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Interior at Amerikalinjen, Oslo, Norway

Hot hotels: Cool conversions

Sometimes staying in a hotel can be a holiday in itself. From secluded cabins in an abandoned Colorado mining site to your very own Caribbean cottage in Jamaica, Hannah Ralph checks out the properties where checking in is all you need to do… Hotels and their restaurants may be currently shut due to local Covid restrictions. Please check individual websites

01/11/2020Fact-checked 03/12/2020

The Pier 42 bar at Amerikalinjen in Oslo (Francisco Nogueira). Opening image: modern art at Atlas Brasserie & Café at Amerikalinjen (Francisco Nogueira)



For the biggest window into this hotel’s little world, let’s start where all the clever people start – at the library. This Neo-Baroque spot is filled with teaky reading booths, antique trunks with tattered labels, as well as seafaring tomes, nautical minutiae and the occasional appearance of three intriguing words: Norwegian American Line. The American Line (a direct translation of the hotel’s name) was once Norway’s most famous cruise company, ferrying bright-eyed passengers in search of a better life in New York during the early 20th century. Now, its storied headquarters play host to Oslo’s chicest boutique hotel: Amerikalinjen. It’s one nostalgic step back in time, and one giant hop across the pond. From Julian Opie’s Big Apple skyscrapers in the reception to its New York-inspired jazz club, and even the Oysters Rockefeller that have quickly become a legend at its all-day brasserie, this is a transatlantic wormhole delivered with a light, Scandinavian touch.

If the devil’s in the details, then Amerikalinjen’s suites are downright sinful. Previously the company’s boardrooms, they’re peppered with visual mementos from the cruise liner’s heyday and pendant lamps from Hadeland, which crafted the ship’s original glassware. Plus, a work area and super-fast Wi-Fi uphold the building’s former business credentials.

There are five restaurants and bars in total, but Haven – a light, courtyard space that serves a knockout coffee – is the only one that’ll wheel in a daily waffle trolley (yes please). Meanwhile, its newish bakery has poppy seed bagels at the ready for hungry sightseers.

To New York in the 1950s. Gustav, the hotel’s very own basement speakeasy, serves up smoky jazz and USA-inspired cocktail recipes from bartending maestro Kåre Breiby, who mixed drinks on the original ships.

Take off to Amerikalinjen

The secluded Potter House cabin at Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado


Dunton Hot Springs

Anyone who’s been to Colorado knows this high-altitude state already feels like its own vibey, Wild-Westy world, high above the star-spangled dramas surrounding it. But why stop there, when you can remove yourself further still at one of its most romantically remote resorts? Dunton Hot Springs may require a herculean effort to reach it, but extraordinary places often do. Back in the 1990s, when husband and wife hoteliers Christoph and Katrin Henkel (along with their long-time friend and architect, Annabelle Selldorf) bought up the abandoned mining site, the cabins still had their windows shot out. These days, this 1800s ghost town offers guests a transformative, turn-back-time experience. We’re talking horse rides through the San Juan mountains, gourmet dinners beneath tepee canvas, dips in the hot springs that once soothed miners’ aching limbs and moonshine-sippin’ in its old-timey bar – all delivered with a dose of fairy-lit luxury.

There are 13 cabins ranging from $730 to $2,400 a night (all-inclusive) but Echo – the cheapest and cosiest – is best for couples, while Dunton Store is perfect for families, filled as it is with cowboy memorabilia and a private soaking pool out back.

Thanks to a geological quirk, Colorado is full of hot (sulphur-free) springs, and Dunton sits on five of them. The showstopper, however, is its communal pool, hidden away in a 19th-century bathhouse that’s packed with ceiling-high foliage and overlooks the mountain meadows beyond.

To the gold rush. Dunton Hot Springs’ Saloon was once frequented by Butch Cassidy (whose name you’ll spot scrawled into the original bar) as he scarpered to Dunton after robbing his first bank in neighbouring Telluride. And don’t forget to skip back a few centuries in the leather-clad library, too.

Take off to Dunton Hot Springs

TOKii restaurant at The Prince Akatoki, London (Ben Carpenter)


The Prince Akatoki

Step off the streets of Marylebone and into shizukesa at The Prince Akatoki, London’s only five-star Japanese hotel. This centrally located hideaway shuns the hectic world outside to offer visitors a Zen zone filled with soft lighting, sandalwood incense and pastel décor. It’s easy to believe 5,870 miles have been covered in one step thanks to the minimalist yet exceedingly luxurious rooms, which boast traditional tea sets, soft Mount Fuji-decorated headboards and a loo with so many settings that it may just hold you hostage. All rooms come with comfy kimonos and yoga mats, while suites will earn you a discreet kitchenette that’s easily hidden behind dark wood folding doors. To find your true ikigai, however, sign up for the ‘Taste of Japan’ package, which includes a sushi masterclass in the hotel’s very own izakaya, where the temperamental intricacies of sushi rice are laid bare and guests can make their own dinner of maki, futomaki, nigiri and hand rolls (top tip: don’t eat beforehand, it’s a generous course). Complimentary cocktails or, if you’re looking to go all in, a sake tasting session can be enjoyed in the hotel’s luxuriously indulgent The Malt bar to round off the perfect Japanese escape.

While the hotel doesn’t go full ryokan with tatami mat bedding, its mule and balsa tones combined with some nigh-on magical soundproofing mean you’ll struggle to find a more peaceful night’s sleep in the heart of London.

