its ancient cultures, mountainous backdrops, and oasis of tranquility, Nepal
and Bhutan each hold a wealth of centuries-old stupas and temples. Recently
described as a “once in a lifetime journey” by the United States Tour Operators
Association (USTOA) and AFAR Magazine ambassador, Luxury Gold’s Magnificent Nepal and Bhutan journeyis nothing short of an “A-list”
bucket-list experience ifor travelers seeking authenticity, exploration and
“I was met with this sort of awe each moment of my journey with Luxury Gold, as our Traveling Concierge kept my journal occupied, and my camera at the ready,” said AFAR Magazine ambassador, Ryan Neal Cordwell, in his recent USTOA blog. “It isn’t only the absorption of undiluted insight, but the ability to participate interactively, that stamps this page of the world with gold.”
Luxury Gold’s dedicated and knowledgeable Traveling Concierges, VIP treatment, delectable dining, and immersive, local experiences bring together the true beauty of this enchanting region.
a VIP experience in Kathmandu, meet with the monks of Boudhanath
stupa for a private puja (blessing) ceremony. Hear traditional chanting,
drumming and tales of the monks lives inside the temple. You’ll be cherished by
this visit by being blessed by the monks. Later, meet a local pottery
craftsman who will explain the traditions and processes of their
works, before guiding you to try for yourself.
in Paro, choose a private traditional mask dance and cultural
show or learn about the passion the Bhutanese have for the national
sport of archery, attending a range to interact with the locals. You can
also join a gentle hike to Taktshang Monastery known as
the Tiger’s Nest.
Thimphu, you’re invited into the home of a local family for a delicious
home-cooked meal of typical regional fare. Visit the National Memorial
Chorten, dedicated to world peace, along with Tasichho Dzong, known
as the fortress of the glorious religion. Visit the bustling market, an
opportunity to mix with the locals.
Punakha, stay at the luxurious Dhensa Boutique Resort, which
sits in lush Punakha Valley and offers spectacular views. Visit the winter
residence of the monk body that is also the capital of Bhutan – Punakha
Dzong and can walk to Chimi Lhakhang temple and
admire the magnificent views over the Losesa Valley.
the Dochula Pass, participate in a prayer flag hoisting ceremony,
an integral part of Bhutanese landscape. It is believed that when prayer flags
flutter, they carry a blessing to everyone around.
Gold is bringing back the golden era of travel with the launch of their
worldwide collection by offering a 10% Early Payment Discount if
you book and pay in full by December 18, 2019.
For reservations, contact your local Travel Advisor, call 1-888-428-1503, or visit www.luxurygold.com.
December, natural phenomena, perfect weather and local Christmas traditions
make such exotic locales as Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Svalbard, Christmas and Galápagos islands some of the most marvelous
destinations for travel.
Smart Lemur, a website specializing in “authentic travel” experiences, is highlighting these five unexpected Christmas destinations, explaining what makes them so special during the holiday season:
Sri Lanka, South Asia
in Sri Lanka, an island country surrounded by the Indian Ocean, is the most
pleasant time – sunny and not overcrowded with tourists. The average daily
temperature for this month is 27°C.
spending Christmas here enjoy the best tea and cinnamon in the world, exchange
presents on the sandy beaches, drink from coconuts and watch wild elephants.
Seeing these giants from close up in their natural habitat is one of the unique
attractions in Sri Lanka.
Those eager to have more traditional holiday activities, are welcome to visit the capital Colombo, offering festive markets, special dinners, live music events and dance performances.
Mauritius, Indian Ocean
also called the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is a tiny island full of lavish
nature, ranging from crystal-clear waters and coloured layers of sand to
tropical forests and lively underwater world.
December, air temperature is likely to reach 29°C, and travellers get to enjoy
up to nine daily hours of sunshine. Lovely fuss, preparations, and Christmas
songs in such weather allow visitors to experience celebrating Christmas in
shorts and flip-flops.
season is the time of abundant tropical fruits and splendid flame trees
blooming in bright red fiery flowers. Fresh mangoes, pineapples, litchis
(Lychee), Longan (Dragon Eye Fruit) and watermelons grow all around the island.
