As the holidays near, many travelers begin planning their list of gifts. As we collect more and more things, however, finding the perfect item to give continues to become more difficult. Like many die-hard travelers believe, the best gifts are not found wrapped in paper and bows, but are experienced while out on the road and meeting new people in their element. This year, consider giving — and sharing — the joy of travel and memories with those you love most. These five escapes have made our wishlist and are sure to suit and thrill the personality of any traveler on your list:
Retreat to the Desert
The Amangiri Resort near Page, Arizona, is beautifully designed — and remote. The resort sits on 600 private acres of the Colorado Plateau. Ideal for morning hikes or climbs to learn about Navajo culture, guests will find no shortage of relaxation and recovery in the 25,000-square-foot spa after a day of activity. A peaceful location, travelers will soon discover this escape makes a perfect base to hike to Antelope Canyon's famed “Wave.” Though hikers must apply for and be selected through the lottery for a park permit, there are plenty of alternatives like painting near ancient petroglyphs or kayaking Lake Powell.
Escape to the Sea
The Amanruya Hotel near Bodrum, Turkey, serves as a luxury base for local experiences. Bike to the fishing village to go for a day of diving in the Aegean Sea. Guests can also watch and try the Turkish tradition of pottery-making which dates to the Ottoman Empire, among other opportunities. Relax at the pool among olive trees and rolling hills that fall to the sea, explore the remains of a medieval relic, Bodrum castle, or wander the ancient city of Ephesus. Regardless of how the days are spent, soaking up sunshine along the Turkish coast is a luxury — and exciting alternative to a Grecian isle.
Get Lost in Culture
The Western Balkans are enjoying a renaissance by many travelers seeking culture and adventure, and the Via Dinarica is one of the last remaining adventures to actively place travelers within the region's ancient, authentic culture. From challenging hikes and overnighting in traditional guesthouses to rafting along Europe's deepest river canyon and breaking bread with local villagers, this 1,200-kilometer trail quickly immerses those who are not hesitant toward new experiences. The long-distance hiking trail is a door for outdoor adventure enthusiasts into Balkan culture unlike any other trip to the region's cities.
Explore Black Lava Vineyards
Pico Island, of the Azores, is home to some of the world's most dramatic vineyards, located among the black lava fields of a mountain jutting from the sea. One of nine Portuguese islands located in the Atlantic ocean, wine cultivation dates to the 15th century on Pico. The second-largest of the nine islands, the challenging landscape for wine growing has been overcome in part because of long walls that parallel the rocky coast to protect the vines. Travelers and oenophiles alike will love the full-bodied wines while attending a tasting at the Pico Wine Cooperative — and a dramatic view to match.
Wander This Year's Berlin
An undeniably cool city with an aesthetic to die for and nightlife to match, Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, is the destination of the moment. From wandering cathedrals and centuries-old ruins to exploring the rich art and design scene or trying something new like a sulfur bath, the trendiest capital of the moment offers much to those adventurous enough to wan from the well-worn path of European travel. Design shops like O Moda Moda and event spaces such as the Writer's House will delight those drawn to counter culture. The many trendy bars and lounges will keep those seeking the hottest selection of design-forward ambiences wanting more.
About the writer: Molly Harris is a freelance journalist who divides her time between the United States and Croatia. She can often be found sipping and cycling her way around the world.