Hideaway, natural sanctuary, adventure playground: Our reporters pick their favorite hotels for 2018
The Peninsula Bangkok
The sun is shining, the birds are cheeping, I land a punch. My straight jab elicits a weak smack from the plastic pad in front of me, barely loud enough to register. “Again!” bellows Kritsarat Chalermthongchai, 45, looking unimpressed. The man with the long name is a former boxing champion and my trainer. I have come to the Hotel Peninsula Bangkok to learn Thai kickboxing in a Muay Thai crash course. Who was it said that travel should be educational? So I jab long and short, high and low, kicking from the side, from the front, with my knee and with my foot. When the lesson is over I stagger to the bench, exhausted. Later, in the whirlpool in the spa, realization gradually dawns on me: I really only pack a punch with a pen.
My visit starts with me drinking a glass of merlot as I gaze at the Alps. I’m here for Christian Kracht. My literary hero was born in Saanen in 1966, and I’ve come here to find him. The Huus, my base, is discreetly Swiss, modern and traditional in equal measure. I spend the evening in the sauna after failing to find the house Kracht was born in; nobody in the village could help. Wearing a backpack with a Swiss cross lent to me by the hotel, and with snowshoes from the basement on my feet, I ask around, in person and online. Months later, back home, an email arrives with a link to the old Saanen hospital. Guess who sent it? Christian Kracht!
Memmo Príncipe Real
The sweet scent of Pastéis de Nata still adheres to our fingers as we leave, heading to the squares where Fado singers croon, their audiences perched on crooked steps, listening with rapt expressions. The Calçada Portuguesa, the Portuguese pavements, wind in front of us like slippery carpets of black and white stones. Best to keep your eyes on the ground! The highlight of the day is the terrace of the Memmo Príncipe Real hotel, which hangs above the Bairro Alto like a swallow’s nest. We sit here, gaze over the city and the winding lanes and applaud ourselves for making it up here.
Hurawalhi Island Resort
Take a guess: How many islands belong to the Maldives? An astonishing 1196. Each island is fringed with fine sand and green palm trees, behind which lie stylish havens for wealthy guests. However, the uncontested star here is the Indian Ocean. So, let’s dive in and snorkel with marine biologist Lisa Bauer who looks after around 400 manta rays for the Hurawalhi Island Resort. These friendly giants, as much as five meters across, glide through the water like extraterrestrial Frisbees. I paddle alongside them and then resurface, feeling high and thoroughly enchanted, full of elation at this synchronized swimming. Later, in the underwater restaurant – yes, they have one of those here – I gaze dreamily through the glass. Blue is a warm color.
Il San Pietro Di Positano
Positano is a place whose beauty placated even a man who named his masterpiece “The Grapes of Wrath.” In 1953, John Steinbeck wrote about this picturesque little town which clings attractively to the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast: “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” OK, I’ll go – thanks for the tip, John. The most magical view of this pastel-colored cluster of houses is from Il San Pietro, the family-run hotel opposite the town. George Clooney was here recently. I wonder if he left any notes?
Hohen Demzin, Germany
I’m not a good hunter, possibly because I have never been hunting and can’t shoot. But on my way up to Schlitz Castle, through 250 hectares of private grounds, I have a vision of myself on a horse, picking off the local wildlife. Deer! Stags! Rabbits! I don’t care what I shoot as long as it’s tasty. Regrettably, the hunting season is over and so I blow the smoke off my imaginary shotgun and seek solace elsewhere – in a carriage ride through the forest, in the general grandeur that pervades the hotel, and in a four-course meal in the Crest Hall which I devour with sighs of contentment. I eat everything, down to the last few crumbs: I may not be a hunter, but I am an excellent gatherer.
Hanging Gardens Of Bali
Everyone is raving about the pool, calling it the best, the most spectacular. Truth is, you come to the Hanging Gardens of Bali expecting a combination of expanse and magnificence. The resort is an architectural masterpiece, built in the middle of the jungle in a steep valley with a view of Bali’s longest and most holy river, the Ayung. There are 44 bungalows spread over a good three hectares. We enjoy pampering at the spa, take a Balinese cookery class. At the nearby Dalem Segara temple we receive a “Balinese Blessing”. Even happier than before, we swim our lengths of the perfect pool.
Nosy Ankao, Madagascar
The color palette that greets us wouldn’t seem out of place at a Versace show: turquoise water, lush green palms, brilliant white sand. As the helicopter lands on the private island of Nosy Ankao we savor the freedom of being a long way away. We saw manta rays from above; whales are expected soon. And, yes, the sea turtles are back, and there are more than 70 000 indigenous plant species here. The newly-opened Miavana Resort is a natural paradise. I inhabit a villa, a glass cube that looks like the lair of a particularly style-conscious Bond villain, and I leave it only to play Robinson Crusoe outside.
An active holiday in the sunshine or snowy fun on the slopes? Those who dislike the cold will be lured by exotic destinations such as Thailand. However, around 13.5 million Germans prefer a (skiing) holiday with snow and crisp mountain air.
City break or trip to the Tropics? While the first weak rays of the sun struggle to pierce the thick clouds over Central Europe, Lisbon is basking in a very pleasant 20 degrees Celsius. If you prefer it 10 degrees hotter, head to the Maldives.
The long break: Most Germans take their annual leave in the summer. 57 percent want relaxation and time to unwind – ideally on a beach in southern Europe or somewhere in Germany.
Gray, windy, wet? the best way to avoid fall is to head for exotic destinations like Bali or Madagascar. Before the rainy season starts in November, the sun shines up to eight hours every day.