Did we fool you with ‘Love is in the Air‘, our tongue-in-cheek take on romantic travel for 1 April? We can’t really arrange for you to take love to a higher plane en route to your boutique hotel, but our brilliant Smith24 team has arranged all manner of unusual hotel arrivals and special sorties, from gondola cruises in Venice to mule-trekking in the High Atlas.
Here are 10 amazing (and real) ways of getting to, from and around your Smith stays…
1 TAKE A MULE TRAIN IN MEXICO
Where? Verana, Jalisco
How? Verana is a swoon-inducingly gorgeous collection of thatched-palapa huts overlooking a dramatic vista of jungle and ocean. This rustic beach retreat is so far off the beaten track, you can only access it by sea, followed by mule ride. From Boca de Tomatlán, you’ll be met on the beach by the hotel’s private boat for a 30-minute ride along the stunning Pacific coastline to Yelapa. Here, hotel staff wait with mules to carry you and your luggage to the property.
What next? Test out in-water massage pools in the spa, laze on cotton-canopied beds open to the balmy air, and sample a mouth-watering menu of fresh Mex cuisine.
Also try… A mule trek into Morocco’s Atlas Mountains from Kasbah du Toubkal; a guided mule ride atop Mount San Jacinto while staying at Viceroy Palm Springs.
2 PARAGLIDE INTO AN OMANI VILLAGE
Where? Six Senses Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula
How? The beautifully barren, otherworldly setting of Six Senses’ award-winning Oman outpost – backed by an arena of craggy cliffs on a pale crescent moon of sand – deserves a dramatic entrance: arriving guests can choose to paraglide down to the bay (strapped to an instructor) from a rocky outcrop in the surrounding mountains.
What next? Slip out of your beachfront villa into the languid ocean, be pampered in a goat’s milk and honey bath, scale rocky cliffs and dive into deep rock pools, catch your own fish for dinner or salute sunset with canapés by a campfire…
Also try… Other arrival options at Zighy Bay include taking a speedboat to its private marina from the port of Dibba, or tackling the rocky, cliff-hugging roads in a 4×4.
3 CROSS THE GRAND CANAL TO YOUR PALAZZO
Where? Palazzo Barbarigo, Venice
How? With a private landing pier on the Grand Canal, this 16th-century palace is perfectly placed for a swish arrival by gondola or motor launch – just channel your brooding inner James Bond and sweep in looking as moody and good-looking as possible, and you’ll be totally in tune with the slick contemporary interiors and seductively dim lighting.
What next? Whisk your partner in crime-fighting upstairs, and you’ll find Palazzo Barbarigo has equally atmospheric bedrooms, with saucy feathered lampshades adding a touch of burlesque whimsy to the theatrical drapes and art deco-style cocktail cabinets.
Also try… Palazzina G is also on the Grand Canal, close to the Vaporetto station; and Ca Maria Adele has its own gondola pier – take one across the canal to view the Royal Palace. Cruise Lake Garda in Villa Arcadio‘s gorgeous vintage Riva Aquarama motor launch; or island-hop or beach-browse on Villa Dubrovnik‘s private Venetian vaporetto.
4 TAKE A 4×4 ACROSS THE EMPTY QUARTER
Where? Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort, Liwa Oasis
How? Surrounded by dunes as far as the eye can see, this remote fortress of luxury is on the border of the Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted stretch of sand in the world. It’s the perfect escape for wannabe Wilfred Thesigers and Lawrence of Arabias, where romance comes in the form of endless horizons and sweeping sand vistas. Take an exhilarating drive in a 4×4 into the emptiness across huge dunes, and you’ll see what so captivated those early adventurers.
What next? Not adventurous enough? Tackle the dunes by camel, try your hand at falconry, or book a treatment at the indulgent spa.
Also try… You can arrive by helicopter for a grand overview of your desert surrounds – transfers are available from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
5 LAND A SEAPLANE IN A GREEK COVE
Where? Perantzada, Ithaca
How? The island – reputedly the birthplace of Odysseus – has no airstrip, so is nicely undeveloped. Perched above the harbour town of Vathi, the former neoclassical naval college has been transformed into Perantzada, a peaceful boutique retreat where the elegantly old blends seamlessly with the strikingly new. Arrive by seaplane from Patra or Corfu for the ultimate in romance, as secret coves hove into view and you splash down onto the deep blue waters (Hellenic Seaplane’s services are due to resume in Summer 2014).
What next? Loll by the stone-lined, glass-edged infinity pool; explore the little town of Vathi; take in the views from Bluebell, a junior suite with a private terrace offering uninterrupted sea vistas, an Eames rocking chair and a pebble-shaped coffee table.
