Time for an upgrade: your ultimate getaway guide of 2023 – Evening Standard

The hottest new hotel openings, luxury train travel, psychedelic retreats and AI-inspired getaways, team ES investigate the travel trends of the summer
With the highest concentration of Michelin stars in the world, it’s hardly a chore to embark on a jaunt to sunny Basque Country. Now there’s even more reason to pop over and fill your, er, stomach as you can rest your head at the newly refurbished Le Regina, in the dazzling coastal city of Biarritz where you can surf off all the cals — if you’re that way inclined. First opened in 1907, the Belle Époque-style landmark boasts 72 rooms plus a spa, outdoor pool and views of the famed lighthouse. What’s more, you can whizz all the way there by train. On egin! (That’s bon appetit.)
Striped huts on a beach in Biarritz.
Still harbouring some low-level regret that you never got to lounge around on a Tulum beach eating vegan tacos and drinking brightly coloured organic cocktails? Well, yes, you may have missed that particular boat, but if it’s a sublime mix of sun, sea and surf that you’re after, make like the Mexicans do and head to Puerto Escondido. Whether beginner or pro, go to Playa Zicatela for the waves before crashing out on Playa Carrizalillo, one of Mexico’s most spectacular beaches. Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes, with Grupo Habita’s off-the-grid Hotel Terrestre leading the way in both stylish and sustainable tourism. (terrestrehotel.com)
Skiing isn’t the most diverse sport but the team behind Mount Noire is changing that. Aimed at ‘bringing colour to the mountains’, it was set up in 2019 after a group of four friends took a trip to Chamonix and found they were the only people of colour at the resort. Rather than feeling othered, and buoyed by the response of friends and family to their snaps on social media, they set up MN to redress the balance and break down the barriers that stop many people of colour participating in winter sports. The biggest one? Cost, which is why they look to more unusual locations for their trips (the most recent being Bansko in Bulgaria), affordable ski and equipment hire AND exclusive rates on lift passes. And it doesn’t stop at the end of ski season, either — there are plans to branch out into the summer market, too, with prospective surf and hiking trips in the works. (mountnoire.com)
The real star of The White Lotus Season Two was… well, okay, obviously Jennifer Coolidge was the real star of The White Lotus Season Two. But perhaps the most googled (or chat GPT’d) thing post Season Two was, ‘Where is that amazing hotel and is it in any way affordable for the non-absurdly-monied?’ Season Three will see the gang — a largely new gang — heading for Thailand, which means (a little bit) more affordable than Italy, so book your Eastern retreat and read yourself to become that annoying, ‘Oh, I’ve been there!’ person once it kicks off.
In the mood for a big night out-out but bored of the same old sticky-floor venues? Check out Detour Discotheque, the nomadic ravers who host pop-up clubs at remote locations. Last year they pitched up in an Icelandic fishing village, and this September they’re coming to the Inner Hebrides’ Isle of Coll, a ‘dark sky community’ (read: a seal of approval for having one of the clearest, most dazzling night’s skies you’ve ever seen) with 200 residents. Alongside a line-up including a Cosmic Garden Party, soak up Coll’s home-grown charms including a local craft market, guided nature walks and the opportunity to swap your usual Deliveroo hangover cure for an invigorating wild swim the morning after. 22-23 Sep, £80 (detourdisco.com)
Rovos’ Pride of Africa trains even feature full-sized tubs
If, after a youthful summer spent bunched up with strangers in dusty train carriages, you decided travel by rail wasn’t the one, Rovos Rail is your reason to reconsider. The ultimate in luxury, Rovos’ Pride of Africa trains even feature full-sized tubs, so you can really soak it in. But the smorgasbord of amenities and the superlative service are really just a bonus when set alongside the sheer beauty and variety of the landscapes and sights passengers can expect to sample on Rovos’ new 15-day expedition. Launching in February next year, The African Trilogy excursion will start from the Edwardian-style station in Pretoria and journey 5,000km through 21 destinations, including Kruger National Park, one of South Africa’s premier safari destinations, the Valley of 1,000 Hills and Karoo — all big skies and open roads — before reaching Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast of Namibia. From £9,070 per person based on double occupancy (rovos.com/journeys/african-trilogy)
