A couple of years ago the Turkish Riviera was all but off-limits for British travelers – so what welcome news that this glorious coast is back with a bang. British Airways has resumed its direct flights from London to Dalaman, making secret beach spots such as Datça and Bozburun super accessible. Meanwhile, the Bodrum Peninsula is all of a flutter with smart new developments that are taking the scene up a notch. Around the corner from the superyacht-filled Yalikavak Marina is Ian Schrager’s all-white Bodrum Edition, which launched in summer 2018 with a restaurant by El Bulli’s Diego Muñoz, a full-on disco (including a giant pink glitter ball), and a non-stop deep-house soundtrack that resonates from the pool to the beach club. More ambitious still is Kaplankaya, an entirely new coastal town north-west of Bodrum. Already launched are a Six Senses hotel and destination spa, five beaches, and various restaurants, and there are several more hotels in the offing plus a Foster & Partners-designed marina. Old favorites reopened this spring, too: Nicolas Sarkozy was among those holing up at peaceful Amanruya in summer; Mandarin Oriental Bodrum made a splash with new nightclub Kai; while around the headland Macakizi has a new waterfront restaurant and club and is working on an exciting place to stay nearby called Macakizi Lofts.
With the value of the Turkish lira has fallen significantly, the Turquoise Coast is currently a well-priced, chic alternative for Europeans who want to swim, sail, eat and party.
The New Art Pilgrimage
The opening of the game-changing Grand Egyptian Museum has been delayed again – until when we’re no longer exactly sure (though the latest word is 2020). And yet, the news from the ground is for the first time in 8 years, there’s a waitlist for city hotels and boat trips along the Nile. After a tumultuous few years, Egypt, it seems, is back on the map. It had been hoped that the $1 billion, sleek, marble temple to the country’s antiquities would have swung open its doors by now, revealing, among a wealth of other national treasures, most crucially King Tutankhamun’s entire burial collection – more than 5,000 pieces – displayed to the public in an exact replica of the tomb itself. This means visitors will be able to see everything – bejeweled sandals, embroidered tunics and the Boy King’s death mask – just as Howard Carter did when he made his milestone discovery in 1922.
And yet, while everyone waits patiently, elsewhere in the country the momentum mounts. Nile cruise liner Sanctuary Retreats has just launched weekly sailings of its boutique wooden boats, kitted out with art deco fixtures and leather deck chairs to sink into while gazing at Nubian sandstone cliffs and the teeming ancient tombs and temples of Luxor. Oberoi’s ship in the meantime, the Philae, has been given a top to bottom refurb, including a rooftop pool and much fewer, more spacious rooms as well as a spa with views out to Medinat Habu, the resting place of Rameses II and one of the new spots on their itinerary. And in March 2019 the much-talked-about St Regis will open right on the river, injecting Cairo‘s dusty hotel scene with a much-needed dosage of glamour; it’s floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening onto terraces that offer the sharpest views of Cairo’s pedestrian-friendly Corniche promenade anywhere around.
The Peloponnese, Greece
A go-slow corner of the Mediterranean
While the starriest Greek islands – such as Santorini and Mykonos – grapple with over-tourism, forward-thinking visitors are heading to the mainland and discovering the wide-open spaces of Greece off-season. The Peloponnese has been bubbling just below the radar since Costa Navarino opened in 2010. Soon afterward, the local airport at Kalamata opened up to international flights, shaving off several hours’ driving time from Athens and boosting arrivals to the region by 15 percent last year.
In 2019, the rail service linking the port of Patras with the town of Pyrgos, in the south-western Peloponnese, will resume after a seven-year halt. A train ride is a perfect way to explore this laidback region which has been a destination for wellness and fitness since Hippocrates prescribed therapeutic olive oil massages and naked athletes limbered up in Olympia. Athletes (dressed in more than just a slick of olive oil) will be hitting Costa Navarino in April 2019 for Greece’s first Iron Man race. After a 1.9km swim in the Ionian Sea, competitors will cycle through olive groves before embarking on a half marathon that runs alongside Voidokilia beach, a perfect semi-circle of burnished sand.
The west coast of the Peloponnese is rippled with mile upon mile of sand dunes. Kourouta may not be the quietest beach, but it will soon become the hippest. In May, Dexamenes hotel opens in an abandoned wine factory on the waterfront. K-Studio (the architects behind all the coolest new hotels in Greece, from Branco on Mykonos to Perianth in Athens), have barely interfered with the industrial aesthetic: bedrooms are fashioned from old storage tanks, their gritty concrete walls punctuated by black steel piping, with polished terrazzo bathrooms screened by textured glass and sliding windows framing the sea views.
The adjacent buildings are being transformed into a tavern, a grocery selling local produce, and a history room that will connect guests to the local culture of wine-making. The Peloponnese has more wineries and grape varieties than any other region in Greece. It’s a tradition you can taste at Eumelia, a farmstead set among 50 acres of organic olive groves and vineyards, which has quietly built a reputation for immersive foodie and creative retreats; and Zz Kyllini LA, a swish new estate in Kyllini that produces its own wine, grappa, honey, and Zea flour.
Euphoria Retreat, Greece’s first destination spa, is modeled on a Byzantine monastery, but it’s not all about spiritual awakening and slowing down. Active retreats include the ‘Spartan adventure in nature’, which features rock climbing, rafting, and paragliding. There’s more off-grid action at Villa Vager Mani, from hiking and archery to kayaking and scuba diving. This family-run guesthouse has four suites in a fortified mansion built in 1858.
