Kerala’s Secret Ayurvedic Resort

ayurvedic retreats

Anantya Kerala

There are two kinds of secrets- one that is not worth keeping and the other which is too good to keep. Tucked away amidst a 1000-acre rubber plantation, about 50 kilometers from Trivandrum; the capital of Kerala lies a secret of the latter kind – Anantya.

The facilities at Anantya, which opened just a few years ago, include 21 cottages, a swimming pool, a multi-cuisine restaurant and a spa that offers ayurvedic therapies.

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‘Astitva,’ in common usage means ‘existence.’ But, in ancient Sanskrit, it stands for the attainment of the complete potential of every thing. In its purest form it is the attainment of god himself. This is the property’s motto where they want guests to experience complete and holistic wellness. Anantya Travancore has teamed up with the Pankajakasthuri Group, a renowned name in the field of Ayurveda, to provide authentic and traditional Ayurvedic spa services. The Group, which runs the Pankajakasthuri Ayurvedic College and Hospital has a history of providing Ayurvedic services for many generations has helped to provide a tailor made program with revitalizing and therapeutic treatments in their beautiful spa rooms overlooking a their lake.

Anantya Kerala.png

For guests taking advantage of ayurvedic or yoga packages, they also have ‘Sattvic’ cuisine. A Sattvic diet is the traditional term for a yoga diet or sentient diet which focuses on foods that have ‘Sattva Guna’, (literally translated to ‘pure benefits’). A Sattvic diet leads to clarity of mind and offers maximum benefit to the body. Dining also reflects the palates of international clientele with local delicacies, in addition to dishes inspired by Italian, Mexican, and Asian cuisines.

If that isn’t convincing enough for a Kerala retreat, perhaps the photos might!

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By Sanjay Sivadas

http://anantyaresorts.com/

Small Luxury Hotel’s Top Caribbean Picks 2017

This just in from Small Luxury Hotels for 2017…

A Caribbean hotel round up! Check it out, swoon, and book (if you’re anything like me and really need a vacation… STAT).

the_manoah_anguilla_hotels

The Manoah – Anguilla

The Manoah Boutique Hotel: Shoal Bay, Anguilla

Every aspect of the brand new Manoah Boutique Hotel has been designed to celebrate its stunning location on the shores of Shoal Bay.  Opened in December 2016, the 25 bedrooms and suites are decorated in cool neutral shades and each room has a private glass-fronted veranda overlooking the beach. The resort boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens plus two tropical beach bars. Guests can opt to spend their days at the tranquil Manoah Spa, or relax on the powdery white sands of Shoal Bay taking in the view. Water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking or scuba diving can also be arranged. Inspired by a delicious mix of global cuisines, chefs at the Ocean Beach Club Restaurant have created a unique menu using fresh seasonal produce, best enjoyed accompanied by the sound and sights of the sea.

SLH Insider Tip: With local stables nearby, spend an evening on horse-back with a sunset beach ride on Cove Bay.

www.slh.com/manoah

Rates: $350/night

anguilla best hotels

The Reef by CuisinArt: Anguilla

The Reef by CuisinArt: Anguilla

Desirably situated on Merrywing Bay on the tranquil island of Anguilla, The Reef by CuisinArt debuted in November 2016, revealing a beachfront contemporary oasis featuring 80 suites, directly on the Caribbean Sea. The hotel offers an array of accommodation, some with sea views and others that are right on the white sand beach with dramatic outdoor Jacuzzis. Fresh locally sourced ingredients from the on-property hydroponic farm and fresh seafood fill the menu at the nautical inspired fine dining restaurant, The Yacht Club, and the casual cool beach front bar and restaurant, Breezes. The architecture and design of the hotel is fresh and modern, with touches of colour and the sea brought inside and ocean views from almost every window.

SLH Insider Tip: Head to the other end of the island and take a boat out to tiny coral island, Scilly Cay, for live music, delicious lobster and for what many hail as the best rum punch on the island.

