The only way to truly escape from it all is to book a stay on a private island like Gladden, where it will just be you, up to three companions (only if you choose), and a staff that’s been trained to be invisible while catering to your every whim.
You might not even have to win the jackpot to stay here–it costs £2,294 per night for two people or £2,760 for four, but that includes “all meals prepared by a gourmet chef, all beverages including fine wines, all activities including snorkelling, scuba diving and PADI certification, spa treatments, transfers from and to Belize City.” Which, if you take full advantage of all the offerings, is very nearly a bargain.
2. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
Forget an epic hotel on a private island—what if the luxury hotel itself is the island, for instance the Taj Lake Palace? Built in 1746 to serve as Prince Maharana Jagat Singh II’s “pleasure palace,” this opulent hotel appears to float in the middle of Lake Pichola. You’ll arrive via boat, and your mere presence will be celebrated with a shower of rose petals, a spread of refreshments, and a guard to escort you under a sequined embroidered umbrella.
3. Bedarra, Australia
You’ll have to share Bedarra’s all-inclusive luxury with a maximum of 17 other guests, as this epic hotel has just ten guest villas, which accommodate 18 people total. The lush island adjoins the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. And while other parts of the Great Barrier Reef have become tragically over-visited, Bedarra is near the outer section of the reef in an area that’s much harder for tourists to reach. You can feel good about spending over $1,000 AUD (£550) a night here, as the resort places a huge importance on environmental sustainability.
4. Mandarian Oriental, New York City, USA
Go big in the Big Apple with a stay at the Mandarian Oriental, where the cheapest room on the cheapest night starts at £618. Go even bigger at this luxury hotel with a suite, starting at $1,089 a night. (And that’s not even the most expensive—the Presidential Suite doesn’t list prices online, lending credence to the old saying that “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”). Hey, on the bright side—a full breakfast is included every day (even if you slum it in the £622 room).
5. Le Bristol, Paris, France
When five stars just don’t cut it anymore on your quest for epic hotels, you need a “Palace” hotel, an exclusive rating given to luxury hotels in France that go above-and-beyond the star-rating. Just 16 hotels have earned this prestigious rating, including Le Bristol. Le Bristol is a dream for foodies, as it can claim four Michelin Stars–three awarded to its Epicure restaurant and one to its Le 114 Faubourg brasserie.
6. The 13, Macau, China
The 13, which is being billed as the world’s most expensive hotel, isn’t open yet, so you’ve still got time to save your (trillions of) pennies. Macau’s luxury hotel cost an estimated £1.2 billion to build, and will have 200 villas available to book when it opens. Need a ride? The 13 is stocked with a fleet of 30 customised Rolls-Royce Phantoms worth approximately £15.5 million, ready to take guests wherever they want to go.
Each room will come with a butler certified by the English Guild of Butlers, and all guests will have access to a private shopping centre, where they can buy exclusive, limited-edition items, in case they didn’t spend enough on accommodation.
7. Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Burj Al Arab is probably the most famous luxury hotel in the world. Shaped like a sail, this hotel is also one of the tallest buildings in the world. The hotel is situated on a private island just off the coast of Dubai, and is so exclusive that you can’t even cross the bridge to the hotel without being a guest there or having a reservation at one of the restaurants.
8. One Room Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic
You’ll need to book early at Prague’s One Room Hotel, because as the name implies, this hotel only has one room available. Why? Because it’s located on top of the city’s famous Zizkov Television tower. As the room sits 200 feet above Prague, you’ll have some amazing views—and the undivided attention of the hotel staff.
9. Tsala Treetop Suites, South Africa
Treehouses don’t mean roughing it—at least, not if you’re staying at the Tsala Treetop Suites in South Africa. These 10 suites are more luxury hotel than tree-house (but with all the views and privacy of a tree-top outpost) as they all have private decks, infinity pools, sitting rooms, fireplaces, and plush bedrooms—situated in the forest canopy.
Rome? Been there. Venice? Done that. Florence? Bought the statue-of-David postcard. While this triumvirate of tourist destinations is a must-do for any first-time visitor to Italy, many of the country’s greatest charms can only be experienced in small Italian villages—places where you can slip away from the crowds, wander down deserted cobblestone lanes, and get a first-hand look at how the locals live.
Secret Italian Villages
The following secret Italian villages are scattered all over the country, from the mountains of the north to the sun-soaked islands in the south.
1. Tellaro, Liguria
The famed Italian villages of Cinque Terre have become so congested in recent years that local authorities have considered limiting visitor access. Luckily, there’s an equally charming—but much less crowded—alternative just a few miles down the Ligurian coast.
You won’t find any major sights in the fishing village of Tellaro, but its pastel-coloured buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and sweeping sea views offer their own simple pleasures.
Where to stay: The four comfortable guest rooms at Le Sirene Tellaro offer sea views. Breakfast and parking are included in the nightly rates.
2. Pitigliano, Tuscany
Nicknamed Little Jerusalem, the medieval hill town of Pitigliano was once home to a large Jewish community that settled there in the 16th century. While Pitigliano’s Jews were nearly all gone by the mid-20th century—due mostly to migration for economic reasons but also due to persecution by the Nazis—you can still tour the old Jewish ghetto, which includes a restored synagogue, traditional bread ovens, and a small museum.
Also worth seeing are Palazzo Orsini, a 14th-century fortress that houses a collection of historical artefacts; and Vie Cave, a walking path to a series of Etruscan caves.
Where to stay: If you’ve ever wanted to experience life on a Tuscan farm, book a stay at Agriturismo Poggio Al Tufo, about six miles from Pitigliano. Surrounded by vineyards, the property features an outdoor pool and a restaurant.
