Winter is on the horizon and, as the nights draw in and temperatures drop, it is easy to drift off on thoughts of travels around the world. Whether it be the comforting simplicity of a holiday to sunnier climes, the thrill and adventure of a safari expedition, a little Christmas shopping indulgence or a quintessential ski holiday to snowy mountain peaks – here are our suggestions for a seasonal escape.
The Riviera Maya could be considered the perfect beach destination. Expansive swathes of blinding white sand; check. The bluest of warm blue seas: check. Pretty much guaranteed sunshine: check. Yet to merely focus on the beach would be to do a disservice to this culturally intriguing land. Rosewood Mayakoba is an oasis of luxury nestling in a 1,600 acre resort on the Yucatan Peninsula and, yes of course, boasts a mile-long stretch of the aforementioned white sand. It is also perfectly positioned - just north of the picturesque waterfront town of Playa del Carmen - to explore all that this captivating part of the world has to offer.
The resort works hard to ensure that guests have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the destination by arranging bespoke private tours. The lush natural landscape is a draw in itself; UNESCO World Heritage site Sian Ka'an is the first established Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, and the beauty of the location is really quite dramatic. Another natural wonder of the Yucatan are cenotes; enigmatically spectacular, these formations were sacred places for the Mayan civilisation. Cenote Ik Kil is considered to be one of the most picturesque; waterfalls cascade 85 feet down the sides and lush green vegetation hangs all the way down to the crystal clear water.
Close by you will also find Chichen Itza. Steeped in Mayan lore, this incredible archaeological site is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and no sojourn to the Riviera Maya would be complete without a visit to the ancient city. The main attraction - 'El Castillo' - is the huge 1,500 year old Kukulkan pyramid, so intricately built that during each Vernal Equinox, the dying sun casts a shadow of a serpent writhing down the ginormous steps. After a day filled with Mayan exploration, return to the sanctuary of the resort - there are few better places to kick back, relax and reminisce than in your suite with private plunge pool and rooftop sundeck.
The design of the accommodations is rooted in Yucatan heritage blended with strikingly modern accents and crafted from indigenous materials. And, as the sun begins to set on another marvellously Mayan day, head down to Agave Azul and sample some heavenly sushi and ceviche accompanied, of course, by a tequila-infused Margherita.
Opting for an escape to the sun?
Continually voted the best airline in the world (and awarded the Condé Nast Traveller's 'World's Best Airline' award for the 23rd time) there will be no doubt that you'll receive top-notch service. Upgrade to Business Class - the seats are the widest you will find in the world. Currently in its Golden Jubilee year, the ultimate playground of Singapore boasts thrilling rides at Universal Studios Singapore™, hot riverside spots like Clarke Quay and a multitude of areas to discover such as Little India.
It is now also going to house the largest collection of Southeast Asian art in the world; the National Gallery opens in November. And when you've experienced enough of the effervescing ebullience and you're yearning for a slower pace of life, the onward journey to the lagoons and lily pads of Bali is just two and a half hours. The beautiful beaches and the island's beating cultural heart of Ubud is not to be missed.
Set in the heart of the gamerich Sabi Sand Reserve and world famous for its leopard viewing, Londolozi is one of the original pioneering Private Game Reserves of the ecotourism industry in South Africa. In Zulu the word 'londolozi' means protector of all living things and this ethos is true of the ambitious conservation efforts of the family-run lodge.
Christa D' Souza
Christa has been a contributing editor to Vogue for more than 20 years. She also writes for The Times, the Sunday Times and W Magazine and lives in West London and Wiltshire with her partner and their two children. Christa travelled to Londolozi, South Africa with Carrier last year.
