Where will 2020 take you? Hopefully, to places unimagined.
(Image: Adli Wahid)
If you’re looking for some fresh ideas to zhush up your travel plans for the new year, we have just the thing for you. Here are three suggestions and destinations that’ll make the most jaded globetrotter start looking up flights.
01 | Going off-the-path entirely
Never mind travelling off ’the beaten path’, one of the biggest trends for 2020 is ignoring any manner of path entirely.
Everyone wants a unique experience, not one that’s saturated with camera-toting influencers and tour buses. So what better way to find a destination like that than to go somewhere where none have — quite literally — gone before?
One place that’s gradually starting to open itself to tourism is Bhutan. Its reluctance has often been mistaken for isolationism; Really, the reticence is less about keeping people out than it is about carefully preserving what they have.
While you’ll still need a government-approved tour operator to enter the country, it’s still worth having a guide around to give you context and background behind the sights that Bhutan has to offer.
The country brims with awe-inspiring landscapes and culture untouched by the raptures of globalisation and tourism. From the icy glacier peaks by the Himalayas to ancient temples like the famed Tiger’s Nest, there’s much to see and learn. If you’re lucky, you might also spot Bhutan’s ponderous national animal, the takin, out traipsing on the mountaintops.
“We can learn a lot from this small country,” says andBeyond CEO Joss Kent. “Spend two weeks there and it’ll change your perspective on many things.”
Come the latter half of 2020, andBeyond — which is also an accredited tour agency for the country — will open its first property in Bhutan, the Punakha River Lodge.
Located in the surreal Punakha Valley, this secluded slice of paradise is home to blue waters, alpine scenery, and one of the world’s rarest birds, the white-bellied heron.
Overtourism remains one of the most troubling issues that travellers and cities face. It has forced hotspots like Venice to implement hefty ‘tourist taxes’ and places like Mount Everest to look more like a 6pm queue to get into the metro than a grandiose summit.
So it only makes sense that travellers venture a little more consciously in 2020 — not just by visiting uncharted locations, but by being mindful of the places they visit as well.
02 | Back to nature
Everyone knows about the beauty of the Nordics and its Northern Lights, though less is said about how tricky it is to actually catch them. It takes an alchemy of weather, all-nighters, and a healthy dose of luck to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis.
But why hike all the way to the Nordics just for that? The region is just as beautiful — if not more — in the months leading up to its frigid winters. Scandinavia in Autumn, for one, is a scene straight out of a fairytale.
Think of crisp, honeyed leaves, plump berries that glisten, and languid animals crunching through the russet forests. The Finns call the season ‘Ruska’, and it’s especially breathtaking in the fells of Lapland.
Just a half-hour ride from Helsinki’s city centre is Nuuksio National Park, which organises guided hiking trips to take in the best places to pick your own mushrooms and berries.
And since Autumn’s such an overlooked season for the Nordics, you’ll also be blessed with lesser crowds and an all-round slower pace of life.
We recommend Finnair for its direct flights and impressive sustainability efforts — aside from offering a range of carbon offset programmes, it recently overhauled all of its amenity kits to make them more eco-friendly (and stylish, to boot). Bio-based toothbrushes, wax paper wrappings, and plush slippers made from recycled materials are what guests can look forward to onboard.
03 | Wellness travel
If you’re already a globetrotter of some repute, then travelling might even start to feel like a chore. How can it not? The relentless rush of flights to catch, new places to orient yourself in, and generally being surrounded by a deluge of foreign things — it can be draining.
Sometimes, its worth it to plan a trip with only one aim: To relax yourself. (And while that tends to be the general goal of most vacations, we often tend to get caught up in the minutiae that truly switching off becomes a distant dream.)
The upcoming Four Seasons Bangkok, opening in February, is just a short flight away, so there isn’t a question of convoluted transfers and dodgy rides — but despite its metropolitan address, its prime location on the Chao Phraya River makes it feel like a world unto itself.
Aside from the usual trimmings of infinity pools and heated rooms, the hotel also offers a new Advanced Beauty Room. It promises a multi-dimensional experience and a range of technologically advanced treatments, including the anti-cellulite Lipomassage by Endermologie, and an infrared wrinkle-reducing process by Celluma.
Beyond the physical, the Four Seasons Bangkok will also host mindful living events that include guided temple visits, meditation sessions with the property’s in-house yogi, and talks with visiting experts.
“Spas are becoming more modern in their approach,” says the property’s Senior Spa Director, Sandie Johannessen. “Guests are looking to balance all parts of their lives, and they want spas to help with this, all in one location.”
If your idea of wellness comes to you a little differently, the BKK Social Club is the place for you. Here, the dramatic tropical space is flanked by outdoor terraces — including one reserved for enjoying a cigar or two — while the bar is helmed by world-renowned mixologist Philip Bischoff. Think old world Buenos Aires, the heady beat of Bossa Nova in the air, and rare spirits and refreshing cocktails.
Wellness travel doesn’t have to mean sequestering yourself on an uncharted island or an isolated mountain monastery (though we’ve got some suggestions if that’s what you’re after).
It’s not just about shutting off for a week before being thrust back into the roar of the city immediately after: It’s about taking what you’ve learnt and applying that to your daily life — because wellness shouldn’t just be confined to a weekend away.