3. Procida, Campania
Encompassing just 1.6 square miles, Procida is the smallest island in the Bay of Naples, and visitors often bypass it in their rush to see nearby Capri and Ischia. But if you prefer your villages in Italy sans crowds, consider hopping on the Procida ferry from Naples.
With its vibrantly coloured buildings overlooking a picture-perfect harbour, the island is a photographer’s dream. Climb to the Terra Murata, the highest and oldest point on the island, where you’ll find crumbling ruins and magnificent views.
Where to stay: The 11-room Albergo La Vigna has a wine bar serving varietals from its own vineyards. One room even features art by a local Procida artist.
4. Chioggia, Veneto
What would Venice look like if it were still a traditional fishing port, without the massive cruise ships and teeming tourist crowds? It might look a little something like Chioggia. Accessible by ferry and bus from Venice, Chioggia is built around canals the way Venice is, but it offers a humbler and slower way of life.
Get there early to visit its traditional fish market, then wander through its water-lined streets and stop for lunch at one of its many excellent seafood restaurants.
Where to stay: Hotel Grande Italia has been hosting travellers in the heart of Chioggia for more than 100 years. Rooms are comfortable and modern, with air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
5. Locorotondo, Puglia
As you walk through Locorotondo, you’ll constantly be reaching for your camera to snap pictures of pink and red geraniums spilling out of window boxes against whitewashed walls.
One of several white hill towns in this part of Puglia, Locorotondo’s skyline is dominated by the Chiesa Madre San Giorgio, a cathedral whose dome and tower you can see as you approach the town from the valley below. Don’t forget to sample the area’s famous white wine.
Where to stay: You can stay in your own little trullo (a cone-roofed house typical of the region) at Leonardo Trulli Resort. Inside are exposed stone walls; outside is a lawn with loungers where you can relax.
6. Viterbo, Lazio
Located about two hours from Rome by train, Viterbo has a walled medieval core that’s perfect for strolling. The town was once the papal seat back in the 13th century, and you can still visit the impressive Palazzo dei Papi in the historic centre.
But be sure to make time for one of Viterbo’s most relaxing attractions: its thermal baths, which have been enjoyed for centuries by locals and visitors alike.
Where to stay: Past guests of B&B Medieval House rave about the property’s central location and friendly host. The carefully restored historic building features exposed stone walls and wooden beams in the guest rooms.
7. Noto, Sicily
Noto’s elegant baroque churches and palaces were built in the aftermath of an earthquake that levelled the original town in 1693.
An ideal day in Noto involves strolling the streets, admiring the cream-coloured architecture, and treating yourself to a sweet treat from one of the historic centre’s many ice cream parlours. Got some extra time? Relax on the region’s golden sand beaches.
Where to stay: The stylish Gagliardi Boutique Hotel is located in a restored palazzo in Noto’s old town. On sunny days you can relax on the rooftop bar and terrace.
8. Saluzzo, Piedmont
Located near Turin, this is one of the rare Italian towns that see relatively few tourists—but those who do visit get to enjoy Saluzzo’s handsome historic centre and views over the nearby Alps.
Don’t miss the Casa Cavassa, with its colourful frescoes and antique furniture, or the tranquil botanical garden at Villa Bricherasio.
Where to stay: San Giovanni Resort Hotel offers 13 rooms in a restored monastery dating back to the 15th century. Don’t miss a stroll through the gardens in the former cloister.
9. Spello, Umbria
Escape the crowds in Assisi with a visit to one of the region’s less-travelled Italian villages. Spello is just a 15-minute drive from Assisi but feels a world away as you explore its well-preserved Roman walls and quiet churches.
Spello is also known for a unique cultural event called Le Infiorate, a late-spring festival in which murals made of flower petals are laid out throughout the town’s streets and piazzas.
Where to stay: Once a medieval fort, then a hunting lodge, Agriturismo Il Bastione is now an elegant place to stay just outside of Spello. The grounds have inviting places to unwind, including nature trails and a pool.
10. Bosa, Sardinia
This riverfront town in western Sardinia is distinguished by a jumble of hillside houses painted every colour of the rainbow, with a 12th-century castle looming above.
Visitors can enjoy seafood or drinks on an outdoor terrace, snap photos of boats along the waterfront, and ramble down narrow alleys where laundry hangs out to dry overhead.
Where to stay: Located within walking distance of the centre of Bosa, Palazzo Sa Pischedda offers art nouveau-style rooms, some with original fresco paintings.
11. Chiusa/Klausen, Trentino-Alto Adige
Located in the mountainous region north of Venice, near the Austrian border, Chiusa (also known as Klausen) offers stunning views in all directions. Charming shops, winding cobblestone lanes, and friendly locals await visitors to this uncrowded medieval town.
Take time for the uphill climb to the Sabiona Monastery, one of the region’s most important historical sites.
Where to stay: You can enjoy mountain views, hiking trails, tennis courts, a sauna, and three swimming pools at Hotel Gnollhof.
If your here, you know I love to travel. You know I love to write. And You know I love to give. What I love more than anything though, without a doubt, with absolute boundless certainty, and a totally undeniable fact.. is myself.
My full of flaws, stubborn, impatient and perfectionist self. This year, I’m not writing a love letter to a guy, nor have I ever in all fairness. Or maybe I have.
Love Letter To Remarkable Women
To start off my own tradition, here’s to all the women I’ve met and never will, who live life like every day is the perfect day to fall in love with the uniqueness they bring to the world. 🥂
To the mothers who raise kind, good-natured daughters.
