New Year’s Travel Resolutions
Many of us begin the new year with a list of things we want to do in the upcoming year. At MLS, we start with where we’d like to go. Below are some emerging destinations that have caught our eye, and old favorites that are offering new reasons to return.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love islands—and Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 of them, many of them rarely visited and unspoiled. Our partner
just told us about
Nikoi Island, a private island 50 miles from Singapore that has only recently been opened to tourism. The exclusive Nikoi Lodge has just 10 beach houses, and 2/3 of the pristine island has been left untouched for the guests to explore. It reminds me of North Island in the Seychelles, which Terry and I absolutely loved.
Flores is another place I’m dying to visit. It’s an island of lush foliage and dramatic scenery, with a chain of volcanoes running down the center (fourteen of them active). The most famous is Kelimutu, known for its vividly colored crater lakes. The west coast of the island is part of Komodo National Park, home to wild Komodo dragons. Flora’s culture is interesting as well—a unique blend of Portuguese and native traditions.
Our new surf partner,
Terry Simms, can’t stop talking about
Nihiwatu, a luxury eco-resort on the island of Sumba—this small, remote island has one of the world’s best breaks, and the resort is open to just a few surfers at a time. There’s also excellent diving, beachcombing, hiking and fishing here. May is a particularly great time for surfing, but be aware that accommodations book up early.
The Malaysian portion of this island is renowned for its natural wonders—its rainforest is one of the oldest in the world, home to orangutans, pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys. It’s a great family destination, with lots of opportunities for wildlife viewing and family-friendly beach resorts that offer excellent diving and snorkeling.
This island nation has bounced back from civil war and a devastating tsunami to become a fantastic holiday destination. With sandy beaches, elephant sanctuaries, tea plantations, wonderfully diverse scenery and a range of UNESCO-listed temples and ancient cities, it offers something for everyone, and it’s a great value right now, too.
Ancient and Modern Cultures
Desert landscapes and desert cultures fascinate me—I’ve been to Egypt’s Nile Valley twice, and feel it’s a place everyone should see in their lifetime. But there are other, less famous desert civilizations that are also well worth discovering. Did you know Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt? The ancient Kushites built cities and temples that rival any in antiquity, and in fact the so-called “Black Pharaohs” ruled Egypt for over 100 years as well. New treasures are continually being unearthed, and this, along with the lack of crowds and a newly cooperative government, make Sudan a very exciting place to explore.
When my family visited Japan over spring break one year, we covered a lot—but there is still so much else so see. I am very interested in art, especially combined with cutting-edge architecture, so on my next visit I will definitely want to visit Kyoto’s Garden of Fine Arts, a modernist strolling garden displaying reproductions of famous artworks on ceramic plates. An hour or so from Kyoto is the Miho Museum, designed by I. M. Pei and surrounded by spectacular green mountains. And not far south is Nara, Japan’s ancient capital before Kyoto. Here you’ll find some of the world’s oldest and largest wooden buildings, as well as Japan’s largest Buddha.
When Hiram Bingham first came upon the ruins of Machu Picchu in 1911, he took a large collection of Incan artifacts with him back to Yale University, where they stayed for 100 years. At the end of 2012, those artifacts were permanently returned to Peru and will be exhibited at the newly renovated Museo Casa Concha in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. I can tell you from experience that Machu Picchu is breathtaking—Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas, is a fascinating, culturally rich city as well. Now, there is yet another reason to visit.
The Galapagos Islands have always been high on my list—with dozens of unique species, it’s a dream destination for anyone interested in wildlife. But there are increasingly good incentives to visit the rest of Ecuador. The capital, Quito, has been undergoing major improvements, with nearly $500 million in renovations to the historic center and a number of new museums. The country’s railway service, damaged by floods in the 1990s, has been rehabilitated as well—some of South America’s most legendary train routes are open once again, over the Ecuadorian Andes and along the coast.
