In my travelling life, I’ve been fortunate to stay in some pretty amazing places. They’re not always budget-friendly as these picks illustrate, but then sometimes it’s worth pushing the boat out and splurging on somewhere that’s likely to stick in the memory long after you return. Here are six of my all-time favourites that are worth blowing the budget for.
A treat for our first wedding anniversary, this small group of Mongolian-style gers clusters on a hillside overlooking Lago del Toro at the entrance to the Torres del Paine National Park. The views from the tents are fabulous, whether of the stars in the night sky through the glass window in the roof or the sunrise casting a pink sheen to the lake first thing in the morning. The oversized double bed and en-suite bathroom made this the most luxurious camp I’d ever stayed at. Mealtimes showcased the best in local produce, with tender Chilean lamb the stand out winner.
Daniel Craig stayed there before me when filming Quantum of Solace, but I’m more than happy to have copied him. This tiny place, a converted mansion in the Casco Viejo, only had three rooms but each one exuded style, as did the communal areas. These days it’s only available for long stay rentals but its sister property Las Clementinas looks promising.
Riad Dar Karma
It’s not hard to find a decent riad in Marrakesh, if what you mean by find is stumble upon one on the internet and book a room. Finding that same riad in the labyrinthine alleyways of the medina is altogether more difficult as I know to my cost. That’s why Dar Karma makes this list: not only is it wonderfully restored with all the finishing touches you’d expect – Moorish architectural details, hamman, courtyard pool and roof terrace – it’s also a few minutes’ walk away from the action. A stone’s throw from the Djemaa el Fna in the heart of the Kasbah district, your taxi can pull up right outside so you’ll never get lost.
Heritance Tea Factory
The Heritance Tea Factory in the hills above Nuwara Eliya is so much more than just a hotel. My window looked out over verdant slopes that came and went as the mist rolled in and out. My back ached as, sari-clad, I picked tender tea shoots from those same bushes and threw them over my shoulder into the wicker basket that I carried with a strap across my forehead. With samples ready for inspection, we headed indoors to learn about tea. Accidentally I became the class dunce as I swallowed rather than spat at the tasting session, but it tasted too good to waste.
Auckland’s Ponsonby district was the setting for the place which made me feel most at home. Run by the delightful Beth, this three room bed and breakfast was a real treat. Her warm welcome, the loan of her boxer Finn for company on the veranda and a great night’s sleep made for a super start to my New Zealand trip. Beth’s closed the place now to focus on other projects, which is a shame as she made the best Greek yoghurt I’ve ever tasted.
If I had one piece of advice for visitors new to Kyoto’s Hiiragiya Bekkan it would be this: embrace what you don’t know. This traditional ryokan was an experience from start to finish, particularly the many course Kaiseki-style dinner that contained not one single recognisable dish. We were immersed in Japanese culture from the yukatas they gave us to wear to the ritual of bathing in a Japanese hot tub. We slept surprisingly soundly on the futons provided and emerged the following morning fully-prepared to tackle the bustle of Kyoto once more.
If you’ve stayed somewhere memorable (for the right or the wrong reasons!) then I’d love to hear from you.