To the protective sisters who have each other’s backs through the bullshit and the headaches they go through.
To the aunts who are mothers when they need to be and sisters when they’re expected to be.
To the grandmothers who give timeless advice combined with perpetual wisdom, for free, every damn day.
To the best friends who give a toss about each others emotional health and protect each others hearts with laughter and tears.
To the strangers who share moments of relief and count on each others strength time and time again.
We have no frikkin’ time for ordinary.
I’ve seen girls who wake up with a smile and open their window first thing in the morning like they’re living in a movie then make coffee like they’re making art.
Women who get ready for work like every day is their first day and the ones who give it all they have regardless of their paycheck. I’ve seen the same women degraded, devalued and dismissed and yet tomorrow, they’ll come in like its their first day… ready.
There are women who sing along to all their favourite songs without caring too much about the glass that shaking uncontrollably, or the deafening screech that’s hurting our eardrums (Yes, totally indirecting here, you know who you are) . Girls who are unapologetic, unphased and unabashed.
The ones who take their time putting on their make-up because they’re secretly appreciating what makes them uniquely them.
I’ve learned from women who know that someone else’s beauty is not a lack of theirs and someone else’s success is not a setback of theirs. Women who are defiant, and don’t let the day run them, and who define what their own status quo should mean.
Women who have a strong sense of who they are and those who have unshakeable confidence in their capabilities.
I’ve seen girls who endure life’s toughest complications and battle through like there’s no other choice or way. The one’s told its all in their head, and the ones who literally pushes a whole head out of her body in excruciating pain.
The girls who make storms look like drizzles.
Ones who find the time to pick themselves up, and thank themselves for their hard work even when they can’t see their own results.
I’ve learned from the girls who know when to hold on and when to release. The ones who hurt, and crawl, but know that walking away takes as much courage and tenacity as staying does. The ones who nurture and caress the emptiness in others, but never find the once chance to get filled.
Most of all, from the women who pick themselves up in silence. over and over again. The ones who are mindful, that their actions are never quite out of spite.
To the ones whose actions are enveloped in love even when love hasn’t been on their side.
We have no time for ordinary.
This is to the women who like the smell of new books and old ones alike. To the girls who write tiny, thoughtful notes on WhatsApp and Snapchat to cheer up the people they care about.
The ones who, despite the complexities of their depth, are so easy to fall in love with.
To the women who have wits so tempting of competition. To the women who have hearts so kind that you know if you hurt them, you’re actually hurting yourself.
The woman you want to be friends with because they always feel like the sun on a cold day.
The women that cover their bruises emotionally and physically, and conceal the disguise with smiles, and to the others who torture themselves with anger. The ones who give up their cloaks so easily, and wear their heart on their sleeve too often, too quickly and too soon.
To the ones you feel grateful for falling in love with because you know you’ve given your heart to gold.
This is to the women who have no time for ordinary because they’re made for remarkable.
If you spend enough time comparing hotels, flights, and tours, you’ll eventually realise that many words have very little meaning in the travel industry. You might think that there would be some sort of common agreement on travel terms across hotels that would define what makes a suite a suite or a deluxe room better than a standard room, but no such agreements exist. I’m often surprised to find that what I booked is not quite what I expected.
Here are some travel hype words you should take lightly, and that might even signal you should do a little more research.
1. ‘Deluxe Room’
Whether you travel once a year or year-round, you’ve probably run into this word over and over again comparing hotels. But do you know what it really means? Across hotel websites, “deluxe” is a travel term usually used to up-sell a room that is the same size as a standard room and looks like a standard room, but usually only has one feature that makes it any better.
According to Merriam-Webster, the official definition of “deluxe” is “notably luxurious, elegant, or expensive.” When it comes to travel, though, it could mean anything from bed sheets with a higher thread count to the addition of a coffeemaker. So when it comes to selecting a “deluxe” room, the only part of that definition you can really count on is that it’ll be slightly more expensive.
Before deciding to upgrade to anything deluxe, make sure you understand exactly how much more you’re paying for. Otherwise, you might find yourself paying a hefty margin for a fancy word.
While it’s not as vague and thrown-around as often as “deluxe” is, “suite” is another word that doesn’t seem to have a concrete meaning. For some, a suite might mean multiple bedrooms, or at least a separate living room and kitchen area. However, when you’re comparing different hotel suite options, they can range in size and layout dramatically.
Even hotels that market themselves with the word itself in their names, such as Candlewood Suites or Comfort Suites, often have vastly differing opinions on what the word means. At Candlewood Suites, accommodations can be a bit basic, but there are multiple rooms and a full kitchen. Suites at Comfort Suites don’t necessarily have multiple rooms and extra amenities, but may be a little bit bigger than your standard hotel room with a few “deluxe” touches thrown in.
3. ‘Boutique Hotel’
Let me start by saying that I adore boutique hotels. I love their small-scale attention to detail and that each one has a distinct look and design. That being said, “boutique” is a relatively new and trendy word that gets thrown around far too often, and few people know its true definition. Some people say that a boutique hotel can only be considered such if it has fewer than 100 rooms—but if that were the case every truck-stop motel across the country could slap the word “boutique” above the vacancy sign.
If you really want to experience a boutique hotel, look for something petite and artsy. A boutique hotel should feel like an independent hotel with its own distinct, locally focused style—even if it’s owned by a bigger hotel conglomerate. For example, MGallery is a boutique hotel brand owned by Accor Hotels. In Melbourne, Hotel Lindrum pays tribute to the building’s history as a pool hall. In Prague, the Century Old Town Hotel is an homage to Franz Kafka, the city’s most famous author. True boutique hotels use design to evoke a historical connection to their location.
