“It’s the most wonderful time…” to use your accrued vacation days before the end of the year! Although some would say the holidays fill the air with magic and cheer, others would argue that’s just the seasonal cold and flu. Whether you love or hate the holiday season, treat yourself to a long weekend getaway with family and friends this year. After all, if you can survive a long weekend with your relatives, you can certainly survive a visit to JFK.
Take a walk on the Swiss-French side, as you wander through cobblestone paved roads in a historic old town overlooking Europe’s most iconic lake. Geneva is the perfect place for travelers who enjoy a slower pace as tourist crowds thin and fall foliage peaks across the country. A day on the lake with Genevaboats, cruising in a luxurious wooden Riva Yacht is a great way to spend the day touring the city while mother nature is showing off. Once you’re ready to head back to shore, walk over to the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva’s first hotel, for sunset cocktails at Izumi followed by dinner at their Michelin starred restaurant Il Lago, for a modern adaptation of fine Italian dining. After sleeping in one of the world’s most comfortable beds, you can enjoy a day relaxing poolside at the spa, whose menu is designed with travelers in mind, as you experience a relaxing lymphatic drainage massage and facial while reveling in your ingenious plan of booking the most relaxing holiday getaway of the year.
San Jose, Costa Rica
Where the jungle meets the sea, Costa Rica has long been praised for having the world’s most sustainable tourism industry. In San Jose, try starting your journey at one of the country’s most eco-friendly hotels, the Costa Rica Marriott Hacienda Belen, whose former farming roots are still practiced to this day. In fact, the Marriott Hotels’ brand is so invested in sustainability that recently they’ve partnered with TED to host a series of in-room curated TED Talks, where just this past July the hotel hosted a TED Fellows Salon featuring two international speakers who shared their inspiring stories on the power of sustainability. The Costa Rica Marriot Hacienda Belen will even help you plan the ideal eco-friendly itinerary, such as a San Jose walking tour which highlights local food markets and vendors whose recipes and produce come from environmentally conscious permaculture farms. Perhaps a trip to the Carara National Park rainforest is more your style, famous for sightings of macaws, monkeys, crocodiles and even Amphibians, such as the poisonous dart frog.
With a brand new airport, it’s now easier than ever to visit Istanbul this holiday season. In fact, with an all-new lounge for business class passengers, a long haul flight with Turkish Airlines is finally something to look forward to. Since urban development and tourism are on the uprise, trendy neighborhoods are popping up all over the city proving this historic old town is anything but outdated. Just a few metro stops away from the Sultan Ahmet Square, you’ll find the Zorlu Center, where high fashion merges with the Raffles Istanbul whose upscale lobby greets guests with an impressive collection of one of a kind contemporary works of art, while the upper levels house impressive top of the line suites and a traditional Hamam spa that boasts one of the largest pools, with the best panoramic views, on the European side. After you’re well-rested, you’re ready for a day of exploring the diverse city culture that’s home to some of the world’s most beautiful mosques, palaces and diverse shops at the famous Grand Baazar, making for a truly unforgettable experience that’s every bit as unique as is this city.
Soča Valley, Slovenia
As one of the successor states of former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is quickly climbing the ranks as one of the hottest up-and-coming destinations in Europe. Besides Lake Bled, the countries second biggest attraction is one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, Hiša Franko. Chef Ana Roš of Hiša Franko Casa is the most famous Slovenian chefs offering a tasting menu that’s every bit as memorable as it is artful. It also happens to be a great starting point as you leisurely enjoy a drive exploring the vast countryside of the Soča Valley which is reminiscent of a fairy tale forest with turquoise blue waterfalls and waterways where hiking, rafting, kayaking, canyoning and rock climbing are considered a rite of passage for the locals, and adventurous tourists alike. Speaking of fairy tales, it’s hard not to feel like royalty as you explore the Predjama Castle, or cave castle, built on one of Europe’s largest cave systems, where just a few miles away guests can venture underground or, for the brave of heart, go spelunking. Finally, no trip to Slovenia would be complete without a visit to the Goriška Brda wine region where expert winemakers, such as Edi Simčič, host wine tastings in a beautifully curated tasting room with spectacular views of Tuscany in the background that are so picturesque you’ll find it hard to make it home for the holidays this year.
Just a short ride away from Maui, the pineapple island, as this island once produced 75% of the world’s pineapple supply, Lanai remains one the few virtually untouched islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. In contrast to Hawaii’s busy influx of tourists, here you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet secluded beach overlooking a pristine protected marine preserve that’s become well known for its colorful coral gardens, dolphins and impressive population of whales, come winter. Lanai is the perfect place to “go holoholo,” as the locals say, which literally translates into going for a walk, a ride or even a sail. At the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, the only resort on the island, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time as the cliffside escape pays homage to its Polynesian heritage through an impressive display of decor, culinary cuisine, and experiences. For a truly unique holoholo experience, the Four Season’s Love Lanai Cultural Center invites guests to discover the awe-inspiring landscapes of the island via horseback, UTV’s and/or catamaran, while they set about learning the island’s history accompanied by passionate local guides. As a true kapuna, or elder, would say, your experience in Hawaii begins and ends with Aloha because in Hawaii there are no goodbyes, only until we meet again.
Praised for its beguiling architecture, dramatic landscape, and distinct North African culture, Morocco is a mecca for travelers seeking an over the top once in a lifetime experience. In Marrakech, no one does over the top better than the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech whose private villas complete with living room, private courtyard and pool feel like a home away from home on this property’s breathtaking 20 hectares of olive groves and rose gardens, just minutes away from the heart of the city. With that being said, the hotel certainly has no shortage of extraordinary curated experiences. Guests can enjoy a wide variety of activities such as a traditional Moroccan barbecue poolside at your villa, a sidecar expedition through the medina with Marrakech Insiders or even a hot air balloon ride over the Atlas mountains with Ciel d’Afrique. The sky’s the limit when it comes to Berber hospitality and yet another reason why Marrakech should be added to the top of your holiday wish list.
Merissa Principe is a teacher and a freelance travel blogger from NYC. Teaching early childhood education has provided Merissa an opportunity to travel all over the world and live in new places. Be sure to follow her at Citygirlriss.wordpress.com for all things travel, beauty, fashion and New York City.