Wintry snow-capped mountains gazing down modern-day chalets, precariously-placed castles at the edge of a Mediterranean cliff, enthralling beachside huts in their pure solace and exclusivity–these are some of the world’s best destinations that appear to be conceived in dreams.
As doors swing open, wanderlusts are transported into a whole new world of luxury. All yearnings are indulged; from island hopping, gastronomical cravings, stellar sights, and newfound delights, diligently served by the affectionate locals eager to please. Inhale a bit of whimsy with the sprawling natural backdrops and revel in the magic and modernity behind the walls of these otherworldly villas.
Belmond Villa Margherita, Italy
Set high atop the cheerful Amalfi Coast, Belmond Villa Margherita escapes the rocky coastline and the lapping waves of the Mediterranean Sea into a solace cradled by the citrus groves. Old-fashioned cobblestone stairs lead through the patches of green which Gaetano Amato, fourth-generation Amalfi gardener, embellished with orange trees and bright bougainvillaea, rose vines and myrtle. This image seems to topple inside the rooms, for inside the villa, the ceilings are etched with crawling vines, and the Neapolitan chairs are dressed in verdant colours that compels one to head to the gardens for an afternoon tea. A fragrant, pastoral air hangs over the two individual suites ornamented with rustic dressers, Venetian armchairs, framed maps of Italy and crystal decanters, all put together by Milan-based interior stylist Eric Egan who sourced the most remarkable antiques around the world. It is possible to acquire one suite, or reserve both, to enjoy the entire villa privately as a whole. The nearest dining venue is the Belvedere Restaurant, which takes pride in its own panoramic terrace and a piano bar. Should one choose to stay in, a private butler is ready to wait on each suite, and a chef to indulge in particular gastronomic inclinations. www.belmond.com
Les Jolies Eaux, St Vincent & The Grenadines
Mustique Island is discreet about its secrets, leaving little signage in its trails and hoping to ward prying eyes away. In its southern bosom lies a celebrity-beloved sanctuary, an expansive 11-acre estate once built for Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, an immaculate spectacle in white that still rings with a certain, royal air. Oliver Messel designed this decadent villa in 1971, with its glassy French windows facing the most glorious seascapes of both the Atlantic and the Caribbean. It is the utmost venue in Lagoon Bay to unwind, with isolation and graciousness delivered in the tallest order. The aristocratic nest is endowed with five spacious bedrooms, a fastidious bar, and kitchen—plus multiple dining locations—and a lush entry courtyard managed by its own gardener, who would regularly keep vines shape. As if it was to serve its former mistress, Les JoliesEaux indulges with the same royal treatment, with its very own butler, a chef, and two housekeepers. Instead of one, two pools entreat families into delightful swimming sprees, and when the spirit of thrill beckons, two Kawasaki Mules, each accommodating six persons, make for a riveting ride along the coast. A stay in the villa also befits one of private cocktail party invitations, use of its tennis and fitness facilities, and a media room complete with its own library of cinematic favourites. You never know when you might bump into a Hollywood A-lister when on Mustique Island. mustique-island.com/villa/les-jolies-eaux/
Can Azure, Mallorca
Mosaics of colourful cut stones make up the walls of this Mediterranean inspired villa, endearingly perched at the hilltop of Son Coll and wrapped with the olive trees of Deia. There’s a botanical beauty to it: the jovial air of this 13-hectare wonder is mixed with the citrusy fragrance from the orange, lemon and grapefruit trees that surround it. A seasonal vegetable garden is tucked by the shaded pergolas. The majestic Tramuntana Mountains is a gaze away, with Port de Soller a 12-kilometre ride, and the dive-worthy Cala de Deia in six kilometres. Inside, the Finca-inspired interiors brim with a capacious air—the double-level living room has lofty ceilings and access to both the terrace and the indoor dining. The country-style kitchen is fully equipped with modern amenities, just enough to unleash the cook’s prowess to crafting the most perfect paella. In the morning, there’s a regular delivery of fresh loaves of bread, pastries, and juices. While an alfresco dining space may beckon for a barbecue session, grilling meats are prohibited. However, one can stir a merry luncheon by activating everyone’s favourite song through the speakers lodged at the communal spaces. Four bedrooms make up the sleeping arrangement, by request, the study can be extended into a twin bedroom to accommodate additional sleepyheads. mrandmrssmith.com
