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Hotels3-minute read

Hot hotels: on private islands

Every year, trend reports say the same thing: what travellers want is privacy, exclusivity and space. This year, we’re inclined to agree, which is why High Life is gazing lovingly at hotspots that offer all three. Hannah Ralph heads to the islands…

Hotels and their restaurants may currently be shut due to local Covid restrictions. Please check individual websites

A room with a blue painted window and view of the sea
High Life highlight

Silver Island Yoga, Greece

There aren’t as many private island resorts in Greece as one might first suspect (at least not islands accessible to us travel folk). Thankfully, Silver Island (opening image and above) is the needle in a rather glorious haystack. With exclusive use of this killer real estate, Silver Island Yoga offers 60 acres of pure Grecian cliché: baby blues against stark whites, tumbling olive groves, crumbling churches and cypress trees aplenty. It’s also where, for six nights full board, up to 11 guests can heal the spirit and bend the body with an itinerary so laid back that you’ll have no choice but to give into total rejuvenation. There’s ocean-side yoga (a morning and evening practice), hearty vegetarian menus and organic wines sipped around long, social tables, along with a whole island to explore – be it by foot, bicycle or kayak.

Wannabe yogis can either hop on a three-hour bus ride from Athens airport or go privately with Athens Taxi Transfers. Both will take you Oreoi port, from where the Silver Island boat departs, dropping you at the island in around 20 minutes.

In the main house, there are two twin rooms and one single room up for grabs, then another three bedrooms in the villa. The single room is €300 more, so it works out cheaper to take a buddy or share.

Leave the laptop behind. This island is a Wi-Fi free zone, packed with cutesy pets, all manner of books and tempting trails. Here, you choose just how busy you want to be.  

Take off to Silver Island

An island in a calm sea with a grand pink building and Italianate church

San Clemente Palace Kempinski, Venice

Made up of 118 islands, Venice is more than St Mark’s Square and Murano, and picking a base away from the beautiful but hectic hotspots is vital. Enter the San Clemente Palace Kempinski: a monastery-cum-hospital-cum-palatial five-star hotel that’s an oasis of space and seclusion. Nestled on its own island amidst 15 acres of gardens, it’s just ten minutes by boat from San Marco. Enjoy a day exploring the canals, bridges, basilicas and shops, before hopping on the complimentary shuttle back to this haven of serenity, where generous rooms, high ceilings and sumptuous bedding will have you feeling recharged in no time. Acquerello Restaurant is worth it just for the caramelised olives delivered to your table on a tiny olive tree. 

Ask for the table by the glass doors at breakfast, where the view of Venice and the Alps beyond is the perfect way to start the day.

Take off to San Clemente Palace Kempinski
A stylish deck with an infinity pool and, to the left, a private indoor pool

Niyama Private Islands, Maldives

The only thing better than one private island? Two of them, obviously. It’s good news, then, that Maldivian hideaway Niyama offers just that: one resort spread across two lagoon-fringed islands affectionately named ‘Play’ and ‘Chill’, although it’s safe to say there’s enough playing and chilling to be found on both. The private island experience gets off to an extravagant start aboard a 40-minute seaplane ride to the Dhaalu Atoll: 56 largely uninhabited coral islands fertile with turtles, dolphins and coconut palms. On land, ‘Play’ is the water sports nirvana you’d expect, while ‘Chill’ is all tip-top dining, soul-soothing spas and dark-wood villas peeping out from the palms.  

Here, the staff makes the stay: from a personal thakura (or Maldivian butler) at your literal beck and call, to the famous ‘Coconut Guru’, with his sixth sense for knowing just when an ice-cold smoothie is required.

Take off to Niyama Private Islands

A traditional cottage with a picket fence and a lifebuoy handing outside

Osea Island, Essex

Separated from the mainland by a spindly, seaweed-strewn causeway, Osea Island has a long history of taking burnt-out city folk and delivering them back into the world anew. First a “home for inebriates” in the early 20th century, then a celebrity detox clinic in the early 2000s, it now toes the line between (a somewhat ironic) party island for the music industry elite and shabby chic rural retreat. Don’t expect Soho House finishes or corporate chain uniformity. This island getaway has a laissez faire feel that’s all about connecting with the coast ­and stumbling upon surprise finds – a breath of fresh air just two hours’ drive from the Smoke.

There’s a smorgasbord of self-catering accommodation types to tap into on the island (20 in total). For a post-pandemic reunion, try the Captain’s House ­– it sleeps up to 22.

Take off to Osea Island
view from a wooden pier looking back at a tropical island

Palm Island Resort & Spa by Elite, Grenadines

We love an all-inclusive that gets it right. And with guests often totting up return visits far into the double figures, Palm Island certainly fits the bill. Accessible only by boat, this 135-acre spot reopened last month to the relief of its patrons who, from the minute they’re greeted on the jetty (with a rum punch, no less), are treated to unspoilt R&R, toes-in-the-sand dining and sensational mountain-backed sunsets – some of the best in the Grenadines. Even the most basic rooms double as miniature Caribbean apartments and are famously spotless, but we’d wager you’ll be spending most of your time out in nature, anyway: just make sure to pack a bug spray to ward off those evening mozzies.

Expect to glimpse octopuses, sea turtles and manta rays from your glass-bottomed kayak and the island’s famous iguanas from your bike.

Take off to Palm Island Resort & Spa
Modern scandi building perched on rocks next to water

Manshausen Island, Norway

Founded by polar explorer Børge Ousland (the first person to cross Antarctica solo), Manshausen’s endlessly Instagrammable cabins may require a small expedition to reach – you’ll need to fly from Oslo to Bodø, then catch two speed boats once you’re there. But, as those who’ve signed the virtual guestbook can attest to, it’s more than worth the trip. Floor-to-ceiling glass and a 55-acre spot way-above-the-Arctic-Circle means you’re in for a (weather permitting) Northern Lights fest, but somehow, this place is a treat even in the mist. Beyond the cabin cosiness, bunker down in the communal library and spot sea eagles on your daily roams – this archipelago is famous for them.

Breakfast is included in the price, but do book in for the three-course dinner from up-and-coming Scandi chefs as they experiment with the catch of the day, reindeer and elk.

Take off to Manshausen Island
Interior shot of a hotel room with a view of the ocean

Preskil Island Resort, Mauritius

Sure, the Maldives boast those airbrushed good looks, and the Seychelles sing with rugged jungle, but Mauritius is a cool and coveted combination of both. Strictly speaking, this resort isn’t totally cut off from the mainland (there is a small bridge to cross), but it does constitute a 3.5-hectare islet surrounded by sea, so let’s give it some love. Fortunately, Preskil deserves it: a visual feast of Creole-style sloping roofs, storybook banyans and lantern-lit jetties, with a recent renovation taking the interiors in a more modern, bohemian direction. Outside, you’ll be glued to the beach, be it on one of the numerous loungers, in the sun-warmed sea, or tucked up in your own wicker beach basket.  

There’s an uninhabited island just opposite Preskil that can be reached via glass-bottomed boat. Home to giant turtles and endemic birdies, it’s a photographer’s paradise.

Take off to Preskil Island Resort

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