What’s the difference between a five-star hotel and a four-star hotel? It depends who you ask. When you’re looking for hotels across booking sites like Expedia or Travelocity, it’s not uncommon to see different “star” ratings on the same hotel. Depending on the source, hotel star ratings are based different things: Expedia, for example, takes into account “hotel amenities, media reviews, customer experience, and professional benchmarks” to come up with a rating. Meanwhile TripAdvisor simply displays an average of customer reviews.
You could spend hours trying to compare all the different ratings of one hotel to decide how good it is, but should you? Probably not. Ratings are arbitrary and the rules are constantly changing, so it’s better to do your own assessment of what you need in a hotel, and how well it will suit your needs.
5. ‘High-Speed Internet’
Having typed in many hotel Wi-Fi passwords for access to lagging Internet, I feel comfortable saying that the phrase “high-speed internet” is one common travel term that doesn’t mean anything. With fluctuating numbers of guests, hotel internet is notoriously finicky and vastly unreliable—especially when travelling abroad or to rural areas.
If you need a fast connection on your trip, don’t ask the hotel about its Internet speed. Instead, check out Hotelwifitest.com which collects Internet speeds of hotels across the globe. Do a quick search before you book if you’ll need fast Internet, and if you’re unfamiliar with internet speed measurements, run a quick test from your home connection for comparison. This will give you a good idea if the hotel’s Internet will be better or worse than what you’re used to.
6. ‘Hotel Fitness Centre’
Nobody really expects a whole lot from the hotel fitness centre, do they? Personally, if there’s a treadmill, some weights, and a yoga mat—I’m happy. While it’s not uncommon for fitness rooms to be on the small side, some are seriously claustrophobic excuses for a “fitness centre,” and the equipment can be pretty basic. Also, keep an eye out for fitness rooms that aren’t necessarily located in the hotel: Many hotels, especially in large cities, have a deal with nearby full-service gyms that allow hotel guests to use their facilities. While it’s nice to be able to use a real gym, you might not be as motivated to work out if it’s located a block or more away from where you’re staying.
7. ‘Walking Distance’
For those who hike the Appalachian Trail, “walking distance” means from Georgia to Maine. For those of us who are running late to dinner downtown, however, walking distance better mean under 15 minutes. Probably one of the most subjective travel terms in the industry, never take “walking distance” at face value, and always consult Google Maps.
8. ‘Access to Public Transportation’
Like walking distance, “access to public transportation” can mean just about anything. If you’re relying on public transportation to get around, it’s more helpful if your hotel is located on a major stop than if you have to walk 20 minutes to get there. Similarly, this phrase could mean the hotel is near a bus line that will take you to another bus line that will finally connect you to the main subway, when you really only want to buy a pass for the subway. If deciphering bus schedules and managing transfer tickets isn’t your idea of a good time, make sure to map out the routes you’ll take before you make the booking.
9. ‘Continental Breakfast’
I’ve spurned too many sad displays of near-stale white bread to ever feel contented by the phrase “continental breakfast.” So what is a continental breakfast? The term has British origins, originally referring to the light breakfasts of mainland Europe, and Merriam-Webster officially defines continental breakfast as “a light breakfast (as of rolls or toast and coffee).” But when modern travellers, especially Americans, hungrily approach a hotel breakfast spread, we want options and, at the very least, a waffle maker. If access to a quick yet substantial breakfast is important to you, call ahead to see what the hotel really offers in their continental breakfast. If you don’t think that will be enough food for you, scout out some nearby cafes or brunch spots instead.
While this may be a fine word for a historic bed and breakfast or inn, be wary of any hotel describing itself as “quaint.” It might just be old. If scratchy sheets, peeling paint, and musty smells aren’t your idea of “quaint,” you might want to shop around for a more modern hotel.
Some hotels are appealing because of their convenient location; others because of staff who go above and beyond to create a memorable stay. And then there are the beautiful hotels that take your breath away the moment you see them.
The World’s Most Beautiful Hotels
The following list features the most beautiful hotels around the globe, from a restored 11th-century palace in Italy to a mountain lodge in New Zealand’s spectacular Southern Alps.
It’s not easy for a hotel to live up to the beauty of Italy’s glittering Amalfi Coast, but the Belmond Hotel Caruso pulls it off. The hotel’s piece de resistance is the infinity pool, dramatically perched on a cliff’s edge high above the sea. First built as a palace in the 11th century, the hotel is surrounded by terraced gardens fragrant with roses, lemon trees, and herbs. Rooms feature spacious marble bathrooms and balconies overlooking the gardens or sea.
There’s no shortage of dreamy riads in Morocco, but Riad Fes Maya is a real showstopper. From the moment you step into its soaring inner courtyard, where seemingly every inch of space is covered with colourful Moorish tiles and exquisite wood carvings, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a magical piece of Moroccan history. The rooms are equally enchanting, with stained glass windows, intricately carved headboards, and elaborate wooden ceilings. You can relax in the on-site hammam (traditional steam bath) and spa.
Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by the snow-capped Southern Alps, Blanket Bay enjoys a location that will take your breath away—and the inside of the lodge is nearly as beautiful. All rooms and suites are lavishly appointed and feature floor-to-ceiling windows to let you savor the mountain views. Grab a book and settle in front of the massive stone fireplace in the great room, or take in a sunset over the mountains from the outdoor terrace.
It’s tough to choose the most beautiful spot to relax at this secluded Thai resort: the seven-mile private beach, where crystalline waters wash up on stretch of white sand? Or the expansive outdoor pool, lined with open-air cabanas and surrounded by trees? The good news is that you can split your time between both, with breaks to grab cocktails at the beach bar or take a cooking class. Rooms feature teak floors and decor in calming neutrals; upgrade to enjoy your own private pool for two.
The most gorgeous part of this luxury eco-lodge is its setting, with hills of lush cloud forest stretching in all directions. Wander through the hotel’s nine-acre grounds and you’ll discover a waterfall, a vegetable and herb garden, and a sun deck where you can relax with views of a serene spring water pond. You don’t have to leave nature behind when you retreat to your room for the evening; all guest rooms and suites are furnished with natural hardwoods and feature balconies or terraces overlooking the cloud forest.
If you set out to design the island escape of your dreams, it would probably look a lot like Kamalame Cay, one of the most beautiful hotels in the Bahamas. The resort’s bright, airy rooms and villas are decorated like upscale vacation homes, complete with views over the shimmering turquoise sea. Some of the most spectacular views are from the spa, which juts out over the water. During a massage, you can look down through the glass floor and watch the tropical fish flit through the water below.
Looking to explore the rolling green hills and terraced vineyards of Portugal’s Douro Valley? Base yourself at this 19th-century manor house, now transformed into a luxe Six Senses property overlooking the Douro River. Its gardens and outdoor swimming pool are perfect spots to take in the vineyard views, while the Wine Library & Terrace serves up local vintages and tapas.
The rooms are soothing contemporary retreats, many with large windows and stone terraces from which you can look out over the endless green valley.
When you stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas, your experience of the famous Taj Mahal isn’t limited to a daytime visit. Once you return to the hotel each evening, you can admire the monument’s famous dome and minarets right from your room. Even better: Upgrade to a room with a private balcony, where you can enjoy dinner for two overlooking this monument to true love.
The hotel itself looks like a palace; its courtyard entrance is full of gushing fountains, and the pool area features neatly landscaped gardens, Mughal-style architecture, and that unforgettable Taj Mahal view.
Travellers looking for a desert oasis need only drive about 45 minutes outside of Dubai to Al Maha, where you can stay in your own Bedouin-style tent amidst golden sand dunes. Don’t let the word “tent” worry you; these are upscale suites complete with king-size beds, handcrafted antique furniture, modern bathrooms with soaking tubs, and your own private infinity pool overlooking the desert. The resort is located on the grounds of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, which means you might spot a gazelle or antelope as you relax on your sundeck.
Built as a summer home by a wealthy American in 1900, Manoir Hovey occupies 30 acres of lakefront property in Quebec’s Eastern Townships region. All of the inn’s rooms are individually designed and feature crisp linens and bright, contemporary country-style decor. Upgraded rooms also have amenities like marble bathrooms, fireplaces, and balconies overlooking Lake Massawippi. Manoir Hovey’s landscaped grounds are gorgeous in any season, whether they’re blanketed in winter snow, surrounded by fiery autumn foliage, or blooming with spring and summer flowers.
Honorary mentions include Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, have a look at my next post for places I’d visit if I won the lottery!
Have you been to any of these? I want to hear, let me know. Any others I should add to the list?
Dreaming of a holiday but don’t want to wait until the summer, like me? No problem.
February is the purrrrrrrfect time to go somewhere exotic for a dose of much-needed vitamin D or stay a bit closer to home and see parts of Europe at their most beautiful (aka blanketed in snow). It also happens to be a month full of parties. Dry January will be over so why not get back into the festivities at Rio’s Carnival, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Beijing’s Chinese New Year or Venice’s annual Carnevale di Venezi…
1. Marrakesh, Morocco
With cheap, direct flights from London and the promise of winter sun – Marrakesh in late February is a no brainer. Temperature highs can reach 20 degrees and it’s one of the best times of the year to explore the Medina, the new Musee Yves Saint Laurent and practice your haggling skills at the souks without the stifling heat that comes in Spring.
2. Rio de Janeiro
This year Carnival in Rio de Janeiro will take place between the 9th and 14th of February and there are few better reasons to make the trip to Brazil for.
Famous throughout the world, Brazilian dancers with the most incredible costumes move throughout the city and tourists and locals alike bring in the early hours of the morning at street parties, known as blocos, and at costumed balls called bailes.
3. Svalbard, Norway
Who doesn’t have seeing the Northern Lights on their bucket list? This February head to the Arctic Circle – Svalbard in Norway to be specific- a gentle nod towards my all time favourite movie The Golden Compass.
An archipelago situated between mainland Norway and the North Pole – you essentially can’t get more Northern than this. If you’re really, really lucky you may even see polar bears roaming around too.
No one heads to Beijing in February for the weather but it is one of the best cities in the world to experience Chinese New Year.
The biggest holiday of the year for the city, you’ll see temple dances, eat at banquets, watch million-pound firework displays and see the streets lit up with show-stopping light installations.
Once the celebrations are over, you can explore the city, tick the Great Wall of China off your bucket list (it’s located just an hour and a half outside of the city) and if you have time, carry on your holiday in Shanghai – it’s only a two hour flight away.
5. New Orleans
New Orleans Mardi Gras is hard to beat. Taking place each year in February, the festival sees 1.2 million tourists descend on the French Quarter and surrounding streets ready to party, hard.
Experience it for a few days and then get to know the rest of Louisiana’s largest city. With a history steeped in Voodoo, be sure to take a graveyard tour. Eat turtle soups during a traditional “Friday Lunch” at one of the century old restaurants, shop in the achingly trendy Magazine Street, listen to live jazz and don’t leave without spotting alligators in one of the swamps located on the outskirts.
