From ranches to ryokans: 25 stays worth travelling for
A room overlooking Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, your own glass cabin hidden in New Zealand’s countryside, experiencing the intricacies of Japanese culture at a ryokan… sometimes, where you stay can cast a whole new light on the destination you’re visiting.
To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we’ve hand-picked 25 one-of-a-kind stays that are more than just a place to rest your head. So, whether your travel motivation is seeing wildlife, enjoying the sort of scenery cameras just can’t capture, or escaping to somewhere truly remote, you’ll find somewhere worth unpacking your suitcase.
Wildlife on your doorstep
Hiking into the rainforest to a chorus of birdsong, watching grizzly bears swipe salmon from a rock-strewn river, spotting a leopard in the branches of a tree on a morning game drive… the chance to encounter wildlife is what motivates many of us to travel across the globe. Here, we’ve picked five camps and lodges that help bring you closer to the animal kingdom.
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
Why unpack here? You reach Pacuare Lodge by river raft, bird calls filling the air. The lodge is tucked away in its own private rainforest reserve on the banks of its eponymous river, surrounded by the Talamanca Mountains. When not relaxing in the spa, the infinity pool, or your own villa, you can head out on foot with naturalist guides who’ll help identify birds including sun bitterns, toucans, and black-cheeked woodpeckers.
Get me there: Discover Costa Rica
Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge, South Africa
Why unpack here? Bringing all the comforts of a high-end hotel into the wild, Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge has just eight exceptionally spacious suites with high thatched ceilings and private plunge pools. From here, you can head out on game drives and bush walks within Sabi Sands Game Reserve — a private reserve adjoining Kruger National Park that’s home to the Big Five and is well-known for its leopard population.
Get me there: Luxury Kruger safari & Vilanculos beach
Farewell Harbour Lodge, Canada
Why unpack here? An intimate, family-owned waterfront retreat, Farewell Harbour Lodge is situated on the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest, which gives you a clue as to the wildlife you can see here. Expert guides lead you out in Zodiac boats and on foot in search of black and grizzly bears in their natural habitat. You can also join boat trips to look for humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, and dolphins.
Get me there: Yukon wilderness & British Columbia self-drive
Black Rock Lodge, Belize
Why unpack here? Surrounded by vast swathes of jungle in Belize’s Maya Mountains, the 20 cabins at Black Rock Lodge overlook a forested canyon and the Macal River. Guides here will share their passion for the natural world on canoe and kayak trips, and point out birds such as parrots, hummingbirds, and the rare orange-breasted falcon on hikes. They’ll also help you spot nocturnal species on walks or drives after dark, from tree frogs to wild cats.
Get me there: Belize reef & rainforest tour
Speke’s Camp, Kenya
Why unpack here? Canvas, reclaimed wood, traditional Kenyan fabrics, and even natural materials are brought together to create this authentic, down-to-earth camp. Situated on a private wedge of land in the Masai Mara, Speke’s Camp puts the emphasis back on nature, giving you a chance to head out on twice-daily game drives with a private guide and vehicle in search of whatever animals are on your list, from elephant and lion to cheetah and giraffe.
Get me there: Ultimate Kenya Safari: Amboseli, Meru and Masai Mara
Miles from anywhere
If you’re looking to escape from the everyday, to find peace, solitude, and comfort in a remote corner of the world, look no further than these five choices. Whether they’re cradled by mountains, provide an oasis in the middle of a desert, or are set along a little-visited stretch of coastline, these stays give you a chance to explore far from city lights.
Tierra Patagonia, Chile
Why unpack here? Burrowed into the landscape beside the teal waters of Lake Sarmiento, Tierra Patagonia appears to bow at the feet of the snow-streaked mountains that jut up in the near-distance. The sustainable, sensitively designed hotel is just a short drive from the wilds of Torres del Paine National Park, but that’s where the landmarks end. Here, it’s nothing but you and Patagonia’s distinctively jagged peaks, which are laced with barely trodden trails.
Get me there: Complete Chilean Patagonia tour
Shipwreck Lodge, Namibia
Why unpack here? Lining the silky-smooth sand dunes of Namibia’s far-flung Skeleton Coast, Shipwreck Lodge’s ten individual chalets face the Atlantic Ocean. Constructed of wood and glass, their innovative design echoes the remains of the many shipwrecks that scatter these notoriously treacherous shores. The lodge is the only property within this vast national park, and while you can access it by vehicle, many opt for a light-aircraft flight to reach its remote location.