"The world is divided into those who get the Safari experience and those who don't. I belong to the latter group, or I did until I visited Londolozi - the super-luxurious, family-run, Private eco-reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park. Why? Well, where to start? The troupe of vervet monkeys on my verandah overlooking the banks of the Sand River as I was administered the best thai massage of my life? The stilton, strawberry, and smashed peanut brittle salad? (think Ottolenghi in the veldt). The leopards so close you can smell their breath? Or maybe it is the Vartys themselves, Shan, Dave and their two children, Boyd and Bronwyn, whose family have run the place for 86 years. Oh, and the stories your hosts have to tell round the camp fire. Like when Boyd, who has been tracking since the age of 10, nearly got eaten by a crocodile. Or when a woolly headed stork flew into the family Cessna and they nearly crashed? But don't let their adventurousness put you off. You'll be snug as a bug here, mollycoddled within an inch of life and yet somehow feel reborn like the intrepid free-spirited adventurer you never thought you were. Oh, Londolozi, when can I come back?"
Some cities suit a season and, arguably, New York is the belle of the winter ball. Cold, yes, but with an electric blue sky and bright sun; and when it snows, well - it really snows, covering the streets and parks in a blanket of pristine white, the Christmas lights in the department store windows seemingly twinkling even brighter. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - on 23 November this year - heralds the start of the season.
We recommend that you stay in one of our properties along the route where you can witness the spectacular street show in all its glory - The Mandarin Oriental is our choice. Premier Central Park View rooms and suites located on the 43rd to 54th floors have floor to ceiling windows to really make the most of the views. Alternatively, the 35th floor Sky Lobby is a sight to behold, full length windows look out across the city and the park. And let us not forget the shopping. To shop in New York City is to find shopping nirvana. Yet, should this be too much of a Christmas cliché for your style-maven sensibilities, we feel we may have found the perfect alternative.
A Christmas Shopping Alternative
Why do battle with Christmas crowds when you could be picking up exotic handmade gifts in the medieval souks of balmy Marrakech. And where best to stay in this colourful and culture-ful North African city? Royal Mansour Marrakech is set in the heart of the medina, tucked within the city walls, an opulent oasis of calm and serenity. At the request of King Mohammed VI, fifty three riads have been painstakingly built according to local traditions. Handmade by 1,200 artisans using the best stones, marble, silks, satins, beads, feathers and cedar, the riads feature private courtyards, fountains and plunge pools and are exquisite examples of original Moroccan architecture.
Service is discretion itself and privacy is paramount - an underground network of tunnels allows staff to move around the property without disturbing guests. Each riad benefits from the services of a dedicated butler. Perfectly located for exploration of the ochre-hued city, step out through the huge four tonne bronze entry gate of Royal Mansour and into the medina. The souks fill the alleys north of the central square; mile after mile of closet-sized emporia, each section selling its own speciality from spices to jellabas, babouches to engraved brass platters the size of manhole covers and even tiny stalls selling the ingredients necessary for casting magic spells.
Carrier Tip: Make sure you find the Criée Berbère - once a slave market, this knot of dimly lit roofed passageways is now the centre of the carpet trade - and the photogenic Souk des Teinturiers - the 'dyers' souk' - the drying sheaves of coloured wool are dazzling.
No winter season round-up would be complete without the archetypal mountain sojourn. So, if your preference is more alpine-adrenalin in nature, where the focus is the first tracks on pristine powder snow, then let us point you in the direction of Megève and the simply exquisite Chalet Zannier.
This is a boutique mountain hideaway par excellence. Sitting above the cobbled streets of the quaint historical village, three alpine-style chalets are sophistication personified. Twelve bedrooms have individually-designed interiors and most come with balconies or terraces and fireplaces to curl up in front of after a day on the slopes. Or why not sample the superb spa and wellness area at the Chalet. A space dedicated entirely to calm and serenity, piste-weary limbs can recover in the hammam, sauna and indoor relaxation pool; or indulge in a signature treatment using renowned brands such as Aesop and Aromatherapy Associates.
Conveniently, on-site ski hire is available from the ski chalet and from here guests can be chauffeured to and from the resort centre and the slopes. This means that it couldn't be easier to explore the vast ski area. Much of the 450 kilometres of terrain is forested with beautiful scenery and some magnificent views across to Mont Blanc. Exertions on the slopes can be followed with relaxed evenings meandering along the streets of the beautifully preserved medieval centre or, for the quintessential winter wonderland experience, why not take a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh.