As humans we like to categorize things and travel particularly lends itself to this tendency. People MUST be a certain type of traveler, whether it is budget or adventure and yes, even luxury. Luxury in particular though I think isn’t properly understood and even now it is a term that is rapidly changing. When I say luxury travel the images that first pop into my head are private planes, champagne and Robin Leach. And yes, it can mean those things, but it is so much more than that. Modern luxury travel moves beyond the trappings of opulence and firmly into the realm of experiences. To show you what I mean, I want to examine a recent trip I took to Jordan. It’s a trip that I absolutely consider to be modern luxury, but it may not look like the luxury you’re used to.
Modern luxury travel
The way I see it, modern luxury is more than a nice hotel room or suite. It’s about the experiences. By definition, experiences that are so rare, unique or unusual are inherently luxurious. Traveling to Antarctica, seeing giant tortoises in the Galapagos, hiking up to the Tigers’s Nest in Bhutan – these are all classic examples of modern luxury travel. And yet, when I went to Antarctica the rooms were spartan and far from the plush pillows I’m used to. Yet those who joined me on board all paid a lot of money to be there. For them, the luxury was in the experience and not in the accommodations. It is this new attitude that I refer to when I talk about modern luxury travel.
True luxury therefore is the process of doing and seeing things that are not common while at the same time incorporating more classic examples of luxury. So let’s take Jordan as an example. If any country lends itself well to modern luxury travel, it’s this one. There are so many amazing and completely unique experiences to be had that it would take weeks to fully enjoy.
Experiences AND Accommodations
During my most recent visit to Jordan, my first experience was perhaps the most unusual example of what I call modern luxury travel. It started off with a 16-kilometer hike through the Dana Biosphere Reserve. This special natural retreat is one of the world’s most unusual and while daunting and not for everyone, the hike takes visitors through beautiful valleys, along dry streambeds and even through an oasis or two. Anyone can do that though, what catapults this into experiential luxury is where you end up; at the Feynan Ecolodge. Named one of the top 25 in the world, Feynan lives and breathes green travel. I arrived just as the sun had set and yet I almost didn’t see the lodge. That’s because there’s no electricity, well not much anyway. Situated in a desert valley, Feynan is completely off the grid depending on solar energy for the small amounts of power it does consume. The hallways and rooms are lit with candles, candles made in a community outreach project with local Bedouins. Everything about this place screams sustainability but in a way that is entirely comfortable. The rooms are well designed and imminently comfortable and the activities on offer allow guests to get closer not only to nature, but the locals who call this inhospitable desert home. The experience is unlike any other in the region and presents the concept of sustainable travel in a way that is comforting and relatable. That is why this is a modern luxury travel experience.
It’s not all roughing it with candles though, more classic examples of luxury travel can absolutely be found around the country. At the Dead Sea I stayed at the five-star Kempinski Ishtar, a massive resort complex that is one of the best I’ve ever visited. It’s hard for a luxury brand to scale elegance and high-class service to the size of a large resort, but Kempinski has done it and done it well. Aside from amazing service and incredibly luxurious rooms, they also offer experiences that are pure luxury, namely the Dead Sea. The lowest point on the planet, the Dead Sea attracts people from around the world to lather on the curative mud and float in the naturally buoyant waters. This was my third time visiting the Dead Sea and from my own experience, the Kempinski offers the best access. The beach was well appointed and staffed but most importantly, the waters around the hotel weren’t at all crowded. It was like a private oasis far from the maddening crowd and I loved every second of it.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the desert of Wadi Rum looks more like the moon or Mars than a place on planet Earth. It’s large, unusual and gorgeous and exploring it is high on the lists of most visitors to the country. As with all things though, how you experience this special place matters and ultimately what makes it modern luxury or not. Staying overnight at a Bedouin camp is common and included with the package are typically a variety of activities allowing visitors to get closer to the desert. This time I stayed at the Rahayeb camp, one of the best camps in Wadi Rum and definitely one of the most luxurious. Our day started just with our group, driven around the desert by our own guide who showed us his favorite spots, including the best place to see the famously orange sunset. It was the camp itself though that made this stay special. Individual tented cabins included lights, beds, dressers and even an en suite bathroom with hot running water. Keep in mind, we were deep in the middle of the desert as far away from civilization as you can possibly be. At night a lavish meal was cooked for the entire camp and we rounded out the evening with coffees and lively music and dance. It was fun, it was intimate and it was luxurious. No, it may not have been the Ritz Carlton, but their ability to provide us with amazing and unique, one-of-a-kind experiences along with modern comfort is what made this experience a fantastic example of modern luxury.
Luxury has changed a lot in recent years. No longer are gold plated bathroom fixtures and champagne flutes upon arrival enough for the modern affluent traveler. No, instead we have to look beyond the hotel room and to the nearby experiences that not only complement the stay, but define the trip. It also forces us to think about luxury travel in an entirely new way. Sometimes it’s ok to be in a lodging without electricity or where the stars are your roof. Those can be luxurious too. In today’s world of travel we have to consider every aspect of the travel experience and understand just how essential what we do and see is and move beyond dated conventions. Companies that understand that, and they’re out there, will flourish while the others will be left wondering why no one wants to buy their bathtub full of caviar package anymore.
What do YOU think modern luxury travel means?
This campaign was created and sponsored by Jordan Tourism Board in partnership with iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.
3 thoughts on “Luxury Travel: Going Beyond The Hotel – A Case Study In Jordan”
Fabulous article, Matt, and I agree with every word. We also believe that luxury travel is more and more about the personal experience now rather than the thread count of the bed linens. I invite you to come take a peek at some of my articles one day as well! Travel on, my friend.
Thanks so much Deborah and I definitely will!
Amazing article and so true. Luxury have several definitions. I am a hostel owner in Downtown Amman called The Sydney hotel that hosts and attracts budget travellers mostly. They might be staying in a dorm and spending not more than 7 JD’s per night, but these people travelled the world and saw things the rich people never experienced.
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