From a palatial retreat worthy of an Arabian Nights fantasy to dreamy beach getaway located in a town steeped in ancient Greek and Byzantine history, nature quests in America’s best nature reserve and tee-offs at world famous golf courses, our editors seek out the little gems that offer local, one-of-a-kind experiences where the feelings, the flavours and the moments stick in the mind and stay in the heart of independently-minded travellers.
1. Marrakech, Morocco
Set in 4 hectares of Persian-style gardens, Ksar Char Bagh is a stunning private palace inspired by 14th century Moorish architecture and 21st century minimalism. Located in the palm-groved outskirts of Marrakech with criss-crossing streams symbolising the rivers of paradise and gardens filled with birdsong, it is an Arabian Nights dream come true.
This is where the rich and famous come to luxuriate in the tranquility, seduced by its great sense of intimacy and privacy. Behind the magnificent 7m² brass doors, high arches with mosaic carvings of Andalusian descent and a huge vaulted red marble hamman, palatial apartments come with either a terrace or private garden and every single object, piece of furniture and furnishing has been designed by the owners.
Sample the season’s finest from breakfast through to dinner, using ingredients from the medieval kitchen garden and the olive grove, with guests welcome to have their table set up wherever they fancy. Marrakech’s Medina and three magnificent golf courses are less than a 15-minute drive away, however, the main point of staying at Ksar Char Bagh is to relish in the Ottoman grandeur of your surroundings.
BOLD Insider Tip: Do arrange for dinner on your private terrace at least once during your stay – the blanket of stars is highly captivating.
Property Type: Palace Retreat
Location: Marrakech, Morocco
15 rooms from $389 per night including breakfast
2. Calabria, Italy
A dreamy setting between the ocean and mountains on the cusp of Capo Rizzuto Marine Reserve, Praia Art Resort makes a striking first impression. With a combination of authentic Mediterranean design and modern luxury touches, its suites sit perfectly in their natural surroundings.
And because it’s poised between mountains and the sea, Praia Art Resort is the ideal gateway to the Ionian Coast.
In the morning, watch as the sun turns the sea to a bright orange at the hotel’s private beach. Just 20 metres away. Inside, each space at this adults-only arty retreat is crafted from local rustic materials, bringing a sense of the outside world in. Think bare wood and terracotta, exposed brick and mosaic tiles, and bathe in the natural light on your terrace or patio. Natural foods are given special highlight on the menu at its bamboo-roofed Michelin starred restaurant, Pietramare Food Café, serving seasonal delicacies such as lamb cooked with liquorice, fried ice cream and carrots.
BOLD Insider Tip: Classicists will be inspired by the myths and legends of Calabria, a part of Italy immersed in ancient Greek and Byzantine history. Explore the town of Crotone which is blissfully free of tourism with its cobblestone streets, 16th-century castle and fascinating archaeological museum. Gaze into sapphire depths from a glass-bottomed boat at the Le Castella Marine Reserve or for a scenic fix of a different kind, head to the town of Santa Severina and look out over the Neto valley.
Property Type: Beach Resort
Location: Calabria, Italy
Praia Art Resort
30 Rooms; Exclusive SLH Welcome Offer from $289 per night including welcome drink, buffet breakfast and daily light lunch served by the sea with a glass of Calabrian wine
3. Yosemite, California, USA
Set on three and a half acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this intimate family-owned boutique lodge provides an elegant escape to the spectacular Yosemite National Park, while being minutes away from the shops, art galleries, theatres and restaurants of Oakhurst.
Recently refurbished by new owners, Hounds Tooth Inn’s modern contemporary rooms offer the intimacy and comfort of home with private whirlpool, fireplace and patio opening out to breathtaking views of the mountains, accented with the luxury and hospitality of a hotel.
Guests can look forward to chef-driven breakfast dishes in addition to continental eats, tasting local award-winning wines and tapas during the evening, in addition to plenty of snacks and fruits available throughout the day. There’s no shortage of activities in the Yosemite and Oakhurst areas, and the on-site concierge is on hand to help guide guests through the best experiences for a memorable trip. Discover epic hiking trails with breathtaking views, ride on horseback past towering ancient sequoia trees, catch glimpses of amazing wildlife including black bears, owls and the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, marvel at the sheer scale of Half Dome and El Capitan, and the Madera Wine Trail beckons all wine enthusiasts who enjoy sipping their way through its rich history.
BOLD Insider Tip: The 850-square-foot Summer House is the perfect retreat for friends and family with a private entrance, full kitchen, dining area, sofa and twin daybed in addition to a king bed.
Property Type: Country House
Location: Yosemite, California, USA
Hounds Tooth Inn
13 rooms from $322 per night including breakfast
4. Baku, Azerbaijan
Conceived as the home of the Dinamo sport society, the elegant city building with geometrical architecture was built in 1930s in Baku, and was only transformed into a hotel almost a century later.
Inspired by the history of the building, exquisite materials, custom-made furniture and decorative arts sourced from the world of sport, have all played a part in creating the stylish and relaxing atmosphere that can be experienced today.
There are friezes and statues punctuating the chic décor of the spa and restaurant, while upstairs, the bedrooms make their own statement with pops of colour. The novelty of Dinamo Hotel Baku aims to emphasise the best qualities of the city and the local culture, utilizing elements such as traditional rug patterns on stone mosaic floors to offer guests a warm and inviting home away from home.
For dinner, the aptly named Olympia restaurant is the height of fine dining, with an open kitchen, palate-pleasing wine list and perfectly pitched service. The spa, a luxury health club equipped with a fitness center and swimming pool, also offers a selection of exclusive signature treatments and several beauty services including a Nail Bar. Outside of the Dinamo doors, guests can experience the melting pot of cultures that Baku has to offer. The combination of European, Asian and Middle Eastern influences makes this city a fascinating place to wander – from the cobblestoned ‘old city’ to the ultra-modern Heydar Aliyev’ art complex.
BOLD Insider Tip: Children staying on the property can enjoy special welcome gifts, in-room game consoles, children’s bathrobes and slippers as well as special treats at evening turn-down.
Property Type: Boutique
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Dinamo Hotel Baku
28 rooms from $243 per night including breakfast
5. Fort William, Scotland
Nestling in the foothills of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, Inverlochy Castle sits amidst some of Scotland’s finest scenery.
The beautiful 19th century baronial mansion has played host to a number of royalty including Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. Each of the hotel’s 17 bedrooms and suites come with their own individual design and bespoke range of Arran Aromatics toiletries, alongside spectacular views of the lush woodland grounds and private loch. Its picture-perfect setting makes Inverlochy Castle a Scottish masterpiece of 19th century baronial splendour and the perfect location for a romantic Highland wedding.
Whilst staying at Inverlochy Castle activities available are in abundance at Lochaber, ‘The Outdoor Capital of the UK’, with fishing, clay pigeon shooting, water sports, pony trekking and guided walks. Dining at the restaurant, Albert and Michel Roux Jr at Inverlochy Castle, is also a culinary experience to savour, with the legendary father and son taking the helm of the kitchen and offering the finest dishes using local produce.
Each of the three dining rooms are decorated with elaborate period furniture presented as gifts to Inverlochy Castle from the King of Norway.
BOLD Insider Tip: For the ultimate in luxury travel, a Rolls Royce Phantom is available to pick you up from any Scottish airport, or book a boat trip on the hotel’s own private loch.
Property Type: Country House
Location: Fort William, Scotland
17 rooms from $620 per night including breakfast