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Holiday gift guide: 3 bucket-list travel experiences

Your memories of a transcendent trip will linger long after holiday's end. | By Selena Hoy | December 3, 2021

It can be hard to shop for a minimalist, but travel gifts are a great way to please those who do not want more stuff. Rather than gifting another gadget that’ll take up space on the kitchen counter, let your loved ones soak up a global-yet-local scene and return home with light luggage and a lighter heart. Give the gift of travel memories by:

  • Filling their cup (and plate!): Send them on a gastronomic jaunt to a food-lover’s paradise in Japan

  • Settling the soul: They’ll love a tranquil tour of a stunning, serene region of Portugal

  • Awakening an adventurous heart: Watch them cherish every moment as they discover Egypt’s otherworldly cultural gems

Travel gifts for the foodie

Osaka, Japan

Osaka is often lauded as Japan’s kitchen—it’s a place where people love to eat, and with gusto. Your favorite foodie will delight in sampling tasty morsels, perusing interesting ingredients and browsing for kitchen utensils in one of the city’s markets like Kuromon Ichiba, a seafood-centric market with some 150 stalls.

A stroll through Dotonbori or Shinsekai neighborhoods will yield a dizzying array of restaurants, including plenty of places to try some of the city’s famous street food, such as takoyaki (grilled spheres of savory batter studded with pieces of octopus) or kushikatsu (battered and deep-fried chunks of meat and vegetables laced on skewers). Or sit down for perhaps Osaka’s most famous dish, okonomiyaki, which translates to “cook what you like.” It’s a delightful mishmash of vegetables, fish, meat, batter and sauces, all bound together with batter and fried on an open grill. Spirit fans will love a tour of the Daimon Brewery where they can enjoy a well-earned glass after learning how it’s made.

To celebrate the trip, gift a stay and suggest a sumptuous teppanyaki dinner in a luxurious private dining room with a dedicated teppan chef at Conrad Osaka. Afterward, they should head to the 40th-floor Sky Bar for a tangy Taiko Sour and views of Osaka’s glittering Nakanoshima District. This eagle’s lair offers live music and afternoon tea, Japanese-style, too. The next day, the concierge can arrange a bespoke itinerary through the city’s markets or to nearby Osaka Castle.

For the soul searchers

Algarve, Portugal

Sometimes the best gift is the gift of down time, and The Algarve—Portugal’s southernmost region, right on the Atlantic—is the perfect destination to slow down, relax and come back to center. Self-care is easy when there are beautiful beaches to surf, swim or just sunbathe. Most beaches are less than an hour from Conrad Algarve, and the property offers a quick shuttle ride right to Maria’s Beach. Otherwise, 30 minutes away is the Praia de Falésia, an environmentally certified Blue Flag beach; the scenic Praia de Camilo lies just an hour away in Lagos.

When they're ready to stretch their legs, your favorite soul-searcher will find the sublime hiking on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail with its glimpses across sheer cliffs and into hidden coves along the coast. You can arrange a private transfer from the hotel with the concierge.

Or, maybe they’d like to shake out those muscles with a yoga class, finding a new challenge with a pose on a stand-up paddleboard on Quinta do Lago’s lake. Just call the concierge to arrange a private class.

Golfing is another excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness, and there are six courses within a couple miles of the hotel. Plus, the PGA-certified golf concierge can help arrange the day. Back at the resort, they can divide their time between lounging at one of the three on-site swimming pools and partaking in customized spa treatments like oxygen infusion and inhalation therapies, couples massage and all-over body scrubs. They’re sure to feel both mentally and physically rejuvenated by the end of their trip.

Travel gifts for culture cravers

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, with its 1,000-year-plus history, has more than its share of fascinating culture for the loved one who craves new environments. The magnificent Pyramids of Giza, flanked by the inscrutable Sphinx, are the only remaining of the original Seven Great Wonders of the World, and they’re only about a 30-minute taxi ride from the city center.

Cairo is also home to Al-Azhar University, the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the world, and the premier place for Arabic literature and Islamic learning. The Grand Egyptian Museum—opening in late 2022—has the largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities on the planet. You could easily spend a whole day examining sarcophagi and imagining the lives of these ancient kings and queens.

Your loved ones can shop for artisan-made crafts and souvenirs at the famous Khan El-Khalili bazaar, established in the 1300s. It has a maze of antique shops, trade goods, coffee houses and restaurants. Conrad Cairo, with its perch on the Nile River, is the ideal base for exploration. The onsite, 24/7 concierge can create custom itineraries for all the above spots—and has plenty of ways to rest for the weary after a full day’s exploration. This downtown hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, spa and wellness center, along with six restaurants, some with terraced seating overlooking this storied river.

Give the gift of a travel memory

The time is ripe to savor new experiences and make new memories. Gift the gift of transformation through travel with a visit to some of the most beautiful places in the world, so your loved ones come back refreshed, renewed and better than ever, with memories that will last forever.

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Selena Nonagase is a writer based in Tokyo. Bylines include BBC Travel, CNN Travel, The Atlantic, The Guardian, etc. She can usually be found drinking coffee in Tokyo cafes and bathing in hot springs in rural Japan.

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