Top 10 Dream Destinations (And How To Make Them Happen)

Travel Dreams 2015: Top 10 Dream Destinations

We compiled the results from our ninth annual survey of travelers, then we mixed in tips from our advisors. Get ready to be inspired.


By Marika Cain and Amy Cassell
Originally appeared in July 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life; click here to browse full issue.

For nine years, Virtuoso has been conducting a Travel Dreams survey, where readers (and travelers) tell us where they want to go and what they want to do. This unfolds in two parts online: first (right here) are the top 10 dream destinations from the survey. Next (click here) are the top 10 'trips of a lifetime,' which answers the what above. To make any of this possible – the destination or the type of trip – consider connecting with a Virtuoso travel advisor, which you can do at the bottom of this page.

Please also note that there are prices below – for hotels, cruises, and other amenities. Those prices are subject to change.

No. 1: Australia
One big (literally – 135,000-square-miles big) reason Australia tops the Travel Dreams list year after year: the Great Barrier Reef. Explore the natural wonder from all angles at One&Only Hayman Island, where guests snorkel, dive, and fish on the reef, or survey it from above during helicopter or seaplane tours. Set on a private, palm-fringed island in the Whitsundays chain, the resort’s 160 rooms and villas border a crescent-shaped beach. Doubles from $611, including breakfast daily and a snorkeling trip to Langford Island.

Swain Destinations’ 13-day tour of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and the vineyard-lined Hunter Valley mixes wine and wildlife – but not at the same time. Departures: Any day through March 31, 2016; from $2,365.

A Tip From A Virtuoso Advisor: “Tasmania, Australia’s best-kept secret, is home to wonderful beaches, natural beauty, world-class wines, and fresh produce and seafood. Approximately 40 percent of the island is reserved as a national park or Wilderness World Heritage area, and it’s only an hour’s flight from Melbourne. Rent a car for ten days and drive its width and breadth to discover wild and beautiful landscapes, from Wineglass Bay and Cradle Mountain to Gordon River and the spectacular convict-era ruins of Port Arthur, Richmond, and Ross.” – Gary Woodland, travel advisor, Launceston, Tasmania

No. 2: Italy
Just one reason Italy perennially captures a top spot on this list: rich artistic traditions. Artisans of Leisure takes travelers on an over-the-top private 13-day journey through the best of Italian art, from the Sistine Chapel to the Uffizi and the contemporary Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Departures: Any day through 2016; from $23,755.

Get a hands-on lesson in Tuscan cooking at L’Andana, a 33-room resort in the Maremma region and home of Italy’s only Alain Ducasse restaurant. Doubles from $484, including a welcome drink, breakfast daily, and one 50-minute massage for two.

A Tip From A Virtuoso Advisor: “One hot new destination: the Basilicata region. It’s home to Francis Ford Coppola’s Palazzo Margherita in Bernalda, complete with frescoes, gardens, and a gourmet restaurant. It also has the Sassi of Matera – UNESCO World Heritage caves housing stunning hotels and cafés.” – Pallavi Shah, travel advisor, New York City

3. New Zealand
Kayak, raft, helicopter, and hike the South Island during National Geographic Expeditions’ 12-day exploration, which kicks off in Nelson at the island’s northern end and concludes in the adventure hub of Queenstown. Departures: Multiple dates, November 10, 2015, through March 15, 2016; from $7,695.

Holland America’s 13-day round-trip sailing from Sydney on the 1,924-passenger Noordam covers South and North Island highlights, from Fiordland National Park to the arts and wine hub of Napier and the sunny Bay of Islands. Departure: November 22, 2015; from $1,500.

If you'd like to continue reading for Destinations 4-7, click the arrow below. To begin working with a Virtuoso travel advisor on a trip to one of these destinations, click 'Connect.'

4. France
For flat-out French glam, Parisian hotels deliver. Eight of the country’s 16 “Palace” hotels are here, including the eighteenth-century chic Le Meurice and the cool, contemporary Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. Another reason to visit: the Ritz Paris reopens later this year – with the first-ever Chanel spa.

Drink in southern France during a sailing to Corsica along the Côte d’Azur aboard Star Clippers’ 170-passenger Star Flyer. During eight days, the four-masted ship calls in such ports as Saint-Tropez, Monaco, and Bonifacio.
Departure: September 12, 2015; from $2,860.

A Tip From A Virtuoso Advisor: “Visiting France in the fall allows you to avoid summer’s heat and crowds while enjoying traditional regional harvest food and drink, such as calvados –apple brandy from Normandy that is a favorite harvest tradition.” – Tamara Olton, travel advisor, Willoughby, Ohio

5. Greece
Check into Amanzoe on the Peloponnese – an untrammeled peninsula southwest of Athens – for a Greek experience that veers away from the typical. Guests stay in one of 38 “pavilions,” each with a private pool, and spend days sampling honey and olive oil from local producers, visiting historic sites, and lounging at a beach club on the Aegean Sea. Pavilions from $824, including breakfast daily and one lunch for two.

