Travel heaven: The ultimate luxury bucket list

 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of luxury is "a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense". It's a concept that particularly resonates with travellers. After all, who doesn't want to be pampered on holiday? But it's also something that's intensely personal. For one individual it might be a 12-course degustation meal prepared by a Michelin-starred chef. For another, it's waking up in a four-poster bed under the finest Egyptian cotton sheets.

For many, it's simply a week of no work emails. The underlying premise is that whatever it is, it needs to be different from what we already have at home. Because ultimately, isn't that why we travel? To see, hear, taste and do things we can't during everyday life? But herein lies the problem – increasingly we can get access to these luxuries at home. Or we've experienced them on our travels before and now want something even more indulgent.

Fortunately, the travel industry is up to the challenge. Every year, hotels, restaurants, tour operators and airlines dream up ever more dizzyingly decadent ways to spoil us. For this story, we've concentrated on the travel objects and experiences that touch our souls – the tactile, tangible items that make us feel cosseted and cherished.

Perhaps it's the bottle of perfumed mist left on a hotel pillow during turndown or the signature cocktail at an award-winning rooftop bar. Maybe your definition of travel heaven is a private plunge pool in a five-star resort or an outdoor bath with a view of the Himalayas. Everyone has his or her favourites and we asked Traveller's team of globetrotting writers to name theirs. - Rob McFarland

CABANA ON U BY UNIWORLD

U by Uniworld, river cruise ships aimed at younger travellers. DCIM\100MEDIA\DJI_0025.JPG

Designed for the "young and young at heart", U by Uniworld's sexy new jet black river ships are an Instagram-friendly medley of soft grey furnishings, gleaming chrome and purple LED downlighting. The top deck is where the real wow factor happens thanks to Miami-style circular cabanas that allow you to soak up the views on the Danube, Rhine or Seine rivers with several of your nearest and dearest. See ubyuniworld.com

See: On board U by Uniworld cruising the Danube

RIK RAK PILLOW AND ROOM MIST, THE WHITBY HOTEL, NEW YORK

This heavenly sleep-inducing scent is left on the pillow of The Whitby Hotel in New York at turn down. Part of Firmdale Hotels co-owner Kit Kemp's exclusive Rik Rak toiletries range, it's a soothing blend of bergamot, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus with a gentle hint of lavender, geranium and petitgrain. One spray at bedtime and you'll be out for the count. See firmdalehotels.com

THE ULTIMATE DOONA AT L'OSCAR HOTEL, LONDON

THE ULTIMATE DOONA AT L'OSCAR HOTEL, LONDON

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 SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story
Supplied image for use in Traveller
Rob McFarland

This new luxury hotel near Holborn has taken bespoke indulgence to a whole new level. Located in the former headquarters of the Baptist Church, its 39 rooms have all been individually styled by French designer Jacques Garcia. Of all the extravagant touches, the one you'll remember most is the heavenly doona. Filled with Icelandic eiderdown that takes two-and-a-half years to collect, each one costs a staggering £5000. See loscar.com

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STAR BED AT LOISABA, KENYA

STAR BED AT LOISABA, KENYA SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story
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Rob McFarland

Imagine sleeping in a handcrafted four-poster bed under the African night sky. Loisaba's Star Beds are located on raised wooden platforms overlooking an undulating valley in the Loisaba Conservancy, 300 kilometres north of Nairobi. Situated near a watering hole frequented by wildlife, the beds are rolled out from under their protective thatched roofs each night so guests can sleep immersed in the sights and sounds of Africa. See elewanacollection.com

MASTER BEDROOM IN THE AMBER PRESIDENTIAL SUITE AT EARTH LODGE, SABI SABI, SOUTH AFRICA

Supplied by Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve Amber Presidential Suite.
Rob McFarland SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story

