It is becoming the new Aspen. This classy mountain village offers fabulous festivals and a range of outdoor adventures, apart from a lively apres-ski scene in winter. September is the month for the annual film festival, and celeb-spotting among the locals in their natural habitat is a popular draw—Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey have homes here.
St Barts, Caribbean
The Caribbean has been labelled the ‘playground of the rich and famous’ and Saint-Barthelemy (St Barts to everyone) is where the glitterati head to be pampered. Perfectly formed bays, excellent restaurants, picturesque hills and the fancy yachts in Gustavia harbour make for a scene that is pretty close to paradise. A great place to chill out as well as to indulge in some celebrity-spotting.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro has always been a hot destination because of the famous carnival, the bikini-clad crowds at the beaches and its laid-back ambience. Now, there’s a new buzz in the air as the city gets a major upgrade for the 2016 Olympics with plenty of new attractions and things to do. A trip now, before the Olympic crowds arrive, will be rewarding.
Not the most obvious of hot destinations, but it’s getting increasingly popular as resorts and beaches are being discovered among its 7,000 islands, many still unspoilt. The diving and underwater action is among the best in the world, as is deep-sea fishing in the ocean. The three top islands are Ariara, El Nido and the latest, Dedon, on Siargao, owned and designed by contemporary furniture brand Dedon. Another must-visit place is Amanpulo, a high-design private-island hotel on Pamalican Island.
A traditional favourite, New Zealand has been reinvented because of Hobbiton, the fairytale village of JRR Tolkien’s imagination, where The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was shot in the Waikato region of North Island. The latest addition is a pub overlooking the lake. From there, one can easily reach the mountains of the Tongariro National Park, used as the setting for Mordor. It is unspoilt and dramatically beautiful with volcanoes and steam vents and emerald lakes.
This is a private island that was bought by a Canadian entrepreneur in 1973. Since then, he has turned the 8 sq km property into one of the world’s most beautiful and exclusive tropical hideaways. It has attracted some of the world’s A-list celebrities, ranging from Bill Gates to Russell Crowe and fellow Aussie, Nicole Kidman. It’s not all high-end luxury though, there are traditional Fijian houses and villas, apart from the luxury suites.
Goldeneye Resort, Jamaica
Named after one of the James Bond movies set in Jamaica, this is where Ian Fleming wrote a majority of his best-selling spy novels in the 1950s and 1960s (while entertaining literary and movie greats from the era). What was once Fleming’s holiday estate, perfectly positioned in the crystal-clear Caribbean, has been bought and expanded, and there are now a handful of smaller villas to rent alongside Fleming’s original three-bedroom house, which is now the Goldeneye Hotel.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Montenegro gained independence as late as 2006 when the former Yugoslavia broke up, and its sparkling coastline has been attracting tourists in increasing numbers, especially the tiny but picturesque Sveti Stefan island. It used to be a favourite hideout for Hollywood and European royalty (guests have included Sofia Loren and Queen Elizabeth II), but its appeal faded in the 1990s. Now, its cobbled streets are attracting a wider audience with the Sveti Stefan resort, recently reopened and more glamorous than ever, located on the Budva Riviera, the heart of Montenegro’s beach scene.
Despite the austerity cuts and street protests during the economic crisis, Greece has bounced back as one of the world’s favourite vacation destinations and Hydra is where the action seems to be of late. The name may be associated with a monster from Greek mythology, but this is a sleepy town that was originally built as a retreat for artists. Just 45 minutes from Athens, this picturesque sea-side island combines natural beauty with a hip contemporary art scene, not to mention its most famous resident, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who has lived here since 1960. Ideal during summer, it’s best to walk around the beach, or hike, since no traffic is allowed on Hydra except pedestrians.
Croatia’s historic capital echoes with the romance of history and bloody wars, and is today a fascinating destination, combining the best of eastern and western Europe. As the political, economic and cultural capital, the city also combines energy and old-world charm. The Austro-Hungarian buildings in the town centre house elegant restaurants and fashionable boutiques along with noisy pubs and beer halls as well as hip clubs playing the latest music. The coastline is only three hours away, but Zagreb has plenty of attractions to offer, from the long, refreshing stretch of park that bisects the town centre to museums and mountain forts surrounding the town. Maksimir Park is a major destination for bikers, strollers and joggers while Jarun lake is where locals head to swim, boat and dance in a lakeside disco. An added bonus: It’s also a great shopping destination.