Take in Mount Parnassus, visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Delphi, and explore Meteora’s monasteries perched on towering rocks during Kensington Tours’ private seven-day jaunt through Greece. Departures: Any day through 2016; from $3,227.

6. Ireland
Take to the open road – some 1,500 miles of it – on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. This stretch of the country’s west coast, from Donegal to Cork, features dramatic cliffs, secret surf spots, and islands accessible by cable car.

Next summer, Lindblad Expeditions’ 102-passenger National Geographic Orion circumnavigates Ireland on an eight-day expedition, stopping at lesser-known ports for whiskey tours, national park visits, and green for miles. Departures: June 12 and 19, 2016; from $7,990.

A Tip From A Virtuoso Advisor: “Drive the Wild Atlantic Way in early May or late September, taking the southwest route from Cork up to Connemara. This portion of the oceanside route allows for spectacular views and great photo opportunities.” – Maureen Hutchison, travel advisor, Toronto

7. The Caribbean
Sail the eastern Caribbean with a French accent on the three-masted, 64-passenger Le Ponant. Ponant’s French origins mean Gallic touches, from L’Occitane products and grand cru wines to a French crew. Sail round-trip from Martinique for eight days with calls on Saint Lucia, Bequia, and more. Departures; Multiple dates, January 2 through April 2, 2016; from $4,060.

Time to book a flight to Puerto Rico: The 1919 Spanish revival-style Condado Vanderbilt Hotel (yes, those Vanderbilts) in San Juan recently reopened following a $200 million renovation. Doubles from $500, including breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.

A Tip From Virtuoso Life Editors: For pristine beaches and unparalleled hotels, hop a flight (110 minutes from Miami) to the Turks and Caicos. Some of the Caribbean’s most memorable hotels line the powdery white curve of Grace Bay, with aesthetics ranging from hip (Gansevoort Turks + Caicos) to classic (The Regent Palms) to contemporary (Grace Bay Club).

If you'd like to continue reading for Destinations 8-10, click the arrow below. To begin working with a Virtuoso travel advisor on a trip to one of these destinations, click 'Connect.'

8. Fiji
For the remoteness that landed Fiji in the top ten, look no further than Laucala Island Resort. Just 25 meticulously designed, sago-palm-thatched villas, each with its own infinity pool, dot the private island – including a two-bedroom overwater residence. The resort gets much of its food from an on-island farm and the surrounding waters. And guests get much of their diversion boating, diving, and snorkeling; golfing the on-site course; and riding the resort’s Fijian horses. Villas from $4,600, including meals, house wine and spirits, activities, and one 90-minute spa treatment per person.

A Tip From A Virtuoso Advisor: “The Fijians are proud of their culture, and many villages still practice traditional displays with a kava ceremony. This is an important aspect of any village visit that brings two families together in song and dance. When receiving kava, clap once, yell ‘Bula!’ drink the kava in one gulp, then clap three times!” – Katie Boydston Rollins, travel advisor, Houston

9. England
Soak in Bath’s famed thermal waters during a jaunt through southern England with Globus. The country’s sightseeing superstars – from Big Ben to Stonehenge – make cameos throughout the seven-day trip’s itinerary. Departures: Multiple dates through October 5, 2015; from $1,689.

London delivers a culture hit throughout late summer and into fall: Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland; visit Buckingham Palace, which opens to the public in August and September; catch the National Portrait Gallery’s Audrey Hepburn photographic exhibit from July 2 through October 18; and dine at The Connaught, where Hélène Darroze continues to produce the cuisine that garnered her Veuve Clicquot’s 2015 Best Female Chef award.

10. Antarctica
Difficult to reach, inhospitable, and majestic – it’s no wonder Antarctica rounds out seasoned travelers’ wish lists. Of the expected 37,000 visitors in 2015, some 10,000 will never set foot on shore (due in part to cruise-ship regulation in the region). Reach out and touch the White Continent on Zegrahm Expeditions’ 22-day sailing aboard the 110-passenger Sea Adventurer, with multiple stops on South Georgia Island, plus Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Departure: January 7, 2016; from $18,980.

For the comfort of a larger-ship experience – with the caveat that there won’t be land excursions – Celebrity Cruises’ 15-day round-trip sailings from Buenos Aires on the 2,170-passenger Celebrity Infinity include scenic cruising at Elephant Island and Paradise Bay. Departures: February 14, 2016 (nearly sold out), and February 5, 2017; from $2,409.

A Tip From A Virtuoso Advisor: “Book Antarctica expedition cruises more than a year in advance to ensure availability and preferred accommodations. (Most early-booking discounts end a year or more before departure.) A travel advisor knowledgeable about Antarctica can help identify operators with crews that have decades of experience in the region and ships equipped with state-of-the-art safety equipment. For the maximum number of Zodiac landings, seek ships carrying fewer than 200 passengers.” – Jane Hazelrig, travel advisor, Birmingham, Alabama

If these dream destinations have inspired you and you'd be interested in working with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip, click below to connect.

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