Will 2022 finally be the year we dust off our luggage and dig out that long-ignored passport? Guided by the Chinese horoscope, metaphysics and a sense of esoteric whimsy, consider these destinations, near and far, for a soul-renewing getaway.
The rat’s resourceful and perceptive qualities have always been advantageous in social contexts, but 2022 will be a year of self-reflection where these attributes will instead be used for looking inward and embracing physical, emotional and spiritual change. Blue, green and gold are this zodiac’s lucky colours, making coastal regions highly favourable destinations. Among the thousands of islands speckled throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas, Crete — steeped in history and blessed by nature — is one of Greece’s most beautiful and safest for solo travelling. After going on sun-kissed adventures à la Mamma Mia!, retreat to your own private suite at the Blue Palace to enjoy some alone time in understated luxury.
If you are in search of some spiritual healing (or if Eat, Pray, Love is more your thing), sojourn to the Island of Gods, where mystic temples and cascading rice terraces abound, and harness its restorative powers to reflect and recharge. For a wellness journey in the wild, check into a treetop tent at Capella Ubud, designed by Bill Bensley and voted No 1 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2020. The hotel’s bespoke spa treatments, massages and holistic therapies are not to be missed.
Astrologers have marked 2022 as a good time to be productive, hardworking and helpful — some of the very traits that define the ox. Although those born under the zodiac sign are usually considered docile and reserved, there are still fun activities out there to shake or gently rattle their world. This year, oxen are encouraged to embrace nature, which Japan has no shortage of. In Hokkaido, nothing holds a candle to an onsen soak at luxury ryokan Zaborin as you take in the scent of fresh pine in a rejuvenating forest-bathing ritual known as shinrin’yoku.
Japan’s impeccable omotenashi (hospitality) can be felt all the way in Yamanashi too: Hoshinoya Fuji is the country’s first luxury glamping resort, overlooking unrivalled views of Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji. To escape the crush of visitors during Golden Week, off-the-beaten-path locales like Setouchi Islands (which have been compared with the Mediterranean Sea) lure travellers to the Itsukushima Shrine renowned for its “floating” torii gate, while Beppu cajoles one to dip their toes in one of the hot springs that make up the jigoku meguri or the infamously named “The Hell Circuit”. Smooth travels are expected for the ox in autumn, so book a trip to Nikko to see the changing colour of the leaves via a guided private walk, which can be easily arranged by The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko.
World leaders perceive the Year of the Tiger — an animal said to represent confidence, courage and change — as an auspicious omen for the global economy to shake off the effects of the pandemic and roar back to life. On a personal level, the arrival of the thrill-seeking feline also presents a moment to get out of the groove and reconsider the impossible. For your next adventure, journey to Middle Earth via helicopter, which gives you a bird’s-eye view of New Zealand’s magnificent mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes and glaciers dotted across Queenstown, Milford Sound and Fiordland. Adrenaline-packed pursuits on this island include skydiving into Lake Taupo (the largest commercial drop zone in the world with stellar views of volcanoes); canyoning in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, where you can leap off waterfalls; and swimming with hammerhead sharks at diving and boating paradise Hauraki Gulf.
Nature plays grand magician at Marlborough, home to the rare Hector’s dolphins and luscious grapes that work their way into the wine glasses of the world’s finest restaurants. Finally, put up at five-star luxury lodge Bay of Many Coves, which rewards intrepid travellers with a hot soak under the stars and a trip to see glow worms as they put on their evening show.
Rabbits are known for their refined and romantic souls and 2022 heralds a year of opportunity, in both love/relationships and career. The lucky season for the refined rabbit is spring, when flowers bloom and new life emerges after winter. For a springtime travel destination that combines all the auspicious and favourable elements of arts and culture and romance, consider the universal choice of Paris, France, where lovers canoodle on every street corner, candlelit meals at Michelin-starred restaurants will be invariably excellent and a suite at the Plaza Athenee (undoubtedly one of the dreamiest hotels in the world) may be booked.
