts were Austrian-sweet and creamy. (One observation: if you are not too fond of dairy, it is worth letting them know, as this is a chef who is fond of his cream and cream-based foams, from the amuses onwards.)

Hotel Jagdhof - Expect traditional Tyrolean hospitality in the five-star hotel

Hotel Jagdhof – Expect traditional Tyrolean hospitality in the five-star hotel

And then, there was the skiing. The Stubaital, or Stubai valley, of which Neustift is the main village, has a number of skiing areas, the most extensive and snow-sure of which is the glacier, at its southern end. The journey to the lifts takes 20 minutes by road and you take the gondola up to the glacier’s hub, you can fan out in a number of directions: everything from nursery slopes to black runs are available.

The children advanced from the nursery area to the longer blue runs fanning around the hub within a day or two; I enjoyed the couple of black runs, although I should note that this is not an area for a group of skiers who only wish to bash the blacks. Some longer reds were exciting also, and the star piste was the 10km (challenging) red run, with almost 2,000m vertical drop, from the top station, through a hidden valley, to the valley station of the gondola. The altitude difference was quite breathtaking, and if you did stop to catch your breath halfway down, you found yourself in a valley with no sign of human hand or habitation (apart from the piste), far away from the lifts and restaurants.

If you are a mixed-ability family or group, and enjoy the convenience of getting together on the mountain for lunch every day and not splitting off from each other for the entire day, the Stubai glacier is one of the best options I have come across in the Alps. There is one caveat: the main gondola serving the glacier is quite old and low-tech, and on a windy day it can close, as happened to us. This is being addressed by a new hi-tech gondola that will open at the start of the 2014 season.

The other areas of the Stubaital are notable more for their cute, tree-lined pistes cutting through the forests (they are at much lower altitude) and excellent mountain huts serving fondues, hearty salads and mountain meat dishes, than their world-beating skiing. For a gentle family meander interspersed with a meal incorporating high-quality ingredients at reasonable prices (I hope the French are paying attention here) they are memorable.

In the end, the blend of traditional warmth, exacting standards, excellent organisation, convenience of transfer, and catering to all standards of skier, is something the Stubaital has down to perfection. If and when our children become experts themselves, we will look elsewhere; but it is heartening to know that varying standards of ski ability do not need to mean an inconsistent standard of holiday.

A number of operators offer five-star packages in Austria; of them Crystal Ski ( is probably the slickest and most experienced. Crystal offers half board at the Hotel Jagdhof including airport lounge passes, flights, transfers, and all the extras you might expect, including the excellent childcare from the kids’ club, which in our experience goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Reading time: 7 min

So you’ve done Morocco, burned through Bali, and Bhutan is just so yesterday. Take a tour with Caroline Davies of six destinations that are for now – and the future


There are few places as serene as a desert at sunrise. The world’s most arid desert, a drive through the Atacama can lead you to volcanoes, salt flats, geysers, natural hot springs, isolated beaches and fertile valleys rich in wildlife. Dotted with colonial towns such as San Pedro de Atacama, the desert is also famed for its clear skies. Combined with the lack of light pollution and radio interference, it is one of the best places in the world for astronomical observation.

Where to stay? Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa. Tucked in a secluded valley alongside the San Pedro river, the lodge’s red sandstone blends into the craggy deep red ridges. And of course, it has its own observatory.

SYLT, Germany

OK it’s not exactly a discovery, but the German chi-chi classes like to keep this stretch of idyllic sandy haven to themselves. The island sits off Northern Germany in the influence of the Gulf stream, keeping its summer temperatures above those of the mainland. A favourite of the well-to-do, the small island even has its own branch of Hermès and a polo club which hosts beach polo cup games.

Where to stay? Kampen is perhaps the most famous of the 11 villages on the island. Beautiful beaches, broad heaths and a rugged red cliff, the scenery is dramatic and the hotels refined.