6. Cambodia’s Islands
Tourists have long been flocking to Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s awe-inspiring temple and one of the wonders of the world. But its magnificent, unspoilt coastline has remained relatively untrodden compared to neighbours Thailand and Vietnam. With a number of new, luxury hotels including the The Six Senses resort on Krabey Island and Alila’s eco-resort on Koh Russey, it’s hard to think of a more idyllic place to get your vitamin D hit.
7. Switzerland’s Bern
If you want to do European winter properly, you won’t get much more of a snowy paradise than Switzerland’s Bern.
Not only was it voted the most Instagrammable winter city in the world (beating Aspen..) in 2017, the city’s whole old town is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can ski in the surrounding slopes, ice skate on The Schwarzsee mountain lake which completely freezes over and then come nightfall take refuge in a genuine igloo.
Venice in February is cold but it rarely looks more beautiful under the dimly lit, silvery winter sun.
Aside from the obvious perks of less tourists and fewer gutter smells, a major pull for visiting in February is that this is when you can experience the unique Carnevale di Venezia.
A traditional carnival that has been celebrated all over Italy for centuries, participants use it as an occasion to indulge before they undertake the Christian practice of Lent when people give something up for 40 days until Easter Sunday.
Each year entertainers bring alive the canals and alleyways through dance, costume and performance and if you’re into Venetian masks, this is the best time to see them in all their glory.
If you’ve overlooked Canada in favour of America, you’re missing a trick. Canada’s landscape looks particularly beautiful during the winter and if you’re an adventurer February is when to go.
Banff National Park with its craggy peaks and glinting glaciers and Whistler’s world famous ski slopes make it the perfect country for winter sports enthusiasts. If you’re a city-goer though – the country’s major cities hold their own during the colder months too.
You can see the annual festival of lights in Toronto, skate at one of the many outdoor rinks in Vancouver or see the ice sculptures, watch a hockey tournament or experience snow-shoeing in Montreal.
10. Canary Islands
If you’re time-poor and/or don’t have the budget to go halfway across the world this February, an excellent option for holiday sun is the Canary Islands. Just four hours from London, the islands offer high temperatures, warm blue seas and quaint towns and villages full of small restaurants and pretty squares.
Tenerife is the coldest of the islands during this time (average temperature of 16 degrees) but there are good deals to be had. Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria will all be hotter with average temperatures of 18°C, and highs of 21°C.
You’re dragging. Your life feels like an endless, meaningless repeat of the same old routine for the foreseeable future. It’s become difficult to get yourself out of bed in the morning because you simply don’t want to do what you need to do for the day. Don’t imagine you’re alone – everyone goes through this, and a lot of people get stuck in it. If you have no interest in becoming one of them, then read on.
1. Change your morning schedule.
It can be tough to do, especially if you feel no motivation to get up in the first place. Start small. If you’re a snooze button fiend, change up your alarm method – or placement. Switch to a different, delicious kind of breakfast if you can. Set ten minutes aside to meditate, stretch, or practice yoga. Choose anything that will help you personally succeed.
2. Find something that inspires you to kickstart your day.
What do you like to do to energise and push yourself forward? It matters, because if you’re consistently dragging in the morning, you need a special kind of nudge. Find what makes you want to jump out of bed and get into the thick of things. The list of possibilities is endless – it all comes down to finding the spark that works for you.
3. Meditate on a regular basis.
Whether you do so in the morning or not, it’s a good idea to engage in some sort of daily meditation practice. If that sounds daunting, approach it incrementally. You don’t have to set aside an hour or two – the regularity is what matters, not so much the length of the meditation. Once you make your ten or fifteen minutes into a daily habit, you’ll find it easier to expand your practice. It’ll feel so good that you will want to stay longer.
4. Dig deep.
You might be having a tough time finding motivation to try something new. Perhaps the problem is that you’ve lost your drive for what you’re already doing. Either way, you have to get down to the root of the issue. Is it fear? Is it a lack of inspiration? Does it relate to some other issue happening in your life? If you want to rediscover the drive that you need for a fulfilling journey, then you have to put in the internal work.
It’s so easy to get sidetracked in the day-to-day chaos of the hectic world that you live in. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It happens to everyone and most are completely unaware of the problem. They don’t understand why they feel overworked, stressed, and discontent. Sit down and make two lists – one with the activities you engage in that bring you joy, and one with those that cause you stress. Make the decision to incorporate more of those that are joyful and also to put them first as much as possible. Starting with the positive will make those tougher tasks easier to bear.
6. Get moving.
It may be well-worn advice, but it’s true – revving up your heart produces endorphins and motivates you to get the rest of your day in order. If you can stand it, try to start your morning off with some exercise, even if that just means getting outside and taking a walk in the fresh air. If you combine a workout with time in nature, you double the potential benefits. You’re almost guaranteed to be in a better mindset post-exercise.
7. Be brutally honest with yourself.
Is there an actual issue interfering with your motivation, or have you let yourself get lazy? Sometimes the truth is difficult to face. Everyone gets comfortable and complacent, but it’s your job to keep things fresh and rediscover your zest for life. If you don’t have that going for you, what’s even the point, right? Take a good hard look at the underlying problems.
8. Rest – but really, truly rest.
In today’s world most people don’t really take breaks. You may tell yourself something you’re doing counts as “rest”, but odds are you’re still letting the rest of your life interfere with your relaxation. You have to set aside time to honestly let go, and if you’re lucky, there are people around you who can assist you with that. They’ll probably be glad to lend a hand if you express the crucial necessity – and it won’t hurt if you offer to do likewise in the future. There is no shame in relying on those who care for you.
