Wanderlust: Off-piste luxury

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“Not normally open to the public,” reads an e-invite from Aman Tokyo. I was curious about the luxury brand’s latest urban incarnation and finally booked a flight when presented with this opportunity ‘for Aman Tokyo guests only’ to participate in a raw sake tasting, at Japan’s Miyasaka Brewery, opened in 1662 and renowned for its still and sparkling sakes, made with kyoukai nana-goh organic natural yeast compounds. Something of a sake aficionado, I already knew what the invitation went on to explain, that sake made with kyoukai yeast is especially prized for its rich aroma, the result of hundreds of years of fermentation. My taste buds utterly distracted with anticipation, I realised this insider offer represented something of a travel trend. In response to the ever increasing demand among jetsetters eager to return home with the best bragging rights, the world’s most luxurious hotels and tour operators are looking to create exclusive experiences for their most in-the-know guests who can no longer be satisfied simply by booking an activity off the hotel’s list of suggestions.

“For our VIP clients, the trip itineraries have no fixed location,” explains Tropicsurf (tropicsurf.net) founder Ross Phillips when I ask the Australian surf guru about this emerging phenomenon. “We study internet surf forecasts. There’s a private plane, so clients can jet off to wherever we find the most awesome surf among the Seven Seas.” According to Phillips, a client’s previous trip took them, last minute, of course, to southern Costa Rica in time to ride the largest swell to hit Central America in over a century. 

Of course, everyone’s idea of the ultimate off-menu item is different. Most guests at Norden Camp (nordentravel.com), an eco-chic encampment in China’s Gansu province, visit the 18th century Labrang Monastery. For those who display an appreciation and understanding of Buddhist traditions, the camp’s Tibetan owners may arrange private visits to the monks’ quarters for a glimpse into monastic life, or even for an audience with the current incarnation of the monastery’s most revered lama. For those who worship royalty, Hong Kong’s Lightfoot Travel (lightfoottravel.com) can get its London-bound clients invited to dinner parties hosted by Lord and Lady Mountbatten and, for material girls, Lightfoot sets up private fittings with Vivienne Westwood or Amanda Wakeley – a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge. You just have to know to ask.

“We only send people whom we think will get it,” explains Nick Yarnell, general manager of the newly opened Six Senses Douro Valley (sixsenses.com) along Portugal’s Douro River. Yarnell’s team can arrange customised excursions to the most jaw dropping of the region’s more than 700 quinta, or wine estates, including lunch or dinner with the owners, private tours of the house, vineyards and cellars. “If the owner, like our neighbour Eduardo da Costa Seixas at the 17th century Quinta de Santa Júlia de Loureiro and our guest hit it off,” Yarnell continues, tantalisingly, “this can lead to tastings of 100-year-old ports from their private collections.” That’s reason enough for me to start snooping around the internet for Mr Seixas’ likes and dislikes, in anticipation of my next liquid led off-piste holiday.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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