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DISCOVER 5 Beautiful Winter Destinations - Nicolas Stecher

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When it comes to winter and early spring vacations there are mainly two options to dive into. Most lean towards the swaying palm trees and azure water of the tropics— especially if you live anywhere where the run from your bed to the shower is the most painful 35 seconds of the day. For others, winter is the time to cannonball happily into the snowy wonderland aspect of the season — whether that be hitting the slopes in the search of powder and thrills, or exploring in the off-season a coveted urban area that still remains unknown. No matter what you choose, there are a near limitless variety of places to pack your bags (with cigar-stuffed humidor, naturally) and explore. Here are five of our favorites. 

French Polynesia: Variety Cruises

There are few, if any, destinations that will sink the feeling of Paradise into your soul deeper than French Polynesia. While the remoteness is one of its most appealing aspects, a flight from LA to Tahiti is only a little over two hours longer than Hawaii, a barely registered time difference when compared to the level-up in exotic wonder at your fingertips. While you could explore a single high-wattage French Polynesian island by hotel, say Bora Bora or Mo’orea, jumping aboard a Variety Cruise is a far superior option. The family-owned 75-year old Greek line leans way into their Deeper Into the Destination mantra, meaning beyond all the marquee attractions, you’ll also visit smaller, significantly more untouched and uncommercialized islands like Raiatea, Taha’a and Huahine. And since the 164-ft. twin-mast Panorama II sailing yacht is your chosen vessel (fret not, it’s also diesel-powered when needed), every morning you’ll wake up in an entirely new island, with fresh eyes to experience the most arresting waters on the planet. 


Zermatt, Switzerland: The Omnia

While many look to warm their bones during a select winter getaway, there are plenty who prefer jumping into the cold, and maximizing the allures of a snowy vacation. For the ultimate luxury snowboarding/skiing getaway, there simply is no better destination than Switzerland — and no place in the Alps quite like Zermatt. Renowned for its dramatic shark-tooth Matterhorn peak that Heidi famously frolicked under, Zermatt is to skiing what the North Shore is to surfing. And the most opulent resort to knock down cocktails and recover fatigued muscles in is the Omnia, a modernized 30-room update of the classic Swiss lodge whose jaw-dropping location is the stuff of Instagram dreams: built high over the village on a stunning rock promontory, to reach you have to pass through a Bond villain-like tunnel and ride an elevator through the stone to the lobby over 5,400-feet above sea level. There are 12 suites, a roaring fireplace in Chef Tony Rudolph’s Alpine ingredient-rich restaurant, an indoor/outdoor pool, Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, and perhaps best of all two sun decks seemingly right underneath the looming Matterhorn to enjoy your après-ski martinis.


Madrid, Spain: Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

One of our favorite times to visit Europe is in the winter and spring, when even the most coveted destinations remain refreshingly free of the oppressive summertime crowds. While there are countless urban cultural gems to explore, we save a special nook in our hearts for Madrid—not only Spain’s capital, but its spiritual center. The food scene is soaring (think Chef Dabiz Muñoz’s DiverXO, #3 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), its museums are peerless (see Picasso’s "Guernica" at the Reina Sofia, or Goya’s “Third of May 1808” at The Prado), and its cocktail bars are second only to Barcelona in the entire Iberian Peninsula (Salmon Guru, Pictura, Bad Company 1920, etc.). To explore the city there simply is no better option than the magnificent Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, a stunning former royal palace-turned-five-star hotel munificent with every luxury one could ask for. The grand dame hotel’s Belle Époque architecture (built in 1910) offers new delights at every corner; you could while away an entire afternoon enjoying pastries and reading/working in their stunning atrium lobby; dine in the two-Michelin star awarded Deessa restaurant. Plus the Ritz’s central location in the Golden Triangle of Art only steps away from the Prado means almost anywhere in the city is walkable, or at least a quick cab ride away.


Maldives: Velaa Private Island’s Romantic Residence

If you have the Maldives etched on your bucket list in ink, one of the more intimate, and certainly romantic, options to enjoy is the Velaa Private Island. And if you want to experience the crown jewel of the resort, book a stay at the Romantic Pool Residence—an over-the-water “bungalow” that exceeds every definition of the word. Consider it more of a world-class penthouse suite lifted just feet from the electric blue lagoon, and a short swim from the sugar sand beaches and swaying palm trees of Velaa Island. The beautifully appointed aqua-manse features impeccable interior design, its own gym, super king-size bed, Jacuzzis, optional private chef and butler who can prepare sunset meals on the extended deck, and even its own giant infinity pool—over the natural water that’s perhaps even more impossibly blue. And since the Romantic Pool Residence is only accessible via boat, it offers truly unparalleled levels of both luxury and privacy. Ideal for anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, honeymoons, or really any time you want to celebrate that magical person in your life.


Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: Villa Punto de Vista

The allures of Costa Rica have been sung far and wide for decades now — you either haven’t been and are dying to visit the land of pura vida, or you have and are already looking to return. Consider the Villa Punto de Vista, the maximal solution for either. Meaning with two villas — one with 8 bedrooms, the other with 10 — the Villa Punto de Vista is here to accommodate big, festive groups looking to explore Central America’s pearl with their best dozen or more amigos. If you really want to go nuts, both units can be combined into one gargantuan 18-bedroom dual-villa tower of exploration, luxury and perhaps even a little hedonism. Located on 2.5 acres of rainforest reserve the twin villas overlook the Manuel Antonio National Park — a stunning stretch of white sand beaches and jungle home to 109 species of monkeys, sloths and other mammals, and over 180 species of widely plumed tropical birds. The fully-staffed (e.g. private chef, concierge, bartender, housekeeping, maintenance, security, etc.) villas feature 180° ocean views, double infinity pools, alfresco lounges, and built-in sound systems and elevators servicing every floor. Unsurprisingly the stunning architectural property has been featured on the Discovery and Travel Channels, Architectural Digest, New York Times and more, and was recently awarded ‘Best Luxury Villa’ by the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence.


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