Asia is full of wonders that would make for an ideal adult-only holiday, whether you wish to escape to a tropical paradise for a romantic getaway, embark upon a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, or enjoy a moment of quietude and self-reflection at a wellness retreat. Here are Chinmay's personal recommendations...
Asia holidays offer many opportunities to get away from it all, whether on your own or with someone special. These vacations allow for a totally carefree and immersive adventure, just for adults.
Indonesia is home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world and the awe-inspiring images of sunrise at Mount Bromo have become as iconic as Borobudur and the lush rice terraces of Ubud. If you are looking for a rugged, off-the-beaten-track Indonesia holiday beyond the well-trodden trails of Bali and Java, consider heading to the remote island of Sulawesi.
Sulawesi is home to towering volcanoes, extraordinary coral reefs, lush forests, and unique indigenous wildlife and cultural heritage. Bantimurung Nature Reserve has thousands of exotic butterflies, and you can spot the smallest primate in the world known as tarsier in Tangkoko National Park.
When on holiday in Indonesia I would recommend an incredible volcano trekking expedition. This involves scaling three active volcanoes in North Sulawesi over the course of six days, starting with a trek up Mount Lokon followed by visits to Mount Karangatan and Mount Soputan. It involves tackling steep and challenging terrain and is best suited for experienced trekkers with a high level of fitness and endurance.
You will have an opportunity to interact with expert local volcanologists to understand how the volcanic data is gathered and shared across the world, trek along rugged trails made of cooled lava, immerse yourself in the most pristine landscapes of lush jungles, vast lakes and refreshing natural hot springs, and catch the beautiful sunrise views with no other tourists in sight. One of my highlights is overnighting in a tented camp and observing the volcanic activity at night under the starry sky – a truly surreal experience. This expedition can easily be combined with other parts of Indonesia including popular sights of Java and Bali, snorkelling and scuba diving, as well as remote tribal communities of West Papua.
Ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summitted Mount Everest in 1953, this epic expedition has captured the imagination of mountaineers and adventurers world over and has become one of the most sought-after challenges known to mankind, often regarded as the ultimate test of human endurance.
Nepal is home to eight of the world’s tallest mountains and the trek to the Everest Base Camp allows you the rare opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the legends like Messner, Bonington and Edmund Hillary.
A Nepal trekking holiday in the Everest region is a very special experience. Not only is the scenery awe-inspiring, but the history and heroism associated with the region makes it even more extraordinary. Your adventure begins with a thrilling flight to Lukla from Kathmandu, the main gateway to the region and the starting point of the trek. Over the next eight days, you will trek through the famous towns of Namche Bazaar and Dingboche, remote hamlets and temples, stunning valleys with glacial rivers and lakes, and vantage points offering astounding views of the iconic peaks including Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Nuptse, Mount Pumori and Lhotse just to name a few.
I find visiting temples profoundly peaceful and spiritual, and one of the very special experiences that I would highly recommend during your trekking holiday in Nepal is to visit a small temple beyond the hamlet of Phunki Tanga where you can attend a prayer session led by the monks. Just before arriving at the Everest Base Camp, you will pass through Gorakshep, which is where the original Everest Base Camp was located. From here, as you make your way to the Base Camp, you pass through the famous Khumbu Glacier region taking in an ethereal landscape of 50-foot high seracs of ice.
Your amazing adventure culminates with a visit to Kalapatthar, located at 5,288 metres. From the top, you are able to admire the most breath-taking views of Mount Everest with its iconic conical summit, standing tall between Nuptse and Lho-La with Lhotse on the back. A truly humbling experience. Although there are plenty of other options for gentle trekking in Nepal that are suitable for families with children, the nature of Everest Base Camp trekking means I would recommend this as an adults only vacation.
A snow leopard trekking holiday to India is one of the most fantastic wildlife experiences imaginable! The Himalayan region of Ladakh, located on the borders of Tibet, is probably the best place in the world to see snow leopards in their natural habitat. Here in the high, desolate grandeur of arid mountains, tourism is being leveraged to protect this rare and highly endangered species.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the region offers great variety beyond the snow leopards including wolves, Ladakhi Urial – a giant sheep, Himalayan fox, blue sheep, ibex, marmots and much else. Culturally, Ladakh is the last frontier of traditional Tibetan Buddhism and you will have an opportunity to visit some of the ancient monasteries, quaint villages, and experience warm Ladakhi hospitality.
The highly specialist nature of this expedition makes it more suitable to serious wildlife and nature lovers who appreciate the challenges and limitations associated with extreme environments and wildlife safaris. The infrastructure in this remote region is extremely basic and the weather is extremely harsh during winter, so you will need to be prepared both mentally and physically, and is best undertaken by adults only.
