No place does grand country mansions quite like the Emerald Isle.
THE EXPERIENCE While the city of Limerick is not generally top of the to-see lists for visitors to Ireland, the pretty heritage town of Adare in the nearby lush countryside is worth a detour. Adare is known for its thatched cottages, 13th-century castle and medieval monastery ruins. But its main claim to fame is the impressively restored Adare Manor. Forget fussy old hotels, the manor is looking elegant after a $110 million makeover. Owned by Ireland’s richest man, J.P. McManus, the 340-hectare estate on the River Maigue comprises manicured gardens, woodlands and a Tom Fazio-designed golf course.
A 19th-century, neo-gothic masterpiece, the manor was Ireland’s grandest private home when it was built in 1860. The sumptuous 104 rooms have a touch of fairy-tale magic to them, particularly those in the original building. Breakfast is served in The Gallery, flanked by 17th-century choir stalls, and the excellent food is locally sourced. As well as golf, activities include fishing, archery and falconry. At the luxurious spa, try the signature Celtic-inspired Coladh Samh (sleep well) or Misneach (inner strength) treatments.
IDEAL FOR Downton Abbey converts, design devotees and golf enthusiasts.
PRICE From €325 ($515) a night with breakfast included; adaremanor.com; ireland.com.
– Mary O’Brien
LIKE THIS? Try Ashford Castle in County Mayo, a lavish 13th-century castle on the beautiful Lough Corrib; ashfordcastle.com.
Europe’s coolest city just keeps getting better.
THE EXPERIENCE It is no coincidence that Lisbon’s tourism boom has come in the age of Instagram. Choose any random street in Lisbon’s downtown and a parade of eye-catching detail awaits. Mosaic footpaths, ceramic-tiled walls, gaily painted houses, narrow alleys, cheery yellow trams, not to mention those famous custard tarts – each one has already been captured on a million social-media feeds, stoking the Lisbon buzz even further.
Want to experience a truly fresh side to the city? Then head for Lisbon’s latest five-star hotel, the One Palacio da Anunciado, which embodies that oh-so-Lisbon blend of old-school elegance and contemporary cool. Within its original stone walls, this 16th-century palace, once the home of the Counts of Ericeira, has retained signature features including an ancient wood ceiling supported by wrought-iron pillars. The interiors have been styled up in neutral tones teamed with discreet old-gold highlights. Apart from the buzzing wine and tapas bar, the hotel’s most appealing feature is the tranquil garden that stretches across 2500 square metres, a truly palatial pleasure garden.
IDEAL FOR Heritage hounds, design devotees.
PRICE From €220 ($353) a night; hotelstheone.com, visitlisboa.com.
– Ute Junker
LIKE THIS? Fans of fine wines and spoil-yourself spa treatments will love Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, a converted 900-year-old abbey amid 200 hectares of vineyards north of Madrid; ledomaine.es; spain.info.
A hillside villa at Anantara Quy Nhon. Photo: Supplied
Quy Nhon, Vietnam
Explore Vietnam’s off-the-radar destination before the crowds arrive.
THE EXPERIENCE Australia’s love of all things Vietnamese continues to flourish, with travellers flocking to Hoi An, Hanoi and Danang. Less known is Vietnam’s emerging south-central coastline with its wide beaches, verdant rice fields and relics of the old Cham dynasty. Until now, luxury travellers had little reason to journey to the port town of Quy Nhon (pronounced “hwee-non”), capital of the Bin Dinh province, with limited accommodation options.
There are hopes the Anantara Quy Nhon Villas will change that, with its dedicated butlers, in-villa “wine cellars” and “delicatessens”, oversized bathtubs and lap pools. Flanked by mountains and fronting a secluded bay, the intimate retreat offers 26 one- and two-bedroom villas (more than half have direct beach access) with timber sun decks, hilltop spa, indigenous experiences and a signature restaurant. Guests can opt for a martial arts session on the beach, craft a traditional conical hat or simply soak up the vistas of the South China Sea. Go before the word gets out.
IDEAL FOR Resort connoisseurs, dedicated bliss followers.
PRICE From $756 a night; anantara.com; vietnam.travel/home.
– Sheriden Rhodes
LIKE THIS? Try renowned eco property, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji, for world-class diving, rustic-chic bures and al fresco dining fronting a dreamy bay; fijiresort.com; fiji.travel.
Wildlife and lush rainforest meet gloriously swanky resorts on white-sand beaches. Why not?