A trip for adventurers who like their routes untrodden. The region retains a degree of political freedom from Baghdad and surprisingly boasts 5 star luxury hotels and spas – the Marriott, Hilton and Kempinski are all on the way too – as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In fact, the ancient city of Erbil was named 2014’s tourism capital by the Arab Council of Tourism. Castles, churches, monuments and archaeological sites are all key tourist spots, but few sites beat Gali Ali Beg. Also known as ‘the Grand Canyon of the Middle East’, this dramatic lush green ridge provides biblical views as well as rafting and rock climbing.

Where to stay? At present, tourism infrastructure is still in its infancy outside Erbil, so take a tour to see the country fully. ‘Undiscovered Destinations’ provides a good grounding in the harrowing recent history of the country as well as the ancient influences that shaped the region.


Referred to as the hidden pearl of the Mediterranean, the small state of Montenegro is tucked next to better known Croatia and holds the same beautiful coastline, ready to be explored. Despite the unspoiled mountainous scenery, parts of Montenegro are far from rustic. Porto Montenegro, one of the newest luxury yacht developments on the Mediterranean, houses Versace, Armani, Missoni and Feragamo alongside gleaming mega yachts.

Where to stay? Luštica Bay. After a few days in the noise and the action, retreat to Luštica Bay on the ancient bay of Trašte. No less well catered for, the Bay has a quieter pace than the port and is just a stone’s throw away and holds the country’s first 18- hole golf course.


Previously closed off by a military regime, Myanmar, (or Burma), remains relatively unaffected by the trappings of a globalised world. Intrepid travellers are beginning to dip their toes into this mysterious country, although don’t expect fast food restaurants, credit card machines or 3G just yet. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010 and Obama’s visit in 2012 have made for a more optimistic atmosphere in a country steeped in a fascinating if volatile past.

Where to stay? Orient Express, Orcaella Myanmar. From July 2013, Orient Express will launch its newly built luxury river cruise into the heart of Burma down the Ayeyardwady and Chindwin Rivers. With only 25 cabins on its four decks, the cruise is an intimate way to be introduced to the country.


A stay in the rugged highlands can inspire novels and symphonies as aristocrats, royalty and artists have known for centuries, and a new generation of travelling classes is discovering for themselves. Drive through twisting valleys and watch your phone signal and worries drain away as the lochs and purple heather appear. The land of countryside pursuits, you can try trekking, fishing, stalking, mountain biking, white water rafting or clay pigeon shooting. Alternatively, a brisk walk and a wee dram from a whiskey distillery can be just as rewarding.

Where to stay? Alladale, Wilderness Reserve. Follow in the gentry’s footsteps and stay in the main sporting lodge at Alladale. Built in 1877 it is protected by a dense forest of Caledonian Scots pine. You can go helicopter fishing, stalking, shooting, hiking, and even hit the beach. With a roaring fire in winter the drawing room has its own baby grand piano which might get you singing, the array of single malt whiskies certainly will.

Reading time: 4 min
The Lodge seen from across the Snake River

The Lodge seen from across the Snake River

Caroline Davies doesn’t care for beaches or spas when she’s on summer holiday. Perhaps foolishly, she mentioned to LUX’s editorial team that she had a taste for adventure. Not long after, she found herself on a plane, headed for America’s wildest bear country. And she survived to tell the tale

“Got bear spray?”, the park warden asks.

My guide nods and gestures with his chin to me. I helpfully hold up a hairspray size can labelled “50 times stronger than mace”. It has a vivid warning photo of a man gushing blood from a bear sized bite in his forehead.

“Well alright then.” The park warden opens the gate and our 4×4 rumbles down the open track and into the woods.

Welcome to Idaho, America’s real life adventure playground. Unlike the well-visited Yosemite to the south west and Yellowstone to the north east, the wilds of Idaho are the well kept secret of those who like their nature without burger bars.

