Lockdown was named word of the year in 2020. In 2021, explorers have been spreading their wings, travelling further and farther in search of wide open spaces.
2021’s most inspiring explorer ideas demonstrate how luxury comes in many forms. These experiences are comfortable but there’s no marble or gold. Here, the luxury is to breathe fresh air in places few others get to venture. When there’s nobody else around, you don’t need restrictions.
Ready to Be the Explorer?
These travel ideas have kept our motivation levels very high throughout 2021, reminding us all to keep exploring and pushing our boundaries.
3. Sheldon Chalet, Alaska
Exclusive doesn’t seem a big enough word for this luxury lodge on Ruth Glacier in Alaska. Sheldon Chalet is located 600 kilometers from the nearest main road, in a mountain range that doubles the Czech Republic in size. And you are served fresh Alaskan oysters and Taittinger on arrival.
Here the chef melts water from glacier snow to make a reindeer sausage paella. They serve a thermos of sangria with halibut ceviche during a glacier sledding excursion.
The only way to get here is by helicopter and the program includes activities like ice-climbing, sledging, and snow-shoeing. It’s the world’s most remote luxury hotel and they serve platters of Alaskan crab and lobster for lunch.
The real experience is not the exploration though. It’s the silence. It’s looking out of the window watching the Northern Lights dance on the glacier. Wi-Fi? Not a chance. There’s not even a phone signal out here, so you won’t find photos of the Alaska bison short ribs with mountain blueberry glaze on Instagram. Actually, leave your watch at home with your phone – you can tell the time by watching Venus move from peak to peak across the nighttime sky.
2. White Desert, Antarctica
If Antarctica is the greatest travel experience of all, how about we do it in style?
That’s the sentiment behind White Desert, the only company to have a luxury camp on Antarctica.
Down in Antarctica, the Champagne really is on ice. Awaiting your arrival by Gulfstream G550 from Cape Town, South Africa. Yes, you fly to Antarctica. And then you fly a little further to the South Pole. Why not?
A small Antarctica cruise has around 100 passengers, but only 12 guests can fit inside a G550.
So with White Desert the polar exploration is a lot more private. They built the first and only Antarctica runway for private jets, on a stretch of glacial blue ice.
Whichaway is their original camp, with six warm and comfortable “polar pods.” Wolf’s Fang camp isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but still has everything you need for a comfortable week-long stay in a remote Antarctica mountain range.
Without the time-consuming cruise and with 24-hour daylight, you have time to really explore Antarctica. Like walking through ice caves, zip-lining, abseiling, hiking, skiing, ice climbing, fat biking, rock climbing, Arctic truck safaris, climbing mountain summits, traversing glaciers by rope, visiting the penguins and a lot more. In such a vast wilderness you can do as you please. There’s even a specific program if you want to be the first ever person to summit an unclimbed mountain.
All images courtesy of White Desert
3. Niehku Mountain Lodge, Sweden
Claimed to be the world’s most northerly heli-ski hotel, Niehku is built into a repurposed railway building from the early 1900s. It’s decadently cool, mixing local materials with high brow comforts in a very original way.
There’s no fancy fondue or dainty high tea here. Breakfast is high on carbs, with homemade pastries, muesli and eggs. The helicopter packed lunch is likely to be a thermos of reindeer stew with fresh bread and organic Swedish beer. Evening time is for a multi course menu paired with wine (owner Patrik Steomsten is a former pro skier turned Swedish Sommelier of the Year).
While it’s nice to think about sitting in a glass sauna with a Swedish microbrew as the Northern Lights emerge, or staying in a property that won a UNESCO Prix Versailles for World’s best hotel interior, you come here for the slopes.
Unlike the Alps, there is very little regulation over heli-skiing in this Lapland region. From Niekhu there’s freedom to freely explore 5,000 square kilometres of fresh, late-season snow. The Riksgransen ski area has more than 60 mountain peaks and you can downhill beneath the midnight sun.
Guests at Niehku can expect up to 8,000 vertical metres a day. It’s a mix of high-altitude, wide-open powder runs and short, adrenalin-hitting steeps, spread across over 1million acres. Skiers go off in groups of five with a professional guide as part of the standard semi-private package.