Virtuoso Life July 2018 Travel Advisor Itineraries: 8 Favorite Places

Travel Advisor Itineraries: 8 Favorite Places

Greece. 
Greece. 
Photo by Guenter Guni/Getty Images
There’s nothing wrong with visiting the same place twice. You can’t possibly see all of New Zealand in one two-week trip, for example, and we’re strong proponents of the annual Hawaiian jaunt or long weekend in Paris. The destinations on the following pages finished in the top eight of our recent online Travel Dreams Tournament, a social media competition in which thousands of votes were cast to determine the ultimate vacation destination. With help from Virtuoso travel advisors, we’ve gathered some ideas for your first time and your next time in each place. (We won’t stop you from planning a third, fourth, or fifth visit, either.)
Machu Picchu + Peru
It may be Machu Picchu that carries Peru to the top of many wish lists – it’s this year’s Travel Dreams Tournament champion – but that’s just the beginning. “Very few places in the world rival Peru for sheer variety of landscapes and dramatically different regions,” says Geordie McDonald, a Calgary-based Virtuoso advisor. “There’s so much more to discover beyond those mist-shrouded peaks in the Andes.”

First Time: Fly into Lima, McDonald recommends, and spend a few days sampling the city’s culinary gems before heading to the Sacred Valley on your way to Machu Picchu. “My best advice is to spend at least one night at Machu Picchu rather than day-tripping from Cuzco [a three- hour train ride away], so you really have time to explore,” McDonald says. Guests at the 85-room Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel can access the stone city first thing in the morning via a 25-minute bus ride or a one-hour walk.

Next Time: Before the Inca flourished here, several other civilizations called Peru home, including the Chachapoya, who built the sixth-century settlement of Kuelap – one of the largest pre-Inca ruins in South America. “For the more adventurous, I highly recommend a trip to northern Peru to see these massive ruins,” McDonald says. Big Five Tours & Expeditions customizes trips to the area, including an 11-day adventure that features a Kuelap visit, a hike to a hidden waterfall, and more.
Machu Picchu. 
Machu Picchu. 
Photo by TBradford/Getty Images
New Zealand
“There’s amazing food and wine, adventure for days, and friendly locals who really know how to unwind in pristine beauty,” says Cassandra Bookholder, a travel advisor from Phoenix. “It’s easy to make a second, third, or fourth trip.”

First Time: The more time in New Zealand, the better, advises Bookholder, who recommends two weeks for a first visit. Your travel advisor can work with Southern Crossings, a Virtuoso on-site tour connection in the country, to line up the essentials: A day or two in Auckland, a soak in the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools outside Rotorua, a helicopter tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound, and a road trip to the South Island’s Franz Josef Glacier, for starters. “And lodges are a must when possible. Places like Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers on the North Island are destinations in themselves.”

Next Time: Getting around New Zealand is easy – daily flights and ferries connect the North and South islands, and your GPS works almost everywhere – but all that transit is still time-consuming. “When travelers go back to New Zealand, they realize they can really focus on one place properly,” Bookholder says. Base a return trip at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge – a four-chalet Southern Alps escape accessible only by helicopter – and fill days with flightseeing adventures, farm tours, guided hiking excursions, and more.
Southern Alps views at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge.
Southern Alps views at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge.
Photo by Minaret Station Alpine Lodge
Tuscany
This is the Italy we’d leave it all behind for: famed vineyards and storybook villages, frescoed museums and medieval stone bridges. And you know what’s really fantastico? The region’s cuisine. “No other place in the world moves me like Italy,” says Janet McLaughlin, a Cincinnati-based travel advisor.

First Time: Florence is the heart of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Renais- sance,” McLaughlin says. Check into the 80-room Hotel Savoy – which recently emerged from a six-month renovation – and spend at least four days there. McLaughlin’s suggestions: guided tours of the Accademia Gallery (home to Michelangelo’s David) and the Uffizi, a day trip out of the city for winetasting or truffle hunting, and plenty of free time to wander, stopping for selfies in the Piazzale Michelangelo and bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) at tiny, white-tableclothed ristoranti.

Next Time: Beyond Florence, Tuscany is defined by charming hilltop hamlets – Siena, Radda, and Pienza, to name a few – and the winding roads that connect them, dotted with turreted castles and monasteries-turned-hotels. Destinations are spread out, so McLaughlin suggests renting a car or hopping on a bike. Butterfield & Robinson’s six-day Tuscany group biking tour covers all of the above, with stops for winetasting and multicourse lunches along the way.
The postcard-worthy Tuscan hamlet of Manciano.
The postcard-worthy Tuscan hamlet of Manciano.
Photo by Susan Wright
The Mediterranean
“There’s a special light along the French Riviera that reflects the blue of the Mediterranean,” says Leslie Fambrini, an advisor from Los Altos, California. “It has influenced and inspired famous painters for years.”

First Time: “A cruise provides an overview of the region, with an ease of access that lets you sample many places on an initial visit,” Fambrini says. Unpack on Crystal Cruises’ 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity for a 12-day Barcelona-to-Venice sailing that calls on Saint-Tropez, Sorrento, Kotor, and more.