There’s so much to discover in Eastern Europe, and Crimea is a great place to start. This region along the Black Sea has a long, rich history—once a stop along the Silk Road, it was occupied by Greeks, Mongols, and Tatars before being claimed by Russia in 1782. For centuries Crimea was a favorite holiday retreat for Russian royals and members of the Soviet Politburo. Now part of Ukraine, its balmy, sunny climate and stunning coastline still draw holiday crowds. History buffs will want to visit the lavish palaces outside Yalta (Livadia, where the famous WWII conference was held, and Alupka), explore the ancient cave city of Chufut-Kale, and see the Soviet submarine base in Balaclava, now a museum. Wine lovers will enjoy the local wineries, established to provide wine for the tsars.
Wilderness and Wildlife
My family loves outdoorsy holidays that involve fishing, wildlife spotting and water sports. Our two trips to Alaska were incredible, but you can have many of the same experiences without going that far. Next time, I’m thinking about the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. It’s the largest coastal temperate rain forest on earth, a perfect combination of mountains and sea. You can spend your days fishing for salmon in the streams, kayaking on the bays, cruising glacier-cut fjords, and watching for whales, grizzlies and, if you’re lucky, the rare Spirit Bear, a white variant of the North American black bear found almost exclusively in this region. Our partner
has a remote but luxurious wilderness lodge here, and can offer all kinds of outdoor adventures, including heli-fishing.
We’ve been on safari in Africa twice—once in Tanzania and once in Botswana. Both were very different, but equally life-changing, and only increased my desire to go back. The next safari destination on my list is Namibia, which has terrain unlike anywhere else in Africa, or indeed on earth. The desert-lover in me wants to see Sossusvlei’s 1,000-foot sand dunes (the tallest in the world), while my wildlife-photographer side can’t wait to go to Damaraland, home to unique species like desert elephant, desert rhino, and sand-dwelling lions. The wild, remote Skeleton Coast is another exceptional place, with beaches scattered with whalebones and shipwrecks, and opportunities to interact with local tribes. It’s another entirely different way to experience Africa.
This ethereal place is the wildest and most untraveled region on earth, and the ultimate pilgrimage for nature lovers. It’s five million square miles of vast ice sheets, glacier-clad mountains, looming icebergs and phenomenal wildlife—totally remote and utterly unique. One of our MLS team members is planning to go in March—we will be sure to share her adventures with you.
On my family’s trip to China, we explored Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai and Hong Kong, which are filled with treasures both ancient and modern. Every visitor should see the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Terracotta Warriors, but next time, I’d like to go beyond the cities and explore some of China’s amazing landscapes. While China continues to urbanize and develop at a rapid pace, it has also shown increasing interest in conserving its wilderness areas. These far-flung corners of the country offer spectacular natural beauty and diversity; Changqing National Nature Preserve in Shaanxi province is the best place to see pandas in the wild, while Juizgaigou National Park, in Sichuan province, is China’s premier protected area, filled with crystalline lakes, dense forests, snowy peaks, and abundant bird and animal life.
Another interesting trend in China is the luxury wine market. China is now the fifth-biggest wine market in the world, and they are especially fond of French wines. Vintners have started building vast French-style châteaux and Napa-inspired estates to house their wine collections. But it’s not just about imports—local winegrowing is starting to become popular as well, along with wineries that reflect the regional architecture. Burgeoning wine regions include Shaanxi Province, Ningxia Province, Shangdong Province, and the outskirts of Beijing, each producing their own distinctive style of wine. Some of the world’s top luxury brands are eager to put down roots here—the legendary Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite recently began construction of their winery in Penglai, Shandong Province.
Obviously we won’t be able to check everything off our list this year, but we’ll certainly enjoy trying. What destinations are on your wish list? Email us at
and let us know.
We’re now accepting submissions for the first 2013 contest. Send in your photos starting now up until May 31, 2013—we’ll be holding our next drawing in early June. As in previous contests, the prizewinner’s name will be drawn from the monthly winners. This time the winner will have a choice of prizes—an Apple iPad or a BlackBerry Playbook! To see all our winning photos, please visit the
page on My Little Swans. Happy shooting!
Now is the time to start planning your travels for 2013—and as an encouragement, the first 10 members who book a trip with any of our partners will receive a free iPod shuffle in the color of their choice.