Paris, Madrid, London, Rome – many of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations are struggling to manage unprecedented surges in its numbers of visitors. France, the most visited country in the world, hosted record-breaking 87 million tourists in 2017, with Spain coming in as a close second with roughly 82 million visitors, according to latest reports. What’s more, tourism numbers are expected to surpass previous records in coming years as global incomes rise. This summer, a wave of anti-tourism protests and demonstrations swept through Europe’s most prominent cities in an effort to crack down on the overtourism that occurs every season. Barcelona is blocking construction of new hotels in its historic center and putting a cap on the number of tourists allowed in high-traffic attractions. Amsterdam is raising tourist taxes and introducing fines for ‘unruly behavior’ by visitors. Venice, an overrun Italian city which regularly hosts up to 30 million visitors every year, installed tourist turnstile checkpoints at main entry points, resorting to segregation of visitors and locals in a bid to manage growing tensions. Too much tourism, it turns out, can be a bad thing for travelers and residents.
The solution? Travel elsewhere. World tourism is on the rise, and the global shift is encouraging travelers to explore areas beyond the beaten paths of Western Europe. The demand for luxury international resorts in lesser-known travel regions is strong, and many of these emerging tourism markets boast superlative accommodations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that deserve a place on any seasoned traveler’s radar. For discerning globetrotters looking to escape the throngs of tourists for stunning sights off the beaten path, emerging destinations from Shekvetili, Georgia and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt to Bodrum, Turkey and the Balkan country of Montenegro offer unspoiled beauty, luxury, and culture, without the crowded chaos. Discover a list of the top six luxury hotels across emerging markets worth considering for your next adventure.
The Aman Sveti Stefan is a unique luxury accommodation fused with rustic beauty and historic charm. Located off the coast of Montenegro along the Adriatic, southwest of the capital, Podgorica, the 80-acre retreat consists of two separate properties. The main fortified islet features 50 rooms and suites, as well as old-stone cottages that are only available during the summer. Across the bay, the Villa Miločer – originally built as a summer destination for the Serbian royal family in the 1930s – offers eight suites. What’s more, both areas ensure complete privacy as the areas are only open to hotel guests. The property has an enviable reputation as a little-known hideaway for the rich and famous, having hosted Hollywood icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe in the past, and today, it continues to reinterpret Montenegro’s cultural heritage to five-star standards. The resort was elegantly designed to preserve the village’s romantic, bucolic character. Sophisticated 15th-century stone buildings accented with exposed stone walls, oak furniture, steel lanterns, and crisp white doors imbue fairytale-like warmth to the resort’s understated style. The resort’s facilities, however, are anything but old-world. The resort offers two fitness centers, indoor and outdoor pools, three dining areas, and access to three different pink-pebble beaches, each manned with attentive staff members. The Aman Spa, which overlooks Queens Beach, provides personalized health and beauty treatments using custom-made, locally-sourced ingredients. Excursions to nearby attractions such as the ancient town of Budva or the Bay of Kotor are available, but for many, the lure of the property is enough reason to stay within the confines of the resort.
Paragraph Resort Spa Shekvetili:
Autograph Collection Hotels, a distinctive collection of independent and unique hotels under the Marriott International umbrella, is known worldwide for its impressive portfolio of rarefied properties and its ethos of inimitable vision, design and craft. The brand’s latest destination, Paragraph Resort Spa Shekvetili, is unlike any other. Sitting on the Black Sea shore of the Guria region of Georgia, among magnetic sand beaches and lush pine forests, the recently-opened five-star accommodation has an enviable location. Guests can just as easily enjoy the serenity of the area’s natural environment, or take a short drive into town to play at Amusement Park Firefly, or see a show at the Black Sea Arena, the largest open-air concert hall in Caucasus. The resort’s architectural design is by far the resort’s most outstanding feature, and the expanding public spaces within the property are intensely enveloping. The lobby puts marine life on center stage with a walkthrough aquarium brimming with exotic marine life. From here, guests can drift to the enchanting winter garden, complete with an indoor water fall, the indoor aqua park, or to the 375-ft filtered seawater pool built into a panoramic deck peering out to the Black Sea. Another exceptional feature of the resort is its faultless service. Georgian hospitality is legendary, and true to form, the resort’s staff members are discreet, attentive, and never intrusive. The resort offers 220 rooms and suites, all of which feature exquisitely furnished interiors, private balconies, and Roberto Cavalli toiletries in the bathrooms. There are plenty of vista points throughout the property, but the most magnificent views can be captured at Sky Bar, located on the top floor of the hotel, which offers breathtaking 360° views of the coast and surrounding mountains.