Get me there: Skeleton Coast flying safari
Kahutara PurePod, New Zealand
Why unpack here? Mountains, a silvery river, green valleys dotted with endemic kanuka trees… all of this is your personal back yard when you stay in Kahutara PurePod. This solar-powered stand-alone cabin sits isolated in the sleepy countryside outside of Kaikōura, although you won’t be told its exact location until you travel. And, it’s made almost completely of glass, so you can gaze out at the views (and the stars) from your bed.
Get me there: New Zealand’s South Island self-drive tour
Alto Atacama, Chile
Why unpack here? Built on an oasis within the world’s driest desert, Alto Atacama is surrounded by rust-red mountains and native carob trees. Here, guides show you there’s more to the Atacama than its arid landscape as you’re immersed in the region’s culture, history, flora, and geology. While you’re within reach of town, you’re distant enough to spot constellations and shooting stars in the inky night sky from the observation deck.
Get me there: Grand tour of Chile
Blachford Lake Lodge, Canada
Why unpack here? Accessed only by seaplane, Blachford Lake Lodge evokes the atmosphere of an early pioneer’s lodgings, set deep in the untamed wilderness of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Spend your days here hiking, canoeing, and mountain biking through boreal forest. Or, in winter, go ice fishing, dog-sledding, and tobogganing before watching the glow of the northern lights from the hot tub.
Get me there: You can reach the lodge via a 45-minute flight from Yellowknife.
A taste of local life
Whether it’s a suite with original 17th-century stone arches, a ranch where you can herd cattle from horseback on the windswept prairie, or a ryokan with mountain views from its hot-spring onsen, we look for hotels that have a strong sense of the local culture. We’ve chosen five below that do an exquisite job of capturing the local essence, balanced with modern amenities.
Iya Valley Onsen, Japan
Why unpack here? Sleeping on a futon in a room filled with tatami mats, wearing a yukata, sitting down to a multi-course kaiseki dinner… A couple of nights at a traditional ryokan is one of the best ways to immerse yourself, literally, in local culture. With hot springs heated by nearby volcanoes and expansive views of the steep, secluded valley, Iya Valley Onsen offers one of the most authentic experiences in the country.
Get me there: Japan’s hidden island
Bratsera Hotel, Greece
Why unpack here? Hydra is car free — even bicycles are forbidden — and the whole island moves at a languid pace. This, combined with pristine Aegean scenery, attracts artists, musicians, and locals alike, who all come to unwind. The Bratsera Hotel, located in a UNESCO-protected building dating to the 1860s, perfectly captures the island’s blend of relaxed Greek character and chic sophistication.
Get me there: Athens & the Peloponnese
Montra Nivesha, Cambodia
Why unpack here? Montra Nivesha is a serene stay built in the style of a traditional Khmer house. Its rooms and suites blend traditional Cambodian design with wholly modern comforts — you’ll find traditional Khmer artworks like silk textiles and hand-carved wooden statues. During your stay, you can take advantage of the hotel’s cooking classes to learn more about Cambodian culture.
Get me there: Treasures of Angkor
Brush Creek Ranch, USA
Why unpack here? Set amid the raw wilderness of the North Platte River Valley and the Sierra Madre mountains, Brush Creek Ranch offers a chance to live out the cowboy lifestyle… in comfort. You can join guided horse rides, whether you’re a beginner or experienced, take a roping lesson, go fly fishing, and help herd cattle. The opulent ranch house also offers a wide menu of less-rugged activities, like yoga, spa treatments, and archery.
Get me there: Yellowstone National Park luxury tour
Chanoud Garh, India
Why unpack here? When you arrive at Chanoud Garh, a fort-palace-cum-hotel, members of the Singh family greet you the way they’d welcome family and friends — with a marigold garland, fresh lime soda, and Rajasthani snacks. The building, set around two courtyards, has been in their family for 13 generations, and guests often say that it’s a highlight of their visit — a tribute to the family’s warm hospitality. You can also take a tour of the village led by a retired headmaster.