9. Try something wildly outside your comfort zone.
Part of your problem could be a lack of new elements in your life that pique your interest. When you fall into a rut, you must pull yourself out of it – and one way to do that quickly and effectively is to attempt something that scares you. It’ll keep your enthusiasm alive and inspire you to go above and beyond where you are now.
Seriously. Dancing is incredibly freeing and it brings the best out in everyone. It awakens your inner child and puts a smile on your face – what can possibly be wrong with that? Let everything go and dance like nobody is watching you. Life is too short to care, and nothing feels better than giving your body license to move in the ways that feel primal and true. It’ll take you out of your head and into your heart.
11. If you don’t like your life, step back and try to pinpoint why.
There’s nothing worse than feeling dissatisfied with your existence, but a staggering number of people out there aren’t happy. Most likely you’ve been plodding along and haven’t taken stock of where you are and what’s keeping you from satisfaction. Has something changed, or is the issue that nothing’s changed at all? Figure it out.
12. Be as completely present in the moment as humanly possible.
Your unhappiness could stem from the simple fact that you are living in the past or the future instead of the here and now. If you’re dragging, take note of every moment as it happens, and you’ll forget to worry about anything else. Your inherent motivation lies in the fact that none of us are guaranteed the next month, day, hour, or even minute. Take charge of your life and enjoy it fully as long as you hold its preciousness in your grasp.
There is no better way, in my opinion, to spend celebrating an occasion than with the ones you hold near and dear. The little adventurer I am, we decided to celebrate with a bonanza of activities – Part 1 was in Dubai, you’ll read about Part 2 soon but we had so much fun out there, that I got lots of people asking what I did and how we managed to do so much in such a short period of time. Well now you have it… my 72 hours in Dazzling Dubai!
Dubai has become an almost imperative city to visit in any ambitious travellers’ “must-see” catalogue and certainly a one-stop shop for wanderers alike. It doesn’t help that the Emirates Airline covers most of the world and uses its home country as a transit point, so at one time or another, almost everyone everywhere will stop in Dubai, and ultimately get allured in by the luxurious gold and futuristic ambiance of the city.
It’s the very hub of business and pleasure for the world and links the East with West seamlessly. For 72 hours, On the 19th November, 5 friends and I stopped over in Dubai on our way to Thailand and it was the first time I’d been back since 2012 – although then it was only a 15-hour transit with family. Does that even count?
I tend to travel for pleasure whenever I can, which admittedly isn’t often due to workload and demand (that’s changing this year :D), but I was in Dubai to enjoy what the city had to offer and grab a few things for family and friends. We stayed at the 4* Carlton Downtown on Sheikh Zayed Road, Deira in their twin Deluxe Room. I think they upgraded us in all honesty, the room was way too good to be just a Deluxe.
Built in 2013, the hotel is home to 357 rooms and suites and whole bunch of extra amenities, including dining and lifestyle venues, spa, fitness centre, tennis court, swimming pool and 23 fully equipped meeting rooms for conferences and events. Preeeeetty cool. Carlton offers a range of entertainment options including Jimmy Wickets Sports Bar & Lounge and Zephyr, the highest AL fresco rooftop lounge in Dubai. We opted for Breakfast included in our stay of course, because honestly, who wants to be looking for places to get decent breakfast first thing when you wake up in the morning.
Room 2112 is pretty high up, on the 27th floor. The room had the most amazing views of the city’s skyline and faced onto Sheikh Zayed road. It towers way above the building’s opposite, so we got views of the Arabian Gulf in the distance. The room is slap bang in the middle of the suns path throughout the day and meant our rooms were constantly bathed with direct heat from the sun.
We, unapologetically and totally unmatched to the rooms below, got to soak up the breath-taking full views of sunrise and sunsets and crystal-clear azure blue skies. The views were fantastic. I’d booked it through a friend who like the Hyatt, had given us dirt cheap discounts on the room and had told them we were VIP, so the room was probably one of the best they had and rightly so, we were.
You’d think it would get pretty loud with the longest highway in Dubai so close, but being so high up with triple glazed, solar controlled windows means it’s virtually sound proof from the outside world.
You don’t hear much overhead noise, or horns, or the rush of the constant lengthy traffic that seems to be the cities norm. Check-in was smooth in the grand foyer; the receptionist was this mid height arab/Iraqi/Moroccan young man, maybe mid 20’s but honestly- and I mean this in a total good way – looking like he’d just hit puberty… a very youthful and welcoming smile.
He got us checked in swiftly, and Joseph – the Filipino bell boy (or rather, man), greeted us to take our bags up. If you visit, just ask for Joseph really. Like, I’ll keep it that simple for you. His knowledge of the city, best places to avoid and the “cool kids’ hangout” areas saved us a lot of time, and quite frankly we needed it. He was open, relatable and pretty prompt come to think of it. And he was never too far when we needed him.
My room didn’t have an iron or ironing board, nor did the shower tap turn when I got in. Called Joseph and in no time, he was tugging away… I could’ve done it in all honesty, but I wanted to see him work his arm muscles real good. They bulged. A girl can dream 😊
Our room was ready by 11. No lie, the most spacious hotel rooms I’ve ever been in. hands down. We were given a whole 42 sqm of land to live on, and as if that wasn’t enough, we had a work desk and wardrobes, with at least 5/6 small cabinets dotted around for storage and off-loading, and even a couch. We had enough room in there to fit at least 10 adults with luggage comfortably sleeping on the floor, or if you had a little class, perhaps a solid 5 people comfortably in the space for 2 they’d given us. It was amazing. The interiors combine sleek, modern décor with everyday functionality, highlighted by airy finishes and humungous landscape windows. You know them royal houses you see in movies, where even Peter Crouch couldn’t touch the ceilings if he stepped on the bed, this room was the same. The windows are very nearly floor to ceiling, except for a knee-high window seat that overlooks the city. We made good use of this, often spending every waking minute in the rooms perched on here. Whether we were watching the city whizzing beneath us, or having karaoke sessions screaming to our hearts content at the skies or watching the world in silence as night fades into darkness, it served more than its purpose for us.
