Passports at the ready, here’s my guide to the most glam destinations on the map for this year. Add them to your wish list…
All eyes will be on Cambodia this year, with a whole raft of stunning openings. First up is the country’s first private island luxury resort – Song Saa . Set to make Cambodia’s unspoilt Koh Rong Archipelago the next ‘Asian Riviera’, this 27-villa property is located on two interconnecting islands, surrounded by a marine reserve that is teaming with tropical fish.
Due to open in February 2012, the stylish resort has been built from sustainable materials, with its design taking inspiration from Cambodian fishing villages – think thatched roofs, over-water buildings, natural timbers and driftwood furniture. Eminently romantic, even its name means ‘Sweethearts’ in Khmer.
Guests can expect dining under the stars at the ocean-floating restaurant, a spa with its own yoga centre and adventures in the virgin rainforest.
Other new openings include The Plantation in Phenom Penh. Just opened, the hotel is located in a prime spot right behind the Royal Palace and consists of a cluster of converted 1940s colonial-style buildings with cool, contemporary interiors, all set in a tropical garden.
Meanwhile in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat-going visitors can hole up at the luxury Shinta Mani. Overseen by architect Bill Bensley, who was responsible for the city’s iconic Hotel de la Paix, visitors expect the wow-factor in spades. Guests at Shinta Mani can also appreciate the Baphuon Temple inside Angkor Park, which just re-opened (in December 2011) after a 50-year restoration, and which is home to a 70m-long reclining Buddha.
Lovers of historic hotels will no doubt appreciate the sympathetic renovations just completing at both Cambodian Raffles properties, renowned as being the only luxury hotels that survived the Khmer Rouge regime. The refurbishment at Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor in Siem Reap includes two new private villas based in the hotel’s lush gardens. At Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh, guests can discover new suites and a restored ballroom and bars.
Lastly, for those who want to have the complete Cambodian experience, check out Travel Indochina’s revamped Cambodian Revealed tour for 2012. It will take travellers between the capital city of Phenom Penh and Siem Reap, and will include a stay at the charming French colonial seaside resort of Kampot, a homestay experience in Takeo and a trip to Kampong Thom to visit the pre-Angkorian temples of Sambor Prei Kuk.
Click here for more information on travel to Cambodia.
Found just off the coast of Hong Kong, the tiny island of Macau is buzzing with new high-end developments. The only place to legally gamble in China, this former Portuguese colony is a unique playground for China’s mega rich and competes with Las Vegas when it comes to lavish resorts and casinos.
The just-opened Galaxy Resort in the Cotai district is one of the world’s most ambitious ‘hotel’ projects and cost a jaw-dropping HK$49 billion. It boasts three five-star hotels – The Galaxy Hotel, The Banyan Tree Macau and the Hotel Okura Macau. The integrated resort offers an incredible 50 restaurants, bar and lounges, a shopping boulevard, nine-screen avant-garde cinema and the China Rouge Club, which aims to evoke 1930s Shanghai. Guests can also experience the Grand Resort Deck. Here you’ll find the world’s largest sky-top wave pool, with waves of up to 1.5m in height, a white sandy beach, five swimming pools, a Japanese tea pavilion and a chic cabana area – all on the roof.
Due to open in spring 2012 is the Sands Cotai Central development, which also brings together a group of top-end hotel brands, restaurants, luxury shopping and casino facilities. Totalling 6,000 rooms, guests will have a choice of booking into the Conrad by Hilton, Sheraton, Sheraton Towers and Holiday Inn.
Foodies will also be in seventh heaven – with an impressive 52 of Macau’s restaurants being featured in the 2011 Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau. One of which is Robuchon A Galera, located in Hotel Lisboa – the restaurant has three Michelin stars and is listed as the third best restaurant in Asia in the 2010 Miele Guide Top 20.
Finally, 2012 will also see the arrival of Macau’s very own Central Park. Due to open in the summer, the huge space will offer visitors a wide range of facilities, including an artificial lake that can be used as a swimming pool in the summer, walking trails and an underground library.
Click here for more information on travel to Macau.
With Chile’s Tourism board aiming to increase the number of foreign visitors to the country by 40% by the end of 2014, travellers to the country can expect lots of exciting developments over the next few years. The eco-friendly Puma Lodge is one prime example. Despite being located in a remote and stunning area of the central Andes, the heli-ski lodge is only a 90 minute drive south of Santiago International Airport – the shortest commute from an international airport to any major heli ski destination in the world. Accommodating 24 guests, the lodge boasts a wine cave with independent tasting room, library and a boutique ski shop.
