Our planet is covered in such an immense multitude of biodiversity. Lush rainforests dense in exotic flora, expansive arid deserts punctuated by what appears as only the occasional prickly cactus, soaring mountains deep in pines or cratered terrain that appears from Mars, add these amazing protected parks to your holiday bucket list.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park, the Volcanoes National Park (also known by its French name Parc National des Volcans) occupies 160 sq kms of jungle in northwestern Rwanda and garnered international attention stemming from the work of zoologist Dian Fossey on the area’s mountain gorilla. In addition to being a protected habitat for gorilla, it’s also home to a number of other wildlife such as the golden monkey, the spotted hyena, the black-fronted duiker, the bushbuck, elephants and 178 bird species. Due to its varying altitudes, it contains a vast array of flora spread across five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains.

Dian Fossey came to the Park in 1967 and consequently set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke. She dedicated most of her time researching in the park and to saving the mountain gorilla from extinction. She was tragically murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985, most likely by poachers. She is buried next to the research center beside the grave of her favorite gorilla, Digit.

Dian Fossey and her important work have been commemorated in the recently inaugurated Map Room at the Virunga Lodge. The excellent eco-luxury lodge in the collection of Volcanoes Safaris, who also led life-changing gorilla safaris at the park and elsewhere in Rwanda and Uganda.

The Lau Seascape, Fiji

Fiji is a nation of color, culture and remarkable biodiversity and the Fijian Archipelago encompasses one of the most extensive coral reef systems in the world. Our local expert Jacqui Reyes from Vatuvara Private Islands gives us this further insight into this important protected natural site:

“In 2015, the Fijian government established a target to place 30% of Fijian waters under protected status by 2020. Fiji is leading the way in marine conservation in the Pacific. The Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) has declared 2017 the Pacific Year of the Ocean. The Government of Fiji is co-hosting the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017, to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“One Marine Sanctuary targeted to make up Fiji’s 30% protected status is the blue-green jewel of forest and reef called the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. It stretches across the channel that links Fiji’s two main islands, and comprises over 27,000 square kilometers of forests, mangroves, seagrass meadows, reefs, deep channels, and seamounts. It is one of the few remaining sanctuaries for the globally endangered humphead wrasse, there is abundant sea life and it’s one of the Pacific’s last great wild places.

“The Lau Seascape is also home to some of the most well-preserved reef systems in the world. The lagoons of Vatuvara Private Islands and their surrounding ocean provide varying ecosystems and safe havens for marine life. The Northern Lau group of islands is filled with a diversity of wildlife, these remote islands are breathtaking, filled with lush forests and fringed by spectacular beaches and azure waters. Inspired by the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, Vatuvara Private Islands is committed to preserving the ridge to reef environments through establishing the new Vatuvara Foundation in Fiji. The Vatuvara Foundation is dedicated to protect and revive oceans in Northern Lau through a network of marine managed areas and provide innovative solutions to promote awareness that empowers local communities in order to sustain livelihoods from their natural resources.” – Jacqui Reyes, Vatuvara Private Islands

Where to stay in The Lau Seascape.


Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park

Hawaii evokes lush tropical forests and some of the chain of island’s most impressive forests and views can be savored in gorgeous Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. Located in the north of Kauai Island. Established in in 1983 it currently extends to over 3,578 acres (14.5 km2) and is lined with na pali (high cliffs) along the shoreline which can reach heights up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m). The best way to experience the park’s magnificent scenery is by hiking the Kalalau trail. Along this 18km coastal trail from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach you’ll be able to admire unspoilt stretch of cliffs and narrow valleys rising from the Pacific Ocean. On the way you can also observe stone walled terraces at the bottom of the valleys where Hawaiians once lived and cultivated taro.The trail takes between six and eight hours depending on your pace and requires good physical condition as it can often be muddy and slippery after rainfall. A permit is not needed to hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls, but anything after that requires a permit.

Where to Stay on Kauai Island.

Morne Seychellois National Park, The Seychelles

The Seychelles has become a frontrunner in sustainable tourism with almost half of its total landmass set aside in the form of protected areas ensuring that its incredible variety of indigenous flora (more than 250 native plant species) and fauna will survive for future generations. While there are official natural parks, there is much to explore beyond the borders of the parks, especially by foot.

