Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.
Today (December 23, 2019): My 10 best travel experiences of 2019.
As the year 2019 is drawing to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the headlines and stories that shaped the past year. At first, it seems that a lot of bad news dominated the headlines in 2019, with global trade wars, never ending tensions in the Middle East, unrest in Hong Kong, and the damaging effects of climate change. But there were a lot of good things happening out there too: same-sex marriage became legal in Taiwan and Ecuador, governments worldwide are taking a stand on plastic pollution, and scientists got a step closer to curing diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer, and cystic fibrosis.
2019 was also a remarkable year for travelers. There were disturbing events such as the terror attacks in Sri Lanka and Christchurch, financial difficulties of several low cost carriers, the Notre Dame cathedral fire, and the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash. But all in all, the travel industry boomed, with record bookings and income. Since this is a travel blog that tries to give you a daily moment of travel inspiration with a focus on my personal stories, I hereby share with you my travel highlights of 2019. Early 2020, I’ll share what to expect from me in the next year.
There is more information (with trip reports & Youtube clips) below the slideshow. You can share your own 2019 travel highlights in the comments section below.
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10. EXPERIENCING BRITISH AIRWAYS’ NEW (SOFT) BUSINESS CLASS PRODUCT
In 2019, I flew Business Class in a Boeing 787 of British Airways from the Seychelles to London. While the carrier’s Business Class (dubbed Club World) raised the bar worldwide two decades ago with the introduction of the first fully lie-flat seat, the seat itself is now dated (although British Airways introduced an excellent new Business Class seat last summer). While I have flown British Airways many times in the past, their deteriorating service made me switch carriers a few years ago. However, I decided to give the UK flagship carrier another try on this particular occasion because of the convenience of its Seychelles route. And boy, I was pleasantly surprised, because British Airways has dramatically stepped up its game with the introduction of new and impressive service concepts (e.g. catering, bedding, etc …). In fact, this flight made me change my opinion, and I will gladly fly the airline again in the future.
9. AMAN & OBEROI TOUR IN INDIA
Stretching from the Himalaya mountains and the Ranthambore jungle to the beaches of Goa and the lush tropical greenery of Kerala, India is larger than life, with a population that exceeds a billion, 23 official languages and more than a million square miles of land. With more than 5,000 years of history and an amazing array of natural landscapes, it could truly take a lifetime to experience all that India has to offer. And while India inspires, astonishes and enlightens many who tread her soil, deciding where to visit in the country is probably the one thing that caused me headaches and indecision, since India is so vast and varied. Like many first-time visitors, I focused on the destination of Rajasthan, because of its opulent palace-hotels, ancient forts, and safari drives.
Read my trip reports of my tour in India here:
- Review: Swiss Airbus A330 First Class from Zürich to Delhi
- Review: India Aman Tour – The Lodhi New Delhi
- Review: India Aman Tour – Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore National Park
- Review: India Aman Tour – Amanbagh, Rajasthan
- Review: The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra
- Review: The Oberoi New Delhi
8. A HOLIDAY ON THE GREEK ISLANDS OF SANTORINI & MYKONOS
Santorini is arguably one of the world’s most idyllic islands. Perched high above the deep blue Aegean Sea, Santorini’s whitewashed villages are clustered atop dramatic cliffs, with black sand beaches resting at the bottom. The island was shaped some 3,600 years ago by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, which left a giant water-filled crater measuring about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4 mi) and surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs on all sides. The popular island is also known for its unique and ultraluxe hotels, where rooms and suites are often carved into the rocks. I combined my Santorini holiday with a visit to Mykonos, that other famous Greek island, mainly known for its party lifestyle next to none, its LGBT welcoming ambience, and its many beautiful but crowded beaches.
