Travel Diary: Paradise places

Travel Diary: Paradise places
Head to the undiscovered Greek mainland at MarBella Elix, a five-star treasure close to Parga

With travel back on the cards in the not too distant future, our Travel Diary includes an idyllic Italian retreat, a desert dream in Jordan and glorious Greek vistas

Travel diary dates are crucial right now, so whether you are planning that long-awaited honeymoon, a well-earned minimoon or a much-needed pre-wedding escape, read on! Our Travel Diary selection includes destinations near and far that should certainly be on your radar – from a new treasure in the heart of old Amsterdam to Italian and Greek idylls and a bucket-list must visit, the romantic red-sand kingdom of Jordan.

Travel Diary: Paradise places
San Domenico Palace, Taormina is now within the fabulous Four Seasons group

Sicilian treasure

San Domenico Palace, Taormina is set to be a must-see for honeymooners. Currently undergoing extensive renovations, the hotel in the hilltop town of Taormina, Sicily will be known as San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel. There are multiple terraces overlooking both the Bay of Taormina and Mount Etna and the hotel has a beach club, gardens and the two-Michelin Star Restaurant Principe Cerami. Located on the site of a 15th-century Dominican monastery and with a wing added in the late 19th century. It has a long and star-studded history, with Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor and DH Lawrence among guests who have passed through. Nearby attractions include the town’s amazing Greco-Roman theatre (still in use today) and the medieval Corvaja Palace. There are also plenty of beautiful beaches skirting this part of the island.

Jordan tops the Lonely Planet Ultimate list – with unbelievably romantic scenery

Desert dream

No less than four of Jordan’s sights have made it on to the latest Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List. The Insta-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Petra has been named as the number one bucket list experience in the world, while the rose-sand Wadi Rum desert, the Dead Sea and Dana Biosphere Reserve also make the list. While Petra needs very little introduction, it’s worth considering it in tandem with some of Jordan’s other great sites. Wadi Rum is home to nomadic Bedouin tribes and is a peaceful getaway that also offers landscapes and skyscapes that will be familiar from several Hollywood films. The Dead Sea attracts visitors to Jordan from all over the world, keen to experience the health benefits of natural treatments provided by its mineral-rich mud, sea swimming and springs. Jordan’s largest nature reserve, Dana covers over 300 square kilometres along the face of the Great Rift Valley and is home to some 700 plant species and rare and endangered animals such as the Syrian wolf, lesser kestrel and sand cat. Start planning that Travel Diary date with Intrepid Travel, specialist in small-group travel experiences with a bespoke itinerary.

“Jordan’s Wadi Rum is home to nomadic Bedouin tribes and offers landscapes and skyscapes that will be familiar from several Hollywood films”

The Mayor’s Residence at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam is a unique city retreat

Old Amsterdam

Something rather spectacular in one of our favourite cities, The Mayor’s Residence at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam opened its doors in September. This private nine-bedroom palace sits within the hotel and offers VIP service for you and your guests. It comes with a dedicated team of staff – including butler, private chef, spa therapist and concierge. Once you check in, you have unlimited spa treatments and sole use of the spa for total privacy. While this is very modern luxury, the Mayor’s Residence has always been grand. It was built during the Dutch Golden Age in 1665 for Hendrik Hooft, one of Amsterdam’s most influential mayors, and has subsequently been home to many of Amsterdam’s most prominent citizens.

Travel Diary: Paradise places
Tuscany Now & More’s Monsassa offers space, views and access to cultural treasures

Rustic Tuscany

New additions to Tuscany Now & More’s selection of choice villa properties include Monsassa, a delightful rustic home set on a hilltop near Montespertoli. With views to soothe your soul, it has  a large open living area that leads out under a loggia and to a spacious shaded dining area with more fabulous vistas, along with a private swimming pool. This is in the heart of unspoilt Tuscan countryside, with lots of treasures within driving distance, including Florence, Greve in Chianti and San Gimignano. Closer to home are picture-perfect villages and towns. There’s a restaurant in an olive grove around 400 metres from the villa, with shops and supermarkets in Montespertoli, just over 10 minutes’ drive. The villa has three bedrooms and can sleep six – so lots of space to spread out in style or even invite a few friends to join you in paradise.

