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
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
HOTEL TRI LANKA SRI LANKA
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-escape.com/trilank; +94 777 708117). Doubles from £218, half board.
BATU BATU RESORT MALAYSIA
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-escape.com/batu-batu;
+60 07 2277000). Doubles from £139, room only.
HOXTON BOUTIQUE HOUSEBOATS LONDON
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-escape.com/hoxton-boutique-houseboats;
0117 946 7072). From £160, for one night.
THE JALAKARA INDIA
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-escape.com/the-jalakara; +44 20 7183 0711). Doubles from £155, B&B.
Words: Liz Simpson, Editor of i-escape.com
TINTSWALO ATLANTIC LODGE CAPE TOWN
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 (tintswalo.com/atlantic; +27 11 300 8888). Doubles from £365, half board.
HEATHLAND COTTAGES DORSET
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 (nationaltrustholidays.org.uk; 0344 800 2070). Sleeps six, from £279 for two nights.
Words: Susan Ward Davies, Travel and Lifestyle Director, ELLE and elleuk.com
SHEPHERD’S HUT DORSET
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 (airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2783437). Sleeps two, from £80 per night.
TREEHOUSE BLUE MOUNTAINS AUSTRALIA
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 (airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3415111). Sleeps two, from £606 per night.
THE RANCHO COSTA RICA
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. co.uk/rooms/941447). From £103, sleeps two.
Words: James McClure, Airbnb General Manager for Northern Europe
CASA KIMBERLY MEXICO
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 (casakimberly.com; +52 322 222 1336). Regular doubles from £230, Elizabeth Taylor suite from £892, room only.
TRIPLE CREEK RANCH MONTANA
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 (triplecreekranch.com; +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
NIMMU HOUSE INDIA
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 (nimmu-house.com;
+91 84477 57517). Doubles from £117, half board. ›
UXUA CASA HOTEL AND SPA BRAZIL
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 (uxua.com; +55 73 3668 2277). Doubles from £329, B&B.
AWASI PATAGONIA CHILE
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 (awasipatagonia.com; +0 808 101 6778). Cabins from £1,200, min. three nights, all inclusive.
KICHIC BOUTIQUE HOTEL PERU
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 nayatraveler.com and documentary photographer
ILHA DO PAPAGAIO BRAZIL
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. com.br or search for ‘Ilha Do Papagaio’ at lastfrontiers.com; +55 48 88113411 ). Perola rooms from £430, B&B. Words: Edward Paine, Managing Director of lastfrontiers.com
SATOYAMA JUJO HOTEL JAPAN
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 (en.satoyama-jujo.com or designhotels.com; +81 25-783-6777). Doubles from around £312, room only.
CASAS NA AREIA PORTUGAL
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 (casasnaareia.com; +351 934 418 316). From around £167, min. three nights.
Words: Claus Sendlinger, Founder and CEO of designhotels.com
THE BIRDHOUSE SOMERSET
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. co.uk; 07773 505671). From £120, sleeps two.
THE SHINGLE HOUSE DUNGENESS
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-architecture.co.uk). From £735 for four nights, sleeps eight.
Words: Gary Rayner, Founder of cabinly.com and goglamping.net
THE BISON KABINI WILDLIFE RESORT INDIA
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 (thebisonresort.com; +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-transilvania.com;+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,
Top and above: The Jalakara’s stylish exterior and rooms. Below: Treehouse Blue Mountains. Bottom left: Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge
The Rancho, Costa Rica, Mexico’s Casa Kimberley, and Triple Creek Ranch, Montana
Top: Heathland Cottages. Above:
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:
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