A palatial treasure hidden in Phuket, curtained behind the resort’s coconut plantation, the villas are privately accessed by a buggy ride from the main compound. It revels in sheer isolation, placidly occupying an exclusive headland that affords gracious peeks at the Andaman Sea. Twelve guests congregate in this deluxe, 6-bedroom multi-floor Ocean Villa 40 that stretches over 3000 sqm floor area and decadently laden with traditional Thai decor. Behind this spectacular interior is Ed Tuttle, who magnanimously gifted this villa with a harmony of lacquered wood and neutral palettes, making use of organic textures while ensuring that rooms face the most optimum angles of the hemisphere. The sunset sala, for one, is positioned to bid farewell to the deliriously golden palette before it succumbs into the night, where the colours of the sky throw a picture-perfect contrast against the hues of the distant waters of the bay. The villa’s many tranquil spots, be it by the pool, the many terraces or the two sunset salas are serene corners for quiet conversations or silent meditation. The art of attaining a peaceful state seems to be as easy as a-b-c when at one of Amanpuri’s Villas. The Amanpuri Villas are fully sustainable on its own – two housekeepers manage the villa while a personal chef presides over the kitchen for more personalized menus that include authentic lip-smacking Thai cuisine that easily sit amongst the best in Phuket. Beyond the homely comforts of the villa, the resort’s al fresco dining spaces overlook a private beach below refreshed by the stiff Andaman breeze. aman.com/resorts/amanpuri/villas
Villa Syrene, Italy
Jagged cliffs, deep blue waters, and a profusion of botany tumbling down the stone walls of this high-end seaside villa—everything is strewn by nature in a dreamlike fashion. Anchored safely on a promontory, Villa Syrene has found its place in the Mediterranean Sea, one that is almost precarious, but exquisitely rewarding. Like a museum of grand treasures, the estate holds many treasures, all in the form of period furniture and decadent sculptures manning the porticoes or curated shelves. Gardens cascade with their spectacular beauty, each styled according to a beloved era. At midday, inhale the fresh air from the stone terrace. The master bedroom has a balcony that affords sublime views of Naples, but one can enjoy it in person by following a stony path that leads down to the rugged shoreline and a boat dock. Peter’s Beach is a minute’s walk, but three more minutes of strolling and one can reach the charming heart of Sorrento. Upon request, a driver can take one around the city’s best trattorias before coming back to the villa. An Italian cook mans the kitchen; when smoke exhales from the brick oven and the scent of tomato simmers, it must be time to sit down the grand dining and indulge in a pizza. airbnb.com
Villa Le Camelia, Italy
Capri’s dream destination is an immediate head-turner, with a blushing, vibrant tone that outshines its emerald green garden, and a landscape so picturesque, it must have been painted by God. From one side gazes the legendary Mount Vesuvius, and the other, the rippling Bay of Naples. There are distant glimpses of the Sorrentine Peninsula, and all three, during sunsets and sunrise, make an otherworldly landscape only seen in paintings. Inside, the interiors are equally resplendent. Towering ceilings give it a sense of sophistication, paired with the white walls and immaculate drapes. Rooms, accommodating up to eighteen guests, are gifted with poster beds, massive windows, and private balconies, allowing individual pauses before congregating with the rest. Housekeeping services make one feel like the lord of the castle, and the local chef stuns with decadent Italian offerings served by cheerful waiters. Communal spaces include an elegant art room, a decorated library, and a grand piano room that reverberates the music of every skilled player. From the terrace, 150 stone steps lead to the villa’s exclusive mooring. An outdoor jacuzzi allows one to take a quiet dip while serenely watching the boats anchor to the nearby grotto. airbnb.com
Naman Retreat, Vietnam
