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8 enchanting escapes

We bring you 8 one-of-a-kind hotels that promise you the experience of a lifetime.

Tejaswi Rathoreand Anumeha Chaturvedi | Print Edition: March 23, 2008

Enchanting escapes
Are you one of those who puckers up your nose and shrugs in resignation at the thought of visiting London (yet again). Then, read on. BT More met Mark Greedy, Area Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Leading Hotels of the World, to choose the one or two hotels in each continent that really stands out from the rest. Stay at any one of them, and escape the boredom of the beaten path.

VILLA D'ESTE, ITALY, EUROPE
Cernobbio, Lake Como, Italy

A former 16th century residence of European aristocrats, Villa d’Este has been extending its hospitality to (fat cat) patrons since 1873. Set in a picturesque park, this lakeside villa has won the hearts of travellers for generations. It has a piano bar, nightclub and disco. Other facilities include a Turkish bath, an indoor swimming pool and a beauty salon.

The wow factor

The hotel has an outdoor pool floating on the lake and a separate children’s pool. It even has eight tennis courts and seven 18-hole golf courses.

The dining choices include the formal Verandah and the Grill for haute Italian dining. The Sundeck bar is great for snacks and light meals.

The hotel has 78 rooms, 74 suites and two private villas.

Tariffs: From e295 (Rs 17,500) per night for a single room to e1,320 (Rs 78,300) per night for a 1-bedroom suite with lake view.

Mesmerising beauty
Mark Greedy says: A unique and quality blend of premium luxury, livable history, beauty, elegance and relaxed ambience is what makes Villa d’Este special. To dance by the lake as the moonlight slices over the hillside and lake directly to your feet remains with you forever.

What to do: If you want to “escape” from the town, head to Rovenna a little north and west rising up Monte Bisbino. Look for the farmhouses at Alpe Scarone sitting on the slopes at about 600 metres above sea level, and then the signs for the Foxhole—the Buco della Volpe—which is a large cave with underground pools. Further up the mountain there is a 15th century sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Address: Villa d’Este, Via Regina, 4022012 Cernobbio (Lake Como), Italy.
Phone: 39 0313481
Website:www.villadeste.it. .
Getting there: It’s a 45-minute drive from Milan.

LA MAMOUNIA, AFRICA
Marrakech, Morocco

Decorated in Moorish and art deco styles, the hotel is set amid idyllic gardens that are almost 300 years old and surrounded by the city’s 12th century ochre ramparts.

The wow factor

Winston Churchill stayed here and the hotel gets its name from the gardens, known three centuries ago as “Arset el Mamoun,” named for Prince Moulay Mamoun, son of Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, ruler of Marrakech, in the 18th century. Wonderful ski-slopes are situated just 45 miles from La Mamounia.

Place that will compel you to say wow

Marrakech l’Impériale is the Moroccan restaurant, and features an Andalusian band and belly dancers at dinner time. L’Orangeaie is for French and international cuisine, while L’Italien is famous for its Venetian specialties and classical dishes.

171 rooms, 57 suites and 3 villas.

Tariffs: Tariff rates are unavailable as the hotel is currently closed for renovation.

What to do: Recharge your batteries with a Moroccan-style Turkish bath (Hammam) at the hotel spa. The state-of-the-art fitness centre at the hotel houses two floodlit clay tennis courts, squash courts and a French billiards room. Wonderful ski-slopes are situated just 45 miles from La Mamounia

Address: Avenue Bab Jdid Marrakech, Morocco, Phone: (212) 2438-8600,
website: http://www.mamounia.com/eng/index.php

Mark Greedy says: Wander in the gardens, gamble in the casino, laze by the pool, or dine in casual elegance, a visit to the hotel is like a walk back in time

CAPE GRACE, SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town, South Africa

Positioned in a private quay on Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the hotel’s charm lies in its intimate setting, stylish décor and personalised hospitality.

The wow factor

All 122 rooms provide spectacular views of the V&A Harbour or Yacht Marina with the Table Mountain as a backdrop.

Savour the award-winning contemporary cuisine at Onewaterfront, where the classic South African cuisine is given a fresh modern twist. An innovative menu and a range of the Cape’s best wines ensure a memorable experience. Café Bascule is another lively coffee destination that you could frequent.

109 rooms and 13 suites.