Get me there: Classic Rajasthan tour
Rooms with a view
‘I want so to see the Arno,’ says Charlotte Bartlett in E.M. Forester’s Room with a View. We agree with Miss Bartlett that the best rooms come with a window to some impressive scene. Here, we’ve collected five different options that look out upon everything from watery rice terraces to snowy peaks to, yes, a view of the Arno.
Portrait Firenze, Italy
Why unpack here? Many of the rooms in Portrait Firenze provide the best possible perspective of not just the Arno, but also the Ponte Vecchio — a sight impressive enough to satisfy even Miss Bartlett. The hotel is located just a short stroll from the Duomo and Uffizi and offers spacious rooms (for Florence) decorated with a mid-century sophistication that evokes the films of Fellini.
Get me there: Classic luxury Italy & Amalfi Coast tour
Why unpack here? Perched on the edge of the East Gros Ventre Butte above the town of Jackson, the Amangani enjoys sweeping panoramas of the snow-kissed Snake River Valley. Sandstone pillars, redwood rafters, and working stone fireplaces reflect the region’s character without detracting from the views through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Get me there: National parks explored
The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments, New Zealand
Why unpack here? Every room in The Rees overlooks Lake Wakatipu, providing a private view of the clear, blue waters and the Remarkables mountain range rising in the distance. The indulgent decor takes inspiration from the landscape, with a focus on natural materials like bare-wood furniture and local stone in the fireplaces.
Get me there: New Zealand great outdoors
The Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Russia
Why unpack here? Vast steppes where the grasses ripple like waves, stands of slender white birch trees bowing in the wind, mirror-bright lakes with unseen shores… you’ll have a continent’s worth of views unscrolling outside the windows of your sleeping compartment as you ride the Golden Eagle Luxury train, which chugs along the Trans-Siberian route. The en suite cabins offer a comfortable perch for enjoying your front-row seats.
Six Senses Punakha, Bhutan
Why unpack here? Cantilevered over the infinity pool, Six Sense Punakha’s lounge overlooks hundreds of undulating rice terraces and traditional farmhouses, framed by lush green peaks in the distance. The decor features warm local wood, sleek lines, and a restful simplicity that only enhances the views through the generous windows.
Get me there: Highlights of Bhutan: Thimphu, Punakha, & Paro
We’re always looking for stays that offer something a little different, and arguably, there’s nothing more so than settling in for the night without solid ground beneath your feet. This collection of five floating stays showcases hotels that rest on water, journey along it, or even float without a drop of water in sight…
Why unpack here? While there’s no water in sight, the Treehotel’s collection of futuristic treehouses float amid the pine forest landscape of Swedish Lapland like an open-air sculpture museum. You could stay in a bird’s nest suitable for a family of four, a UFO straight out of a 1950s sci-fi movie, or an enormous mirrored cube that melts into the landscape.
Get me there: Active Scandinavia
Why unpack here? As one of the longest-running resorts in the Maldives, Baros has had time to perfect the paradise-island experience. Each overwater villa is angled so you can see nothing but cerulean waters from the daybed of your private deck. Slip into the water and you’re just a few strokes from the house reef, where turtles come to feed.
Get me there: Baros Maldives break
Aqua Mekong, Vietnam
Why unpack here? Exploring remote corners of the Mekong used to involve compromising a certain level of comfort. But, with a plunge pool, a Michelin-starred chef serving local delicacies, and cabins that boast floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies, the Aqua Mekong brings a level of luxury to the experience. And, with only 20 cabins, it’s still small enough to feel intimate.
Get me there: Cruising on the Mekong
The Float House, Thailand
Why unpack here? Docked along a secluded curve of the River Kwai, you can only reach The Float House by boat, on a journey past riverbanks thick with jungle. Each thatched-roof floating villa is on its own pontoon, with a private pier to relax on, a canoe on-hand so you can explore, and a teakwood swing overlooking the hills of Sai Yok National Park.
Get me there: Heart of Thailand tour
Klotok Riverboat, Indonesia
Why unpack here? While the Klotok Riverboat does have a cabin, the highlight of this private boat is the opportunity to sleep out on deck beneath the stars. You’ll wake to the early morning screech of a hornbill, or perhaps the rustle of a feeding orangutan, before journeying deep into little-visited backwaters of the Indonesian jungle.
Get me there: Heart of Indonesia: Java & Kalimantan
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