It’s a 20-minute drive from the village of Kardamili, where the most desirable property in the Peloponnese will be available to rent for three months of the year from 2020: the peachy stone house poised above a private cove was built by travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor in the 1960s – ‘a world of utmost magical beauty’ where he wrote, swam, and entertained poets and painters until his death aged 96. By Rachel Howard
A romantic ravine in Italy attracting travelers looking for an immersive experience
Down in the arch of Italy’s foot, Matera is built into the rock of a ravine. This strange, prehistoric-looking city is miles from anywhere, and so out of time that it has been used as a set for films needing an authentic Jerusalem: Ben-Hur, and The Passion of the Christ, for which a crucifix was made that remains on the hillside. But Matera’s Sassi are what people come to see, the troglodyte cave dwellings where, even in the mid-20th century, its impoverished citizens lived in dank darkness until it was eventually abandoned. In 1993, UNESCO declared Matera a World Heritage Site. Slowly its fortunes changed, and now, as in Santorini, they’ve become hot property among travelers keen for an immersive stay. Many sassi are being rented out on Airbnb or turned into galleries, restaurants and charming cave hotels, upscale hideaways in limestone grottoes, such as the Palazzo Gattini, Corte San Pietro, Relais La Casa di Lucio (which has a new royal apartment) and Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, one of the most romantic digs in all Italy. A short drive away, in Bernalda, is Francis Ford Coppola’s splendid Palazzo Margherita.
In 2019, Matera will be thrust into the light of the 21st century as a European Capital of Culture. The year’s cultural program kicks off on 19 January with more than 2,000 musicians and dozens of brass bands, all marching to their own tune around the city’s ancient candlelit streets.
The wild West Coast’s riverside capital
For the first time ever you can, finally, fly direct to Australia – on Qantas’s new 17-hour London–Perth route. That suddenly opens up a new continent for consideration – and the country’s west coast is booming right now.
The Margaret River region is well established as a foodie destination, with its Gourmet Escape pulling in international chefs (Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson) every November. Now its top-notch produce and wines are fuelling a proliferation of independent new cafés, bars and restaurants in the state capital.
In 2019 the Ritz-Carlton Perth opens on redeveloped Elizabeth Quay, joining the new Westin Perth (which launched in 2018 in the heritage-listed Hibernian Hall and has 2,000 artworks, including aerial photography of WA, and a great rooftop pool) and other relative newcomers COMO The Treasury and Alex Hotel (founded by the brewers behind Little Creatures, stars of the city’s enthusiastic craft-beer scene).
There’s culture in the form of Sculpture by the Sea, an annual exhibition held in March (in 2018 Damien Hirst’s giant inflatable head in snorkel and mask emerged from the bone-white sands of Cottesloe Beach); while on Rottnest Island, so close you can swim over from Cottesloe, Pinky’s new tented eco-retreat will welcome guests from February 2019. North of the city there’s been a £100-million investment in Scarborough Beach – where the fine sands and sunny disposition can never be confused with Britain’s own Scarborough beach – with a smart new pool and restaurants such as The Peach Pit.
Beyond the city – because let’s face it, you’re not flying 17 hours for a weekend break – Perth is the jumping-off point for further explorations into Australia’s wild west: Ningaloo Reef where you can swim with whale sharks; and the dramatic Kimberley, with wilderness, escapes such as El Questro Homestead. And until April 2019, travelers making the detour south to the whaling town of Albany will be rewarded with Bruce Munro’s captivating new ‘Field of Light: Avenue of Honour’, a reiteration of his artwork in Uluru, with 13,000 lightbulbs planted to commemorate the centenary of WW1. Stop off en route for a night at Katanning’s new Premier Mill Hotel, which brings hipster cool to the outback-of-beyond; then while you’re down there, there’s a new-for-2019 trip to see killer whales at the feeding grounds of Bremer Canyon.
THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
A sweep of visionaries are shaking up the Scottish Highlands
Travelers walk the earth to find monumental landscapes, a sense of complete isolation – yet relatively few go looking in their own back yard. Perhaps if (OK, when) Britain leaves Europe in March 2019, that will change, and we will finally head for the Highlands, our own true wilderness, for our country kicks and skiing breaks.
Certainly, Europeans can’t get enough of the place. The Danish team behind the exquisite Killiehuntly Farmhouse and Kinloch Lodge – clothing billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his interior-decorator wife, Anne – are busy revamping additional tumbledown properties with their Scandi-Scot good taste. Kyle House – a former smokery turned Danish-minimalist masterpiece, with mountain views from every seat in the house, including the bath – has just opened.
Set to follow soon are lovely lochside Hope Lodge and Lundies, a restored manse aimed at bikers and hikers on the North Coast 500, which is bringing new life to this beautiful area. The Povlsens have also just opened Kennels Cottage, in the Cairngorms, while the village of Braemar, across the peaks, is all abuzz as the Swiss gallerists behind Hauser & Wirth undertake their epic makeover of the Fife Arms, transforming it into a top-notch, 46-room hotel with Jinny Blom gardens, a spa, a restaurant and, of course, a bar – plus a knockout collection of Scottish and international art and installations.
Additionally, down in the Lowlands, Dundee’s culture credentials are multiplying. The V&A opened here in September 2018, and now a former mill is being turned into a massive multi-venue arts destination.