Book the extensive sushi masterclass for mid-afternoon when the chances of having the in-house TOKii restaurant all to yourself are high, as full concentration is required to create the perfect sushi roll.

A Japanese sake bar in the heart of Marylebone where you can discover your new favourite drink: the deliciously moreish sparkling sake, a much sweeter alternative to Japan’s national tipple.

Take off to The Prince Akatoki

Cottage 3 bedroom at Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios (David Massey)


Jamaica Inn

How do you like the sound of your own Caribbean cottage, with nothing to interrupt your view of the ocean apart from the tiny tracks of sea turtles tootling their way to the water? Good, then you’ll like Jamaica Inn: the pot of the gold at the end of a one-hour, 30-minute drive from Montego Bay airport. The world that awaits guests here is a special one. Owned by the same family since 1950, its bar has been tended by the same man (nay, legend) since 1958, its terrace is the very same upon which Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming and Kathryn Hepburn all clinked cocktails. But, despite its many frozen-in-time touches (did we mention no TVs? Waiters in white dinner coats? A croquet lawn?), a time capsule this is not. Rather, it’s an escape, providing a flora-filled, sun-soaked bubble for modern travellers just as it did for the Hollywood elite fleeing their spotlights back in the 1950s. Be warned, though: it’s a tough bubble to burst.  

While Churchill was partial to the White Suite (perched on the ocean’s edge, surrounded by its own private jungle, who could blame him?), romantics will go wild for Cottage 3 and its infinity plunge pool.

Start your day sipping a cup of Blue Mountain Coffee on your private veranda (every suite and cottage has one) and fill the rest of it with trips to the Inn’s 700-foot private beach and thousands-year-old underwater reef.

To a world of high-stakes espionage. The Inn’s James Bond package honours past guest Ian Fleming’s Jamaica connections with weekly outdoor film nights, martini-making classes and a tour of the island’s 007 filming locations.

Take off to Jamaica Inn

The emerald-green courtyard pool at Le Farnatchi (Elan Fleisher)


Le Farnatchi

Maybe it’s the dusty chaos that lies just outside their modest doors. Maybe it’s the Tardis-like dimensions and microcosmic charms. Maybe it’s the wall-to-400-year-old-wall tranquillity. But the fact of the matter is that you can’t talk about escapist hotels without mentioning the riads of Marrakech – and the closer to the medina, the better. A mere ten minutes from the spice markets, Le Farnatchi ticks all the traditional riad boxes: hidden in plain sight, indoor courtyards (two, in fact) with shallow pools, cushion-clad bous (cosy seating nooks, too many here to count), mosaic flooring, marble hammams and more. British owner James Wix, whose father used Farnatchi as a rather elaborate holiday home, is responsible for the smidge of ‘Britishness’ (check out those Molton Brown goodies in the bathroom) and ‘home-away-from-home’ feel, which keeps solo travellers, couples and business types looking to swoon clients returning time and time again.

There are ten rooms, and no two the same. They do, however, all have handmade beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, lounge areas with roaring fires and heaps of Moroccan art. Force us to pick, and we’ll go for Suite 3, with its sensational sunken tub and light-flooded balcony.

You’ve heard this before, but genuinely nothing is too much trouble for this riad’s small, dedicated staff. Where do you want breakfast? Roof terrace, fireside dining room, on your balcony? Mint tea at 3am? Need picking up from just about anywhere? All arranged, as if by magic. 

To Arabian nights on the roof terrace. Put on your traditional djellaba (robes) and bobouches (slippers) – Farnatchi has both for you – and drink wine under Moroccan lantern light, listening out for the muezzin’s enchanting calls to prayer.

Take off to Le Farnatchi

Le Loggette suite at Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in Abruzzo


Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

It’s not often that you can pin-point the philosophy of an entire hotel group by a single bathtub, but we’re going to try. You see, when millionaire maverick Daniele Kihlgren decided to buy up a handful of poverty-crumbled mountain towns in central Italy, he vowed to create hospitality experiences that would bring the towns back from cultural extinction without killing their spirit, archaeological or otherwise. And he’s managed it, too. Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in Abruzzo (not to be confused with Sextanio’s second dwelling in Matera) is all 12th-century stone, knotted wood, low lights, wrought iron and no frills that one might call particularly modern – except that Philippe Starck tub. A beacon of luxury in an otherwise entirely rustic eyrie, the tub – joined by candlelight and a single ceramic jug for hair-rinsing – captures not only the heart of passing Instagrammers, but also Kihlgren’s mission to add magic without breaking the spell. 

We say it’s all part of the mediaeval charm, but these mattresses are somewhat… firm. To help, tire yourself out by hiking to nearby Rocca Calascio (the highest fort in all of Italy) and exploring the Gran Sasso massif and Monti della Laga National Park that unfurls from the hotel’s doorstep.

Get to grips with authentic Abruzzo cuisine by joining one of the hotel’s cooking classes, where foodies are shown how to whip up sweet ferratelle waffles and pillowy focaccia in the hotel’s 16th-century oven. There’s also a soap-making class for those with souvenirs on the brain.

To the Apennine communities of old in the hotel’s outdoor courtyard, where Nonna’s linens provide a makeshift cover from the sun and wooden benches are set up for suppers of fresh pecorino cheese and cured prosciutto.

Take off to Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

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