Travel

Little-known holiday gems revealed

Luxury tour operator Scott Dunn picks some of the more inspiring - and less-travelled - holiday spots for the year ahead

From visiting somewhere new and unique such as Israel's Negev desert or rediscovering an old favourite in Sri Lanka, this year sees new life for some of the world's most iconic destinations - with a plethora of luxury hotel openings and plenty of natural wonder.

ISRAEL

There are now more flight connections between Asia and Israel than ever. And with more interest from travellers wanting to delve beyond the footsteps of Jesus and visit Israel's more remote locations, the Negev desert is a compelling destination of breathtaking scenery.

This year sees the opening of Six Senses Shaharut in Arava Valley, a new lodge nestled into a dramatic cliff, providing unprecedented clarity of the famed Negev night sky.

Combined with a visit to the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, Scott Dunn can arrange for guests to experience the newly opened Mykonos-inspired Milos Dead Sea Hotel.

Completing the nine-night Wild Israel In Style itinerary (from $15,200 a person), guests can opt to discover the secrets of Negev winemaking and journey in a hot-air balloon high above the expansive rocky scenery before landing in the renowned Ramon Crater for a picnic breakfast.


COLOMBIA

One of the most undiscovered countries in Latin America, Colombia hosts a collection of new hotels this year, including the Four Seasons in the Caribbean city of Cartagena and the new tented Corocora Camp on the plains of Los Llanos.

Tailored for guests seeking a wild adventure, Scott Dunn can curate journeys to this remote luxury haven where travellers will experience the culture of the Llaneros and witness the traditional herdsmen or cowboys of the region.

Alternatively, explore Colombia by either helicopter, speedboat, plane or car on the 11-night Highlights Of Colombia itinerary (from $5,600 a person), visiting majestic cities like Bogota and Cartagena or the Sierra Nevada mountains located at the edge of the stunning Tayrona National Park.


UGANDA

With exciting new lodges and opulent circuits set to open this year, Uganda will become an emerging wildlife destination, offering a Classic Uganda itinerary (from $14,200 a person).

It is already celebrated for its varied landscapes and dense forests, home to the endangered mountain gorillas.

The country's gorilla-trekking permits are at a lower price point than neighbouring Rwanda, and Uganda offers guests a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience gorilla habituation within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.


THE CAUCASUS

A region known for its timeless history, unique culture and spectacular churches, Caucasus - situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea - is highlighted as the new go-to foodie destination.

Scott Dunn's 10-night Gourmet Caucasus itinerary (from $8,400 a person) invites gourmands to travel across the mighty mountain ranges to sample the world's first wine civilisation in the Georgian valleys, and enjoy Azerbaijan's rare black caviar in Baku.

You can also try the region's most prized delicacies, including Armenia's lavash - on Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage list - and try your hand at making the famous Khinkali dumplings in a cooking lesson conducted by top chefs.

Guests will discover the culture and history of this area with a visit to the recently awarded Unesco World Heritage Site, the Palace of Shaki Khans, in Azerbaijan and indulge with a stay at the historic Tsinadali Estate, a legacy of renowned poet Prince Alexander Chavchavadze.


DESTINATIONS DONE DIFFERENTLY

Revisit and rediscover these timeless old favourites with tailor-made itineraries that venture beyond the typical tourist traps.

SRI LANKA

A range of hotel openings across the country means the time is ripe to indulge in all that Sri Lanka has to offer while staying in beautiful and lavish properties.

Scott Dunn's portfolio will include Alila, a short distance from the well known Ahangama Beach and along the coast from the colonial port of Galle with the Galle Fort and the new Teardrop Hotels' Pekoe House in Kandy.

Adventurers are invited to explore the surf hot spot of Hikkaduwa, which will welcome the much-anticipated Haritha Villas & Spa, perched on a hill with a series of nine stylish private villas hidden amid the natural surroundings.

For those seeking a more remote itinerary, head to the East Coast - Sri Lanka's greatest undiscovered gem with its exotic bright beaches. Return to nature at the authentic Karpaha Sands - comprising 17 luxurious tents in a tropical setting.

Scott Dunn's seven-night Week In Sri Lanka itinerary starts from $3,200 a person.

MYANMAR

Myanmar has recently been thrust into the limelight thanks to the ancient city of Bagan being awarded Unesco World Heritage status.

Via its 10-night tailor-made journey to Myanmar (from $4,100 a person), Scott Dunn introduces the little-known Mergui Archipelago, a largely deserted and unspoiled destination that offers a complete escape from the outside world.

It is home to over 800 islands, spectacular beaches, crystal clear waters and a vibrant ecosystem - both onshore and offshore - making for unrivalled diving experiences to rarely visited dive sites.

The first hotel to open on the archipelago, Wa Ale, is a do-no-harm eco-resort and is accessed from Myanmar or Thailand.

Guests can explore the vibrant reefs of the Andaman Sea or hit the jungle with resident naturalists to spot green and leatherback sea turtles, pangolins and hornbills.


NORDICS

A visit to Finnish Lapland is not complete once you have seen the Northern Lights.

Scott Dunn's seven-night, family-focused Finnish And Swedish Lapland itinerary (from $4,400 a person) takes guests off the grid to locations such as Inari, in northern Finnish Lapland.

This remote destination allows guests to explore the pristine winter wilderness and experience Sami culture with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or a husky safari.

In Swedish Lapland, Scott Dunn will soon introduce guests to the highly anticipated Arctic Bath hotel, due to open in February.

Set within an extraordinary timber structure that floats in the middle of the Lule River, guests will experience Arctic wellness rituals with a giant ice bath.

TOURISM & TRAVEL