THE EXPERIENCE Langkawi is popular with travellers for its natural beauty and laid-back vibe. The freshly renovated Datai presents the best of the island, wrapped in five-star luxury. The resort sits alone at one end of Datai Bay, named one of the world’s 10 best beaches by National Geographic. Its upper terraces hover in the surrounding rainforest as if on invisible cables and its villas are hidden among the trees. Exquisite birds, butterflies, macaques, langurs and colugos are some of the local creatures willing to share their verdant home with human holidaymakers and the Datai’s environmentally sensitive architecture.
You’re likely to encounter any or all of these creatures just going about your day, but the Datai’s charismatic resident naturalists also conduct tours of the forest and shoreline. Punctuate wildlife spotting with spa treatments, kayaking, yoga or a round of golf. Or just lie by one of the pools and sigh with contentment.
IDEAL FOR Lovers of nature, honeymooners, R&R disciples.
PRICE From RM2500 ($858) a night; thedatai.com; naturallylangkawi.my.
– Lissa Christopher
LIKE THIS? Try Costa Rica for its astounding ecodiversity. Drake Bay Getaway is an award-winning resort on the Osa Peninsula that combines beach, jungle, wildlife and blessed escape; drakebaygetaway.com; visitcostarica.com.
Datai Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia. Photo: Datai Langkawi
Wanaka, New Zealand
Away from the backpackers, New Zealand’s glorious ski and summer resort area offers a corner of homely sophistication.
THE EXPERIENCE Queenstown without the crowds. That, in essence, is the appeal of the nearby town of Wanaka, another scenic Southern Alps playground where visitors can go canyoning or climbing, hiking or biking, or just take to the lake. Lift your visit to the next level with a stay at Mahu Whenua, a cosy luxury haven with just four rooms. The homely feel is no accident; the property was built as a residence for record producer Mutt Lange and his then wife, singer Shania Twain, and is filled with nooks designed for curling up in.
Meals are best described as high-end comfort food, from whitebait omelettes to French onion soup, and if you have a cookie craving, the staff always have a treat available. Work up an appetite by exploring the lodge’s 55,000 hectares of protected lands, heading out on foot, on a bike, on horseback or, if the budget allows, by helicopter.
IDEAL FOR Comfort-craving families, admirers of the natural world.
PRICE From $NZ1850 ($1775) a room a night; exclusive use $NZ15,000 ($14,394) a night, including full board; two-night minimum stay; mahuwhenua.co.nz, lakewanaka.co.nz.
– Ute Junker
LIKE THIS? With just three units, Manawa Ridge eco-retreat is one of the most exclusive lodgings on the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula; manawaridge.co.nz; thecoromandel.com.
Malolo Island, Fiji
The unspoilt Fiji of your dreams is a short ferry ride from Nadi.
THE EXPERIENCE Malolo, the largest island in the Mamanuca archipelago, is easily accessible – speedboats will get you there from Nadi in a touch over half an hour. Hence, since the first resort opened in the 1970s, others have followed but Malolo remains the idyll – all warm South Pacific waters lapping against white sand, and seabirds flitting among bending palms.
Despite offering everything a tropical holiday seeker could wish for, the newest kid on the block, Six Senses Fiji, is itself redolent of the perfect castaway fantasy. It’s a sprawling place, with hilltop villas for families and smaller beachfront ones for couples, pools everywhere and its own beach. A “guest experience maker” will sort out the surfing or snorkelling. The focus is sustainability – in supplies, operations and, of course, treatments at a gorgeous spa.
IDEAL FOR Wellness warriors, romantic types, surfers, sun seekers.
PRICE From $FJ2100 ($1383) a night, including breakfast and select activities; sixsenses.com; fiji.travel.
– Jim Darby
LIKE THIS? The same heady mix of barefoot luxury and upmarket wellness is at play in Bali at the cliff-top Six Senses Uluwatu; sixsenses.com; balitourismboard.org.
Sustainability is the focus at Six Senses on Malolo Island, Fiji.
A once-glittering celebrity playground is reborn, offering lazy and luxurious serenity and intriguing experiences.
THE EXPERIENCE International jet-setters including Jacqueline Kennedy and Catherine Deneuve kicked back on the so-called Cambodian Riviera in its pre-war 1960s heyday. These days, Chinese tourism development has marred parts of the coast along the Gulf of Thailand, but the islands located just offshore offer a serene retreat for those looking to end their Cambodian holiday on a tranquil note.
Several international hotel chains are planning to launch properties here but Alila Villas is the first off the mark with its Koh Russey resort, just a 20-minute speedboat ride from the mainland. If lounging by the infinity pool or on the private beach is not your scene, opt for one of the intriguing excursions: perhaps a visit to a plantation growing Kampot pepper, a favourite with global chefs, or a trip to a crater-like cave with a forest growing in it. A night-time snorkel amid shimmering bioluminescent plankton is equally memorable.
