From African safaris to diving in the Great Barrier Reef… We’re fantasising about these four bucket list-worthy trips – and booking them the second restrictions lift
Orpheus Island Lodge, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Best for… world class diving
This fabulously luxurious all-inclusive lodge, located on a private tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef, has just 14 guest rooms so it feels private even at full capacity. It feels as if you have the 1,000 hectares of unspoiled national park and the beach to yourself. Travelling here is an adventure in itself. We boarded a helicopter and were flown over the reef – a magical 40-minute ride from which you could see the turtles stingrays and sharks in the ocean below – and were welcomed with champagne. Perfect for watersports lovers, there are kayaks, catamarans and motorised dinghies which are free to borrow. Staff gave us packed lunches with drinks, fresh fruit and sandwiches to take on our adventures. Another highlight was the stunning infinity pool. And for pure romance, book the ‘Dining by the Tides’ experience, a six-course dinner served on a starlit pier – we’ve never had fresher seafood.
Stella loves: Being so up, close and personal with nature – birds, sharks (thankfully tiny ones) and coral all around. Bliss.
Out and about: You’re marooned on an island but there’s plenty to do, including guided snorkelling to get close to the reef, dinghy trips to explore the surrounding islands solo, and of course diving – instructors will teach you in the pool until you’re ready to go out in the ocean. There’s also an award-winning spa (we recommend the facials) and plenty of hammocks slung between the palm trees, if you’re worn out after all of that.
Rooms from £892 a night (sleeps two); all inclusive (including selected wines and beers), plus use of motorised dinghies, paddleboards, kayaks and catamarans; orpheus.com.au
Melia Serengeti Lodge, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Best for… wow factor wildlife
A sure contender for the world’s best pool-with-a-view, the ‘watering hole’ at this 52-room lodge-hotel looks out over the vast River Mbalageti Valley, and a frequent traffic of elephants, wildebeest and buffalo pass by below. It’s deep in the national park, with nothing else around beside wildlife and beautiful landscapes. Rooms are spacious and smartly designed, with Masai-made artworks and crisp white walls, while the floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the amazing views. Lions and other big cats have been known to wander into the hotel grounds or dip in the pool, so locals act as night guards. Look out for the brilliantly informative guides who can tell you everything about the culture.
Stella loves: The traditional beaded jewellery, wall-hangings and candlesticks, all produced by Masai artists, which are available to buy in The Terrace lounge – perfect one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Out and about: You can’t visit without booking a game drive: there is such an abundance of wildlife at every turn, it wouldn’t be unusual to spot all of the ‘big five’ (lions, elephants, hippos, black rhinos and buffalos) in a single session. (Book through the hotel – from £171 per half-day game drive per person, sharing. A full-day game drive costs £250 per person, sharing.) If you visit in May or June, look out for the great wildebeest migration. For a special trip, book a hot air balloon excursion over the park. (From £466 per person)
Rooms from £266 a night, full board; melia.com
Read the full expert review: Melia Serengeti Lodge
Montrose West Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA
Best for… Hollywood star spotting
This cool, low-key hotel, slap bang in West Hollywood, just off Sunset Boulevard, is THE place to spot A-listers. Some celebs have been known to hang out by the hotel’s discreet rooftop pool, which has comfy loungers (perfect for posing), a buzzy bar and views over the whole of La La Land. Our room was enormous – big enough for an after-party – with a mini kitchen, dramatic black living room area and a rock’n’roll edge to the decor: think music posters, guitars, bar trolleys and giant gold hand-shaped chairs. The highlight, though, is the location, right in the heart of Los Angeles’s most star-studded neighbourhood.
Stella loves: The staff are incredibly helpful and full of local knowledge, whether you want to know the live music event worth going to that evening, the closest bookshop or the best spot for a breakfast bagel.
Out and about: It’s a 10-minute stroll (or two-minute drive – no one walks here) to Soho House West Hollywood, which is the place to soak up the city, all slouchy sofas, excellent cocktails, beautiful people and a buzzy vibe. (Members only; sohohouse.com). If live music is more your thing, the Viper Room (once owned by Johnny Depp) and Whisky a Go Go are short walks from the hotel. For a special night out, book a table for dinner at The Magic Castle, a private members club for magicians set in a grand, haunted-looking house, with live magic shows and a black tie dress code – beware, tables book up months in advance (magiccastle.com). And if you still haven’t spotted enough stars after all of that, book a Celebrity Bike Tour – an easy 10-mile ride (easier still if you upgrade to an ebike) that takes you past Rodeo Drive, Paul Smith’s Pink Wall, and 30 different homes of the rich and famous. (From £50 per person, bikesandhikesla.com)
Rooms from £147 a night; montrosewesthollywood.com
Read the full expert review: Montrose West Hollywood
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, Urubamba, Peru
Best for… A-list-worthy adventuring
This spacious hotel, tucked away in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is the ideal stop-off before or after a Machu Picchu trek, and is blissfully removed from the well-trodden tourist trail. Rooms are big and rustic, there’s a gorgeous spa with all-natural products grown in the ‘healing garden’, plus the hotel is on the site of an organic plantation, where everything is farmed with traditional hand tools and oxen. We toured the farm and picked produce for dinner – there’s quinoa, giant corn and medicinal herbs. Our room had a high ceiling, terracotta tiles, beautiful eucalyptus beams and wrought-iron chandeliers – all positioned to make the most of the mountain views. The highlight was the terrace, the perfect place to drink in the views at sunset with a pisco sour in hand.
Stella loves: The ‘earth to table’ dining experience at the restaurant. The grilled trout on black quinoa with fennel and lavender sauce was fabulous.
Out and about: Take advantage of the light-pollution-free skies and book a Twlight Mountain Walk – the informative guide recounts tales of Incan astronomy. It’s also worth visiting Moray, a 15th-century archaeological site, comprising three sets of large circular terraces. Many consider it to have been an agricultural experiment, as each level is said to have its own micro-climate. (Both excursions can be booked through the hotel.) Hillside walks, bird- watching trips and bike tours can also be booked via the hotel.
Rooms from £330 a night, b&b, including guided excursions; reservations.inkaterra.com/ithu
Read the full expert review: Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba
Edited by: Laura Powell. Reviews by: Kuchar Swara, Caroline Leaper, Laura Powell and Jason Morris
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