A couple of years ago, the notion of Gap Year where students take time to travel or get life experience before moving on to university or embarking on a career was almost unheard of in Asia. However it has since become increasingly popular and more fresh-faced school and university students are heading to the shores of New Zealand, Thailand, India and beyond for a grand adventure. But Gap Years needn’t be confined to the youngsters, a growing number of professionals, empty-nesters and retirees are hankering after the same kind of around the world, off the beaten track experiences, albeit in a little more style than the traditional gapper. Here, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), experts in luxury boutique travel, share their dream itineraries and experiences for a“Grown Up Gap Year”retirement, redundancy, sabbatical or just an escape from the rat race, whether you have a full year, a few months, or a couple of weeks,these are the destinations to dream about.
A journey through Costa Rica makes the trip of a lifetime. Explore this ecologically rich country with SLH – from quiet beaches to wild rivers, a Central American adventure awaits. Our dream itinerary would include a stay at Hotel Punta Islita– overlooking a rugged bay on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, Punta Islita is a picturesque beachfront resort set on a tiered hillside. Expect a close-up view of authentic Costa Rican culture amidst forest-covered mountains with plenty of fast-paced activities such as zip lining and forest trekking, and a relaxing spa with treatments inspired by nature to fill your alone-time. For quieter moments, one of the main attractions of Punta Islita is the peace and seclusion – warm tropical breezes, forest scents and sea and sky views are best enjoyed from your hammock for a taste of delicious solitude. From there, head to Le Caméléon in Puerto Viejo. Close to some of the world’s quietest beaches in Puerto Viejo, this is a sophisticated yet relaxed beach retreat where a laid back Caribbean lifestyle becomes second nature for all guests. Laze by the pool and enjoy a massage…or visit Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, renowned for manatees, dolphins and sea turtles that nest on the beaches from February to May. Rancho Pacifico in Puntarenas is an idyllic spot to end the journey – expect ultra-comfortable isolation in the midst of tropical jungle. Set high on a secluded hilltop, surrounded by 250 acres of rainforest, this eco-luxury resort provides 10 dramatic rooms – choose from suite, villa and treehouse accommodation. Activities abound – take the private Bosque Puro Trail 1,000 feet up to the top of the coastal mountains into the cloud forest, or journey into a remote part of the Osa Peninsula via the Sierpe River by boat. Sightings of monkeys, sloths, jaguarundis, anteaters, tree frogs, toucans and parakeets are commonplace in this area.
Seeking a spiritual retreat? Why not follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts and embark upon a journey of self-discovery as portrayed in the novel and movie Eat, Pray, Love! SLH offers a charming selection of luxury escapes in Florence, India and Bali, the three destinations the protagonist famously visited on her journey.Dine Like A King In Florence: JK Place Firenze Hotel -. Suspended in a bubble of refinement in the heart of the city, JK Place Firenze Hotel is an exceptional retreat, adored by everyone who stays behind its modest townhouse façade. Inside, it is elegance epitomised with century’s worth of artefacts and lovely homemade food served all day in a glass-covered courtyard.Find Inner Calm In India: Fragrant Nature Retreat & Resort, Kerala The natural village setting of Fragrant Nature Retreat & Resort reflects the authentic Keralean way of life. In a stunning setting overlooking a fresh water lake, the extremely comfortable rooms and villas bring you close to nature while fine dining, a pampering spa and a traditional cruise boat provides more than a touch of supreme comfort.Love Yourself In Bali: Spa Village Tembok Bali. Set amidst a dramatic volcanic landscape on Bali’s north-eastern coast, Spa Village Resort Tembok, Bali is where your restorative journey begins. Dedicated to top-to-toe pampering and personalised spa treatments, this uniquely peaceful and tranquil spot is surrounded by tropical gardens and provides a beach-side restaurant, a spectacular infinity pool and stunning accommodation.
Off The Beaten Track
Hotel Terelj, Mongolia .Set on the banks of the Terelj River in a remote spot surrounded by lush tree-covered mountains in the Gorkhi-Terelji National Park, the Terelj Hotel is a polished sanctuary of relaxation just 50 kilometres from Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar. An almost untouched corner of the earth, near the birthplace of Ghenhis Khan, the pristine wilderness surrounding the property is some of the most carefully protected parkland in the country. Guests enjoy outdoor adventures from bird watching to hiking and climbing or horseback riding through meadows of edelweiss, grassy steppes and forest-covered mountains. Although sparsely populated, the park is also home to nomadic Mongolians, offering visitors the chance to meet with the authentic people of Mongolia. Admire the Khagiin Khar glacial lake, the Yestii hot springs, and spot brown bears, wild boar, wolves and over 250 bird species before retreating to the hotel’s veranda to relax in an armchair under a cashmere blanket – the grown up way to experience the wilderness!
Art and Relax Hotel Bergwelt, Austria. At a heady 1950m, Obergurgl in Austria boasts a long ski season for maximum snow days. The typically Tyrolean village has magnificent scenery and lively après ski to boot – stay at the Art and Relax Hotel Bergwelt, a fabulous ski-in ski-out property set high on a sunny plateau. Delightfully traditional, the lodge offers modern, stylish interiors, a panoramic restaurant, a spa with the highest pool in the Alps and a fantastic welcoming bar with blazing fire. We wouldn’t mind holing up here all winter long! Royal Park Hotel Kandersteg, Switzerland. From Austria, head across the border to Switzerland to the small alpine resort of Kandersteg. Excellent skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing, cross-country skiing, skating, tobogganing and even ice hockey await! Stay at the Royal Park Hotel Kandersteg, which sits in a huge park, perfectly located for all the activities on offer in the area. The ski season staples of fondue and raclette served at Berner Stübli restaurant are truly legendary.
Reservations for any Small Luxury Hotels of the World property can be made by calling +65 6232 5060, online at www.slh.com or via the new iPhone app. Travel agents need only remember the GDS code LX for LuXury.
- The best gap year destinations of 2012 (telegraph.co.uk)