If you’re on the prowl for a winter break and are willing to splash the cash, chances are you’ll be looking for something pretty exotic to fill your time. Here we present five luxurious abodes where you can kick back and relax and live it large, and most importantly come back with some serious stories to tell.
The hotel: Mahali Mzuri
The fact that the Mahali Mzuri is also known as “Sir Richard Branson’s Kenyan Safari Camp” should go some way to telling you how luxurious it is. The “resort”, if you can call it that, comprises of a series of tented suites, but this is far away from your regular camping trip. Each includes a spacious bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a large decking area so you can take in the spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Each is also raised from the ground and if you take a look at the photos from the above link you’ll see why – the wildlife is wandering around outside your back door, so it’s probably a good idea to be sleeping a safe distance above your ravenous lions and hungry hippos. The location is very safari-oriented so you won’t get a lot of “mod cons” when it comes to hotel services, but there is a team of people who’ll prepare a wide selection of private meals from bush barbeques to private picnics.
Safari, of course, and as we’ve already mentioned it’s all right on your doorstep so you literally just have to roll out of bed to start taking in the stunning range of African fauna. There are game drives where you’ll see everything from wildebeest and elephants to lions, leopards and hippos, with two per day led by experienced field guides who’ll show you the best sights and teach you how not to get eaten. And if you’re lucky you might even be in time for the “great migration”, which sees up to one million wildebeest, zebra and gazelles travel a journey of over 1,500km through Tanzania and Kenya.
If you’ve had enough of the local wildlife you can always stop off for a spa treatment in the nearby valley, complete with stunning views of the bush, or you can see the whole area from up high in a hot air balloon or take a community trip to learn more about the local Maasai Tribe.
The hotel: Jumby Bay, Antigua
If your idea of a winter holiday is to get away from winter itself, then paradise beaches are probably near the top of your list. At Jumby Bay you can have them all to yourself – it’s a private island that was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and has remained largely unchanged ever since. Home to scores of white-powdered beaches and reachable only by boat, it’s known as one of the finest resorts in the Caribbean.
There’s a choice of 40 guest rooms or suites that range from one bedroom cottages with private outdoor gardens and a wraparound terrace to a Pool Suite with private pool, and an Estate Suite, which includes a courtyard with a fountain and enough room to swing a dozen sea turtles. 250 staff are on hand to tend to your every whim during the day but most head back to the mainland at night, allowing you to enjoy the peaceful locale on your own.
Just about any water sport you can name, plus fishing, sailing, golf, tennis – all are popular pastimes on the island. It also has a fitness centre, spa and range of pools. There are walking and cycling trails so you can find your own private paradise spot and since it’s home to a range of flora and fauna, including numerous nesting sites in-season for sea turtles, just investigating the local area is an adventure in itself.
Most importantly it’s right on the reef and you’ll find some idyllic locations for a bit of snorkelling or scuba diving, so don’t forget the underwater camera.
The hotel: Dunton Hot Springs
It may not look like it from the photos, but Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado has a list of awards and accolades that’d be the envy of traditional 5-star hotels. These include such categories as “Best New Hotels For 2014”, “Best 50 Adventure Holidays”, “Top 40 Resorts In The West”, and winning “Greatest Outdoors Hotel”, and “#1 All-Inclusive In the USA”. It might seem strange when you read that it’s an old restored ghost town, but take a browse around the series of hand-hewn, exquisitely furnished log cabins, each full of unique artefacts and furnishings, and you’ll start to understand why.
But that’s not all – a saloon and a dance hall lie just steps away from a restored bath house, and take a wander down to the other end of town and you’ll find an open air chapel and tumbling waterfall. There are a wide range of spa and beauty treatments if you feel like being pampered, and an open kitchen in the saloon has classically trained chefs preparing a new menu every day using locally sourced ingredients. As old Wild West ghost towns go, this is about as luxurious as they get, and if you have 43 other people who fancy coming on holiday with you, you can reserve the entire town for private use.
