From spending time with traditional Ecuadorian healers to going out into the field with anti-poaching teams in South Africa, tourists want more from their holidays than just sunbeds and cocktails.
Given that experiential travel has been on the rise for a few years, it makes sense that high-end hotels are now recognizing the demand for venturing beyond the confines of their walls and grounds, and actually engaging with the local culture. In doing so, many properties are creating unique packages and tours to entice guests.
According to TrekSoft’s Travel Trends Report for 2018, experiences that it predicts will drive the most bookings this year involve being deep in nature, having one-of-a-kind encounters and trying adrenaline sports in stunning locations.
The reality is that people find it easier to “switch off” from work when they are busy doing something rather than lying by the pool, they have better stories to return home with and more exciting content to share on Instagram.
With that in mind, here are seven new experiential excursions for the curious hotel guest to try in 2018…
1. ‘Anam Art Trail’, The Anam resort, Vietnam
The beachside The Anam resort in Vietnam opened in April 2017, and this year has launched its “Anam Art Trail” experience that gives guests exclusive access to the homes and workshops of local artists who have work on display throughout the property. Participants will travel through Khanh Hoa province by car or Vespa motorbike, venturing into neighborhoods tourists wouldn’t normally encounter.
The excursion can be tailored to what you’re interested in, with the option of choosing three artists from a list of the area’s most renowned craftspeople, painters, sculptors and photographers, including Mai Loc, who has had work published in National Geographic. Upon meeting the artists, you will be able to relax over a Vietnamese iced coffee or glass of wine, and speak to them about their life, work and inspiration. They will also be able buy pieces to take home. At the end of the day, there will be a seafood meal in a traditional local restaurant.
2. ‘Journey into the Secret Algarve’, Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, Portugal
Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, Portugal
There is more to the Anantara Vilamoura than golf. For those looking to go beyond the confines of this luxury resort, the hotel has created an excursion called ‘Journey into the Secret Algarve’, which takes you into nearby hillside villages where you can meet basket weavers, schnapps distillers and local farmers, who are all too happy to tell you about their areas of expertise.
Shopping for fish with Anantara
As part of the Anantara’s “Spice Spoons” masterclass, you can also visit the Loule food market with a chef from the hotel, and then learn how to cook dishes based on traditional recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. There is also the option of taking a boat through the Rio Formosa lagoon, and learning how to harvest oysters with local fishermen.
3. ‘Vatican Gardens and Italian Sandal Making’, Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria hotel, Italy
Napoleon Suite, Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria hotel, Italy
The recently renovated, five-star Rome Cavalieri hotel is offering guests staying for a minimum of three nights in its top suites (the Napoleon, Petronious, Planetarium or Penthouse Suite), free private tours of the Vatican Gardens. The stunning oasis is, apparently, where the Pope himself takes regular morning walks.
As part of the excursion, you will be able to take part in a yoga class, and have an 80-minute couple’s massage in the grounds of the hotel in a private cabana with champagne. Meanwhile, those staying in the Cavalieri’s Vista and Corner suites can take a free sandal-making workshop at an family-run Italian shoemaker’s shop.
4. ‘Aerial Adventures’, Amangiri, Utah, USA
Not to be confused with the Anam in Vietnam, the Aman’s luxurious Amangiri hotel in Utah has this year created a new ‘Aerial Adventure’ concept that gives guests the chance to go rock climbing in the Grand Circle region. Out in the desert, the itinerary will comprise thrilling rock scrambles, tough via ferrata traverses and the crossing of four suspension bridges – but fear not, this has been designed for young people and families so won’t be life-threatening.
Suspension bridge, Utah
5. ‘Exotic Game Research and Handling’, Shambala Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Shambala Private Game Reserve, South Africa
New for 2018, South Africa’s Shambala Private Game Reserve is making the most of its conservation credentials by giving guests the opportunity to spend time with their dedicated team of wildlife researchers on an expedition, as well as learn about the reserve’s anti-poaching team who battle to protect rhinos from hunters. Taking place over three days, participants get to spend time up close and personal with elephants, cheetahs and zebras roaming free in the bush, and learn about their behavior and the efforts going on to protect them.
Rhinos at Shambala Private Game Reserve, South Africa
6. ‘Live Like a Local’, Casa Gangotena, Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena lobby
Ecuador has been tipped as a rising wellness destination for 2018. At Casa Gangotena, a stunning restored mansion in Quito (and sister property to Mashpi Lodge), a new tour takes visitors to meet Quiteno locals and traditional healers called “Limpiadoras”. For those who are truly brave and curious, you can experience a unique herbal treatment that includes being brushed with stinging nettles to rid you of negative energy, having your body rubbed with medicinal plants and rose petals, being doused in flower water, and brushed with bundles of fragrant herbs.
7. ‘Rainforest Ranger’, Marigot Resort and Marina, Saint Lucia
Marigot Resort and Marina, Saint Lucia
On the beautiful Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, people staying at the stunning Marigot Bay Resort and Marina can take time out for lounging on the beach to take part in a daily Rainforest Range experience that sees them set off on a guided trek to the summit of the island’s tallest peak, the Marigot Bay Ridge.
Trips are led by the hotel’s resident ranger, who will lead you through the rainforest pointing out indigenous plant and wildlife, and sharing knowledge on the local ecosystem. On Fridays, you can also sign up for the Coconut Experience, which teaches people about how to use different parts of the coconut tree that grow all over Saint Lucia, and what the various health benefits are.