A weekend in Paris? Touring Egypt's temples and pyramids? How about two weeks in Australia? All exciting getaways, but if you're one of today's well-heeled vacationers, you've been there, done that.
Instead, “The well-to-do traveler wants to do something that the average person doesn’t do,” says Michael Tchong, founder of Ubercool, a media and entertainment firm specializing in trend watching. This means off-the-beaten path adventures for which money is not object.
But thanks to an increase in air travel, it’s getting harder and harder to find such unexplored places.
“Destinations that used to be thought of as far-flung or undiscovered like India or China," says Pamela Lassers, the director of media relations for Abercrombie and Kent, a luxury tour operator, "are now more accessible to all types of people because of affordable non-stop flights."
To match travelers' increasing appetites for the unknown, high-end tour companies are creating trips to remote places.
In May, Abercrombie and Kent will launch a 16-day trip to Papua New Guinea. Here, travelers will have the chance to mingle with a few of the 1,000 different ethnic groups on the island while surrounded by jungles, mountains and rivers. The nearly $8,000 trip (airfare is extra) includes a stay at the Ambua Lodge. At 7,000 feet and bordering a rainforest, the hotel boasts 40 rooms, each with 180-degree views of the surrounding landscape. Book a spot and you'll visit villages along the Sepik River, take nature walks and explore the mountains and waterfalls.
That’s on the heels of the the 14-day trip to Bhutan and Darjeeling the tour operator created last year. Guests willing to shell out $7,380 each (airfare is extra, though some meals and activities are included) will visit Bhutan's temples and monasteries and explore Darjeeling's tea estates. The trip includes a stay at the Mayfair Darjeeling, one several luxury hotels tapped to house travelers.
Even beach lovers no longer satisfied with jaunts to the Caribbean or Mexico are finding places out of reach of the average traveler.
Liz Zea, marketing manager for the Larchmont, N.Y.-based Island Destinations, a luxury tour operator that books high-end beach vacation packages, says that clients "will call and say they want to go somewhere that no has ever heard of."
Agents getting that request send their customers to the Maldives, a cluster of more than a 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean.
Zea says that ever since the company started offering trips there in November, it quickly became one of their most frequently booked packages, drawing clients attracted by unspoiled beaches and extravagant hotels like the the Dhoni Mighili. The property has only six bungalows, and each comes with its own sailboat. Bathrooms boast Philippe Starck fixtures, and each room has a 20" LCD TV and Bose DVD surround theater.
Sound tempting? Beware the price: This 10-day trip will run you between $10, 000 and $12,000. And that's without airfare.
If these destinations are too far-flung, Europe still has untapped retreats.
“Budapest is a city that has been in the shadow and doesn’t get the major play that Prague does,” says Andy Pesky, senior vice president of ProTravel, a New York City-based travel company. With prices still reasonable compared to, say, France or Spain, Budapest, which offer history buffs plentiful sightseeing, is attracting a handful of luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons at Gresham Palace.
This June, Butterfield & Robinson, the Toronto-based operator that offers cushy active getaways, will unveil a $5,200, six-night walking trip to Slovenia, part of the former Yugoslav republics. The trip includes a stay at the 11-room Kendov Dvorec, a hotel in the Indrija Valley that's decorated with 19th-century furniture.
Of course, the more remote, the more cash you'll have to cough up.
Still, to the traveler whose been to the ends of the earth, what's a few greenbacks for the chance to discover unchartered territory?