Also try… You can charter the hotel’s speedboat for transfers or short trips. You can also make an adventurous sea-plane arrival at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives (among others).
6 SCALE THE DOLOMITES BY CABLE CAR
Where? Vigilius Mountain Resort, South Tyrol
How? This dramatic contemporary Dolomiti resort is set in a car-free area in South Tyrol, accessible only via the Vijiljoch cable car from the village of Lana near Merano. The hotel presides over jaw-dropping, pasture-lined mountainscapes, scented with larch and pine, and the exhilarating cable-car ride gives you time to soak up your stunning surroundings.
What next? Ride Norwegian horses, paraglide off the mountain, ski, toboggan, or keep things relatively low-key with hiking, biking and relaxing in the hotel’s health spa.
Also try… the cable-car to the top of Table Mountain while you’re staying at Hotel 22 (aka Twentytwo) in Cape Town; or the cable car beside Capri Palace Hotel & Spa for views of the entire region looking over to Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.
7 SOAR IN A CESSNA ABOVE THE JUNGLE CANOPY
Where? Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
How? Avoid the bumpy three-hour drive from Belize City airport: charter a five-seat Cessna plane to zip you over the jungle canopy to the Lodge’s own airstrip and you’ll get an eyeful of beautiful lush greenery and barely-explored landscape.
What next? Canoe down Barton Creek; track jaguars on horseback; have a picnic by a waterfall; or just lounge by the pool before you marvel at the crazy-anachronistic but brilliant wood-fired pizza oven at the restaurant.
Also try… A three- or five-seater Cessna can propel you to romance at Turtle Inn, Belize; or arrive on Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef in a private charter plane.
8 HOP ON A SPEEDBOAT TO A TROPICAL ISLAND
Where? Naladhu, Maldives
How? From the airport, the only way to reach this Maldivian beauty is by speedboat: it’s a 35-minute transfer to Naladhu across crystal-clear sea and emerald lagoons. You’ll pull up to the resorts private pier. We dare you not to be excited at this point.
What next? You don’t need us to tell you what’s great about the Maldives (hint: beach, snorkelling, sunbathing); this is one of the most romantic resorts in the region. Take the atmospheric boat journey across the bay to sister resort Anantara Dhigu on a nearby island, where award-winning over-water Anantara Spa awaits, or dine on a traditional dhoni.
Also try… arriving by speedboat at luxe Thai resort Rayavadee, on the edge of the Krabi National Marine Park (it’s the only way you can reach it).
9 DRIVE BY ANGKOR WAT IN A VINTAGE MERC
Where? Heritage Suites Hotel, Siem Reap
How? Book a Smith stay at this charming Khmer classic, and you’ll be collected in a Mercedes and driven past the gob-smacking temple of Angkor Wat en route.
What next? After a day exploring the jungle-draped Angkor temple complex, chill out in the hotel’s spacious saltwater pool surrounded by verdant foliage. It’s the only pool in town cooled to a refreshing temperature on a hot day, so lap it up. The buzzy lobby bar has its own jazz quartet.
Also try… If vintage or quirky vehicles are your thing, tour Kerala or Sri Lanka in a Forties-style Ambassador; take on Paris in a Citroën 2CV; or arrange for a set of dinky Italian wheels to be delivered to your base of operations in Tuscany – a vintage Fiat Spider or Cinquecento is a fun way to see the sights. Prefer modern cars? Try Capella Singapore‘s Rolls-Royce Phantom.
10 CHOPPER IN ACROSS AUSTRALIAN MOUNTAIN PASTURES
Where? Spicers Peak Lodge, Queensland
How? Set on a 9,000-acre cattle station and private nature refuge, luxe mountain retreat Spicers Peak Lodge is a Scenic Rim marvel. Reach Australia’s highest non-alpine lodge by helicopter from Brisbane airport for the best views.
What next? If the dramatic peak-top location doesn’t wow you, the dreamy dining will. Work off the calories with guided bush walks, spa pampering or vineyard-hopping in this up-and-coming wine region.
Also try… A helicopter tour of Venice from I Qs; or a flight with Louisa ‘Choppy’ Patterson during your stay at Matakauri Lodge: try the Milford Ultimate – which takes you over the Main Divide of the Southern Alps, Lake Te Anau and the famous Milford Track and the Sounds – and you can chill your champagne with ice from the glacier and have lunch in the mountains at a goldminer’s cottage.
Inspired? You’ll be amazed by what the Smith24 team can organise…