Rates: $500/night

www.slh.com/thereef

st barts best hotels

Le Barthelemy Hotel and Spa: St Barths

Le Barthélemy Hotel and Spa: St Barthélemy

This exclusive oceanfront resort is SLH’s first property in St Barth’s. The hotel opened its doors in November 2016, welcoming guests to its 46 rooms and suites with interiors by celebrated designer Sybille de Margerie and cuisine by Michelin-starred French chef, Guy Martin. The elegant boutique hotel perfectly captures the laid-back luxury of St Barth’s, with light airy interiors and genuine island hospitality. The bright and airy rooms and suites are decorated to reflect the white sands and turquoise blue of the ocean and each one opens out onto a private terrace with ocean or garden views and private swimming pool. Aux Amis, the resort’s restaurant serves a light menu during the day and in the evening the space opens onto a beachfront terrace where guests can enjoy French and international cuisine overlooking the bay. The hotel’s spa has partnered with luxury French skin care brand La Mer and offers a wide array of treatments in its open-air atrium.

SLH Insider Tip: On the south-east tip of the island sits Anse de Columbiere – this undeveloped bay is only accessible by foot or by boat and is a peaceful haven for those seeking somewhere secluded to swim and sunbathe.

Rates: $648/night

www.slh.com/barthelemy

nevis luxury hotels and villas paradise beach nevis

The pool at Paradise Beach Nevis

Paradise Beach: St Kitts and Nevis

Exclusivity, intimacy and personal service are key at this beachfront resort on the utopian island of St Kitts and Nevis. Boasting an idyllic location – nestled into a glorious white-sand beach and overlooking St Kitts and Mount Nevis – Paradise Beach Nevis has the distinction of being the only villa resort on the Caribbean island of Nevis. The resort is child friendly and the villas for up to eight people make it a great option for a family getaway. Each of the seven villas is its own personal palace with a marble or limestone bath, king beds, a sound system which allows guest to stream their own music, fitness studio, dining rooms for private meals, a private pool, a sea view and kitted out with Hermés bath products. The hand woven, palm roofs were designed to mirror the Nevis Peak, which, combined with lush gardens and an amazing beach, provide a paradise of luxury and tranquillity. 

SLH Insider Tip:  Probably one of the more well-known attractions but still well worth the hype is the Sugar train –the last scenic railway in the West Indies. The double decker carriages have open sided top decks for guests to enjoy the breeze along with their rum punch and the sounds of the trains own choir.

Rates: $876/night

www.slh.com/paradisebeach

turks and caicos hotels

Point Grace Resort and Spa: Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Point Grace Resort and Spa: Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

An all-suite hideaway surrounded by perfect sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, Point Grace Resort and Spa overlooks the stunning Grace Bay and is SLH’s first hotel in Turks and Caicos. The tropical resort is turn-of the-century style with a contemporary twist and consists of 25 suites all spanning over 1,000 square feet, two restaurants and the Thalasso Spa, where treatments are inspired by the ocean. Grace’s Cottage, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant is an architectural gem featuring picturesque outdoor seating where old world elegance meets modern gourmet cuisine. Guests can also enjoy lunch and breakfast at Hutchings, which is nestled in a tropical garden and serves casual food with a Caribbean influence. A unique collection of African tribal crafts and artwork can be found dotted around the hotel, most of which are locally sourced from the island and lend an insight into the culture and travel experience of the turn of the century West Indian traveler.

SLH Insider Tip: If you’re a wildlife lover visit the Leeward settlement, an uninhabited islet known as ‘Iguana Island’ – a sanctuary for the endangered Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana.

Rates: $460/night

www.slh.com/pointgrace

The World’s Best Luxury Mountain Wellness Retreats

DTC Red Mountain Spa various photos

Red Mountain Resort and Fitness Center – Utah

By Paul Joseph, Health and Fitness Travel

For those seeking to relax in the most luxurious pockets of the Earth, Health and Fitness Travel, the leading specialists in wellness holidays worldwide, has compiled their top five mountain wellness retreats to go and escape from it all.  Spread across the world from Utah to Crete and Oman to India, these mountain wellness retreats are great to visit all year around.  Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie craving that next rush or want to relax away from prying eyes, these wellness retreats need to be at the top of your list.