Read my trip reports of my holiday on the Greek islands here:
- Review: Epitome Canaves Oia (most luxurious hotel on Santorini)
- Review: Cavo Tagoo (most famous hotel in Mykonos)
7. FLYING BUSINESS CLASS ONBOARD AN AIR FRANCE B787 DREAMLINER
In 2016, Air France welcomed its very first Boeing 787. Today, the flagship carrier of France has 9 Dreamliners in its fleet, operating flights to several long-haul destinations, such as Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Bamako (Mali), Bogota (Colombia), Boston (United States), Detroit (United States), Guangzhou (China), Montreal (Canada), Nairobi (Kenya), Male (Maldives) and Osaka (Japan). The Boeing 787 features Air France’s most recent Business Class cabins. There are a total of 30 Business Class seats, with a 42-inch (106 cm) pitch, configured in a 1-2-1 layout, with direct aisle access for all passengers. Each Business Class seat converts into a 2 meter (6.5 ft) fully-flat bed, with soft seat cushions, a silky duvet and an oversized feather pillow.
Read my trip reports of my flights in Air France’s B787 Dreamliners here:
- Review: Air France B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to the Maldives
- Review: Air France B787 Dreamliner Business Class from the Maldives to Paris
6. A TRIP IN THE WORLD’S BEST BUSINESS CLASS, THE QATAR AIRWAY QSUITE
Qatar Airways is one of my favorite carriers for flying Business Class. The carrier’s so-called ‘QSuite‘ offers the industry’s first-ever Business Class double bed, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the center four seats even allow colleagues, friends or families traveling together to transform their space into a private suite, so they can work, dine and socialize together. Each seat is crafted with thoughtful and luxurious details such as hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing, bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, privacy and style to Qatar Airways’ Business Class offering. I flew the QSuite from Frankfurt (Germany) to Doha (Qatar).
Read my trip report of my Qatar Airways QSuite flight here:
5. A HOLIDAY IN THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND NATION, THE SEYCHELLES
In 2019, I made a return visit to one of my favorite destinations on earth, the Seychelles, an archipelago of legendary beauty in the Indian Ocean, just south of the Equator and east of Kenya. The Seychelles’ 115 coral and granite islands, which are the peaks of a massive underwater plateau, star in countless tropical island fantasies and represent one of the world’s very last frontiers. Once your aircraft descends into the Seychelles International Airport, you know that you have arrived at a place of awe-inspiring scenery, with granitic mountain ranges clad in virgin jungle cascading down to hauntingly beautiful, palm fringed, with sand beaches. The Seychelles beckon travelers to their shores, by offering adventure, romance and luxury resorts in pristine surroundings.
Read my trip reports of my holiday in the Seychelles here:
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Seychelles (Mahe island)
- Review: Raffles Seychelles Resort (Praslin island)
- Review: Maia Luxury Resort & Spa (Mahe island)
- Review: Banyan Tree Resort Seychelles (Mahe island)
- Review: Constance Ephelia Resort
4. SIX SENSES HOLIDAY IN THE MYTHICAL KINGDOM OF BHUTAN
The fairytale, mystical country of Bhutan is world-famous for measuring Gross National Happiness, an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population. It is also the last remaining Kingdom in the world’s most breathtaking mountain chain, the Himalayas. The country is an insanely beautiful Shangri-La, offering a staggering variety of mountain scenery and natural landscapes. Mysterious and shrouded in myth, Bhutan also boasts an extraordinary cultural heritage, from the striking architecture of its mountain forts and monasteries to the images of Buddhist religious figures painted or carved onto the craggy cliffs. Last spring, I finally visited Bhutan (the country had been on my bucket list for a very long time) and it did not disappoint.
Read my trip reports of my Bhutan holiday with Six Senses here:
- Review: Six Senses Thimpu, Bhutan
- Review: Six Senses Punakha, Bhutan
- Review: Six Senses Paro, Bhutan
- Review: Bhutan Airlines A319 Business Class from Paro to Delhi
3. TIME + TIDE JOURNEY IN ZAMBIA & MADAGASCAR
In autumn 2019, I visited the magnificent countries of Zambia and Madagascar with Time + Tide, one of Africa’s premium safari & travel companies, welcoming those who believe the road less traveled has more to offer. Zambia is the undiscovered treasure trove of Africa, sheltering extraordinary natural beauty and a wide range of exciting wildlife. The highlight of my trip was a visit to Time + Tide Miavana, possibly the most exclusive castaway escape ever. Located on an idyllic island off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the resort’s 14 massive pool villas are a masterpiece in luxury and design. Boat and helicopter transfers are provided to the mainland, where the resort’s guides can lead you to a world of lemurs and chameleons, and a mosaic of unexplored coves.