Reaching Idaho Falls, population 60,000, was no mean feat. A few hops across America on United Airline planes of ever decreasing sizes I buzzed over flat fields, deeper and deeper into the American heartland. Touching down, I had been met by Ian, the general manager of South Fork Lodge. Broad and affable with a sarcastic sense of humour, he is in town to pick up me, some groceries and to stop by the Sportsman Warehouse, a cavernous huntsman’s store on the outskirts. Under the gaze of your future targets – glass eyed moose heads and stuffed eagles hang from the soaring rafters – you can browse the racks of rifles and rails of hunting outfits.

“Camouflage isn’t a method of disguise here,” says Ian, catching me quizzically browsing a selection of camouflage bikinis. “It’s a fashion statement.”

We drive through the valleys of low growing potato bushes and dry farming plots of hay. The summer bush fires from neighbouring states have brought a haze to the city and valleys, blotting out the hills in a dense blue until you are almost upon them. After an hour, we begin to descend through the river worn valleys to the lodge. Curled around a lazy bend in the Snake River in Swan Valley, South Fork Lodge is located on 65 miles of dry fly fishing river, making it one of the fishing destinations of the North West.

Tucked away from the main road, past their fly fishing shop, the lodge’s cabins scatter their way across the gentle slope down to the river. Designed to fit with local architecture, the warmth of the honey coloured wood, grey stone chimneys and slate roofs blend with the burnish tones of the forests, the bubbling pebble colour of the river. The main lodge holds the suites, all with their own grey stone fireplace and private terrace looking out to the river. For a little more privacy or larger groups there is an eight person cabin complete with pool table and your own deck on the river. For families or smaller groups the vast double bedrooms with connecting doors give you more than enough space and come with a balcony or veranda. I dump my bags, hit the hot tub and curl up on the rocking chair outside with the wine and jerky from the welcome basket.

A double suite at South Fork Lodge

A double suite at South Fork Lodge

Inside, the lodge is decked with original art works by local artists, hung next to panoramic windows that look out on the landscapes and wildlife that inspired them. The relaxed restaurant, which spills out from the polished wood octagonal dining room on to the flagstone terrace, has recently had a shake up. The newly appointed chef was chosen for his menu of local flavours and produce, created with a twist. Rainbow trout sushi is popular, as is their lamb, and the hen of the woods, served with a reduced cherry dressing to add sweetness and balance to the slight bitterness of the mushrooms, is a flavoursome update on the traditional dish.

Over dinner, watching the few remaining boats sidle past, I meet a few of the lodge’s guide and the sous-chef. He is only a few rounds away from a place in the smoking finals in Memphis, I am told. I look blank, mind whirling with images of grizzled men manically smoking multiple Marlboros simultaneously in a Memphis shed, their eyes on a cigaretteshaped trophy.

“Meat smoking is big business around here,” explains Ian. “Ribs, chicken, all sorts of meat. Our guy came 3rd out of 2000 in the last competition.”

Steamy morning views

Steamy morning views

The lodge holds rib evenings throughout the summer, but the next big event is in a few days time at a local music festival. Despite competition from across the valley, they always sell out. The morning arrives misty and fresh, condensation spotting my boots as I brush past the long grass on my way up to breakfast. Ovals of folded grass, like amateur crop circles, spot the fields; the only remaining sign of the deer that bedded down here the night before. After a large plate of sticky soft French toast with maple syrup I set off. We drive the short distance to Wyoming, past rock strewn drops, dense pines and a winding roadside queue for ‘the world famous square ice cream’ parlour. Stopping in a gravel lay-by we perch above the river to watch the rapids. The river courses through the bolder littered banks, hurling inflatable rafts up and over. Children shriek with excitement, bumping downstream. In summer the water is comparatively low, but the river swells in spring and has taken the lives of a few daring rafters with it. We turn back, pausing to watch the dam that feeds into the Snake River. Built in the 60s, the dam is partly responsible for the rich fishing in South Fork, pushing cooler, oxygenated water from the bottom of the river through and encouraging the creatures that feed the fish to multiply.