Utah: Red Mountain Resort

The St George mountain range set in the rugged American landscape provides the perfect backdrop to a weight loss holiday that you will never want to leave.  Great to visit in the spring time, the Zion and Bryce canyons provide spectacular locations for horseback riding and mountain biking.  If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, then you can’t leave without trying an exhilarating rock climb, and joining other guests in seeing the incredible mountain-top views. After a long day of challenging your limits, relax in the luxury spa with body contouring wraps and Tai Chi classes.

wildfitness-crete-milia

Milia, Crete

Crete:  Wildfitness

The majestic mountain hamlet of Milia is a great option for those who want to tone their bodies for next summer. Created with nature in mind, Wildfitness encourages you to use the trees and rocks around you to tone and sculpt your body. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Cretan mountains, you’ll be able to shape up in the utmost tranquillity and luxury.  This retreat puts your fitness goals and desires first with personalised assessments and consultations.  Return to basics in the crisp mountain air with challenging fitness regimes and training sessions.

zighy-pool-villa-suite-beach-front

Zighy Bay, Oman

Oman: Zighy Bay

For the adrenaline junkies, out there, paragliding from the Musandam Penisula must be on your list. The dramatic mountainous landscape, surrounding Zighy Bay, provides you with the opportunity to push your very limits to achieve your fitness goals.  This luxury mountain retreat boasts the Six Senses Spa designed to encourage you to utterly indulge yourself.  Rejuvenate with Arabian Hammans and bath rituals in the six spa rooms available.  Travel during the spring time to enjoy the variety of activities, including tennis and bootcamp fitness, to ensure that you return home with an all-round sense of well-being.

ananda-exterior-view

Ananda – Himalayas

India: Ananda in the Himalayas

Set at the foot of the Himalayas, this secluded wellness retreat is a great option for those looking to relax in style and luxury.  The Himalayan mountain range is breath-taking, especially after the rainy season of July and August, and can be seen in all its glory on guided nature walks.  Ananda offers a wellness approach designed to unite the mind, body and soul, with holistic spa treatments and an array of well-being activities, including meditation and yoga.  If you are looking to transform your life, whilst learning a new skill, then definitely take advantage of the Pranayama sessions.

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Shanti Som, Spain

Spain: Shanti Som

In the striking Andalucían region, lies Spain’s stunning Sierra de Las Nieves Nature Park and at the heart of this is the luxurious Shanti Som.  This mountainous area is the definition of tranquillity with its peaceful gardens and fragrant orange groves.  Your well-being will be revived in this remote sanctuary with a choice of tailor-made wellness programmes, including yoga and holistic healing.  Best to visit during June and September, you’ll be able to rejuvenate in the lavish spa with Ayurveda and aromatherapy.  You’ll never be able to forget the superlative mountainous landscape, even after you’ve returned home.

For more advice, guidance, and booking, visit:

www.healthandfitnesstravel.com 

Paul Joseph, Health and Fitness Travel Founder

Paul Joseph, Health and Fitness Travel Founder

About Paul Joseph:

Wellness Travel Specialist and Entrepreneur, Paul Joseph, is the co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel, a global leader in wellness holidays worldwide. Always ahead of the curve in pioneering new health programmes that revive the soul, boost fitness or address serious health issues, the worldwide wellness tourism industry has now become a multi-billion sector, growing faster than travel in general. Paul has a wealth of PR, Marketing, Sales and Management experience in the health and tourism industry, consulting leading hotels on their wellness strategy and contributing regularly to broadcast and media interviews.

Follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@hf_travel), Instagram

 

Bali: Your Trip to Paradise

beach and Pura Batu Bolong temple Nusa Dua, Bali.jpg

Pura Batu Bolong Temple – Nusa Dua, Bali

When it’s time to think about a warm winter getaway, time to think Bali. The popular tour company, World Spree, is offering an 11-day Exotic Bali package for only $1,899 from New York or San Francisco ($200 more from Los Angeles) that includes round-trip air on China Airlines, taxes, fuel surcharges, fabulous hotels, daily breakfast, five other meals, all ground transportation, sightseeing tours and a professional English-speaking guide.  And $1,899 is probably less than you’d spend to go to the  same old Caribbean or Hawaii.

Why Bali?

borobudur-night

Borobudur by Night

Bali is a chance to experience a totally different culture, while also enjoying a sun-splashed beach vacation. The trip starts with five nights in Bali’s cultural capital, the picturesque hill town of Ubud, full of color and chaos, artists’ studios, handicrafts shops and garden restaurants. Here, you’ll stay in the stylish boutique resort Alaya Ubud, which is surrounded by emerald green rice paddies but within walking distance of downtown. Its elegant Balinese-style rooms are complemented by a spa, swimming pool and restaurant.

