In each issue of Days Like This, three Scott Dunn experts craft three very different tailor-made solutions to a real travel brief

The Challenge

“Our third child has just gone off to university, so my husband and I feel that at last we can be a bit more ambitious with our travels. We’re not constrained by school holidays and as we can be away for anything up to three weeks, we could combine a few destinations. We want a really memorable experience, off the beaten track and a little intrepid, but definitely with some moments of real indulgence and luxury. We both like culture, the outdoors and great food and drink, plus some time relaxing by a beautiful beach is a must.”

1. Argentina & Brasil
Latin American cool and beach glamour

you get that sense of latin passion everywhere you go, and can also stay in some really special, quirky boutique hotels

Argentina and Brazil make for a fabulous trip that most couples adore. Not only do you get that sense of Latin passion everywhere you go, but you can also stay in really special, quirky boutique hotels and get a very strong sense of place in each one.

You’d start the trip in Buenos Aires, at a really cosy B&B called the Legado Mitico. It’s right in the hub of Palermo, a really artsy, lively area that’s a bit like Soho. At the flea market on Sundays you can catch locals taking part in impromptu tango dancing, or head to a milonga, a traditional dance competition, to see how it’s done. It’s also great for shopping.

Next stop is the Iguazu Falls. It’s a good idea to visit both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. The landscape is very lush and exotic, with beautiful butterflies and toucans all around. The Belmond Hotel das Cataratas where you’d stay is in exactly the right location.

After this, you move on to Rio, the best place in the world for people-watching, where you’d stay at the iconic Copacabana Palace. The hotel can organise sunrise picnics to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, or you can try your hand at a bit of Brazilian cookery and learn how to make moqueca, a spicy prawn stew, at one of our guide’s private classes. A cable car up to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain is also really special, and at the weekend the city closes certain boulevards to cars, so it’s a great time to explore by bike.

Next it’s three restful nights at Reserva do Ibitipoca, a secluded countryside retreat three-and-a-half hours inland from Rio, surrounded by stunning scenery. The 18th-century farmhouse was rebuilt from 2006 and has eight individually designed rooms, furnished with local handicrafts. The hiking and horse-riding here are amazing, as you’d expect from a 3,000-hectare nature reserve.

Finally, it’s time for a change of pace, and a flight to the old fishing village of Trancoso. Popular with a glamorous crowd, the area remains very charming and hasn’t been spoilt by tourism. If you’d like to stay right on the beach, the villas are perfectly placed, or alternatively in the town itself there is a set of colourful fishermen’s houses that has been turned into a boutique hotel, called Uxua. From here you can watch the locals playing football during the day, and discover open-air, candlelit restaurants by night. The pace of life here is superchilled. There’s no better place to wind down.

2. Japan
Blossom and beaches in Japan and the Philippines

Forgo the queues for the Sky Tree, and head to the Mori Art Museum where they have a free viewing platform, and equally impressive views

Japan is the perfect place for a real adventure. It’s such a distinctive culture, and while it all feels very different and new, everything runs incredibly smoothly.

The obvious place to start is Tokyo. You can do everything from a river cruise through the city to marvel at the luxury stores in Ginza. A top tip is to forgo the queues for the Sky Tree, the tallest building in Tokyo, and head straight to the Mori Art Museum instead where they have a free viewing platform, and equally impressive views.

After Tokyo, take a really short flight over to Kanazawa on the west coast. Here you’ll find one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, Kenroku-en, and in the geisha district there are still a few operational teahouses to visit.

From there you can take a train to Hiroshima. There’s a striking memorial peace park and a museum that’s really well done. You could also stay at The Sekitei in Miyajimaguchi, a traditional ryokan or inn and experience a kaiseki dinner, which is a nine-course feast served to you in your bedroom that takes place over three hours.

Next, take the train to Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan, where it’s a good idea to spend a few days with a guide visiting everything from temples to bamboo forests. We suggest you stay at The Ritz Carlton, which only opened in February last year. There are tiny streams running through the hotel and it has a fantastic spa, so it’s a lovely calm escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

After Kyoto it’s time to head somewhere a bit more remote where you can completely switch off. Hakone is right up in the mountains, and the views are second to none. A cruise on Lake Ashi is particularly peaceful, while the Hakone Open Air Museum is a great way to see outdoor sculpture in beautiful surroundings.

Then it’s back down to Tokyo for a night at The Park Hyatt, before catching a train to Kyoto and flying off to the Philippines for the final leg of the trip. You’ll discover some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia, with dazzling white sand, incredible blue waters and some of the best diving and snorkelling around. If you fancy splashing out then the Amanpulo Resort, situated on its own private island, is particularly luxurious.

3. New Zealand
Wild beauty and adventure in New Zealand


New Zealand is a wonderful place to go for a big, blow-out trip. It has some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, world-class food and drink and gorgeous hotels, but also the potential for real adventure – a great mix of luxury and thrills.

We’d suggest flying into Auckland and then going straight off to Waiheke Island for a couple of nights. It has a very relaxed seaside feel, and is the perfect place to potter around and recover from your jetlag, as well as a vibrant art scene and some excellent restaurants serving great local produce and wines. Then you’d journey on to Rotorua for a bit of excitement. You can spend a morning doing some exhilarating white-water rafting and then take a boat out to the hot thermal springs in the afternoon.

After a couple of nights at Solitaire Lodge in Rotorua, a stay at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is ideal. It’s a really glamorous, “wow” superlodge and has a fantastic golf course and spa.

From here you’d fly to Wellington, to get a boat to the city of Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park. The park was one of the first places in New Zealand to become a protected area, and because of that there’s the most incredible wildlife. You’ll never have seen so many beautiful birds before and you can also take a boat out to see dolphins and seals. The area has stunning white sandy beaches to stroll along and the nature trails are really easy to follow, so it’s simple to head out with a picnic and explore the hills, just the two of you.

For even more wildlife you’d carry on to Hapuku Lodge in Kaikoura, where accommodation is all set on stilts amid the treetops. Look out to one side and you’ll see snow-capped mountains, while on the other side you’ll have a spectacular view of the sea, and deer running right underneath you.

Then, drive down to Grasmere Lodge at Arthur’s Pass, a spot in the mountains with some of the best horse riding in the world, before ending your trip in Queenstown. It’s the adventure capital of New Zealand, that really is a playground where anyone can have fun.

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The Challenge

Issue 5 - 2016

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