You name it – aside from exploring the local area, which is an adventure in itself, you can visit the local hot springs, which includes Colorado’s only geyser, learn and practice yoga or pilates, head to the local West Fork gym or explore some of North America’s most fascinating archaeological sites. It’s more adventurous types that will find themselves right at home here though, with just about every land-based activity available in and around the area.
In more temperate climates you can enjoy horseback riding in the Rockies, private fly fishing, hiking, mountaineering in the higher San Juans, mountain biking, rock climbing and white-water rafting. In the winter all of this gets flipped on its head – now you’re dog-sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, back-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, ice climbing and even heli-skiing. In many cases guides are available to help show you the ropes and make sure you don’t get yourself into trouble, but there are plenty of opportunities to explore alone if you prefer.
All in all it’s an amazing blend of gentle tranquillity and breathtaking adventure.
The hotel: Kulm Hotel St. Moritz
St. Moritz in Switzerland is one of the most luxurious ski resorts in the world. Kulm Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in St.Moritz. Ergo, Kulm Hotel is one of the most luxurious skiing accommodations in the world. In fact it’s rated #1 on Tripadvisor in all categories – including Spa, Family, Romance, Business and Luxury. It’s also the oldest hotel in St.Moritz, so has undergone significant restoration over the years but without losing its traditional charm.
173 deluxe rooms and suites are available with all the mod cons, including marble bathrooms, balconies and of course your choice of spectacular views. Rooms facing south catch the reflections of Lake St. Moritz, while in the north you’ll see the beautiful flanks of the Piz Nair and the Corviglia ski arena – it’d be no exaggeration to say you could literally spend a day just sitting and staring out of the window.
Skiing’s the game – located on the spacious hotel property itself are the legendary Cresta Run and the Olympic Bob Run St. Moritz-Celerina. In the surrounding area there are 217 miles of ski pistes with guaranteed snow due to the fact that the resort ranges from 1800 to 3300 metres above sea level, plus 110 miles of cross-country skiing with romantic side valleys and floodlit night lanes to suit all occasions. All levels of experience and technique are catered for, from classic skiing to ski-skating style, carving paradise, free ride slopes and glacier downhill runs.
If you fancy a day off the piste you’ll find a 9-hole golf course, three tennis courts and an ice rink. There’s also an indoor pool with underwater music and all manner of sports activities in and around St.Moritz to choose from. It has recently invested £8m in developing a new spa, complete with a range of treatments and an open air pool.
The hotel: Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
We really wanted to include the Hydropolis on this list – the world’s first multi-room underwater hotel and one of the biggest modern construction projects in the world. Sadly it’s yet to be completed, and has had some serious issues with funding and may never be finished at all. So if you’re planning a once in a lifetime splurge in Dubai you should resort to the established “most luxurious hotel in the world” instead – the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. It’s actually known as a seven star hotel, which is the hotel industry Spinal Tap equivalent of “cranking it up to 11”, and the third tallest in the world.
Illustrating quite clearly that money is no object in these parts is the fact that 39% of the total height is made up of non-occupiable space. It rests on an artificially constructed island with a single private curving bridge connecting it to the land. It has 202 suites, the smallest of which is 169 square meters (the largest is 780 meters square). Of the nine world-class restaurants available, one is reached via a panoramic elevator and another you can only get to via a simulated submarine voyage. It has a staff-to-suite ratio of 8:1, so everybody gets their own private butler. There are four swimming pools and a private beach and as you can imagine, the décor and facilities are absolutely top class.
Spending the rest of your life paying for it most likely. If you have any money left after splashing out on what truly is the mother of all hotels you might want to enjoy the crisp blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, with plenty of opportunities for snorkelling and scuba-diving and the chance to take part in the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, where endangered turtles are rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
And of course Dubai is your oyster, where you’ll have sightseeing, shopping and leisure activities right on the doorstep. There are desert Safaris and you could even do a spot of skiing – the Ski Dubai Mall of the Emirates is a giant ski slope at the Marina end of the city where you’ll go from 50 degree desert heat to below zero temperatures.