If you are not up to travelling long haul just yet, look to our neighbour just slightly up north for a potential getaway. The Pimalai, hailed by travel insiders as one of Thailand’s most romantic resorts, has a tempting Valentine’s Day package to melt even the most jaded Romeo. Located on the idyllic isle of Koh Lanta, the five-star retreat’s “Love Comes Naturally” deal includes an island excursion to Mu Ko Lanta National Park, a couple’s massage and daily beachfront bubbly and oysters for guests who book a minimum stay of seven nights.
Warm-hearted and charismatic, dragons should look forward to quality rest and more spiritual experiences in 2022. As such, a trip to the destination spa Ananda in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, which is located at the foothills of the mountan range, would be ideal to reconnect with the earth and self. Considered one of the best luxury wellness retreats in India, Ananda has yoga, fitness, chronic pain and meditation packages, each specially catered for your individual needs. It even has a post-Covid rejuvenation programme that aims to help treat long-term symptoms with herbal remedies, Ayurvedic therapies, yoga, pranayama and meditation.
However, if you are a dragon drawn to water, Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort in Kovalam, Kerala, is perfect as it is located next to a stunning beachfront. Armed with a team of Ayurvedic doctors, yoga experts and therapists, this resort has a range of packages that suit any need, from stress management to beauty packages. As a rainy climate is said to bring luck for dragons this year, it would be ideal to visit during the monsoon season (between June and October), which is a climate that is highly recommended for Ayurvedic treatments. Somatheeram can help organise fun day trips before your treatment, such as exploring Kerala’s backwaters.
While planning a holiday this year, the cold-blooded fire snake must seek summery hot climes and explore someplace new — can there be a better description for exotic and faraway Marrakech, Morocco? In the centre of the city, German entrepreneur Bernd Kolb lovingly restored a 300-year-old city palace into a place of inspiration. Capturing the magic of the medina, AnaYela provides visitors with ethereal art-filled bedrooms, a lush inner courtyard and a heated limestone pool — detailed touches that the gregarious and deeply intelligent snake particularly enjoys while on holiday.
Once the obligatory ritual of wandering through the red-tiled souks for treasured mementos has been completed, the adventurous snake may consider leaving Marrakech for the coastal destinations of Tangier, Rabat and Essaouira, trekking up the majestic Atlas Mountains or taking a camel ride across the Sahara Desert. This is the year for the snake to be more health-conscious, which is fortuitous since Moroccan food features a lot of vegetables and relies on whole grains, spices and sweet fruit rather than refined sugar and deep-frying. Should the snake want their senses to be beguiled while inspirational energies and emotions are awoken and set free, mystical Morocco cannot be beat.
Horses are said to be energetic, independent creatures who love to travel and this new year foreshadows a time for all horses to focus on their emotional well-being. With their lucky season being summer — when the radiant sun blazes the sky blue, casting rays to prance on rooftops — consider a trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place famous for its glorious backdrop of tumbling wooded mountains, stark rocky crags and a deep blue sea freckled with islands. This beautiful city bursting with unique art and culture offers a visit to the famous statue of Christ on Corcovado and the chance to bake in the sun in Ipanema. Book a stay at Copacabana Palace, a Belmond Hotel for a holiday experience that is not to be forgotten.
Otherwise, there is always the ritualistic option for a splendid summer vacation in Kauai, Hawaii — one of the most stunning islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, where large parts of Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the original King Kong were filmed. The exquisite Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa situated on smooth white sand provides a rejuvenating spa experience by using traditional methods mixed with island-fresh botanicals.
This Lunar New Year implores the shy, creative and easy-going goats to socialise more and increase the breadth of their network of friends and associates — and there is no better place for this than bustling New York City. Visits to the Museum of Modern Art, The Met and The Whitney are all must-dos on any NYC itinerary, but there must be enough time to fit in leisurely activities like people-watching in SoHo, a helicopter ride over Hudson Bay and a whole day spent exploring Central Park. Since the most auspicious colours for the goat this year are brown, red and orange, autumn is the perfect time to visit — the leaves turn a gorgeous rust and sweater weather lets us escape the Malaysian heat.
To stay, creative types will love the design-driven Crosby Street Hotel, with its stunning work by Scottish paper cut-out artist Jack Milroy in the lobby. Meanwhile, its planet-friendly credentials make it one of the most environmentally responsible hotels in the entire US, which the soft-hearted goat more than appreciates. Bagels from Brooklyn, New York-style pizza and cocktails from ultra-chic Manhattan bars — 2022 is the year for the goat to live it up in style.