Breakfast is served in the Baÿty restaurant on the 3rd floor of the building, between 6AM and 10AM. The buffet-style food served hails from both authentic Arabian and international cuisine and quite frankly, has everything your heart desires.
You want traditional English toast and beans? Here you go. French Toast with dripping syrup but your weird and add avocados to yours too? Here you go, take it. Fresh fruits? Here. Or a full-on Egg Fried Rice with Mushrooms, Sweet potato and Shrimp? They had a whole section for you too, boo. Safe to say most of us got a second round every morning. The staff are accommodating, chefs are at every station’s kitchen to keep food piping hot or readily stocked.
My French toast was a rock to my disappointment, it had been sitting under the heat for too long. I only realized after I had sat down, wiped down the cutlery and put the napkin on my lap. Super frustrating. I opted for Nutella and fresh toast but when your hearts set on something… the disappointment doesn’t go away.
Everything else was good though- the fruit stored in ice, the beans piping hot, the juices a variety. We missed the special theme night dinner buffets though, featuring live cooking stations with orders prepared to my specifications.
Thursdays are Seafood nights, with fresh lobster, crabs, oysters and even tiger shrimp cooked right infront of you.
Fridays are Surf and Turf nights and for the steaks, and lambs and chickens and lobsters and high rollers and big spenders. My type of people. Your looking at roughly £30-£50 per meal on one of these nights… but you can get it sent to your room or onto the rooftop terrace and enjoy a meal on the 47th floor of the building instead.
Probably my second favorite place in the whole hotel was the Zephyr Rooftop lounge and swimming pool. It is one of Dubai’s highest outdoor restaurant and lounge, playing chilled house music and donning stunning views of Dubai and the Burj Khalifa.
We’d spend most times between activities lounging in the sun here, in the pool or grabbing some downtime before bed. It’s a well-known fact now that I can’t swim (yet), so I kind of bobbed up and down in the water for a few hours at a time.
At one point, I looked up and could’ve sworn the sky looked like something out of a cartoon… one of those road runner episodes in the desert with scorching heat and a dry, baked earth. It was hot.
My favorite place ever though, has to be the Citrus Spa- a female’s health & leisure facility with jacuzzi, steam room and spa facilities. I mean, when on earth do i ever get time to go and delight in the pleasure of a whole jacuzzi?!
I’m telling you, this stuff is the beez kneez. It’s the real shizzle.
I regret not spending a lot of time up there, but it’s on the 45th floor of the building and open daily 10am to 10pm. My friend surprised me with some treatments, and I opted for a Deep Tissue massage and a full body scrub. Came out feeling like a whole new slippery woman.
Shamefully, at my big age, it was also the first time I’d ever been to a spa that didn’t involve my siblings practicing their skills on me, so admittedly, my scope of comparison is limited. It was amazing.
KFC is a few doors down, so snacks weren’t too hard to get ahold of. Dubai International (DXB) airport is 12.3km away, a short 7-minute drive. The closest metro station is the financial centre station which is within view of the hotel, a mere 0.3km away and the property allows for a free shuttle service to the beach and shopping centre as well as the airport.
The hotel forever has a swarm of valet parking attendants outside the hotel, opening taxi doors for you and greeting you upon arrival, and are super useful should you decide to rent out a vehicle during your stay.
The hotel check-in time starts at 2PM and ends at 3AM and check out time is at noon.
One thing we should’ve known really but totally forgot what that they require a deposit on the room (incidental charges) when you arrive. Before you even go upstairs, they’ll require you pay 500 AED for anything used or taken from the room. A little frustrating, since we’ll only get the AED back once we check out and then they’ll be no point spending it on our way out… but we negotiated he take £100 GBP instead from us, roughly translating to 468 AED. Close enough. We could then at least have the GBP safe during our stay and use it for later.
Tourism fees are of course charged as well, which they later just took out from the room deposit. The city imposes a fee of 15 AED (£3.25) per night- a total of 45 AED for us, translating to £9.65 in total.
The location, rooms and service at this hotel was fantastic. The rooms stayed clean 24/7 and it was definitely great value for money. The facilities available to you are abundant in number, and if you ever find yourself bored in your room… you don’t search far to find something to do- something I rarely see in hotels.
The food was a little disappointment, but perhaps a slight one-time oversight and not regular for their chefs. The interior of the building synchronizes with Dubai’s famous gold motifs and makes you feel boujee on a budget. I’d recommend this hotel over and over, make sure you at least spend a night here to get a taste of Dubai.
What a year. I wrote this a while ago but never posted it, so although 4 days late.. I’ll get it out on time next year. Today, I’d like to recap and share my highlights, failures, successes and biggest life lessons of 2018. It’s been the best year so far but that doesn’t mean everything was going my way.
Aficionado of life, a twenty-something year old Engineer putting my life on paper, or the virtual version. Pictures don't do life justice, sometimes reliving it through words is enough. Paving my own way, just living it all up while I can.
In 30 years, I’ll be able to look back and say “Heck, I really lived!” and for my incredible readers, I hope I can dish up some education, information and inspiration for my Hijabi sisters who think they can’t. I’m here to tell you, you can.