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Fine art photographer Gray Malin has traveled across all seven continents (yes, Antarctica included!) capturing the world's most beautiful destinations. After discovering photography in high school, a study abroad trip spent with his beloved camera in tow led him to become passionate about travel photography.
"Every weekend we would go to a new destination, and I'd bring my camera along, and the marriage of photography and travel became really exciting to me," he says. "When I started my company, I actually didn't know that I would get to travel the world as much as I've been able to, but when I started writing my own books, I started focusing on travel, as it has been an inspirational point for people. It drew me to destinations people really love or dream of going to one day, and that's where it all began."
The photographer's latest monograph, Gray Malin, out June 9, offers vivid insight into his career and unique world experiences as a fine art and aerial photographer. This stunning, vibrant book has us experiencing peak wanderlust, leading us to wonder where the globetrotting photographer has been dreaming of visiting in a post-pandemic world. Here, Malin's recommendations for planning your first luxurious getaway since quarantine.
Cape Town, South Africa
Malin says one of the first places he can't wait to get back to is the breathtaking landscape of Cape Town.
"It's truly one of my favorite places in the whole world," he says. "I think a lot of people don't know that there are some incredible wine regions nearby, and the two to see are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Valley." Malin says it's worth making a day trip traveling to each, as you can take bike rides around the gorgeous terrain, enjoy a wine and cheese picnic, and participate in tastings from renowned vineyards.
He says there is also a stunning drive along the coast of the Cape of Good Hope where you'll discover a historic lighthouse, beaches filled with penguins, and some delicious eats before winding back through the Twelve Apostles mountain range into the city.
"Another place that just gets me every time is the island of Capri," Malin says. "It's somewhere I dream of going back constantly." He discovered swoon-worthy destination while shooting his wildly popular La Dolce Vita series, and he has come back every summer for the last five years, which has led to creating special relationships with locals across the island.
Malin's favorite hotel is Hotel Punta Tragara which he says is a bit off the beaten path, above the iconic Faraglioni rock formations but absolutely magical and every bit worth the effort. He says it's hard to find a more amazing view than here, as the hotel was built into the side of the mountain, which also gives the property a sense of quirkiness along with all the Golden Age glamour.
Other recommendations include many a pizza night at Pizzeria Aumm Aumm and spritz-laden lunch at the iconic La Fontelina Beach Club. The latter was a favorite of Sophia Loren, Brigette Bardot, and Clark Gable and many other glamorous jetsetters of the 1960s.
Byron Bay, Australia
This ultra-hip surf haven is another of Malin's must-visit destinations. He says Raes, a waterfront boutique hotel in Wategos Beach, is a beloved stay that a local friend told him about. It's also the ultimate place to experience your first international vacation, as there are only nine accommodations, offering a chic and exclusive experience.
"In Byron Bay there are so many great markets, and there's an open-air market filled with shops that have exciting food and home decor finds, and that is just such a fun part about being in Byron." He also says there are lots of gorgeous coastal walking trails where you can watch the surfers catch waves as sharks and dolphins swim past.
Malin says the cuisine is very seasonal and health-conscious, reminding him of the L.A. food scene. He says they take their produce really seriously in Bryon Bay, an it's a must-visit for foodies as well as wellness junkies and surfers.
"Personally, I would recommend Aspen," says Malin. "Last fall, I was having this itch to go somewhere and we went to Aspen and it really opened my eyes to how beautiful that town is, and I can only imagine what it's like in the summer."
Main stayed at a hotel that he's followed on social media for years and shot a project at called The Little Nell. It's the only hotel in Aspen that offers ski-in, ski-out access to Aspen Mountain, a fabulous spa, and one of the city's most prestigious addresses. Yet, while Aspen is incredibly chic and sophisticated, Malin notes it's all about being outdoors and enjoying the resplendent beauty of the Rockies. He says there are just so many amazing hiking trails over to the Maroon Bells scenic bike trails, and opportunities for other outdoor activities, like fly fishing.
"There's just a lot to offer there and I think that would be a really special trip to take this summer, as it's elevated but still fun," says Malin.
Other destinations Malin can't wait to get back to include New York City and Antarctica. New York, is of course, a favorite and inspiring destination for the creative, and Antarctica is a destination he visited once for a photography series but hopes to return to for a personal trip.
It's crazy going through the book and seeing how the last ten years of my life has been filled with non-stop adventuring, but it's all been with purpose," he says. "There's a chapter called 'Gray Malin in Antarctica' that features a series where we paired summer objects with the wintry terrain. That trip was so incredible to see the beauty of this untouched part of the world. There's really nothing there except for penguins, whales, and seals in terms of nature, but it really makes you appreciate so much of the world in a way that you'd never felt before. You really get to observe nature in a way that's so interesting and getting to walk with penguins and see the icebergs is just really incredible."
While planning a fabulous getaway may not be possible for all of us quite yet, Malin's latest monograph isn't the only exciting new way to take a mental vacation. He recently teamed up with Nest New York on a collaboration that pairs three of the brand's most popular and transportive scents with the locales they represent. The packaging of the Coconut & Palm fragrance features a vintage-inspired scene at The Breakers in Palm Beach, the Ocean Mist & Sea Salt features a seaside scene from St. Barth's, and the Amalfi Lemon & Mint features imagery from an umbrella-dotted Amalfi Coast beach club. These scents are sure to bring us fond memories of vacations past while we dream of all the sun-drenched getaways of the future.
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