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Step out of your travel comfort zone at these luxe getaways

Pushing your comfort zone when you travel means different things to different people.

Tempting as it may be to flop onto a sun lounger all day, the real magic on holiday happens when you try something new. From adrenaline-pumping adventures to immersing in local culture, travel encourages everyone to expand their horizons in one way or another. Whether it’s dipping your toe in, or diving in headfirst.

According to a recent OnePoll survey by Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), we are all feeling a bit stuck in the comfort zone, and sixty-four per cent of those surveyed said travel was one of the top-ranking ways to help them get out of this rut.

Travel, they say, helps them feel energised, rejuvenated, and inspired – and we couldn’t agree more. To spark some magic on your next escape, here are eight ways you can transcend your travel comfort zone while staying in some of the most opulent places around the world.

Greece travel comfort zone
Hit the slopes of Greece's longest natural ski run at Grand Forest Metsovo

Go off-piste in Greece

Think Greece is all white Cycladic houses laced with bougainvillaea towering over emerald waters? Deep in the rugged and mountainous region of Epirus, you can hit the slopes of Greece’s longest natural ski run. Between December and March, join Olympic medallists Viola Bauer and Lefteris Fafalis at Pindus National Park, which has 18 runs. Spend days skiing off-piste and nights at the Grand Forest Metsovo, on the fringe of a black pine forest, where you can sip aperitifs in a cosy nook by the fireplace and dine on dishes made with local seasonal produce.

Hike the Himalayas

They say Bhutan is the happiest place on Earth, and we think staying at this off-grid hideaway will definitely put a smile on your face. Challenge yourself with a walk in the eastern Himalayas, where you can hike ancient trails through blue pine forests and blossoming woodland. Or meander past the black-necked crane roosting grounds in the Phobjikha Valley’s protected nature reserve. Then sleep at Gangtey Lodge – an all-suite outpost that takes farmhouse living to new levels of luxury. End your days with a traditional hot stone bath or holistic spa treatment. Bliss.

The Tokyo Station Hotel | Il Melograno | Gangtey Lodge

On the right track in Japan

One hundred and fifty years ago, Japan’s first train hit the tracks between Shimbashi Station and Yokohama Station. Now, to celebrate the milestone, The Tokyo Station Hotel is offering you a chance to dress up as a JR East station master and snap photos at iconic spots around Tokyo Station when the midnight clock strikes, as well as a commemorative Seiko pocket watch to bring home. Awarded Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Winner for seven consecutive years – and with six restaurants and four bars – you don’t have to be a train buff to want to stay here.

Step to the beat in Italy

Nothing quite immerses you in culture than music. Step things up by learning the ancient pizzica dance with a professional in Puglia. Twirl and tap to the frenetic traditional beat – you’ll never have so much footloose fun. When you’re done with the festivities that date back centuries, stay at the pretty 400-year-old Il Melograno, renowned throughout Italy as the first masseria to open its doors. When you get your second wind, hit the private beach club where chefs will organise a moonlight barbecue on the fine sandy beach with the crashing waves acting as your musical backdrop.

Cape Kudu Hotel on the island of Koh Yao Noi

A true taste of Thailand

To truly get a taste of Thailand, you’ll need to go a little off the beaten track. Modern-day castaways can immerse themselves in the relaxed rhythm of long-tail boats, tropical forests, and rice field farms while staying at Cape Kudu Hotel on the island of Koh Yao Noi just off Phuket – a coastal-chic resort offering an array of authentic activities, including cooking with Ta Ton Do Seafood. From learning how to paint simple Batik with artisan villagers and building nest boxes for local hornbills. To picking your own coconuts from a palm garden, or going for a spin in the hotel’s vintage Porsche. Cape Kudu guests are made to feel at home with this charming island community.

Cultural connection in Bali

Tucked away amid the verdant forests of Southern Bali, Desa Hay is the perfect eco-sanctuary for the conscious traveller. The resort’s six Jabu villas offer the very best of sustainable luxury, each separated by lush plantation. The newest member of SLH’s Considerate Collection ensures the protection of the local environment and its communities. 40 per cent of the resort designed as green space. Guest experiences are centred around the Balinese culture. From local cooking classes, sunrise hikes on Mount Batur, walks in the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, and spiritual experiences at Besakih Temple.

Desa Hay Bali | The Carlin Hotel New Zealand

A hillside haven in New Zealand

Nestled on a hillside and overlooking shimmering Lake Wakatipu and its surrounding mountain ranges, the recently-opened The Carlin Hotel operates at new levels of opulence. Its interiors are just as impeccable as its views. Take your pick from The Carlin’s 12 exquisite suites, which all come with private rooftop spas and outdoor living areas. Each stay includes a Bentley to pick you up from the airport, a separate private entrance, a complimentary mini bar and a treat trolley. Plus, striking panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Queenstown Bay area.

Or go all out. And stay at the NZ$25,000 a night seven-bedroom penthouse, which comes with a butler, chef and massage therapist.

A Maldivian escape when laid-back luxury calls

This island isn’t known as ‘Dream Island’ for nothing – a quintessential hideaway offering a laidback escape with complete privacy, Huvafen Fushi blurs the boundaries between sea and sky, land and lagoon. Here, private chefs serve you exclusively on a sandbank beneath the stars. Or spend an overnight on the resort’s traditional 65-foot dhoni. Submerge into serenity at the world’s first and only under-the-sea spa with panoramic reef views. Also home to the Maldives’ first underground wine cellar eight metres below sea level, an evening at Vinum takes wine tasting to a whole new level.

Huvafen Fushi blurs the boundaries between sea and sky

If you prefer to start a self-development journey, SLH has partnered with emotional health advisor and best-selling author of Manifest, Roxie Nafousi, to create a 15-minute complimentary meditation audio and a complimentary SLH Manifest Masterclass Series for all guests staying at Huvafen Fushi Maldives on 2-3 November.

Learn more about how to transcend your travel comfort zone and ideas of more once-in-a-lifetime activities, visit:

GET SET, GO ON A JOURNEY WITH DUMPLING & LI

To help ease people into taking the first step out of their comfort zone, SLH will be collaborating with artist Beatrice Oh.  Her storybook characters “Dumpling the Tiger and Li” will take viewers on unique travel adventures around the world. Discover hidden gems and interact with local communities in exotic destinations as you search for Dumpling’s home.

Viewers will be invited to join in their adventures through a series of social media-led activities. As well as SLH’s very first set of free-to-use GIPHY and WhatsApp stickers (launching in September) to spark your next travel inspiration.

This article originally appeared in volume 42 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.