The 12 best value destinations right now

Iguazu Falls, one of the world's great natural wonders, on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

Luxe-for-less travel is not about counting dollars saved, but rather maximising experiences and luxury with dollars well spent

When it comes to planning a luxury getaway or adventure, the allure of discounted airfares, a weak currency against our own dollar and value-packed accommodation packages can be irresistible, even to the most discerning and well-heeled traveller. Luxe-for-less travel is not about counting dollars saved, but rather maximising experiences and luxury with dollars well spent.

Looking at flight prices and exchange rates*, we’ve identified 12 luxe-for-less destinations across the globe for you to consider when planning your next holiday, as well as where you should stay when you get there, and some great luxury deals you can take advantage of now.



Here is a country offering not just great wines, pulsating tango and mountaineering high up in the Andes, but also a range of lodges, fincas, haciendas and luxury hotels to accommodate luxury travellers. Now is a great time to visit Argentina. Compared to last year, the Australian dollar has appreciated 59 per cent against the Argentine peso, and flights have become better value, down six per cent to an average of A$1662.

Visit Buenos Aires, a heady mix of European immigrants and indigenous peoples. It is a city both glamorous and sophisticated, yet impoverished and honest. Stay between the fashionable Retiro and Recoleta districts at Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, set in a neoclassical palace and just a stroll to The Latin American Art Museum.

Argentina is a great country from which to experience the Andes. Stay at Cavas Wine Lodge, a luxury lodge at the foot of the mountains in Mendoza, home of the best Argentinian wine and perfect for fabulous excursions. The Incan culture is still manifest in these mountains, if not alive.

A must-see is Iguazu, where the famous falls spill more widely than anywhere on earth. Stay at the nearby Don Puerto Bemberg Lodge. In reach of the Jesuit missionary ruins, it’s a boutique lodge with dark colonial courtyards boasting its own rain forest.


Stay here, luxe for less

Stay at Entre Cielos, a luxury hotel and spa near Mendoza, set in a vineyard overlooking the Andes Mountains. Bookings made between 10 November and 19 December 2016 will receive up to 30 per cent off the rack rate. Guests who book a suite for a two-night stay can choose either a complimentary Classic Circuit spa treatment with a foam massage or a complimentary bottle of bubbles in room. Rates start at US$470 (about A$619) per night.

Or stay at Los Cauquenes, a resort and spa on the Beagle Channel beach only seven kilometres from Ushuaia in Argentina’s south. The hotel is currently offering a package for three-night stays during summer that include a welcome dinner, either a sailing or glacial experience, and a massage per person. For bookings for November, December and March 2017, rates start from US$530 (about A$696) per person, and in January and February, US$680 (about A$893) per person.



One of the world’s most alluring destinations, Brazil offers powdery white-sand beaches, verdant waterfall-dotted rainforests, colonial towns and pulsating metropolises. There’s the beguiling beach idyll of Trancoso in Bahia, home to Uxua’s cluster of sumptuously reimagined casas, a celebrity honeymoon favourite and simply one of the most stylish properties on the planet.

In the rhythmic, culture-dense cities of Rio and Sao Paulo, slick city hotels provide a buzzy meeting place for locals as well as a refuge for travellers. Step into the architectural triumph that is Hotel Unique in Sao Paulo, or the Philippe Starck-designed and family-run Hotel Fasano in Rio, where life revolves around an infinity pool. With unforgettable festivals, a serious sport pedigree, world-class cuisine, and a string of bucket-list experiences for adventure lovers, Brazil has it all.

And even though flight prices from Australia to Brazil plummeted by nine per cent during the first half of 2016, the Australian dollar has depreciated by only one per cent, so now is the time to pounce on this great-value luxury destination.


Stay here, luxe for less

Stay at Hotel das Cataratas, A Belmond Hotel, right next to the stunning Iguazu Falls on the Argentina-Brazil border, where you can book for a stay before 31 December 2016 and receive a complimentary accommodation upgrade (with daily breakfast included). Or if you’re travelling with children, you can book a family getaway package for a 30 per cent discount on a second room which includes a guided walking tour of the Iguazu Falls before the park opens to other visitors (and also includes daily breakfast).