Tariffs: ZAR 4,845 (Rs 25,000) for a luxury room with one kingsize bed and ZAR 14,900 (Rs 77,000) for a three-bedroom suite with three spacious rooms and a lounge.

What to do: Cape Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa. Visit the Table Mountain, the Cape Point that’s regarded as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula and the Chapman’s Peak Drive, to soak in spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. Hotel Cap Grace is situated in Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which offers a variety of shopping and entertainment options. For sheer indulgence, settle for the Africa-inspired treatments that promise to relax and rejuvenate at the top floor spa of the hotel.

Address: West Quay, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Cape Town 8002, South Africa, Tel: (+27-21) 410-7100, website: http://www.capegrace.com/

Mark Greedy says: It’s a hotel that makes you feel at home, with all the luxuries in the world that you could ever dream of. A paradise if there ever was one.

REETHI RAH, ASIA
North Male Atoll, Maldives

Its unparalleled style and sophistication make One & Only Reethi Rah one of the finest and most luxurious resorts in the world. This experience combines endless white sand coves and turquoise bays, unspoilt waters and stunning dive spots with exclusive and genuine privacy, lush surroundings and vibrant life, ambience and energy.

The wow factor

Cool waters
You enjoy a lot of privacy on its large terraces, stretches of beach, basking nets, or individual tree-lined swimming pools, depending on the villa of your choice.

Reethi Restaurant (seats 224), the resort’s main restaurant, is located on the sheltered eastern side of the island. It serves contemporary cuisine from the Far East & Mediterranean.

There are 130 villas and suites, set amidst a luxuriant 109 acres of landscaped gardens.

Tariffs: $1,150 (Rs 46,000) for a Beach Villa to $4,500 (Rs 1,80,000) for a Grand Water Villa with pool.

What to do: North Male offers everything you want—from serene beaches, to action-packed water sports. Our recommendation is scuba diving. Explore the exotic corals that lie beneath the ocean and watch in awe as brightly- coloured fish race past you.

Address: One & Only Reethi Rah, Maldives, North Male 233; Atoll, Republic of Maldives; Phone: (+960) 664 8800; website: www.OneandOnlyResorts.com/ReethiRah

How to get here: It is 35 km by boat from Male Airport. Guests must notify the hotel of flight details at least 72 hours prior to arrival.

Mark Greedy says: Robinson Crusoe with dress sense, outstanding cuisine and company. The villas, their location and views and services are so much a part of Destination Maldives. The bicycles go only as fast as you can ride them.

HAYMAN, AUSTRALIA
Great Barrier Reef , Australia

Hayman is a magnificent private island resort, nestled amid a lush tropical paradise in the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef. Beautifully appointed rooms, suites, penthouses and a villa overlook gardens, pools, ponds, beach and the Coral Sea. Hayman offers privacy, tranquility, natural beauty, adventure, luxury, international dining and exciting resort and reef activities.

The wow factor

The hotel has three salt and freshwater pools, and also offers facilities for catamaran sailing, fishing, whale watching (in season), golf driving/putting, squash, fitness activities and resort tours.

The hotel has excellent restaurants like Azure (contemporary Australian), Oriental (exotic Asian), La Trattoria (Mediterranean/Italian), La Fontaine (modern European) and The Beach Pavilion (light beachside meals).

The hotel has 186 rooms and 30 suites.

Tariffs: A$655 (Rs 24,000) for a Palm room to A$ 2,241 (Rs 83,000) per night for a Pool Suite.

What to do: The Great Barrier Reef has the world’s largest coral reef system. Go scuba diving and snorkelling to see the best marine life. The best time to visit is October-December, when water temperatures are about 29 degrees Celsius and visibility between 20 and 50 metres on most days.

Address: Hayman, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland 4801, Australia, Phone: (+61-7) 4940 1234, website: www.hayman.com.au

How to get here:  There are no airports on Hayman Island. You arrive at Hamilton Island, then take a luxury boat transfer to Hayman Island. You must provide the hotel with flight and arrival details to pre-arrange transfers for the 20 nautical mile boat transfer that take approximately 50 minutes.

Mark Greedy says: This is nature’s retreat. Complete privacy, combined with abundant gourmet experience, outdoor activities and relaxation… One of my all-time favourites.

