Luxury escapes for social distancing
In a post-pandemic world, travellers are now more than ever searching for unique, private destinations far from the maddening crowds – retreats where you can feel off the grid and pampered while focusing on your wellbeing rather than the evening news. From glamping in Scotland to a Middle Eastern desert hideaway, travel writer Jim Dobson picks the ultimate escapes for luxuriating in splendid isolation
Desert safari camp in Abu Dhabi
is a remote desert palace located two hours from Abu Dhabi and sits resplendently within the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert. Hotel guests are encouraged to explore this vast wilderness through activities including desert walks and sand boarding. Those after an adrenaline kick can experience the ultimate dune bashing with fat-tyre cycle rides or 4x4 adventures, before decompressing with a tea party on a remote dune.
Stay in the private royal pavilion with its own plunge pool or venture out with a night in a traditional tent at Camp Nujum. This unique excursion sees guests welcomed with saluki rum before relaxing in the luxurious encampment overlooking the dunes. During their stay, visitors will dine on authentic Emirati delights, such as lamb chops, tiger prawns and beef kebabs, under a setting sun, and get to test their skills at archery or sandboarding the next morning.
Scaling the rainforest treetops in Malaysia
The luxurious oceanfront villas and suites of provide the perfect outdoor escape from the city. The most isolated and private option is to take over the Villa One, located away from the main resort, which includes four bedrooms and a 27m pool.
The resort offers the thrill of ascending ancient rainforest trees to a viewing platform within the lush canopy. It’s the perfect perch to spot dusky leaf monkeys, pig-tailed macaques and oriental pied hornbills, while avid bird watchers can observe white-bellied eagles, short-tailed babblers and Finsch’s bulbuls within the bird sanctuary. For more watery adventures, spend the day out on the ocean at one of the world’s top-ten deep sea fishing spots, filled with magnificent sailfish and black marlin.
King of your own castle in Florence
offers guests the chance to book the entire nine-suite hotel on an exclusive-use basis. This secluded 900-year-old former castle in the Tuscan countryside feels more like a private residence than a luxury hotel. Beyond the castle walls are myriad activities to experience, including truffle hunting, wine tasting from organic grapes grown and harvested on the estate and traditional Tuscan cookery classes, all the while indulging in first-class service. Depending on group size, all five guest rooms in the main house and the four guest rooms tucked into the garden can be booked together or, for a smaller contingent, a partial villa rental is just the ticket.
A remote island glamping retreat in Scotland
A cluster of Iona Pods enhance the landscape of the picturesque island of Iona on the west coast of Scotland. Iona has been a religious retreat since St Columba arrived in the 6th century and set up his monastery here, playing no small role in bringing Christianity to Scotland and England.
The tiny island is renowned for its natural beauty and religious history, a place where sheep ramble through old ruins while cows graze on the working farm. There are ten wooden insulated huts, each equipped with a bed and a microwave. Visiting the commode or taking a shower requires a trip outdoors but it’s worth it to experience this rugged, isolated solitude. From Glasgow, drive to Oban and then take a 50-minute ferry ride to the island for this much-needed glamping escape. If time allows, visit the neighbouring 11th-century St Oran’s Chapel, said to contain the body of Macbeth, the Scottish king immortalised by Shakespeare.
Castaway experience on an island in The Seychelles
Recently reopened (opening image) offers exclusive island rental, where guests can spread out over the entire island. Visitors will stay in one of Fregate’s 16 beautiful villas, all of which include a private pool, and have their pick of activities such as scuba diving, hiking, windsurfing, kayaking and conservation work assisting turtle hatchlings and cultivating sea coral. The private buyout option offers access to the 720-acre, seven-beach hideaway with its own yacht club and accommodation, including five private pool villas, three private pool twin villas and the most secluded residence on the island: the Banyan Hill Estate. This secluded gem contains three villas on their own peninsula and comes equipped with a personal assistant, private chef, maid and butler.
Luxury tented desert camp in Utah
Aman’s Camp Sarika by Amangiri is a luxury tented retreat nestled in the raw wilderness of 600 hectares of the Utah desert. Surrounded by the famed Zion National Park, Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon, it was created as the ultimate escape for privacy and seclusion.
With just ten tented pavilions, each exclusive residence offers expansive outdoor terraces as well as a living area, dining area, bar, private terrace with a fire pit and heated plunge pool. The camp’s remote location within the peaceful, expansive terrain allows guests to connect with nature from the comfort of first-class luxury.
Visitors have the option of relaxing in the camp’s spa or participating in more active adventures such as canyoneering or desert and mountain hiking right outside their door. Other options include an early morning helicopter flight over Lake Powell before a yoga and meditation session on a ridge above the desert. Guests at the camp will also have full access to the stunning 2,322sqm Amangiri Aman Spa, a traditional escape for all Aman junkies.