One week is usually all most folks can spare for their annual getaway. They want it to be charming, creative and chic; to strike a chord. They’re willing to spend good money, but don’t have the time to research where to go.
We asked three travel experts, who plan high-end luxury holidays for Indian travellers, where they would send a couple, with Rs7 lakhs to spend (not including airfare), for a seven-day vacation during the upcoming season (April-June). Airfares were not included since there are too many choices with airlines, classes and seasons.
Our experts’ top luxury destination pick was South Africa. “Because it gives you an exclusive experience, not just a holiday,” says Nikhil Kumar of Travel Tracks, who is partial to the Garden Route. Another expert, Ashish Chadha of Leisure Ways, also considers South Africa “one of the best places to go to in the coming season”. He concurs as far as the desirability of the Garden Route goes, but feels “a week is just too short to really experience it fully”, and so recommends other options. Abercrombie & Kent’s Rajesh Khanna, on the other hand, finds Europe not only “the right choice, but very saleable to the Indian traveller”.
Luxury overseas travel, once a tiny, niche segment, is growing rapidly, so our experts indicate. And they’re only three among a clutch of luxury travel providers catering to an increasingly affluent clientele that wants a frill-filled vacation and is more than willing to pay top dollar for it. Here are our experts’ suggested itineraries in detail, with all prices indicated for a couple.
The south side
Expert: Nikhil Kumar
COO, Travel Tracks, Delhi
Call 0124-403 4831 for details
Expert Nikhil Kumar endorses South Africa’s Garden Route. The holiday begins with a night in Johannesburg. The next day, the guests fly to Port Elizabeth and drive to Plettenberg Bay to stay two nights in The Plettenberg, a five-star Relais and Chateau hotel. “It’s an isolated, outstanding location, with gourmet meals and fine wines,” raves Kumar. Next up: Two nights, further along “the most beautiful road in the world”, in Hermanus, where clients are put up at the stunningly located Birkenhead House (www.birkenheadhouse.com), built on a rocky outcrop. Hermanus is the spot for whale-watching and the award-winning Grotto Beach is nearby. The trip ends in Cape Town, one of the world’s most picturesque cities. “There’s only one place to stay in Cape Town: the classy Cape Grace Hotel on the waterfront,” says Kumar. Finally, he suggests taking the Blue Train back to Johannesburg. Kumar prefers it over the Rovos Rail that Chadha recommends (below) because it’s more traditional.
Price: Approx. Rs6,50,000. Kumar suggests two possible add-ons: A visit to Sun City, not something he’s fond of, but often requested by Indian travellers who want a Las Vegas-style experience. The two-night add-on costs Rs1,10,000. Second, two nights at Kruger National Park at the Kapama Lodge (www.kapama.co.za). This costs Rs1,50,000, including full board, game drives, and two-way private plane ride.
Kumar’s second pick, a more active holiday, is New Zealand. With only seven days available, he says, “skip the North Island and go straight to Christchurch”. Kumar suggests two nights in Christchurch, or en route to Queenstown, at the fabulous Grasmere Lodge (www.grasmere.co.nz) for a taste of a luxurious country retreat.
Four days in Queenstown could be spent at the exclusive Azur Lodge (www.azur.co.nz), which is located on Lake Wakatipu. This luxury accommodation of beechwood and stone villas costs around Rs90,000 per night and “it is where Fardeen Khan recently came for his honeymoon”, points out Kumar.
Queenstown is the hotbed of adventure activity, but Kumar also advocates taking an overnight cruise from Queenstown to Milford Sound, spending one night at sea and taking a chopper ride back for the return trip.
Price: Approx. Rs7,00,000.
Ticket to ride
Expert: Ashish Chadha
Partner, Leisure Ways, Delhi
Call 011-2588 7204 for more information
Ashish Chadha and his partner, Mohit Batra, specialize in creative luxury holidays. “From April to June, the best bet is to go to the southern hemisphere because of the weather; so, I recommend South Africa. It’s got outstanding luxury accommodation, wildlife and so much to do,” says Chadha.
His itinerary begins in Johannesburg at the new, all-suite Michelangelo Towers (www.legacyhotels.co.za) as a pre-departure night. Chadha then recommends a journey from Pretoria to Cape Town in the deluxe suite of Rovos Rail (www.rovos.co.za), “the most luxurious train in the world”, which carries just 72 passengers. It begins at Rovos’ private station, stops for sightseeing along the way and ends in Cape Town two days later. A night stay at nothing less than the Cape Grace hotel (www.capegrace.com), which, incidentally, sits on its very own peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides, is next.