By the time we return to Idaho, the dew has dried. I am dropped at the bottom of a steep crag, the edge of a range of hills. Being British, they seem more like small mountains, rough and shrub strewn, thin grey wires bend up and across the peaks.

“T-bar or harness?” Ian asks. I hesitate. I’ve not zip wired before and my palms are already a little clammy. He laughs. I think he’s joking. Helmeted and trussed up in a harness, I clamber into an open air all terrain vehicle next to the driver, an octogenarian with a deep tan and a hearing aid. He beams at me, then starts the near vertical ascent.

“You’re up.” I step up to the small wooden platform, the last point before the slope disappears, becoming a flat rock face. I’m clipped in and edge forward, trying to absorb all of the instructions. “Don’t worry if you start going backwards, particularly when you reach the end, that’s normal. If you go upside down, keep your knees tight and give us a big wave. Ready?” I nod, walk off the edge and drop.

Eight wires later, and jumping off a cliff feels quite normal. I even go upside down while backwards willingly. Blood still pumping a little, but feet now back on the ground, I follow my nose firstly for a dip in the sulphur hot springs next door and then the pizza parlour for a Hawaiian and a jug of ice cold beer watching the sun creep down.

Heading out for a trout of two

Heading out for a trout of two

I wake early to hit the river. Not early enough. The hard core crews have been and gone, setting off at six to catch the first fish of the day and watch the valley waking. Leave as the sun rises and you should catch deer, moose, perhaps even the odd bear, strolling to the water’s edge for a morning drink. Foolishly travelling without a hat, I drop by the lodge’s shop to pick up a floppy khaki number complete with draw string chin strap and a friendly-looking embroidered fish. Feeling the part, I saunter to the car park to meet my fishing guide, Dave.

Dave is a man of few and select words. He has the deep tan of a fly fisher that has spent every summer on the river, black reefer shorts bleached grey by the sun. As I approach he pushes his cap over his salt and pepper hair and I notice that the backs of his hands and knuckles are speckled with small cuts and scrapes, presumably from manly outdoor activities.

“Can you see ok in those sunglasses?” he asks.

My Jackie O style glasses have always served me well before, but as we push off down the river I realise quite how little I see. We bob under a bridge and I squint to spy the nymphs Dave points out stuck on the pillar, brushed by the waterline. Dave gamely hands me his, in a case labelled “welcome to the city”. They are rose tinted. “Not only clever, but they make the world look cheerier.” He says.

We drift downstream, resting up against gravel banks, wedging the boat among the rapids and fishing out. Focusing hard on casting and not catching Dave on my hook – a possible explanation for the cuts – you can almost forget to look up at the soaring canyon around you. Sandy coloured grass and 3ft tall bracken sweeps down the lower reaches of the reddish tinged rock formations, camouflaging the wildlife sheltering from the midday sun. Although you need keen eyes to spot a deer, birdlife is easier to notice, either tucked among the reeds or circling against the azure sky. The water bubbles past, so clean you can see the pebbles on the river bed.

“Gin clear.” says Dave, seeing me watch a failed catch as it slips away down river.

We fish until the sun begins to set, turning the river from blue to copper. As we pull in to the bank and our camp for the evening, a fire is crackling, the beers are chilling and the red wine is breathing in the last of the day’s heat. Ian and his fiancée Haley are at the stove, cooking steaks that fill an entire pan. After a competitive game of horse shoes, someone suggests clay pigeon shooting. Ian mocks me up a makeshift set of headphones – folded tissue paper tucked into a bandana – and gives me a quick tutorial. With no machine to fire the clays, Ian throws them out like a Frisbee. As night falls, we tuck ourselves into the sturdy wooden picnic table to eat platefuls of tender meat and buttery vegetables by torch and candle light. By dessert, a sizzling hot berry crumble, we are all sitting around the glowing embers of the fire, draining the last of the bottles of wine. After a heated discussion with Dave about which really was the greatest Rolling Stones record, I pad into the tall white tent and clamber into my cot.