Meals are a Koh Russey highlight; enjoy casual Asian-influenced meals at the Beach Shack (try the Cambodian classic, fish amok), or French-tinged fine dining at Horizons, before winding up your evening with an outdoor cinema session in the privacy of your villa.
IDEAL FOR Beach babies, digital detoxers.
PRICE From $US550 ($777); alilahotels.com, tourismcambodia.com.
– Ute Junker
LIKE THIS? Shinta Mani Wild, a five-star tented camp in the jungle, allows guests to explore another side of Cambodia; shintamani.com.
Koh Samui, Thailand
It may be known as a party destination, but venture away from the bright lights and you’ll find luxury goes hand in hand with Koh Samui’s natural beauty.
THE EXPERIENCE Take a dip in the azure waters of sun-kissed Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui, Thailand’s second-biggest island, then savour the legendary crimson-gold sunsets that colour the sky at dusk. The nearby Ang Thong Marine Park has 42 islands to explore, many with lush mountains and rainforests that provide a dramatic backdrop. Island-hopping via traditional long-tail boats can become addictive, so it makes sense to balance these excursions with shopping and spa visits. Immerse yourself in local culture with a visit to the 12-metre Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple that sparkles in the sun, and drop by local markets for Thai treats. The Library beachfront resort has a literary theme and 46 studios and suites plus two dazzling new villas, The Editor and The Writer. The ruby pomegranate pool is an Instagrammer’s dream and don’t pack a book – the library has 1400 volumes to borrow.
IDEAL FOR Sun habitués, water babies and beach readers.
PRICE From THB12,612 a night ($560) a night; thelibrarysamui.com.
– Sue Wallace
LIKE THIS? Try Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island and stay at La Veranda Resort MGallery by Sofitel; laverandaresorts.com.
The Peninsula Hotel, Paris, is a temple to fine interiors. Photo: Supplied
The grand dame will never go out of style, and there’s nothing like enjoying the city of love from one of its most historic hotels.
THE EXPERIENCE The epicentre of fashion, food and fabulousness, Paris is always a dreamy destination, and there’s no hotel quite so exquisite as The Peninsula. Located a few steps from the Arc de Triomphe, the meticulously updated palace is a temple to fine interiors and intuitive service, and a favourite of everyone from rock royalty to political heavyweights. A six-year renovation of the original 1908 Majestic Hotel has turned 400 rooms into 200 suites inspired by haute couture. The lobby alone is worth a look – a dazzling ballroom of white marble with a blizzard of some 800 crystal leaves suspended from the ceiling. The hotel has six restaurants and bars, but head to the rooftop fine-dining restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc, for views of the sparkling Eiffel Tower. Paris, je t’aime.
IDEAL FOR The ultimate romantic escape.
PRICE From €990 ($1591) a night, but keep an eye on the website for special deals; peninsula.com; en.parisinfo.com.
– Michael Harry
LIKE THIS? Hotel Costes is another perfect Parisian address, with a dreamy inner courtyard and parfumerie, right near the Louvre; hotelcostes.com.
San José del Cabo, Mexico
Los Cabos is emerging as the Bali of North America, with beautiful beaches, loads of party venues and some of the best resorts in the world.
THE EXPERIENCE There are two distinct sides to Los Cabos. On one side of the Baja Peninsula is the wild child, San Lucas, where so many US college kids go to party with abandon during the traditional spring break. On the other side is the more relaxed, colonial San José, which is the focal point for a number of spectacular resort compounds offering a slice of Mexican luxury. The most gasp-worthy resort to open in recent times is the futuristic, far-out Viceroy Los Cabos.
Designed by Mexican architect Miguel Angel Aragonés, the 192-room property is a series of brutalist bright-white boxes arranged around a staggering horizon pool facing a perfect stretch of beach. Add luxuriously minimalist rooms and a range of local and American dining options and this makes for one seriously Instagrammable holiday. Park yourself on a sun lounge, order a margarita, post a photo, then sit back and watch the likes roll in.
IDEAL FOR Trend-setting travellers wanting to inspire Instagram envy.
PRICE From $US600 ($845) a night; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com; visitloscabos.travel.
– Michael Harry
LIKE THIS? The One&Only Palmilla, the next-level resort that hosted TV host Karl Stefanovic’s high-profile wedding, is located just a short drive away; oneandonlyresorts.com.
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