Holly Monahan created Ilex Luxury Travel to design highly personalized tours for travelers looking to visit her favorite destinations worldwide. With so much travel information available on the internet, having a recognized expert navigate the noise can help make every day of your trip perfect.
Before launching Ilex Luxury Travel, Holly spent a decade designing deluxe trips to Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and other locales for a leading tour operator in New York City. In 2012, she chose to immerse herself in Asia, basing herself in Bangkok and conducting extensive visits around the greater region. Travel + Leisure recognized her commitment and expertise in 2015, when it named her its “A-List” Travel Advisor for Thailand, she also made the list in 2016, and was again on the list in 2018 and 2019.
Holly, who has also lived in London, Berlin, Dublin, Barcelona, and Singapore, is now primarily based back in the USA. “Creating a perfect itinerary for a client reminds me of making mix tapes for friends when I was a teenager,” Holly explains. “You include some well-known hits, but the real fun comes from introducing them to rare, surprising tracks you know they will love. When I design trips, of course I want my clients to see the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites that initially inspired their interest, but I love finding out where their tastes lie and throwing in a quirky cafe, a hidden boutique, a hands-on creative class, or a private blessing at a rarely visited temple. That’s what makes Ilex trips so special and personal.”
So what is ilex?
Ilex is the scientific name for the genus of the holly plant whose round-leaf version can be found in parts of Southeast Asia, China, and Japan; a stylized version of this leaf adorns the Ilex Luxury Travel logo.
In Japan, round-leaf holly (also called Kurogane holly) was among the hibaku jumoku (A-bombed trees) that withstood the onslaught in Hiroshima and went on to symbolize hope and regeneration.
Holly personally snapped most of the photographs that illustrate Ilex Luxury Travel’s website. The photos show the people, places, and animals that caught her eye while traveling around the world.