If last week’s soggy weather had you dreaming of jumping on a plane and heading to a sunshine-filled beach, you’re not alone… Here to feed our wanderlust and help us with our holiday planning, Lightfoot Travel has put together their hotlist of top winter travel destinations for 2017 including secret hotels in each spot!
With fantastic weather during the early part of the year, Siem Reap has a perfect mix of adventure, culture and luxurious relaxation.
Temple Time: Any holiday to Siem Reap naturally starts at the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat and its surrounding temple complexes. While you certainly won’t be the only one doing it, setting out early for sunrise over Angkor Wat is well worth it, and you’ll be able to stroll through the grounds in relative peace before the real crowds turn up. Next, head to Ta Prohm, the hauntingly beautiful temple overrun by wild jungle where Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider was filmed. If you’re looking to explore the rural outskirts of Siem Reap, visit the Banteay Srei temple – the gem of Khmer art with intricate carvings covering its red sandstone walls.
Adventures by Land, Air & Sea: After you’ve had your fill of Siem Reap’s temples, embark on a local boat ride across the Tonle Sap River, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Meander through the floating schools, markets and police station, learning how the local communities live and work on the lake. If you’re up for a real adventure, opt for a hot air balloon ride rising high over the temples as you watch the sun set, or play Tarzan as you zip-line through the Cambodia jungle at the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Top Hotel Pick: Phum Baitang
Phum Baitang sits nestled within eight acres of lush gardens and paddy fields just outside of Siem Reap. Lightfoot recommends this property for its beautiful, 50m-long infinity pool and the lovely and spacious villas, with design inspired by traditional Khmer houses.
Sri Lanka gets our award for best all-around destination with its Cultural Triangle, magical Hill Country and beautiful beaches.
Train Back in Time: If opting for a touring itinerary, begin your trip in the capital city of Colombo. Explore the city’s temples and old churches and finish off with a shopping trip to Paradise Road where you will be spoilt for choice with a selection of locally made handicrafts and beautiful crockery. Travel east to the idyllic Hill Country on one of the best train journeys through our favourite part of the country! Enjoy the breeze in your hair, as the train meanders up into the hills through lush green tea plantations.
Sand, Sea & Safari: Head south for a relaxing retreat on the beautiful beaches that line Sri Lanka’s southern coast. During the day, try your hand at surfing in Unawatuna or whale watch from sleepy Mirissa. For the wildlife enthusiastic, set out on a jeep safari in search of sloth bears, elephants and the elusive leopards in Yala Wilpattu or Uda Walawe National Parks.
Tea, History & Luxury: Complete your Sri Lankan adventure with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort. Browse for interesting art and gem stones in the shops located within the fort, stop for a cup of tea at the luxurious Amangalla Hotel, and make sure to catch sunset from the fort’s ramparts.
Top Hotel Pick: Chena Huts
Chena Huts sits set among dunes and trees at the ocean’s edge, between Yala National Park and the Indian Ocean. Fourteen detached private wooden pavilions are nestled throughout the property, each featuring palm-leaf roofs and private pools.
The Land of the Long White Cloud is the granddaddy of once-in-a-lifetime experiences ranging from adventure and wildlife to food and wine to pure relaxation. A highlight for many in New Zealand is its beautiful selection of independently owned luxury lodges.
Go North for Nature: The North Island features a host of cultural Maori experiences, complete with its fair share of outdoor excursions with live volcanoes and islands only accessible by helicopter! Stroll the expansive farmlands, explore magnificent redwood forests, sail through the stunning Bay of Islands or opt for a round of golf on some of the most dramatic golf courses in the world.
Head South for Adventure: The South Island tends to be the highlight for many travellers, with its unrivalled scenery that includes glaciers, fjords, coastal national parks, snow-capped mountains and crystal clear lakes. We recommend a self-drive tour arriving in Christchurch and either heading north to the marine wildlife town of Kaikoura followed by Abel Tasman National Park on the northern tip, or heading west aboard the epic Tranz Alpine train to glacier country and then driving down the west coast to Queenstown.
Top Hotel Pick – Edenhouse
Just 30 minutes from Abel Tasman National Park in Nelson, Edenhouse is more of a country home than a hotel. With just three rooms and incredibly personable hosts, it is a truly special place to stay.
While Niseko is a fantastic year-round destination with plentiful hiking and outdoor activity options during the summer months, it is most popular during the winter when it earns its reputation for having some of the freshest powder in the world.
Snow Before You Go: With a selection of runs that are suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, as well as a number of off piste trails for the more advanced, Niseko has now become Asia’s top ski resort. After spending the day out on the slopes, unwind with a dip in the mineral-rich onsen waters. Next, tuck into a plate of fresh sashimi or a bowl of steaming ramen as you sit back with a cold beer or glass of sake either in your private chalet or one of the many restaurants in the town of Hirafu. Convenient to get to from Hong Kong, great for foodies and suitable for both groups of friends or families, after the first visit most guests head back to Niseko year after year.
Top Hotel Pick: Ki Niseko
With ski-in-ski-out facilities and a wide selection of restaurants and bars at your doorstep, Ki Niseko resort is the perfect place to discover Niseko. With wall-to-wall glass windows, the sleek and contemporary Japanese minimalist rooms maximise natural light and offer awe-inspiring views of the village.
Been to the Maldives and looking for your next epic beach holiday? Take a trip to the paradise Islands of the Seychelles. Picture perfect white sand beaches, sparkling waters and a rich array of wildlife are just some of the reasons why this destination is at the top of everyone’s bucket list. Comprised of 115 islands, opt for a property close to the capital Mahe if you’re short on time, or venture to one of the outer islands if you’re keen to really get away from it all.
Sea What Lies Beneath: Take part in some world-class diving among rainbow-coloured reefs and giant sea turtles, sail through the archipelago or simply kick back by the private pool at your hotel. While properties on the Maldives are largely located on individual islands, the islands in the Seychelles are much larger giving more opportunities for hiking and exploring beyond your hotel.
Top Hotel Pick: Six Senses Zil Pasyon
One of 2016’s most hotly anticipated hotel openings, this is the Six Senses Group’s first foray into the Seychelles. The resort is located on the private island of Felicite, and features just 47 villas and private residences in addition to its iconic Six Senses Spa. Take advantage of Lightfoot Travel’s opening Stay 5 Pay 3 offer at Six Senses Zil Pasyon for stays before December 21 2016.