Leisure: Luxury in the WILD

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FORGET about clichéd luxury hotels on idyllic islands — there are now so many of them that you wouldn’t have to travel far to visit one, although your wallet might take a hard hit. This holiday season, instead of sitting by yet another beach sipping pina coladas and staring at the rolling waves, escape to one of these wilderness resorts — not all are located in the jungle, by the way — and unwind, while tasting some local cuisine and admiring the beauty of nature that surrounds you.

And Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania

The largest caldera in the world looks like a valley. The view from the lodge is fabulous.

Situated in the heart of the Tanzanian wilderness, the Ngorongoro Crater is a designated Unesco heritage site and home to Africa’s largest mammals, all of which roam around the vast area freely. It’s the biggest inactive, unfilled and intact caldera in the world. Today, it looks like a valley that stretches as far out as the eye can see, and the all-glass walls of the lodge’s rooms are a treat for anyone to see.

The And Beyond Lodge features handcrafted thatched suites that are made from wood, and adorned with antique furniture that’s fit for a king.

A one-night stay at the And Beyong Ngorongoro Crater Lodge starts at US$1,000 (RM3,350) per person per night. For more info, visit http://www.andbeyond.com/ngorongoro-crater-lodge/

SnowCastle of Kemi, Finland

It is a true feat of dedication and engineering to rebuild the world’s largest ice hotel each year with a different design and theme. The team at SnowCastle of Kemi, located in Finland has been accomplishing this task for two decades now, and this year, they are celebrating their 20th anniversary.

Although the resort’s ambient temperature of -5°C is frigid for most people, it’s a once in a lifetime experience that one should not miss. Being able to watch the magnificent aurora borealis (Northern Lights) that light up the Arctic sky over the winter months is something that most of us can only dream of.

There is also a SnowRestaurant and SnowChapel within the grounds of the hotel, where guests can dine on hot dishes and pray or get married, if they want to! The chapel hosts a variety of events from weddings to christenings each year.

This winter, the SnowCastle of Kemi will be opened from Jan 25 to April 4, and a single room at the hotel starts from €155 (RM642) per person, per night. For more info, please visit http://www.visitkemi.fi/en/snowcastle?ption=com_content

Qasr al-Sarab, United Arab Emirates

A swiming pool beside sand dunes in the desert. That is what UAE’s Qasr al-Sarab offers.

Qasr al-Sarab, located in the mystical desert of Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter is a testament to the prowess of the oil-rich nations.

It’s a luxury hotel that is surrounded by golden sand dunes that stretch far across the horizon; the Liwa Desert, which is one of the largest uninterrupted sand deserts in the world. The hotel grounds sports lush green palm trees, designer pools and green grass that you would never otherwise see in the middle of a desert. Each room is tastefully decorated with Arab themes, and all feature either a balcony or terrace for guests to enjoy the desert’s beautiful sights.

There is a luxurious spa, an adventure challenge (not for the faint of heart), a variety of dining options, and even the perfect setting for a wedding.

Room rates at Qasr al-Sarab start from 1,825 Emirati Dirham (RM1,633) per night. For more info, visit http://qasralsarab.anantara.com/

Fox & Hounds Country Hotel, United Kingdom
A hidden gem in quaint North Devon, is a tree house that every kid has only dreamed of. Built upon the grounds of the Fox & Hounds Country Hotel is a luxury tree house with a king-sized bedroom, bunk room, copper bath and shower, fitted kitchen, and a large terrace overlooking a fishing lake.

The hotel also caters for weddings, and family and pet holidays would be perfect in this natural setting. Rates for the tree house suite starts from £250 (RM1,313) per night. For more info, visit http://www.foxandhoundshotel.co.uk/news-events-/luxury-tree-house

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Canada

In the heart of the Canadian Rockies, nestled in between the Columbia Icefield Glacier, sits The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The majestic views here are second to none; the hotel sits right by a glacial lake called “Lake Louise” — named after Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.

The lake is tinted bright aquamarine from the sediment slow from the glaciers atop the mountain which during winter, freezes over, allowing visitors to skate out in the open air. Half the year, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains are lined with a blanket of pure white snow, and skiing and snowboarding are popular sports for visitors here.

Wildlife can be seen all over the national park, from bears (including Grizzly bears) to deer and moose.

Rates at The Fairmont, Banff Springs start from C$299 (RM878) per night. For more info, visit http://www.fairmont.com/lake-louise/

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 10, 2014.