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Slow travel... The hot travel trend of 2018

In our Wellbeing Edit, high on our priority list is taking some time out. It’s all go go go, even in our travels, so take a moment to take in those surroundings. Just take some time to appreciate the world in front of us.

From a remote Himalayan walking itinerary, to a train journey through Sri Lankan tea country, to dedicated sleep programmes with Six Senses, to a luxury cruise through France’s Champagne region, it’s time to slow down the pace and take time to truly connect with surroundings…

Forget about a frenetic journey rushing through the airport and squeezing in as many sights or cities as possible but look instead to slow your mindset, as well as your mode of transportation. Slow modes of travel helps relaxation and allows travellers to disconnect from the stresses of daily life and connect more intensely with local places and cultures, returning from holidays refreshed and recharged. Here are some of the best ways to experience slow travel through wellness, leisurely journeys and off-the-grid offerings:

LEISURELY JOURNEYS Take the slow train… (or boat)…

 Belmond’s five barges are amongst the most luxurious in Europe and offer a relaxing way to explore the rivers and canals of France. The new Belmond Pivoine cruises at a stately pace through the idyllic Champagne region. Sleeping eight guests across four contemporary en-suite cabins, Belmond Pivoine boasts an expansive deck with heated swimming pool, lounge and dining room from the trompe l’oeil wall mural and embroidered Parisian bed covers, to the marble bathrooms. The interiors are impeccable – as is the service, provided by attentive guides and chefs who will accompany guests to local markets to select the freshest produce for fine dining aboard the barge, and staff who are on hand to make sure that guests get the most out of each port of call along the way. Cruising between Meaux and Chalons-en-Champagne past beautiful vineyards and enchanting villages, Champagne is not only famed for its unrivalled wineries but also its fascinating historical sites, including the gothic cathedral where the glittering coronations took place and the Musee des Beaux-Arts, an 18th Century abbey housing a rich collection of artworks.

FLOAT ON THE BACKWATERS Float through Kerala's backwaters on a traditional boat 

 For many travellers, Kerala is South India’s most serenely beautiful state, with almost 600km of Arabian Sea coast and beaches, a network of glistening backwaters and the spice-and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats. The tranquil backwater cruises are a once in a lifetime experience, especially popular for its houseboat cruises where guests can soak in nature at its finest form. Historically, the backwaters are used by local people for transport, fishing, and agriculture, so it is an ideal way for travellers to observe the surrounding culture. The lush green landscape, diverse wildlife, and houses and villages that line the backwaters make a journey along these waterways seem like a journey through another world. To experience the best of Kerala, look to Taj for the ultimate itinerary. Guests can begin their stay at Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, situated on Willingdon Island with stunning views of Cochin harbour. As a nod to Cochin’s history, the hotel has its very own spice garden, and in the afternoons, high tea is served to guests on a complimentary basis, followed by a sunset cruise on the hotel’s boat. Guests will then continue one of the most popular 5-star resorts in Kerala, Taj Kumarakom Resort & Spa. Experience the old school charm of this rustic backwater resort in Kumarakom, spending afternoons unwinding with a rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage from the Jiva Spa or making the most of the hotel’s specially curated experiences such as a local lamp lighting ritual or taking a guided walk into the local villages. Following their stay, guests will then move onto Taj Green Cove Resort & Spa nestled in the lap of Kovalam’s pristine beach. Set high on a hillside above a tranquil lagoon, with its prime location and natural backdrop, the hotel offers guests the beaches, hills and backwaters of Kerala, all in one exclusive setting. Key experiences include river cruises floating down the estuary on a backwater adventure, stopping at the tranquil village of Poovar to join a Keralan cooking class.

A SCENIC RAIL EXPERIENCE Ride the historic Yakada Yaka through the tea country of Sri Lanka 

Ensuring the very best of Sri Lanka is within reach of discerning travellers has become even more of a reality with the addition of five former tea planters’ houses from Teardrop Hotels, opening thoroughout 2018. Camellia Hills, Goatfell, Pekoe House and Nine Skies are rarely found vintage managers’ bungalows strategically located along the tea country route. In line with the new openings, guests will be able to travel to Nine Skies near Ella by riding the Yakaka Yada or ‘Iron Devil’. One of the world’s most scenic train rides, which has graced the mountains of Sri Lanka since the 1800s, transporting tea and people between Colombo and the hill stations. Teetering on top of the tea-clad mountains, this train weaves its way slowly through some of Sri Lanka’s most incredible landscapes, offering breathtaking views that travellers can’t view from the road. Just a few minutes along the tea lined estate roads from Demodera Railway Station near Ella, stands Nine Skies, a majestic former tea planter’s bungalow turned six-bedroom luxury hotel. Set within several acres of private gardens are the hotel’s croquet lawn, swimming pool and sun deck, with wonderful views across the valley to the working tea factory and famous Demodera loop. The bungalow’s name is a nod to the nine-arch viaduct, through which it is possible to see ‘nine skies’ when looking up through the arches.

