Superlative Travel: Ampersand's Best-of-the-Best Travel Ideas
Most people in the UK have about 25 days holiday leave annually which amounts to a maximum of 7% of the year to travel the world. With so many destinations to visit yet so little time to escape and spoil oneself, settling for second best shouldn’t be an option. We all work hard so we should treat ourselves to superlative holidays when we do take time off. Here we list our top destinations and trip ideas for different types of holidays.
A secluded island of tropical forest fringed with powdery white sand and palm fronds bowing in a warm, soft breeze; a select few villas with charmingly rustic exteriors and interiors of understated elegant luxury; hard-to-beat surf breaks, horse rides on the beach, treks to waterfalls and lessons in spear fishing... Such a blend of exoticism and exclusivity is hard to find but Nihi Sumba on Indonesia’s Sumba Island provides all of the aforementioned and plenty more besides.
Kids are hyperactive with sponge-like brains. They need either a constant stream of new and novel sights, sounds and experiences, or somewhere to run around to their heart’s content. Our travel tip for a family holiday, would be to stick to Asian countries and go on many of adventure tours to keep young children occupied. A visit to Thailand can provide both. Start with an immersive few days absorbing Bangkok’s blend of organised chaos and majestic historical sites (with the tranquil sanctuary of the Oriental to retreat to each evening) before heading north to meet with elephants in Chang Mai. End on the beach in Koh Samui where the sun, cocktails and immaculate sands will please parents while kids run riot at the Four Seasons.
With the young elite of Tokyo’s 35 million inhabitants flocking to the city’s throbbing heart at weekends, the party never ceases. There are countless ways to kick off a night in Tokyo whether it’s dinner served by androids at The Robot Restaurant in buzzing Shinjuku or strolling the night markets for smalls bites, endless beers and sake at a steamy little izakaya. Continue the night in the Park Hyatt’s peerlessly sophisticated ‘New York Bar’ (made famous by the film Lost In Translation) before settling into a private room at a karaoke bar and warbling the night away. Cities in Asia really do provide some of the best parties.
A tiny tropical island with startlingly clear-watered lagoons surrounded by some of the world’s richest reefs... Misool Eco Resort is a diver’s paradise in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat. All the villas open onto stilted verandas providing instant access to the water and soul-enriching views of the equatorial sunsets. The ecological credentials of the resort are impressive and everything is made from recycled wood and the entire area is a ‘no-take zone’ so the density and variety of marine life is unthreatened and tough to rival.
Last time we visited Sri Lanka’s Kumana National Park we were treated to sightings of seven leopards as well as bears, red-spotted deer, elephants and incredibly varied birdlife. The park is managed by expert conservationists and the warded is an elephant whisperer who has worked in Kumana for over 40 years. The Kumana Mobile Tented Camp places guests under canvas in isolated luxury next to a pristine river.
Escape the travel guide and instead take to the cool, clear atmosphere of the Himalayan foothills where one is able to focus on their state of health and mental wellbeing with greater clarity than elsewhere. Add innovative and healthy menus tailored to each individual. Throw in experts in yoga, meditation, massage and ayurvedic healing. What do you get? Vana Malsi Estate in North India. During our 14 years as a tour operator, there is no other single property that has had such consistently high and gushing feedback from our clients. Each guest has private wellness consultation on arrival and departure to discover, set and assess goals to achieve during and after their stay. They never want to leave.
Built in the style of a Phinisi, a traditional Indonesian boat, the Alila Purnama is the height of floating luxury. Cruising the lukewarm waters of the Indonesian archipelago, the 46m vessel offers all sorts of activities ranging from snorkelling and private beach visits to Komodo dragon trekking. When onboard, guests are tirelessly looked after by the 16 full time crew members (including a beauty therapist).
There are very few places in the world that can rival the sheer abundance and density of historic architecture to be found around Siem Reap in Cambodia. The temple complexes spread through (and, in many cases, are swallowed by) ancient forests. With Angkor Wat at its centre, this vast temple complex ranks high on every traveller’s bucket list. Although being a top tourist destination in Asia, there's no other place quite like Angkor Wat to see a spectacular formation of Asian temples. After a sweaty day exploring the ruins, there is nowhere better to rest before the following day’s discoveries than Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor with its sumptuous colonial-style accommodation.
If you’re after a destination in Asia that has variety then China truly has it all: from the grasslands of the north to the jagged peaks of Tibet, and from the blistering dunes of the Taklamakan desert to the rustling bamboo forests of the interior. With the range of topography and longitude, visitors can experience four seasons in one trip. Craggy limestone karsts jut out of fertile farmland in the south east, camels wander the barren flats in the north west and yaks graze the boundless plains on the Tibetan plateau.
Whether you’re a biker, a hiker, a climber of a rafter, Nepal is the world’s largest playground for adventure travel. Head for the mountains and push yourself into another world. Rugged, wild and welcoming, the Himalaya has it all: rushing, white water rivers, three-week trekking circuits, challenging mountain biking and the world’s highest mountain peaks. Besides an adventure sports proving ground, Nepal is also home to medieval towns and some of the friendlies people you are ever likely to meet.
The essence of romance is in seclusion and atmosphere. Bali has certainly become busier over the last decade but there are still honeymoon hideaways to be found tucked away in the island’s verdant centre. The COMO Shambhala near Ubud is an absolute Ampersand favourite with thatched villas and infinity pools overlooking the steep and lush greenery of the Ayung River gorge. The spa is a world beater and the glorious isolation means there’s nothing to distract loved-up visitors from each other.
Mughals, Rajputs, Lodis, Portuguese, Dutch and English to name but a few. India has seen countless shifts in dynasty and rule over the centuries. This rich history of change and diversity is on display throughout the country with the intricate blend of peoples, religions, clothing, customs, cuisines and numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites. Soak up the royal Rajasthani splendour on a road trip through the Blue City of Jodhpur, the Pink City of Jaipur and the lakeside city of Udaipur, get down to grassroots in the Himalaya with the Shakti Village Walk Experience, or marvel at the elegant colonial architecture at the heart of Kolkatta.
For more travel inspiration or information please get in touch with the Ampersand team:
firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)20 7819 9770