Luxury comes in many forms and phases, from traditional palatial hotel suites to unique service 35,000 feet in the sky. Whether your sights are set on a seeing the Northern Lights in Finland or waking up in an overwater bungalow in Fiji, we’ve rounded up the best luxury travel experiences to have in 2018.
The Residence, Etihad Airways
With a living area, separate bedroom and ensuite bathroom, The Residence sounds more like a real estate ad than a type of airline cabin. Move over First Class; Etihad Airways’ signature suite on the Airbus A380 is the most luxurious – and innovative – experience in the sky.
Spread out on the comfy couch made for two in your living room while watching the latest entertainment offerings on a 32-inch TV screen. Have a shower in a private bathroom and unwind in a monogrammed dressing gown before having a snooze in the full-size double bed. Hungry? Outline your culinary preferences prior to departure and the onboard chef will whip up a multi-course meal tailored to your tastes. Or stick to the ‘regular’ ala carte menu, which includes ingredients such as caviar, lobster and wagyu steak, served any time you wish, accompanied by real Champagne. Your every whim is catered for thanks to a dedicated Savoy butler exclusively assigned to The Residence, too.
The private, three-room, 12sqm suite designed for two is yours to enjoy to its fullest – if you’ve got a cool $25,000-plus (minimum) to spend on a one-way ticket from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, that is.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland
They call it the world’s most enchanting resort, and it’s not difficult to see why. At Kakslauttanen in Finnish Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle, everything is what you might call haute-luxury. To start with, the resort is in one of the most serenely beautiful and remote places on earth. In summer it’s treated to the midnight sun, and in winter, this is one of the best places in the world to see the lauded northern lights. Accommodation ranges from cosy cabins filled with luxurious furnishings to the holy grail of accommodation: glass-domed igloos, inside which you can watch the aurora without leaving the warmth of your bed. During the day, there’s plenty to keep you occupied too. Immerse yourself in a Finnish tradition by bathing in one of the resort’s smoke saunas,
available only by special order as they take up to eight hours to heat to the optimal temperature. If a holiday far away from anywhere, that doesn’t compromise on attentive service and fine luxury is what you’re after, Kakslauttanen is the place to book.
Laucala Island Resort, Fiji
Look to the idyllic surrounds of Laucala Island Resort for a ‘7-star’ slice of paradise. Twenty-five luxurious overwater and beachfront villas are scattered among swaying palms, lush green jungle and dazzling turquoise lagoons. Expect an abundance of conveniences and luxuries, including natural wellness treatments, an 18-hole championship golf course (with a dedicated golf pro to facilitate private lessons) and four restaurants serving inspired island-style menus using ingredients grown from the resort’s own farm.
But the piece de resistance of Laucala Island Resort is its submarine experience. Complimentary for guests, the 7m submarine can take one lucky guest at a time on an underwater adventure gliding through colourful coral gardens, up close with tropical marine life. It’s certainly not your average water sports option!
Underwater Suites at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai
One of the most deluxe experiences of 2017 would have to be a stay in one of the signature Underwater Suites at the Atlantis resort in Dubai. Oh yes, you read that correctly. These suites – The Poseidon and The Neptune – will literally immerse you in wonder, with floor-to-ceiling windows that look straight into the pristine Ambassador Lagoon. The Lagoon not only gives you a vista that includes ‘ruins’ inspired by the mythical lost city of Atlantis, it also is home to 65,000 marine inhabitants who are guaranteed to keep you mesmerised as you enjoy the luxury of your spacious and indulgent accommodation.
Palace on Wheels, Exotic Rail Journeys, India
No other train journey brings to mind the same cinematic luxury as travelling through Rajasthan, India, on board the Palace on Wheels heritage train. Departing New Delhi, the Palace on Wheels spends eight days touring from Jaipur to Agra stopping off at well-known destinations like the Taj Mahal. The train was originally inspired by a bygone era when royals travelled by personal rail coach, with each of the 23 current coaches named after former Rajput states.
The opulent train even inspired film director Wes Anderson's critically acclaimed 'The Darjeeling Limited' movie after he and writers/actors Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman took the journey themselves.
Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
Located amongst 350 lush green acres, Ashford Castle offers guests the ultimate 5-star castle experience in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. So what makes Ashford Castle a fairy-tale experience? It starts with private chauffeur transfers from the airport. Drive up through the ancient woodland and you’ll be awestruck by the enormity of the castle up close. With 83 rooms, suites and a private Hideaway Cottage, you’ll have no shortage of ultra-luxe options when it comes to where you’re going to lay your head. Ashford Castle is just overflowing with grandeur and bespoke experiences, from the Donegal Crystal chandelier in the Connaught Room to falconry and lake cruising. Trust us – you won’t want to leave.