Knai Bang Chatt Resort

THE ROYAL TRAIN EXPERIENCE Culture-hungry travellers can cruise the Cambodian countryside 

 New for 2018, Knai Bang Chatt in Kep – the most charming boutique retreat on Cambodia’s south coast – has launched a ‘Royal Train Experience’ in collaboration with Royal Cambodian Railways, so travellers can now explore this enchanting region by rail for the first time in over a decade.  Royal Cambodian Railways has re-instated a passenger train service after 14 years, transporting travellers from the bustling capital of Phnom Penh to rural and tranquil Kampot. The train pulls out from Phnom Penh station and snakes slowly through shanty housing built along the line. The journey then cruises through fields of brightly coloured lotus flowers floating on ponds and extensive rice fields lined by sugar palm trees.  A short stop allows time to purchase local delicacies from street vendors, such as freshly cut sweet pineapple and savoury dried river fish.  As the train travels deeper into rural Cambodia, limestone mountains start to rise and there is an abundance of wildlife.  After 5 – 6 hours, the train will pull into Kampot where the voyage ends.  The colonial town of Kampot is located along the Praek Tuek Chhu river and only one hour away from Kep.  It retains a certain charm and character that has a laidback, bohemian feel.  When disembarked and sufficiently explored, guests will be privately transferred to Knai Bang Chatt – a chic modernist boutique hotel in nearby Kep sur Mer, and one of the last remaining hidden unspoilt gems on Cambodia’s South coast.  Once the premier coastal retreat for the wealthy elite in the 1960s, Kep offers visitors a picturesque, peaceful holiday experience. Guests who just want to take it slowly can treat themselves to traditional Khmer treatments at the spa, while yoga and meditation is also available upon request.

THE ORIENT EXPRESS... From Paris to Venice in style, aboard the Venice-Simplon Orient Express  

 Guests of Scott Dunn can now combine two of the world’s most romantic cities staying in the finest hotels in Venice and Paris with an unforgettable overnight journey on the world-famous Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Beginning the trip in Venice, guests will stay in the Aman Venice, a beautifully resorted former palace, and can enjoy private, guided tours of famous landmarks and hidden treasures of Venice. The journey continues by boat to Venice’s Santa Lucia station where the majestic Venice Simpion-Orient-Express awaits. From here, guests will enjoy the luxurious leisurely journey to Paris. The train comprises 17 original vintage cars all with individual characteristics emulating the golden age of travel. As the train gently pulls away from Venice, it appears to float on water as it cruises away from the magical city. Guests will enjoy a delicious three-course lunch on board in addition to dinner, a special occasion in which travellers don their finest black tie and elegant dresses. After appetites are fully satisfied, guests can retire to the comfort of their cabins and marvel at the views as the train travels onward through the spectacular alps before arriving the following morning into Paris. On arrival in the French capital, guests will be transferred to the brand new Hotel de Crillon, a landmark hotel with an enviable location on the Place de la Concorde, to conclude their trip in style.

THE WORLD'S MOST BEAUTIFUL RAILWAY Ride across the Norwegian Fjords

 Ride Flåmsbana, otherwise known as the ‘most beautiful railway in the world’, is an unmissable train journey through the spectacular Norwegian fjords. The 20km railway was started in 1924 and finally opened in 1940. The railway has another claim to fame as one of the steepest in the world; almost 80% of the journey has a gradient of 5.5%, transporting passengers on a continuous incline from sea-level at Flåm to the mountain station of Myrdal. As passengers climb the 863 metres to the top, they will encounter colossal views of one of the planet’s most spectacular landscapes made up of verdant mountains, hidden river valleys and tumbling waterways. After the hour long journey, Myrdal offers fantastic views, welcoming coffee and homemade pancakes at Café Rallaren. For dedicated train fans, The Flamsbana train can be taken in conjunction with the Oslo to Bergen train, which offers an interesting and scenic alternative of seeing Norway.

RECONNECT WITH NATURE A walking holiday in the Himalayas

The Shakti Walking Experience by Ampersand Travel is ideal for travellers seeking a remedy to city minds frazzled by concrete and adrenaline. With no motorised transport, no phone signal and travelling at the speed of your own two feet – walking is a journey of the most personal kind. Guests can slow down and connect with nature, offering a therapeutic extra to conventional hotel spa services. Situated in India’s far north and perched at over 3,500m (11,500ft), Ladakh is often referred to as ‘little Tibet’ and is home to one of the best preserved Tantric Buddhist societies in existence. Staying at Shakti, Ladakh, travelers can experience the ‘Head in the Clouds’ journey as the perfect antidote to the frenetic world that most of us live in, with highlights including silent walks led by mindfulness gurus and a 3km hike to mountain caves chaperoned by a monk. Accompanied by local porters and guides, guests stay in traditional homestays – complete with private chef – that Shakti has spruced up to provide serious comfort without compromising on authenticity – pashmina blankets, fluffy duvets and cosy fireplaces are complemented by traditional artefacts and Indian artwork. For the more active guests, Shakti offers camping in remote but beautiful locations with the chance to spend the night in a tented camp set up exclusively to enjoy outstanding mountain views and some of the clearest night skies to be found in the world at altitudes of up to 6,000 – 14,000 ft. Throughout the journey, guests will dine on healthy meals from a menu of family recipes made with the finest local produce and the freshest ingredients picked directly from the Houses’ own herb and vegetable gardens. These unique experiences bring Shakti guests closer to Ladakh’s people and their living cultures, whilst also allowing them time and space to recalibrate under spectacular mountain views and clear skies.