It also has a spa, gym, dedicated yoga room and an outdoor pool. And, when you get tired of all that, you can step outside and come face to face with some of the country’s most spectacular terrain.
Continuing with the eco theme is the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa on Easter Island. When it opens in early 2012, the Hangaroa will be the most ecologically sustainable hotel in Chile, and of the most eco-friendly in the whole of South America. The beautifully-designed hotel will offer 75 bedrooms, three restaurants serving native, seasonal cuisine and the Mana Vai spa, which will use products and treatments based on the local Rapa Nui culture. The project is the most ambitious eco project ever undertaken in Chile. There will be a museum, theatre, arts and crafts centre and shops, all with the purpose of integrating the local community with visitors to the island.
Click here for more information on travel to Chile.
With its medieval monuments and sunflower filled landscapes, Tuscany has long been a perennial favourite with Italophiles. Now with some glam new openings, the region looks set to be thrust firmly in the jetsetters’ spotlight again.
Located 20 kilometres from Siena, Castello di Casole is a 4,200-acre estate – one of Italy’s largest private landholdings, and now home to 28 artfully restored luxury farmhouses and boutique hotel. The 41 all-suite bolthole and spa, due to open in April 2012, sits at the heart of the estate and was once an ancient castle, dating back to the 10th century. Overseen by the renowned Timbers Resorts, guests can expect a true Tuscan experience while staying in a spectacular setting. On offer will be wildlife tours around the 100 acre estate, truffle hunting, private wine tours in the vineyards and bespoke cookery courses. Interiors will be ‘elegantly rustic’ in style with visitors enjoying two restaurants, a gelateria, espresso bar and a vaulted spa carved out of the original wine cellars. If you fall in love with the place (and there’s a high chance you will), bear in mind that the Casali farmhouses are available to buy, so you’ll need never to return home again.
Located in the once-dilapidated Tuscan hamlet of Castiglioncello del Trinoro is another restoration project. Bought back to life by eminent American lawyer Michael Cioffi, the village has now been revived by restoring the former houses into villas and turning the former pensione into a nine-bedroom design hotel (due to open Summer 2012). The Villas at Monteverdi have been painstakingly reconstructed by local artisans using indigenous materials to retain their authenticity. Local woods, Tuscan flagstone and granite, and Carrara marble, have all been utilised by interior designer Ilaria Miani to retain a sense of their rustic roots as well as offering ultra-modern and luxurious furnishings. Each year, Monteverdi will also feature a ‘summer season’ of events featuring celebrated luminaries from the fields of art, music, drama and culinary worlds.
ANDERMATT, SWISS ALPS
You may have to wait a while yet, but it’s definitely one to put in your diary. Andermatt in the Swiss Alps remains one of the last great untouched Alpine valleys and was until recently solely occupied by the Swiss Army. Now plans are well underway by developers Orascom Development Holding to sensitively transform the quaint valley into one of Europe’s most stylish luxury destinations which will comprise six hotels (including the landmark Chedi Andermatt), 25 private villas, 490 apartments, an 18 hole golf course, sports centre and a modernised ski area. Andermatt Swiss Alps aims to blend authentic Swiss architecture and a traditional way of life with a modern twist. Over 30 world class architects will be employed to design the properties, including Jean Michel Gathy who will be designing the flagship Chedi Andermatt hotel, due to open for the 2013 winter season. What’s more, the resort aims to be a year-round destination – offering top-end shopping, sports facilities – such as cycling, climbing, canoeing and white-water wafting plus a whole host of live entertainment in the state-of-the-art concert hall.
THE PELOPONNESE, GREECE
Located in what is known as the ‘Hamptons of Greece’, thanks to its lush green scenery, sweeping beaches and unspoilt ocean views, the new Porto Heli Collection will no doubt compete with the likes of Mykonos and Santorini to be one of Greece’s most salubrious destinations. It aims to integrate big-brand hotels, lavish villas and boutiques all based on the shores of the Peloponnese, a peninsula on the southern part of mainland Greece. The first phase of the project is the Aman Resort and Villas, due to open this year and located in the hillside above Porto Heli, a beautiful and chi chi harbour overlooking the island of Spetses and the surrounding undulating olive groves. The Aman Hotel will consist of 38 guest pavilions, each featuring their own stone wall courtyards housing private swimming pools. Other facilities include restaurants and bars, a library, beach club, luxury spa and boutique shop, offering Greek jewellery and artwork. The exclusive Aman Villas, meanwhile, will offer a rare chance to own your own slice of the renowned brand. Price between €3 to €20 million, the residences have been designed by award-winning architect Ed Tuttle and will boast glam interiors and access to all the facilities at the resort.
See the full article originally written for the November issue of The Mayfair Issue