The most prominent attraction in Mauritius is swimming alongside dolphins.
is one of the northernmost settlements in the world, luring travellers who
dream of Arctic Christmas.
mid-November to late January, this Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean
enters into a mystical dark season known as Polar Night. During this period,
the sun is hidden from the horizon and everything is pitch-dark around the
Furthermore, winter is the time to hunt the Northern Lights. Svalbard is the only permanently inhabited place on Earth where visitors can experience dayside Northern Lights.
Christmas Island, Australia
Island is in the Indian Ocean, 1,550km north-west from the Australian mainland.
from its obvious affiliation to Christmas after being named so on December 25th
in 1643, the island is rich in spectacular nature.
the only place on Earth to witness one of the most incredible natural processes
– an annual red crab migration. Bright-coloured crabs from all over the island
start marching towards the ocean, all at the same time. And it usually occurs
with 40 seabirds per capita, Christmas Island is a regional leader in this
metric. Nature lovers can meet endemic species, such as the Christmas Island
frigatebird and the elegant white-tailed tropicbird.
Despite the natural wonders and sandy beaches, the destination is still under the radar, receiving just 2000 visitors a year.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuado
The Galápagos Islands is
a volcanic archipelago, famous for its diverse wildlife and jaw-dropping
December is a warm and
dry season with air temperature reaching 27°C.
Visitors get a chance to see rare animals like marine iguanas, sea turtles,
flamingos, Masked Boobies and White-cheeked Pintails, which tend to stay away
during other months.
rich Christmas traditions make tourists feel part of a big family. The locals
sing carols and celebrate with delicious meals like roasted turkey.
Smart Lemur is a website
created by a group of travel enthusiasts who are passionate about unique and
authentic travel experiences. Visit www.smartlemur.com
ST. LUCIA – Jade
Mountain and Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia have been recertified for
the internationally renowned Travelife Gold Certification for Hotels and
Accommodations. The twin properties are the only Gold-certified accommodations
on the Caribbean island, the luxury resorts’ owners, Nick and Karolin
Travelife, the sustainable tourism certification system, has
reassessed Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet’s performance in responsibly
managing their socioeconomic and environmental impacts. The resorts first
achieved certification in 2017 and have worked hard to maintain the title.
To gain a Travelife Gold certification, Jade Mountain and
Anse Chastanet were assessed against 88 sustainability criteria that take into
account the following environmental issues and positive social impacts:
Protecting the environment, by minimizing the
amount of energy, waste and water used;
Respecting and treating employees fairly;
Respecting the local community, including its residents and
the safeguarding of children;
Protecting the local culture, heritage, and wildlife of the
Supporting the local economy and its businesses.
The Troubetzkoys said of the accolade: “We are
absolutely delighted to have achieved Travelife Gold Certification once again,
as environmental efforts have always been at the heart of our resorts. It is
incredibly important to us that we continue to commit to sustainability and to
supporting the local community year-over-year.”
Environmental concerns, sustainability and community efforts
are at the epicenter of Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet, with daily practices
set up to conserve water and energy and increase recycling efforts. These
include but are not restricted to the following:
The design of Jade Mountain reinforces the connection to the
natural environment with passive ventilation of the rooms and natural
day-lighting. Heating and cooling of the sanctuaries (rooms) are based entirely
on the natural rhythms and cycles of the world. Not being dependent on
artificial cooling or lighting of the rooms decreases the use of precious
energy resources and minimizes the carbon footprint of the resort.
The exterior plaza of Jade Mountain was designed to capture
all the rainwater in Koi ponds and planting areas. The plants are then
harvested for use in the resort’s restaurants.
A natural coral tile was used for exterior walkways and roof
areas. It is highly reflective and effectively diminishes any “heat
island” effect in the local micro-climate.
