The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Like James Bond
You might not have an MI6 expense account, but for the right price, you can recreate any of 007’s many glorious vacations
James Bond has been perhaps the most constant influence over generations of men — not only in the U.K., but stateside and beyond — found across any cultural medium in modern history. Your sports team may have moved. Your favorite artist may have broken up or released a string of awful albums. But Bond remains. The clothes he wears, the cars he drives, the way he does it all with such elan: Bond is boundlessly aspirational, a point further proven with the places he travels and the style with which he does so.
By our count, Bond has been to at least 48 countries throughout the movie series, though coming to a definitive tally is a bit convoluted due to shifting geopolitics, along with a collection of defunct and newly founded republics — goodbye Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and East and West Germany. All told, it could be as many as 58. Oh, and he’s been to space!
However you do the math, he’s a prodigious passport user. It’s not unusual for the jetsetting Bond to visit half a dozen countries over the course of a single film. While some are more firmly rooted in one or two locales, more likely than not, Bond is popping in and out over the course of his mission to conquer world terrorism, defend the crown and if we’re being honest, drink martinis, sleep with beautiful women and kill loads of bad guys (not necessarily in that order).
Which happens to bring me to my favorite way to distinguish between the Bonds, and the actors who have played him, as each gave the character their own personal touch. How do they stack up to one another when their top three pursuits are ranked? Who prefers a cold drink over a cold body?
Daniel Craig’s Bond, for instance, is inclined to imbibe, consuming 31 drinks (prior to No Time to Die), or one drink every 17:27 of film. Sean Connery was boozier on the whole, with 34 beverages sent down the hatch, but over the course of more screen time. Perhaps due to all the alcohol, Craig’s also has some serious blood lust, racking up a 279-strong body count, averaging a kill every 1:56 minutes across his movies. Roger Moore’s, on the other hand, was the ultimate lady’s man, inviting 19 women into his boudoir over the course of his films.
But whether you prefer your Bond to be murderous, womanizing or a bit blotto, you can follow his example by traveling around the world in style. Here’s how to get in on the fun.
The Latest in Bond Travel: No Time to Die
In No Time to Die, Bond visits a mix of old favorites and new destinations. In the case of the latter, he heads to southern Italy to visit Matera and Puglia, with a car chase taking him through both.
Matera has an unmatched heritage, having been inhabited for 9,000 years via a string of communities called Sassi carved directly into the surrounding mountains themselves. The city has been overhauled in recent years, retaining its compelling history and stunning architecture while improving the lives of locals and coming up to speed for modern, luxury tourism. The five-star Palazzo Gattini hotel is a great example of both ends of what Matera has to offer.
Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot, a region known for its wonderful food culture — burrata cheese hails from there — and a resurgent wine industry, with bulk purveyors replaced with quality-minded producers, such as Tormaresca. The Borgo Egnazia is one of Europe’s chicest resorts, and is built in the fashion of a traditional Puglian village, or masseria. The region is also home to beautiful beaches and a pristine swath of coastline which feature in the movie as well.
In the case of old favorites, look no further than Jamaica. In No Time to Die, Bond has to be pulled from the island’s sandy shores to get back into action. The locale has long served as a Bond haunt, and that’s due to the fact that Ian Fleming, Bond author and creator, had an estate on the island from which he did almost all of his writing. Dubbed Goldeneye — does that sound familiar? — the estate is now a luxury resort, and the original Fleming villa itself can even be rented.
The property is owned by Chris Blackwell, who Fleming tabbed to help scout the island for the first movie in the series, Dr. No. Goldeneye currently has a “license to chill” special available through the end of the year including a five-night stay and a number of perks and add-ons.
The Greatest in Bond Travel: Top All-Time Sites
Fifty countries is a lot of ground to cover. Rather than trying to go everywhere Bond’s been, focus on some of the can’t-miss sites. Consider this the Bond bucket list.
The French Riviera: The Côte d’Azur is perhaps the most quintessential Bond destination of them all. The gambling and the glamour. The beautiful coastline and the even more beautiful people. The see and be seen crowd, the luxury yachts, the F1 races, the seemingly sky high stakes of it all. Get in on the fun in Monaco at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, which Bond himself does in Goldeneye, and consider resting your head at the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo.
Of course, there’s no shortage of exclusive luxe hotels up and down the coast and its iconic cities of Saint-Tropez, Nice and Cannes. Maximize your time with a leisurely cruise from a provider such as Ponant, which offers incredible 7-night sailings allowing you an intimate, insider’s experience.
