PUMPHOUSE POINT (above)
Architect Peter Walker compared Lake Saint Clair’s redundant pumphouse, 250m offshore on the end of a concrete flume, to a ‘cathedral… streaming with light’. This divine quality was preserved when he alchemised its Art Deco bones into an extraordinary hotel, stacking 12 suites down each wing to leave a central lounge with uninterrupted views through the heart of the building. The rough-sawn oak walls and muted earth tones perfectly complement the pumphouse’s dramatic setting, swaddled by an enormous rumpled quilt of Unesco-listed rainforest. Its bedrooms’ clean lines and unfussy d cor keep the focus firmly on the outside world, a feature repeated in the hotel’s shore house (the old maintenance workshop) with its huge restaurant windows: proof, if needed, that this particular version of luxury is all about unflashy if unusual immersion in Tasmania’s pristine wilderness.
Full-board doubles from £313; pumphousepoint.com.au
FOUR SEASONS FLORENCE
Tense? Stressed? Suffering from insomnia? This may be the world’s most beautiful therapy. Straddling two Renaissance palaces, the Four Seasons Firenze lets you doze off beneath Baroque cherubs, angels and deities. Developed over seven
years for 48 million, the hotel quite fairly bills itself as a ‘living museum of art history’, a claim best witnessed in the Royal Suite with its vaulted ceiling, original ceramic floor tiles and fresco of previous resident, Leo XI. The hotel’s 15th-century courtyard has an epic bas-relief and domed side chapel hosting the Adoration and Nativity by Flemish Mannerist, lo Strandano. Head outside and you’ll find Florence’s largest private garden with statues and a spa using unctions from a pharmacy founded by 13th-century Dominican friars. Monks who moisturise. How very Italian.
Doubles from £393 (room only); fourseasons.com
Fuse age-old wisdom with cutting edge design and you end up with this minimalist, startlingly beautiful vineyard resort. On a gentle valley of vines and olive groves, nuzzling an angular yet elegant hub of restaurant, vinotherapy spa and winery, L’And’s rows of terraced suites offer a lux take on traditional Alentejo farming compounds. Brazilian architect Márcio Kogan keeps its interiors simple, sober and serene with natural stone, wood and wool rugs, based on those used by local shepherds. Outside, the suites’ whitewashed patios have modernist fireplaces and widescreen views across the lake to Montemor-o-Novo’s medieval castle. Several suites up the ante with a private garden and plunge pool and, the ace in their pack, a bedroom ceiling that retracts to reveal some of Europe’s darkest, least polluted night skies. Heaven indeed.
B&B doubles from £169; l-and.com
Where to look first: the prolific wildlife or the prolific art? Xigera Lodge, built into the forest canopy above a floodplain in the Okavango Delta, is both elite safari destination and, thanks to a collaboration with Cape Town’s Southern Guild gallery, a showcase for the world’s largest collection of Southern African art. The generous raft of bespoke works from hot young talent is now an organic part of the lodge, from humansized nests for guests to snuggle into (inspired by the architecture of weaver birds) to the boma’s totemic firepit sculpture, and a magnificent copper fireplace, hand-beaten to resemble a giant lily. Most striking of all is the three-storey treehouse, rising out of the Croton trees, sculpted in steel to resemble a massive baobab – man and nature in strange but perfect harmony.
Full board from around £1,257pp per night; xigera.com
New York State
Historic industrial architecture and 21st-century hospitality merge to dramatic effect at this unique new hotel. Its 31 cabins are weaved through the bucolic 73-acre estate, cheek by jowl with the remaining infrastructure of Hutton Brickyards that, from 1863 to 1980, supplied the building blocks of New York, a couple of hours to the south. Juxtaposed with the original loading crane, engine house and steel-framed kiln sheds, the cabins are swaddled by forest. All offer light contemporary interiors and decks, some have a Shaker aesthetic, floor-to-ceiling glass with fabulous river views and a retro vinyl turntable. The waterfront’s exploited to stunning effect whether it’s a sauna, Adirondack chairs around a firepit or the open-side restaurant pavilion with wood-fired grills and multiple fireplaces to warm guests. If those Victorian labourers could only see it now.
B&B cabins from £198; salthotels.com
If you want to add a tranquil new hotel to your group’s exclusive portfolio, then converting a French colonial hospital is a decent shout. With design by Pascal Trahan, the architect behind several of Luang Prabang’s meticulous historic restorations, Aman painstakingly redeveloped 15 original medical buildings, nine of them with Unesco heritage protection. The result is simply beautiful. The hotel’s white-walled verandas, viridian shutters and red-tiled roofs are washed with frangipani-scented air. Of its 24 suites around a spacious lawned courtyard, 16 have private pools; all have louvered doors, five-metre high ceilings and a chic paired back mix of Indochinese timbers, rattan furnishings and four-posters with crisp white sheets. A spa and fitness centre flank Amantaka’s gorgeous pool but frankly tropical languor, not exercise, is the doctor’s daily prescription.
Half-board suites from £713; aman.com
THE PIG ON THE BEACH
Welcome to Holiday Hogwarts. This glorious Gothic mix of turrets, chimneys and gingerbread windows – once the Georgian villa of an aristocratic MP – has been brilliantly revamped by the hotel litter that celebrates the irreverent and the quirky. Outside has a cheerful yellow wash, inside its trademark eclectic interiors: stuffed seabirds, old portraits, red brocade lamps. The bar floor is lined with old railway sleepers, the restaurant’s a greenhouse, the mini-spa’s a shepherd’s hut. The bedrooms continue the fun: one has a loo slipped into a bay window, another a 17th-century carved wood screen from a Portuguese palace, two more inhabit fairy tale thatched dovecotes around the prolific kitchen garden. Add in dreamy sea views over Studland Bay to Old Harry Rocks and this is a pretty perfect pig.
Doubles from £145 (room only); thepighotel.com
Tucked into the verdant amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, Bisate Lodge suggests alien eyes are staring out from the equatorial forest. However, rather than sci-fi, its multiple thatched spheres draw inspiration from the traditional design of the Rwandan King’s Palace, echoing the thousands of hills that punctuate the landscape. The lodge offers expansive views of Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno volcanoes but its richly detailed interiors also merit close attention. The emerald hues of locally weaved textiles and chandeliers mimic the riotous rainforest, while the spheres’ lava stone fireplaces nod to the volcanic peaks of the adjacent national park. Many furnishings are decorated using imigongo, unique to Rwanda, with geometric shapes painted onto a mix of cow dung and soil. In short, Bisate’s about gorillas, conservation, community engagement – and seriously clever design.
Full-board from around £1,257pp per night; wilderness-safaris.com