“There are amazing nature trails on Mahe,” explains our local expert Karl Ammann, director of the Residence on the Rocks. “All easily reachable since the whole Island is only 30 kms long. The path up to the Residence is a nature trail in itself about one km from the villa property and all through indigenous forest and rock formations with a lot of bird life.”

The island’s best know official part, the Morne Seychellois National Park, is found on the northern side of Mahé. It covers about 20 percent of the total surface of the island and consists of mangroves, dense tropical forests and steep mountains. The more adventurous can scale its highest mountain, the namesake of the Park. Rising 900 metres (2,950 feet), it’s also the tallest mountain in the entire archipelago. A highlight is the Copolia trail, a relatively easy jungle pathway which begins at Chemin Foret Noire and features some amazing views across Victoria and Sainte Anne. Other notable trails are from Danzil to Anse Major, the Tea Factory to Morne Blanc, and the paths around the Trois Frères cliffs above Victoria. You can find more information on these trails here.

Where to stay in The Seychelles.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

With its moonlike crater lakes and volcanic landscape New Zealand’s oldest national park is one of the most unique natural locations on earth. Only one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s one of the few in the world to have dual status, as a cultural and natural site due to the park’s importance to Maori cultural and spirituality. The breathtaking Tongariro National Park is situated near Lake Taupo in the center of New Zealand’s North Island. The best way to experience the park is to hike its Alpine Crossing along which you’ll be able to take in its different terrains and admire the unbelievable colors of the Emerald Lakes, straight out of a fantasy or sci-fi movie. The more active can push on a little further up Mount Ngauruhoe where you’ll be rewarded with even more spectacular views.

Where to stay near Tongariro National Park.

Gallatin National Forest, Montana, U.S.A.

Some of America’s most pristine nature and its most amazing views can be witnessed in Montana, known as the “Big Sky State” and home to the sublime of Gallatin National Forest. More visitors might make their way to nearby Yellowstone National Park, situated across the state line in Wyoming, however, you’ll find more peace and quiet to commune with nature at Gallatin, minus the flocks of crowds attracted to its more famous neighbor. The park offers world-class hiking where the only beings you might encounter are chirping birds, dashing foxes and slow-paced moose. The park also draws fly-fishermen who are equally spellbound in the meditative act of casting their line in the park’s pristine waters. The sound of the trickling streams, the whisper of the breeze through its ancient forests and the jaw-dropping panoramas of the mountains will be strongly etched in your mind, making your journey through Montana’s wilderness an unforgettable one.

Where to stay near Gallatin National Forest.

Hohe Tauern National Park - Austria

Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

Creating a jagged border line between France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, the Alps showcase some of Europe’s most awe-inspiring landscape. You can experience some of its most pristine and gorgeous natural settings in Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park. The largest natural park in all of the Alps, it spreads 1,856 km² over three Austrian provinces. Hikers delight in its 350 kilometers of marked paths and alpine trails which zigzag through the beautiful Rauris Valley into Taxenbach and the SalzburgerLand region. The Rauris Valley, dubbed the “Secret Jewel Hohe Tauern National Park,” is truly a must. Here you can venture deep into majestic green forests, past rushing rivers and waterfalls, observe powerful birds of prey in their nature environment and discover sites linked to the gold-mine era. Since most of the paths are manageable for inexperienced or casual hikers, it makes for the perfect place to take walkers of mixed levels or families; avid mountaineers and mountain-climbers can also satisfy their need for adrenaline on its higher peaks.

Where to stay near Hohe Tauern National Park.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Along with its neighbor the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, this is one of Africa’s most famous and one of the most beautiful, mesmerizing places on earth. Founded in 1961, the 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi) Maasai Mara National Reserve was named in honor of the Maasai people who have inhabitants the region for millennia. The plains of savanna are dotted with short trees and scrub and are the regular stomping ground for leopards, cheetahs, lions in addition to the annual Great Migration of zebra, Thompson’s gazelle, hyena, impala and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti which takes every July to October. During this period there can be as many as 1.5 million animals and around 90 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and over 400 birds species on the reserve.

There are many ways to visit the park, and our local experts at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp and Bush Villa offer unique opportunities to witness the wildlife in addition to a variety of cultural experiences with the local Maasai people, get a taste of some of them here.