Bat cave (Goa Lawah), Bali, Indonesia.jpg

Bat Cave (Goa Lawah)

Balinese Hinduism, the predominant religion, shapes much of the island’s life and culture.  There are thousands of temples and shrines and colorful religious ceremonies can be seen regularly.  You’ll visit a temple fed by local springs and have the chance to take part in a traditional purification ceremony, and visit a Monkey Forest that’s home to three holy monkey temples. Just remember, they’re wild monkeys and not afraid of humans, so keep an eye out as they can get frisky! Other excursions include a famous coffee plantation,  the Mother Temple , lunch on the edge of a volcano caldera with a breathtaking view of Lake Batur, and a  special day in a village where you will be warmly welcomed by the locals.

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Beach Nusa Dua

Then comes the totally relaxing part of the vacation: four nights at  the luxurious Melia Bali Resort in Nusa Dua, famous for its glorious white sandy beaches lapped by warm shallow waters and surrounded by lush green foliage.  There are tons of possibilities here (a safari, ocean rafting, a catamaran cruise, shopping in Kuta, a traditional fire dance) or just soaking up the sun and enjoying the serenity of this exotic  beachfront resort that overlooks a reef-fringed lagoon , exhuberant tropical gardens and a swimming pool that winds through the grounds.

Beach chairs on perfect tropical white sand beach Bali.jpg

Beach chairs on a perfect tropical white sand beach… sigh

Two post-trip options are offered on the way home: a 4-day Stopover in cosmopolitan Singapore, with its exciting cuisine and great shopping ($599 per person) or a 3-day Stopover in Taiwan, which has wonderful Chinese food and a world-class museum ($220 per person). All prices quoted are per person, double occupancy, and are subject to availability.  There is no additional charge for credit cards. 

www.worldspree.com

 

8 “Bro-Cations” for Adventurous Guys

Guys Fishing Trips Ponoi River

Check out the size of this catch on the Ponoi River in the Russian Arctic (c) Frontiers Travel

With golf’s popularity steadily in decline (although my colleague would disagree as he’s single handedly keeping it alive) and saloons & barber shops no longer the male refuge of choice (for shame!!), many guys are turning to adventure travel to bond with their buddies. A growing number of men are participating in “Bro-Cations” that are all about bonding, unwinding, and pushing the limits through engaging and sometimes extreme activities. Gone are the days of sipping umbrella drinks and lounging by the pool. So, check out some of our favorite “Bro-Cations” for adventurous guys.

8 “Bro-Cations” for Adventurous Guys

amazing guys trips Land Rover Tours

Nothing sexier than a Land Rover Tour through the Silk Road (c) Mir Corp

1. Drive a Land Rover across Exotic Lands – Since MIR Corporation’s inception in 1986 they have been creating custom overland adventures. These self-drive tours often involve groups of buddies piloting Land Rovers, motorcycles or even vintage automobiles across the rolling steppe of Mongolia, through the charming towns and villages of Siberia, or even along The Silk Road. These journeys are momentous, unforgettable and limited only by one’s own imagination.

http://www.mircorp.com/about-mir/mir-clients/overland-expeditions/

2. Fish Remote Russian Wilderness – Ryabaga Camp on the Ponoi River is located above the Arctic Circle and accessed via a 2 hour Mi-8 helicopter ride across remote Russian tundra. A totally wild Atlantic salmon population thrives in the Ponoi River. Anglers enjoy single occupancy cabins with gourmet food and fine wine. Frontiers International Travel arranges everything, including flights, activities, and visas.

http://www.frontierstravel.com/ryabaga-camp-the-ponoi-river

Mountain Biking South America

Experience some of the best mountain biking in South America

3. Mountain Bike Ecuador’s Cotopaxi National Park – Experience the exhilarating thrill of biking Cotopaxi National Park on this intrepid Ecuadorian bro-cation. Designed for experienced and advanced mountain bikers, this challenging and beautiful itinerary takes bikers through Santa Rita Ecological Reserve, El Tambo Trail, The Road of the Lahars, and down Cotopaxi Volcano. Ride on natural trails in the highlands that pre-date the Incas; swoop down the slopes of Cotopaxi; and enjoy flowing single-track across Andean deserts on this tour of a lifetime.

http://www.adventure-life.com/ecuador/tours/3951/cotopaxi-mountain-biking

trips to greenland

Glacier Trek in Greenland (c) Big Chill Adventure

4. Dogsled and Trek Glaciers in Greenland – Travel to West Greenland to explore and photograph fantastic landscapes of pristine beauty, exotic, arctic wildlife and northern lights. This all-inclusive adventure is a splendid introduction to the highlights of Greenland: calving glaciers, palatial icebergs, dogsledding, wildlife viewing, and trekking the Greenland Ice Sheet.

http://bigchilladventure.com/trips-cat/greenland/

Belgium beer tour

Belgium Beer Rocks!

