Its translucent teal waters, neatly terraced rice fields and ancient Shinto shrines make Iki Island an unforgettable place. But like so many resorts in Asia, it's easy to overlook this out-of-the-way destination — and a five-star hotel like the Iki Retreat by Onko Chishin.
Iki Island, located halfway between Fukuoka and Busan, South Korea, is one of several hidden gems in Japan — places that are not well known but are worth discovering.
"Japan is full of hidden gems," says Radu Cernia, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Fukuoka, which just opened Kyushu.
Cernia, who has managed luxury hotels across Southeast Asia, says it's easy for North American visitors to follow the crowd when they visit Asia. But a little risk can deliver a lot of rewards, at least when it comes to choosing the right place to visit.
It looks as if 2024 will be the year to go off the beaten path, particularly in a place like Japan. With the country now fully open — and, let's be honest, a little crowded — American visitors might be looking for a quiet place where they can get far, far away from everything.
"Iki Island is a place where Japanese traditions, daily life, and culture are well-preserved," says Seiichi Ohta, general manager for the Iki Retreat. "The activities and scenes of life on the island often make even Japanese people feel like they've returned to a place that feels familiar, like coming home."
Iki Retreat is secluded by design. It overlooks the quiet waters of Yunomoto Bay, where the highlight of the day, besides the always-spectacular sunset, are the squid boats leaving at dusk and returning at dawn, with their bright lights strung across the deck. There's a natural spring on the premises that allows guests to enjoy a private onsen bath with mineral concentration 17 times that of regular springs. The hot spring dates back approximately 1,700 years, with records suggesting that the legendary Empress Jingū bathed in it after giving birth to Ōjin, the god of war.
But what makes Iki Retreat a real retreat is that you can go here to get lost. It is close to nothing, really. The main event, other than sitting in a mineral bath, is the dining. Every meal is prepared in front of guests, with locally grown ingredients and seafood that's fresh off the boat. And that view of Yunomoto Bay is enough to make every meal a relaxing and memorable experience.
It's easier to find a place like Fukuoka, Japan, but it's still far from a popular tourist destination. The Fukuoka prefecture attracted only 8.7 million visitors in 2019, the last normal year for tourism in Japan. That compares to 47.2 million visitors for Tokyo and 38.6 million for Osaka, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
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Charleston, S.C. boasts an abundance of charms, from its perfectly-preserved architecture to gorgeous beaches, top-tier food festivals, historic landmarks, and one of the country’s buzziest dining and nightlife scenes. So it’s no wonder the city has become one of the country’s top travel destinations in recent years.
I hate using public restrooms. I dislike the sounds, the smells, and the sensations. When I'm exiting the bathroom stall, I hate the awkward shuffle I have to do when I'm pulling the door towards me, while at the same time, trying to avoid touching the rim of the toilet with the back of my legs. But the worst part for me about using a public restroom is people overhearing me.
This year, airlines have been rolling out Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales that have us dreaming about everything from Scandinavian escapes (courtesy of SAS Airlines) to exploring even further afield (hello, South Africa and Seychelles).
To be a merchant in the Middle Ages, one needed to know how to write and count. Mastery of foreign languages was beneficial. But perhaps most important was an aptitude for theology. Although trade increased exponentially between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, the Catholic Church remained ambivalent about mercantile principles such as profit, not to mention the temptations of luxury. To be successful, a merchant had to apply metaphysical hairsplitting to the practical affairs of business.
Marriott International has announced that it is continuing its partnership with UNICEF by relaunching ‘Check Out for Children,’ a program that has been created to give guests the opportunity to make a voluntary donation to the organization during their stay.
Luxury and expedition cruise line, Seabourn, is offering a new World Cruise for 2026, a 129-day voyage onboard the Seabourn Sojourn that visits fourteen different countries, called the “Ring of Fire: Hidden Gems,” available for booking now.
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