The Grand Hyatt Rio de Janiero also has a family package, where you can save 50 per cent on the cost of a second connecting apartment for children up to 12 years old.



From heli-skiing tours in search of the best powder snow to dining on South American cuisine in five-star restaurants in Santiago, wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley and staying in wilderness lodges, Chile has to be one of the most diverse places on the planet for luxury. The Australian dollar has remained stable against the Chilean Peso over the past year, while the price of flights has fallen slightly by two per cent, averaging around A$1718.

Known for its salt flats, blue lagoons and bubbling geysers, a visit to the Atacama Desert is a must. At Hotel Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa, which was designed to blend in with its surroundings by some of Chile’s best architects, you can soak in water melted from glacial snow in an outdoor hot tub and marvel at the terracotta-coloured ridges that surround you, take part in astrological tours and visit ancient rock art sites and Andean villages.

Just outside Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia Camp offers glamping-style accommodation on the shores of Lake Toro. Its 18 cosy yurts have views over the water towards snow-capped mountains, where you can lie in bed and listen to the rain and wind against your tent. The camp offers daily excursions including kayaking, horse riding and hiking in the French Valley and to Grey Glacier, where you can look out for wildlife including condors, guanacos (small hump-less camels), ostrich-like rheas, pink flamingoes, foxes and puma.


Stay here, luxe for less

Chilean all-inclusive luxury lodge operator Tierra Hotels offers a Spirit of Chile package: book a seven-night stay combining two Tierra Hotels (either their Atacama, Chiloé or Patagonia locations) for a 15 per cent discount plus your choice of a complimentary night at the Grand Hyatt Santiago or a US$100 (about A$130) voucher for one of their UMA spas.



It’s no surprise that a country as vast and populous as China offers a range of opportunities for luxury travel. Beijing has the iconic history, the Forbidden City, and is the easiest place from which to see the Great Wall; Shanghai has the glamour of the Bund and some of the world’s most daring skyscraper architecture; Xian boasts the Terracotta Warriors. And if you want to realise a dream of cuddling a baby panda, you can do it in a sanctuary in Chengdu.

There are top-class cruise operators such as the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer drifting down the Yangzi river through the stunning Three Gorges, and even off the beaten track – in Tibet, in the mountains of Yunnan Province or travelling by camelback in the Gobi desert – there are highly-rated tour and accommodation options.

Groups like Abercrombie & Kent, Wild China and Remote Lands offer set or bespoke top-end tours of China’s attractions. The best international hotels abound in China: even industrial Shenyang has a world-class Grand Hyatt. Better still, your Aussie dollar goes further here than ever following a careful devaluation of the Chinese currency by the state. The Australian dollar is up four per cent year on year against the yuan with the average price of flights down 10 per cent to sit around A$767.


Stay here, luxe for less

Book a three-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou in China’s south for travel from 2 January to 29 March 2017 and your third night is free.

To the west at UNESCO World Heritage Site Lijiang, the Banyan Tree Lijiang also offers a stay-three, pay-two deal for bookings in a Jet Pool Villa (or higher category room) from now until 29 December 2016.



Amongst these remote islands and their sunny beaches and palm trees, where the accommodation typically consists of bures (thatched beachfront cabins), there is no shortage of luxury resorts. The Australian dollar is strong against the Fijian dollar, and in the last year, the average cost of flights from Australia has decreased 15 per cent to A$378 making now a great time to book.

If you’re searching for luxury, try the Mamanuca Islands. Likuliku Lagoon Resort is a stunning adults-only beachfront resort with overwater bures and is great for snorkelling and island excursions. Also on the Mamanucas is Vomo Island Fiji, an all-inclusive private island resort offering a choice of 28 villas and four residences, and extraordinary food.