Potable water for the resorts is produced by collecting it
in a reservoir that was originally constructed and used by the British and
French to power the water wheels that crushed sugar cane. The reservoir was
repaired after decades of not being used and now collects over 1.5 million
gallons of water annually that is gravity-fed to a state-of-the-art water
Only local, indigenous plants were used in the landscaping,
which minimizes the need for watering and protects a precious resource.
The resorts were the catalyst behind the coral reefs of St.
Lucia being declared a marine reserve to protect this valuable resource.
The resorts provide alternative transportation for its
employees. On a daily basis, shuttles are scheduled hourly to transport workers
from the resort to the local community, keeping carbon emissions to a minimum.
During the construction of Jade Mountain, any left-over
construction materials were distributed to the local workforce for use on their
Construction materials that were used primarily came from
the island, reducing the use of fossil fuels for transportation and the
resultant pollution. For example, wood used was harvested from a managed
During construction, the workers were protected through the
implementation of an Indoor Air Quality plan that minimized worker’s exposure
to harmful airborne compounds.
Low emitting materials (paints, adhesives, etc.) were used
throughout the resorts, which effectively eliminated volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) that are detrimental to a person’s health.
Guests are given the opportunity to learn about the resorts’
sustainability programs and actively participate in environmental
activities such as reef cleaning and tree planting.
Nightly rates at Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain start at
$375 and $1,080, respectively, per room based on double occupancy. Rates
are subject to 10% service charge and 10% VAT. To book visit www.ansechastanet.com or www.jademountain.com.
Rising majestically above the 600-acre beachfront resort of
Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain Resort
on St. Lucia’s southwestern Caribbean coastline is a cornucopia of organic
architecture celebrating the island’s stunning scenic beauty. Architect owner
Nick Troubetzkoy has expanded upon his philosophy of building in harmony with
Caribbean nature in his creation of Jade Mountain. The bold architectural
design – individual bridges leading to exceptional infinity pool sanctuaries
and rugged stoned-faced columns reaching towards the sky – makes Jade Mountain
one of the Caribbean’s most mesmerizing resort experiences. For more
information, visit www.jademountain.com.
Anse Chastanet is set amid a lush 600-acre estate with two soft-sand beaches and breathtaking views of St. Lucia’s twin Pitons mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amidst St. Lucia’s lush tropical beauty, activities range from jungle biking, hiking and bird watching to snorkeling on the reef within swimming distance of the beach. The environmentally friendly, award-winning resort comprises 49 individually designed rooms, 37 of which are scattered about a lush hillside, and 12 that are nestled within a tropical garden at beach level. Innovative menus – one of which is entirely vegetarian – are offered in four different locations and feature fresh produce served up from the resort’s organic farm. Guests can partake in interactive chocolate-making classes in the resort’s chocolate laboratory and a variety of water sports are also on offer. For further information, visit www.ansechastanet.com.
From now until Nov. 8, Luxury Gold is offering exclusive air offers on journeys to Europe and Egypt and receive $150 off per person on economy, $200 off per person on premium economy and $300 off per person on business class with American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia. These are valid for departure periods from now to May 31, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2020 to Nov. 15, 2020.
In addition to the air offer, guests can receivea 10% Early Payment Discount on trips to Europe if they book and pay in full by December 18, 2019.
Now is the perfect time for travelers to get the best deals
possible with the biggest choice of journeys and departure dates.
On Luxury Gold’s journeys to Europe and Egypt,
travelers will open their minds to the luxuries of exceptional Michelin-star dining,
VIP experiences, small group travel and top-notch hotels. From dining at
critically acclaimed restaurants, to meeting important locals, to going behind-the-scenes
to iconic sites and much more, Luxury Gold offers enriching and authentic
experiences in small groups.
Travelers can explore Europe and Egypt in exquisite luxury
on these journeys and more:
Ultimate Italy (12-days): Travelers will delve into the marvelous country of
Italy on this classic and romantic journey. In the Eternal City of Rome, guests
will have VIP access to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel with an
expert guide to marvel at the timeless Papal art collection. In Tuscany, guests
will delight in a tasting of rare Super Tuscan wines in the underground
cellar of Machiavelli’s home before enjoying a light Farm-to-Table lunch.