Where to stay near The Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Pico das Prateleiras. Photo Credit: Edgar de Brito / Flickr

Itatiaia National Park, Brazil

Brazil’s nature dazzles the eyes and enlivens the spirit. There are so many exceptional natural places to explore across the country, one of the easiest for those on a short trip to the country is the this gorgeous park. The country’s oldest one, established in 1937, Itatiaia National Park is located three hours north of the picturesque colonial town of Paraty and four hours from Rio de Janeiro. It spreads over the Mantiqueira mountain range, where you can find some of Brazil’s highest mountains including Prateleiras and Agulhas Negras, ranging in altitude from 540 to 2,791 metres (1,772 to 9,157 ft). Casual and advanced hikers can enjoy a day (or more) discovering the lush vegetation, snaking rivers and cascading waterfalls of Prateleiras whereas more skilled mountaineers can take on the challenges of rockier Agulhas Negras. Of course, the higher you go, the better the views! The park is also very popular with bird watchers who can spot upwards of 350 different species.

Where to stay near Itatiaia National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park. Photo Credit: A Different Brian / Flickr

Joshua Tree National Park, California, U.S.A.

The desert usually sparks visions of the majestic dunes of the Sahara, however, the U.S. is actually home to one of the planet’s most unique deserts: The Joshua Tree National Park. Occupying a vast 800,000 acres of Southern California it is extremely variable with dramatic scenery of rugged mountains and wind torn plains. It features two distinct deserts with two large ecosystems roughly divided by elevation. The lower sector, the Colorado Desert, is the half of the park below 3,000 feet (910 m) and is found in the eastern side. This arid land is abundant in creosote bush as well as ocotillo and cholla cactus. The higher section is known as the Mojave Desert. It is slightly cooler and wetter and is the habitat of the peculiar Joshua tree, dominant in the park’s western half. Immortalized in the 1987 U2 album of the same name, the Irish pop stars were not the first to notice this unusual tree. Early explorer John Fremont described them as “… the most repulsive tree in the vegetable kingdom.” Alluring or vile, you’ll just have to visit the park to decide for yourself.

Where to stay near the Joshua Tree National Park:

Our global expert Sylvia Delvaille Jones of Villas and Apartments Abroad has the perfect base for exploring the region from the gorgeous Mirage Palm Springs villa, located only an hour drive from the park and with a stunning desert-like, red rocky backdrop. This luxurious 5,000+ sq ft home was completed in 2012 and consists of six bedrooms on a three-building private compound, including the main house, a casita, nanny’s quarters, plus the largest residential lap pool in the desert and an impressive home cinema. Enjoy the star-studded glamour of Palm Springs and the area’s spectacular nature by reaching out to Sylvia here.

The phenomenal natural beauty of New Zealand is what attracts many to the country – and with good reason. The sight of its rugged unspoilt coastline, pristine emerald lakes and jagged horizon of snowcapped mountains literally takes your breath away. Discover where to admire some of the country’s most spectacular scenery thanks to these recommendations from our local villa experts at Touch of Spice and MajorDomo.


Marlborough Sounds – Bay of Many Coves

“One of our very favourite things about New Zealand is that we have such a vast range of natural contrasts, yet none of these amazing places is too far so it’s easy to sneak away to enjoy the beauty and drama of our special special scenery,” explains Fiona Stevens, co-founder and director of MajorDomo.

“For example, just at the top of the South Island are the stunning Marlborough Sounds. If you go a little off the beaten track you will truly unwind and immerse yourself in this area with its collection of ancient sunken river valleys filled with the vibrant blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful and rich forested hills rising steeply from the sea around an intricate coastline of sheltered inlets and golden sandy bays.

“There is no shortage of things to do and see including hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, yachting and boating, fishing, enjoying the antics of the dolphins. And when you are done exploring, sit back and enjoy a glass of wine on your deck overlooking a view like no other.”


Where to Stay in the Bay of Many Coves


Stay in perfect seclusion on the water’s edge deep in the Marlborough Sounds at this beautiful lodge in the Bay of Many Coves by MajorDomo.

Your journey to tranquility and beauty begins on the 30-minute water taxi from the township of Picton, around a two hour drive from Nelson. Guests may choose to also arrive by helipad and as well there are eight private boat moorings available exclusively for guests.