The Remote Resort is an intimate resort right near the Rainbow Reef that caters for a maximum of 14 guests. From there you can get a boat across to fertile Taveuni and stay at Taveuni Palms. The luxury resort is perfect for a romantic hideaway but also for outdoor types with excursions to waterfalls and boat trips. For something really special try Laucala Island. It’s in the top class of private island resorts with a high staff to guest ratio, and where the food is home grown and the villas luxurious.

Coming soon is Kokomo Island, slated to offer six-star all-inclusive luxury via 21 beachfront villas and five hilltop residences, all in a private island setting.


Stay here, luxe for less

Likuliku Lagoon Resort offers an Indulgence Package, where guests who stay for seven nights or more from now until 31 March 2018 will get complimentary return island transfers by helicopter, seaplane or private water taxi plus a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. The package is priced from FJ$8204 (about A$5225) per person.

Book to travel from now until 23 December 2016 for a stay-seven, pay-five deal at Vomo Island Fiji. The OOH Package for accommodation in a Hillside Villa for two includes a bottle of wine or sparkling on arrival, two sarongs, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, a snorkel safari each day, gym access, WiFi, daily laundry service, non-motorised water sports, two massages at the resort’s Kui Spa and nine-hole pitch and putt golf, for FJ$1696 (about A$1080) per person.



Mauritius is justly famous among travellers for its piercing blue waters and powder-white beaches, while a rugged, rain-forested interior makes the island a mecca for adventure seekers and nature lovers. But it’s the reasonably priced luxury resorts that elevate this island destination beyond that of her pricier neighbours, providing a front-row seat onto some of the most spectacular vistas of the Indian Ocean.

Experience butler service in Colonial-style surroundings at the St. Regis or opt for modern luxury at the achingly hip Lux* Le Morne, and spend your days doing yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking Le Morne, visiting rum distilleries, learning to kitesurf or simply delving into one of the most creative national cuisines on the planet.

And this is the year to plan your visit to Mauritius. The island nation’s year-round sunshine makes it an all-seasons destination, so you can jump on a good deal without risking less-than-perfect weather. Flights from Australia to Mauritius have decreased eight per cent over the past year and now hover around A$966.


Stay here, luxe for less

Golf lovers can stay at the Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita for four to six nights and receive a 25 per cent discount on standard rates with daily breakfast and complimentary daily golf on the Ernie Els-designed golf course (including green fees and use of the driving range).

At The Oberoi, Mauritius, guests who book an Exotic Escape package for a minimum five-night stay will receive, in addition to luxury accommodation, daily breakfast and three-course dinner for two people, return airport transfers and complimentary WiFi. Those in the Presidential Villa or Royal Villa with private pool will also receive a complimentary one-hour couple’s massage. Rates start from €585 (about A$833) per night.



Luxury suites and villas now look out over both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans in Mexico, and it’s a wonderful destination to visit for a great value luxury holiday. Year-on-year, the Australian dollar has grown against the Mexican peso by 14 per cent, and flights have decreased by two per cent to around A$1597.

On the Atlantic side, visit Tulum, where the classiest hotels are Be Tulum, an isolated retreat where the suites all have private pools, and The Beach, where guests can relax on the private beach in queen-sized beds. For eating, Ziggy’s and Casa Violeta are special. Going back up the coast takes you to Playa del Carmen where the glorious Viceroy Riviera Maya hotel has a great position overlooking Cozumel Island and a full-service spa offering treatments inspired by Mayan traditions.

On the Pacific side, on the peninsula of Baja California, there are some wonderful resorts. Try Cabo San Lucas, a resort city known for its beaches, water-based activities and nightlife. Stay at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort with oceanfront suites and villas. Alternatively there’s Esperanza, a beachfront resort with a luxury spa, a championship golf course and private three-bedroom residences for larger groups.


Stay here, luxe for less

If you are heading to Cabo San Lucas between now and 17 December, Las Ventanas al Paraiso is offering an extra night free of charge for those who pay for three or four nights (stay five nights and you’ll receive a sixth and seventh night free of charge).

Another for the golfers, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, an all-inclusive luxury resort in Cancún on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, offers those booking between now and 23 December 2016 unlimited golfing on the resort’s Jack Nicklaus-designed signature golf course. The package also includes transportation to and from the resort, golf balls for practice, and food and beverages on the course and in the clubhouse.