In Venice, they’ll discover the secrets of the Venetian Republic on a private
evening tour of the Doge’s Palace with a local expert. Along the way
at the Isle of Capri, they’ll take in exclusive views of the
Gulf of Naples from the privileged perch of Michelin-starred
Mammà, enjoy a private cruise around the island to
see its hidden coves and grottos, and admire the famous Faraglioni
Rocks from the gardens of Caesar Augustus. For an
immersive experience, guests will meet Marta at her artisanal workshop in Perugia,
to discover the medieval tradition of loom-weaving and how it is being
preserved by the TreadRight Foundation grant.
New Journey – Elegance of the Pharaohs (10 days):Guests
will begin this extraordinary journey to this enchanting land of the Pharaohs
in Cairo at the luxurious Mena House Hotel with guaranteed
Pyramid-view rooms. They will join an expert Egyptologist and venture inside
the Great Pyramids and admire the mysterious Great Sphinx. Guests will also
explore the renowned Egyptian Museum with its ancient treasures including
priceless artifacts from the Tomb of Tutankhamun. The adventure continues
with guests traveling onwards to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of
Luxor to embark on a five-day cruise on the most luxurious ship
on the Nile, the River Tosca with its beautifully
appointed all-suite rooms. They will unwind with an onboard gala reception and
dinner. They will also enjoy exclusive VIP Experiences including a
visit the Temple of Luxor after it has been closed to the public. One of
the Journey Highlights includes traveling to a Nubian
village and meeting a local family in their traditional dwelling where
they will demonstrate regional bread-making process. They will follow in the footsteps of Agatha
Christie and Winston Churchill as they experience a colonial
English-style high tea at Aswan’s Old Cataract Hotel’s terrace during sunset.
Harmony of Central Europe (13 days): Take a journey into the past, with our
showcase of the grandest and most opulent cities of old Europe. From Prague to
Budapest, guests will marvel at the spirit of former empires and regal
grandeur. They’ll walk in the footsteps of six-year-old Mozart at an after-hours
visit to the baroque Schönbrunn Palace, indulge with dinner at one
of Vienna’s amazing Michelin-starred restaurants, and enjoy a
private sparkling wine cruise on the glittering River Danube. Along the way,
guests will witness a private recital of Chopin’s classic works, taste fine
wines and stay in stately hotels. On select Chairman’s Collection departure
dates guests will have the pleasure of meeting a descendant of the famous
Habsburgs, Princess Anita Von Hohenberg at her home– the beautiful
Artstetten Castle. Princess Anita will talk to them about her fascinating
life and heritage over an exclusive sparkling wine reception.
As global leaders in luxury travel with expertise accumulated over nearly 100 years, Luxury Gold epitomizes extraordinary exploration to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations. To find out more, visit www.luxurygoldvacations.com.
as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, The TreadRight
Foundation is a not-for-profit that works to help ensure the environment and
communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. Founded by Brett
Tollman, Chief Executive, TTC, to date TreadRight has supported more than 40
sustainable tourism projects worldwide. To learn more about our past and current
work at TreadRight, visit TreadRight.org.
COUNTY WICKLOW, Ireland– With the European Union’s approval, Britain has received an extension to its exit (Brexit) until 31 January 2020. Rob Rankin, founder and owner Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland, is taking a wait-and-see-attitude concerning the UK Parliament’s vote to uphold or not the exit date that could change how the UK does business with Europe — and also on the Emerald Isle.
Maybe Brexit will be washed down the drain over a toast with its trading bloc partners since 1993. Maybe not. In the meantime Rankin’s team offers a list of ideas to visitors to Ireland who may want to know what the fuss is all about. In Dublin, the gateway city for Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland, historic attractions are two-a-penny. Guests are invited to discover for themselves the bullet holes on the General Post Office that betray its role at the heart of the 1916 Easter Rising. The National Museum is housed in a former barracks. Glasnevin Cemetery holds an array of independence heroes and an excellent museum.