The charm of Vietnam’s culture shine in this contemporary alcove, hewn and constructed by renowned architect Vo TrongNghia. Tucked between the seemingly endless sandy beaches of Da Nang and Hoi An, the spacious, swanky 3-bedroom villa is shaped like stacked boxes, handsomely equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that beautifully merge the natural materials into the modern aesthetic. Skylights maximize the glorious radiance of Vietnam’s beachside sun. A rooftop terrace, a shaded pool, and an outdoor barbecue corner offer a tranquil sense of privacy for large groups to enjoy their intimate luncheon. With three bedrooms, four beds and three separate baths, everyone can relish the venue’s laidback air at their own pace. The kitchen, a modern setting of high-end appliances, indulges one to cook for themselves, although breakfasts can be acquired in the main lounge. The patio near the beach is a chic landscape of tropical botany encased in their concrete pots and the soft colours of the umbrellas that line by the pale blue shore. The venue’s strategic location makes it easy to reach the two vibrant cities set beside it, along with the historical district of Hue. namanretreat.com/en/residences
Evangeline, Antigua & Barbuda
A palm-studded spectacle in blush white, mitigating the Caribbean sun’s glare with its swanky, Miami vibe and soft mint and turquoise colours. Architect Andrew Goodenough endowed this villa with a luscious garden, romantic secret nooks, and delightful water fountains that ripple with a calm. There’s a gracious sprig Antiguan legacy; one can see on the pool’s glorious mosaic of blue-toned tiles, on the selection of artworks on the wall, and the contemporary furnishings spread on the main den. Everything is remarkably spaced out, allowing air to breathe through the rooms, and for the sun to shine on brilliant angles, making the aesthetics entirely Instagram-worthy. Six en suite bedrooms make up the entire villa, four of which were enclosed with a terrace, all equipped with a media corner and a king-sized bed. A butler, housekeeping, and a chef manage the venue, picking up requests and indulging with the sincerest of Antiguan hospitality. A tennis court and a complete fitness centre furnish this beachfront venue, making it a perfect tropical escape for large groups of active enthusiasts. However, Jumby Bay Island offers more amusement. The once-sugar plantation island, fabled to be owned by Christopher Columbus, offers sight-seeing opportunities, nights at the casino, intimate beach dinners, and day sailing. airbnb.com
LUX* North Male Atoll, Maldives
If space was a prime demand, this 3-bedroom Lux* Beach Retreat covers it lavishly, entreating a family or a group of friends in a sublime island oasis meant for the essential seaside holiday. The sprawling three-story villa occupies a private 1000 sqm beach that rolls in pure white sand and palm trees, gazing out into the Indian Ocean with its clear glass windows from the first two floors. The infinity pool & gazebo are whimsically placed on the private beach and the loftily decked interiors of the villa hide well-planned amenities worth revelling. Inside its white walls, the villa is packed with its own fitness area inclusive of a gym, a private steam room, and a sauna. A walk-in closet makes dressing up at ease, packed and unpacked by the hotel’s personalised service. A glass roof stretching 7.6 sqm offers the quaint view of the sky from the spacious indoors. Two terraces and one astounding rooftop deck affords liberal daytime tanning, meditative yoga, or a fun brunch—a 24-hour butler service assists with any requests. As the evening drips down the sky, the space becomes the perfect venue for gazing the stars, or a dazzling cocktail soiree. If the kids must be tucked to bed early, the resort promises a session of bedtime story to lull them to sleep. luxresorts.com/en/maldives/hotel/luxnorthmaleatoll
21 Nettleton, South Africa
