The world is an extraordinary place—filled with breathtaking landscapes to be explored, vibrant cities and cultures to be savored, and exhilarating adventures to be had. Traveling opens the doors to these splendors, which is why every travel experience is, in some sense, magical.
Still, as the most discerning travelers know, there exists a category of journeys that is more enchanting still. It is these extremely special, rarefied experiences—often available to only a select few—that can be considered not just remarkable, but transcendent and truly exceptional.
South Africa: Safari + Rhino Encounter
Set at the western edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, the 36,000-acre Ngala Private Game Reserve is home to a dazzling array of wildlife—including lions, cheetahs, and elephants, as well as a population of magnificent—and endangered—white rhinos.
Travel to Ngala and search for these amazing creatures with luxury safari company &Beyond. In addition to extensive wildlife-viewing opportunities by game drive, bush walk, and horseback riding, itineraries to South Africa include stays in sumptuous tented camps, lavish meals, and visits to tribal villages and wine estates. You can also add a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: The chance to actually touch a rhino. After the conservation team anesthetizes the endangered animal, you’ll assist with the important work of checking and ear-tagging the rhino for security and research, then releasing it back into its natural environs.
When to go: The dry season runs from May to September (when animals tend to be easier to spot); rhino conversation activity is subject to availability between April and September.
Australia: Outback Magic
The literal and figurative heart of Australia’s Red Center is Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a 512-square-mile, UNESCO World Heritage site of deep cultural significance for its traditional Aboriginal residents that’s best known for its colossal red-sandstone monolith, Uluru (also called Ayers Rock).
Travelers who make Longitude 131° their home base in this remote and sacred territory will enjoy a truly extraordinary experience. Offering the most opulent lodgings within the national park—16 tented pavilions whose floor-to-ceiling glass panes provide uninterrupted views over Uluṟu—the property also arranges unique excursions that include camel rides, visits to Aboriginal art centers, and evening trips to Bruce Munro’s astonishing Field of Light art installation, with its 50,000 glowing spindles that illuminate the desert night.
When to go: Between May and September, when daytime temperatures are typically below 90°F (they can be much higher during the rest of the year).
Scotland: Luxury Rail Journey
The Scottish Highlands are a natural paradise of majestic mountains, sweeping moors, verdant glens, and rugged coasts—all punctuated with historic castle estates and distilleries that produce the region’s world-famous whiskies.
Perhaps the finest way to experience this enchanting realm is by traveling aboard one of Europe’s most exclusive and elegant trains, the Belmond Royal Scotsman. It accommodates just 36 guests who sleep in plush, wood-paneled cabins with private en-suite bathrooms, dine on epicurean Scottish fare, and enjoy decadent treatments in a deluxe spa car. The classic, Edwardian-style train makes stops at many of the region’s most treasured highlights, such as the castle estates at Eilean Donan, Ballindalloch, and Rothiemurchus; glittering Loch Lomond; the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis; and the storied Glenfiddich distillery, maker of superior single-malt Scotch whisky.
When to go: Between April and October (train tours are only offered during these months, to avoid cold and inclement weather).
Antarctica: Unique New Cruise
Perhaps the ultimate bucket list destination, Antarctica is no doubt the toughest to reach of the seven continents. It’s also, many would say, the most alluring, with otherworldly glaciers, icebergs, and vast penguin colonies.
Now you can visit Antarctica in extreme style, thanks to luxury purveyor Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours. The company’s new Scenic Eclipse is a super-swanky, all-suite discovery yacht that brings some amazing toys to the continent—namely, helicopters and a submarine, allowing you to travel far inland and go deep underwater. (The ship also has more traditional Zodiac boats and kayaks.) The 11-night voyages to the White Continent from Ushuaia, Argentina are also over-the-top in their pampering. On board, you’ll find eight gourmet dining venues (unprecedented for a vessel of this kind) and a signature Whiskey Bar with more than 100 bottles, plus a cooking classroom, full-service spa, and yoga studio.
When to go: Sailing season in Antarctica runs from November through March.
