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The World’s Best Places to Experience the Exotic

Article by Ellen Ranta Olson 09.27.2019

Immerse yourself in these far-flung destinations that for centuries have served as global crossroads for a rich tapestry of cultures, cuisines and people. Go beyond the beaten path and revel in an adventure for the senses.

Abu Dhabi: Explore colorful, spice-perfumed souks 

On the coast of the Persian Gulf, a modern city rises in a region steeped in centuries of history. While Abu Dhabi may be home to some of the world’s finest shopping, there’s more to this Middle Eastern capital than modern-day malls. For a more traditional experience and sensory feast, head to the Souk Al Qattara, where you can shop for things like timeless handicrafts, honey and dates, all among a heady swirl of spices. Don’t miss the Friday Market, a weekly bazaar where local artisans sell their wares. Afterward, enjoy high tea at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal.

Bali: Go beyond the beach and deep into an ancient culture

Long before Bali became an island retreat for seasoned surfers and luxury travelers alike, it was home to a thriving island community, rich with culture. Those customs live on today, providing an ever-present backdrop to the beautiful beaches and lush landscapes Bali is known for. For the Balinese, art, music and dance are more than just a pastime — they’re a way to entertain the gods. Soak up this storied heritage with an indigenous dance performance, held every evening at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali — you may just feel the gods smiling down on you.


Al Wadi: Discover ancient history in the Dubai desert

Just north of Dubai, this desert oasis combines history with modern Arabic culture for a mixture that’s hard to replicate. With a culture dating back thousands of years, archaeological sites sit next to traditional souqs and camel tracks. The Experience Concierge at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert can arrange a desert trek on camel or horseback, a private archery lesson or an evening of stargazing. Take full advantage of your proximity to nature with dinner at the Al Wadi Tower, modeled after a traditional Arabian watchtower. Dine in a private and luxurious setting, complete with your own private waiter, while taking in the essence of traditional outdoor desert dining.    


Langkawi: Connect to nature in Malaysia

Natural beauty takes center stage on this tropical island, where you can hike through mountains to swim in hidden waterfalls or explore more than 100 Malaysian islands by Jet-Ski. Named a UNESCO World Geopark in 2007 because of its luscious, tropical fauna, opportunities for both peaceful solitude and outdoor adventure abound. After a day spent outdoors, enjoy an oceanfront performance of the traditional Dance of Thanks to the Sea at The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi as the sun dips below the horizon. 


Koh Samui: Immerse yourself in Thai traditions

This Thai island is known as much for its serene white-sand beaches and tropical views as it is for its rich history and heritage. Discover a culture that dates back thousands of years as you explore Buddhist shrines and explore one of the world’s most unique cuisines at Baan Talat, a weekly outdoor dining experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui. The property’s outdoor courtyard comes to life, complete with an authentic selection of Thai street food dishes and market stalls full of handcrafted accessories available for purchase.

Tokyo: Experience traditional Japan after dark

Every evening, as the sun dips below the horizon, women dressed in elaborately embroidered silk kimonos appear in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo to honor the transition from day to night with a candle-lighting ceremony. It’s a welcome moment of calm set against the glittering backdrop of this futuristic city.

Evening view of the Tokyo skyline, which includes buildings, water and the Tokyo Tower