If you’re in need of an escape from the electronic trials of daily life, look no further. Imogen Lepere has found the top digital detox retreats that will leave you feeling free from the stresses of the working world.
Is your smartphone the last thing you see at night and the first thing you reach for in the morning? You’re not alone. On average we check our mobiles 200 times a day and one in four of us spends more time a week on the internet than we do asleep. A recent Ofcom report found 59 per cent of people consider themselves addicted to their devices. It’s time to unplug. Pick from ten of the world’s most relaxing hotels where their remote locations mean little or no phone signal so you can log off, shut down and – for once – live in the moment.
KAGGA KAMMA SOUTH AFRICA
There’s nothing like a magnificent vista to take your mind off the mundane. The views at Kagga Kamma are so good they will even drag the Instagram generation away from their newsfeeds. Nestled in a nature reserve in the Cederberg Mountains, the hotel is built into sandstone rock formations. Rooms have sweeping views over unique fynbos flora, Skurweberge peak and dramatic karoo plains. Choose from spacious huts inspired by the San people who once called the reserve their home, or bed down in one of the chic cave rooms which have private terraces that are perfect for sundowners. Take your stay one step closer to nature by spending a night in the open-air star suite. On a natural stone ledge 3km away from the main camp, it consists of just a queen-sized bed and natural rock pool for you to cool off in.
The last Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, Bhutan has stood in proud isolation for centuries. Indeed, in 1999 it became the last country in the world to legalise television. The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of its greatest treasures and is just a hike away from Amankora Paro. This 24-suite retreat has Wi-Fi for emergency purposes but absolutely no phone signal. Stylishly simple, it draws inspiration from traditional dzongs with dry stone walls and a mountain setting. Sit by the wood-burning stove with a good book from the library or drink up views of the misty mountains as you luxuriate in the open-air hot stone bath.
SPA VILLAGE RESORT TEMBOK BALI
This idyllic retreat on Bali’s north-east coast is well off the tourist trail. As you lounge in a beachfront cabana, the only people who’ll disturb your stupor are the serene therapists offering clay mud wraps. The creativity of the soft-voiced staff knows no bounds. You can stargaze from a floating platform in the pool while listening to strains of classical music, meditate on a black sand beach at sunrise or try your hand at weaving palm leaves. Excellent food is provided by Austrian chef Martin Büchele. Think banana flower salad and charred shrimp satay, while an endless supply of apple strudel stops things feeling too worthy.
CONSTANCE HOTEL MADAGASCAR
The tropical island of Madagascar, off the south-east coast of Africa, is known as one of the most remote places on the planet. More remote still is the island of Tsarabanjina, a tiny speck floating 60km off its northern coast. Just 25 thatched villas peer out of the lush foliage that covers the entire island. Each has a shady porch where you can lounge on day beds with private access to the white sand beach. Web access is available on request, however we anticipate you’ll be too busy discovering the many endemic species that haunt the coral reefs or going for walks with the on-site naturalist. Aside from guests, the only person you’re likely to see is the local fisherman who delivers his catch to the restaurant every day. There’s no need to dress for dinner; shoes are optional.
THE FARM, SAN BENITO PHILIPPINES
This world-famous wellness retreat is an oasis of calm deep in the jungle of the Batangas hinterland. Peacocks strut beside the bluegreen lagoon and lush lawns lead to waterfalls where beatific guests bathe under the shade of the bamboo and guyabano trees that cover 80 per cent of the property. This is an entirely Wi-Fi and phone signal-free zone. You’re more likely to hear the soporific sound of Tai Chi instruction than someone barking into their mobile. Four doctors offer holistic treatments, although we find that a few hours by the pool and a scoop of fresh coconut ice cream make stress melt away just as well. Villas with private plunge pools are vast and airy but we love the Sulu terraces which are modelled on Philippine rice barns.
SALA LODGES CAMBODIA
This green corner of Cambodia is ideal for those looking to restrict their digital activity without going cold turkey. Phone signal is patchy but internet is available, although guests are discouraged from using it. The concept revolves around spending time with family. Choose from 11 stilted houses that sleep between three and six people. The once-deserted buildings were discovered in the Khmer countryside by the hotel’s owners, who dismantled and painstakingly rebuilt them. It’s an imaginative way of protecting the country’s heritage while providing unique accommodation. Don’t miss the Quiet Waterways expedition. Kayak from the great Tonle Sap lake, over flooded rice paddies and into the village of Kampong Khleang for lunch with a local family. Back at the lodge, a 20m infinity pool facing the sunset and a garden full of sugar palm trees will help you forget about checking those emails.
PETIT ST VINCENT ST VINCENT
Take away technology and regain resourcefulness. The staff at this private island resort have devised a flag system to overcome the lack of phones and internet. Raise a red flag and they know you wish to be left in the privacy of your stylish villa. Yellow signifies room service or special requests. We advise a day’s sailing, with a picnic delivered to your secret cove of choice.
DENIS ISLAND SEYCHELLES
The motto here is ‘no keys, no phones, no worries’ but this isn’t strictly correct. It’s true that keys are optional for the 25 guest cottages and there isn’t any in-room Wi-Fi but there are questions you need to answer. Do you want to go sports fishing on the edge of the Seychelles plateaux or stay on land with the Green Islands Foundation rangers and watch sea turtles hatch? Do you choose to have a body scrub at the seafront spa or will you take it on your terrace? Whatever you decide, the excellent staff will be happy to oblige. Locals used to call Denis ‘the island at the end of the world’ because it took 24 hours to sail to from Mahé. Now a 30-minute plane ride will get you there but the sense of separation hasn’t been compromised. The entire islet consists of 150ha; easy to stroll on foot but big enough that you can always find a deserted stretch of sand on which to chill out. All the cottages have wine chillers, direct access to a magnificent beach and colonially inspired furniture handmade at the hotel’s carpentry workshop. We love the bathrooms that feature roll-top baths and open on to private courtyards with outdoor showers.
THE RANCH, MALIBU USA
If you’re aiming to detox both body and mind, The Ranch is the place to do it. Lack of a phone signal and a fiercely guarded Wi-Fi password guarantee a well-rested mind, while your physical self will be toned, massaged and nourished until it looks its best. Five hours of exercise a day may sound a lot but when it’s hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and swimming in an outdoor pool, it’s hardly a challenge. Much of the food is grown on site. Expect crunchy granola, fresh juices and a range of fragrant curries.
W RETREAT AND SPA MALDIVES
Founded in Manhattan, this luxury group is known for sleek city hotels. Nothing could be further from its Maldives outpost on the North Ari Atoll, which is more like a glorified sandbank than an island. Lack of Wi-Fi and a phone signal may be alien to its urbanite guests but they’ll certainly recognise the brand’s cool, contemporary ethos. Morning yoga is conducted to a soundtrack by the in-house DJ and the 74 rooms were revamped last year to include individual barbecue stations. The cocktail bar boasts a shisha terrace on a simple wooden deck overlooking the reef. On an island this intimate, crystal water is never far away but book an Ocean Oasis room and enjoy glass floors over the lagoon, a plunge pool and a ladder into the waves. If your Robinson Crusoe fantasies require something even more solitary, a night alone on Gaathafushi will do the trick. This tiny atoll is a short boat journey from the rest of the hotel and is home to a single thatched hut, swathes of untouched sand and luscious tropical foliage.
This article was published on 19th December 2016 so certain details may not be up to date.