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Adventure getaways aren’t for everyone. Sweaty hikes, perilous canoeing trips and mosquitoes everywhere – you signed up for a holiday, not hardcore boot camp. For those who value comfort and adventure in equal (okay, maybe 70/30) measures, we’ve compiled a list of the best infinity-pool-meets-desert-canyon setups. From diving in Indonesia’s hidden pearl farms to horseback riding across the American Southwest, luxury and adventure are perfect travel companions.
Forget the traffic in Denpasar and the burger joints in Kuta, Indonesia’s best-kept secret can be found a little to the north. Part of West Papua, the Raja Ampat archipelago comprises of more than 15,000 jungle-covered islands. Where Pacific meets the Indian ocean, the water nurtures miles of marine life and coral reefs meaning world-class diving.
Located on the uninhabited island of Birie, Papua Paradise Eco Resort embodies serenity. Built in traditional-style water bungalows, the resort offers simple yet luxe accommodation with spacious verandas. For divers, the house reef is full of sharks and manta rays; for those who prefer to stay on dry land, the Ayurvedic spa is excellent.
Misool Eco Resort is where you go to press pause. Situated on a football field-sized patch of Misool’s reef with an impressive array of coral species, you won’t want to bypass the resort’s own dive centre. Other offerings include Indonesian cooking classes, a castaway experience and a visit to a traditional Papuan market.
The most luxe option out there, this hideaway sits on Moyo Island, an unspoilt nature and marine reserve to the east of Bali. The only resort on the island, it is a private paradise surrounded by the turquoise waters and pristine reefs of the Flores Sea.
The well-worn paths of Utah were once home to Navajo Indians and are best described by the Navajo term “hózhó”, meaning an interconnectedness between beauty, harmony and goodness. With hues of ochre, yellow and pink bouncing off the geometric planes, the landscape is an anaesthesia to the soul. From rafting expeditions up the Colorado River to horseback riding in Monument Valley, Utah is an excellent option for high-end adventures.
Tucked within the canyons of the American Southwest, Amangiri is a remote five-star hideaway in a protected valley in Canon Point. Dovetailing the stark surroundings, suites reflect the luminosity of the desert. With floor-to-ceiling windows unveiling vistas from every angle, each suite features a large living area that opens onto a terrace offering desert views that change colour by the hour.
Near southern Utah’s famous arches and red-rock mountains, Sorrel River Ranch is a spa and resort set within 240 acres of open terrain. Allowing guests to unplug and recharge in the comfort of the ranch, rugged landscapes meet sumptuous interiors. Yoga classes and hiking expeditions are capped off with camp-side stargazing. For those hoping to try their hand at horseback riding, a crew of wranglers are ready and waiting to explore the winding canyons of Moab with you.
3. The Amazon
Travellers flock in their plenty to experience life in the world’s richest fauna and flora. Standing at a gargantuan 5,500,000 sq km that spreads into nine countries, picking where in the Amazon you want to visit is imperative. From canoeing through flooded forests or hiking among the cries of howler monkeys and the paths of jaguars to luxury eco-lodges perched on top of mountains or suspended tree-houses, you just need to know where to look.
A cocoon of luxury in the Amazonian clouds, Mashpi Lodge can be found in the depths of Ecuador. Surrounded by waterfalls and lush greenery, Mashpi is an oasis of urban comfort offering lodgings to just 47 guests. With striking views of forested mountains through its floor-to-ceiling panoramic glass windows, it’s notably contemporary in its modernist design and decor, also offering a viewing platform, expedition room and its own laboratory. The restaurant draws on the diversity of Ecuadorian cuisine with ingredients paying homage to the surrounding forest.
Set within the private nature reserve of the Cristalino River, Cristalino Lodge is devoted to minimising human impact on the planet. Offering exceptional service while preserving the local area and promoting sustainable values, you can’t fault their credentials. Another high note is a leisure deck over the river with views of the dense greenery – an ideal spot to enjoy the animal calls of the night or simply listen to the sound of tropical rain.
The sacred mountains of Bhutan elude a kind of serenity and mysticism that can only be attributed to a higher power. Tucked between Tibet and Nepal, this Himalayan kingdom is where pray flags flutter, red-robed monks seek solace in hill-top monasteries and majestic rivers snake through ancient corners of the earth. Himalayan exploration doesn’t have to involve yak’s nudging you up the peaks, but boutique lodging in cloud-capped mountains and unrivalled tranquility.
Aman’s bespoke explorations through the Buddhist Kingdom let you follow the footsteps of wandering pilgrims into a land untainted by modernity, with customised itineraries for both spiritual seekers and outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounded by lush forestry, this thoughtfully contemporary hotel is informed by Buddhist monastic culture, including an impressive tea pavilion and yoga space. Starting in Shanghai, guests can continue to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, journey through Bhutan’s monasteries, India’s historic forts and Sri Lanka’s dramatic coastline.
In the heart of the Punakha Valley overlooking paddy fields that stair-step down to the ground, Dhensa Punakha is a slice of peace. With a more contemporary design than traditional Bhutanese architecture, Dhensa is a sanctuary for those seeking quiet time. Nearby, Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery, houses a 14-foot bronze statue of Chenrigzig (Avalokiteshvara) and Punakha Dzong (the Palace of Happiness) is just a short walk along the banks of the Sankosh River.
5. Omo Valley
Avoid the hoards tracking down the Big Five and head for Omo Valley in the East Africa Rift for spectacular scenery and ancient rituals. Those who travel to the Omo are looking for an adventure; temperatures get hot and conditions can be basic so many venture instead to Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains – but those who reach Omo are in for something a little different.
Positioned between the UNESCO site of Konso, the markets of Jinka and the Mago National Park, this eco-lodge offers an insider look at the remote mosaic of the Omo Valley. Based on a low-impact concept, the lodge has its own coffee plantation and gardens overflowing with fruit trees, while 20 basic but comfortable safari-tent rooms each come with a private viewing terrace.
This place is transforming the hotel industry in sub-Saharan Africa by combining a community-based eco-lodge dedicated to sustainability and poverty alleviation with world-class service. Centrally located in the Great Rift Valley, elegant yet sustainable huts offer private verandas with a view of the lakes or gardens. The outdoor pool allows guests to relax while enjoying the lush surroundings and watching the game pass by.
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