Peru is emerging as one of South America’s best luxury travel destinations and getting there has never been cheaper. Peru has experienced an 18 per cent drop in flight prices from Australia, which average A$1607. But while Peru offers good value for money with the strength of the Australian dollar steady against the Peruvian sol, it’s not at the expense of luxury.

Peru is South America’s – and one of the world’s – culinary capitals. Its capital Lima is now home to two of the world’s Top 20 restaurants, with one – Central in Miraflores – in the world’s Top Five. And gourmet food comes cheaper here; many world-class restaurants offer degustation menus for less than A$40.

Peru offers a diverse tourist experience: Delfin Cruises offers the most luxurious riverboat on the whole Amazon River in Peru’s north-east corner, with room for just eight passengers, and an on-board restaurant ranked in Peru’s Top 10. But Peru is most famous for its mountains – and one of the world’s Seven Wonders, Machu Picchu. You can now explore Machu Picchu, and the prehistoric culture still on display in its nearby mountains, away from crowds in luxurious mountain lodges specifically built for small groups, with Mountain Lodges Of Peru.

Visitors after a sophisticated, old-world experience can choose from some of the classiest hotels in the Americas in Lima’s fashionable beachside suburbs. You can stay at the former holiday retreat of a 1920s Peruvian president overlooking the Pacific at Hotel B at Barranco.


Stay here, luxe for less

Stay at luxury Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a collection of 81 white adobe casitas nestled in a forest near the ancient city – if you book for two nights for travel from now until 31 December 2016, you get a third night for free. Or, instead choose Inkaterra La Casona in Cusco, where a three-night stay during the same time will earn you 50 per cent off spa services.

Belmond Sanctuary Lodge Machu Picchu is offering an Escape and Upgrade package, where stays between now and 31 December 2016 will receive a complimentary accommodation upgrade (the package also includes daily buffet breakfast and a la carte lunch and dinner).


South Africa

With the Australian dollar rising 18 per cent against the rand, South Africa has become a great value destination. The country’s abundance of wineries means wine is extremely affordable, and you can dine out for a fraction of the price you’d pay in Australia.

In Cape Town, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, opening in the historic Grain Silo complex at the V&A Waterfront in March, is being billed as the most significant new museum in Africa in more than a century. The nearby One&Only Cape Town, which overlooks the marina, is a great base from which to explore the museum and the city’s other attractions, including Table Mountain and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

But seeing the ‘big five’ – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard – is the main drawcard. While Kruger National Park is the most famous, private reserves offer more exclusive safari experiences.

Neighbouring Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve has four luxury lodges with the themes yesterday (traditional), today (contemporary) and tomorrow (futuristic). The innovative Earth Lodge, which is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, is built into the side of a hill of natural materials. Its 13 suites have private plunge pools from which impalas often drink, while elephants have been known to walk on the roof. Dine amidst 6000 bottles of rare wines in the underground wine cellar, and take part in small group safaris and learn about the reserve’s conservation efforts.


Stay here, luxe for less

One&Only Cape Town currently offers 15 per cent off suite bookings between now and 22 September 2017, as well as a ‘Stay Four Nights, Pay for Three’ package, applicable to all room categories.

Or set out on a safari at the privately owned Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. If you book to stay four nights at either of the luxurious Motse and Tarkuni properties, you’ll get a fifth night free, as well as horse rides, walking safaris, a private guide, vehicle and tracker, WiFi and access to the Children’s Junior Ranger programme and babysitting.


South Korea

South Korea is not an obvious luxury travel destination, but it has a great deal to offer in terms of food, culture and scenery. Seoul is a modern city made beautiful by the palaces and vast ancient city gates within it, and by the mountains that fringe it, as well as its markets and cuisine. The Park Hyatt is considered the pick of the bunch, but top-quality hotels are in abundance and the locally owned Shilla is a long-standing favourite.

