As the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines prompts glimmers of a re-energized travel industry, some trends for travel this year seem to be taking shape. As Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury travel operator Black Tomato sees it, those include traveling “low and slow:” taking fewer connecting flights, spending longer in one destination, exploring locally by car, train, bicycle or on foot. An emphasis on conservation, traveling with purpose, the desire for remote destinations, which surfaced in 2020 travel, should continue as well.
“The ‘search for silence’ is one that is top of mind when it comes to client requests,” he explains. “These are remote destinations, yes, but most importantly they offer an authentic reset, recalibration with room to think, to feel, to reflect – a real purity at play with minimal light, sound and air pollution.”
Bucket list trips are also high on the list. “The pent-up desire to get out and experience the world in extraordinary ways has never been more palpable,” according to Marchant. “As COVID, and even simply physical distance, has kept many close-knit families and groups of friends apart, we are seeing a surge in these kinds of bookings for 2021 and beyond, including mesmerizing and meaningful bucket list trips for multi-generational families and groups of friends. This not only gives people something truly wondrous to look forward to but will serve for many as not only an extraordinary reunion but a celebration of being together.”
These trips suggested by the company fits into all of those trends.
Egypt To view the country’s iconic, historic sights, a 12 day trip starts onboard a dahabiya, a traditional sailing barge enhanced to luxury standards, to experience slow travel on the Nile from Luxor to Aswan by private charter. Along the way, guests will be provided with after-hours access to the Valley of the Kings including access to usually off limits tombs alongside an expert Egyptologist guide. In Cairo, they’ll have a pre-opening private tour of the Pyramids in Giza where they can watch the sunrise over the pyramids with no one else around and enter the usually closed base of the Sphinx. The trip also includes time spent in lesser-visited Siwa where guests will embark on a private jeep safari to the Great Sand Sea, a common resting place for the fossils and mummies of past millennia.
Antarctica A total solar eclipse is a special event, so is a journey to Antarctica. Combining the two doubles the excitement. The eclipse is scheduled for December 4, 2021 over Antarctica’s Scotia Sea and can be viewed during a ten night expedition aboard a private chartered vessel with its own submersible craft and helicopter for further explorations. After the eclipse, days can be spent heli skiing, whale watching from remote summits and camping out on the ice surrounded by penguins.
Vietnam Phú Yên Province on the coast in south central Vietnam is an under the radar region containing beaches, lagoons, mountains, rivers and fertile plains. It’s also now reachable from the colorful, quaint town of Hoi An by a new, 12 passenger luxury train The Vietage for slow travel through the countryside. After time spent in the bustling city of Hanoi with its prodigious street food scene and romantic French Colonial architecture and the shophouse filled alleyways of Hoi An, this region is a relaxed but scenically dramatic place to chill out. It’s even more relaxing as a guest of the just opened Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho situated on a waterfront 242 acre expanse of lush gardens and rice paddies ringed by lushly forested hills.
Norway Anyone looking for serenity in a quiet, remote area of natural beauty need look no further than the Lyngen Alps region in the northern tip of Norway. Dominated by soaring peaks and 140 glaciers, this pristine, protected area is a prime destination for skiing, hiking and conservation projects such as one in which travelers can participate to tag whales. The area is also one of the best, if not the best, spot to view the Northern Lights predicted to be stronger this year due to a change in the solar cycle. The place to stay is the just opened, contemporary private lodge positioned to take in that view: the appropriately named Aurora Lodge which can accommodate 10-12 guests and is reachable by helicopter. Black Tomato has exclusive booking rights and will arrange activities and naturalist guides for guests.
Namibia The vast desert that dominates this country in southern Africa is the oldest in the world and the site of towering, mesmerizing, sculpted red sand dunes. It’s also one of the designated dark sky regions of the world, presenting the constellations in the clearest form without any diffusing light pollution. As expected in such a remote area, it’s silent; the only sound is the breeze rifling the sand.
To explore the country, adventurous travelers who don’t mind a few washboard type roads can do a two week long self-drive through the regions starting from the capital Windhoek, through the Namib Desert and a stay at the recently renovated Wilderness Safaris lodge Little Kulala adjacent to the towering Sossusvlei Dunes. The drive continues up the Atlantic facing Skeleton Coast, named for the bones that have washed up on shore over the centuries from shipwrecks in the rocky waves, and a stay at Shipwreck Lodge, designed to resemble one, in the midst of sand waves with views of the ocean on the horizon. A seal colony is in residence there and wildlife adapted to the harsh environment roam the interior in the east. In a hidden valley there, a stay at Hoanib Valley Camp places guests in the middle of mountains, desert, a giraffe conservation project and villages that are home to the Himba people who will explain their culture to visitors. Like any experience in Namibia, it’s one that you won’t have anywhere else.