There are luxury villas, and then there are ‘villas’ that crank cosseting up to the max. They have all the extras – especially those you don’t need – up-to-the-minute tech, a dedicated butler and assorted staff, endless distractions… We’ve selected private pads – both family-friendly and posse-ready – where pampering is assured. Floating villages, historic homesteads and juiced-up jungle lodges: read on, and dream on…
SRI LANKA | Ani Villas
The extra mile Things look up as soon as the plane lands: a private seaplane or chauffeured car awaits you at arrivals. Your entourage includes a butler, concierge, spa therapists and chef Cyril, who takes requests but has a few tricks under his toque too. He’s a dab hand at breakfasts and barbecues…
Your stay French designer Reda Amalou and AW2 architects have crafted something akin to a tropical Forbidden City. Skip from spa, to pool, to hot tub and try not to envy the kids’ water slide. This stretch of beach is all yours, but less flop-and-drop types can play tennis and shuffleboard or arrange yoga sessions.
To do Learn how to make Sri Lankan curries with chef Cyril. Tennis coaches, and personal trainers are on speed dial. And, more pulse-pumping pursuits are free, too (CrossFit, volleyball, biking), plus some restorative spa treatments. For an extra charge, you can whale watch and visit a tea estate.
For kids Parents, ready your prayer hands: four free hours of entertainment are included each day (for kids aged four and up). They’ll cook simple local dishes, play cricket, football and shuffleboard, and cycle. Your butler can arrange babysitting, too.
Smith Extra A bottle of champagne
INDONESIA | Villa Sungai Bali
The extra mile Meet Made (pronounced Mah-day) your personal concierge, on call 24/7 – you’ll miss him when you go. He leads a team of chauffeurs, chefs and spa therapists, and will speed you through arrivals like a rock star. Order meals each day and the chef will pick up ingredients in the market (charged, but with no mark-up); and Made won’t raise an eyebrow if you arrive clinking with duty-free spirits.
Your stay This greenery-swathed jungle eyrie overlooks a river in tranquil Cepaka. It must be booked exclusively, but you’ll want the sunny terraces, veiled four posters and serpentine pool – with underwater speakers – all to yourself anyway. A bespoke citrus-lily scent has also been wafted through your new home’s halls.
To do Made can plot an itinerary before arrival… Leave room for swimming and spa treatments (just US$30 an hour). Your chauffeur’s on command for shopping and nightlife in Seminyak and surrounds. Temples, markets and gold and black beaches beckon, too. Or, meet local artisans, try kechak dancing and horse rides on the beach.
For kids Smalls are spoilt rotten with menus of tempura fish, banana crêpes and more, and custom sarongs. Baby kit runs from formula to wipes, and toys and board games entertain in-house. Babysitters can be booked, and tea parties, local-school visits, hair-braiding, kite-making, gamelan shows, quad biking, even submarine rides can be arranged.
Smith Extra A 60-minute spa treatment for each adult and a 30-minute massage for each child under 15
THAILAND | Samujana Seven-Bedroom Villa Plus
The extra mile Your villa manager is a one-man command centre – they’ll see to all wishes. Pick and mix your staff from an array of yoga instructors, personal trainers and even a Muay Thai champion. Private chefs can be hired, too, or work your way through choice-laden menus – from barbecue parties to juice cleanses.
Your stay There’s an air of ‘supervillain with taste’ to this modernist villa: a Hockney-esque structure embedded into a Koh Samui hillside. It’s vast (just shy of 2,000sq m) and has a pool with underwater speakers, gym, cinema and Muay Thai ring. Or, get pummelled in more relaxing style in the private spa or Jacuzzi baths. Bay views are all around and meditation nests sit on suntrap terraces.
To do Refine your serve on the tennis court and take a short sandy walk to the beach. A 43-foot yacht is just one of a fleet you can charter. Beyond your stay, take ATV safaris and waterfall hikes or thrill-seek with bungee jumps, go-karts and Thai-boxing tournaments.
