A 20-minute drive from Stellenbosch favourite, Babylonstoren, Sterrekopje’s 11 rooms are set within 50 hectares of Edenic grounds—complete with vineyards and orchards where guests are invited to gather fruit at sunrise each day. (Even the spa products here are made using spices, herbs and other wonders from the gardens—think calming wildflower baths and olive-pip skin scrubs.) Founded by Dutch partners Nicole Boekhoorn and Fleur Huijskens (who also happen to be a couple), this is a place for a reset without restrictions; you can trek up Sterrekopje mountain in the morning before ending the day with a farm-to-table feast. Much is written about the activities on offer here, and with good reason—everything from pottery classes to yoga and breath work sessions are available—but it’s the interiors that truly won us over. A collaborative effort by founder Nicole and interior designer Greg Mellor, every room is filled with personal touches; take the antique writing boxes and stationery in each one, with guests encouraged to journal throughout their stay. Even if you only check in for the shortest two-night “journey” offered at Sterrekopje, you leave feeling a decade younger.
If you’re looking to reconnect with nature after months cooped up indoors, set your sights on Buahan, A Banyan Tree Escape from March onwards, when the rainy season nears its end. Constructed entirely from recycled wood, the 16 mountainside lodges, or balés, at this eco-resort 40 minutes north of Ubud feature neither windows nor doors, meaning guests fall asleep in four-posters overlooking the forest canopy and soak in copper bathtubs while fireflies dance above them in the dusk. (There are also dedicated “Hideaway” spots scattered across the property, where guests are encouraged to meditate surrounded by birdsong and frangipani.) The food offering, meanwhile, aims to be zero waste, with Balinese chef Eka Sunarya heading up The Open Kitchen, a largely plant-based restaurant that champions produce from hyperlocal farms: think nourishing moringa soup, presented in a coconut shell, or vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over charcoal. As for the Toja Spa? It’s spread across several bamboo pavilions, all of which overlook the Ayung River. Opt for a restorative scrub—done with rice and ginger—or a meditation session at the foot of a private waterfall.
The year 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of tourism in the Maldives, and the island nation is just as convincing an imitation of paradise as ever. A drop of sand in the blue expanses of the South Atoll, Naladhu Private Island is the best place to live out Richard Branson fantasies—even in a crowded market of ultra-luxurious hotels. Just a 40-minute speedboat journey from Malé and yet a world unto itself, there are just 20 neo-colonial suites here, all of which come with 24/7 butler, or Kuwaanu, service and give out onto the water, where fish (and, yes, the occasional shark) dart through the shallows. You would be forgiven for never leaving the privacy of your own room; celebrated sustainable architect and designer Yuji Yamazaki masterminded a refurbishment in 2021, with every suite now boasting outdoor showers rimmed with lush tropical greenery; turquoise swimming pools where guests can enjoy floating breakfasts (a rite of passage in the Maldives) while the waves crash in the background; and deep standalone baths, which your Kuwaanu will fill with rose petals if the mood strikes. It’s worth braving the gruelling two-minute stroll to the western side of the island to try the cuisine at The Living Room; the off-menu policy at Naladhu means you can go wholly off-piste, if nothing listed takes your fancy (although it would be a mistake to skip the Maldivian curry with lobster). And if you’re worried about cabin fever? Two other resorts owned by the Anantara group—Dhigu and Veli—are accessible via lengthy overwater walkways (although only residents are allowed on Naladhu). Get there before Daphne from The White Lotus checks in.
The last 12 months proved rocky for Sri Lanka, but the country is welcoming tourists once again. This is one of those destinations that truly has it all, and you would be hard-pressed to find a lovelier place from which to explore it than Malabar Hill. Opened in 2022 on a rewilded cinnamon plantation just north of Weligama, its villas are spread across a 33-acre estate, which is home to more than 500 species, including mongooses and Malabar hornbills. The décor is a celebration of Indian craftsmanship and Moorish design, complemented by views of rice paddies, the Indian Ocean and lush forests. It would be worth visiting just to have sundowners at the teak hotel bar before heading out onto the terrace for a local fish curry.
