It’s time to dream big. Yes, I said it. That doesn’t mean get on a flight tomorrow, but it does mean hope is coming in the form of vaccines and better treatments, and we can let our imaginations run wild in 2021. (Maybe the second half of 2021? Let’s get through this long winter first.)
These trips are big in every way; they’re luxurious but not with that stodgy white-linen tablecloth vibe; extravagant, in both access to experiences and distance flown from the United States; and yes, they’re expensive. Like, biggest purchase of the year expensive. They also support and sustain the local communities in a big way.
Here are eight trips to fuel your wanderlust in 2021.
Unexplored Japan and Western Honshu with GeoEx
The COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin in July 2021 (we hope), so all eyes will be on Japan this year. A new 13-day trip from GeoEx called Unexplored Japan offers an in-depth look at a place that few foreign travelers visit. Acclaimed travel writer and expert in Japan Don George will lead the trip, which focuses on small villages and historic towns in the western part of the main island of rural Honshu.
“To my mind, this is a dream trip for anyone wanting a deep immersion in Japanese culture, in a picturesque and very little visited rural setting, where the travelers are actually helping to protect and preserve the treasures they are savoring,” George says. “It feels emblematic of the kind of travel that we are all hoping will emerge from our pandemic pause, with travelers wanting journeys that promote and nurture sustainability.”
During this trip focused on arts and culture, travelers will meet local artisans preserving centuries-old traditions like Hagi-yaki pottery, indigo fabric dyeing, sake and vinegar brewing, and salt harvesting from seaweed; enjoy meals with local chefs; and stay in places like a beautifully renovated samurai house and in a funaya boathouse residence. Each departure is limited to eight guests.
Unexplored Japan—two departures in 2021 (October 11–23, 2021; October 27–November 8, 2021); two departures in 2022 (October 10–22, 2022; October 24–November 5, 2022). From $16,475 per person for 2021 trips, based on double occupancy.
See the total solar eclipse in Antarctica
A number of voyages are planned next year to coincide with the total solar eclipse happening on December 4, 2021, which will only be visible in Antarctica.
Travelers who book the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse trip with Pelorus, a luxe-adventure company, will view it aboard a superyacht, relaxing after experiences like cruising to Enterprise Island to see humpback whales before skiing down glaciers; visiting penguin colonies on Trinity Island; and helicoptering to Mount Shackleton to discover shipwrecks, an old whaling station, and an incredible sunset. The Once in a Life-Time Solar Eclipse trip to Antarctica with Pelorus starts at $300,000 for up to 22 people, including all permitting, permissions, support staff, and experiences.
One of the biggest cruise launches of 2021 is Ponant’s luxury ecoexpedition ship Le Commandant Charcot, with 135 cabins and French amenities like Veuve Clicquot champagne, Ladurée treats, and Sothys Paris skincare. It will explore parts of Antarctica not previously touristed, like Peter I Island. (Fun fact: More people have set foot on the moon than visited here.) It will also offer tethered hot air balloon rides for great views, and guests who wish they had been scientists in another life will be able to work with onboard scientists to help research, collect, and share environmental data. Le Commandant Charcot will set sail to the Weddell Sea in the Southern Ocean on November 29, 2021, for the best view of the total solar eclipse.
Ponant—Total Eclipse in the Weddell Sea; November 29–December 14, 2021, from Ushuaia, Argentina, starting from $17,790 per person.
Finnish Lapland, a remote winter wonderland, with Scott Dunn
On this trip to one of the world’s most remote regions, you arrive in Finnish Lapland by private jet and then it’s your choice—a 10-mile snowmobile ride or a 5–10 minute helicopter ride from Rovaniemi Airport for the rest of the way. Your destination: Octola, a 10-bedroom, exclusive-use lodge set within a private wilderness reserve and surrounded by wild reindeer.
“It’s the dreamiest of spots for groups of friends or families to get together and forget all about 2020,” says Jules Maury, head of Scott Dunn Private, a luxury travel company catering to an exclusive client list. “Everything is taken care of. Your private chef takes care of dinner—gorgeous Nordic cuisine to your taste. After a day of husky sledding or ice fishing, your private butler will make sure the hot tub or sauna is ready for your return. We can organize a night snowshoe walk to enjoy the stillness of the forest and you might just catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. It’s magical.”
U.K.-based tour operator Scott Dunn’s partnership with Fly Victor allows small groups of up to six to enjoy a multigenerational getaway.
Octola/Finnish Lapland with Scott Dunn—from $10,000 per person including flights for three nights, daily activities, a private butler, and a private wilderness guide.
Sailing the Turkish coast in a private yacht
Any trip to Turkey likely starts or ends with magnificent, colorful, delicious Istanbul. The next element of a Turkish dream trip is to sail on the western Aegean coast in a traditional gulet, or wooden yacht.
Mehmet Furat, co-owner of family-owned Zephyria Yachting, has planned trips in this part of the world for more than 40 years. “The most popular itinerary is from Bodrum to Gocek, or vice versa, for a minimum of seven days,” he says. “There is something for all tastes with secluded bays, clear waters, small villages, and ancient sites, sailing, and water sports. There are no limits. Guests can sightsee every day or sunbathe every day, dine alfresco, or explore ancient history.” Plus, Bodrum and Gocek are easily accessible with several direct international flights in the summer and more connecting flights through Istanbul.
A luxury yacht charter like those in Zephyria’s fleet resembles a floating villa with 24-hour service, Furat says. Guests can choose every aspect of the locally driven menus daily, or take the chef’s recommendations, and you wake up in a different place to explore each day.