We wake to a hearty breakfast and a cold dip in the river for the brave. The camp packed up, we jump into the waiting boat and skim back upstream to meet our transport back to the lodge; three glossy steeds, two red and one white. We amble our way gently on a path that takes us through the undergrowth, the trees and finally out of the canyon into field upon field of chest high corn.

Lodge dining with views of the river and beyond

Lodge dining with views of the river and beyond

Back in the ranch there is a buzz. It is the last night of the music festival and it seems everyone is going. The “Young Dubliners” are headlining, an Irish folk band. The park in Victor town centre is rammed, barely an inch of grass between picnic rugs strewn with plates full of ribs, burgers and noodles as people balance bendy plastic pint glasses on the grassy mounds. South Fork’s stand queue winds around the stall; they are nearly out. We grab some of the last rack of ribs and manoeuvre our way to the front. The band starts up, authentic Irish accents, violins and guitars and the audience stands to its feet, jumping around in fake jigs, beer splashing the ground.

My final day at South Fork and I go east to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with my trekking guide, Bob. We stop just outside the centre for a big breakfast at Nora’s and necessities for our walk. I loiter outside the store, admiring the number of different states on the number plates. Jackson Hole is a well known spot for nature tourists and adventure holidays are big business, especially when the adventure feels real. We buckle up in the 4×4 and Bob hands me a bag with the bear spray.

“Just in case, always best.” He says as I scrutinise the directions for use. We head towards the mountains.

Summer may be short but it’s extremely lush

Summer may be short but it’s extremely lush

A boutique ski resort in Winter and outdoor activities centre in summer, Jackson Hole is one of the wealthiest regions of America. “The billionaires are buying out the millionaires.” Bob says as we drive past the airport, sleek private jets lining the runway.

The slopes, now devoid of snow, still run a cable car throughout the summer, offering one of the best ways to see the Tetons. We clamber onboard, joined by a group of five T-shirted men in their twenties wearing three-foot backpacks; paragliders. “We have seats left if you want them.” one says to the rest of the car. I smile, but Bob turns to see if anyone is taking them up on the offer. They are serious.

We follow them up to the peak and watch as they piece together their equipment on the slope. Those with passengers strap them in tightly and point their instructions; run down the mountainside and don’t stop until told or the mountain ends. The first one catches a gust, untangles his parachute and runs, full pelt, off the edge. For a moment he is still, feet just off the ground, parachute hovering above him, then the force of the wind takes him up and off, smoothly gliding. Mesmerised, we watch them each as they follow one another, circling like a bird of prey before curving out of sight behind the mountain. When we reach the bottom, I follow them to their landing spot, watching them bump down.

One of Wyoming’s largest national parks, Grand Teton National Park spans around 31,000 acres, including peaks of Teton range, lakes and forges. Driving past the entrance, we zigzag our way through the trees, as I keep an unnecessarily close watch for wildlife. We are pulled over by an officious looking ranger, tight lipped and severe.

“You sure you guys want to head down this way?” he asks. “There are a lot of grizzlies around and they’re hungry and grouchy. Where you walking?”

“Death Canyon.” Says Bob unflinchingly

Our ranger sucks his teeth. “You sure you wouldn’t rather go to Jenny Lake?” Jenny Lake does sound preferable, but after jumping off cliffs, learning the difference between a Rainbow and a cutthroat trout and wearing a floppy khaki hat without shame, I’m fairly committed to following South Fork’s expertise. We soldier on.

Thinking it’s best to be prepared, I ask Bob for some bear advice. “Well they used to say make yourself small, then they said make yourself big. Neither of those work particularly well though,” he says. “Probably the best advice is to run.”We park at the bottom of the trail. “Bears don’t like to be surprised so if you make a lot of noise that can scare them off.”