Arriving at the lodge you’ll be immediately engulfed in luxurious relaxation. The lodge has a day spa, two restaurants, a private guest sitting room, hot tub and heated swimming pool. The accommodation suits couples or families with its one, two and three bedroom apartments – all with bay views.

During the day when you’re not enjoying the lodge facilities, escape into the 59 hectares of privately owned bush clad hills or walk in the Queen Charlotte Track or enjoy the water activities on Marlborough Sounds. At the end of the day you will enjoy award-winning cuisine and the finest Marlborough and international wines.

In order to fully switch off and make the most of this gorgeous location, MajorDomo recommends staying at least three nights. Book your stay at the lodge with them here.

Abel Tasman Touch of Spice

Abel Tasman National Park – Nelson


You can discover some New Zealand’s most stunning coastal scenery at the Abel Tasman National Park, recommended by Jacqui Spice, founder and CEO of Touch of Spice. The park is situated between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay at the north end of the South Island, approximately 65 kms northwest of Nelson.

“There is a variety of walking tracks of varying durations which allow you to take in the natural splendor of the park, but the most popular is the Abel Tasman Coastal Track,” reveals Jacqui. “It has plenty of crystal blue swimming spots, golden sand beaches to lunch on and lush native bush to hike through. Along your way, be sure to track down Cleopatra’s natural rock pool with its moss-lined waterslide and the 47m suspension bridge where you can admire the inlet to Falls River.

“While you can go any time of year due to the area’s mild climate, in summer (November to March) you can make the most of longer daylight hours in addition to cooling off in the water or trying out some of the watersports that are available like sea-kayaking which offers another vantage point for admiring the beautiful scenery.”

Where to Stay Near Abel Tasman National Park


Touch of Spice has the ideal luxury rental near the Abel Tasman National Park, the four bedroom Mahana Villa. Immaculately presented, Mahana villa fills the need for a bespoke, micro-luxury, and immersive winery lifestyle experience in New Zealand.

Mahana Villa pairs contemporary works of art with carefully chosen antiques, collectable furniture and subtly luxurious furnishings. The villa is harmonious from wall to wall and room to room, as contemporary spaces are complex and layered with pieces from the past with enormous taste and attention to detail.

The master suite occupies the upstairs of the villa and offers the most extensive and dramatic views of the property. The second suite is connected through an art gallery and library space. An extensive deck extends from one suite to another and the living spaces are full of beauty and wonder. The lower level of the villa features an open lounge, kitchen, and dining areas.

After a long day exploring the Abel Tasman National Park, savor a well-deserved reward of a good glass of wine from the vineyard the villa is located on.

For more information or to book the beautiful Mahana Villa, contact Touch of Spice here.


Ben Lomond Summit – Queenstown


Set on Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by towering mountain peaks, Queenstown features some of New Zealand’s most phenomenal scenery. A wonderful advantage of the small city is that many explorations of the area’s beautiful nature can commence right from your doorstep, like on a hike up to the Ben Lomond Summit, a favorite of Jacqui Spice of Touch of Spice.

“Visitors can reach its height of 1,748m without any technical knowledge, unless of course it’s in snow,” says Jacqui. “If you’re keen to save about an hours’ worth of hiking through the forest, you can take the Skyline Gondola up through the Ben Lomond Forest for about $15.

“From the summit you’ll be struck by the constantly changing views, providing you with an immense sense of accomplishment after your physical efforts. You’ll see Cecil and Walter Peak, the Remarkables, Moke Lake, Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown from spectacular angles.

“Ben Lomond Summit can be hiked at any time of the year, but we would recommend the summer months as this will give you more daylight hours, warmer weather and better views as the sky is generally clearer.

“Be sure to have a good night’s rest the day before since it is a full day, uphill hike. Take plenty of water as there are no fresh water sources along the way as well as a packed lunch and sunscreen, as even on grey days, New Zealand’s thin Ozone layer can allow the sun to burn you.”

Touch of Spice Aspen Grove master bedroom rs WebRes

Where to Stay in Queenstown


Touch of Spice has many wonderful villas and apartments in Queenstown like their three bedroom 50 Aspen. This luxury villa has featured on the cover of a number of exclusive magazines due to its award winning style and facilities.

The moment that you walk inside, the premium furnishings and finishing provide a sense of sophistication. The interiors are sleek and harmonise together with the outdoor space to create a wonderful indoor/outdoor flow. The property comes with every modern luxury you would expect in a premium villa, including a sauna, gym, media den, office, gourmet kitchen and large open plan living space.