The five-suite boutique hotel, perched within the cliffside slopes of the Lion’s Head, indulges larger groups with the most earnest South African extravagance by opening up its premium rooms for one take. After all, when a few rooms are not enough, why not rent the entire hotel? The five suites exude with strong continental flavours and refined rustic interiors, comfortably providing ten guests with luxurious spaces to sleep. With its seaside milieu and old-world ambience, there is everything to enjoy within the hotel’s walls. Almost everything is sustainable; 21 Nettleton makes use of solar energy and focuses on water recycling. Menus are done at one’s request, with meals brilliantly concocted with locally sourced and organic ingredients. Spa services pamper one to their utmost desires, with pools, steam rooms and sauna available for use. Butler services are prompt, and the staff speaks several languages, including French, Arabic, German and Portuguese. With this glamorous, private holiday, families can wilfully enjoy the grand view of the majestic Table Mountain, or take a glimpse of the World Heritage Nature Reserve. The main city is 10 minutes away from the villa, with many opportunities to hike, camp, or take a dive into Clifton’s beloved beaches. 21nettleton.com
Can Alegre, Spain
Sun-soaked Ibiza looks brighter in this crisp, all-white villa, meticulously strung with leafy palms shooting from its well-maintained garden. Several al fresco dining spaces are scattered along the patio, with glimpses of sun loungers lining the shapely blue pool. Inside, the atmosphere switches into a natural museum—ethnic prints, animal photography, and trees gazing from their glassy caves trigger a vibe of an earthy futurist. The open-plan living space is breathy, separated into three distinct areas: a fireplace, an entertainment corner, and a quiet window-side lounge that affords fantastic views of the adjacent island of Formentera. Spread across 5,000 sqm, with six bedrooms, private gardens and a sun terrace, the villa caters to a small crowd. This modern oasis is perched on the edge of a quiet neighbourhood, a remoteness that allows one to extensively binge in a Bang & Olufsen sound system snuck inside the walls, with 30 speakers and three subwoofers that perfectly echo the bass beats or the soft swings of jazz. One immediately becomes the DJ, and at a touch of the iPad, the neon lights in the poolside glimmer to new colours, and the entire villa liberally dances in a full night of revelry. mrandmrssmith.com/luxury-villas/can-alegre
Villa Tasca, Italy
The most discerning wanderlust would recognize lingering magic in this 16th-century masterpiece, lodged in the heart of a Sicilian garden. It brims with the thoughts of dolce vita—a grandiose, sand-coloured mansion tucked in eight hectares of sweeping greenery, staging a breath-taking landscape of frescoes and ferns, all encircling a man-made body of water. Noblemen of the old may have marched through the entry, as one would guess from the Renaissance paintings framed in gold that greet with a hearty Buongiorno! as the doors swing open. A stay becomes a quick trip back in time. In its trope l’oeil aesthetic, walls appear to animate the Victorian era, a spell broken by the occasional modern glib from the staff that keeps this house in merry order. Four en suite rooms make up this palatial escape, each robed in a neoclassical flair. A billiard and piano room make grand venues for a showcase of skill, a reading room for the avid bookworm, but passing time is not a problem, for strolling around the park already stirs inspiration. When the vast Acclimation Garden feels restricting, one can request for a drive to the many beaches lining up Palermo, or a glimpse of the town’s many highlights, including Bellaro Market, Massimo Theatre, and Norman Palace. airbnb.com
Chateau d’Estoublon, France
Lodged in the southern slopes between Arles and Avignon is an estate of imposing wonder, beautifully lined with rows of manicured trees, blushing flowers and a grand bath of an ocean blue pool. The ten-bedroom chateau indulges with the highest charm of Provencal living, being situated near an orchard. Red dressed interiors, tasteful damask prints, and swanky crystal chandeliers greet from its many themed rooms. The English Bar, in France!, located on the ground floor, is presided over by a sommelier eager to share a taste of the local vino. A grand library is fully decked with neatly compiled books, to be enjoyed in a quiet corner, if not for a game or two at the pool table. A sports hall exists on the second floor, complete with a roomy gym, and a glorious, starlit hammam that offers an Arabian means to detoxify. Talented staff, when asked, present guided lessons in yoga, meditation or water calisthenics. Perhaps an inimitable feature is the chateau’s L’Horloger, the Watchmaker’s Room, a lounge area that depicts how Breitling’s Ernest Scheider fell in love with the place and purchased it before the strike of the new millennium. The sun is always benign in this region, and the management lavishes guests with opportunities to wander Saint Tropez in a helicopter, or enjoy strolls at Camargue for a view of its vibrant flamingos. chateau-estoublon.com
