Chic shack awards

Our idea of the per­fect place to stay is sim­ple, stylish and unique. We’ve been cham­pi­oning re­treats like this for nearly a decade: they are usu­ally pri­vately owned, and whether a beach­front room with its own lily pond in the An­daman Is­lands, a Costa Rica

ELLE (UK) - - Contents - Edited by Su­san Ward Davies

From Sri Lanka to Dorset, In­dia to Ply­mouth, Travel Di­rec­tor Su­san Ward Davies com­piles the ul­ti­mate list of best-kept se­cret, hid­den hide­aways across the world


For a detox from mod­ern life, with­out the stern dis­ci­pline and ab­sti­nence, this luxe eco-re­treat is heaven. Eleven rooms with liv­ing roofs spi­ral around the palm-shaded banks of Kog­gala Lake, and an in­fin­ity pool gazes out over the water. There’s first-class quan­tum yoga in­struc­tion and a small spa for well­ness, but just be­ing here is restora­tive. Be wowed by the in­ven­tive fu­sion food (ku­rakkan ce­real grass, co­coa and cin­na­mon risotto, any­one?), and spend hours kayak­ing around the lake, watch­ing king­fish­ers swoop­ing low in the sky. • Kog­gala Lake, Galle, Sri Lanka (i-es­­lank; +94 777 708117). Dou­bles from £218, half board.


As close to par­adise as you can get, this is­land is sur­rounded by clear-blue shal­lows, white sandy beaches and deep-green jun­gle. It’s only a 20-minute boat ride from the town of Mers­ing, but it feels ut­terly Robin­son Cru­soe in its iso­la­tion. Between thriv­ing co­ral reefs and sway­ing co­conut palms, Batu Batu is the only ho­tel on the oth­er­wise un­in­hab­ited is­land. Its 22 tra­di­tional Malay vil­las are qui­etly lux­u­ri­ous, with four-poster beds and out­door bath­rooms, but the big­gest treat here is the laid-back pace. There’s an on-site PADI div­ing school and var­i­ous na­ture walks, but you’ll be equally con­tent by the pool, eat­ing de­li­cious, slow­cooked beef ren­dang made with the is­land’s own co­conut milk and lemon­grass. True bare­foot lux­ury. • Mers­ing Dis­trict, Pu­lau Ten­gah, Malaysia (i-es­;

+60 07 2277000). Dou­bles from £139, room only.


Ev­ery­thing about these two houseboats will wow you: the ad­ven­ture of liv­ing on water, the thrill of find­ing peace in cen­tral Lon­don yet be­ing able to stroll to east Lon­don’s bars, sit­ting out on deck for break­fast, the spoils of lo­cal delis. And the style: vin­tage chairs, sheep­skin rugs, cop­per-lined lamps and wood-burn­ers to keep things cosy. But, best of all, the price: it’s in­cred­i­ble value for such a quirky stay. • The Palmer (sleeps four) and The Os­bert (sleeps two), Gains­bor­ough Wharf, Lon­don (i-es­­ton-bou­tique-houseboats;

0117 946 7072). From £160, for one night.


Hid­den in lush jun­gle on the re­mote Have­lock Is­land, The Jalakara is the very def­i­ni­tion of se­cluded, yet it’s as stylish and spoil­ing as a top ho­tel. Bri­tish chef and en­trepreneur Mark Hill has cre­ated a look that blends tra­di­tional, In­dian-pol­ished plas­ter and wo­ven bam­boo with block-print fab­rics and luxe fur­nish­ings. The six rooms are full of imag­i­na­tion: one has a lily pond, while an­other has a film pro­jec­tor for pri­vate screen­ings un­der the stars. Come here to re­ju­ve­nate – eat trop­i­cal-fruit sal­ads, have deep-tis­sue mas­sages, then swim in the in­fin­ity pool. There are no phones or TVs to dis­tract you, just na­ture at its best. • Vil­lage No. 4, Have­lock Is­land, In­dia. (i-es­; +44 20 7183 0711). Dou­bles from £155, B&B.