Highly recommended in Belfast is an on-own Black Cab tour that offers a unique perspective on the capital of Northern Ireland. Guests listen to expert personal commentary on a guided tour through unionist and nationalist communities, learning about the late 20th century ‘The Troubles’ while viewing political murals and signing names to a peace wall.
Itineraries encompassing Derry include a guided walking tour around the historic walled city of Derry/Londonderry that showcases the Guild Hall and a siege cannon while shedding light on the nationalist neighborhood where the Northern Irish Civil Rights movement was born in the late 1960s, leading to a virtual 30-year war between Catholics and Protestants.
And other itineraries including Cork, also known as the Rebel County, share stories of the action here during the early 1920s War of Independence and ensuing Civil War. Michael Collins was ambushed and assassinated at Béal na Bláth. Picturesque Cobh was a center of resistance in 1916.
“It’s a no-brainer to say that this ours is a complicated history,” adds Rankin. Vagabond Tours of Ireland assists its guests in scratching the surface of the history of why there are two separate Irelands. This history goes back well into the 16th century when the island was like a piece of fabric being stretched between Gaelic-speaking Catholics and the English who spoke English and who were eventually predominantly Protestant.
“Today Brexit has become our own three-legged milking stool,” Rankin explains. The three legs are:
European Union (EU) – since 1993 a commerce-driven alliance of European nations, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom (UK) – inclusive of Great Britain (Scotland,
Wales, England) and Northern Ireland (six counties that are culturally British
out of an overall 32 counties on the island). This bloc known as the UK has
voted to disengage from the EU because of a perception that the UK doesn’t
enjoy full sovereignty in the EU.
Republic of Ireland – represents 26 of 32 counties on the
Emerald Isle, is not part of the UK bloc and enjoys 80% to 90% support for
continuing its own EU membership. The Republic of Ireland fought and won
independence from the UK from 1916 to 1921. The six counties in the northern
part of Ireland demanded that their union with the UK and the British crown
remain intact, resulting in Northern Ireland. When the UK voted to remove
itself (Brexit) from the EU, the independent country Republic of Ireland
determined to remain within the EU.
Customs and tariff protocols between the Republic of Ireland
(EU) and Northern Ireland (UK) have been operational and peaceful for nearly
two decades. Residents and visitors to Ireland and the UK enjoy visa-free
travel to each other’s countries. All sides have agreed that this situation
will continue post-Brexit.
What is of concern, adds Rankin, is that without a so-called backstop built
into the negotiations, the now a ‘soft’ border between the Northern Ireland and
the Republic of Ireland could once again become a ‘hard’ border that in turn
could pick at century-old scars. The relationship between the Republic of
Ireland and Northern Ireland has steadily improved since the landmark peace
accord of 1998. What’s known as the Good Friday Agreement ended paramilitary
activity and customs infrastructure at north/south border crossing points. The
British army was removed from Northern Ireland.
No matter Brexit’s outcome – or not – Rankin and his team are high on 2020
bookings, already strong.
“We envisage no major disruption. The bright side is, we hope, more opportunity
to explain Irish history,” he says.
Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland offers two styles of culturally immersive
travel. Vagabond Adventure Tours (the
division hosting the Epic Irish Food Adventure Tour) are for active travelers
who want to mix up hiking, kayaking and biking and other outdoor adventures
with history, culture, dining and shopping. Driftwood Journeys of Discovery follow
similar itineraries but at an intimate and in-depth looking and lingering pace,
sans the physical exertion.
On all of its tours, Vagabond staff curate locally owned accommodations, pubs
and restaurants that help serve their goal of authenticity. In the end the
mission is to have guests “love Ireland as much as we do.” Transport is in a
custom Mercedes ‘Vagatron’ or special mini-buses which allow access beyond
where regular tour buses go.
