The day-to-day endurance of a global pandemic has certainly entailed a lot more hardships and restrictions than we could have ever imagined or predicted at the outset. It has been an endless, emotional rollercoaster of lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing and isolating, with the forbidden fruit of travel unexpectedly (and painfully) revoked. Families and friends have remained separated and we have all endured an entire year of cancelled plans, postponed holidays, unceremonious milestones and uncelebrated moments.
As vaccines are rolled out and lockdowns are lifted, revenge travel will (eventually) become the new normal. When the roaring 20s finally kick off, travel-deprived souls will opt for a reverse (and self-imposed) lockdown of sorts, as they venture out to hunker down in farfetched destinations for an adventure of a lifetime.
From separation to celebration, it’s time to celebrate life’s grand milestones in the most epic way possible. Bon voyage.
1. Delve into the blue
Situated just southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the Maldives is an achingly beautiful archipelago made up of 26 tropical atolls and more than 1 000 coral islands teeming with brilliant marine life. It is a barefoot beach paradise, blessed with impossibly clear turquoise water, powder-soft sand, deep blue lagoons, swaying palm trees, golden sunshine and a blissfully unhurried pace.
Picture yourself, surrounded by 50 shades of blue, in one of the Maldives’ world-famous, bucket-list worthy overwater beach bungalows. As unapologetically relaxing as they are luxurious, this is the perfect place to celebrate one of life’s truly special milestones. Image courtesy of COMO Cocoa Island.
2. Escape to the middle of nowhere
Shrouded in mystery and about as isolated as you can get, Easter Island tops many a wanderlist. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this distant Pacific island boasts the world’s largest open-air museum and is one of the most remote places on earth.
Mysteriously strewn across the island are 800+ ancient, eerie and truly logic-defying stone statues that were carved by the Rapa Nui more than 800 years ago. These haunting and unexplained monolithic human figures continue to puzzle scholars, archaeologists and travellers alike.
Easter island’s remoteness, wide open spaces, outdoor activities and unsolved mystery make it a unique destination for a grand celebration.
3. Find your zen
The best celebration is one that is enjoyed far from the constant stresses and pressures of the modern world. Escape to the peaceful and intoxicatingly beautiful Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where Mother Nature is as fiercely protected as the country’s strong emphasis on culture, spirituality and wellness.
Bhutan is a spiritual mecca, blessed with rugged mountains and tranquil forests, where travellers can truly slow down and celebrate their special moments, unhurriedly and far from the fast-paced, tech-driven lives they lead back home. Get back to nature, find inner peace, feel centred again and spend your milestone moment surrounded by natural beauty and ancient tradition.
4. Get lost in the jungle
The mighty Amazon is the largest and most biodiverse expanse of tropical rainforest on the planet, covering approximately 40% of the vast South American continent. It is a haven for wildlife lovers and outdoor enthusiasts and a memorable place for a milestone adventure.
This dense, untamed jungle is home to 1 in 10 of the known species on earth, including an impressive 40,000 plant species, 3,000 freshwater fish species, 1,300 bird species, 427 mammal species, 370 reptile species and 2.5 million types of insects. In fact, the forest canopy is so thick, that the Amazon floor sits in permanent darkness and countless creatures remain undiscovered.
5. Glimpse the grey ghost
Roaming the snowy peaks of central Asia, the mysterious and perilously agile snow leopard is a rare and enviable sight to behold. It is so elusive that it has been nicknamed the ‘mountain ghost’ or ‘grey ghost’. Its flawless camouflage, combined with the difficult terrain, extreme conditions and high altitude it lives in make the snow leopard one of the holy grails of the wildlife checklist.
This may not be your typical safari, complete with sunny gin and tonics and a private plunge pool, but it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list kind of adventure. Celebrate your special occasion being warmly hosted by a Ladhaki family, high in the Himalayas. There are no guarantees the grey ghost will grace you with a glimpse, but the adventure itself will be remembered for years to come.
6. Go sky-high
There are few places as soulful and ethereal as the Namib Desert. The world’s oldest living desert, the Namib is a 55-million-year-old landscape that remains largely untouched by time. The forever shifting sands, towering dunes and ever-changing colour palette are spellbinding and the deeply-satisfying silence, though almost deafening at first, lulls you into a slow, carefree and unhurried pace.
Celebrate your special occasion by taking to the sky in either a hot air balloon or a helicopter for a jaw-dropping bird’s-eye view of the desert’s untouched and enchanting beauty (and its mysterious fairy circles). The Namib is one of the most blissfully remote and undeniably romantic places to commemorate an important milestone in immersive isolation. Let the so(u)litude of the desert ground you.
7. Make it a walk to remember
The world’s most illegally trafficked mammal is making a much-needed comeback in South Africa’s province of KwaZulu-Natal. Thanks to a groundbreaking pangolin reintroduction programme on &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, a four-decade-long local extinction of the Temminck’s ground pangolin is now slowly and successfully being reversed.
What better way to celebrate one of life’s biggest milestones than with a Big Five safari paired with a rare and unforgettable sighting of the elusive pangolin itself? Guests visiting Phinda can participate in a pangolin conservation experience, which enables them to join a walk with our conservation team as they locate one of the reintroduced pangolins to conduct a general health check and download critical research data from its VHF monitoring tags.
An epic milestone memory that not only offers a rare glimpse at the endangered pangolin, but also gives back to conservation and helps leave our world a better place.
8. Step back in time
Whether you hike the ancient trails or hop aboard the luxury train, when you eventually set eyes on the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu, it’s a pinch-me moment fit for any milestone celebration.
The most renowned icon of the Incan civilisation, Machu Picchu was built high in the Andes in the mid-1400s by the Inca Empire. Given its extreme altitude and relatively inaccessible location, the impressive citadel remained Peru’s best-kept secret until 1911, when it was rediscovered.
Shrouded by mountainous mist—and ongoing mystery—Machu Picchu is a breathtaking collision of natural beauty and manmade architectural wisdom. For guests staying at the nearby Sanctuary Lodge, a Belmond Hotel at Machu Picchu, private access to the citadel can be arranged at sunrise. Imagine having the ancient ruins, in morning light, almost entirely to yourselves. That’s a milestone memory to be cherished.
9. Take a snow week
Some milestones deserve an added splurge for something truly over-the-top memorable, like ticking off that seventh continent. Celebrate your special moment in adventurous style on a 12-day journey to the remote reaches of Chile and Antarctica.
With its drifting icebergs, frosty glaciers and unique wildlife, Antarctica is a bucket list dream for many and an undeniably dramatic destination for a celebration with loved ones.
10. Trek with the troops
You will—guaranteed—never forget the moment you lock eyes with a mighty silverback. Mark your momentous occasion with an unforgettable trek up the misty, rainforested slopes of Rwanda or Uganda in search of a troop of endangered mountain gorillas.
The terrain can get rugged and the trek arduous, but nothing is more rewarding than finally locating the troop and spending an enchanting hour observing them, undisturbed, in their natural habitat.
Watch quietly, and in awe, as they forage, play, groom and interact with each other in the heart of the rainforest. Bucket list tick.
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