Set against a backdrop of fragrant pine trees, ancient olive groves, and turquoise lagoons, Sani Resort rests on Kassandra, the westernmost peninsula of the Halkidiki region in eastern Greece. Overlooking Mount Olympus, the resort is a quiet and often overlooked Aegean paradise that invites guests to luxuriate away from the country’s tourist-ridden islands. The property is spread across a 1,000-acre reserve, and its archipelago of five-star hotels were designed with their own distinct atmospheres and aesthetics to cater to a variety of guests and experiences. Each of the five hotels is complete with award-winning restaurants, heated pools, private beaches, and luxury spas. The rooms, villas, bungalows, and suites all offer commanding views of the Aegean and living spaces with light and airy interiors. The best time to visit is during July and August for the resort’s annual Sani Festival. The resort strives to place art and culture at the heart of the visitor experience, and this year marked the 26th edition of the resort’s music festival, which featured performances by prolific international musicians including German jazzist Till Brönner Septet, Grammy award-winning Angélique Kidjo, and American jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh
As with all Four Seasons destinations, the Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh sets the benchmark for luxury accommodations in the area. Set on the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian resort combines the best of its desert and sea landscapes. The property was designed to resemble an intimate Arabian village, with Moorish-inspired architecture, rooftop domes, arched doorways, and clusters of white buildings cascading down the hillside towards the beach. The spacious rooms and suites feature sea and garden views, many of which have their own private terraces and plunge pools, as well as large marble bathrooms stocked with L’Occitane toiletries. There are plenty of relaxing experiences to choose from, from a one-of-a-kind spa experience inspired by ancient Egyptian beauty treatments and Bedouin wellness rituals to secluded sunbathing coves surrounded by limestone cliffs along the beach, but it’s the resort’s diverse list of activities that ends up being the biggest draw. Guests can embark on excursions to famous historical and biblical landmarks in the Sinai Desert, climb Mount Sinai by moonlight, or explore the underwater world of the Red Sea. As the only resort with its own on-site dive center featuring more than 70 dive sites including historic WWII shipwrecks, the resort is an adventurer’s oasis.
Hotel Monte Mulini
Located on the coast of Croatia’s Istria region, a brisk 15-minute walk from Rovinj’s old town, Hotel Monte Mulini is regarded as one of the area’s most impressive hotels. Visitors to Hotel Monte Mulini in Rovinj quickly appreciate the unique beauty and local heritage it has to offer. The 113-room hotel’s refined design blends effortlessly into its striking natural environment. Warm, earthy tones and towering glass windows dominate the hotel’s airy interiors and common areas, like the foyer and central atrium, capture the intensity of the natural light. The hotel overlooks the calming azure of the Lone Bay, and while the beach is more pebbly than sandy, guests will still be able to lounge comfortably and stylishly with full beachside concierge. Wellness is a focal point here, and the hotel’s stylish Art Wellness Spa, which is set over two floors and features a slew of holistic treatments, invites guests to reharmonize with nature. Fine dining is also a standout at this hotel, and the Wine Vault is especially memorable. Situated on the lower level of the hotel, the exclusive restaurant serves modern French-inspired cuisine and boasts an impressive wine list with more than 600 local and imported varieties. For a more in-depth experience with the region’s food culture, guests can also reserve a seat at the chef’s table in the kitchen or book tours of the local San Tommaso Winery and famed Chiavalon Olive Orchard.
Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum
The Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum is an extraordinary spa resort perfect for those looking for a secluded getaway. Tucked away into a secluded cove in the most remote part of the peninsula, the hotel exudes a palpable sense of solitude. While the hotel is a reasonable 25-minute drive from the port city of Bodrum – often regarded as the St. Tropez of Turkey, also home to the mausoleum of Halicarnassus – the sleepy villages that surround the coastal area creates a sense of distance and privacy. The clean and unfussy aesthetic vibe of the accommodation is centered on natural beauty where every effort has gone into creating spaces that offer spectacular panoramic views of the Aegean Sea. Even the guestrooms, all of which are finished in a neutral palette of beige and olive and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as the massive infinity pool (one of the largest in Turkey) emphasize the unforgettable seascape of the Gokova Bay. Guests can drift effortlessly from the blue-flagged private beach to the chill-out lounge, where cocktails, snacks, and tropical hookah selections are served, and finish off with a visit to the Sanitas Spa to experience the rejuvenating powers of a traditional Turkish hammam.