Gangtey Arrival Courtyard with Host 9280 ORIGINAL

Away from it all

Travel hotspots with bustling cafés and packed museums aren’t everyone’s idea of relaxation. For those looking for a winter escape to recharge in splendid isolation, James Litston's found your ideal retreat


Nothing stirs the soul quite like a hushed mountain vista. In Bhutan, such spirit-lifting views come with added Zen: monks in mountainside monasteries spend long hours in meditative states – an exercise in mindfulness that helps bring inner peace. You can join in a class or two at a local shedra (Buddhist college) while staying at Gangtey Lodge. With its design rooted in traditional Bhutanese architecture, it’s an authentic and tranquil haven.

The hotel’s isolated hillside perch provides views across the valley to Himalayan heights. It’s a peaceful scene that helps guests to disconnect from everyday life: a goal that’s aided by light-filled rooms where TVs and other unnecessary distractions are absent. Indeed, a stay here is about being in the moment, whether you choose to spend time visiting the 17th-century monastery, joining the monks in morning prayers or taking a guided hike or mountain bike ride on trails through the valley. And by travelling here in the winter months, you’ll get to meet Gangtey’s star attractions - the several hundred black-necked cranes that migrate here after their breeding season on the Tibetan Plateau. They’re sacred to the Bhutanese, so admiring them here in this magical place must surely count as a positive step on your own path to spiritual enlightenment.

Jakar Dzong in Distance Bumthang 9256 ORIGINAL

Travel Details

A 10-night trip with Reef and Rainforest (including 3 nights at Gangtey Lodge) costs from £6,250pp, including transfers and guiding.


Choosing isolation doesn’t mean losing out on luxury. Shinta Mani Wild, in the rainforest of Cambodia’s Cardamom National Park, focuses on high-end design and sustainability, with accommodation scattered along a waterfall-laced river valley.

Its 15 tents are cavernous, safari-style lodgings with private decks, handmade beds and open-air bath tubs. Guests can choose to arrive via zipline, with check-in formalities completed over a G&T in the Landing Zone Bar. Fine dining features foraged ingredients such as bamboo shoots, wild figs and zesty red ants. The hotel offers employment options to villagers beyond their previous occupations of logging or poaching, helping to conserve this threatened habitat. In turn, guests have the remarkable experience of joining the forest guards to help protect the wildlife.


Travel Details

Bamboo Travel’s 8-night Highlights of Cambodia tour includes a 3-night stay at Shinta Mani Wild and costs from £5,795pp, including flights.


Chile’s remote Torres del Paine National Park is at its best in our winter months when its glaciers, peaks and emerald lakes gleam beneath blue skies. Panoramas as lovely as this demand to be eyeballed, so it’s just as well that Tierra Patagonia’s guestrooms, infinity pool and terrace have splendid views towards the snow-dusted Torres massif. Built to harmonise with the scenery, the resort’s curved, wooden, low-rise structure minimises its impact on the land. It’s an excellent base from which to venture out for expeditions in the wilderness: from hiking to horseback and bikes to boats, all the adventures on offer are led by expert guides to help guests get to grips with local history, culture and wildlife. Best of all, each day ends with a sensational supper back at the hotel - ideally in time to watch the setting sun light up the Torres peaks.

Exterior 18

Travel Details

A 4-night stay at Tierra Patagonia combined with 3 nights in Santiago costs from £4,793pp, including flights and transfers.


You need to go some to top the silence and seclusion of the arid peaks of Oman’s Hajar Mountains. Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar resort is the go-to spot, located some 2km above sea level, built along the edge of a canyon, filling each of its guestrooms and villas with epic, top-of-the-world appeal. Hiking, mountain biking, abseiling, archery and yoga are just some of the options open to guests. For daredevils, there’s a Via Ferrata for negotiating a precipitous cliff, or head off-site for desert drives that might take in traditional villages, historic forts, wild wadis or dips in natural pools. For a gentler pace, visit local souks, take a cookery or painting class, with star-gazing or a moonlit cinema once the sun goes down. Anantara resorts are known for their superlative spas and this is no exception, with a hammam, thermal suites and signature treatments using pomegranate, frankincense and local damask roses. Maintain post-treatment blissed-out vibes in or by the cliff-edge infinity pool. Could there be anything more soul-soothing than gazing at all that emptiness?

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort Aerial

Travel Details

Corinthian Travel includes 2 nights at Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar in its 11-night Oman & The Empty Quarter itinerary. Prices from £4,085pp, including transfers.


Even a vast, empty desert may not feel as desolate as you’d imagined if it’s home to a country’s top attraction. That’s the case with Sossusvlei, a starkly beautiful region of salt pans, towering dunes and skeletal trees in the Namib Desert. But although it’s among Namibia’s best-known destinations, staying at Camp Sossus you’d never know it was so popular. Built almost entirely from oil drums, pallets and other upcycled materials, this simple retreat has some of the most memorable digs in the Namib.

Each lodging comes with its own outdoor bathroom and an open-to-the-elements star bed, perfect for southern summer nights. Designed to blend into the plains, it’s set on a private, 24,000ha conservancy that’s home to a surprising range of desert-specialist animals. Springbok, gemsbok, zebra, aardwolf, ostrich and brown hyena roam freely. The camp generates conservation fees that help to re-wild tracts of former farmland into natural, wildlife-friendly wilderness. It may only be a half-hour drive from the wonderland of Sossusvlei, but this eco-retreat under star-filled desert skies feels a million miles from anything.


Travel Details

A 3-night stay costs from £5,415 for four people, excluding flights.


If tropical island paradises are your idea of tranquility, you’ll struggle to find one to match the private-island sanctuary of Kokomo Island. Comprising beachfront villas and hilltop residences, its wow factor is guaranteed by arriving via seaplane or helicopter for a bird’s-eye view of the green interior and white-sand beaches adrift in the bluest of seas. On the ground, modern design is coupled with Fijian references: woven matting, palm thatch and beams bound with coconut fibre make the spacious villas feel authentic to the locale, with one of the world’s largest coral formations on the doorstep. The Great Astrolabe Reef is a 62-mile stretch of flat reefs, coral bommies, drop-offs and undersea caverns that provides a kaleidoscopic experience, while on the surface there’s surfing, sailing or paddleboarding – or head to nearby isles to visit waterfalls and villages. A castaway escape from which you won’t want to be rescued.

6 One Bedroom Sunset Villa Exterior

Travel Details

An all-inclusive 5-night stay costs from £7,360, including transfers.


To put as much distance as possible between yourself and the madding crowd, it helps if your single-resort island hideaway floats alone in a tropical lagoon in one of the Maldives’ furthest flung atolls. With little but turquoise tones in any direction, you’ll appreciate how Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi got its name (‘secret water island’ in local Dhivehi). Villa-only accommodation only adds to the faraway feeling, be it over-water, on the beach or hidden in the midst of the interior jungle. The surrounding waters – the largest resort lagoon in the Maldives – are home to thriving corals and marine wildlife from manta rays and turtles to colourful reef fish. Guests can join a night-time snorkelling tour or head out into deeper waters for a face-to-face with reef sharks. As the property is on track to become the Maldives’ first carbon-neutral resort and has just launched a Sustainability Lab where guests can craft souvenirs from ocean plastic, this is one guilt-free island escape.

Fairmont Maldives Water Villa Premium Bathroom

Travel Details

Beach villas with pools cost from £677, including breakfast.

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