It’s located just a seven minute drive from central Queenstown and boasts magnificent lake and mountain views which are uninterrupted from the extensive glass fronted house and can be appreciated from the secluded heated lap pool & jacuzzi – so the views don’t need to stop at Ben Lomond Summit.

To marvel at the amazing Queenstown landscape, reach out to Touch of Spice at this link.


Mount Aspiring National Park


Mount Aspiring National Park was a very large huge playground to MajorDomo Director Fiona Stevens when she was a very little girl and it is such a treat for her to still be able to ‘play’ there as a grown up and introduce this majestical and magical area to their guests.

“Mount Aspiring itself is the magnificent 3,027m centerpiece of a spectacle that sparkles with glaciers, thunders with waterfalls, glistens with braided rivers and beckons with hectares of lush native beech,” illustrates Fiona vividly.

“It has such wide open spaces yet is surrounded by soaring mountains which roll down to to tranquil river flats – it just makes exploring Mount Aspiring National Park’s wilderness an unforgettable experience. Climb, tramp, ski or just take in the spectacle… it’s your choice. On long hot summer days – challenge yourself to a jump in a waterhole filled by a cascading waterfall. You will not be in the water for long!

“Whether you choose a seat in a helicopter or on a jetboat, a stout stick and walking boots or a set of crampons, you’ll find that Mount Aspiring National Park is the sort of place they invented the words ‘immerse and experience’ for.”


Where to Stay near Lake Wanaka


New to the MajorDomo repertoire is the outstanding Dacha villa, offering exceptional 180 degree views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains. The owners strove to design a home “of peace and tranquility in an ever changing global world.” Their pursuit of creating perfection is reflected in the patience taken over the four years they have spent building and developing this very special retreat, situated in privacy and striking surroundings.

The spacious villa is beautifully decorated and furnished and offers seamless indoor and outdoor flow. Large open fires, floor to ceiling glass with a wall of bi-fold doors which open to the outside deck. Extensive entertaining areas both inside and out & numerous accommodation options make it the perfect ‘stay put’ location for a couple, family group or group of friends travelling together. Guests can also enjoy the swimming pool, spa pool and stunning cover outdoor room which may be fully opened up to socialise alfresco around the fire and barbecue.

This unique property can cater from two to 16 guests. You may choose the impressive master suite only or add on the main house for larger groups. Then there is ‘The Banya’ – an architecturally designed, luxurious stand-alone bedroom suite with its own verandah and alpine outlook.

Add on services such as yoga instructor, in-house chef and personal concierge to really make your Dacha stay the ultimate.

Be one of the first guests to stay at the Dacha and take in these amazing views for yourself by reaching out to MajorDomo here.

Emerald Lakes Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Taupo


Very few places around the world evoke another planet like the incredibly unique volcanic landscape of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, located near Lake Taupo in the center of the North Island. You’ll get the chance to experience different terrains as you walk along boardwalks or loose rocks on your way to amazing photo opportunities at the Emerald Lakes. Jacqui Spice of Touch of Spice tells us more:

“From the base of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, straight away you will figure out that you are visiting a multi-cratered volcano,” describes Jacqui. “Once at the top, after a bit of rock climbing to keep it interesting, you’re presented with the amazing Emerald Lakes that you would only think possible in a sci-fi movie and must be seen with your own eyes to know that they truly exist.

“If you’re after an extra challenge, detour up Mount Ngauruhoe for more vast and spectacular view. Don’t forget to take enough water as there is no guarantee of a fresh water supply and since the weather can have dramatic changes, make sure you take layers that can be easily removed and reapply your sunscreen regularly.”

kinlochclub_bar_newdesfirthhr web res

Where to Stay Near Taupo


Combine the out-of-this-world landscapes of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with the uber-luxurious Lodge at Kinloch by Touch of Spice. The modern lodge harmonises perfectly with its magnificent natural setting.

It was designed by Andrew Patterson, perhaps New Zealand’s best internationally known and published architect and its interiors were designed by Virginia Fisher, renowned for her work involving luxury lodges and hotels both in New Zealand and around the world. Dark stained villa exteriors lead from outdoor patios and furnished terraces to interiors of calm and sophistication.

