Favourite boutique hotels

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK


DAY HIKES AND ROUNDTRIPS

Favourite boutique hotels

We love to stay in hotels, guest houses and B&Bs where the owners have put an effort in creating a unique place that makes you feel "at home". A lot of my time planning trips is spent on finding The Hotel. Sometimes we even go to certain places because there is hotel that seems just perfect for us.


Through the years we have stayed at lots of nice hotels, but there are a few that really stand out. They often have a special peaceful ambience, a lovely garden with lots of sitting areas and nice decorations. 

EUROPE

Italy, Tuscany

Lupaia hotel

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 230 Euros (breakfast included)


Lupaia is a very charming and personal country estate and boutique hotel with views of the hilltop village Montepulciano and Montefollonico in the region of Siena. I would love to go back there! The perfect honeymoon place!


The 12 rooms and suites are all different from each other and spread over 5 ancient farmhouse buildings. The combination of old structure and modern comfort is perfectly balanced. We stayed in the lovely Deluxe Cigno (swan in English) with a small garden and views of the hilltop village Montefollonico.


To do: Borrow a bike (free of charge) and follow the small unpaved road to nearby hilltop villages of Pienza and Montepulciano. Siena and Montalcino is within driving distance.

Norway, Ålesund

Hotel Brosundet

Location: 10/10

Charm:9/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 200 Euros (breakfast included)

Hotel Brosundet has a high rating on booking.com. For a good reason. This place is perfectly situated in Ålesund with everything within walking distance. It is a charming building, has a great bar and a really nice restaurant with a terrace.


To do: Stroll around the city, eat some fresh fish of the day, do the short hike up to Kniven with beautiful views of Ålesund or do some kayaking in this Venice of Norway.

Spain, Mallorca

Ca's Xorc

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 200 Euros (including breakfast)

Ca's Xorc is a charming boutique hotel lovely situated in an old farm house in the mountains between Sollér and Deija with views of Sollér. The hotel houses 13 double rooms and 2 cottages. The hotel is surrounded by lovely gardens, a pool and terraces that provide private spaces with sitting areas. The restaurant serves delicious food. You can´t imagine this is only a 4-star hotel.


To do: This is a kind of place you don´t want to leave. Just relaxing by the pool or in one of the terraces seems like the most perfect idea. If you want to move, though, there are hiking trails passing by the hotel and you have a 10 minutes drive to lovely Puerto de Sollér or stunning Deija.

Spain, Rioja

Marquez de Riscal

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 300 Euros (including a la carte breakfast, wine tour and wine tasting)

Marquez de Riscal is a stunning hotel designed by Frank Gehry, the architect behind the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. The rooms are large with views of the nearby village Elciego (photo middle) or the wineyards (photo right). If you are the least interested in design this is a place to spend at least one night in. There is a SPA at the hotel.


There are two restaurants and one of them is a 1-star Michelin restaurant. The food is experimental fine dining which we love but when we visited the service was a bit slow. The breakfast is a fantastic tasting breakfast. There is a rooftop library with a terrace where it is really nice to sit after dinner sipping some wine or a drink.


The price of the hotel includes a wine tour and a wine tasting of some of the wines of Marquez de Riscal.


To do: Bike to nearby village Laguardia or along the river Ebro. Visit wine yards like for example the impressive Vivanco.

Spain, San Sebastian de La Gomera

Parador de La Gomera

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 200 Euros (including breakfast)

Parador de La Gomera is a beautiful hotel with a lovely setting on a cliff overlooking the harbour and city of San Sebastian de La Gomera. 


There are one restaurant at the hotel and a bar. There are several lovely and peaceful patios in the garden where it is really nice to sit after dinner sipping some wine reading a book or planning next day´s hike.


To do: Drive around the island and visit the little villages. Hike in Garajonay National Park. Stroll through the peaceful city of San Sebastian or hike along the coast.

France, Paris

Hotel Daniel

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 300 Euros (breakfast from 35 Euros)

Hotel Daniel is a lovely personal and charming hotel perfectly situated a couple of hundred metres from Champs Elyssés. We really felt at home here and the staff was so helpful. The decorations are old-style like on the photo above (left).


The standard rooms are quite small, but that´s the way it is in Paris. Paying a little more you can upgrade to a suite.


To do: Paris is Paris. Stroll along Champs Elyssés to Louvren, walk along Seine, visit the famous and fabulous museums, the Eiffel Tower, walk through Montmartre to Sacre Coeur.

Portugal, Sintra

Marmoris palace

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 170 Euros (breakfast and wine/snacks in the afternoon included)

Sintra Marmoris Palace is perfectly situated close to the train station in Sintra and about 2 kilometres from old town. That might sound far but the walk is so nice, simply beautiful all the way. The atmosphere and the service of Sintra Marmoris Palace is exceptional. Best we have ever had in Europe.