Sydney, with its diverse outdoor attractions, promises a swinging time for the curious, energetic and creative monkey. Whether it is a suburban park with history at its heart, a mountain that looks blue in the distance or a beach covered with sunseekers, this vibrant Australian city has it wrapped for the active, unpredictable creature who is always game for fun. But 2022 is the year to slow down, relax and recharge, the astrologers suggest. So, stop and smell the roses and bursts of other blooms in Leura, a charming garden village 100km west of Sydney. If capricious weather clouds the Three Sisters atop the rugged Blue Mountains, stay in a Leura Airbnb and soak up its stunning streetscapes. Or, nip to nearby Katoomba to gaze at wall art or gulp in fresh air along its scenic nature trails.
Unperdictable monkeys who like to get their tails wet can camp out on Bondi Beach or quench their thirst for adventure by surfing the waves. Satiating meals await hungry picnickers at spiffy cafés and eclectic shops fronting the crashing waters, stocked with everything a visitor would want. Romance is supposedly on the cards for the single monkey this year and where better to spend quiet hours and listen to two hearts beating as one than at Centennial Park. If the inquisitive simian must know, the park was the site to mark the federation of the Australian colonies, and the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on Jan 1, 1901.
The independent and practical rooster is advised to focus on health this year, and as autumn is said to be its lucky season — a time to shed the leaves of the past and reflect on the future — why not take a rejuvenating trip to the spa capital, Budapest. Boasting the highest number of thermal springs, the city has more than 40 bathing complexes. Explore the Széchenyi Baths, which is one of the largest thermal bath complexes in central Europe, or experience the Art Nouveau styled Gellért Thermal Bath, also known as the Palace of Baths.
Sample luxury skincare from home-grown brand Omorovicza, and visit the Budapest Institute for revitalising and soothing face and body treatments. Enjoy a stroll on Margaret Island — situated in the Danube river, in between Buda and Pest — which has stunning parks and more thermal baths, although less crowded ones. For some, focusing on health requires being surrounded by nature. The adventurous rooster would enjoy Lillafüred in the Bükk Mountains. The picturesque town is surrounded by beech forests, and within this nature escape, there are so many possibilities: you can take a boat ride on Lake Hamori, enjoy the thermal baths or explore the many caves.
Dogs are often chosen as service, therapy or emotional support animals because they are highly generous with the comfort and love they give humans. The year 2022 calls for the fiercely loyal dogs to expand their creativity and spend more time with loved ones. Consider flying off to Spain for a summer getaway, a country where every region has its own style of creative expression. Barcelona in its entirety is a stunning city but places like the Unesco-listed building, Palau de la Música Catalana, will surely feed your creative mind with its colourful and fancy interior.
Meanwhile, Seville is a laidback location filled with parks and gardens to explore with family and friends. If you are looking for a creative and inspiring place to do a short trip, Amsterdam is a potential destination. Blend in with the locals at De Wasserette, a famous coffee shop that serves the best sandwiches, while offering an ideal spot to oversee the neighbourhood. A city rich with heritage will have you run into a museum at every corner: The Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht, holding the story of the Jewish wartime diarist, may just inspire you to start writing a line or two.
Great adventures lie ahead for those born in the Year of the Boar. Never one to shy away from the glitz and glamour, boars are natural connoisseurs and incredibly social. They require a destination that affords the same buzz and a holiday to the Eternal City of Rome cannot be more fitting. Explore the depths of Italian history and culture from the height of luxury at Hotel Eden, an iconic property known for its legendary service and exacting hospitality. Dine at the grand dame’s Michelin-starred La Terrazza to enjoy an aerial view of Rome. Or, if you would rather explore the city on foot, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Villa Borghese are within walking distance.
The affable boar is often admired for its heart of gold (which is also its lucky colour), making the City of Gold, Dubai, another ideal port of call. Located at the heart of the Burj Khalifa district, ME Dubai is the only hotel in the world designed inside and out by the late Pritzker award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Offering architecture, design and art lovers impeccable gallery-style spaces, the hotel sets the tone for creativity and imagination.
This article first appeared on Jan 31, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.