There are hotels and then there are hotels. Maybe you stay at one on your honeymoon or you walk through one on vacation (but you're staying at the Best Western). Maybe you just stumbled upon it online while setting up your next trip but almost choked on your mouse when you saw the cost per night. However you know about it, there is a resort/hotel out there that you'd visit if money were no object. Here are some of my dream spots. Let me know some of yours.
5. Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo, Ireland
4. Over-water huts at Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort, Bora Bora French Polynesia
3. Castello Banfi, Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
The 7,000 acre Banfi vineyard estate has won countless awards, earned millions and revolutionized the Italian wine industry. At its center at one end of a ridge opposite the proprietor’s Tuscan villa, soars Castello Poggio alle Mura, or Castello Banfi. The castle’s 8th century charm and whimsy remain after intelligent renovation transformed it into a 14-room hotel of the most luxurious sort.
The Tuscan countryside heaves like a giant sleeping under a massive green patchwork quilt – and there are views of it from everywhere. The vineyards sprawl in every direction down from the castle hill and small ponds and forests dot the landscape.
But the castle itself is the temporary home to so few guests that it is impossible not to feel at least some of the communal camaraderie that the 8th century inhabitants must have felt – minus the plague, of course. Read more about Banfi here: http://whereverittakestravel.blogspot.com/2010/09/real-life-isnt-supposed-to-be-this-good.html
2. Explora, Rapa Nui, Easter Island
Five hours off the coast of Chile hide a tribe of shadowy figures; strong, mysterious and stone-face. Literally. Undoubtedly you’ve seen them, on the big screen, the small screen, a magazine or in a dream. But they’ve never been standing outside your window. At Explora, they are.
The famous Easter Island statues may be the impetus for most travelers’ trek to the secluded Pacific rock, but staying at Explora is itself worth the stay. The luxurious facility is built with rounded architecture, mimicking the curves of the island and emphasizing the already mystifying aura of Rapa Nui. It is a journey to reach Easter Island but the reward is a cultural and natural experience unlike anything else on earth.
1. Ice Hotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
You know the place is swanky when the website asks, “Are you arriving by private plane?”
But cut it some slack; the transportation options are actually quite limited. Only one airline flies directly there and even then, only from London/Heathrow.
The only other realistic option is to arrive by dogsled.
Such is life – a seasonal, temporary one – atop the world at Sweden’s Ice Hotel.
This structure’s eponymous building material transports its lucky patrons to a world far beyond anything we encounter in our daily hullabaloo. It is the stuff of fantasy, myth and Nordic legend. Every icicle, every frozen chip, every huff of frigid air a reminder of why Man invented fire: for warmth of body but more importantly, for a place to gather around to tell stories about mystical places like the Ice Hotel.
The building is completely made of ice, including your room, the furniture, the art – you name it, it’ll freeze your tongue if you lick it. There are warm accommodations in wooden huts but what’s the point in that? If I’m traveling 200 km above the Arctic Circle, I damn well better be sleeping on a sleigh bed made of ice underneath piles of real reindeer pelts and animal furs.
The Art Rooms, as they’re called, are each designed differently with a different them: Ice Fishing, Viking Days of Yore, Bedtime Story, even a 50s Car theme. The Ice Hotel is an enormous frozen sculpture, with each room, light sconce and barstool a work of art in itself.
But the masterpiece, if you hit it right, extends from the roof far up into the cold, clear Arctic sky. The shimmering green and purple waves of Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) haunt the outline of the snow palace. Some ancient winter deity crafted the whole scene to freeze your breath right before taking it away.
Ice Hotel is the ultimate in dream hotels because it’s only real to those who visit. You can’t take a part of it home and the Northern Lights don’t keep too well in a suitcase. So if you do ever make it to the tip top of the world, do me a favor when you’re flying home on your private jet, write a good story about it.
~ Maureen Gillespie: I would LOVE to stay here: http://www.gornergrat-kulm.ch/en/kulmhotel-gornergrat/
I missed my flight to Switzerland in the summer of 2010 and I missed getting a chance to have dinner here and I'm still upset abou tit. Haha.
Mike, your blog is great!
~ Mark Lawhorne: @Maldenmark I prefer the remote and desolate island of Vieques. Just eight miles off the mainland of Puerto Rico, the "small Island" boasts miles of the best and most remote beaches to be found. It quiet, and unpretentious. There is not a lot to do, but that is something that is so welcome now a days. There is a new "W" resort which is beautiful and typical of gorgeous Caribbean resorts, if thats what your in to. I love the private guest houses that offer so much more of the island personality. Try Casa de Claire, http://www.casadeclaire.net/
By far my favorite retreat on the island.
~ Jaclyn Pare says: Hands down - Anastasis Apartments in Santorini Greece. Small boutique place but it was heaven on earth! http://tiny.cc/xmfli
~ BJ Killoy agrees with Pick #5: Ashford Castle is awesome. My dad and brother went falconing, falconed, falconeering?