Each charter is highly customized, and gulets accommodate from 4 to 12 people. Sample rates start at $12,000 for a family of four in low season (April, May, and October), including full board with soft drinks. The price per person drops if more people join the group.
A romantic 10 days exploring Sicily
Sicily is so high on my personal wish list that I can’t write a dream trip story without including it. “It is a warm and inviting part of Italy that is still very much under the radar,” says Tom Marchant, cofounder and owner of Black Tomato. “The hospitality, hyper-local experiences, distinct culture, and incredible food make it a must for 2021.” For luxury travelers, there is also great hotel news: Rocco Forte’s Villa Igeia will open in 2021 after a COVID delay, and Four Seasons has signed on to operate the former San Domenico Palace hotel.
I’m dreaming of Black Tomato’s trip for two, mainly for the access to incredible locals curated on one trip. Its itinerary dives deep into the island’s food and cooking culture, along with an archaeologist-led tour of the famous Valley of the Temples. It includes multiple private cooking classes with local families and chefs (including one focused on pizza); in-depth visits to a local honey farm, an oil mill, and a bee producer to learn about the Sicilian black bee; a session with a Palermo artist who specializes in making puppets; and a private yacht tour off the Giardini Naxos coast, below Taormina.
Sicily with Black Tomato—10 nights, two guests, $26,805 for all luxury hotel stays, experiences, activities, transportation on the island, and guides.
The Northeast Passage: Across the Russian Arctic with A&K’s Geoffrey Kent
In keeping with the “remote” theme, how about a trip to the largely uninhabited Northeast Passage, with one of the world’s most well-traveled men, Geoffrey Kent?
With Abercrombie & Kent’s cofounder, travelers will explore Franz Josef Land (named for the Austrian emperor), which requires a special permit to visit and is mostly covered by glaciers; Novaya Zemlya, an Arctic island with a Cold War military history; and UNESCO World Heritage site Wrangel Island, which explorer John Muir called a “severely solitary” land. But the island is known for its astounding wildlife, including the world’s largest walrus population, hundreds of polar bears, and thousands of birds.
Travel advisor Mollie Fitzgerald of Frontiers International Travel has two clients booked on this special departure. “This itinerary captured my imagination—and that of my adventure-seeking clients—in the biggest possible way,” she says. “This is trailblazing in its purest form and speaks to the wanderlust in even the most seasoned travelers.”
On board the yacht-like cruise ship Le Boreal will be an award-winning expedition team of scientists and researchers. “What made it a ‘slam dunk’ for me are the unparalleled creature comforts offered onboard, but also the interpretation and enrichment provided by the A&K expedition team,” says Fitzgerald.
One of those team members is Steffen Graupner, director of the expedition. “I love the Russian Arctic and its people,” he says. “The region is so untouched, like Svalbard or Greenland or Nunavut were some 40 years ago. The Chukchee [people] call themselves ‘Llurowetlan,’ which translates as ‘the real people.’ To me, that says it all.”
The Northeast Passage: Across the Russian Arctic with Geoffrey Kent—August 27–September 21, 2021; 26 days from $36,995 with early booking discount (was $40,995).
Himalayan seclusion with family and friends
In 2021, consider going for total peace, quiet, and epic mountain landscapes with a special buyout option at Shakti 360 Leti, a luxury mountain retreat in the Himalayas.
“Shakti is exactly what we want from sustainable luxury travel in fragile regions of the world,” says Christopher Wilmott-Sitwell of cazenove+loyd. “Shakti offers great comfort and taste and by providing local employment and using existing infrastructure, a small number of visitors make a positive impact on the place economically, culturally, and environmentally.”
At Shakti 360 Leti, you’re surrounded by views of snow-capped mountains and can choose among several mountain walks (guided, if you’d like) or arrange yoga and meditation classes. It stands apart as a luxury option in the Himalayas, with four private pavilions, gourmet dining with on-site vegetable gardens, and plush pillows and duvets. Or you can learn how to make momos, steamed Himalayan dumplings, with the chef.
A buyout for a group up to eight is available at both Shakti properties. Shakti 360 Leti is in Kumaon, where the season runs from October to the end of April. At Shakti River House in Ladakh, the season runs from May to the end of September.
The buyout is $76,216 ($9,527 per person) for seven nights, including all meals, guides, and transfers.
Islands of Indonesia, with Aqua Expeditions and Nihi Sumba
This seven-night private yacht experience with much-loved brands Aqua Expeditions, a boutique cruise company, and Nihi Sumba, a private island resort in Indonesia, will take you (and up to 30 passengers) to remote islands of Indonesia, departing from Bali on a four-night charter of the Aqua Blu. Guests will have the opportunity to dive with manta rays, explore hidden waterfalls, and see Komodo dragons in their native habitat. From there, spend three nights at private island Nihi Sumba, a luxurious retreat also known for its deep commitment to empowering and helping locals through its Sumba Foundation. Both brands are led by travel industry leaders—Aqua owner Francisco Galli Zugaro and Nihi co-owner James McBride (with Chris Burch)—and actively work to protect the local communities and wildlife. And there’s no shortage of five-star luxe—through cuisine, linens, personalized service, and design.Aqua Blu x Nihi Sumba seven-night yacht and private island experience—from $280,552, valid between April and September 2021. Private charter of up to 30 passengers, in 15 suites on Aqua, and 5 villas at Nihi Sumba.
>>Next: 9 Favorite Luxury Hotels That Actually Opened in 2020