With 2020 (finally!) coming to a close, here are a few top destinations - from Japan to Switzerland, The Seychelles, and more - to head to in 2021 once travel resumes again:
Set in a 350,000-acre private concession adjacent to the Serengeti National Park, Singita Grumeti offers visitors the chance to experience pristine wildlife in unparalleled privacy and luxury. Singita has welcomed a number of American travelers since reopening in August.
Singita Grumeti features five lodges and camps, each with their own unique character. Freshly refurbished ahead of the holiday season, the new Singita Sabora Tented Camp raises the bar for tented safaris, while retaining the quintessential elements of a romantic experience under canvas. The new forward-thinking camp features sophisticated details such as hand-stitched leather finishes, as well as durable canvas and campaign furniture, echoing the unmistakable spirit of classic East African adventures combined with intuitive simplicity. The nine self-contained suites all include private pantries, dining and fitness areas, as well as meditation decks, where guests can rest, relax and immerse themselves in wellness activities like outdoor yoga, while outdoor salas with secluded daybeds overlooking one of Sabora’s two waterholes make for uninterrupted game-viewing. Singita Serengeti House, a secluded exclusive-use retreat, is perfect for families looking to reconnect with nature and each other. Meanwhile the Hillside Suite at Singita Saskawa is a romantic hideaway perfect for honeymooners.
Urban South Africa
In 2021, United Airlines plans to launch year-round, daily nonstop routes from Newark Liberty Airport to Johannesburg and three new nonstop routes to Accra, Ghana and Nigeria, making Africa more accessible than ever. In Africa, urban South African cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town are not to miss while on the continent. Cape Town and Johannesburg are cities that are both rich in history, culture, and new exciting experiences. Cape Town is consistently hailed as one of the world’s most magnificent destinations and truly offers a unique and exciting experience for every traveler. Situated at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain, the city is well known for its cultural diversity and history. Museums like Robben Island and the District Six Museum pay tribute to the rich heritage and importance of this city to the African Continent. Cape Town is a truly cosmopolitan city, without compromising natural beauty, offering a wide range of experiences from penguin encounters to Africa’s finest wine-lands. A natural playground to adventurers, the rugged wilderness of the area offers a wide range of activities from hiking to kite surfing, cycling to shark diving. Johannesburg has flourished in recent years as a tourism destination thanks to the city’s many urban-renewal projects. From the museums and art galleries to the award-winning restaurants and markets, the city is full of soul with something to offer every type of traveler. For instance, Maboneng Precinct, once deemed a ‘no-go’ area is one of the most successful developments in the city, filled with trendy restaurants, local shops and the hot-spot Arts on Main, an area encompassing artists’ galleries and studios for visitors to peruse. Another flourishing neighborhood, Braamfrontein, is a mix of creative spaces such as the Wits Art Museum and Stevenson Gallery, shops, hip bars and historical focal point Constitution Hill, a former prison and military fort turned museum that shares the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. For the ultimate and exclusive hotels to stay with in these South African cities, travelers should look to Ellerman House for Cape Town, and The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa for Johannesburg.
Ellerman House is an iconic hotel located in Cape Town, South Africa. Ellerman House features one of South Africa’s most impressive private art collections and an award-winning wine list. The hotel consists of 13 bedrooms and two 3-bedroom villas uniquely designed to showcase panoramic ocean views and manicured gardens. Ellerman House is a pristine example of Cape Edwardian architecture blended with understated elegance and modern luxury. The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa is an exclusive 5-star, all-suite hotel located in the affluent suburb of Sandhurst. The hotel emulates the essence of the city with a property that is a unique blend of rich, cultural history with contemporary touches throughout. The Saxon also offers a number of tours to help guests discover the city, including a Johannesburg city tour, Nelson Mandela Museum tour and a Soweto tour, amongst others. These tours give guests the chance to experience the city’s blend of old and new in a comfortable, informative setting.
Niseko Village, Japan
On the starkly snowy Japanese island of Hokkaido rests Niseko Village, a prime winter and summer destination. Resting at the foot of Mount Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Village is a haven for ski lovers who appreciate secluded luxury and culture. The winter wonderland boasts extensive ski trails and lifts, hot springs, an amazing culinary scene, and its very own Snow School. Niseko Village offers a variety of activities for guests of all ages to enjoy the natural mountain surroundings and engage the body. Adventure seekers can spend the day whisking through fresh white powder snow by skiing or snowboarding, or enjoying the company of reindeer while sledding. After a long day on the mountain, guests can soothe achy muscles by relaxing in the meditative waters of the onsen Japanese hot springs.
In the summer, Niseko Village resorts enjoy an 18 hole golf course with views of Mount Yotei and white birch trees providing a peaceful backdrop. For the avid hiker and biker, there are also miles of trails through the mountains. No matter the activity, whether soothing or exhilarating, guests of Niseko Village will experience a stay unlike no other.
Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Japan and the fifth across the globe, is set to make its grand debut on December 15, 2020. Lying at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri, the resort offers majestic, panoramic views of Mount Yotei, 43 rooms and seven suites, two distinctive restaurants, the Ume Lounge, a fitness center, an exclusive team of Higashiyama Reservists, and a world-class spa and onsen. The property also acts as a gateway to Niseko’s mountains. Kachou Fuugetsu, the philosophy of discovering oneself through nature, is at the core of the hotel as Niseko doesn’t just offer natural beauty, it inspires self-revelations and change within. During their stay, travelers are encouraged to explore the local origins of the food on their plates, appreciate the power of solitude while on a mountain walk or ski run and enjoy the healing elements of Japan’s hot springs for an experience rooted in discovery and harmony.