I talk non-stop up the mountain, jumping once at a chipmunk. Thin reddish trees flank the path, row after row, disappearing to fine lines in the distance. We pass a thick tree next to the path, freshly shredded by bears in search of food; they were here a few hours before us. The path ahead clears to one gnarled tree, its roots bursting out through the dusty ground, its branches framing the spectacular view; a deep blue lake, pine green forests, jagged mountain sides and tiny bays. Slightly out of breath from my constant conversation, I stand at the edge in silence, leaning against the tree, drinking it in.

Our final stop is Jackson Hole town centre, an idyllic scene with a wooden sidewalk lined with art galleries and boutiques. The highly manicured, lacquered stores gleam with wares of country living; furs, fishing, a bronze of an eagle. It is well equipped. As we ride out of town, we pass a row of tents with a handmade sign reading “Art Fair.”

“Now art,” says Bob, sighing. “That’s the thing that will wear you out.”

Caroline Davies travelled as a guest of Natural Retreats who provide luxury holidays in secluded locations of natural beauty in Europe and the USA. They have recently introduced Natural Retreats properties to buy, South Fork Lodge

Reading time: 14 min


A green sanctuary at the edge of Thailand’s oldest rainforest offers the eco-conscious a place to feel good about feeling good

With the opening of Thanyamundra Organic Resort, Thailand’s interior just got a little greener. Sitting at the edge of the Khao Sok National Park in the rolling hills of southern Thailand’s, Thanyamundra is a luxurious retreat that not only pampers its guests but the environment as well.

The nine-suite resort is housed in two golden, teak villas each decorated with a collection of Asian antiques. Inside there is a restaurant serving Thai cuisine and a spa offering traditional Thai herbal and aroma oil massages. Outside there is an infinity pool from which the land falls away to the terraces of the organic farm and beyond to a thick green wall of vegetation that announces the beginning of what appears to be an impenetrable forest.

It is the farm that makes Thanyamundra so unique. It is the heart and soul of the resort. On this lush, 25-acre lot, Thanyamundra organically grows 51 different types of fruits, vegetables and spices including everything from mangoes and pak choy to lemongrass, onions, pumpkins, three types of beans and four different types of rice.

When harvested this means that up to 70 percent of the ingredients used in the meals served at Thanyamundra come from the farm. Anything that is not used in the kitchen is sold online through Pura Organic. Furthermore, before any food spoils it is dried or dehydrated and fruits like bananas and mangoes are used for jam or ice cream and sorbets. Any discarded cuttings or waste is added to the compost to produce the natural fertilizers used on the farm. Even the dining menus are written up on large leaves from the garden as a way of saving paper. How’s that for eco-conscious?

The greening of Thanyamundra doesn’t end in the kitchen. The resort has taken numerous steps to reduce its carbon footprint to a bare minimum. Look around your suite and you won’t find any plastics other than the water bottles and even those are recycled once used and all amenities, cleaning products and even the mosquito spray are environmentally friendly.

On the grounds, guests move about in rechargeable electric buggies and the 50-metre lap pool uses an ozonater filtration system that naturally keeps the pool clean and reduces the amount of chlorine used.

Thanyamundra’s eco-efforts have now moved beyond the borders of its property. The resort has just teamed up with naturalist Thom Henley, author of the definitive tome on Khao Sok, Waterfalls and Gibbon Calls to blaze new trails into the heart of the park. Thailand’s biggest national park with forests dating back 160 million years, older than even the Amazon, Khao Sok is home to an incredible range of animals including wild elephants, tigers, leopards, Malayan sun bears, Asiatic black bears, barking deer, long tailed macaques, 46 species of snakes and almost 200 species of birds.


Helping guests take it all in, a series of walks has just been developed by Henley, who, when in residence, will actually conduct guided walking tours himself. According to Thanyamundra General Manager Shaun Dunhofen it is an opportunity to learn about and truly understand a part of Thailand few ever get a chance to visit. “Mr Henley is a walking encyclopaedia on Khao Sok and his passion is infectious,” says Dunhofen. “The trail walks he has developed offer a truly unique experience. I’ve done some of the walks myself and I can say that I’ve never been in a forest that teemed with such a profusion of wildlife.”

