Seeing as the summer season is well on its way and we’ve all been working so very hard, I thought I’d share my 10 favourite luxury holiday hotspots. Feel free to share your favourite spots as I’m always open to being persuaded to visit or discover new places.
1. Lake Como
Having a fondness for the Mediterranean, Italy was bound to feature on this list but Lake Como won’t be the only inclusion. Brought to international attention when George Clooney famously bought a villa on its shores, it’s hard to imagine how such a natural treasure of idyllic wonder was ever kept secret for so long. Visit the Villa La Gaeta where the final scenes from Casino Royale were filmed and order a Martini, shaken not stirred, just for the novelty of stepping into Mr Bond’s shoes.
The mainland may be awash with historical wonderment charting the development of civilization but when it comes to putting your feet up and enjoying the scenery you cannot beat the Greek islands, the jewel of which is picture perfect Santorini in the Cyclades. Famed for having some of the most stunning sunsets in the world, Santorini is a quaint yet charming labyrinth of winding stone paths, white walls and artisan shops. What’s not to love?
3. Bora Bora
I first saw the utopia that is Bora Bora in a documentary as a child and never knew places of such natural beauty existed. I was determined to visit. One of the beautiful things about French Polynesia is that the quality of hospitality matches the stunning surroundings, with the highest standards of design and service making any trip there a dream. It’s an experience to cherish until your dying day.
Western luxury is all about being grandiose, regal and prestigious, but no one quite does tranquil or serene luxury quite like South East Asia. For such a small island, Bali packs an awful lot of punch from ancient temples to pristine beaches, the most amazing accommodation with infinity pools overlooking lush long rice paddies and an abundance of engaging wildlife. I always make a detour to the Komodo Island whenever I’m there to see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat.
All of the things I was expecting to find in the romance capital of the world, Paris, I instead found in the narrow alleyways, tiny arched bridges and gondola infused canals of Venice. Bursting with colour and oozing rustic charm from every brick and every lick of plaster, no wonder the entire city is a World Heritage Site. Surely one of the most visually unique and stunning locations in the world. Visit the mask shops in Burano during the Venice Carnival for a real sense of traditional Venetian culture.
From the rolling hills of Chianti to Pisa’s leaning tower, the old world charm of Assisi and the Tuscan capital Florence, Tuscany has a wonderful blend of great food, fantastic wine and jaw-dropping pastel coloured landscapes. I’m very aware of old townhouses and olive grove farms being restored and coming onto the market for the luxury elite, but they’re all handled so tastefully and with such loving care that they only compliment the traditional Tuscan charm retaining that all important ‘untouched’ quality.
7. Provence and Monaco
Cheating a bit here, but when it comes to the Provence region and Monaco you cannot have one without the other. Nowhere else in the world can you enjoy Formula 1, a fresh date smoothie by the coast and endless rows of lavender fields, all within an hour of one another. There is such an abundance of beautiful areas to visit in the Provencal region that you could easily spend a lifetime here, but my personal favourite is the view from the cactus gardens at the ancient hilltop village of Eze.
8. The Maldives
What’s the best thing about paradise? It’s spread out over 1,192 coral islands, each with its own unique character. You already know about the Robinson Crusoe sand banks, luxury accommodation and amazing sunsets, so let me give you an insider tip instead – if you want the best house reef, pay a visit to the Angsana Ihuru (don’t worry, even the sharks are friendly), if you want the best in service, visit Cocoa Island and if you want the best unique experience, try the Conrad underwater restaurant.
Kyoto is rich with meticulously maintained landscape gardens and world-renowned Japanese architecture, from traditional elevated wooden houses with dominant thatched roofs to the impressive Tenchus of ancient castles. My picks include: the Golden Pavilion, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Eikan-do and Sanjusangen do Hall, but there is an abundance of similarly attractive castles, temples and villas to discover, each with their own tranquil ambience unique to one of Asia’s oldest metropolises. The Katsura River monks and Maiko dressed Geishas also add to the cultural value of Japan’s most picturesque city.
10. The Adriatic Coast
Croatia was a tough choice as I was torn between the amazing Plitvice Lakes and sumptuous Dubrovnik. The main reason why I wound up at the latter is because when you visit Dubrovnik, you’re getting dozens of great destinations for the price of one. As beautiful as Dubrovnik is (you must walk the walls that ring-fence the Old Town), you can easily escape to any one of the hundreds of surrounding islands, from the coastal restaurants of Korcula to the turquoise lagoons of Mljet.