This small boutique hotel used to be an estate and was tranformed into a hotel in 2017. It is family owned and only has 9 rooms, 6 of which are in the main building. There is a pool and a large garden with lovely views of Sintra. You need to book early!


To do: Lots of things! Sintra is the dream place for holidays. Visit the palaces of Sintra such as the Pena Palace, la Quinta de Regailera, the Moorish Castle and the Montserrat palace. If you stay for more than one night a visit to Cabo da Roca and Ursa beach is lovely. Eat lunch at Tascantiga in the old town and have dinner at Incomun and Romaria de Baco. The food is splendid!

Sweden, Åre

Copperhill Mountain Lodge

Location: 8/10

Charm: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 100 Euros (breakfast included, family rooms available)

Copperhill Mountain Lodge is a hotel we go back to over and over again even though it is located a bit off. Everytime I walk through the doors into the huge but still welcoming lounge my pulse lowers. It is so beautiful!


There is a SPA with fabulous views of Åre and a superb restaurant serving local dishes.


The only drawback of this place is that it is a bit off. Depends of course what you are looking

for but with older kids maybe you want to ski the steeper and longer slopes which are in Åre village. The slopes are connected from the hotel all the way to Åre but it takes some time to go there.


To do: Hiking, trekking and skiing - this is the place to go!

Sweden, Storulvån

Storulvån Fjällstation

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: No, bus from Duved train station

Prices start at: 160 Euros (2-bed room including breakfast)

Storulvån Fjällstation (Mountain hut) is really cosy and nice with a lovely sauna area. It is in

a beautiful setting right where the road ends and several hiking paths start. The lodging is simple but the 2-bed rooms come with wc and shower. The mountain hut has a lovely restaurant serving local food. 


To do:  Storulvån is the starting point of the 3-day hike Jämtlandstriangeln that takes you from Storulvån to Sylarna to Blåhammaren and then back to Storulvån. About 12-18 kilometres a day. In winter you can go cross-country or randonée skiing in the neighbouring mountains.

USA

Florida, Ana Maria Island

Harrington House B&B

Location: 9/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 300 Euros (including a la carte breakfast)

Harrington House is a tropical B&B paradise by the beach of the Mexican Gulf. With lots of returning guests this place is almost always full so be sure to book a year in advance. This place is even so popular that you can´t find it on booking.com.


At Harrington House they offer double rooms, bungalows and private houses. We stayed in Dodt 3, a large apartment with three bedrooms (queen size beds) and an indoor and outdoor terrace overlooking the ocean. After sharing double rooms for several nights on our Florida round trip it was like coming to paradise to have so much space and one room each for the kids. 


The service at Harrington House is superbly personal. You instantly feel at home and the atmosphere is generous. The family that owns the place takes good care in their guests. Their first words to me when I walked to the breakfast buffet on our first morning was "Dear lady, please take a seat. You are on holiday and it is your time to relax."


To do: This place is about the beach. Do not expect the Mexican Gulf to be warm in winter, it is colder than the Atlantic Ocean by Miami. Walk along the beach, relax by the pool or go kayaking (free at the B&B). There are a lot of dolphins here so if you are lucky you might see some when kayaking.


About 1 hour away, crossing the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge is the town St Petersburg. If you are interested in modern art don´t miss to visit the Salvador Dalí museum? It is very well worth a visit and the guided tour is great. You learn a lot about this fantastic Spanish artist.

California, Big Sur

Treebones resort

Location: 8/10

Charm: 9/10

Service: 8/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 300 Euros (including breakfast)

Treebones resort is a glamping yurt resort along Big Sur with unbroken views of the Pacific Ocean. The 10 yurts (eg. Mongolian tents) have comfortable beds, a small table and set of chairs and hooks for hanging clothes and other. There is a sink vanity with hot and cold running water in each yurt. Bath and hand towels are provided. To be sure to stay here you need to book one year in advance. This place is often written about in travel magazines. You will not find it on booking.com.


All yurts have generous wooden decks with adirondack chairs. Bathroom and WC in the resort building. There is a pool, a jacuzzi and garden. The restaurant serves great food and there is also a sushi restaurant.


To do: Hike in the nearby national parks, drive along Highway 1.


California, Yosemite

Ahwahnee

Location: 9/10

Charm: 9/10

Service: 7/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 500 Euros

The Ahwahnee hotel is an iconic hotel in the Yosemite valley. You need to book a year in advance and you will not find it at booking.com. Lots of famous actors have stayed here.


The exterior and interior is simply outstanding as well as its location right below (the mountain) El Capitán. It is close to the Yosemite valley where you find shops and restaurants. Yosemite valley also is the starting point for the hike to Yosemite falls. There is a restaurant and a café in the hotel.


To do: Watch the free climbers on the wall of El Capitán, hike to Yosemite falls, take the (free) bus to the starting point of hikes to Half Dome and Nevada and Vernon falls. Once you arrive and park your car you will not need it until you leave.

