Discovering a sense of place can be exciting, intimidating and relaxing all at once. Immersing yourself in another culture and be done on any budget, but sometimes you really just want to treat yourself. Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime splurge like a honeymoon, a milestone birthday or you happened to hit the lottery and just have cash to burn on your bucket list, some decadent trips and experiences are worth the indulgence, once. Or maybe twice. Here are five extravagant travel experiences we think are worth breaking the bank for the memories.
Explore The Amalfi Coast
Along the southern edge of Italy’s rugged coastline, the Amalfi Coast is a colorful haven of historical villages clinging to the cliffs, terraced vineyards and an equally ubiquitous amount of lemon groves and hand painted tiles. Fragrant, vibrant and picturesque, the Amalfi coast seems to have been made for eating, drinking and lounging.
The best way to explore the many small towns is to pick a base and take day trips on a water taxi. The medieval town of Ravello sits high up in the hills, offering a birds eye view of the coastline and tranquil mountain walks. Palazzo Avino is a historical villa passed down through generations and now run by the youthful Avino sisters. In the namesake town of Amalfi, Hotel Santa Caterina is the grand dame, perched over the sea, yet walking (or shuttle) distance from the hustle and bustle of the town center. A stunning elevator built into the cliff drops guests down to a quintessential private ‘beach’ on the rocks.
Perhaps the most popular town of all, Positano is iconic and warrants a visit despite potentially overwhelming crowds. Check-in to Il San Pietro di Positano, a breathtaking family-owned property managed by Relais Châteaux (a prestigious association representing unique hotels and restaurants throughout the world). Do as the locals do and enjoy an Aperol Spritz at sunset (try to snag a spot at Franco’s Bar), visit Le Sirenuse for champagne and oysters and make your way back to Il San Pietro for dinner where you can indulge in all the risotto, lobster, house made pizza, pasta and gelato you can handle.
Take A Gastronomic Tour Through Peru
Widely known for its ancient grains and superfoods, Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of international influence and Incan traditions. From ceviche to cuy (guinea pig, which is a local delicacy), a trip to Peru can be planned around eating alone.
Start in Lima where multiple restaurants from the illustrious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list reside. Astrid Gastón at Casa Moreyra (a historical mansion that goes back 300 years), is helmed by one of the country’s most beloved chefs, Gastón Acurio and his pastry chef wife Astrid Gutsche. At a young age, Acurio traded in a law degree in favor of gastronomy and hasn’t looked back since. The tasting menu, aptly called ‘Lima Love,’ takes diners on a culinary journey through Peruvian culture and ingredients, making naysayers advocates of grilled guinea pig.
Just outside of Cusco, MIL offers a dining experience curated by chef Virgilio Martínez of Lima’s Central (also on the list). Here, a meal consists of ‘eight moments, eight ecosystems of height, extreme and authentic local ingredients, which change over time with the weather and the earth.’ Located near the salt mines in Moray, the restaurant was constructed around a coliseum of circular terraces supposedly designed to generate different microclimates, rumored to have been the work of Incan architecture designed for agricultural experimentation.
Deep in the heart of the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is a quaint town that offers more than a stopover for tourists heading to Machu Picchu. At El Albergue (which consists of a hotel, restaurant and organic farm), guests can experience a typical Pachamanca lunch on the farm, where a traditional Incan meal is cooked upon hot rocks. Guests watch as the chef’s team seemingly buries raw ingredients in the earth, layering hot stones between each course. A variety of “grilled” meat (which could include alpaca or cuy), Andean potatoes and organic vegetables are covered with fresh herbs and the meal is served family style with chicha morada, a local purple corn beverage.
A VIP Airport Experience
Anyone who has ever traveled through a major airport knows what the pain points are. Traffic, parking, long lines to check-in, security screenings and the waiting game, oftentimes peppered by delays and cancellations. Enter The Private Suite at LAX. Providing a service usually reserved for celebrities and heads of state, anyone can become a member of The Private Suite (for a pretty penny).
A private terminal located on airport property, The Private Suite experience is akin to checking into a luxury hotel, complete with valet service and baggage handling. With 8 staff allocated to each member, the airport experience is condensed from 2200 steps down to 70, from the moment you get out of your car to when you step onto the plane. The team parks (and washes) your car onsite and manages your airline and baggage check-in while you relax in one of 10 suites that is fully stocked with food, drinks, toys, toiletries and a self-serve candy dispenser to boot. Meals can be ordered in advance and delivered promptly upon your arrival and when it’s time to board your flight, you’re driven in a luxury sedan across the tarmac where you are the first to board the plane.
An African Safari
Animal lover or not, there’s something awe-inspiring about being up close with the ‘Big Five’ game animals (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant) while bouncing around in an open-aired jeep that seems to offer little-to-no protection when up close and personal with these majestic creatures.
African safari options abound in multiple price ranges across South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe, but Botswana is leading the charge in sustainable tourism. And for the record, sustainable doesn’t necessarily need to mean budget, as Belmond Safaris proves with their eco-luxe lodges on the Okavango Delta and Savute region of Chobe National Park. Take time eating breakfast with the elephants, scouting hippos from a helicopter ride and enjoying sundowners next to a pride of sleeping lions.
Spend A Weekend In St. Barth
A French speaking island in the Caribbean, St. Barth has a storied history as a luxurious escape for celebrities and royal jet setters. Nestled in the West Indies, the island is notoriously expensive, exclusive and difficult to get to, yet the beauty of the island is worth the effort to experience it (at least once).
The easiest way to get there is to hop on a direct flight on Tradewind Aviation, out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The comfy jet delivers you in less than an hour, after a heart stopping steep descent onto the island’s airstrip that is roughly 2,000 feet long. The island was largely destroyed by last year’s Hurricane Irma, but 2019 promises to be a year of grand re-openings, including that of Hotel Manapany, the island’s first eco-resort. Spend a long weekend exploring the island’s picture perfect beaches like St. Jean and Shell Beach, and dining at mainstays like Bonito, Shellona and the infamous Nikki Beach, where the music is loud, the food is delicious and the people watching is as exclusive as it gets.