Here in the UK we’ve skipped autumn and we’re well into winter mode. The nights are drawing in, Christmas parties feel oh so distant and even the childless around me are complaining that they’re exhausted.
Add to this seasonal fatigue some frustrating foreign bureaucracy and I think it’s fair to say that us expats deserve a break. All in all we love our host countries but sometimes we just need a breather, a fresh start, a switch from the routine.
Wherever you are in the world, why wait until the New Year to take some time off the hamster wheel of expat life? Here are my top ten places to get away from it all:
1. The ultimate cultural journey – China
For thousands of years a trade route through Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet known as the Tea Horse Road was the place for the exchange of tea for horses and medicine. Now Expaters can retrace this ancient path within the remotest Chinese countryside, in luxury.
LUX* Tea Horse Road Benzilan is set within the majestic Benzilan Valley in Yunnan province and is linked to sister hotel LUX* Tea Horse Road Lijiang, at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Explorers enjoy glacial vistas, fresh mountain air and everything from mushroom-picking hikes, tea ceremonies and hidden mountain trails on horseback.
2. The romantic fairy tale escape – Morocco
In another corner of the world, a hideaway within the southern Moroccan desert tells another equally serene story.
Dar Ahlam is a majestic terracotta fortress shaded under the palms of its own private oasis. Step beyond the kasbah’s walls and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been magicked into an oriental fairy tale.
Your wish is the hotel’s command, with an unparalleled personalised service reigning throughout. There is no fixed restaurant or menu – chefs serve dishes according to diners’ requests wherever they please – a romantic picnic by the oasis with treats from the local souk, tisanes with fresh herbs from the private garden, secluded feasts by camp fire under the starry desert skies.
Week long private guided excursions to the hotel from Marrakech following the ancient route of Bedouin travellers are also available.
Rates at Dar Ahlam with Small Luxury Hotels of the World start from £743 GBP per night on a full board basis.
3. The once in a lifetime adventure – Antarctica
‘It is good to know that there remain wild corners of this dreadfully civilised world’ wrote Captain Robert Falcon Scott of the South Pole.
Today this glacial wilderness is no longer the preserve of polar explorers and scientists alone, nor must Expaters share in Scott’s grueling torture to get to the lowest point of the earth.
Since it launched in 2006, White Desert is the only company in the world to fly to the interior of Antarctica by private jet and offers experiences as luxurious as they are adventurous. Champagne feasts hosted in state of the art camps pale in comparison to the activities on offer however – kite skiing to the backdrop of spectacular ice waves, tightrope walking over frozen lakes and exploring powder blue ice caves, to name but a few.
It’s not all about pumping the adrenaline to the max however. Noisy close ups with thousands of braying penguins or tranquil moments alone with Antarctica’s majestic landscapes offer an escape from the mundane like no other.
White Desert offers single day fully carbon neutral packages from $10,000 US dollars per person, to $195,000 US dollars for an exclusive charter (based on 14 persons). The eight day ‘Emperors and South Pole Adventure’ costs $80,000 US dollars per person (maximum group size of 12).
4. The mind, body and soul retreat – India
High above the stresses of expat life at the foothills of the tranquil Indian Himalayas is a luxury spa offering holistic retreats for the mind, body and soul.
Overlooking the ancient spiritual city of Rishikesh and secluded within 100 acres of lush mountain nature on a Maharaja Palace Estate, Ananda spa is guided by the core principles of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta – a philosophy of life. International wellness, advanced fitness and healthy organic cuisine are integrated within its personalised programmes, helping guests restore balance and harmony.
A new schedule of ‘visiting masters’ – teachers, therapists, healers and Ayurvedic doctors – offer a more profound understanding of specific wellness topics.
Guest rooms are elegantly luxurious and recently underwent a $5million USD refurbishment, while private villas come with their own butler pantry and pool.
‘Ananda’ means ‘bliss’ in Sanskrit, and judging by its awards and popularity among Expaters from all over the world, it lives up to its name.
Wellness programmes are priced from $290 USD per night, with accommodation from $340 USD per night, plus taxes.
5. The haven for stressed workaholics – Switzerland
For sufferers of burn out, getting away from it all is an absolute necessity, not a luxury. When we prioritise work over mental and physical wellbeing, and we don’t have family or honest friends to keep us in check, our health suffers and at some point our system crashes.
For a reboot, look to Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence, a new holistic wellness centre set to open in December 2017. Led by Dr Michael Brabetz, a physician with nearly three decades of experience in medicine and psychosomatic illness, the resort is one of four hotels within the newly renovated Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort complex.
In addition to the Waldhotel’s medical spa, guests also have access to sister Bürgenstock Hotel’s Alpine Spa. The 10,000m2 space features an outdoor heated infinity pool with spectacular views of Lake Lucerne, as well as a host of treatment rooms and private spa spaces.
More importantly, in collaboration with top Swiss clinics, Dr Brabetz and his team of multidisciplinary experts offer medical check-ups, physical therapy, weight management, post-operative convalescence and specialist wellness programs to help foster long term lifestyle changes.