Experience spectacular views of Lake Taupo and the Kinloch Club golf course. The carbon neutral fireplaces, oak floors, sumptuous handmade New Zealand rugs and lavish bathrooms with stand-alone tubs in all ensuites, surround you with a feeling of peace. There are one, two and junior suite bedroom options available starting from $1,920 per night.

Embark on this unbelievably beautiful part of New Zealand via Touch of Spice here.

The best way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city is retreating to nature. Spending the day (or several) hiking in the countryside or the mountains gives us the chance to forget about work, our busy schedules and our worries while we connect with the natural wonders of the world. There may be hundreds, if not thousands of gorgeous places to hike across the globe, however, it’s hard to beat the following phenomenal trails where you can take in jaw-dropping views of mountain peaks, cross through lush forests and marvel at crystal clear lakes, accompanied only by your thoughts, the chirping birds and the rustling leaves.

KalalauTrailKalalau Trail – Hawaii

Hawaii boasts some of the world’s most spectacular scenery and one of the best places to admire this is the Kalalau trail on Kauai Island. The 18km trail travels from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the Na Pali Coast, an unspoilt stretch of cliffs and green valleys rising from the Pacific Ocean. Our local experts at Hawaii Hideaways provided these useful tips for hiking the trail:

  • The trail requires good physical condition, especially because it can often be muddy and slippery from rainfall. Be sure to bring good and sturdy hiking shoes
  • Don’t take this trail if you have knee injuries or anything that may be affected by the sometimes steep inclines and more than 240m of elevation gain
  • The hike will take, on average, 6-8 hours to complete the 13km roundtrip. A lot of people stop to camp on Kalalau Beach—keep in mind this requires a permit
  • You do not need a permit to hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls, but anything after that requires a permit, even if you don’t plan on camping
  • Do not attempt to cross the Hanakapi’ai Stream during bad weather or if it is flooding.

Ka_Hale_Kaiola_2An excellent place to stay in the area is at their Ka Hale Kaiola luxury beachfront home. The house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gourmet kitchen, vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and air conditioning. The Tommy Bahama furnishings add to the great plantation style of the house. A large covered porch with Brown Jordan patio furniture looks out across the ocean. The beach is accessed by going down the staircase off the lanai and across the beautifully landscaped front yard. Then you’ll find yourself on the beach ready for a swim! For more information about this home or other properties located on the island, contact Hawaii Hideaways here and you can learn more about the archipelago in our Hawaii Pocket Guide.

routeburn-track New Zealand

Routeburn Trail, Glenorchy – New Zealand

New Zealand is a hiker’s paradise, so it was difficult to choose just one trail to recommend. However, our experts at Touch of Spice have won us over with the amazing Routeburn Trail.

“To those who have never walked the Routeburn Track, it’s hard to describe the feeling of purity that the environment injects you with,” says Touch of Spice founder Jacqui Spice. “There is an overwhelming amount of beauty in the trees, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife and the overall views that make the hike seem surreal. You will finish with an appreciation for New Zealand’s native elements and its preserved history.”

The 40km trail is well maintained which makes it achievable for all fitness level. Generally speaking, it is trekked over three days and two overnights, but this is flexible of course. You can take your time while you enjoy the exceptional mountain scenery, cross over rivers and past tumbling waterfalls on rope bridges, listen to the birds’ songs and see some of the locations where The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. Plus, on the way, there are information boards along the track that tell you stories of nature’s history and how New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Māori, thrived in this environment. Jacqui suggests that if you are walking without a guide, the overnight huts need to be booked well in advance due to their popularity.  A guided tour with transport, huts, all meals & snacks, backpacks, and raincoats starts from $1,375 NZD per person for three days/two nights.

Touch of Spice Glenorcy

Touch of Spice has the ideal base for exploring the area: Wyuna House. This four bedroom, five bathroom home can sleep up to eight trekkers. This luxurious lodge is clad in local schist and cedar with timber floors, walls, and ceilings, and sits harmoniously amongst its picturesque setting. Large bay windows take in the view throughout the property where you can look out to Mount Aspiring National Park which the Routeburn track crosses over.

You can learn more about this and other properties of Touch of Spice alongside all our New Zealand offerings at this link and prepare your trip with the help of our New Zealand Pocket Guide.

