Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or simply determined to check things off your bucket list, there are a handful of experiences that you’ll want to add to your calendar. From hitting the slopes at the largest—and what may be the most prestigious—linked ski area in the world to celebrating your wedding on the last sequential date of the century, our Forbes Travel Guide editors have scouted out 10 unforgettable vacations. Not only do you gain serious bragging rights from these trips, but you’ll also have photos and memories that will last a lifetime. Read on to find out which destinations to add to your bucket list.
Skiing in the French Alps
As this year’s ski season comes to a close, it’s time to start thinking about next year—and how to top the epic snowfall we’ve seen over the past few months. The best way to do that is booking a trip to hit the slopes at the largest linked ski area in the world: Les Trois Vallées. Comprised of eight outstanding mountain resorts, Les Trois Vallées boasts more than 98,000 acres of skiable terrain—some of the best terrain in the world, we might add—that caters to everyone from beginners to Olympians. Imagine skiing your way through fresh powder with endless snow-covered peaks surrounding you, then capping off a great day on the mountain with an even more dynamic après-ski scene. That’s what skiing in the Alps is all about. We suggest booking a room at the swanky ski-in/ski-out Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy hotel, Cheval Blanc Courchevel. Not only is this chic property home to one of the best post-piste spots, The White Bar, with flowing vintage champagne, but it also flaunts a top-notch French restaurant, Le 1947, named after Château Cheval Blanc’s most sought-after vintage.
A Trip Around the World
It’s hard to imagine a more luxurious vacation than one that combines private aviation and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The Four Seasons Private Jet Experience varies, but there are several things you can count on: staying at a Four Seasons in each destination, activities tailored to your personal preference and the top-tier service for which the brand is known. The standard journeys are 24 days of jet-setting around the globe, spending a few days in each of the nine cities. In February 2015, you can kick off your trip in Los Angeles with a stay at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills before heading to Hawaii to indulge in the glory that is Five-Star Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. From there, you’ll make stops in exotic locales such as Bora Bora, Sydney, Bali, Chiang Mai, Mumbai, Istanbul and London. And don’t expect a four-passenger Gulfstream; you’ll be traveling on a customized private Boeing 757 that seats just 52 passengers (read: more room to stretch out on those long flights).
Journey to Space
For $250,000, you can be a passenger on one of the first commercial flights to space, thanks to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. It’s been a decade in the making; but with the success of January’s test flight, it looks like 2014 may actually be the year that the aviation game changes forever. Nearly 600 people have already put down that hefty (but worth it) deposit to reserve a seat on SpaceShipTwo—so if you want to be on one of the first flights, now is the time to book your journey to space. After three days of pre-flight training, you’ll be ready for the trip of a lifetime. The spaceship seats six passengers plus two pilots, leaving you plenty of room to do somersaults and relish in the ethereal feeling of zero gravity. Don’t worry about who has the better view; each spot offers two windows—one side window and one overhead—so you’ll be able to see all that’s going on in outer space. But this exclusive experience isn’t the only thing you get when you make that deposit; you’ll be welcomed into an elite group that has access to all aspects of the project as it progresses, which may even include personal invitations to Branson’s posh resorts around the world, such as Necker Island and Kasbah Tamadot.
Cycling Through Italy
Active vacations are all the rage these days; you can eat and drink to your heart’s desire because you’ve earned it after working out all day—and what better place to do that than Italy? Butterfield & Robinson’s Italian Wine Grand Journey incorporates the best of both worlds: numerous wine regions and stellar cuisine, which you’ll burn off biking through the picturesque Italian countryside. The trip begins in Piedmont with an introduction to Barolo, “the wine of kings,” before cycling through the Langhe hills and stopping to taste Roberto Conterno’s Monfortino vintage in the village of Monforte d’Alba. Day three is when the gourmands will start to squeal, thanks to Beppe and his truffle-hunting dog, Diana, who sniffs out the delectable delicacy. As you make your way south, you’ll encounter plenty of winemakers along the way, sampling varieties such as Brunello and Chianti. Each ride brings postcard-worthy scenery (think rolling hills in Montalcino and cypress-lined roads in Castiglione della Pescaia), encouraging you to hop back on that bike to see more. Not only are you experiencing fantastic pours, but you’re also staying in luxurious hotels along the way and eating the best regional food.
An African Safari
This is one that’s on plenty of people’s bucket lists, and if you’re going to spring for the trip of a lifetime, you want to do it right. We suggest booking a glamorous safari (that’s not an oxymoron in this case) with luxury outfitter Micato Safaris, whose World’s Best Safari is the crème-de-la-crème when it comes to African exploration; you’re staying in the best hotels and eating the best food throughout your trip. This 13-day journey begins in Cape Town, where you’ll post up for three days at the opulent One&Only Cape Town on the beautiful Victoria & Alfred Waterfront—this gives you plenty of time to indulge in Nobu Matsuhisa’s fresher-than-fresh sushi and make a dent in the 5,000-bottle cellar at the Wine Loft. The real fun begins when you arrive at Singita Kruger National Park; there’s a very good chance you’ll spot the Big 5 (including four lion prides) on the 33,000-acre concession. The next stop is the adjacent Singita Sabi Sand, a 45,000-acre privately owned game reserve. Be on the lookout for big game and leopards. The epic vacation finishes off with a stay at Royal Livingstone Hotel, which is within walking distance of Zambia’s gorgeous Victoria Falls.
