Little beats the pleasure of checking into an exquisite hotel – aside from arriving at a place so profoundly special that it is only accessible by an elite few. Below, travel journalist Ianthe Butt selects five such stays that cater only to the most discerning of luxury travellers, from a suite in a sculpture to a riad designed by royalty.
The Baobob Treehouse at Xigera Safari Lodge, Botswana
Adorned with steel branches and rising 10m into the sky, this unique sculpture sits a kilometre from Xigera’s art-packed lodge in the Okavango Delta. Reachable by 4x4 in the dry season – or by glass-bottomed mokoro in the wet – a stay here is about as special as safari experiences get. The three-storey space has a spiral staircase cutting through the ‘trunk’, the bedroom and bathroom are decorated with intricate cabinetry, and a butler will deliver next-level picnics for supper. Up top, a floodplain-view deck means guests can slumber under the stars, soundtracked by calling owls and roaring lions.
Insider’s tip: join Xigera’s Bush Brunch for a fire-cooked feast and Bloody Marys garnished with pickled chilli.
Stay in a sculpture at The Baobob Treehouse
The MURAKA at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, The Maldives
Nowhere does sea-and-sand luxury like The Maldives. Setting the bar is The MURAKA: a three-bedroom number combining a sleek overwater villa with an underwater level sitting 5m beneath the blue. A transparent ceiling and walls give the master bedroom and bathroom mesmerising views of the surrounding coral reef, where technicolour shoals of fish serve up the thrill of a real-time Blue Planet episode without having to get wet. Exclusive experiences from live Teppanyaki grill suppers to soothing spa treatments are included, as is a 24/7 private butler.
Insider’s tip: dine at underwater restaurant Ithaa, before heading out on a marine adventure to spot whale sharks and turtles.
Sleep under the sea at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
The Grand Riad, Royal Mansour, Marrakech, Morocco
All flourish, flair and finery, The Grand Riad lives up to its name and then some. Centred around an open-air courtyard and ringed by fountain- and palm-filled gardens, this ‘medina within a medina’ was designed by King Mohammed VI himself. A three-storey love letter to Moroccan design, it’s rich in heritage craftsmanship and contemporary art. As well as a Moroccan lounge, three lavish bedrooms, and a fleet of knowledgeable staff, you can pick between two pools: one in the garden, and another on the roof terrace (which has Medina and Atlas Mountains views).
Insider’s tip: ask about tickets to Yves St Laurent’s former home. The garden’s open to the public, but only Royal Mansour guests get this behind-the-scenes access.
Heritage craftsmanship is the true luxury at The Grand Riad
Hoffman House at Rosewood Vienna
This recent arrival saw a neoclassical bank recast as the place to stay in The City of Dreams – and its rip-roaring presidential suite Hoffmann House is the one to book. Vienna’s largest suite, it comprises a master bedroom, living room, entertainment area and eight-seater dining room with a contemporary wunderkammer filled with European objets d’art. Interiors are a whirl of Viennese elegance, featuring a bespoke J. L. Lobmeyr chandelier and furnishings based on Wiener Werkstätte originals. A French balcony affords astonishing views out to Petersplatz, and the property is accessed through a private entrance on Milchgasse which was used by Mozart, who wrote The Abduction from the Seraglio whilst in residence here.
Insider’s tip: Expect ultra-personalised service, right down to specially embroidered initialled pillowcases.
Vienna's largest suite looks over Petersplatz
The Bulgari Villa, Bulgari Resort and Residences Dubai
Sitting on a seahorse-shaped island off the coast of Jumeirah, Dubai’s Bulgari Resort brings together Emirates ritz and Italian jewellery glitz. The property’s masterpiece is the 540 sqm, three-bedroom Bulgari Villa. It’s decorated in opulent Arabian style, with its own private beach and gardens that pay homage to ancient falaj (water streams found in desert oases). The living room is hung with art by calligrapher Monica Dengo, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the showstopper oval swimming pool, and a great-for-entertaining dining area is lit by a statement crystal chandelier.
Insider tip: The concierge can arrange for guests to try on – and buy – Bulgari pieces from the comfort of the Villa.
Inside the three-bedroom luxury Bulgari Villa
PLUS … London grand dame Claridge’s is set to open an incredible luxury penthouse in 2023. Whilst the details remain under wraps, it’s going to be sensational, so watch this space…
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