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Luxury on holiday is by no means passe. However for us Asian travellers especially, hotel amenities that once seemed worth the trip now hardly provoke an Instagram post. Today’s sophisticate seeks something beyond all this pomp, in-depth multi-sensory experiences in which thoughtful indulgences provide merely the ultra-comfortable backdrop. For sybarites who already live among life’s most sumptuous material pleasures, these four resorts are designed to blow your mind and give you dinner conversation topics for months to come.
1. Deplar Farm
A sheep farm set in the remote Fljot Valley within the mountainous Troll Peninsula on Iceland’s northern coast hardly sounds like manna for luxury lovers. Think again. Avid skiers and thrill seekers will appreciate this 13-bedroom farmhouse owned by an American financier and updated with stunningly decadent amenities. Juxtaposing the rugged natural landscape are the geo-thermally heated indoor-outdoor pool, spa with two floatation beds, in-house cinema and a bespoke game room with professional-quality musical instruments.
Serious heli-skiers already know that this valley sees some of the world’s highest average snowfall. This means the surrounding 914m peaks offer some of the world’s finest powder, almost guaranteed to be untouched. Then there is the buzz of skiing all the way down to the water’s edge. Return to dine on fresh Icelandic specialities like Arctic char and north Atlantic salmon.
Forgo turning in early to ease into the pool with its well-stocked waterside bar. And don’t forget to look up – those almost indescribably psychedelic shapes in the starry sky are the Northern Lights. Come summer, salmon fishing, horseback riding and blueberry picking keep guests busy at this remote retreat.
2. La Route du Sud Circuit
French theatre producer turned hotelier Thierry Teyssier did not let a lack of accommodations present any obstacle to his latest creation. Instead, he spent the last four years traipsing across Morocco’s southern deserts and along its rugged coastline to set the stage for his four-night circuit through some of North Africa’s most evocative landscapes where local craftspeople erected the route’s three photogenic houses.
After an evening of foie gras and French wine, wake to birdsong in a hillside Berber village at Maison des Arganiers which overlooks an argan tree valley. Head south by SUV, stopping for tea under the scarlet cliffs of El Gezira, which arch over cerulean Atlantic waters.
Veering inland, the scenery turns flat and sun scorched until palm trees suddenly shoot up around Tighmert’s palm grove near the Mauritania border. Hidden among the greenery, Maison de l’Oasis is an air-conditioned explorer’s tent. Breakfasts feature pastries created by Teyssier’s friend Pierre Herme, before this custom caravan heads off towards the stone-clad Maison Rouge perched within a red earth canyon.
3. Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris
Country: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is home to the world’s highest concentration of leopards in the wild and to the one man who knows how to find them in this dense equatorial landscape, which is also a natural habitat for Asian elephants, sloth bears, spotted deer and mugger crocodiles as well as nearly 200 vibrant bird species. Noel Rodrigo takes leopard spotting as seriously as he does hosting duties which is no surprise given the Sri Lankan’s former career as a first class airline cabin manager.
Rodrigo’s Toyota jeeps, enhanced with camera support points and powerful binoculars for every guest, are the first to roll in every morning at both Yala and Wilpattu National Parks, after guests have rested in the well-endowed South African tents customised with king-sized beds, en suite bathrooms, cooling units or powerful air conditioners and private decks.
In strategic coordination, Rodrigo and his team of equally attuned animal trackers and bird specialists lead twice- daily game drives – 95 per cent of his guests see a leopard, often many – while blue tail bee-eaters, Malabar pied hornbills and peacocks flutter overhead.
After the parks close each evening, his jeeps roll back to camp where guests will find a cocktail bar set up under the jungle canopy, complete with Absolut Vodka, Bombay Sapphire Gin and tonic water.
4. Sol y Luna
Forty-three stone casitas surrounded by gardens filled with native flora face the Andes Mountains at this Relais & Chateau resort in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Each private sanctuary has been decorated with Peruvian textiles, Spanish antiques and plump beds made with goose feather duvets and Peruvian pima cotton sheets. Yet this elegant hotel, founded by a couple of keen paragliders, provides the vital gateway to this vast landscape of lush agrarian terraces, pre-Colombian ruins and Spanish colonial churches.
Once merely the stopover spot to acclimate to the altitude en route to the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley has evolved as a dynamic cultural and adventure destination. Say ‘see you later’ to that deep soak bathtub in favour of trekking or cycling into these mountains where the Incas believed their gods dwelled, along Andean terraces, past Inca ruins and through fields of wildflowers, corn and quinoa.
Equally enriching are the Valley’s historic treasures, especially the still unexplained symmetrical stone terraces at Moray, the village of Ollantaytambo where women in hand-stitched, colourful costumes and elaborately plaited hair under sombre Spanish bowler hats traverse narrow, snaking cobblestone lanes and the intricately frescoed Church of San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas, considered the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.