An Antarctic Expedition
Not many people have the privilege of saying they’ve stepped foot on Antarctica, but you can check that off your list with Silversea Expeditions’ voyage to the frigid continent. You’ll spend 10 days aboard the Silver Explorer, making your way from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Antarctic Peninsula. The cruise ship is as luxurious as you’d want it to be when traveling in such a remote area. All of the staterooms and suites boast ocean views, butler service and complimentary 24-hour room service. When you aren’t feasting on the gourmet food (the menus are inspired by Relais & Châteaux, Silversea’s culinary partner), you can hop on one of the Zodiac boats and begin discovering all the frozen tundra has to offer, keeping your eyes peeled for penguins, seals and whales. Five days are spent exploring the Antarctic Peninsula, with various Zodiac expeditions included. What really sets Silversea Expeditions apart is the team that’s onboard; historians, marine biologists and naturalists lead lectures and presentations, so you actually know what you’re seeing.
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Style
Adrenaline junkies and avid climbers know that Mount Kilimanjaro is quite the beast to tackle. As the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, you’ll reach the summit at 19,325 feet with the help of Abercrombie & Kent’s expert guides. The outfitter actually has a successful summit rate of 97 percent, so you know you’re in good hands. The seven-day, six-night journey allows for you to better acclimate yourself to the altitude, while still hiking anywhere from four to 13 hours a day. Along with getting to use Abercrombie & Kent’s top-of-the-line climbing equipment, you’ll also bypass those mountain huts that most climbers sleep in along the way in favor of private, igloo-shaped tents. And don’t worry about having to haul all of your equipment and luggage up the already steep ascent; porters transport that for you, so all you have is your daypack (and willpower) on your hikes. The trip is limited to just 12 climbers at a time, making for an even more memorable experience.
An Exclusive Fiji Retreat
Picture yourself lounging in a double hammock between two coconut palms with a South Pacific breeze blowing and a glass of Taittinger champagne in hand. This is exactly what you could be doing the moment you’ve checked into one of the 10 opulent villas at The Wakaya Club & Spa in Fiji. Arriving via the resort’s very own Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, the exclusivity is apparent from the start. Each of the villas (or bures) is located steps away from the Pacific, offering easy access to the numerous private white-sand beaches you’ll find on Wakaya Island. Thanks to the all-inclusive rate (with the exception of spa treatments, of course), you can make the most of your time in Fiji. Your stay includes twice-a-day scuba diving per person, unlimited use of the fully-stocked mini-bar in your spacious villa, all meals and beverages (yes, alcohol included), personal laundry service, and guaranteed early morning check-in and late afternoon checkout (read: no waiting around to get your vacation started). And when you are surrounded by water that’s every shade of blue you can imagine, plus a fish-filled barrier reef perfect for snorkeling, you’ll be hard-pressed to top the experience that The Wakaya Club offers.
An All-Women Adventure
As a female, there’s not much more empowering than a group of women embarking on an unforgettable adventure. With Private Journeys, you can set out on an active vacation with a handful of other women in far-off locales such as Laos. The luxury outfitter has offered these unique women’s journeys for more than 15 years, and they’re great for girlfriends of all ages. Throughout the trip, you get to explore exciting cultures and locations, all while connecting with yourself. Leslie Burns, managing director of Private Journeys, says it’s “a journey in which one finds themselves when they reach their destination.” In 2015, you can venture to Sweden in February for a trip that involves everything from dog sledding and ice hotels to shopping in Stockholm and cozying up in a luxe tree-house hotel; or in October, jet set to Laos to experience a cruise on the Mekong, elephant riding and Buddhist temples.
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Destination Wedding
If you’re planning your nuptials, look no further than Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys. This private island resort is offering the 12, 13, 14…Eternity package, which means that you and your loved one can have the wedding of a lifetime on the last sequential date of the century: Dec. 13, 2014. For $195,000, the lucky couple will gain exclusive use of the island Dec. 12 to 14, welcome cocktails for all the guests (who will be staying in the 30 one-bedroom suites for three nights), three daily gourmet meals for up to 60 people, a welcome bottle of Laurent-Perrier champagne in each suite, unlimited access to watersports and motor yacht transfers to and from the welcome station at Little Torch Key. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the offer also includes a professional wedding planner to help with all the details as well as a $5,000 resort credit to use toward your return stay on your 1-year anniversary. And if you have friends that would rather take their own yacht or seaplane to the island, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa grants access to all resort dockage as part of the package.
Photos Courtesy of Patrice Mestari, Virgin Galactic and Micato Safaris