Few western visitors get beyond Seoul, but they should. Arguably the most interesting trip in South Korea – and the most nerve-wracking – is the tour to the border with North Korea, which includes a visit to tunnels that have been discovered leading across the border, a tour of the Demilitarised Zone, and even a visit to the hut where the armistice was signed to divide the country in two, in full view of North Korean border guards.

A more peaceful destination might be Jeju, the beautiful island to the south of the Korean peninsular, or the ancient capital of Gyeongju. In the right season, the skiing is among the best in Asia, with top resorts such as Yongpyong.

So start planning your trip – the average cost of a flight from Australia has dropped by seven per cent year on year to A$725. The Aussie dollar and won cross-rate has been stable for the last two years.


Stay here, luxe for less

Lotte Hotel Seoul, a five-star hotel in the heart of the South Korean capital’s CBD, offers a stay four, pay for three deal with free breakfast and welcome drinks included, plus a dinner at one of the hotel restaurants on the final night of your stay. Rates start from W380,000 (about A$440) per night.


Sri Lanka

With spectacular surf and swim beaches, ancient temples, colonial heritage towns, lush tea plantations and mouth-wateringly delicious food, Sri Lanka has been seducing Aussie backpackers for years. Now a string of luxury resorts and boutique properties are paving the way for a new breed of traveller, and they offer serious bang-for-buck.

There’s the ravishing eco-resort Tri on Lake Koggala, or the terracotta-tiled Cape Weligama on a windswept bluff near the charming fort town of Galle. Mix it up by heading to the hills and stay in Ceylon Tea Trails’ quaint colonial cottages set among the misty tea plantations to the north.

Move now to take advantage of the Australian dollar’s five per cent growth against the Sri Lankan rupee, making an affordable destination even more attractive. Sri Lanka has also seen a seven per cent year-on-year drop in flight prices from Australia, down to an average of A$576. With a total of eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in a compact space, Sri Lanka is the island destination of choice for travellers who like their beach breaks with a side helping of culture and culinary exploration.


Stay here, luxe for less

Stay at The Fortress Resort and Spa, in the historic town of Koggala on the Sri Lankan south coast. If you book for a stay before 19 December 2016 you can save up to 40 per cent off the standard rates for an all-inclusive package that comprises breakfast, lunch and dinner, selected alcoholic beverages, minibar, afternoon tea, daily sundown cocktail and farewell destination dinner.



While Thailand is an affordable Asian holiday destination popular with backpackers, it also has plenty of luxury offerings, from high-end beachside resorts to slick city hotels and villas. The Australian dollar has risen by 10 per cent against the Thai baht over the past year, while the price of flights has dropped slightly (two per cent), making it a great time to visit.

Bangkok is usually the first port of call for visitors, with the bustling city offering an excellent introduction to Thai street food and the temples and palaces the country is known for. The Peninsula Bangkok has rooms decorated with silk Thai furnishings and overlooking the Chao Phraya River, and a three-tiered pool surrounded by sun loungers and traditional Thai pavilions.

Around three hours’ drive away, the chic Sofitel SO Hua Hin opened in early 2016 in an area that is a popular holiday spot for Bangkok locals. More like a boutique hotel than a resort, Sofitel SO Hua Hin is on its own private beach and boasts quirky design elements, including colourful artworks and rain showers in the middle of the bathroom. It is a short bike ride to Cha Am fishing village, where you can indulge in fresh seafood, and you can do day tours to visit the magnificent Khao Luang cave temple and the palace where the Thai royal family once spent their summer holidays.


Stay here, luxe for less

The Six Senses Yao Noi is a luxury resort with views over Thailand’s famed Phang Nga Bay. If you book a stay in a Pool Villa for five nights or longer, you will get a 20 per cent discount off the best available rate as well as complimentary breakfast daily.

Or for a city hotel saving, book at The St. Regis Bangkok, a luxe hotel in a great spot on Rajadamri Road. Bookings for two nights will receive a third free, and a five-night stay or longer will save 25 per cent.

*To confirm pricing, details, and terms and conditions for each deal, visit the website listed. Deals were accurate at the time of printing.

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