Rooms at The Waldhotel are available from CHF 410 (approximately £317 GBP) per night. This includes breakfast, boat transfers from Lucerne, the funicular ride up the Bürgenberg to the resort, spa entry, VAT and services charges.
6. The full body overhaul – Austria
Expaters, do you wake up more sluggish than you went to bed? Does the ring of fat round your belly feel more permanent than your expat home? Do you crave alcohol or sugar more than your friends and family?
A fast and stressful expat lifestyle takes its toll on the body. Over time the liver and gut become overwhelmed with toxins and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get our body back into shape. We’d love to start from scratch, but we can’t see the wood from the trees (or our toes from behind our belly).
Popular with Expaters seeking a more balanced way of life, to those needing a more dramatic kick start detox, The Original FX Mayr in Austria is a lifestyle reset button.
The world renowned FX Mayr Cure is a personalised programme based on traditional, complementary and aesthetic medicine prescribed by qualified medical experts and wellness professionals. Specialist nutrition and exercise plans complement individually tailored therapies which include everything from abdominal massage, osteopathy and shiatsu, to ultra red radiation, nasal reflexology and intravenous blood transfusions.
A new partnership with the nearby Maria Hilf private clinic allows even more detailed medical testing, including cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, and orthopedics.
The Mayr Basic one-week programme costs €1,250 EUR excluding accommodation; single rooms cost from €195 EUR per night. A Private Clinic Day costs €580 EUR with medical services starting from €350 EUR.
7. The stylish escape from the mundane
Tucked away within acres of private, undisturbed nature on the Andalusian coast is a resort like no other.
Serene, elegant and stylish, Finca Cortesin is a welcome retreat from high speed everyday life. Stylish interiors, including exquisite antiques, high ceilings and rich furnishings create a stately but welcoming feel, while incredibly attentive staff allow unparalleled relaxation. Golfers can take comfort in its par 72 course, which was voted one of the top five in the world, as well as its dedicated Jack Nicklaus golfing academy.
Marbella, Puerto Banús, Sotogrande and Gibraltar are all just a short drive away, and Malaga airport is just 50 minutes by car. Nevertheless the resort is so elegant, so tranquil and so refined that it feels like another destination altogether.
Beware, residential villas are also available, meaning you may end up staying longer than you planned.
Rates at Finca Cortesin start from €510 EUR per night for a junior suite, including breakfast, excluding 10% VAT.
8. The private wildlife adventure – South Africa
For wildlife fans seeking a little more privacy than the standard safari group experience, Little Bush Camp is a more isolated lodge on the edge of the South African Kruger National Game Reserve. Shaded by the verdant nature of the Msthulu riverbank, the camp offers a more intimate take on the African safari holiday.
A central lounge and dining area is flanked by six luxury thatched suites, which can be booked exclusively for families and small groups. A pool area is tucked beyond the riverbed and an outdoor boma (enclosure) hides guests from all but wildlife’s eyes for barbecue feasts under the starry skies.
It is the Sabi Sabi local tribal wildlife trackers and skilled game rangers that make all the difference however, with their private off road excursions offering unrivaled close encounters with Africa’s wildlife.
A stay at Sabi Sabi starts from ZAR 12,000 (£670 GBP) per person per night sharing, inclusive of open Land Rover safaris by day and at night, environmental awareness walking safaris as well as meals, selected beverages and house wines.
9. The adventure + spa getaway – Maldives
An Expater friend moaned how she’d love to escape for a week in a luxury spa, but that her husband would get bored, so they often ended up holidaying alone.
Floating Resort by Scubaspa in the Maldives caters to adventure seekers and spa sloths alike. The two near 50m private yachts – Ying and Yang – are the only five star PADI certified vessels in the region and come with their own state of the art dive boats.
Meanwhile wellness facilities include six treatment rooms, a secluded deck for open air massage and meditation, as well as a shaded spa lounge for relaxation and sunrise yoga. Divers and non divers alike can indulge in Ayurveda and other treatments including warm bamboo, lava shell and stone therapies.
A better than one-to-one staff to guest ratio ensures a truly relaxing break, whatever your holiday style.
Sail with Floating Resort by Scubaspa from $1990 USD (approx. £1,515 GBP) per person based on a seven-night stay, excluding 12% GST and Green Tax.
10. The remote hideaway within nature – New Zealand
For a more direct way to connect with nature, a New Zealand retreat offers individual pods made entirely of glass (even the floor and ceiling), set in some of the most remote countryside in the world.
PurePods are only accessible on foot, offering unrivalled privacy and solitude. Televisions and other modern day distractions are traded for binoculars and telescopes, with entertainment provided in the form of bird watching, star gazing and exploring the local, rugged nature.
There are just four PurePods spread in secluded locations across New Zealand’s South Island, all about two and a half hours drive from Christchurch.
Audley offers a night in a PurePod as part of its tailor made tours to New Zealand’s South Island, which cost from £4,225 GBP per person for 16 days. For flight options from outside the UK, contact Audley directly.