While heading to the beach or golf course always makes sense, sometimes you want something more. London-based Virtuoso travel designers Brown + Hudson specialize in the latter. With expertise in creating unique experiences, in this issue we highlight three interesting trips: Travel to Chile to name your own Star; have a private dinner atop the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, or cycle with a Tour de France champion through the world-class rides of Colombia.
1. Name Your Own Star
This is your chance to leave a lasting legacy, and your name to a remote corner of the Universe. The Atacama Desert in Chile boasts the clearest skies on the planet, offering ideal conditions for the exploration of the night sky.
Scientists working at an array of next-generation observatories continue to make new discoveries every year, and Brown + Hudson offers a rare chance to join them in their research.
You’ll visit the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories, which – aside from the work they do – are marvels of precision engineering. Here, alongside the resident scientific teams, you’ll use radio telescopes to peer into the night skies, identifying pulsars, globular clusters, nebulae and remote galaxies, and learning about techniques such as red-shift analysis and spectrography used to reveal the deepest regions of the Cosmos.
The ultimate prize will be to discover a previously unidentified celestial body with the opportunity to name it yourself.
From to the Central Atacama – a seldom-visited part of the desert, where Brown + Hudson will build a luxurious private camp as your base of operations. Copiapo Chamonate Airport has a runway length of 5,446 feet if you want to use your own airplane.
You’ll have a team of expert guides at your disposal together with helicopters and dune buggies on hand to explore. While your evenings will be dedicated to scanning the night skies, you’ll spend your days exploring the wonders of the desert.
Right on your doorstep is South America’s highest dune system – a thrilling adventure playground that is ideal for racing dune buggies, sandboarding and desert picnics.
Venture high into the Andes to discover their otherworldly beauty as you cross hallucinogenic landscapes of candy-colored lagoons, bizarre rock formations and flamingo-speckled saltpans in the shadow of 20,000-foot volcanoes.
Or head down to the Pacific Coast to encounter teeming marine wildlife and strange Elphin forests sustained by the ocean mists. If you come in September, you may well be treated to a kaleidoscope of color as the desert bursts into bloom following the Spring rains.
Also consider extending your trip to visit Chile’s finest grapes at a luxurious wine lodge set among the vineyards near Santiago or continue further south where the lakes, forests, and glaciers of Patagonia await.
2. Dine Atop the Arc de Triomphe
There is no shortage of fine dining options in Paris, however, having a top chef create a private dining experience atop the Art de Triomphe is something truly special.
You’ll enjoy an exclusive evening devoted to the twin pleasures of food and wine, while you revel in the privacy, and take in the splendid views down the Champs-Elysees as you enjoy Michelin-star cuisine atop one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
With enough notice, a specific celebrity or industry-leading chef can be made available for your special evening, with a wine and food menu specifically handcrafted to your taste buds.
Perfect for a special occasion, or just to celebrate a holiday well spent, this unforgettable evening spent dining above the city lights will certainly be one to remember. The space can accommodate groups up to 50.
While you are in Paris, Brown + Hudson can use its preferred relationships to secure rooms and suites at your favorite hotel, or perhaps recommend something new and special.
They can also arrange behind-the-scenes experiences curated entirely around your wishes, needs and motivations including a journey through France’s great wines from your birth years led by a master sommelier. Or maybe designing your own piece in one of Paris’ most exclusive fashion houses or masterclass in the art of viennoiserie by one of the doyennes of French patisserie, multi-award-winning Johanna Le Pape?
3. Ride With A World-Class Cyclist
Colombia’s kings of the mountains are currently top of the world. Cycling superstar Egan Bernal became this year the youngest winner of the Tour de France in more than a century, and fellow countrymen Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran are also among the world’s best. The reason? The mountains of Colombia are simply the best place on the planet to train to be a cyclist.
This 8-night trip for your private group starts in Bogota, before tackling a four-day cycling route through mountains and coffee country led by Egan Bernal himself.
You’ll then fly down to the coast to enjoy the seductive Caribbean rhythms of Cartagena. You’ll have a full support team to back you up and, whether you’re a complete beginner or a semi-professional wanting to reach the next level, you’ll find no better place for a cycling road trip than Colombia.
Beginning with two days to enjoy the incredible cultural and gastronomic renaissance taking place in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, you’ll then join Egan Bernal himself and loosen your legs on a 40-mile ride to Zipaquira.
Hear stories about his dramatic road to success and the foundation he has set up for budding young cyclists looking to follow in his tracks. You’ll also have a chance to visit Zipaquira’s famous cathedral made of salt, before relaxing at an uber-cool organic coffee plantation in the hills outside.
Your route starts getting fun the next day on a 4.5-hour montada that weaves its way through characterful Colombian villages and spectacular scenery down to the colonial town of Honda on the banks of the River Magdalena.
In the afternoon, explore the local markets with a top chef and help him choose what’s for dinner this evening as you stay at a gorgeous private house.
Next up, the Alto de Letras ranks next to Hawaii’s Mauna Loa as one of the longest mountain passes in the world. It’s an iconic climb that’s on any serious cyclist’s bucket list, ascending more than 12,000 feet over a grueling 50-mile route through Colombian landscapes at their best. Your stay tonight will be a luxurious mountain retreat with spa treatments and Jacuzzis to help unknot any tired muscles.
Your next day is a little less demanding, as you explore the gentle backroads of Colombia’s coffee country. You’ll pass through small colonial towns like Filandia and Salamina – under the radar, but offering a fabulously authentic snapshot of rural Colombia and some seriously great slow-cooking.
The following morning will give you a chance to explore the magnificent landscapes and world’s tallest palm trees in the Cocora Valley, either on two wheels or by four, before flying down to UNESCO World Heritage Cartagena – a wonderful place to sign off on your journey through Colombia.
You’ll have the keys to the city as you enjoy three days exploring Cartagena’s pulsating rhythms. With an opulent private house as your base in the heart of the city’s historic old town, you’ll delve into the city’s rich musical and literary heritage, meet the city’s movers and shakers at a specially hosted dinner, and relax aboard a private yacht among the tropical Rosario islands.