Read my trip reports of my Time + Tide Zambia & Madagascar holiday here:
- Review: Kenya Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Amsterdam to Nairobi
- Review: Kenya Airways B737 Business Class from Nairobi to Lusaka
- Review: Time + Tide Chongwe Suites, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
- Review: Time + Tide Kakuli Bushcamp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Review: Time + Tide Chinzombo Lodge, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Review: Helicopter flight to Time + Tide Miavana, Madagascar
- Review: Time + Tide Miavana, Madagascar, the world’s most exclusive resort
2. RETURN VISIT TO THE MALDIVES’ ORIGINAL ISLAND HIDEAWAY: SONEVA FUSHI
Each year, I take a holiday in the Maldives, and this year, I returned to one of my favorite resorts – Soneva Fushi – which is set on a private tropical island in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The island – which is 1,400 m (4,600 ft) long and 400 m (1300 ft) wide – ranks among the largest islands in the Maldives and offers incredible crystal clear waters and white beaches. Massive, multi-bedroom, fairytale-like luxury villas are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the Robinson Crusoe castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools. Intuitive service is provided by Mr/Ms Friday butlers who know what you want before you want it.
Contact me to receive complimentary Soneva ambassador benefits at Soneva Fushi (e.g. 15% discount, resort credit, and two personalized Soneva experiences).
Watch here my YouTube clips of my amazing holiday at Soneva Fushi:
- Clip: transfer onboard Soneva’s private seaplane
- Clip: two bedroom villa
- Clip: three bedroom villa
- Clip: four bedroom villa (jungle reserve)
- Clip: best breakfast in the world
- Clip: world-class fine dining at Soneva Fushi
- Clip: water slide at Out Of The Blue
1. TRACKING MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN AFRICA’S NEWEST TRAVEL HOTSPOT, RWANDA
Spotting a wild gorilla in the African jungle is on many people’s bucket list and ranks among my favorite wildlife experience in the world. Mountain gorillas are the most majestic, and sadly, rarest apes of all non-human primates. Only 700 of these magnificent creatures remain in the world, all of them found in the border area between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A guided gorilla tracking takes anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, and allows you to spend one hour with the apes once you found them. Early 2019, traveled to Rwanda, which is emerging as one of the most exciting new luxury destinations in Africa. Spotting mountain gorillas (and even being touched by a wild baby gorilla) in the country’s magnificent Volcanoes National Park was awesome adventure, further inspired by my emotions after seeing the movie Gorillas In The Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey.
Read my trip reports of my awesome holiday in Rwanda here;
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Amsterdam to Rwanda
- Review: Kigali Serena Hotel
- Review: Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris, Volcanoes National Park
- Review: Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park (my best travel experience ever!)
- Review: One&Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe National Park
- Review: Ruzizi Tented Lodge in Akagera National Park
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Rwanda to Amsterdam (via Uganda)
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Hi, interesting destinations you had on your travel schedule for 2019! As it is quite often the case, I happen to go to the same places as you. The Seychelles are also my favorite tropical islands (So much natural beauty!), although I have not visited them recently. I was in India last year and in 2020, I will go to Bhutan (with COMO Hotels). And I am also no stranger to Africa, however not to the trendy destinations you went but to Namibia & Botswana (also not bad at all). I wish you much more happy traveling and I am looking forward to reading more of your luxury travel adventures!
Any chance of a review of the Taj Lake Palace, I think it was on your India list? We are headed there in February and I am interested in your thoughts. Thanks very much.
Thank You so much dear The Luxury Travel Expert for this unique and helpful information about Your Top 10 travel experiences ! I wish You and Your Team Merry Christmas ! Respectfully , Vlado.
I think your videos are fantastic. The resorts are absolutely beautiful. I am surprised of your airline choices once again for 2019. I would avoid BA like a plague especially the eight across business seat. The AF 787 at most standard business class fare not even better than Virgin, Turkish, Delta or KLM. Free travel doesn’t always mean best.