California, Santa Barbara

Four Seasons Santa Barbara

Location: 9/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 430 Euros

Four Seasons Santa Barbara is a famous hotel by the Pacific Ocean just outside the lovely village of Santa Barbara along Highway 1. This historic hideaway is built in Spanish Colonial style: white two-story buildings and one-story bungalows with red-brick tiles. Even though this is a large hotel it feels small with the buildings nestled in the large lush garden.


Staying here gives you access to a pool, jacuzzi, well-equipped gym, tennis courts and a restaurant with views of the ocean. The breakfast is just as exceptional as it should be.


This place is expensive but not too bad considering that you only have to book one room for a family of four. We stayed here with our kids when they were 15 and 17 years old and since the rooms are big it worked out just fine. 


The service is exceptional, very friendly and nothing like uptight. The only drawback is that access to the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, which is a membership club, requires that you either book one of the more expensive rooms or bungalows or that you pay an entry-fee of around 20-40 Euros per person a day. This gives you access to an olympic swimming pool by the Pacific Ocean. We skipped that. Paying 100 Euros for the four of us to swim in a larger pool did not make sense. 


To do: Santa Barbara is the perfect weekend retreat for people living in Los Angeles or if you pass by on your way along Highway 1. 


Bike or walk along the beach to see all the beautiful villas or walk (about 5 kilometres) to the centre of Santa Barbara. Take a swim in the ocean. Visit one of the wine yards nearby or hike in the mountains.  

SOUTH AFRICA

Plettenberg

Lairds Lodge

Location: 8/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: Yes

Prices start at: 140 Euros (breakfast included)

Lairds lodge is a country estate boutique hotel between Knysna and Plettenberg along the Garden route in South Africa. This homestead offers a secluded swimming pool, garden and

a lovely 4-course gourmet dinner every night in the dining room.


To do: Visit the lovely Robberberg National Park in Plettenberg, the beach in Plettenberg and the city of Knysna. The nearby 5-star hotel Zinzi is a lovely 2 kilometres walk along an unpaved road from Lairds Lodge. It is perfect for a lunch break and while you are there, why not check out the lovely gardens. Prebooking necessary.

Franschoek

Last Word

Location: 10/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 300 Euros (a la carte breakfast included)

Last Word is in the heart of Franschoek in the middle of the wine district of South Africa along with the probably more famous Stellenbosch and Paarl.


This small boutique hotel with 10 suites is within walking distance to lots of famous restaurants, the train station and shops. There is a small pool at the hotel. The service is exceptional and this place is our kids´ reference point of a luxuary hotel. Exceptional a la carte breakfast.


To do: Eat at one of the fabulous restarants like Reuben´s, Foliage and The Test Kitchen. These restaurants are not the cheapest you will find but compared to European standards you get an exceptional dinner for the price of a lunch. The food is absolutely amazing and shall not be missed out. A wine tasting is a must. We visited Delaire Graff (where we also had an exceptional lunch) and Boschendal where we had a lunch picnic.  

ASIA

Indonesia, Bali, Ubud

Kayumanis Ubud

Location: 9/10

Charm: 10/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: Transport service included

Prices start at: 400 Euros (a la carte breakfast, afternoon tea and massage included)

Kayumanis Ubud is a small, family owned hotel in typical balinesian style at the border of river Ayun about 5 kilometres from Ubud. There is one Villa for 6 people, 2 Villas for 4 people and 12 bungalows for 2 people. All villas have their own pool. Stunning breakfast, afternoon tea and 30 minutes massage included.


To do: Walk along the river Ayun or along the Camphani trail, yoga at one of all the yoga studios in Ubud. Go for a one-day sightseeing tour to see temples, rice terraces and volcanos.


There are plenty of really great restaurants in Ubud. Don´t miss to visit restaurants like Bridges Bali, Mozaic, Zest, and the famous vegetarian restaurant Locavore

Singapore

The Fullerton Hotel

Location: 10/10

Charm: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Car necessary: No

Prices start at: 300 Euro

The Fullerton Hotel is perfectly situated by Marina Bay. It is located in the business district which perhaps not is the district if being on a vacation. After the opening of Gardens by the bay in 2011, however, this part of the city is perfect to stay in.


The rooms are business type rooms - perhaps not the most exciting thing - but the hotel somehow manages to make it a unique place to stay. The breakfast is fabulous and it is lovely to sit on the terrace eating breakfast overlooking the river. The infinity pool was great for a swim. 


To do: Gardens by the Bay is within walking distance along a promenade by the bay. Also Chinatown (with lots of really nice restaurants) and the famous Raffles hotel is within walking distance. Other great things to do is to visit the Botanical garden and walk the Southern Ridges Trail. The shopping district along Orchard Road is within easy reach with metro. 

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During spring 2020 we will add round trips and day hikes in Spain (Mallorca, Andalucia) and Asia (Bali/Singapore and China).

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