5. Belgium Beer Bike Tour – Biking Belgium is truly a beer-loving cyclist’s dream, as there are 1,130+ beers brewed in country. In addition to Trappist ales and abbey beers, it churns out lagers such as Stella Artois and Jupiler. This unique itinerary offers access to more boutique breweries than any other European bicycle tour.

http://www.ciclismoclassico.com/bike-belgium/

dude ranch city slicker trips

Giddy Up!

6. “City Slicker” Cowboy Weekend – Hike, ride horses, ATV, and play cowboy at Red Reflet Ranch in Wyoming. The ranch is both working ranch and luxury resort where guests are treated like family. Additional activities include guided hikes, dirt bike rides, fly fishing and mountain biking. Guests can explore the 25,000 acre ranch, work cattle, fish on private streams and enjoy abundant wildlife. Gourmet dining includes ingredients from the ranch’s butcher shop, organic greenhouse and gardens. From cattle drives to branding, the true western lifestyle thrives at Red Reflet.

http://www.red-reflet-ranch.net/

Hawaii Cycling Tour

Bike like an Ironman

7. Tackle an Ironman Bike Course – Bike tour operators Ride & Seek and Big Island Bike Tours have partnered to offer a new Hawaii tour on which guests will ride the infamous Ironman Kona bike course, cycle through famous coffee plantations and ride up the world’s largest active volcano Mauna Loa (13,677 ft.). Other highlights include: luxury accommodations, soaking in the heated tide pools of Kapoho, and delicious local cuisine.

http://www.rideandseek.com/kom/hawaii

Visit Amazon Tribe

Visit an Amazon Tribe Deep in the Rainforest of Ecuador

8. Visit Amazon Tribe – Venture deep into the rarely accessed Amazon Rainforest to meet the indigenous Achuar tribe of the Ecuador. Contact with this tribe was only made in the 1970s, and their culture is more intact than most of the world’s tribes. Hike volcanoes, visit remote waterfalls, spot tropical birds and other exotic wildlife, learn about flora & fauna, kayak Amazon waters, and stay at one of the most remote, ecologically responsible ecolodges in the world.

http://gondwanaecotours.com/tour/amazon-rainforest-ecotour/

The Top Sailing Destinations Around the World

This week, Guest Contributor, Nicole Noel, shares her Top 7 Most Fabulous Sailing Destinations around the World with our Jaunt Magazine readers.

The fact that you love to sail speaks volumes about you. That is what you will find if you listen to the experienced sailor, Super Calin. He states that, according to his experience, people who enjoy sailing are smart and confident. They are adventurous and they know how to enjoy life (Super Calin, January 2015). All these traits are enhanced if you try to enjoy sailing at some of these seven amazing places.

Capri

Capri, Italy

1. Capri, Italy

One of the most amazing things happens in Capri. It is the annual Rolex Sailing Week. It takes place in May because of the amazing sailing weather. Enjoy the view of inshore racing around the volcanic sceneries and Aeolian Islands. If you have what it takes, join the races and make the most o this event.

French Riviera

Who doesn’t love the French Riviera?

2. French Riviera

The charm and the luxury of the French Riviera are reserved for those that enjoy the luxury. The Gulf of St. Tropez needs to be a part of your itinerary. Explore the lagoons and visit the Medieval Cogolin. You can also just stay at the port and admire the stunning, luxurious yachts docked there.

Croatia

Croatia

3. Croatia

You will pass thousands of islands once you enter the waters of Croatia. You can take your pick and visit the great, history packed city of Dubrovnik, or you can opt for some small, village taverns. Let the locals show you their fish specialties and do not forget to ask for a glass of a homemade Dalmatian wine.

Turkey

The Turkish Coast

4. Turkey

Definitely start at Olympos and head to Gokkaya Bay. The waters are amazing and everywhere you chose to make a stop, the Turkish cuisine will spoil you for any other. Two stops are necessary, though: the sunken city will be underneath you as you sail over the ruins of the city that was destroyed 2000 years ago. It is the part of the World Heritage. Also, dock and go to explore Simena Castle, once you reach it.

