I haven’t posted a blog for about a month but promise it’s for good reason. I have been on the road for more than five weeks, and have discovered some wonderful new places and spots (watch this space). But before moving on to 2014 here were some of my travel highlights of 2013:
The Philippines. We went in January of last year and fell completely and utterly in love. With a growing infrastructure, beautiful resorts, spectacular beaches, and some of the kindest people I have ever met, the country was going through a real upswing when we were there. Which made the devasting tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan that much more heartbreaking. BUT many areas have not been affected at all and a great way to show support is to go visit now! Dedon Island Resort, for example, a short flight from Cebu, is an exquisitely designed property with amazing surfing (here is the account of our visit there in the New York Times, and the El Nido Pangulasian Island, the perfect launch pad to explore the stunning Palawan archipelago. For more ideas about where to stay, check out my Filipino round-up in Conde Nast Traveller.
Bhutan. The Kingdom of the Heavens more than lived up to its billing, and I will never forget the views of the snowcapped Himalayas against the bluest of skies. Or the quiet mountain-top monasteries that were more than worth hours-long hikes. However I do feel like there is a ton of development taking place in the tiny country now that tourism is expanding there—in other words to see it in its most pristine state get there sooner than later. And don’t miss a stay at the new idyllic Uma Punakha—their accommodations give new meaning to a room with a view.
Koh Phangan. Best known for its Full Moon parties and last visited by this particular traveler back in 1990 (!), this island off Koh Samui actually turned out to be a great destination with our two year old. Who would have guessed? We rented a house that looked like an architectural showcase with incredible views of the Andaman Sea (for a really reasonable price) and had a wonderful week getting to know the charming village alongside Thong Nai Pan Noi beach. There is also a very charming Anantara property there.
Marrakech. I can’t believe it took me until last year to make it to Morocco but luckily I made up for it in 2013 and fell in love, particularly with the hotel Riad el Fenn, the tangled alleys of the Medina and the colors and light of the city (oh and the shop Majorelle 33 has been added to my favorite shops in the world list). Next time I want to head to the Atlas Mountains, and Essouria.
Wales. I went to Wales for a New York Times story about Dylan Thomas that will come out this year, but even though I was open minded, I wasn’t quite sure if the country would be among my faves. Instead, the landscapes, particularly around the coast, were drop dead gorgeous, and surprisingly, despite some very unmemorable meals we ate really well at places like the Cors B&B and the Coalhouse.
Penang. Beautiful architecture? Check. Great local and authentic food? Check. Burgeoning and interesting art scene? Check. I went to Penang to do a Conde Nast Traveler review on the Macalister Mansion hotel, and the story was the entry to a city that really got under my skin, from its well-preserved colonial old town to its varied cuisine (Indian, Chinese, Malay), and the fledging art scene. It is a city I would return to in a heartbeat.
Verona. Arguably one of Italy’s most underrated cities with an incredible amphitheater, delicious food and wine, and an easing navigable and charming Medieval center, part of Verona’s charm is the lack of crowds, especially in shoulder season like March when I went. Read more about the city’s attractions in my 36 Hours for the New York Times.