THE BLOG
12/13/2012 07:32 am ET | Updated Feb 12, 2013

North Korea, Mongolia and More Surprising Vacation Destinations

NACO

I just returned from three days of meetings and parties in Marrakech, Morocco at the fourth annual PURE Life Experiences Travel Conference. I know, the title sounds slightly "New Age," and maybe it is, but it is also one of the most creative, prescient three days I have spent in many years. We all read the travel magazines looking for the next great destination or "hidden" itinerary, but what was this international group of experts buzzing about?

What did I learn at PURE? What is the next "great thing" in travel? Here are my predictions for a few of the hottest things coming up the ladder in travel.

  • Nomadic Expeditions, Mongolia: I have known the president and CEO, Jalsa Urubshurow, since my Smithsonian days, and have always found his energy and passion inspiring. They own Three Camel Lodge, which first put Mongolia on the luxury map, but they are so much more. How about joining him to visit a local falconry festival? You might be cheek-to-jowl with royalty from the Arabian Gulf as you experience the thrill of this sport.
  • TCS/Starquest, the leader in private jet around the world group tours, is making a critical move, albeit one that further blurs the disappearing line between tour operator and travel agent (designer). After many requests from clients, they are leveraging their vast worldwide network of contacts to also design travel for individuals on jet and land.
  • New Zealand for golf and escape. This is a hot destination, now with three of the most exquisite properties -- Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs and Matakauri. Check out their "Tiger Tour" for the golf experience of a lifetime. Wondering about that name? Google the owner, Julian Robertson, and you will find out about his "Tiger" connection.
  • Context Travel in 21 cultural capitals: Most travelers are now traveling independently, rather than traveling in groups, but are missing the intellectual stimulation provided by top-notch group tours. Context fills that void perfectly. You can book a full-day or part-day tour with local scholars in many cities.
  • Discovering the great treasure houses of Britain: Do you think you have heard of this type tour before? Those did not have the unparalleled access of Jane McCrum and her company, In Any Event. Unique does not even begin to describe the experiences she can craft in private castles, palaces, home and collections.
  • Pacific Yellowfin Expeditions: cruise along the coastline of British Columbia, one of the wildest places on earth, with the only Captain who knows it intimately on a classic 1943 wooden yacht. It is a private cruise with only 12 guests, bespoke, top culinary -- you catch the fish, and it's for all ages. It's really extraordinary. (I am running out of adjectives, and I know using too many superlatives.)
  • Design week in Beijing. For one week in October, Beijing is the center of the design universe. Visit in October with the only tour operator who can get you the access others crave. This is appropriate for designers, collectors and novices.
  • North Korea. This is arguably one of the least-visited destination in the world. You can now visit the most enigmatic country in the world through an operator, Koryo Tours, who has been taking tourists there for 20 years. (Though not currently on the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning list, I would suggest anyone thinking of visiting read the precautions listed on the State Department Consular Sheets for North Korea.)

I'm heading to Cannes next week, and will post Part II soon thereafter.