New York City: Behind-the-Scenes Broadway
For generations, theater enthusiasts from around the globe have made the pilgrimage to New York City’s legendary Theater District—where 41 illustrious professional theaters are centered around a 14-block stretch of Midtown Manhattan and known simply, of course, as Broadway. Most of the world’s best-loved musicals, from Rodgers & Hammerstein classics to Andrew Lloyd Weber extravaganzas, have originated here.
It’s a rare treat to step behind the curtain of these elaborate productions and meet the actors who work together to conjure Broadway magic. But Signature Travel Network offers travelers the opportunity to take a private backstage tour of a show of their choice, where they can meet and take photos with cast members. Or, for an even more special experience, you can arrange (with lots of lead time) to sit in on a rehearsal for select shows.
When to go: Year-round, but especially September through January, as Midtown Manhattan is especially alluring in the autumn and winter holiday seasons.
Rome: After-Hours Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums—a vast complex of galleries, salons, and gardens that contain a trove of precious artworks by the likes of Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Leonardo da Vinci—are among the most beloved art destinations in the world. The site’s crowning jewel, of course, is the Sistine Chapel, whose frescoed walls and ceiling are widely considered to be Michelangelo’s most glorious masterpiece.
For travelers seeking intimate communion with these artistic treasures, Context Travel offers the ultimate tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel—in private and after hours, when the museum galleries’ crowds empty out. Plus, the tour is led by an expert art historian, whose knowledge enriches an already-divine experience.
When to go: Anytime—with enough advance planning. Since these highly coveted tours are only offered on a very limited basis each year, bookings are typically made months ahead of time.
Japan: Hidden Art Island
The remarkable and somewhat surreal “art island” of Naoshima, tucked away in Japan’s inland Seto Sea, is like its own five-square-mile, multi-dimensional art installation.
A bespoke tour of the island with Jacada Travel allows travelers to fully immerse themselves in this wondrous world, which is populated with fantastical outdoor sculptures and architect-designed museums that seem to have grown out of the surrounding landscape (or into it; some galleries are subterranean). An art-expert guide helps them navigate through the rotating cast of exhibits and international art shows, displayed in the ever-evolving collection of art spaces. Along with art appreciation, multi-day tours can include hikes and bikes around the island, beach visits, and stays in the stylish Benesse House, a museum that’s also a boutique hotel.
When to go: Between April and October, when rainfall is minimal.
Los Angeles: Outré Dining
Chef Jordan Kahn doesn’t refer to his wildly unusual, deeply artistic dining establishment as a restaurant; rather, he prefers to describe it as a multisensory gastronomical experience. Since Vespertine first opened its doors in 2017, it’s been hailed as groundbreaking by critics and mobbed for reservations by intrigued diners.
Occupying a futuristic, latticed four-story tower, which appears to be undulating and hums with its own muted musical score, Vespertine offers a multi-course tasting menus whose dishes are so sculptural in presentation they’re not easily identifiable as food. Many incorporate surprising flavor combinations (scallops with smoked bone marrow, salted plum, and burnt onion) and rarefied ingredients like giant kelp, madrone bark, coastal redwood, wild yucca, and coastal halophyte plants. Nearly every guest lucky enough to dine here has agreed: a meal at Vespertine is alluring, baffling, and like no other in the world.
When to go: Anytime, but with advance booking only.
Copenhagen: Dinner as Theater
The world’s most talked-about and over-the-top dining experience right now is the 50-course, outrageously operatic tasting menu served at Alchemist, chef Rasmus Munk’s Copenhagen restaurant.
Appropriately occupying a former set-building workshop of the Royal Danish Theatre, where bioluminescent imagery is projected above diners in a planetarium-style dome, the restaurant has been described as something akin to haute-cuisine-meets-Burning Man. A team of 30 chefs, along with a team of costumed dancers and actors, lavishes their attention upon just 40 guests per night, creating marvels of molecular gastronomy (employing foams and cryogenically frozen components) and culinary camp (a course of lamb’s brain comes coated with a cherry glaze). A meal here may not be for the faint of heart—but it is unforgettable.
When to go: Anytime, but with far-in-advance booking only (the waitlist is typically months’ long).
Mexico: In-Depth Culinary Tour
From its time-honored home-cooking traditions to its fine-dining restaurants, Mexico is a country with remarkably diverse—but uniformly delicious—cuisine.