Words: Liz Simp­son, Ed­i­tor of i-es­


If, like us, your dream house would have a bed­room so near to the sea that you could watch the waves with­out lift­ing your head from the pil­low, then Tintswalo At­lantic Lodge will come pretty close. You’ll find it at the base of Ta­ble Moun­tain Na­tional Park, down a steep stony track from Chap­man’s Peak, where 11 cab­ins line the rocky shore, newly re­built after the Cape Penin­sula fire of 2015. Each has a pri­vate deck over the water and a fire­place for chilly nights, and in­te­ri­ors are pared back and muted, but the food from chef Jean­telle Van Staden is de­li­cious – Thai co­conut mus­sels, ori­en­tal line fish with zuc­chini rib­bons – and per­fect for eat­ing on the breezy ter­race or in the cosy restau­rant. The sea is too nippy for swim­ming, even for hardy Brits, but you can do your laps in the small heated pool, look­ing out over the ocean. • Chap­man’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay, Cape Town (­lantic; +27 11 300 8888). Dou­bles from £365, half board.


From the out­side, they don’t look much – three cor­ru­gated-iron cot­tages in the mid­dle of the windswept Dorset coun­try­side. And when you hear they were used as the home for nurses on the tu­ber­cu­lo­sis quar­an­tine wards back in the day, even less promis­ing. But in­side, they’re as cosy as a ski lodge, and the big treat is be­ing able to step straight through the front door on to miles of wild heath­land. Each cot­tage has two or three bed­rooms, and ta­bles out­side for sum­mer bar­be­cues. Take over all three

for a birth­day camp-out you won’t for­get, as there’s no one else for miles to com­plain about party noise. • Ware­ham, Dorset (na­tion­al­trusthol­i­; 0344 800 2070). Sleeps six, from £279 for two nights.

Words: Su­san Ward Davies, Travel and Life­style Di­rec­tor, ELLE and


This sim­ple shep­herd’s hut sits in a beau­ti­ful gar­den in the vil­lage of Pen­tridge, just out­side Sal­is­bury. The in­spi­ra­tion for Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Ur­bervilles, Pen­tridge is less than an hour from Dorset’s Juras­sic Coast, and it has beau­ti­ful walk­ing and cy­cling routes on the doorstep. The hut it­self is light and stylishly fur­nished, with a large bed and wood- burn­ing stove. The Airbnb host, Jes­sica, can give you the low­down on the best places to eat and drink, and pro­vide lo­cally sourced break­fast, with eggs from her own chick­ens. • Sal­is­bury, Dorset ( Sleeps two, from £80 per night.


If you want a stylish, back-to-na­ture ex­pe­ri­ence (with­out skimp­ing on the lux­ury), you’re go­ing to love this place. The tree­house is set among 600 acres of pri­vate wilder­ness in Aus­tralia’s Blue Moun­tains, New South Wales, between two na­tional parks and a World Her­itage-listed rain­for­est. It’s not of­ten you find a tree-top cabin with a spa, but here you get that, as well as a kitch­enette and a fire­place. Look out over the for­est be­low through the floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, which let in lots of nat­u­ral light. Thought­ful host Lionel even pro­vides a tele­scope for late-night stargaz­ing through the glass roof. • Bilpin, New South Wales, Aus­tralia ( Sleeps two, from £606 per night.


A one-of-a-kind wooden house made from beau­ti­ful trop­i­cal hard­woods, set in four acres, The Ran­cho is just 30 min­utes from San José air­port. It has a beau­ti­ful, open liv­ing/din­ing area, a mez­za­nine bed you have to clam­ber up a lad­der to, and a kitch­enette with a carved wooden sink. Best of all is the bath­room: 20ft long, with walls of black lava from the Are­nal Vol­cano, and a bath­tub carved from a sin­gle tree trunk. If you’re into birds, it’s like Planet Earth up here, sur­rounded by fruit trees and or­chids and flanked on three sides by cof­fee farms.• Ate­nas, Ala­ju­uela, Costa Rica (airbnb. From £103, sleeps two.

