Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy

The list

This year I had the honour of asking to serve on Belmond‘s inaugural LGBT advisory board, among some real industry heavy-weights, to help them shape the future of the brand as one of choice for the LGBTQ audience. It’s not that they really need that much help in that area, Belmond, formerly Orient-Express is a brand long loved by men of distinction worldwide, but the brand wants to push forward to be much more proactive in ensuring their properties, trains and cruises are doing the best they can to accommodate gay people.

At the start of each year, Belmond reveals ‘The List’, a month-by-month travel guide of all the ‘must do’ experiences for the year ahead. They come up with ‘The List’ to help their guests plan their next adventure and navigate through the many inspirational and exclusive Belmond experiences.

As January is all about wellness (believe me, I write this whilst staving off hunger with a handful of seeds – clean eating is clearly for the birds), ‘The List’ showcases Thailand and the Belmond Napasai – offering personalised three, five and seven day detox programmes, in partnership with destination wellness expert Amrita. Guests can benefit from spa treatments, bespoke nutritional menus, raw food foraging and cooking classes and garden walking meditation, plus take home an e-book to inspire long term lifestyle changes.

In February we get funky, two of the Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express‘s carriages have undergone a stunning exterior makeover just in time – by Singaporean-based street artist Rajesh Kumar. The train will also introduce a more relaxed dress code, play list curated by a leading DJ and bespoke cocktail menu. One for all you luxury flash-packers out there. 

With the Italian season underway in March, guests staying at Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino can dive or snorkel off the shores of nearby Noli beach, to underwater self-sustainable biospheres and explore remarkable eco gardens that grow vegetables and medicinal herbs.

Belmond Royal Scotsman celebrates its season return in April with a new addition and first for Belmond – The Bamford Haybarn Spa – offering guests the chance to be pampered in a tranquil spa car as they journey through the Highlands – if you’ve not heard of a spa-carriage, you have now. Belmond will work with British wellness brand Bamford was established in 2006 and is inspired by nature, with botanical skincare collections and holistic treatments that are made using organic ingredients certified by the Soil Association. Its Geranium, Lavender and Peppermint Botanical collection has also been selected by Belmond as the amenity range for each cabin. Individually crafted wellbeing treatments are devoted to connecting the mind, body and soul with the natural world.

For those looking for the ultimate travel ‘high’, South America’s first luxury sleeper train, Belmond Andean Explorer, takes to the rails in May; transporting passengers between Cusco, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa and across the highest plains of the Andes.

Belmond is in bloom come June, when for the first time Belmond Northern Belle and Belmond British Pullman bring passengers from the north and south of England to RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, which takes place in the grounds of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s stately home.

Boasting a polo club that dates back to 1911, Santa Barbara is one of the sunniest and most welcoming places to experience the polo season. In July, Belmond El Encanto launches exclusive hospitality and accommodation packages for Sunday polo match play.

Inspired by the uplifting Ravello Festival Concert held in August, in the majestic Villa Rufolo, Belmond Hotel Caruso on the Amalfi Coast can arrange for guests to be awoken by their own private sunrise quartet concert performed in the hotel grounds.  

September is an ideal time for visitors staying at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel to witness the positive impact of the country’s most successful township farm, under the hotel initiative ‘Hope and Harvest’ and pick vegetables from Mama Kaba’s garden – which the hotel chefs transform into an authentic farm-to-fork dish.

Balloon over Bagan

In October, there is a new way to experience the spirituality of Myanmar with the launch of Mindfulness river cruises on Belmond Road to Mandalay, inviting guests to immerse in ancient yoga, meditation and mindfulness practises lead by experts as they journey down the Ayeyarwady. 

During November, cycling enthusiasts can join Tour de France legend and champion Andy Schleck at Belmond La Residencia, in the charming mountain village of Deià, as he dedicates a week to cycling with guests on a variety of stunning routes across the island of Mallorca.

Brazilians know how to party and guests staying at Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro at the end of December are promised the best Samba and fireworks in the city, as the hotel hosts its legendary New Year’s white tie ball.

Photography courtesy of Belmond