Heli-skiing in Japan
Considering Japan’s reputation for safety, it should come as no surprise that heli-skiing isn’t exactly a common activity. But one company has managed to cut through the country’s notorious red tape.
The Hokkaido Backcountry Club offers bespoke heli-skiing runs down the Shiribetsu-Dake volcano in Kimobetsu, a region of Hokkaido renowned for its pristine powder. The full-day trips include professional guides and safety instructions, as well as two-and-a-half hours of rotor time.
The company also curates complete tour packages, including off-piste trips through its partner, Black Diamond Tours.
Or opt for your own accommodation. The Luxe Nomad is a great resource, featuring a range of luxury villas available in Niseko.
For skiers, this is truly a one-of-a-kind experience in Japan’s ski capital.
Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland
Experts say the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights, will start to fade after 2016, appearing less frequently until the next solar moon in 2024.
So now is the perfect time to venture into the arctic tundra of Swedish Lapland to catch this awesome display of dancing spectral lights.
Icehotel is well-known at this point. Each winter, artists design rooms that are then carved out of ice 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Treehotel, meanwhile, is a warmer but no less distinct form of accommodation: the seven exclusively designed rooms are suspended in the canopy of the Boreal Forest.
This winter, Treehotel has unveiled its latest and most luxurious retreat, a two-bedroom suite with a hammock-like outdoor net ideal for nighttime viewings of the all-natural light show in stunning clarity.
Other activities include dogsledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
Ice Driving in Finland
No less arctic an experience than viewing the Northern Lights in Sweden, sign up for private driving lessons on snow and ice with Finnish rally legend Juha Kankkunen.
Drivers get to select their choice of car – Subaru rally taxi, sport driving in a VW or Audi, your own supercar or one from the track’s own stable – and race on two different tracks, learning the finer points of handling and racing on this unique terrain. Everyone gets one-on-one time with Kankkunen in his Subaru and by the fire after driving, too.
Plus, the itinerary is flexible, allowing for deeper exploration of northeastern Finland.
Plunge into the Yucatán Peninsula
On the polar opposite of extreme winter weather activities are the balmy bounties of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
The capital city, Mérida, is a cultural gem, affording access to the stunning beaches of the Riviera Maya, the famous freshwater pools called cenotes and myriad UNESCO World Heritage Sites, spanning pre-Hispanic autonomy to colonial eras.
The Yucatán is vast, and so are its travel options – from spa retreats to eco-adventures to underwater exploration, from hideaway hotels to boutique collections, the list of luxury experiences seemingly has no end, and many tour operators offer private and custom tours of the region.
Charting on luxury travel radars this winter is Oman, a remarkably diverse nation on the Arabian Peninsula.
The country boasts an incredible landscape, including sand dunes inhabited by Bedouins, deeply green mountain perches and lush riverbed oases, all dappled with a wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Among the many activities on offer – camel rides, frankincense spa rituals and guided tours of the heritage sites in Dhofar – exploring the country’s wadis, or dry riverbeds, by 4×4 stands out from the crowd.
What’s more, there’s no shortage of world-class accommodation to choose from, including a brand-new offering from Anantara in southern Oman. Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is the first luxury pool villa resort of its kind in this part of the country, which makes for an enthralling visual contrast between lush resort greens, turquoise water and barren dessert.
White Christmas in Budapest
Resurgent Budapest resolutely holds on to tradition each December.
The Hungarian capital’s Christmas markets are filled with activities that stoke the fires of nostalgia.
Between trips to the opera to watch The Nutcracker, dinners at one of the Michelin-starred restaurants, including the two-year-old Tanti, and dips in the city’s thermal baths, wander among the many craft stalls at the Vörösmarty Square Christmas market, filling up on marzipan, lighting the advent candles and altogether getting into the holiday spirit.
While there are other five-star hotels in the city on the Danube, such as the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus, round out your trip by staying at the stately Corinthia Hotel Budapest, which was built over 120 years ago and remains an icon of architectural style, grace and luxury.