Lake Grindji Switzerland

Zermatt Lakes Trail – Switzerland

It’s not surprising that there are some phenomenal hiking trails in the Swiss Alps. Andy Castle, our Switzerland expert at Ultimate Luxury Chalets, recommends a stunning hike from the resort of Zermatt to Blauherd (2571m), the perfect place for mountain lovers to venture during summertime in Europe. The relatively easy route, without major climbs and descents, takes about three hours and is accessible by taking the funicular from Zermatt to Sunnegga. Once the train surfaces from the beginning passage underground, you are treated to exceptionally beautiful panoramic views.

You’ll walk through some of the most magnificent scenery of the Alps, passing Lake Stelli, Lake Grindji and Lake Grün as well as the moraine of the Findelen glacier, all the while with excellent views of the majestic Matterhorn. You won’t even feel the time passing and soon enough you’ll have reached the end at Riffelalp where you can take the Gornergrat Railway back to Zermatt.

If you would like to continue gazing at the breath-taking Matterhorn, then Ultimate Luxury Chalets “Grace Chalet” is ideally positioned. This elegant, spacious chalet sleeps up to 12 and has floor to ceiling windows on all three levels, the south facing ones showcasing the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains. The stylish and comfortable open-plan lounge features a French stone open fire-place and adjoining bar area, opening up to a large outside living space. It also has a luxuriously-seated cinema, a games room with a pool table, a spacious glass-fronted wellness centre including a sauna, massage room, a large pilates/yoga space and an outdoor hot tub. Read more about this and the other fabulous properties of Ultimate Luxury Chalet hereplus get inspired for your trip with our Switzerland Pocket Guide.

Hohe Tauern National Park - Austria

Hohe Tauern National Park – Austria

The Alps are not only about ascending to its highest peaks; the vast mountain range has many fantastic hiking options on its mid-levels, such as on the Austrian side in the Hohe Tauern National Park, a favorite of our experts at Schloss Klog Castle.

The Hohe Tauern National Park is the largest nature sanctuary in all of the Alps, extending 1,856 km² over three Austrian provinces. Enjoy over 350km of marked hiking paths and alpine trails which crisscross through the beautiful Rauris Valley into Taxenbach and the SalzburgerLand region. A particular highlight is the Rauris Valley, dubbed the “Secret Jewel Hohe Tauern National Park.” Here you are truly lost in nature as you walk through deep green forests, past trickling streams and waterfalls, catch sight of powerful birds of prey in their nature environment and learn about the mineralogy and the gold-mine era. Most of the paths are suitable for inexperienced or casual hikers, whereas avid mountaineers and mountain-climbers can get their thrills on its higher peaks.

Schloss Kogl

At the end of the day, you can take a well deserved break lounging on the grounds of Schloss Klog which showcase Austria’s beautiful nature. This refined Baroque castle has been owned and maintained with care by the Barons of Mayr-Melnhof since 1872. It offers a special window into Austrian Aristocratic life and is an idyllic place to stay in the heart of the country’s lake district. Learn more about this and our other Austrian experts here and learn more about this diverse country in our Austria Pocket Guide.


Gallatin National Forest – Montana

The diverse landscape of mainland United States has so many awe-inspiring places, but one of our prefered places to get away from it all is Montana, the “Big Sky State.” While one of the most famous parks in the US, or maybe even the world, is Yellowstone National Park in the neighboring state of Wyoming, Montana hiking is just as beautiful, but it attracts fewer fellow hikers – even more appealing. In fact as you amble on the wilderness trails of Gallatin National Forest, taking in exceptional views of the mountains, trickling streams and virgin forests, you might only pass fluttering birds, frisky foxes and meandering moose. But, beware of the grizzlies…

Grizzly Creek Ranch Mountain HomesDespite the name, you shouldn’t have any dangerous close encounters with bears staying at the nearby gorgeous Grizzly Creek Ranch. A rustic yet very comfortable retreat, it can accommodate up to 30 guests. You’ll have exclusive use of the six different homes on the complex, including a wonderful dining and event hall, a recreation barn, yoga and massage cabin and more. Guided hiking can be arranged for Gallatin National Forest, Yellowstone, or you mightn’t even need to leave the property of the vast 2,000 acre ranch. For more information and to book see Mountain Homes’ profile here, discover more about what to do in the state in our Montana Pocket Guide.