All of Earth Lodge's 13 suites are furnished in earthy, African tones, with smooth cement floors and textured walls finished in gravel and straw. However, the bedroom in the Amber Presidential Suite has genuine wow factor thanks to an imposing tree-like sculpted wooden headboard by South African artist Geoffrey Armstrong that dominates the entire back wall of the room. See sabisabi.com

RELAXATION ROOM AT SO SOFITEL HUA HIN, THAILAND

Occupying an enviable beachside location near Hua Hin, 175 kilometres south-west of Bangkok, this striking resort has a decadent spa offering facials, massages and wraps. While the treatments are suitably divine and feature products by French marine biotech expert Phytomer and Thai wellness specialist Ytsara, it's what happens afterwards that's particularly special – every session concludes with a soothing herbal tea in a cocoon-like star-studded relaxation room. See so-sofitel-huahin.com

Read Traveller's full reivew of the So Sofitel Hua Hin

THE IRON, BACCARAT HOTEL, NEW YORK

It's hard to choose the most extravagant feature in this decadent hotel by French crystal maker Baccarat. The wall of 2500 LED-lit Baccarat glasses in the lobby? The 18-metre-long marble counter and crystal chandeliers in the bar? For me, it's the high-tech iron that arrives wrapped in tissue paper inside a bright red box with fabric sprays by exclusive New York homeware brand The Laundress. See baccarathotels.com

WATERPROOF BOOKS, THE W HOTEL, HONG KONG

Not only did the designers of this five-star hotel put a TV with a waterproof remote control in the bathrooms of all of its suites, but they also provided three adorable soap dish-sized waterproof books for your reading pleasure too. Conveniently located above the Airport Express train station in West Kowloon, the property is the ideal stopover candidate when flying via Hong Kong. See marriott.com

NO. 89 FRAGRANCE FROM FLORIS, LONDON

Despite being created in 1951, No. 89 is still Floris' best-selling male fragrance. A surprisingly contemporary scent with a light, powdery, just-stepped-out-of-the-barber's feel, it's been worn by many a distinguished English gent, from James Bond's creator Ian Fleming to intrepid explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Founded in 1730, Floris is the world's second oldest perfumer and the sole perfumer by appointment to the Queen and the Prince of Wales. See florislondon.com

SCENT TO REMEMBER, CONRAD TOKYO

It's well-established that our sense of smell pushes the brain's buttons that are strongly linked to memory and emotion. One whiff of a former lover's fragrance and we're right back there in the throes of passion. So too with the scent of a destination. How clever of the Conrad Tokyo – a sublime property in the heart of the city – to bottle the fresh and soothing Verdure air aroma it spritzes in the hotel's lobby and hallways so guests can take home a piece of Japan. See conradhotels3.hilton.com

FAIRMONT FRAGRANCE

Hands up who judges luxury hotels on the quality of their in-room bath and body products? You're not alone. We give a perfect 10 to Fairmont Hotels & Resorts decision to treat guests to Le Labo Rose 31 range of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soap. The New York-based perfume house uses the finest rose petals from Grasse to distil a luxurious fragrance that hits all the right notes. See fairmont.com

CARRIE-D AWAY IN PARIS

It's been almost 15 years since Carrie Bradshaw ran away to Paris with The Russian in the final season of Sex and the City. So beloved was the show, guests still ask to stay in the "Carrie suite" at Hotel Plaza Athenee. Dripping in glamour and exquisite style, the hotel on prestigious Avenue Montaigne affords jaw-dropping views of the Eiffel Tower. Romance not included, though highly recommended. See dorchestercollection.com

THE GIANT BED IN A ROVOS RAIL DELUXE SUITE

THE GIANT BED IN A ROVOS RAIL DELUXE SUITE
SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story - Alison Stewart SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story

Truly a bed with a view. Sprawl in comfort as photogenic Africa – wild animals, rift valleys, plains and jungles – unspools beyond the Pride of Africa's four panoramic windows. Rovos Rail's king-sized double bed measures a wall-to-wall 188 centimetres in width and length in an 11-square-metre deluxe suite aboard one of the world's most luxurious trains. The generous size of fittings aboard the handsome, Edwardian-styled wood-panelled trains is thanks to owner Rohan Vos, a tall man, who has prioritised space. A private viewing platform extraordinaire. See rovos.com/trains/deluxe-suites