Leh is the main gateway to Ladakh and is primarily accessed from New Delhi. I would recommend spending at least three nights in Leh simply to allow your body to acclimatise to the high altitude. Leh is such an interesting town with fabulous Tibetan bazaars, Thiksey Monastery and the Royal Palace, and a picturesque countryside beyond the central district. I’d also recommend including a visit to the Snow Leopard Conservancy as part of your holiday, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing efforts to protect snow leopards and their natural habitat, and how the sustainable tourism model has transformed the conservation efforts.
There are two particularly good locations for snow leopard trekking. One is the valley of Ulley Chhu, which is about 2-3 hours’ west of Leh and home to one of the finest wildlife lodges in Ladakh, Ulley Lodge. Originally established as a homestay by one of Ladakh’s foremost snow leopard trackers Tchewang Norbu and his wife Dolma, this was one of the very first initiatives to use tourism as a conservation tool for the preservation of snow leopards and their ecosystem. If you enjoy having an opportunity to mingle with likeminded travellers and going on shared excursions, Ulley Lodge is the ideal option.
The second location is close to the ancient monastery town of Alchi in the prosperous village of Mangyu where there is a smaller and more exclusive lodge that is only available on a private buy-out basis, making it an ideal option for those looking for complete privacy and flexibility. There are only five rooms in the lodge, which makes it ideal for families or a small group of friends.
Although snow leopard sightings are rare, if you spend nine or more nights in either of these locations, you would have a high chance of seeing a snow leopard during your stay. Daily excursions are arranged on foot as well as by jeep and the trackers and guides remain in constant contact with the local farmers and inhabitants for latest updates on wildlife movement. Typically, November to April is considered to be an ideal time for this expedition with November, December and April being some of the best months for snow leopard sightings.
These incredibly endearing creatures have become a global icon of successful wildlife conservation efforts. Whilst most travellers, especially families with children, flock to the famous panda research and breeding centre in Chengdu and Dujiangyan Panda Valley outside Chengdu, for those who are interested in the real adventure of searching for the pandas in the wild, the remote and lush jungles of China’s Western Sichuan province offer incredibly intrepid opportunities away from the crowds.
Located about 5 to 6 hours from Chengdu, Laohegou Land Trust Reserve is home to a vast variety of wildlife including golden snub-nosed monkeys, Asian golden cats, musk deer, a huge variety of birds, and the giant pandas. It combines several reserves and was established in 2012 to protect the giant pandas and their natural habitat. Closed to the general public, a special permission is required to visit the reserve and stay at the research station.
It’s a phenomenal place for intrepid travellers and nature-lovers who wish to learn about panda tracking and conservation on their holiday to China. Accompanied by the researchers from the base, you spend your time hiking in the lush, forested mountains. The terrain is challenging and the sightings of pandas are usually exceptionally rare, but it is a wonderful adults-only holiday to China that takes you totally off-the-beaten-track.
Another excellent reserve is Tangjiahe, which is home to about 72 protected species including giant pandas, red pandas, snub-nosed monkeys, clouded leopards, and takins, and is one of the seven reserves in Sichuan that makes up the largest remaining contiguous habitat for the giant panda.
If you are looking for a place where you can leave all the distractions behind and be one with nature and your inner self, South India is deeply rooted in ancient Indian medicinal systems and traditional therapeutic practices. There are a number of exceptional wellness retreats that focus on Ayurveda, yoga and holistic experiences that deal with physical as well as emotional and spiritual aspects of your well-being.
One of the best resorts to stay at during your wellness holiday to India is Kerala’s CGH Earth, who are renowned for their unique cultural experiences, wellbeing retreats and curative retreats across Southern India. One of my favourite hotels is SwaSwara located on the pristine Om Beach in Gokarna, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Art, nature, cuisine, and Ayurveda and yoga are combined here to offer rejuvenating experiences. This particular coast has remained wonderfully secluded and pristine, which adds to the serenity.
For more in-depth healing therapies, you should certainly consider:
These three wellness resorts in India offer the most refined, bespoke curative solutions, specifically designed to treat illnesses including chronic conditions. For an extended luxury holiday to India, they can easily be combined with other destinations across South India, where you can immerse yourself in various experiences from history, culture, and art and architecture to forest trekking, deep sea diving and Kerala backwater cruises.
We hope this provided you with some inspiration for your next holiday to Asia! Please do contact us to discuss your own tailor-made vacation. Or if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so in our Video Library.
Images by kind courtesy of CGH Wellness and Sulawesi Three Peaks Challenge