For kids There’s fun aplenty, with a trampoline, table tennis and games room with video and retro arcade games. There’s a basketball court, and wondrous water parks Cocosplash and Pink Elephant are close by. Nannies and babysitters can be booked.
Smith Extra A Thai cooking class with lunch
MALDIVES | Gili Lankanfushi’s Private Residence
The extra mile Your butler ‘Mr Friday’ (you don’t have to call him that), will do your bidding – all you need do is ask… If you feel the urge to explore further, you’ll have use of a boat to reach the main resort and bamboo bikes. Fill the wine cellar with picks from 400 labels, have a private chef shipped across, or summon a spa therapist: you call the shots here…
Your stay This is your very own island, floating 500 metres from the resort: a complex of thatched villas. It’s barefoot, indoor-outdoor luxury, with alfresco dining platforms, swinging day-beds and plunge-pool-size outdoor baths. Indoors, glazed sections of floor let you spy on sealife. And, there’s more: a spa, sauna and steam room, cinema and a waterslide.
To do Snorkel and swim through coral gardens and try the slide, a lot. Sail out to spot dolphins, or charter Gili’s 14-metre yacht. Take cooking classes, go on guided snorkelling trips with a resident marine biologist (with a pit stop at the resort’s research centre). Book sandbank picnics and sushi-making lessons, and go wild in the ice-cream and sorbet bar.
For kids As well as the waterslide, there are open-air trampolines and pools and lagoons to explore. Mr Friday will keep them entertained if you want an intimate evening.
Smith Extra A Meera Spa gift or a private chocolate, cheese and wine experience with Gili’s sommelier
GREECE | Nafsika Estate
The extra mile A dynamic duo, your personal butler and chef, will look after you. Chauffeurs can be enlisted, too, and if you need to secure a chopper – for your private helipad, natch – your team can help to arrange. Otherwise return airport transfers by car (and a beach shuttle) are free.
Your stay Overlooking the caldera from Megalochori, this immense stay is carved into the side of a rocky cliff. There are sweeping terraces for by-the-sea dinners, a promontory for ‘I’m king of the world’ moments, large pool and barbecue area. Interiors are typically pallid, yet expertly styled.
To do Oia’s cobbled streets and lively eateries are a 35-minute drive away, and ancient Akrotiri is just a 10-minute drive if ruins rev your motor. The island’s black-sand beaches beckon, too.
For kids They’ll be happy enough splashing around in the pool, and your butler can help with babysitters and days out. The chef makes excellent kids’ meals, with some trad picks.
Smith Extra A set of Aesop bath products
The extra mile This stay is old school, right down to your butler’s white gloves. Ask nicely and you can tour the off-limits upper floors, where the sauciest artefacts (Napoleon’s hat and bed, his wife Josephine’s clothes) are kept. And, the chef does simple pastas and baroque banquets equally well – food (and most drinks, including wine) are free, so, buon appetito…
Your stay Lake Como in front, Rhaetian Alps behind: this villa’s all party, and has been since the 1500s for the Milanese duchy. Its parterre is groomed, Lombard heirlooms are wantonly displayed and all spare inches are swagged, frescoed and stuccoed – from swirling marbled floors to the ceiling’s Tiepolo-school paintings. Finished with gilding, Murano-glass chandeliers, and trompe-l’œil you’ll buy into: it’s a rare beauty.
To do Pass the time as dukes of swagger might: garden strolls, lazy swims… Guests can use neighbouring Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s spa, gym, tennis court and private beach, too. However, here you can indulge in dolce far niente (doing nothing at all); after all, enlightenment poet, Giuseppe Parini, dubbed the villa la Quiete (the calm).
For kids Bambini and antiques don’t make for relaxing holidays…
Smith Extra An hour-long boat tour of Lake Como with prosecco
Featured image is the Ani Villas in Sri Lanka