Explore these gastronomic delights on a private, 10-day culinary journey from Oaxaca to Mexico City with Artisans Of Leisure. The itinerary invites guests to explore regional farmers’ markets, where they can sample local produce, chocolate, and cheeses; private cooking classes, where they can learn to prepare specialties like mole poblano; tastings of street-food favorites like cemitas and tacos; and reservations at some of the country’s highest-end restaurants, like Mexico City’s Rosetta. The trip includes stays at luxury hotels, as well as cultural excursions to archeological sites, like the Great Pyramid of Cholula, via private car.
When to go: Between September and May, when temperatures are typically between 60° and 80°F and rain is minimal.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Bhutan: Private Sanctuary
Famed for its remote Buddhist temples and fortress-like dzongs (monasteries) perched high among the peaks of the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan has long drawn travelers seeking spiritual retreat. Only recently, however, have visitors to this breathtaking country been able to combine their exploration with opulent modern comforts.
At Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary, the level of luxury attains new heights. Opened in 2018, this boutique resort set high in the Neyphu Valley treats its guests to peerless “inspirational hospitality”—including guided hikes and monastery visits; daily meditation, yoga, and mindfulness sessions; a serene spa offering traditional Himalayan wellness treatments; a lavish farm-to-table restaurant; and plush rooms whose private terraces offer sweeping views over the surrounding mountains.
When to Go: Either in autumn (September to November), when skies and clear and temperatures aren’t too cold; or spring (March to May), when wildflowers bloom along the mountainsides.
Maldives: Underwater Hotel
Comprising 26 different coral atolls and more than 1,000 individual coral islands, the Indian Ocean nation of The Maldives is home to one of the most astoundingly diverse marine ecosystems in the world. Some 2,000 fish species—including manta rays, moray eels, and whale sharks—make their home in the crystalline waters here.
At the private-island resort of The Conrad Maldives, a truly unique new lodging option allows travelers to experience this underwater wonderland beyond snorkeling and diving trips. The resort’s one-of-a-kind Muraka residence, a two-level bungalow whose glass-walled and glass-ceilinged master suite sits 16 feet below the surface of the ocean, surrounds lucky guests with unparalleled all-around views of the vivid natural aquarium outside. Muraka guests also enjoy a plethora of extravagant perks, from a palatial private deck with an infinity pool to a 24-hour dedicated butler and private chef.
When to go: Between November and April, during the region’s dry season.
Chile: Desert Stargazing
At the base of the Andes Mountains in the northernmost reaches of Chile, the Atacama Desert is the world’s premier stargazing destination. The region’s extreme dryness, altitude and freedom from light create near-perfect viewing conditions—which is why the globe’s most extensive astronomical observatories are located here.
Even amateur cosmologists, however, can experience the thrill of charting the night sky here—thanks to the exclusive stargazing tours offered to guests of the Atacama’s most luxurious boutique property, Awasi Atacama. By day, each guest at the 12-room lodge can arrange bespoke excursions to see volcanoes, geysers, llama herds, and ancient petroglyphs with a private guide and 4x4 vehicle. By night, astronomer-led trips to Awasi’s dedicated observatory reveals the celestial wonders above.
When to go: Anytime. Throughout the year, skies here are relentlessly clear, with daytime temperatures around 70-80°F and nighttime temperatures around 30-40°F.
Around the World: Private Jet Journeys
The ultimate way to travel—to almost any destination in the world—is by private jet. As international dignitaries and celebrities have long known, having an exclusive aircraft at their beck and call, able to fly to places and at times that best suit their personal needs, provides unsurpassed luxury and convenience.
Now, TCS World Travel’s collection of private-jet tours lets select travelers experience this superior model of travel, with itineraries that take in some of the globe’s most far-flung places. These include round-the-world tours that visit iconic sites like Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Machu Picchu, and Angkor Wat; and specific regional explorations like wine tours in Australia and New Zealand or the highlights of Brazil (Rio, the Pantanal, Iguaçu Falls). All trips include curated planned excursions, meals, and stays at world-class hotels.
When to go: Varies by destination; a TCS World Travel expert can help plan the ideal journey.