Next Time: Some of Fambrini’s favorite small towns are just beyond the Med’s popular cruise ports. Her advice: “Spend a few days stationed at the 51-room Belmond Hotel Caruso, and branch out to the quaint towns along the Amalfi for long lunches, iconic sunsets, and a private yacht experience to see this coastline from the ‘other side.’ ”
The Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast.
Photo by Buena Vista Images/Getty Images
Hawaii
“Hawaii is worth visiting more than once because each island is incredibly diverse in topography, marine life, and activities,” says Garden Grove, California-based Virtuoso advisor Dani Johnson. What they all have in common: Life revolves around the water, so whether you’re hiking on Kauai, whale-watching off the coast of Hawaii Island, or lazing the afternoon away on a secluded Oahu beach, be ready for some sunshine.

First Time: Pick one island to begin: Most require at least five days for maximum enjoyment, Johnson notes. Maui is a good choice for first-timers – it’s a crowd-pleaser with “a little bit of activity, gorgeous beaches, consistent weather, and many wonderful restaurant options,” Johnson says. The 50 recently renovated rooms at Montage Kapalua Bay on the northwest coast have koa wood furniture, neutral color palettes, and private lanais with daybeds.

Next Time: Laid-back getaways are already Hawaii’s specialty, but Lanai takes them to new levels. The 140-square-mile island’s rugged landscape and sparse population set it apart from its neighbors, as do its “phenomenal beaches and secluded environment, along with some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling and diving,” Johnson adds. Make the 213-room Four Seasons Resort Lanai your home base – it’s currently the island’s only five-star property and fronts Hulopoe Bay, a designated marine reserve.
Kapalua Bay Beach, a ten-minute walk from Montage Kapalua Bay.
Kapalua Bay Beach, a ten-minute walk from Montage Kapalua Bay.
Photo by Montage Kapalua Bay
Paris
“The first time you arrive, your expectations are set: See all the monuments, try all the food, experience that joie de vivre,” says Geraldine Hasting, a travel advisor from Seattle. “A second visit lets you appreciate the little things you missed on your first trip because you spent way too much time admiring the Eiffel Tower – and there’s nothing wrong with that!”

First Time: An initial trip to the City of Light is all about classic experiences and must-have meals. Check into the 28-room Hôtel Esprit Saint Germain and make your way down the list: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, Notre-Dame, the Latin Quarter, and a dinner cruise on the Seine. “You can discover many of these sites and monuments on a walking tour,” Hasting suggests. 

Next Time: French poet Charles Baudelaire described the flaneur as a passionate wanderer, a stroller of city streets. This is the best way to see Paris, and the pressure’s off on round two, when you’ve already checked the icons off your list. Get lost in new corners of the city, such as the place du Tertre in Montmartre in the eighteenth arrondissement, where Renoir and Picasso kept their studios, recommends Hasting. If you want to supplement your aimless wandering with a little bit of guidance, your travel advisor can work with Chocolatine, one of Virtuoso’s on-site tour connections in Paris, to customize a stroll based on your interests.
The palatial Louvre – the world’s largest art museum.
The palatial Louvre – the world’s largest art museum.
Photo by Chris Sorensen/Gallery Stock
South Africa
“South Africa is an incredibly diverse destination,” says David Bragg, a Virtuoso advisor from Nashville. “Safari, coastline, city life – there’s really something to offer everyone here.”

First Time: The dry season (April through October) is the best time for a South African safari, and you’ll want to plan for at least ten days on the ground. Fly into Johannesburg, Bragg recommends, to kick jet lag and explore the city before heading to the 32-room Londolozi Private Game Reserve for a week of game drives, photography lessons, and voluntourism opportunities. Cap off your trip with a few days in Cape Town: “I really like a mix of city, culture, and safari when I visit South Africa,” Bragg says, “and this trip covers it all.”

Next Time: “A safari is different every time,” Bragg says. “Your experience is really based on how the animals are acting in that moment, so it’s never the same twice.” On a return trip to South Africa, kick off your adventure with a two- day, Pretoria-to-Cape Town journey aboard The Blue Train, which channels the glamorous, old-school days of train travel in swanky sleeper cars and a wood-paneled cigar lounge, before heading into Kruger National Park. Later, extend your time on the continent by jetting off to the beach – Bragg sends many travelers to Mozambique post-safari for some secluded relaxation.
Herd-spotting in Londolozi Private Game Reserve.
Herd-spotting in Londolozi Private Game Reserve.
Photo by Londolozi Private Game Reserve
Greece
Greece has history, culture, and beaches – not to mention the food and wine,” says Eirini Demetelin, a Virtuoso advisor from Québec. “It’s a great holiday for families, friends, couples, and solo travelers, and is an ideal spot in spring, summer, and fall.”

First Time: Demetelin suggests two nights in Athens, time for the requisite Acropolis and Parthenon visits, plus dinner at the Hotel Grande Bretagne’s GB Roof Garden. Then head southeast to Mykonos and Santorini, the twin stars of many Greek Isles fantasies – and home to some of the country’s best hotels and restaurants. Cox & Kings’ ten-day trip covers this itinerary, plus three days in Crete.

Next Time: “Yacht charters and villa vacations are hot these days,” Demetelin says. There are more than 200 inhabited Greek islands, and your advisor can help you choose the best one for your travel style, such as Naxos for amazing beaches or Lefkada for inspiring culture. Advisors can work with Hellenic Tours, one of Virtuoso’s on-site tour connections in Greece, to secure a villa rental. Villa company Onefinestay added Mykonos to its portfolio this year, including Super Paradise One, a whitewashed, five-bedroom beauty with an infinity pool overlooking Super Paradise Beach.
Santorini’s hilltop Oia village.
Santorini’s hilltop Oia village.
Photo by Extravagantni/Getty Images

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