HIKE THE AMALFI COAST ...The hidden trails of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula

Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa is a converted 17th century monastery and one of the most dramatic properties on the Italian coastline. Guests can experience the “Health & Hike” package whilst staying at the hotel – a wellness package incorporating a day’s guided hiking to otherwise unvisitable areas of the spectacular Amalfi coastline, and tailored treatments in one of the finest spas in the region. This package is ideal for walkers of all abilities looking to explore the region and escape the crowds, accompanied by a local expert guide. Guests of Monastero Santa Rosa will have the opportunity to hike the little-known route called ‘Valle delle Ferriere’ or ‘Ironworks Valley’ that takes approximately three hours; beginning at the ‘Piazza Duomo’ in Amalfi and ending at the ‘green heart’ of the coast. Following a day of hiking, guests can relax and unwind in the hotel’s award-winning spa – located in the historic vaults of the monastery. The exclusive Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel and Spa is family-run and offers just 20 individually designed rooms each with stunning sea-views and decorated with historical photographs of the area and the monastery itself.

A WEEK IN OMAN'S LUNAR LANDSCAPES Disconnect, sleep & recharge batteries with a Six Senses wellness escape

 Those looking to slow down and recharge the batteries in style can book an epic wellness escape to one of Six Senses’ most spectacular resorts, the legendary Six Senses Zighy Bay, located on the northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman, and guarded by the dramatic Hajar Mountains and fringed by private sandy beach. The spa offers Sleep with Six Senses – a programme devised in tandem with internationally renowned Sleep expert, Dr. Michael J. Breus Ph.D. Guests have a dedicated Sleep Ambassador, who works with them to understand their personal relationship with sleep, using impressive ‘sleep-tech’ including handmade mattresses, organic pillows and duvets, and a selection of specially developed sleep aids including bamboo fibre PJs, an eye mask, moisture- wicking linens and a Withings Aura Sleep tracker and app. Using the data from the app, a Wellness Practitioner will recommend a personalised programme of spa treatments and activities to help improve sleep allowing guests to return home relaxed and refreshed.

TIME TO SWITCH OFF, A DIGITAL DETOX A long weekend at the remote terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers

This summer, the remote Terminal Neige – Refuge du Montenvers above Chamonix will welcome guests and groups of friends for a digital detox experience in one of the most extraordinary settings in the French Alps.  Accessible only by foot or the local mountain train, Terminal Neige Refuge boasts uninterrupted views of the Mer de Glace – the largest glacier in France – allowing guests to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature. With recent studies revealing our society’s increasing addiction to smartphones, which has led to a rise in back problems amongst young people, anxiety and sleeping trouble as we increasingly struggle to disconnect. Terminal Neige Refuge is inviting you to cast your smartphone aside and take part in a three-day digital detox programme, beginning with a scenic hike from Chamonix up to the refuge at an altitude of 1,913 meters, following in the footsteps of the first mountaineers who visited this iconic site.  When the last train departs from the Montenvers station at 5pm guests will feel totally cut-off from the world in the peace and tranquility of the mountains. Spend the next three days hiking along the spectacular trails that surround the refuge, far from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. Guests will be invited to take part in daily yoga and meditation sessions on the refuge’s sunny outdoor terrace and in the evenings swap Instagram and Facebook for drinks round the bar, playing retro board games and reading books in the refuge’s library. Throughout the three days, guests will be treated to delicious Savoyard food at one of two restaurants – Le Panoramique boasts 180° view of the glacier and surrounding peaks from its terrace and the hotel’s conservatory restaurant is ideal for an evening meal with new friends watching the sun set behind the mountains. Other summer activities include mountain biking, paragliding, rock climbing and, for the more adventurous, ice climbing at the nearby Grotte de Glace.

SLOW THE PLACE AND RIDE AWAY Unwind on a riding holiday at eco-luxury Finca La Donaira

Guests travelling with Scott Dunn now have the option to experience the one-of-a-kind eco-luxury property, Finca La Donaira – set in the heart of the stunning Analucian countryside. The boutique nine bedroom property is surrounded by mountains, pastureland and verdant valleys, set on a working farm with vineyards and olive groves. In keeping with the ethos of the property, all materials are natural: stone, iron, wood, leather, sheepskin and wool. Finca La Donaira’s equestrian centre is a true highlight of the estate, complete with 70 Lusitano horses. Lessons and trails are available for both novice and experienced riders, and the on-site team can tailor multi-day riding programmes should guests wish. Hiking, biking, spa and wellness programmes and trekking in the nearby Sierra de Grazalema National Park are also available for guests looking to truly recharge the batteries. For food and wine enthiusiasts, the hotel offers farm tours, medicinal garden tours, hands-on cooking sessions and wine and olive oil tastings.

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