Words: James Mc­Clure, Airbnb Gen­eral Man­ager for North­ern Europe


Casa Kim­berly was the Six­ties’ love nest of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Richard Bur­ton, when he was film­ing the iconic The Night of the Iguana. The two con­nect­ing ca­sitas are now a nine- suite bou­tique ho­tel: there are six rooms in the main house, boast­ing hot tubs and ter­races with views of Bahía de Ban­deras bay and the Sierra Madre moun­tains. The one to book is, of course, the El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor suite, which still has her spe­cially com­mis­sioned Swarovski crys­tal chan­de­lier and her pink, heart-shaped bath tub. • Calle Zaragoza 445. Puerto Val­larta, Mex­ico (casakim­; +52 322 222 1336). Reg­u­lar dou­bles from £230, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor suite from £892, room only.


If you’ve ever fan­cied life as a cow­boy but with­out the hard­ships, you’re go­ing to love Triple Creek Ranch. In the heart of the beau­ti­ful Mon­tana Rock­ies, the re­sort is made up of lux­ury log cab­ins and ranch homes with ac­cess to the lodge, which fea­tures orig­i­nal west­ern art. Try your hand at all kinds of out­door pur­suits, such as fly-fish­ing, white­wa­ter raft­ing, moun­tain bik­ing and off-ranch ad­ven­tures, ex­plor­ing by he­li­copter, horse or even dog sled. • 5551 West Fork Road, Darby, Mon­tana (triple­; +1 800 654 2943). Dou­bles from around £826, in­clud­ing full board and al­co­hol, and many ac­tiv­i­ties. Words: Tom and Jeremy Jauncey, Founders of @Beau­ti­fulDesti­na­tions on In­sta­gram


Sprawled across a vast apri­cot or­chard near the con­flu­ence of the Zan­skar and In­dus rivers, Nimmu is a Twen­ties’ Ti­betan house turned haute home­s­tay. Owned by the Nangso fam­ily, descen­dants of the Ladakhi royal fam­ily, it’s in­ti­mate and fa­mil­iar, and a wel­come change from the touristy frills of Leh city. The main house has 12 rooms, all fin­ished with lo­cal stone, lat­ticed wood and with beau­ti­ful views of the Hi­malayas. But my favourite spot is one of the five tents in the gar­den, tucked between yak sta­bles and fruit or­chards. They’re dressed in lo­cal no­madic style with Changpa rugs, and a ham­mock slung in the en­trance.

• Nangso House Nimmu, Leh, Jammu and Kash­mir, Ladakh, In­dia (;

+91 84477 57517). Dou­bles from £117, half board. ›


Uxua Casa’s unas­sum­ing ex­te­rior hides an ELLE Dec­o­ra­tion-wor­thy re­treat. It stands in the heart of the in­ter­na­tional gypset hide­away, Tran­coso, a town that was once on its way to ex­tinc­tion, only to be re­vived by a hip­pie in­va­sion in the Seven­ties. Uxua’s 11 brightly coloured ca­sitas were beau­ti­fully re­stored by fash­ion de­signer Wil­bert Das (for­mer Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of Diesel) with the help of lo­cal ar­ti­sans, us­ing tra­di­tional tech­niques and re­claimed ma­te­ri­als. Book Casa da Ár­vore – an ac­tual tree house – and in­dulge your in­ner Tarzan. • Porto Se­guro, Bahia, Brazil (; +55 73 3668 2277). Dou­bles from £329, B&B.


Twelve iso­lated cab­ins with a min­i­mal­is­tic, al­most nordic per­son­al­ity pep­per a 6,000 hectare pri­vate es­tate in­side Tor­res del Paine Na­tional Park. Floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows and a thought­ful geo­met­ric lay­out draw your gaze to­wards the raw im­men­sity of the out­doors. There are no TVs, phone sig­nal is spotty, and wifi is un­re­li­able due to a lazy satel­lite sig­nal. But you won’t need them, as each cabin comes with a per­sonal guide and Jeep so you can ex­plore the sur­round­ings at your whim. Rooms are a per­fect bal­ance of ul­tra-mod­ern lines and a warm cot­tage feel, thanks to the nat­u­ral wood and al­paca-wool fin­ishes and wood-burn­ing stoves, mak­ing for to­tal com­fort in the wild.

• Es­tan­cia Tercera Bar­ranca, Tor­res del Paine, Chile (awasi­patag­o­; +0 808 101 6778). Cab­ins from £1,200, min. three nights, all in­clu­sive.