When he is not at Thanyamundra, tours will be conducted by park rangers trained by Henley. “As upscale tourism grows, there will be more jobs available for locals, either as guides or related jobs,” says Henley. “I’m very proud of our lead guide and his son, Mr Nit and You Chanyoo. Nit is a key part of the story, for his life encapsulates everything we are trying to do.”

It’s an inspiring story. Before teaming up with Thanyamundra, Nit supported his family by poaching. Like many of the other local farm boys,he poached to supplement his income – even though his mother was always against it. One day while out on a poaching run, he came across a wild elephant mother and baby and something happened. For a reason Nit himself can’t explain, his mother’s words came to him and he just couldn’t pull the trigger. Now he is not only one of the park’s most respected guides but he visits local schools teaching children about conservation. It is the combination of all these efforts that will help ensure the survival of this very special place for another 160 million years.

Reading time: 4 min
A golden glen enroute to the Lodge

A golden glen enroute to the Lodge

When your everyday car is a Rolls Royce Phantom and your back garden stretches over thousands of hectares, a drive between your properties in something completely different has its own sort of appeal. Dr Sin Chai, a Scottish-based entrepreneur, makes a tour of some of the most spectacular scenery in the Scottish Highlands in the Mercedes- Benz SLS AMG Roadster

A good friend and I try to do this at least twice a year: a road trip somewhere interesting in a ‘nice’ car. We both own a few of these, but this year we were presented with an interesting option: a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, the most expensive model in their portfolio and a rival for some supercars we are rather familiar with.

The next question was, where to go. We have done most wine producing regions, and then one day it hit us: the obvious answer had been there all the time. Scotland has some of the best driving roads in the world, and it’s also where I happen to live and where my company happens to have a few hotels.

The car was delivered to The Atholl, our latest hotel and Edinburgh’s most exclusive, at 9:00 am on a weekday morning. The first thing I noticed was that it was holding up the morning human traffic on the pavement very seriously. Foot traffic in Edinburgh has been considerably disrupted by the tram works, and pavements have been diverted and traffic rechanneled. People (mostly men) were slowing down and taking a second look. Whilst leaning on the car, I made the most of it; nonchalant, sunglasses on, trying to look ordinary.

It felt rather well-placed to The Atholl: a car you could arrive in, park, and then stroll into your private whisky-tasting room (we have whiskies that nobody else does) or sample some first growths and cheese from your in-room cabinet while soaking in a hot tub on your terrace.

The SLS is powered by a 6.3 litre engine handbuilt by AMG. Most cars of this caliber give out a growl whenever the accelerator pedal is touched. The SLS noise was much more civilized, a controlled purr, indicating there is plenty of reserve. It was a different pitch, more like a jet engine, and again it was turning heads as soon as we started burbling down the streets. My friend drove first, and on the open road he put it to the test. In short bursts the acceleration was phenomenal. As soon as his foot was off the pedal, the car abruptly decelerated, obviously gearing down, ready for the next surge. The driver was completely in control, and so I felt safe as the passenger. Is this what Formula 1 driving is like? Will have to ask Jenson or Lewis.

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster

I am a more sedate driver than my friend, but I felt it was my duty to do the needful, since I was going to have to write about it. At slow speeds (70mph, legal) it felt comfortable, just like a luxury marque. It really came into its own when cornering at high speed. Twisty Scottish mountain roads are very testing, and Scottish winters are not kind to tarmac: cracked surfaces remain so all summer. Even on what the government euphemistically calls “uneven surface” (read potholes), the SLS was stable, and did not bounce around. And it shot out of corners like a rocket.

Alladale Wilderness Lodge

Alladale Wilderness Lodge

We made it, hair tousled by the wind, to Alladale, our other new hotel. Alladale Wilderness Lodge is a 23,000 acre estate in the remotest part of Scotland, the Northwest Highlands of Sutherland. Up here, you are more likely to bump into a European bison, moose, Scottish wildcat or a wild boar than a supercar, or indeed any car. Our Land Rover Defenders are rather more suited to the terrain there, but the SLS was happy ambling up the single-track lanes on the approach.

