Notes from the road
Gray & Co.’s private active trips ensure that our travelers make the most of all the ultraluxe hotels, resorts, villas and yachts we use as our basecamps. So, what do we look for when deciding what properties work best for private gatherings and custom itineraries? The perfect size, top quality of service and much, much more. Below are some of our favorite destinations and spots to stay during our private active adventures.
Just northeast of Santa Barbara, in the wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley, sweeping landscapes of rolling vineyards and horse farms await. The quiet roads here have earned the area a golden reputation among cyclists, and the towns that dot the valley make great way stations: Danish-feeling Solvang is the most developed in the small region, while tiny Santa Ynez itself has a fun Wild West feeling to it. Nearby, petite Los Olivos (population 1,200) features just a few galleries, shops, restaurants and wine-tasting rooms, but they’re all top notch. Great hiking and biking can be accessed right from the best resort in the vicinity: Los Olivos’ elegant 19-room Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, which boasts a great pool and spa.
In Northern Italy, at the base of the Alps, Hotel Villa Abbazia is a Relais & Châteaux property housed in a 17th-century palazzo in the heart of the historic town of Follina. Surrounded by smooth roads and quiet towns, the property offers plenty to see and do. Our active pursuits here include cycling through the Venetian countryside, up the iconic WWI battle site of Montello hill and along the famous roads of the Giro d’Italia. Along the way, we’ll hike, take an espresso (or 12) and tour vineyards to taste the area’s famous Prosecco and wines such as ll Colli di Conegliano Rosso, Manzoni Bianco and the Colli di Conegliano Bianco.
The Italian island of Sardinia is famous for its nearly 1,250 miles of coastline, much of it dotted by sandy beaches (a rarity in the Mediterranean), but it also boasts unforgettable panoramas from the mountains of its relatively untouristed interior. The 25-room chef-owned Relais & Châteaux Petra Segreta Resort & Spa sits in the hills of San Pantaleo, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Activities available from its 12 acres include swimming from the surrounding pristine beaches, golfing at nearby Pevero Golf Club and sailing out to visit the Maddalena Archipelago. Among the islands here is uninhabited Caprera, a nature reserve best known for its pink granite rocks. In the evenings, Petra Segreta’s gourmet Italian restaurant, Il Fuoco Sacro, serves meat and fish grilled over a wood fire, pairing them with local produce from the hotel’s own organic garden.
Off the east coast of Spain, the Balearic Island of Mallorca lies just a quick flight from Barcelona. This coveted Mediterranean destination is a paradise for cyclists and hikers, who come here to ride and climb, swim and sun, eat and drink. The charming towns nestled in the island’s Tramuntana Mountains — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — demand exploration, while the coast’s secluded calas (beaches), hidden among gorges and orange, olive and almond groves, invite blissful relaxation. Our go-to home base for adventure is the luxurious Son Brull Hotel & Spa, located on the northeast side of the island and set in an 18th-century monastery. The Relais & Châteaux property was converted into a contemporary boutique hotel in 2003 and has been a hot spot ever since.
Fertile pampas and white-sand beaches are hallmarks of Uruguay’s beautiful landscapes. Among the most famous towns on the seacoast is stylish Punta del Este, known as a playground for the elite. Just half an hour north is the relatively low-key town of José Ignacio, which is as famous for its beaches as its farms — and for being home to three of the hotels in the exclusive collection of Vik Retreats. These art and design–focused boutique resorts have been lauded as some of the most exceptional destination hotels in South America, if not the entire world. Explorations from the doorstep of any of them can include cycling through rolling countryside and farmland with breaks at Atlantic beaches, seaside villages and small rural towns for shopping, horseback riding, kite surfing and more.
Chile’s small, award-winning Awasi lodges are the definition of luxury nestled in nature. They also prove the perfect size for Gray & Co. takeovers with families and friends. Up in the north, the Atacama Desert is home to a 12-suite adobe lodge, a real-life oasis steeped in history. Some of our favorite to-do’s in the area are a visit to Chile’s largest salt flat, cycling through the many red rock formations and hiking through the valley of the Rio San Pedro past the ruins of Pukara de Quitor. Next on our Awasi list are the 14 villas on their private Patagonia reserve, overlooking the granite peaks and pristine lakes of the Torres del Paine National Park. Here, we love hiking and horseback riding with gauchos, the local cowboys. Awasi’s newest property, a 14-villa lodge nestled in Argentina’s Atlantic Rainforest, is just 20 minutes away from the torrents of Iguazu Falls. Our custom itineraries in this part of the world feature epic private hikes and the best naturalist guides around.
The Gray & Co. Team