Near the sleepy fish­ing vil­lage of Mán­cora, at Peru’s north­ern tip, you’ll find Kichic, a bo­hemian beach­side re­treat ded­i­cated to the bal­ance of body and spirit. Shady nooks, daily yoga classes and en­er­gis­ing cui­sine are some of the things that make this go-to hide­away in South Amer­ica. The nine suites, con­nected by lan­tern-strung paths, dot the co­conut palm and bougainvil­lea gar­dens. Each room is unique, though they all have use­ful canopy beds (mos­qui­toes be­ware) and the sooth­ing sound of the ocean surf at night. The Hi­malaya suite has the best ocean views, but the Piedra suite is our favourite: cosy and in­ti­mate, with an open-air bath on a pri­vate ter­race. • Las Poc­i­tas, Mán­cora, Peru (kichic. com; +51 73 411518). Dou­bles from £225, B&B.

Words: Marta Tucci, Co-founder of nay­a­trav­ and doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher


In south­ern Brazil, this pri­vate is­land re­sort, with just 30 rooms, is a few miles south of su­per­model hotspot Flo­ri­anópo­lis. The

Mata Atlân­tica sub­trop­i­cal for­est, which once stretched the length of Brazil’s south­ern coast, is well pre­served near here, and the lo­cal oys­ters are leg­endary, as is the loripira, their ver­sion of caipir­inha. Book cabin two, which looks out between enor­mous boul­ders over an empty beach to dis­tant At­lantic rain­for­est. It’s like ev­ery­one’s idea of a per­fect play­house, with a fire­place, large bath­room and wide ve­randa.

• Pal­hoça, Santa Cata­rina, Brazil (papagaio. or search for ‘Ilha Do Papagaio’ at last­fron­; +55 48 88113411 ). Perola rooms from £430, B&B. Words: Ed­ward Paine, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of last­fron­


Two hours from Tokyo, Satoyama Jujo Ho­tel de­fies ev­ery cliche of a tra­di­tional ‘re­treat’. In­stead, it sweeps you up in the vi­sion of Cre­ative Di­rec­tor Toru Iwasa, and the indige­nous nar­ra­tive of the re­gion. The rhythm of the age-old har­vest is ex­pressed via the ho­tel’s farm-to-ta­ble con­cept, while the moun­tain­ous lo­ca­tion keeps it in splen­did iso­la­tion. Ren­dered in cedar wood, Ja­panese

lac­quer and tatami grass, the de­sign of the ho­tel’s 12 bed­rooms and com­mu­nal ar­eas is a re­flec­tion of the re­gion’s ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage. If you’re head­ing to Ja­pan, this is one for your must-stay list. • Oo­sawa, Mi­nami-uon­uma, Ni­igata, Ja­pan ( or de­sign­ho­; +81 25-783-6777). Dou­bles from around £312, room only.


A con­cep­tual de­sign project by ar­chi­tect Manuel Aires Ma­teus, the four for­mer fish­er­men’s huts, in the Com­porta dunes (one hour south of Lis­bon), are the per­fect bo­hemian idyll. With lo­cal tim­ber over­head, sand un­der­foot and the crash­ing waves of the At­lantic just mo­ments away, Casas na Areia gives you a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion with your sur­round­ings. You can go look­ing for dol­phins, ride horses on the beach, or just find a quiet spot to watch the el­e­gant flamin­gos. • Si­tio da Car­rasqueira, Com­porta, Por­tu­gal (casas­; +351 934 418 316). From around £167, min. three nights.

Words: Claus Sendlinger, Founder and CEO of de­sign­ho­


A 30-minute drive from the Juras­sic Coast, this tree­house looks like a gi­ant bird box, with its large round win­dow, and the sur­round­ing wood­land echoes to the chat­ter of finches and star­lings. In­side, you’ll find a beau­ti­fully de­signed hand­made bed, bath­room, kitchen, din­ing ta­ble and liv­ing area. Cre­ated from lo­cally cut cedar, the tree­house has views of the trees through ev­ery win­dow and sits be­hind a yurt pitch in its own wood­land gar­den, where you can build a camp fire and lie watch­ing the stars. • The Bird­house, Ford­scroft Farm, Crewk­erne, Som­er­set (cabinly.; 07773 505671). From £120, sleeps two.