For details on all of Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland itineraries,
availability and for 2019 reservations, visit https://vagabondtoursofireland.com/. Call toll
free (from the US) 1.833-230-0288; in Ireland 00353 (0) 1 5634358; or
Since 2002 Vagabond Adventure Tours has been creating opportunities for
visitors to embrace Ireland by walking, biking, horseback riding and kayaking
its lands and waters, imbibing history and culture along the way. In 2013 the
company was honored by National Geographic Traveler with a Top
50 Tour of a Lifetime distinction. In 2015 and 2017 Vagabond Small Group Tours
of Ireland was named the “Best Adventure Experience” at the Irish Tourism
Awards. In 2017, Vagabond became Ireland’s first tour operator to achieve
Ecotourism Gold Level Certification. In 2018, Vagabond Tours won The Green
Tourism & Entertainment category in Ireland’s most prestigious Green
(business) Awards. And in February 2019, the company won two top Irish Tourism
Industry Awards for the Best Ireland Ancient East Tourism Experience and Best
Environmental Tourism Innovation.
NEW YORK –Portugal beckons travelers to its historic,
cobblestone villages and pristine beaches in the fall and winter, when
temperatures are mild and airfare is offered at value prices. With an annual
average of 3,000 hours of sunshine, this southern European country offers
idyllic scenery and outdoor opportunities year-round.
When comedian Harrison Greenbaum visits Lisbon, Portugal in the travel
video series “Recalculating” he ventures off to the local
coastal community of Trafaria to take a cooking lesson with a group of
grandmas, meet a sea captain at the beach, and even learn a few new dance
moves. Tour operators of the United States Tour Operators
Association (USTOA) create immersive, fulfilling experiences
for destinations like Portugal
throughout the year.
Here’s a collection of itineraries for travelers looking to book a trip
to Portugal in 2020:
Jewels of Portugal – Homeric Tours’ offers
a five-day trip through Lisbon with tours of Sintra’s palaces and castles, a
day at the Historic Centre of Évora, and visits to Jeronimo’s Monastery, Belem
Tower, and more. Departures are available between January and October 2020,
starting at $1,165 per person.
Portugal In Depth – Globus’ 11-day trip
stops in Lisbon, Porto, Algarve, Tomar, Viseu, and Évora for exposure to the
best of Portugal’s inland communities and coastal cities. Highlights include a
visit to the Church of São Francisco in Porto, an olive oil tasting in
Belmonte, and a stop at the 700-year-old University of Coimbra. Departures are
available between April 2020 and October 2020, starting at $1,979 per person.
Treasures of Portugal – smarTours brings
guests to a collection of historic landmarks in Portugal with visits to the
medieval village of Marvão, the Cathedral of Évora, the Belém Riverside District
in Lisbon, and the University of Coimbra. Departures are available between
April and October 2020, starting at $2,199 per person including airfare.
Portugal & The Douro River Valley – YMT Vacations offers
a seven-night cruise down the Douro River and a five-night land tour stretching
from Lisbon to Porto. Guests will enjoy a port wine tasting in the Douro
Valley’s wine region, a walk through the streets of Sintra and Óbidos, and a
visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima. Departure is available October
10, 2020, starting at $3,199 per person.
Into the Heart of Portugal – Scenic Tours USA Inc.’s 11-day luxury river
cruise is hosted by a National Geographic expert and photographer. Activities
include a festive flamenco performance in Salamanca, Spain, birdwatching in
Porto’s wetlands, and practicing landscape photography in the Douro Valley
vineyards. Departures are available between September 22 and October 2, 2020,
starting at $7,395 per person.
Other episodes of Recalculating take place in Whistler in British
Colombia, New York’s Coney Island, Philadelphia, Mexico City and Slovenia.
Watch them all by visiting https://ustoa.com/recalculating
Find all Portugal itineraries
by USTOA tour operators here.
Representing nearly $19
billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association
provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million
travelers annually access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom
to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member
company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including
participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects
consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.
As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also
provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.