Whitsunday

Whitsunday Island, Australia

5. Whitsunday Island, Australia

This place is famous for its amazing white beaches and jaw-dropping color of water around it. It is a secluded place where people come to relax and spend a day in perfect nature. You can make this a perfect chance to let somebody do your boat detailing while you spend a day on this beach. That is why you need to make this a part of your trip. Forget about activities and adrenaline rushes and let the nature itself amaze you. It is a tropical paradise of peace.

TahitiS

French Polynesia

6. French Polynesia

Tahiti and Bora Bora are the destinations where the rich and famous go for their honeymoons and hedonistic trips to unwind and relax. The nature and the waters are awesome and full of wildlife. If you want to get in close touch with the nature, seek for a guide that will give you the shark feeding experience. That definitely adds to the thrill of sailing at this natural paradise.

Nile

Sailing the Magnificent Nile

7. Nile, Egypt

The Ancient river of Nile is the cradle of all life. Just by going down this river, you can meditate on that fact alone. However, to experience the ancient culture, make a stop in Sudan. Visit the wonderful ancient Meroe Royal City. You will see the tops of over two hundred pyramids. This was the ruling place of the Black Pharaohs.

The waters will take you to the most amazing places if you let them. Exploring the world from the sea is a perfect way to learn more about nature, history and world in general. Therefore, take that chance and make this list your checklist for the future.

Nicole

Nicole Noel

 

Nicole Noel is an avid traveller. She enjoys discovering different cultures, exploring new things, and sharing her ideas with others. You can find her on twitter and FB

Your Istanbul Travel Cheat Sheet

Istanbul at Dusk (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul at Dusk (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Turkey, the site of two wonders of the ancient world, is a present-day marvel – the cradle of many civilizations, the very center of world history and a modern republic which, at times, struggles between embracing the relics of her past and a forward-seeking future. A country of fascinating contrasts, antiquity is juxtaposed with the contemporary, the familiar with the exotic, and sun-swept beaches beckon less than an hour away from snow-capped mountains. Everywhere, however, visitors say they are often treated to the extraordinary warmth of the Turkish people. Istanbul is the most popular 1st stop for those visiting Turkey and it’s a clear winner among people of all nationalities and religions. If  you only have a few days or a long weekend, here’s a quick cheat sheet of the Top Things to Do and See in Istanbul, to soon be followed by the Wonders of The Turkish Coast.

The Bosphorus

The Bosphorus

What to See

In addition to the well known sites of the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, two years ago, Istanbul was rated Travel + Leisure‘s #1 European city to visit, so, to celebrate Staff of the Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) compiled a list of the 10 places every visitor to Istanbul must experience which we wanted to share.

  1. Sip the best Turkish coffee at Mandabatmaz
  2. Browse the sustainable, locally-made, high-end contemporary Turkish goods at Armaggan Emporium
  3. Indulge in centuries of Anatolian culinary tradition at NAR Gourmet and NAR Restaurant
  4. Absorb the work of Turkey’s greatest contemporary artists at Istanbul Modern
  5. Hop on a Bosphorus ferry to Kadikoy for people watching and Alinin Dondurmasi’s famous ice cream
  6. Experience the centuries-old tradition of raki and fresh fish at İsmet Baba in Kuzguncuk
  7. Relax in the pleasure of a traditional Turkish hamam bath at Cağaloğlu Hamamı
  8. Shop the collection of critically acclaimed Turkish designer Simay Bülbül
  9. Soak up the sounds of Turkey’s thriving jazz scene at Nardis Jazz Bar
  10. Enjoy cocktails and conversation in Münferit’s quiet garden before returning inside to dance until dawn with locals
Istanbul (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul

A few years ago, we stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul because we always know we’ll get top-notch service and food, but Istanbul has several fantastic properties that are unique and special (Note: Ciragan Palace). The Ritz is located at one of the most exciting cultural crossroads in the world in a city that bridges the continents of Asia and Europe along the banks of the Bosphorus Strait. From the outside, it may look like another skyscraper, but once inside, international recognition for its commitment to exceptional levels of service becomes clear. You’re not simply told where the Ladies room is located, you’re escorted there, after being offered some warm Turkish sahlep, a delectable sweet warm drink reminiscent of yogurt and cinnamon. The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul was voted “Best Overseas Business Hotel 2009” by readers of Condé Nast Traveller UK and it’s no surprise. It’s about as stress free as you can get. In addition to 244 rooms and 23 suites, there are 57 Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms (since I’m obsessed with the Club Level) and The Ritz also offers the award-wining Laveda Spa that includes ten treatment rooms including a not-to-be-missed Turkish Hammam where you will feel transported back in time, dreaming of the days of Suleyman the Magnificient.

