The world is enormous. And getting bigger. Every serious traveler I know says their wish list grows longer, not shorter, every time they visit a new corner of the world.
So how to prioritize? What’s newly safe or newly uncovered? What’s right at that sweet spot between sleepy backwater and developed destination? What are new takes on places we thought we knew? What must we see right now, before it changes forever?
I put those questions to Owen Gaddis, a luxury travel manager at the super-high-end experiential travel-planning company Absolute Travel. He knows what he’s talking about, having adventured through glaciers in Chamonix, deserts in Oman, rain forests in Nicaragua and rugged coastal areas in Western Africa—and retained a soft spot for nice linens, plush robes and a great bottle of burgundy. Like all the planners at Absolute, Gaddis has extensive global connections, firsthand knowledge of destinations he books, and a mandate to learn just as much about his clients’ interests and customize trips accordingly.
Here’s his hot list for next year.
Aside from the new Eleven Experience property, Deplar Farm, opening in 2016, Gaddis says there’s a million other reasons Iceland tops his list (and has topped lists as the happiest place on earth). Largely uninhabited, Iceland is a place where trolls and fairies are rumored to wander the painted hills, jump the ice crevices, bathe in the natural hot springs and scale the misty cliffs. Somehow, once there, he notes, this seems entirely possible. “Traveling to Iceland is like being transported to a parallel world where every waking moment is filled with adventure, incredible landscapes, folklore and understated pleasures. It will make you believe in the magical again,” says Gaddis, adding that the country offers river rafting, fishing, diving snorkeling, surfing, caving and hiking.
By now, lots of us have gotten lost in the souks and relaxed in the riads of Marrakech. Absolute’s new itineraries showcase the country beyond shopping and design. Intrepid visitors can scale the sheer walls of the Todra Gorge for summit views of the rose valleys beyond; trek the Atlas Mountains, stopping at waterfalls and Berber villages as they climb (and then sleep in an opulent “tented suite” at Richard Branson’s luxurious Kasbah Tamadot); and head for the horizon to gloriously outfitted Bedouin tents rising from a sea of sand dunes in Erg Chebbi, the gateway to the Sahara. Along the way they speed down dunes on sand boards, zip line between mountain peaks, watch the sunset from camelback and perhaps learn the secrets of the desert from a local host over a cup of Maghrebi mint tea (a.k.a. Berber whiskey).
Vietnam Now: Seaplanes, Vespas and a New Aman Resort
From sleepy fishing villages to the rooftop discos of Saigon, age-old tradition meets cosmopolitan modernity in today’s Vietnam. Luxe new ways to explore what’s been a hip Asian destination for a decade-plus now: a recently launched seaplane experience over Halong Bay, which lets visitors take in the bay’s otherworldly limestone cliffs from a new perspective—that doesn’t require two days on a dodgy boat—and the brand-new Amanoi, Aman’s latest enclave of Aman-ness, on the dramatic cliffs of Nui Chua National Park on the country’s south central coast. Absolute’s trips may also include a nightlife tour of Saigon by Vespa and an opportunity to talk with a Vietnam War veteran.