On the vast shingle beach of Dungeness, near Rom­ney Marsh, is a random col­lec­tion of fish­er­men’s huts (many of them owned by artists, in­clud­ing – most fa­mously – the late film-maker Derek Jar­man), two light­houses and the ter­mi­nal of a minia­ture coastal steam train. The en­tire beach is clas­si­fied as a na­ture re­serve and is filled with un­usual plants and birds. The Shingle House was de­signed by North­ern Of­fice for Research and De­sign (NORD), who were in­spired by the nat­u­ral drama of the site to cre­ate a sim­ple black house, fin­ished in tarred black shin­gles on the out­side and a beau­ti­ful pal­ette of con­crete and tim­ber within.

• Dungeness, Kent (liv­ing-ar­chi­tec­ From £735 for four nights, sleeps eight.

Words: Gary Rayner, Founder of and goglamp­


The Bi­son’s seven lux­ury tents, plus two Machan suites (el­e­vated watch­tow­ers) on wooden stilts, are ranged along the shore of the Kabini back­wa­ters, and con­nected to the main lodge and a sep­a­rate, two-bed­room cot­tage suite by white walk­ways. All the rooms have pol­ished hard­wood floors, four-poster beds with mos­quito nets and ve­ran­das with lake views. The re­sort may not have the tiger num­bers of some other In­dian wildlife parks, but leop­ard sight­ings are com­mon and this is the best place in In­dia to see large herds of wild ele­phant and gaur (In­dian bi­son). Game view­ing can be by boat or Jeep and even, if you’re lucky, from your bed – if a herd of ele­phants strolls past. The food is amaz­ing, with re­gional dishes such as ‘jungli maas’ (mar­i­nated lamb curry) and break­fasts of masala dosas and steam­ing hot chai after early morn­ing game drives.

• Na­gar­hole Na­tional Park, In­dia (the­bison­re­; +91 806 559 0271). Dou­bles from £160, full board Sur­rounded by the wild Carpathian moun­tains, in the ru­ral heart of Tran­syl­va­nia, this old farm­house at­tracts a hip lo­cal crowd, yet still man­ages to feel quite me­dieval. The vil­lage is all horses and carts, haystacks and an­cient build­ings, and the farm­house’s four gor­geous rooms have pol­ished wooden floors and wood-burn­ing stoves. When these fill up, there are more rooms scat­tered in out­build­ings and apart­ments through­out the vil­lage, just be­yond the man-made swim­ming pond. Owner Jonas Schäfer is an en­thu­si­as­tic foodie serv­ing for­aged wild truf­fles, or­ganic pro­duce and an ex­cel­lent wine.

• Strada Prin­ci­pala 119, Cund, Ro­ma­nia (dis­cover-tran­sil­va­;+40 265 714 399). Dou­bles from £50, room only. Words: Chris Caldicott, travel writer and pho­tog­ra­pher

From top: Tri Lanka ho­tel, the sandy beaches of Batu Batu, and The Palmer house­boat,

in Lon­don

Top and above: The Jalakara’s stylish ex­te­rior and rooms. Be­low: Tree­house Blue Moun­tains. Bot­tom left: Tintswalo At­lantic Lodge

From top:

The Ran­cho, Costa Rica, Mex­ico’s Casa Kim­ber­ley, and Triple Creek Ranch, Mon­tana

Top: Heath­land Cot­tages. Above:

Shep­herd’s Hut

Above: Ilha do Papagaio, Brazil. Be­low right: The Bird­house, Som­er­set

Be­low and bot­tom: Uxua Casa Ho­tel and Spa,

Brazil. Right: Awasi Patag­o­nia, Chile. Far right:

Kichic, Peru

From top, clock­wise: The Shingle House in Dungeness,

The Bi­son Kabini Wildlife Re­sort in In­dia, and

Valea Verde Re­sort in Ro­ma­nia

Above: Satoyama Jujo Ho­tel, Ja­pan. Be­low: Casas Na

Areia, Por­tu­gal

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