Ritz Carlton Couples Hammam

Ritz Carlton Couples Hammam

At the Laveda Spa, the experienced therapists apply the miraculous methods of massage and skin care with Aromatherapy Associates offering all natural plant oils and the high-end line of Carita products. Apart from that a variety of holistic massages like the relaxing “Sultans Royal Six Hands Massage” applied in synchronization by three trained artisans, there are also exclusive body treatments like the “Hot Chocolate Seduction”, “Caviar Therapy”, “Milk & Honey Bath,” or an intoxicating wine therapy called “The Gift of Bacchus,” all infused with natural ingredients.

The Indoor Pool at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The Indoor Pool at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The indoor pool, the biggest of all indoor hotel pools in the city, is another alternative for more sporty activities or a few lazy laps. You’ll have the feeling of soaking under the Turkish sky when swimming in the mosaic pool as twinkling “stars” on the ceiling illuminate the pool area and highlight the impressive architecture of the Byzantine period of Istanbul.

But perhaps the most stunning section of the Spa is the authentic Turkish Hamam modeled on the 16th century Baths of Roxelana. The Hamam ritual entails a process of complete surrender to scrubbing, washing, and relaxation where you enter a private hamam room and lay a warm slab of marble. Once there, you’re exfoliated and cleansed like a goddess with copious amounts of warm and cool water, followed by a thorough body wash, and a bubble massage where the therapist creates clouds of bubbles with the use of a special towel that surrounds you like a daphine-scented cloud (an exotic flower from Western Asia).

This was, in many ways, the highlight of my luxurious vacation.

Ritz Carlton Cooking

Ritz Carlton Cooking

After our Turkish Hamam, we headed to the Ritz Calrton Istanbul’s Çintemani restaurant for dinner, an exciting autumn menu designed to celebrate local seasonal produce and showcase a unique approach to the culinary traditions of Turkey. Highlights on the autumn five-course degustation menu from then Chef de Cuisine, Ali Ronay (now at Raffles). His menu included Turkish puff pastry with pumpkin and pomegranate, lamb from the Thracian region and Turkish pancakes, while the à la carte menu was a whirlwind journey around the country’s regional flavors from Thracian beef fillet, prawns from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, tuna and octopus from Dardanelles, veal from Balikesir, and chicken from Bandirma on the Sea of Marmara. The fusion of local flavors and innovative cooking techniques made the dishes so unique and mouth-watering that I can honestly say I’ve never quite tasted food like this before. Prawns were infused with Turkish Raki brandy, Bosporus bonito fish was prepared in traditional tomato and onion ragout, while mullet from Dardanelles was dressed with virgin olive oil from Bodrum. Innovative techniques included lamb prepared à la sous vide (a method of cooking vacuum-packed food in a plastic pouch at a set temperature often in a water bath) and cheesecake created from Aegean curd and seasonal pumpkin.

Now are you hungry to check it out?

Rates from $269/night

www.ritzcarlton.com/istanbul

Other amazing places to stay in Istanbul:

  • Kempinski Ciragan (truly historic and palatial)
  • The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul (can’t go wrong with the always solid Four Seasons)
  • Pera Palace (a Jumeirah property so expect proper opulence)
  • Georges Hotel Galata (a unique boutique property with an intimate vibe)
  • Hotel Ibrahim Pasha (another boutique property in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul on a quaint quiet street)
  • The House Hotel Nisantasi (a smaller elegant modern hotel)

Bars and Restaurants to check out:

  • 11:11 (open Wed. – Sat. this hotspot is owned by the son of one of Turkey’s famous singers)
  • Public (where you want to people watch and party)
  • Poseiden (one of the top fish restaurants in Istanbul with classic mezzes & raki in an upmarket terrace atmosphere)
  • Casita (late night peruhi aka. vegetarian Turkish pasta with yoghurt & mint… yum!)