See: A 600-km African journey in rail luxury

SUPPORT VAN, LUXURY CYCLING TOUR AROUND PROVENCE

Spend five days pedalling around arguably France's most photogenic region, pit-stopping in quaint hilltop towns for wine-tasting, tantalising leisurely lunches and even more leisurely dinners at luxurious, historic boltholes (in which you'll also bed down overnight). There's even a support van following behind that will treat you to refreshing food and drink after you've climbed those Provencal hills. See butterfield.com

SUNDOWNERS HALCYON HOUSE.

Plonk down on the oversized lounge chairs at the swoon-worthy bar at Paper Daisy and order a small batch Ink gin, made by Husk Distillers at Tumbulgum. Infused with butterfly pea, the gin magically turns from indigo blue to lavender when mixed with Capi tonic. If you're lucky enough to stay in-house, you'll find a complimentary (mini) bottle of Ink gin in your mini bar, replenished daily. See halcyonhouse.com.au

RIDE THE AMAZON'S MOST LUXURIOUS BOAT

Two of Delfin I's four suites come complete with your own private Jacuzzi on your deck - pic - Delfin Cruises Two of Delfin I's four suites come complete with your own private Jacuzzi on your deck - pic - Delfin Cruises.jpg
SunSep16coverdesire - Craig Tansley 

There's just four guest rooms on the Amazon's most luxurious riverboat, Delfin 1, and two of them have a private jacuzzi on the deck outside. So you can watch pink dolphins from there, or from the open-air lounge on the top deck as you navigate your way through Pacaya-Samiria in northern Peru, the Amazon's second-largest nature reserve. Meals come served in a dining room rated inside Peru's Top 10 restaurants. See delfinamazoncruises.com

THE ULTIMATE DAY SPA SAFARI EXPERIENCE

You're already right off the grid at Nihi Sumba on an island east of Bali; but you're about to go deeper. Just after sunrise take a 90-minute hike through rice fields and traditional villages to a private day spa, NihiOka. Breakfast is served in an open-air room cantilevered over your own private sandy bay. Swim there before choosing spa treatments dished out in rooms built on the cliff face above. See nihi.com

OUR OWN PRIVATE SALTY UNIVERSE

Cosy abode: The Airstream campervan, imported from the United States, is more luxurious than most hotels.

Stay in an Airstream camper on the world's largest salt flat in Bolivia; with your own private chef. There's no other tourists within 50 kilometres. At night sit in deck chairs on the crunchy white crust of the 12,000-square-kilometre salt flat beside a log fire under all those stars. Wake to a sunrise over the extinct volcano, Tunupa, and a three-course private breakfast. See abercrombiekent.com.au

ARIA AMAZON

Each of Aria Amazon's 16 design suites on Aqua Expeditions – feature floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows, which look directly onto the Amazon River and its ever-changing scenery. After a kayaking trip or hike it's a decadent retreat against the heat and humidity of the Peruvian jungle. See aquaexpeditions.com

TEQUILA TRAIN

There's tequila the spirited drink and Tequila the Mexican town. The best way to enjoy both is by taking the luxurious Jose Cuervo Express between Guadalajara and Tequila. The two-hour journey includes a tasting class, private waiter and Mexican snacks as you wend your way through agave fields. See mundocuervo.com

BALCONY ROOM AT QASR AL SARAB DESERT RESORT

Dream Destination: Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, UAE
(handout photo, no credit, no syndication) 
SunSep16coverdesire

