Every year I attend a remarkable invitation only travel show in Marrakech. It’s where I go to meet with some of the hotels and ground partners I currently work with abroad. But more importantly, it’s where I go to find out about new immersive and experiential travel experiences. And, as usual, I returned back to Manchester with a bag full of business cards and a head spinning with lots of new ideas.
Having had a number of requests this year for locations or activities that were a little bit different, but that were appropriate for multi-generational family gatherings, my mission in Marrakech was to find some amazing places and unique experiences that would bring a family together. I am glad to report that my mission was a success and here are a few of my favourite finds:
The ultimate winter wilderness retreat
Lying 200km deep in the Arctic Circle and perched on the shores of Lake Vakkara, with a vast backyard of snow-covered landscapes, the family owned Fjellborg Arctic Lodge is the perfect place to experience the pristine winter wonderland of Swedish Lapland exclusively with family and friends.
Nine generations of the Fjellborg family have lived in Arctic Lapland and they are only too happy to showcase their magical homeland and the experience starts immediately on arrival. After your flight (via Stockholm) you take a scenic one-hour dog-sleigh ride to the lodge. You can ride as a passenger or “mush” your own team of huskies. But what’s so lovely is that all 100 huskies at the lodge have been raised by the family and are so gentle, that even young children are able to drive their own sleigh.
As a guest of the lodge you enjoy exclusive use of the Master Cabin, a warm and inviting space traditionally Nordic in style - think wooden beams, cosy blankets, leather sofas and wood burning stoves. There are four double bedrooms, but outside there are a few private cabins which makes the lodge perfect for families or larger groups.
Exploring the beautiful wilderness is what a stay at Fjellborg is all about and, as well as husky rides, snowmobile treks, ice fishing, ice sculpting, snowshoeing and cultural meetings with the local Sami people are all also on offer. The family’s experience of the region and their expertise shines through in all the private guided activities you’ll enjoy, whilst they also use quality Arctic clothing by Fjällräven, so there’s no sweaty balaclava on its 100th wear! Plus, with a Northern Lights Research Centre next door, it’s also a great place to view the awe-inspiring aurora borealis, which wind their way through the sky in a stunning light show on clear winter nights.
Sailing the stunning Indonesian archipelago
Imagine setting sail on your own exclusive charter; an extraordinary voyage across dazzling seas to the most spectacular islands in the Indonesian archipelago: Komodo, the Banda Islands and Raja Ampat. Each morning, you and the family and friends you take with you, will wake up with a different scene to take your breath away. Well, that’s exactly what you get with Dunia Baru, an exquisitely crafted yacht that takes inspiration from the traditional Indonesian Phinisi.
I was lucky enough to meet the owner, Mark, who explained to me that Dunia Baru was originally built for him to show his family the 18,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and so is completely family friendly. It offers a sensational home-from-home aboard a luxuriously appointed yacht that sympathetically embraces the beauty of Indonesia’s heritage, alongside cutting edge technology and an expert crew. Evoking an era of bygone elegance and graceful charm, the seven cabins combine teak wood and traditional artworks with air conditioning systems and powerful showers. Whilst dining on-board is a five star culinary experience at sea, enjoyed with the gentle lapping of the water, under a blanket of stars.
Every trip on Dunia Baru is a unique experience, specifically tailored to each guest’s expectations and requirements. When you’re not diving some of the most beautiful scuba spots in the world, snorkelling with turtles, trekking to ancient villages or looking for birds of paradise and Komodo dragons, you can kayak, stand-up paddle board or enjoy relaxing on pristine beaches of sugar-fine sands, fringed with a knotted tangle of untouched jungle.
Dania Baru is for exclusive charters for up to 14 people and everything on board is included. It’s the perfect place to spend time with family and friends, whilst sailing through the most spectacularly beautiful landscapes, white sails billowing. A truly unforgettable adventure of a life time that combines perfectly with some time in Bali to start and then ending up at the wonderful Nihi, a luxury eco lodge on the island of Sumba which has one of the top surf waves in Indonesia.
Travelling on two wheels
Okay, so you and your family love popping on your lycra and going out on your bikes. But have you ever considered making a holiday out of it? One where you can indulge in great local food and wine (adults only of course)? Where you rest your head, not in a tent or a hostel, but in the most amazing boutique hotels? Where you actually don’t have to worry about how your luggage will get between locations or indeed where exactly you are going or what you will be doing? Well if this sounds like a perfect holiday for you, then DuVine is the perfect company to arrange it.
DuVine operates exclusive private (and also group) tours around the world as far afield as the Galapagos Islands, but also closer to home including some of the best locations in Europe. They cater for guests from hard-core cyclists to multi-generational families where gran and grandad can do the trip on e-bikes.
Every element of your trip is planned and curated for you and your group. So if you don’t want to cycle all day, every day you don’t have to. Cycling can be broken up with hiking, kayaking, horse riding, climbing or making mozzarella with a local chef! In fact anything you want that’s location specific. You travel with experienced and knowledgeable guides who are not only great cyclists, but also winemakers, artists, historians, chefs, mechanics and, above all, caretakers of you. The only thing you need to worry about is staying upright and not missing any of the amazing views you pass through on your unforgettable trip.
A pacific paradise and historic hacienda
If you crave being remote and private with your family and friends, then the decadent, totally stunning and crazy beautiful Cuixmala, on Mexico’s wild Pacific Coast may be for you.
Set on a sprawling 25,000 acre estate of beach, jungle, nature reserve and fruit plantations you’ll find nine casitas and four private villas. Sumptuously decorated in Mexican, European and Moorish design, they all come with their own personality and were designed to blend light, space and striking colours with panoramas of the lagoons, river and ocean. Bougainvillea erupts in riots everywhere on the estate, whilst white tail deer and zebra roam freely, sea turtles nest on the property’s shores (July to October) and ingredients are sourced from the organic farm to create the delicious meals.
Cuixmala is the sort of place where the main activity is poolside lounging and spending quality time with whomever you are with.
But the magic of the place is that it can be whatever you want it to be. There are plenty of complimentary activities to keep you busy if you want, such as snorkelling, kayaking, tennis, mountain biking or learning to surf. In addition, there are three serene, private beaches and a 47-foot crewed sailboat that can be chartered.
A perfect trip is to combine Cuixmala with a few days in vibrant Mexico City and some time at Cuixmala’s sister property, the glorious Hacienda de San Antonio.
Set beneath the dramatic smoking cone of Colima volcano, this historic grand estate dates back to 1879 and is one of Mexico’s best kept secrets. Here you will experience traditional Mexican life. By day wander through peaceful gardens with fountains, take in the extraordinary views by the pool, saddle up on a thoroughbred horse for a ride you will never forget, enjoy a private tour of the hacienda’s mountain coffee estate, or visit one of the impossibly pretty nearby colonial villages. Return in the evening to perfectly made margaritas and serious gourmet cooking.
If you would like more information on any of the properties mentioned above, or are interested in other ideas for a multi-generational family holiday of a lifetime or a gathering with friends, then please do get in touch.