With three nights to go, Chadha advises a game experience at either one of the five luxury safari lodges at the Singita Private Game Reserve (www.singita.com), or at the Ivory Lodge (www.lionsands.com) in the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, in one of its six ultra-luxurious suites that have private plunge pools. The latter’s rooms overlook the Sabie River and you can view game from your suite. Alsoincluded are charter flights into the game reserves from Johannesburg (approximately Rs15,000 per person each way).
Price: Approx. Rs7,00,000 to Rs7,50,000. Additionally, “if you’re a group of eight, stay at the four-bedroom Phinda Getty Lodge in the private Phinda Game Reserve, Kwazulu Natal,” says Chadha. “It’s actually the holiday home of the Gettys (the American millionaires), but can be hired for most of the year. It isn’t cheap, at $4,500 (Rs1,98,000) per night all-inclusive, but you get your own private chef and private game viewing vehicle (with ranger and tracker).”
Chadha’s second pick is also New Zealand’s South Island. He recommends a driving holiday with a private vehicle and driver, and like Kumar, recommends the Grasmere Lodge. He then travels guests down the West Coast to Lake Moeraki to spend two nights at Wilderness Lodge (www.wildernesslodge.co.nz), in a rainforest clearing of the Moeraki River, the only settlement in a 300sq. km valley. Next, guests head to Queenstown and stay at Blanket Bay (www.blanketbay.com). Outstanding gourmet meals are included at almost every stay.
Helicopter rides from Blanket Bay to the snow-capped Mt Earnslaw glacier, the Greenstone Valley, Milford Sound or the Fiordland, rainforests and other add-ons cost extra.
Price: Approx. Rs3,40,000, with a driver-guide and Rs2,20,000 in a self-riven car.
Expert: Rajesh Khanna
Director, Sales and Marketing, Abercrombie & Kent, Delhi
Call 011-4600 1651 for more information
Europe is the first choice for Rajesh Khanna of Abercrombie & Kent and he recommends Turkey “because of its great culture and civilization”, and because the destination is “very popular with upscale Indian travellers”.
The itinerary uses a private air-conditioned vehicle with driver and private guide. The holiday begins in Istanbul, at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski (www.ciraganpalace.com.tr), once the residence of Ottoman sultans, and the only hotel situated on the European shores of the Bosphorus. On day four, Khanna flies guests to Izmir to explore it and then overnight at the new, luxurious Charisma Hotel (www.charismahotel.com) in the port town of Kusadasi. The next day is a tour of the well-preserved ancient city of Ephesus and a flight to Kayseri, “arriving at your wonderful hotel renovated from four authentic Cappadocian cave houses”, states Khanna’s detailed day-by-day plan. At Anatolian Houses (www.anatolianhouses.com), guests stay in cave suites, a unique “fairytale-like” experience, for two days while exploring Cappadocia, the underground city of Kaymakli and other sites. The journey ends with a night at the Ritz-Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com) in Istanbul, where a Turkish Hamam bath in the hotel’s luxurious Laveda spa should be on everyone’s agenda.
Khanna’s second choice takes guests through three classic European cities: Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Budapest’s art nouveau landmark, the beautifully restored Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace (www.fourseasons.com/budapest), is proposed for a two-night stay, and a deluxe double room at the Four Seasons Hotel Prague (www.fourseasons.com/prague) is booked for three more. In Vienna, guests are booked into a deluxe double room at the classic Hotel Imperial ( imperial.viennahotels.it ), built more than a century ago as the Prince of Wurttemberg’s palace. Several sightseeing and walking tours with private guides are included, as is all local transport using a Mercedes E-class vehicle with driver; plus there’s first-class rail travel arranged between the three cities.
Price: Approx. Rs6,63,000
But if none of this stirs your desire, there’s more. More soul-stirring luxury than you can possibly imagine, both up and down the scale from our proposed Rs7 lakh budget. Leisure Ways, for instance, can take a couple on a six-day, luxurious, romantic wine trail in South Africa for under Rs1,50,000, while Travel Tracks could put you in an exclusive luxury villa in Greece’s Mykonos Island at Rs1,50,000 per day and on a private yacht to roam the Aegean Sea (at Rs5 lakh per day). You decide. The experts have spoken.
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