Qasr Al Sarab rises like a mirage from Abu Dhabi's Liwa Desert, part of the Empty Quarter, which extends from Oman into Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. With its turrets and towers the sprawling resort looks like a sandcastle, albeit, a very exclusive one. Relax on your private balcony with a tray of dates as the setting sun paints the dunes in warm shades of plum, pink and peach. See anantara.com/en/qasr-al-sarab-abu-dhabi

ZODIAC RIDES ON A LUXURY EXPEDITION CRUISE

Luxury expedition cruise ships offer the best of both worlds: an off-the-grid destination along with fine food and high-end service. Whether you head to Antarctica or the Kimberley, you will quickly discover that the biggest luxury of all is the ship's fleet of Zodiacs. These sturdy inflatable boats can navigate otherwise-inaccessible bays and rivers, allowing you set foot in some of the wildest places on earth.

HOT WATER BOTTLE AT KAPAMA KARULA LODGE, SOUTH AFRICA

It's not the sleek design, the gourmet food or the amazing wildlife. No, the reason that Kapama Karula has become one of my favourite African safari lodges is a simple thing: a hot water bottle nestled in a blanket. When you clamber into the jeep in the pre-dawn darkness for your morning game drive, it is just what you need to ward off the morning chill. See kapama.com

THE SOAP AT SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE

Luxury hotels slug it out to score the most prestigious toiletries for their bathrooms. Southern Ocean Lodge took a different route and made its own, and boy did it do an amazing job. Its bespoke soap – made with local Ligurian honey, plus lavender, lemongrass and mint soap – is as invigorating as a blast of sea air, so lather up. See southernoceanlodge.com

FLY FISHING ROD, HUKA LODGE, NEW ZEALAND

Huka Lodge in New Zealand SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story
Brian Johnston - supplied PR image for use in Traveller

When an expert guide at Huka Lodge hands you a fishing rod and instructs you in the art of fly fishing, it's like you've been given a magic wand that temporarily suspends your harried existence. The rod swings, the tip bends, the line loops like an Olympic gymnast's ribbon. Time seems to stop, and there's just a lullaby of water and perfect tranquillity. See hukalodge.co.nz

MASSAGE ON A BEACH PAVILION AT SOFITEL BALI NUSA DUA BEACH RESORT

Not blissed out enough at this resort, with its wandering lagoon pool and lush gardens? Then head to a thatched pavilion for two in the grounds where, under billowing white curtains, your muscles are pummelled by a masseuse and your skin caressed by sea breezes as you listen to birds twitter in the trees and waves slosh against the sand. See sofitel.com

LA MAMOUNIA, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story - Belinda Jackson
LA MAMOUNIA, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
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One moment, you're fending off snake charmers in Marrakech's riotous main square, Djamma el Fna, the next, you're inhaling cool orange-blossom scents behind the gates of this former palace. The hotel is richly decorated with distinctly Moorish arched doorways and pillars of zelig geometric tiles, with views out to the Atlas Mountains, and spa lovers should invest a day in its outrageously indulgent spa and hammam. From MAD6700 a night. See mamounia.com

ECO-LUXE ADRERE AMELLAL, EGYPT

SunSep16coverdesire - Travel objects of desire cover story - Belinda Jackson
ECO-LUXE EGYPT Adrere Amellal Khaled Nagy
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One of the country's best hotels, this hand-built eco-lodge has no electricity: it is lit from beeswax candles, hurricane lamps and the stars above. Set beside the shimmering saltwater Lake Siwa on the edge of the Great Sand Sea, about eight hours' drive west of Cairo, its 40 rooms are built from timber, salt rock and palms, and its predominantly organic food is sourced locally. Fans include royalty, and me. Costs $US460 a night. See adrereamellal.com

CONTRIBUTORS: BELINDA JACKSON, BRIAN JOHNSTON, UTE JUNKER, NINA KARNIKOWSKI, KRISTIEKELLAHAN, ROB MCFARLAND. STEVE MEACHAM, SHERIDEN RHODES, ALISON STEWART, CRAIG TANSLEY, KERRY VAN DER JAGT, GUY WILKINSON

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