Monsassa is set on a hilltop near Montespertoli. With Tuscan views to soothe your soul, it has  shaded dining area and private swimming pool”

Travel Diary: Paradise places
Kagi Maldives Spa Islands is the place to recharge

Maldives recharge

The recently opened 5-star Kagi Maldives Spa Island – a 15-minute seaplane ride from Velana International Airport – is focused on wellness, both for couples/friends and for solo travellers. With 50 villas, it has a fabulous 1,500 metre spa and wellness hub at its heart. This was designed by Yuji Yamazaki and is all about space, light and a wonderful sense of freedom with its open-air teardrop-shaped roof. There’s also a gym, two restaurants, three bars and a house reef and dive centre to offer lots of opportunities on or under the ocean. Guests can choose from a Beach Pool Villa, a Lagoon Pool Villa or an Ocean Pool Villa – all of them come with private pool, sun deck and large indoor-outdoor bathroom. And, while plenty of activity is on offer, there is also plenty of privacy and space if you just want to step off the fast lane for a while.

Carlo IV offers an insider’s guide to beautiful Prague with curated experiences

Insider’s Prague

Prague is a well-trodden path for many couples (not least because it’s so popular for pre-wedding trips), but five-star Carlo IV is tempting people to explore the city like a local, with a series of curated experiences that go above and beyond the well-worn sights and restaurants. These include Dine with the Chef five-course tasting menus using the best seasonal ingredients. When the weather turns warmer Picnic in Prague lets you enjoy a gourmet picnic in one of the city’s wonderful parks and gardens with proper hamper and driver guide. There are also concierge city tours to take you behind the tourist trail to explore the rich history and culture of one of Europe’s most fascinating capitals. The hotel makes a great base for exploring all of the above, being just ten minutes’ walk from Wenceslas Square. Delights to come home to include the hotel’s wonderful Turkish baths.

Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok offers an artful sense of place

Bangkok base

While many visitors to Thailand head straight out to the islands, the new Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok should encourage them to stay a little longer in its vibrant capital. The new Kimpton hotel is located in the creative quarter of Langsuan and has inspired by the adjacent Lumpini Park. The term ‘Maa-Lai’ stems from the age-old Thai philosophy ‘lamiat’, which says life should be approached as a work of art. There is great focus on Thai artisanship throughout the hotel, which has 362 rooms and suites, including 131 serviced residences. There are four restaurant/dining options on site and you can also join yoga lessons on the hotel’s rooftop garden. A further Kimpton hotel is set to open in Bali.

MarBella Elix offers a five-star setting on the Greek mainland near Parga

Undiscovered Greece

Mainland Greece is site of the latest luxe opening from MarBella Collection. Set to open next spring, MarBella Elix will be a five-star escape in an area of Greece that has, thus far, been off the radar for many British visitors, who tend to gravitate towards the islands. Located close to Parga and Sivota in a cosmopolitan area also known for its abundance of nature and glorious beaches, the resort looks over towards Corfu and Paxos. Every room and suite has views to the Ionian Sea It’s the perfect getaway escape, and the nearest airport is Preveza.

“Couples are planning two trips – a short haul retreat followed by a long-haul adventure, says Kuoni”

Couples are planning big, with more trips and long-haul adventures, says Kuoni

Honeymoon trends…

So what is in everyone else’s travel diary? Well, Kuoni recently published a honeymoon report tracking trends among honeymooners whose plans were thrown into disarray by Covid-19. Trends emerging include an increased spend – possibly couples have had longer to save and have missed out on a trip or two during lockdown. Kuoni also reports a big increase in couples looking to take two honeymoons – a short haul just after the wedding, followed by a much bigger long-haul adventure a year or two down the line. It reports that the top three best-selling destinations for Kuoni honeymoons are the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Mauritius, while minimoon favourites are Italy, Greece and Spain. Trending requests include private pool villas, African safaris with tended camps and UK and Ireland luxury trips.


Check out our Travel Diary of Luxury Classics