HUKA LODGE, NEW ZEALAND
Taupo , New Zealand

Huka Lodge is positioned on the banks of the Waikato River, 300 metres upstream from the stunning Huka Falls. Some 70 years ago, it started as a simple fishing lodge. Today, the luxurious lodge lures anyone seeking one of the world’s very best retreats that is set within 18 acres of park-like grounds.

The wow factor

All the rooms and suites are only metres from the swiftly flowing river. It’s a luxurious way to be in the lap of nature.

Meals are table d'hote and feature the freshest and best of New Zealand products. Guests can also dine privately in the Wine Cellar, surrounded by fine wines, or under the stars.

Huka Lodge has 20 rooms and suites.

Tariffs: $(NZ) 1,670 (Rs 62,000) for a luxury room.

What to do: Choose from bungeejumping, boar hunting and angling to serene walks, mountain biking, boating, white-water rafting, horseback riding to skiing...

Address: Huka Lodge, Huka Falls Road, Taup, North Island, New Zealand, Phone: (64-7) 378-5791, website: www.hukalodge.com

Mark Greedy says: From stillness, freshness, a warming open fire, a bubbling stream… this place revives your senses. Huka is a home.

THE PIERRE, A TAJ HOTEL, NORTH AMERICA

Located just a few steps away from the famous Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue near Central Park, the hotel is famous for its outstanding personal service and distinctive design, accented by 1930s detailing and the art of trompe l’oeil.

The wow factor

The hotel has a 10,000-bottle wine cellar that stocks fine wines, classic and contemporary cocktails, single-malt Scotches, and Armagnac brandy, including the extraordinary 1930 vintage.

The Pierre has three restaurants and bars. Cafe Pierre is renowned for its contemporary French cuisine. The Cafe Pierre Bar serves hors d'foeuvres, snacks, cocktails and a selection of fine wines and champagnes. The Rotunda is a signature room of The Pierre for breakfast, lunch, and traditional English afternoon tea and cocktails.

149 rooms, 40 suites and 12 grand suites.

What to do: A visit to New York is incomplete without visiting Central Park, made famous by Hollywood flicks and American television shows. The Pierre—A Taj Hotel scores because of its close proximity to famous attractions of New York. The hotel’s complimentary off-site activities include visits to the American Museum of Natural History, Hudson River Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other activities include boat tours, carriage rides and horseback riding. Within the hotel, you can work out in its 1,600-sq. ft fitness centre.

Address: East 61st Street at 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10021 USA

Phone: (1-212) 838-8000, website: www.tajhotels.com/pierre/

Mark Greedy says: Though it is currently closed for renovation, I like it for its location, the parks and the bar. The intimate setting literally makes it a home away from home.

ALVEAR PALACE HOTEL, SOUTH AMERICA
Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Alvear Palace Hotel is built in empire style of architecture, made famous during the reign of France’s Louis XVI. Past guests include the likes of Antonio Banderas, Donatella Versace, the Emperor of Japan, and Warren Christopher, to name a few.

The wow factor

Every Palace Room is amazingly decorated, with Empire and Louis XI style furniture, working desk, touch screen telephones, Frette Egyptian cotton bed linen and Hermès de Paris amenities. The Jardin D’ Hiver decorated with gorgeous plants and flowers is the ideal place to enjoy the delicacies prepared by Alvear’s famous chefs.

L'Orangerie, the hotel's principal restaurant, is known for its generous buffet meals and tea service. La Bourgogne, another restaurant at the hotel, reportedly offers the best French and international cuisine in the whole of Latin America.

85 rooms and 125 suites.

Tariffs: $487 (Rs 19,500) for a Palace Room with 1 Queen Bed and $4,200 (Rs 1,68,000) for a Royal Suite.

What to do: Shop till you drop as the finest boutiques are just a few steps away and guests at the hotel can avail special discounts/benefits at these famous stores. The Alvear Palace is also home to the 8,611-sq.ft La Prairie spa. It is one of the largest and most luxurious spas in all of Buenos Aires, with lymphatic treatments and hydrotherapy treatments among its specialities.

Address: Av. Alvear 1891, C1129AAA Buenos Aires, Argentina,

Phone: (+54-11) 4808-2100, website: www.alvearpalace.com/

Mark Greedy says: Located in an awe-inspiring city, it is an equally awe-inspiring hotel. Its magnificent location is what makes it click.

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