Casa Koko, Mexico
A luxury getaway dressed in modern tropical huts, this Mexican casa is glamorously endowed with beachfront views and an extensive line of suites that caters to more than 20 guests. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with the same latitude as the equally cheerful Hawaii, Punta Mita simmers with the air of eternal summer, making the weather almost perfect all-year-round. Its architectural composition is spectacular and playful, with the use of raw wood and stone, topped off with hay roofing and the luscious addition of ferns and palm trees. Fresh ocean breeze and natural daylight flood the lounge spaces, including alfresco dining for 18, firepit, sun loungers and swinging hammocks for an essential vacation induced beachside nap. For movie marathons, the villa boasts of a remarkable media room installed with a 4k curved television. An independent audio system reaches every corner of the villa, providing crystal clear music to everyone, whether they are chilling by the infinity pool, or relishing meat cuts by the barbecue area. Three housekeepers preserve the tidiness of the entire villa, while personal waiters and a chef take over the kitchen duties to produce tailor-made meals from the fully equipped kitchen. When staying in is not enough, two golf carts comfortably transport to the nearby sports facilities–a tennis court, a golf course, and three beach clubs located in the resort’s gated property. casakoko.com
Chalet Alta, France
Stylishly constructed with old stone columns, lofty wooden beams, and large glass windows, this modern-day chalet sits at an iconic landmark: Chamonix, the renowned French ski paradise that first hosted the Winter Olympics in the 1920s. Nestled in between two alpine giants, Chalet Alta possesses a nostalgic charm that lures dreamy-eyed winter wanderers into the warmth of its stone walls. One is not to be deceived; the snow villa is woven with intelligent design and Smart Home technology, making this retreat secure as it is cosy. With five bedrooms and one four-bunkbed suite, the villa easily accommodates an entire family and more, with a group of sixteen all perfectly snug in their places. The great room–a grand den complete with a wood-burning fireplace–brings back the beauty of togetherness, a spirit that ripples through the rest of the communal spaces wrapped up with wood furnishing. A bright blue indoor pool glimmers at the ground floor, bursting with hydro jets that relieve the tension from the muscles after a long day enjoying the outdoors. Trudge to the lower ground floor and there is the cinema, surprisingly parallel to the chalet’s exclusive spa—a full range of sauna, steam room, and a gym that beats with high-energy tracks pulsing from its Sonos sound system. A private chef indulges with any desired cuisine, including a delectable four-course dinner served with a prime glass of wine.
Lodge at the Hills, New Zealand
It is a showcase of true Kiwi hospitality: a modern barnyard in grey and glass, equipped with modern amenities, tucked beside autumnal rolling hills that stretches across 500 acres of complete serenity. The minimalist architecture opposes the countrylike crooning of its quaint setting, yet dutifully magnifies its most superlative offerings—large windows on the open-plan living and dining area, a gracious den lodged with a bar, an underground wine cellar ready for tasting, and a fireside gallery for winter cuddling. All of its six suites are fitted with gas fire and soak tubs, with private sitting areas and views of charismatic landscapes that leave one speechless. In spring, dine al fresco beneath the cherry trees, or enjoy diving into the heated infinity pool while admiring the unscalable landscape. The barbecue area is paired with an outdoor pizza oven; one can ask their private chef to indulge them with brick-oven baked meals. A lodge host follows up on every request, with daily housekeeping. There’s a private sculpture park that showcases local and international carvings, but for the athletic, there is a grass tennis court made for the champion players, and an adjacent golf course that is home to the New Zealand Open. touchofspice.co.nz/luxury-accommodation/residence-collection/lodge-at-the-hills ◼
© This article was first published in Dec-Jan 2020 edition of World Travel Magazine.
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