I was sad to let go of the car after two days of bliss. The very competent top opening mechanism (with the top open, at speeds over 50mph, rain is deflected by the very clever design and you don’t get wet!), the little warning flashes in the wing mirrors whenever a car (or a Highland cow!) sneaks up in the blind spots, all these made the SLS special. The superb handling one just took for granted.

Dr Sin Chai is chairman of ICMI and is not a racing driver;

Reading time: 3 min
Epic Tomato’s Iceland trip

Epic Tomato’s Iceland trip

Travelling to the earth’s wildest places has obsessed humans for centuries. The difference is that now, we can do it in style and little risk, as Darius Sanai explains

To travel to the ends of the earth. It’s a metaphorical concept these days, but one that has inspired travellers from Livingstone to Scott. Many of us would like to think of ourselves as modern-day explorers, setting foot where no man or woman has gone before, and there are a surprising number of experiences that can take you very close to this goal.

Staying in a mountain village in Papua New Guinea, or trekking across the Antarctic, may not be replete with the kinds of danger Stanley faced in Africa or Scott in the South Pole, but it’s certainly a change from the office grind, yacht or private jet, however privileged your lifestyle. And a new generation of travel companies has emerged to assist clients with just such demands.

Antartica exploration from Abercrombie & Kent

Antartica exploration from Abercrombie & Kent

It’s about far more than barefoot chic. “One of our clients, who is on the Forbes Billionaires list, comes from a very humble background,” says one travel company insider. “He wanted to show his children that the world is very different from their Chelsea house and Nikki Beach holidays. He asked us to organise a three month tour through South America, including being left on an Amazon tributary for a week with just the supplies on their back. They had no satellite phone, nothing: if they’d gotten ill or lost, they would have died. But they didn’t; and they had the time of their lives.” They also spent time in mountain villages in Peru where very few Westerners had gone before. Some may decry such journeys as “human safaris”, but how better to learn about the world? And if it is done with humility and empathy, there is no reason why all three sides – the traveller, the locals, and the travel company – can’t benefit.

Going over the edge with Epic Tomato’s first Guyana and Venezuela adventure

Going over the edge with Epic Tomato’s first Guyana and Venezuela adventure

One of the companies at the forefront of this style of travel is the London and New York-based outfit Black Tomato, which has recently launched an even more extreme offshoot, Epic Tomato.

“To me Epic Tomato is about meeting the needs of an experience-hungry person who wants to be challenged and get more than the easily accessible,” says Tom Marchant, the company’s young founder and CEO. “They may have the yacht, the plane and the island but to summit a never-beenclimbed mountain, or trek through jungle that no western traveller has ever set foot in, is something truly unique. “To me it is also a modern definition of luxury. Luxury these days is about providing rare access and extremely personalised services to an individual and dropping off the grid to go somewhere where few others or no one has been before is the embodiment of that.”

They may have the yacht, the plane and the island but to summit a never-been-climbed mountain, or trek through jungle that no western traveller has ever set foot in, is something truly unique

Another player in the adventure travel field is the global travel company Abercrombie & Kent. Says their UK Managing Director Justin Wateridge: “Our clients have the curiosity and confidence to learn more of the astounding diversity of this planet. Travel gives them so much – experience, empathy, perspective, understanding and such vivid memories. They come to us for inspiration. We listen to their brief and deliver an experience that is tailor-made to their needs.”

The great Victorian-era travellers were criticised in some quarters as selfish, for leaving their families and seeking personal gain from their experiences. We can be just as selfish; the difference is, we can do it with our families, and with rather less risk to life and limb. These pages are a celebration of the enduring human passion for adventure travel.

Hunting in the jungles of Guyana

Hunting in the jungles of Guyana

Reading time: 3 min