Discover our top luxury holiday destinations for 2013, ranging from the culturally rich Sudan to the glittering coastlines of Greece's Peloponnese...
For anyone interested in a bit of one-upmanship it's pretty much guaranteed that none of your friends will have been to Sudan. So what's the deal? Well, for starters some of the most interesting sites in antiquity, and more pyramids than its northerly neighbour Egypt. Unlike in Egypt, however, the main sites are free from hordes of tourists and you'd be unlucky to see another soul at some. Away from the ancient desert cities, the brightly coloured villages and vibrant culture of Nubia are a must, and divers should note that the Sudanese Red Sea coast offers diving every bit as good as that from Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada in Egypt. History buffs will also want to make time to explore Khartoum (where the Blue and White Niles meet) and the battlefield of Omdurman.
Of all the places our favourite travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor visited, it was this beautiful peninsula region of Greece that he chose to settle down in. With its soaring mountain ranges, vineyard-covered rolling hill country and perfectly symmetrical horseshoe bays with white sand beaches, it's easy to see why. Dotted around the peninsula are a surprising number of ancient architectural sites and historic cities, and now a collection of superb hotels that are spot on for families and couples alike. Best of all, there are direct flights into Kalamata from this summer.
OK, so you've been to Bali, but that leaves Indonesia's 16,999 other islands to explore. With so many islands still uninhabited, luxury liveaboards are the answer, and it goes without saying that for divers this is one of the best ways to explore the famously pristine reefs of the so-called Coral Triangle. We have been lucky enough to stay on some of the very best boats operating in Indonesia today (all in the name of research, you understand) and we can advise you on which would best suit your requirements - although it would be pretty hard to beat the experience of diving the waters of Raja Ampat from the luxurious Silolona liveaboard.
If it wasn't for a desire to mix things up a little, Japan would be on the Original Travel go-to list every single year. A perfect blend of high tech modernity and ancient culture makes it one of the the most rewarding places to visit in the world. Tokyo is home to some of our all time favourite city hotels (many of which are conveniently located in the top floors of skyscrapers, so the views are unreal), but whatever you do, stay in a ryokan - traditional inns that give a real insight into Japanese home life with tatami floors, futon beds, yakatas (dressing gowns) and delicious kaiseki dinners. Also not to be missed is the sublimely delicate tempura at the Yoshikawa restaurant in Kyoto, the sun setting behind the floating tori gate off Miyajima island and the sheer madness of the teenage fashion sense in the Harajaku district of Tokyo.
In terms of regions, we are super excited about the 'Stans' - the ex-Soviet Islamic republics that make up the rump of Central Asia. Uzbekistan is the jewel in the region's crown, home to the bewitching Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. It's is the best place to witness the exquisite craftsmanship of Persian Islamic architecture, particularly in the breathtaking Registan Square in Samarkand. This is a big old country, so expect some long journeys - we love a cross-country train ride as a great way to take in the dramatic landscapes. Tashkent's Soviet characteristics (think communist blocks and chandeliers in the metro stations) contrast gloriously with the ancient desert wilds of Samarkand. The ultimate Original destination.
For more information on the best luxury holiday destinations, contact Original Travel.