It’s been three bumpy years for India’s travel industry, but with tourist visas now being freely reissued, it’s time to swap out the tired tours of the Golden Triangle for more unusual passages through the country. Prior Travel, the nomadic traveller’s club founded by Aussie and ex-WSJ journalist David Prior, has expertly sewn together a nine-day trip during the holy month of Diwali, folding in boat rides at sunset across the Ganges, visits to the most spiritually charged sites of Varanasi and the unparalleled access to some of finest craft workshops in Rajasthan’s golden citadel of Jaisalmer. Something of a Prior hallmark, the trip culminates in a delicious palace party to celebrate the festival of light, in all its uproarious, multicoloured glory. From £9,950. 4–13 November (priorworld.com)
One for those who think they’ve got the stamina of Sir David Attenborough, The Luminaire is a travel company with a difference. Marrying adventure with educational experiences, the key to each trip’s success — from dinosaur digs in Wyoming to traversing mountains in the Antarctic — is the stellar network of remarkable people who accompany you for the ride. From naturalists and professional adventurers to art historians and glaciologists, each journey is a ‘mission to make intellectual travel cool’ again. And travellers are into it — a recent survey revealed that we’re now prioritising culturally enriching holidays over sybaritic spa breaks and design hotels. Clearly, smart is the new sexy. (theluminaire.com)
You can thank ChatGPT for the death of the bucket list. And good riddance, too — according to travel trend forecasters the must-do itineraries we all feel the need to tick off before we kick the bucket are a thing of the past. So where to next? According to the chatbot, which we dutifully consulted for inspo when curating this year’s Wanderlist, we need to be heading to Tbilisi, Georgia; Pula, Croatia; and Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia. (Give it a whirl before bidding polite final farewell to the old high-street travel agent.) But seriously — is AI the future of travel? At November’s FTE Apex Asia Expo, travellers saw enhanced tech starts at the airport. Automated Threat Recognition (ATR) software can examine your face, body and luggage using advanced CT scanners, so you can avoid uncomfortable pat-downs and skip through security with your passport in your pocket. So are robots taking over the world? Well, the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki is staffed by multilingual dino bots, welcoming guests and carrying their bags. Love it or loathe it, there’s simply no avoiding AI, so you might as well pack your bags and enjoy your jollies.
Thanks to research promising everything from psychological healing to better relationships, mushrooms have been having their moment for some time. Interested? There’s no need to go foraging on the dark web because you can now incorporate their benefits into a luxurious and, more importantly, legal escape. Already frequented by various CEOs, athletes and the types of couple who stroke one another’s hair in public, Psychedelic Retreats — run by The Journeymen collective in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada — and stays by Silo Wellness in Jamaica and Oregon, are combining the sweet release of escapism with carefully prescribed doses of psilocybin (that’s the magic part), designed to facilitate a safe, remedial high with the aim of helping you arrive home a happier, healthier person. Groovy, yeah? (journeymancollective.com)
Belmond’s new hyper-luxurious barge, Coquelicot
Got a taste for champagne? We hope you have the budget for it because there’s a tremendously chic private booze cruise available on Belmond’s new hyper-luxurious barge, Coquelicot. Showcasing the best of the famed sparkling wine region, from May the three-bedroom vessel will embark on a series of six-day voyages between Sillery and Epernay (or vice versa), following a bespoke itinerary focusing on whatever you bubbles enthusiasts please. Punctuate lazing on the top deck drinking free-flowing champers with delving into the cellars of secret, celebrated wine producers, cycling excursions and art explorations, as well as stopping off at the historic Ruinart vineyard for exclusive cellar and field tours, tastings and a knock-out lunch. Aye, aye, captain! From £73,000(belmond.com)
Let’s face it: we’re all constantly on the verge of burnout — and according to a recent survey by messaging giant Slack, it’s a global phenomenon that’s on the rise. No better time, then, to turn to increasingly specialist health programmes to help combat the stressors of modern life or simply up your game. Which is why we need to talk about Professor Bruno Ribeiro Do Couto. He heads up the cognitive development and brain stimulation unit at the Sha wellness clinic in Spain — the only one of its kind in Asia and Europe — and has developed a cutting-edge piece of technology (nicknamed ‘The Brain Hat’), which maps your brain waves and identifies where things are going a little haywire. It’s all part Sha’s leadership programme, originally devised for CEO’s and high-performance athletes but relevant to anyone under high levels of exertion and stress, be it the mother who works part-time or Barbara Streisand (true story). The Leader’s Performance Programme starts at £8,430 per week, including accommodation, meals and all treatments and medical services (shawelnessclinic.com)
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