Italy’s Icons: The Bond franchise continues coming back to Venice, and you’d have to imagine that Bond himself would do the same. The magnificent city appeared most recently in Casino Royale, but was also included in Moonraker and From Russia With Love. Its iconic sites, such as the Piazza San Marco, all get some screen time, and in Casino Royale, the Hotel Cipriani makes an appearance. May as well stay at the otherworldly Belmond hotel then, positioned on Giudecca, and therefore with a view across the water at the heart of Venice.
You’d be remiss to skip over Lake Como on your luxury Italian getaway, and Bond thought the same, visiting in Casino Royale as well as Quantum of Solace. He licks his wounds at Villa del Balbianello, and gets a bit more violent at Villa La Gaeta. You’re booking a room at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, or perhaps the Mandarin Oriental. It’s hard to go wrong with Lake Como’s lineup of swanky stays.
Khao Phing Kan: Thailand features prominently in The Man With the Golden Gun, and no place more so than Khao Phing Kan, a picturesque island and bay within Phang Nga Bay National Park. So recognizable and visited is the locale that it’s been rechristened as James Bond Island, its craggy, narrow and vertical limestone cliffs jutting up from water and its hard-to-fathom shades of vibrant green.
The unforgettable locale is a short trip from Phuket, making it easy to stay at one of the many high-end resorts of the popular tourist destination. Better yet, stay at the Six Senses Yao Noi. The ultra-extravagant property is located directly within Phang Nga Bay, allowing you to luxuriate right within its surrealistic and storied setting.
Break Out the Skis: Sometimes it seems like Bond’s always at the beach, but in truth, the series loves a good, snowy winterscape with imposing mountains, and often enough, even more imposing villain lairs. In No Time to Die, Bond heads to Norway, with an epic chase scene across a frozen lake, filmed at Langevann Lake. You may as well stay at the grand dame Grand Hotel Oslo, then.
Meanwhile, Bonds heads few places more often than he does Switzerland and The Alps. For Your Eyes Only, The World Is Not Enough and Goldeneye all take their turns, pun very much intended. The rotating restaurant Piz Gloria atop Mount Schilthorn is an iconic site from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Bond cruises through quaint villages and sweeping roads via the Furka Pass in his Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger. Of course, if you’re heading to Switzerland in style, you’re popping through Gstaad, and could do worse than basking in slopeside luxury at The Alpina Gstaad.
Hitting any of the above destinations on a trip is amazing enough, but there are also now ways you can book a dedicated itinerary loaded with all of your Bond fantasies. Bespoke luxury operator Black Tomato has just such a journey, with two nights in London, where you’ll receive a private Savile Row session and the keys to an Aston Martin DB7; three nights at Lake Como, with a private vintage Riva boat ride to the aforementioned Villa del Balbianello; and four nights in Switzerland, where you’ll take a helicopter over the Alps, and try your own hand at steering your Aston Martin across the Stelvio Pass. (To book it, just make an inquiry here and mention that you want their European James Bond journey.)
Head to the Homeland: Bond in the UK
Fleming may have done much of his writing in Jamaica, but a key piece of inspiration for the character occurred in London. It’s while staying at charming Dukes Hotel, and frequenting its world famous Dukes Bar, that Fleming is said to have come up with Bond’s predilection for martinis, and specifically with his penchant for requesting them shaken, not stirred.
Today, Dukes Bar is helmed by Alessandro Palazzi and offers an unrivaled tableside martini service that Bond would agree is to die for, even if they’re not shaken. The martinis are delicious, yet so potent that the house rule is a two-martini limit per customer. Fleming might have been able to get away with more, and surely Bond would demand it, but two is likely to stand as your personal quota.
Much of the series takes place in London and elsewhere in the U.K., of course. The actual headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service, the MI6 Building, has appeared properly cast as itself in a string of Bond films since its completion in 1994. Elsewhere, many of the city’s top sites have appeared in one film or another.
Bond’s father is from Scotland, and in Skyfall, Bond heads to the Highlands and his roots in Glencoe. Scotland takes its star turn time and again throughout the series, and in No Time to Die, Bond is back once more, for what else but a car chase in and around Cairngorms National Park. Lucky for you that’s quite close to Balmoral Castle, the Scottish holiday home of the royal family, which has rentable cottages. But Scotland is an easy country to drive around, especially with a Bond-worthy car shepherding you across its windy roads. So perhaps you go for a spin back to Edinburgh and stay at The Balmoral hotel, home to a world famous Scotch bar with a 500-deep collection. The hotel recently launched an uber-exclusive Scotch Club, with a maximum of 35 memberships. Once again, we know Bond could snag one … but could you? If the series has taught us anything, it’s that it’s worth a try, at least.
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