Many holidays are spent lazing beside a pool, with the only dash of culture coming from the novel you’re reading, or your hotel’s tame version of a local delicacy. But if you want to get more of a taste of a country’s history, heritage and architecture, try one of these great getaways.
What: Palace on Wheels
Where: New Delhi and Rajasthan, India
As a tourist destination, India has it all: astounding historic monuments and temples, traditional and modern cosmopolitan cities, and some amazing landscapes. One way to experience these things in a different way is to travel aboard a luxury train.
The Palace on Wheels, rated among the 10 most prestigious trains in the world, was first constructed for the erstwhile Indian royalty, before Independence. Comprised of personal coaches of the former rulers of the princely states of Gujarat and Rajputana, it made its inaugural trip as a holiday train in 1982.
Journeys through Rajasthan begin in New Delhi every Wednesday from September to April, and include accommodation on board, all meals, transfers and sightseeing for eight days and seven nights.
Set amidst beautiful wetlands in Langkawi, neighbouring Bon Ton and Temple Tree resorts are both made up of historic buildings transported to the site from their original locations in Malaysia and then gloriously restored.
Each resort is unique; Bon Ton has a destination restaurant, Nam, and accommodation consisting of eight antique wooden village houses from the state of Kedah. Temple Tree, meanwhile, has a series of stately mansions from all over Malaysia, built up to a century ago by Chinese, Malays, Indians, Brits and Eurasians. There are 20 rooms in total, with stunning furniture, textiles and porcelain.
Both resorts have swimming pools; two at Temple Tree, and one at Bon Ton. Guests from either place can access them all. The aforementioned Nam restaurant at Bon Ton has some of Langkawi’s best food – a mix of Western techniques and local spices, plus great desserts.
Special offer: Throughout December, Expat Living readers receive a 20 percent discount on rooms in both resorts.
What: Bisma Eight
Where: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Bisma Eight is a boutique hotel set within the natural and cultural heart of Ubud. Opening in early 2015, the hotel is rooted in the artisan heritage of central Bali. The 38 spacious suites are a mix of modern design and traditional craftsmanship, with plenty of nods to Balinese art and architecture, along with large living areas – and, to add an international flavour, handcrafted Japanese onsen soaking tubs.
Amenities at Bisma Eight include a heated pool delicately balanced over the jungle, a fully equipped gymnasium, a rooftop garden and an organic farm. The latter is the starting point for every dining experience at the hotel, with organic farmed produce featuring on the menu at The Copper Kitchen and Bar, whose fresh take on modern Asian cuisine aims at being “food from and for the soul”.
Meanwhile, The Library Café provides a place to sit and relax in the company of literature and coffee, and The Pool Pavilion is Bisma Eight’s take on the poolside tiki bar.
Exploring & Golfing
Where: Near Kandy, Sri Lanka
Ideally placed as a base for exploring Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, as well as the Pinnawala elephant orphanage, the sights of former hill capital Kandy, and the area’s dramatic tea countryside, Clingendael is a boutique luxury hotel that has the beautiful Knuckles Mountain range as its backdrop.
This is more than an upmarket hotel, however. The Clingendael’s par-73 Victoria Golf Course has been named as one of the world’s 100 most scenic courses by Golf Digest USA, and was recently listed by The Independent in its summary of “Golf Hotels: The Big Six”, in company with the renowned accommodation at Gleneagles, Scotland, and Pinehurst in the US.
The hotel itself is furnished with refurbished Dutch antiques and surrounded by plush lawns and vibrant bougainvillea, hinting at the opulence of bygone colonial days.
From Tourist To Traveller
What: Country Holidays
Where: Various Locations
Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, Country Holidays offers a huge range of travel experiences in countries steeped in culture and history, and its itineraries make a point of showcasing the heritage of these places.
For example, you might like to get a taste of Berber life in Morocco, with private tent accommodation and an enchanting desert experience; or perhaps join a one-legged rower of Inle Lake, Myanmar, who’ll take you to the local market or to a family house to learn traditional Shan cooking.
The other benefit of a Country Holidays travel experience is that the guides are carefully chosen, have great English-language skills, and are extremely knowledgeable about their local area, whether it’s the Angkor temple complex or the African savannah.
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