There’s a host of design-focused stays launching in the Yucatán in 2023, but Casa Chablé, which opens its doors this January, may well be the most impressive. To begin with, it’s set in the UNESCO-protected Sian Ka’an reserve south of Tulum, whose cenotes, reefs and jungles are home to everything from ocelots to manatees. Powered by renewable energy, each of its 10 rooms is comprised from sustainable, local materials such as Zapote wood and Galarza stone—meaning the exteriors blend seamlessly into the landscape—while interior designer Paulina Moran has filled each room with natural textures. The majority of guests arrive by boat—it’s a 30-minute trip through the mangroves surrounding the resort to get to its private dock—but the islet on which the hotel’s 10 rooms stand can be reached via car or helicopter, too. There’s lots to do here—from star gazing to spear fishing—but when the beach is this paradisiacal, why do anything else but laze?
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to begin with Australia—three million square miles of diverse geographical wonders—but there’s no going wrong with a reservation at Silky Oaks Lodge. Reopened at the close of 2021 by the same team behind Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge, the 40-room escape is nestled amongst the blue quandong trees and “wait-a-while” vines of the Daintree Rainforest, whose tropical mangroves and billabongs date back an estimated 180 million years. Each of its treehouses is perched above the Mossman River, over which turquoise Ulysses butterflies flit through the ylang ylang-scented air; it’s worth the price of a room just to recline in your private hammock, listening to the roar of the cicadas with one of the hotel’s specialty gin-based cocktails in hand. If you do nothing else during your visit, make sure to at least join a guided First Nations tour, in which Kuku Yalanji guides introduce visitors to the history—and countless natural marvels—of the Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation.
Trancoso has lured an haute bohemian crowd since the ’70s, and 50 years later, the appeal of this Bahia hotspot has yet to diminish (helped by its 15 miles of gold sand beach, with a fraction of the crowds of Copacabana and co). Enter the Fasano group, whose 40-room Trancoso property opened a 20-minute drive from the historic Quadrado at the beginning of 2022. Its elegant white bungalows are spread out over a nearly 750-acre property, a third of which constitutes a designated nature reserve—and the majority of suites offer views of Itapororoca beach from their rooftop decks. You can and should spend most of your trip in the Atlantic surf—taking a break occasionally for fresh ceviche and caipirinhas on the sand at the hotel’s beach kiosk—but there’s also a pool in view of the waves that’s worth your attention (and guaranteed to be lined with genetically blessed Brazilians sunning themselves in the 30-degree weather). If you missed out on Tulum in its heyday, make a point of visiting before the year is out.
Just a three-and-a-half-hour flight from London, Marrakech is a mainstay on lists of the best winter sun destinations, and with good reason. Temperatures in Yves Saint Laurent’s erstwhile home hover in the twenties throughout the winter months, and any chillier days can happily be whiled away indulging in some retail therapy in the souk or visiting world-class museums such as MAP Marrakech, home to more than 3,000 exquisite pieces of jewellery from around the world, or the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden. The city’s grand dame hotels—Royal Mansour and El Fenn—remain as sumptuous as ever, but for something a little different, consider heading 45 minutes outside of the city proper to Caravan Agafay. The latest opening from the Habitas group is surrounded by the lunar landscape of the Agafay desert, with the Atlas mountains visible from its eco-luxe Berber-inspired tents.
Frequent travellers to Central America often sing the praises of Nicaragua, Costa Rica’s more laidback, affordable neighbour—but a trip to Hacienda AltaGracia is a good way to remind yourself why the world fell in love with Costa Rica in the first place. Opened in November 2021, this 50-room hotel on an old coffee farm in the foothills of the Talamancas is the embodiment of pura vida: a day here might include horseback riding through the Arabica trees and sugarcane fields of the hacienda, taking a river bath in the Calientillo River (with optional wild bergamot massage), or undertaking a birdwatching trip in search of caracaras and quetzals. In every direction, the landscape is mind-blowing in its beauty. (It’s no surprise to learn that AltaGracia is actually located beside one of the world’s Blue Zones, a place where the average human life is significantly longer than normal.) The real selling point here, though, is the 20,000-square-foot spa, designed in imitation of a greenhouse and filled with moss, bougainvillea and ferns. Every visit begins with a Casa de Agua treatment, with herbal and local clay exfoliation, before guests move on to everything from maderoterapia—a wooden massage technique practised across the region—to gong baths.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.