Just a few miles from the Italian border on the Switzerland side of Lake Maggiore (a quieter alternative to Lake Como) sits Ascona, the perfect destination for an authentic Italian-inspired vacation. Ascona boasts colorful cafe-filled streets dotted with palm trees and the Alps towering in the background. With elegant villas, exquisite restaurants and luxurious boutiques, the town is a truly magical place where travelers can experience year-round warm weather and unparalleled scenic views, away from the hustle and bustle of the lakes in Italy.
Located right on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Ascona is Hotel Eden Roc, a charming Mediterranean-inspired resort which will be debuting newly-renovated rooms this spring. Featuring a private beach and yacht harbor, guests can relax by the lake in style enjoying boating and watersports, four outstanding restaurants, including Michelin-starred La Brezza, and a 21,528 square-foot Spa and Wellness center. Travelers can spend their days taking a stroll through the Botanical Gardens on the Brissago Islands, jetting around the lake on one of Eden Roc’s two Riva boats, visiting Terreni all Maggia's northernmost rice fields in the world, relaxing with a spa treatment, and more.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Known for their crystal clear waters, year-round warm temperatures and the vast number of endemic species studied by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos are an amazing destination. Upon setting foot on the islands, guests spend their days getting up close and personal with amazing wildlife, going on hikes around the various islands and kayaking, snorkeling and diving with the area’s fish and (docile!) sharks - having a vacation that is truly bucket list-worthy.
For travelers considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands, Quasar Expeditions just announced new fourteen-night itineraries for their small yachts, the M/V Evolution and M/Y Grace (a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis to Prince Rainer and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco!). Unlike larger ships in the Galapagos, Quasar incorporates remote sites and outer islands in their itineraries and excursions like Tagus Cove and Bartolome Island, providing their guests with unique and private access to better hiking trails, hidden coves and beautiful beaches, creating a truly private experience far away from any crowds and with a front row seat to the cutest animals, which is important as there is a wildlife bonanza going on.
Since there haven't been any travelers for six months, the wildlife has had time to rest and some have even migrated to other islands. Many visitor sites look the way they did 20 years ago with animals nesting in the trails - it's something the first travelers back to Galapagos in 2021 will get to see that no one else will. Additionally, there's great weather and underwater visibility during this time of year and, since the islands are so remote, travelers can experience a trip away from crowds as travel across the globe resumes.
The Seychelles Located in the Seychelles, Fregate Island is one of the most revered hideaways, offering the privacy and seclusion with 16 beautifully crafted villas throughout pristine nature. Fregate is accessible only via helicopter or boat and offers guests total seclusion. The island is home to seven beaches including the only privatizable beach in the Indian Ocean. Guests can enjoy a variety of activities including hiking through the jungle, snorkeling in the sea and fishing, where chefs from the kitchen turn the catches into sushi-right on the boat. Dinning can also be arranged anywhere on the island. Running through the end of 2021, Fregate Island offers an exclusive island rental special, giving guests access to 720 acres of hideaway, including 5 private pool villas, 3 private pool twin villas and Banyan Hill Estate as well as full board. In addition to being a luxury resort, Fregate Island is a conservation sanctuary fully dedicated to sustainability. The island’s conservation staff restored the deteriorating population of the Seychelles Magpie Robin and now more than 200 live exclusively on Fregate Island. The conservation team invites guests to participate in hands-on conservation projects such as assisting in turtle hatchlings, cultivating sea coral and others for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Malilangwe Reserve, Zimbabwe The 130,000-acre Malilangwe Reserve protects the vast wilderness area in Zimbabwe’s lesser-known southeastern corridor and guests at Singita Pamushana support the conservation work in the remote nature reserve. With private access to this untouched wilderness, guests can immerse themselves in nature on twice-daily game drives, bush walks, sundowner boat cruises, and more. Additionally, the Malilangwe Reserve boasts one of the highest concentrations of endangered black rhinos in the world. Perched high on a sandstone ridge above the Malilangwe Dam, the forest-like Pamushana lodge is inspired by the culture of the Shangaan people who have lived in the region for thousands of years. Amongst hundreds of majestic baobab trees, travelers can also explore ancient rock-paintings in caves on the reserve and experience a variety of rare and abundant wildlife and bird species. In 2021, United will be launching a new non-stop route from Newark to Johannesburg, from which travelers can easily connect to Singita Pamushana via scheduled flights or private charters. Please note that South African Borders are not yet open to American travelers.
Kalahari Desert, South Africa Tswalu means “new beginning” and that is exactly the driving ethos for Tswalu, a private reserve in the Kalahari. Tswalu is unique in that it has a foundation dedicated to research. Most conservation companies and initiatives base their conservation work on third party research while Tswalu does it themselves. So research informs every conservation decision taken, and is a vital part of what Tswalu is all about. At Tswalu guests are encouraged to interact and learn with scientists and doctoral students in the field. For example, guests can join pangolin researcher and KEEP’s project manager Wendy Panaino (uring her field studies, which often happens in the middle of the night most pangolins are nocturnal. Another opportunity for a hands-on (of better hands-off) experience is the thermal ecology of Cape cobras research project. This study also falls under the Kalahari Endangered Ecosystem Project (KEEP), which looks at the responses of Kalahari organisms to climate change. Here is some more information about the research and the scientist Thilo Beck: https://tswalu.com/tswalu-kalaharis-cape-cobras/