Best of CH 2016: Travel

From Hungary to Indonesia, Namibia, Japan and beyond

Even though travel can be exhausting, it’s something curious minds can never truly tire of—and the CH editorial team is no exception to that rule. Over the past year, our full-time staff and freelancers all over the world have delivered stories about adventure, exploration, food, luxury and more—and have roamed everywhere from Australia to the Galápagos Islands and Iceland. While our Travel section is brimming with must-sees, obscure finds and everything between, here are a few of our standout travel pieces from 2016. One universality between all trips—be it driving through Namibia or wandering around Barcelona alone—is that discovery (of all kinds) is wonderfully inevitable.

Estancia El Puesto, Argentina

Even in the rain there’s an unplaceable charm to Estancia El Puesto. The home at the heart of the estate, an old goat farm, feels lived in—because it is. Owner Raul Labat has been entertaining guests there for years. Family members frequent the rooms, offering treats including dishes made with local produce. Labat himself shares stories and shows off their years worth of guest books. Around two hours from the city of Mendoza, Argentina (and its airport), Estancia El Puesto is the launchpad for adventure. It is the starting point for horse excursions into the Andes. And it is a warm, thoughtful place to ruminate on what’s to come, who has passed through before and what the Andes mean in the context of it all.

Asana Ryokan, Japan

A 90-minute train ride to the south west of Tokyo on the Izu peninsula, in a small village called Shuzenji, is Asaba, a 500-year-old ryokan that, since our recent visit, has become the sole destination of our continued daydreams. Known for Wasabi farms and the oldest hot spring in Izu, Shuzenji, is a destination for national tourists that’s not as often frequented by Westerners. The Japanese consider hot spring water, especially when it’s full of minerals, to have strong healing powers. As such, many ryokans have been built over the last several centuries to welcome guests seeking the water’s health benefits.

Casa Malca, Mexico

There tend to be two schools of thought when addressing Tulum, Mexico as a destination: those who have been there and done that, and those who dream of the tiny hotel-lined street sat between calm seas and a dense jungle. Remarkably, Casa Malca, situated along Carretera Tulum Boca Paila (aka Route 15), should appeal to both. For the former, this unique Design Hotels-certified destination offers 180 meters of beachfront property relative to only 35 rooms (at present), so there’s no crowding. Of equal importance, it’s the first and only art-centric hotel in town, and after one is greeted by a KAWS in the lobby, an array of contemporary artworks are visible shortly thereafter. For the latter type of traveler, whether you’re looking to sit on powdery white sand, enjoy Mexican cuisine or explore the Yucatán Peninsula, it’s an embodiment of Tulum’s spirit.

Word Of Mouth: Honolulu

While many of O’ahu’s beaches top “best of” lists year after year, that’s no reason to stay shore-bound. Venturing beyond the coast and outside the typical tourist traps reveals a myriad of young businesses brimming with energy—and no shortage of creativity. With one eye peeking out toward the future and the other locked-on to Hawai’i’s rich history and traditions, this new generation of local makers, designers, artists and chefs is reshaping the way visitors experience the 50th state. From modern aloha shirts to an international arts fair to a contemporary take on Hawaiian cuisine, fast-track your trip through the new Honolulu at these six spots.

Chasing Mike Horn Through Namibia

Adventurer and environmentalist, Mike Horn has circumnavigated the globe along the equator without the use of motors, he’s summited multiple Himalayan peaks without supplemental oxygen and he’s trekked the Arctic Circle for 27 consecutive months, covering 40,000 kilometers—among other things. Given his drive and perspective, it’s no surprise that he’s also a motivational speaker and television show personality. Next month he will walk across the Namibian desert as the kick-off (no pun intended) of Pole2Pole, his lap around the planet via the North and South Poles. Arranged through his sponsorship from Mercedes-Benz, I caught up with Mike and his team for a brief adventure through Namibia.

PTT Family’s Katamama Hotel, Bali

Over 1.8 million. That’s how many bricks were handcrafted to create Katamama, an extraordinary boutique hotel in Bali realized by Ronald Akili and his team, the PTT Family, alongside Indonesian architect Andra Matin. Each brick is individually fabricated, from formation to finish, using an artisanal production process that includes firing them in a kiln heated by dried coconut shells. It took two years to make enough bricks to achieve Katamama’s impressive hand-laid foundation, which is a combination of solid walls and decorative perforated sections designed to let in natural light.

Word of Mouth: Budapest

Creative energy has long been percolating in Budapest. Once the Iron Curtain was peeled back, an impressive underground culture erupted that, through the years, has only grown fiercer. While tourists flock to the city to peep at grandiose architecture, knock back beers in ruin pubs and luxuriate in thermal waters, it would behoove them to get to know Budapest on a deeper level—to linger in the restaurants, bars and shops that are painting this Central European capital with a sophisticated sheen. The talented folks behind these establishments are both proud of their roots and open-minded about a future that is organically evolving. Whether it’s by incorporating global influences or reviving rituals of yesteryear, here are some of the newcomers propelling the city’s ascent.

Notes on Spontaneous Travel

I went to Barcelona last weekend with $116 in my checking account. I knew I’d need five of those dollars to pay for the AirTrain from JFK to the Howard Beach Station, so I had $111 in reality. I do not have a credit card. I am fortunate enough to have nominal back-up resources if something goes wrong, but that wasn’t the point. I was going to survive in Barcelona on what I had in that singular checking account. Full disclosure: my hotel and airfare were comped. Again, that isn’t the point. What was my version of Barcelona can be anyone’s last-minute trip almost anywhere. As a suburban child, sometimes it was a relief to drive two towns away and now, as a restless New Yorker (who is very in love with his home city), travel keeps me inspired and sane—especially when it’s last minute.

Images by Cool Hunting