With each year brings new ideas, plans and promises. Resolutions aside, travel is one of the best laid plans in the new year. The question is: will you actually plan that dream trip you've been talking about for the past year?
As 2012 draws near, luxury travel network Virtuoso® asked its expert travel advisors to name their top luxury destinations for 2012. In some cases, their picks are extreme, but then again, if you're going to go, go big! I've added a few of my own suggestions to their list, so read on and then let me know: where is the one place you long to explore in 2012?
Here's are my three picks for the luxury destinations you should consider in 2012:
Hong Kong: This city seems to always make the list, but for good reason. Hong Kong is one of the most fascinating and evolving cities in the world. Luxury hotels and Michelin-star restaurants abound in Hong Kong, so you won't be without a luxurious experience while you're here. For all its enhancements, Hong Kong is still true to its roots. Leave the hotel and head out the hidden streets in Kowloon to experience life on a much simpler level. You can always go back to your hotel later and indulge in something extravagant.
Take a dip in the infinity pool at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, the highest hotel in the world. The pool, located on the hotel's 118th floor, is also the highest pool in the world.
Mexico: The country south of the border has been suffering from crime reports taking place in remote places that are far from where you'll travel. The luxury side of Mexico is one worth indulging in. The upside to the bad press: Mexico is insanely affordable for a luxury trip. You can find five-day retreats for $1,000-$1,500 at some of the area's top hotels and resorts. Choose a spot in the Riviera Maya, a 30-45 minute cab ride from Cancun airport (depending where you stay), and let Mexico pamper you in style. Consider it your "hideaway" retreat. In most cases you won't need to leave the resort, and for a quick 3 or 4 day getaway you won't need to. Resorts in the Riviera Maya have multiple restaurants, star-rated spas and private villas with ocean views perfect for those who just want to escape.
For something a little more remote, the always entertaining Virgin America just announced flights to Puerto Vallarta and Riveria Nayarit. The airline is offering five nonstop flights a week from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR). Puerto Vallarta was voted best Mexican vacation destination by U.S. News & World, and Riviera Nayarit was named the newest global celebrity "hot spot" by Harper's Bazaar magazine.
Kick back in your own private casitas on the beach at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
South Africa: South Africa has been at the top of luxury destinations to visit for years, but I'm adding a new twist to it: South Africa wine country. While most people plan trips to Napa or Sonoma, Tuscany and Chile, few people consider South Africa for wine trips. In reality, South Africa has some of the greatest wineries in the world, and some of the most amazing resorts to sip wine under the night sky. Plan for at least two weeks on this trip, and be prepared to spend well. Enjoy the city scene in Cape Town, or opt for a luxury tent under the stars.
Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the most visited destinations in the country. This photo, taken by travel agent Laura Allen, is of the Cape Town waterfront.
Here are three of Virtuoso's recommendations for 2012:
Tasmania: Located on the other side of the world, and then a two-hour flight from Sydney, Tasmania offers wild and dramatic landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure-seekers. Because of its remoteness and the currents that flow from the Southern Ocean, the island has some of the planet’s most pristine coastal and inland waters.
Photo of Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, courtesy of Flickr user Rudy Prater.
Thailand and Laos: Travelers looking for exotic, yet affordable locations will find the ideal destination in Southeast Asia. Bordering countries, Thailand and Laos, offer startling contrasts from mountainous regions with hill-tribes, little towns with lively markets, to densely populated cities such as Bangkok.
Mornings on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Thailand, render this view. This photo was taken around 6 a.m. from the beach at the Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa, just as the sun was just starting to rise.
Ireland: For Europe first-timers or travelers seeking an English-speaking destination, Ireland offers rolling green countryside, quaint bed and breakfasts and hospitable locals that extend warmth and friendliness to visitors. From old to new: Ireland takes on a Robin Hood-esque feel amongst crumbling medieval castles for history buffs and site-seers, to world-class golf courses and resorts, offering some of the most renowned links in the world.
See what other destinations Virtuoso agents recommend.
Readers: Where do you want to go in 2012?
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