Small, perfect luxury hotels you’ll love
Staying at a big, buzzy luxury hotel has its pros—we could write a novel about all the people-watching we’ve done in lobby bars. But sometimes all those rooms, all those suitcases and all those bodies squeezed in with you in the elevator on your way up to your 33rd-floor room can make you feel like just another face in the revolving door of guests. Meet the new generation of boutique hotels: small, intimate spots with only a handful of suites and infinite thoughtful extras to make you feel like you very well could be the only person there…or even on the planet.
1/9We can’t promise you a Jon Snow run-in at Deplar Farm, but the stunning scenery at this remote luxury lodge, opened in 2016 in the Fljót Valley in northern Iceland, will make you forget how long it’s been since there was a new GOT episode. Channel your inner Stark—but with chicer outerwear—with a number of outdoor-adventure activities (Heli-skiing! Whale-watching!), or opt to never leave the fireside in your suite. (There are just 13 on the property, all with major hygge vibes—think textured walls and Moroccan wools.) A winter trip to northern Iceland may sound daunting, but braving the cold is well worth the thrill of the outdoor geothermal pool, which gives you a front-row seat to the northern lights.
FOR AN ESCAPE FROM THE NON-STOP NEWS CYCLE...© City Foodsters
At Tongabezi Lodge in southern Zambia—where Harry and Meghan are rumoured to have holidayed—the only Wi-Fi is in the main house, which is just fine because you’ll never be on your phone anyway. Best bet: Stay in the property’s secluded tree house. Reachable only via a hidden path, the open-plan suite (one of only nine villas on the property) features a king-size bed, a private deck and an open-air claw-foot tub, all perched among the branches of three ebony trees. The front of the room is entirely open, making it feel as if it blends into its surroundings—without sacrificing any of the luxury.
FOR A WINE TASTING THAT WOULD IMPRESS EVEN OLIVIA POPE...© Leonardo Finotti
Let’s start with the location: The dozen or so luxe eco-friendly cabins that make up the Sacromonte Landscape Hotel are dotted throughout 101 hectares of land (including vineyards) in southeast Uruguay (about 45 minutes from hot spot Punta del Este). Inside, they are minimalist chic—think low platform beds, cowhide rugs and leather chairs. Meanwhile, the front exterior walls are covered with one-way mirrors, creating the illusion that the cabins disappear into their bucolic setting. Travel the terrain in an electric buggy, catch some R & R by a private pool, indulge at the farm-to-table restaurant or just sip wine on a hilltop terrace—you can do it all at the sustainable resort, which opens this fall.
FOR GOSSIP GIRL TYPES WHO WANT A BREAK FROM THE CITY...
GrayBarns, an upscale spot on the meandering Silvermine River in Connecticut, is idyllic year-round but especially in fall. (Imagine an IRL Stars Hollow but with way more privacy and no meddling Taylor Dooses.) The bougie inn started life as a textile factory before thriving as a hotel in the ’50s and ’60s, playing host to A-listers like Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall. The classic-style property (again, very Lorelai Gilmore) reopened last year, boasting just six king suites, the restored original post-and-beam structure and a rustic-themed resto called Tavern (whose house-made pasta is calling your name). And GrayBarns keeps growing: Its opening-soon country store, Mercantile, will let you take the inn’s old-money vibes back home.
FOR THE FOODIE WHO PLANS VACATIONS AROUND HER TASTE BUDS...© Diego Padilla
Almost nine million people live in Mexico City proper, but you wouldn’t know it once you’re inside the verdant grounds of Ignacia Guest House. The chilled-out B & B—a once crumbling mansion that was renovated into five ultra-modern suites last year—is the ideal place to rest your Nikes after a day spent touring the Mexican capital’s never-ending roster of architectural and design wonders and foodie destinations. Also key: It’s located in Colonia Roma, the city’s vibrant gastronomic centre. Still hungry? Cooking lessons are offered by the same couple who make your complimentary breakfast from scratch daily, which you should definitely eat in the courtyard under the 70-year-old orange trees.
FOR INDULGING YOUR INNER HEIRESS...
Grab your tiara and head to Marlborough Lodge, a luxe 10-suite property in sprawling wine country outside Blenheim, New Zealand. Originally a Victorian convent built in 1901, the newly renovated lodge is set on six hectares of gardens and (oh, yes) vineyards. (We recommend partaking in the private wine tastings.) Stay in the Kingfisher Suite—it was originally a nun’s chapel and still features the original arched windows, vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows but with a contemporary and minimalist interior.
SKYLODGE ADVENTURE SUITES...
Sacred Valley, Peru
Eat, sleep and stargaze in an intimate Perspex pod suspended above Peru’s famous Sacred Valley with views that feel straight out of Avatar. A heads-up for acrophobics: You have to scale 400 metres of mountain or take a zipline to get to your private suite.
You have to walk into the bush (don’t worry, there are directions) to get to these eco-friendly clear cabins peppered throughout New Zealand, but it’s sooo worth it. The pods, 20 square metres in size, boast all the amenities of a five-star hotel (including meals if you order ahead but not including Wi-Fi—the goal here is to disconnect) with the bonus of complete and utter immersion in nature. Even the glass floors are see-through.
Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives
So, the Muraka, a villa in the Maldives that opens next month, doesn’t exactly qualify as tiny. But since a small part of it is underwater—a bedroom, bathroom and small sitting area are set five metres below sea level, a curved clear ceiling the only thing separating you from Flounder, Sebastian et al.—and it’s gorgeous, it had to make our list.
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.