THE UTOPIA ISSUE

Off-The-Grid Hotels With On-Point Aesthetics

These properties in some of the earth’s most remote locations prove you don’t have to sacrifice style to get away from it all.

Punta Caliza, Mexico

Dangling off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, this wisp of sand is the spiritual counterbalance to Mexico’s spring-break meccas—picture miles of powdery beaches where bicycles and golf carts outnumber cars and colorful hammocks stretch between wooden posts that seem to float on the sea. Though the Mexican cognoscenti have vacationed here for years, the island is still largely under the radar thanks to a dearth of chain hotels, late-night clubs, or bars. What you will find: Punta Caliza, a new limestone and sustainable red cedar property ensconced among knotty mangroves less than five minutes from the shore and inspired by the surrounding Yum Balam nature reserve. In keeping with the locale’s reputation for laid-back luxury, the geometric layout references traditional Mayan architecture, with a central pool connecting chukum-walled structures housing 12 guest rooms, each with direct access to canals that feel like your own private reservoir. From $220, puntacaliza.com

Dá Licença, Portugal

If Dá Licença feels like the set of some avant-garde foreign-language film there’s good reason: Surrounded by about 13,000 olive trees on 300 acres in Portugal’s bucolic Alentejo region, the eight-room property is the brainchild of owners and friends, Victor Borges, a painter and former textile director at Hermès, and Franck Laigneau, a one-time theater and television actor, trapeze artist, and art historian with a specialty in Jugendstil (a Scandinavian form of art nouveau with graphic and geometric styles). A five-year renovation completed in collaboration with local firm Procale converted the original 1840s agricultural buildings into a minimalist retreat with private gardens, granite floors, marble sinks and tubs, Borges-designed side tables, lamps, decorative items that he had manufactured by a local craftspeople, and blankets from Mizete Nielsen. Most of the furnishings reference the arts and crafts movement and are paired with contemporary art, including large-scale steel installations by Portuguese sculptor Rui Chafes and ceramics by visual artist Susana Piteira. From 270 euros ($304), dalicenca.pt

Tierra Chiloé Hotel & Spa, Chile

Taking its visual cues from the colorful palafitos (stilt houses) that dot the capital city of Castro, Tierra Chiloé is a contemporary stunner that pays homage to the local vernacular with its shingled architecture, dramatic overhangs, and sustainable lenga and Patagonian cypress-wood construction. The work of Antonio Lipthay of Mobil Arquitectos and designers Alexandra Edwards and Carolina del Piano, the building showcases its natural setting while providing a stylish backdrop. Witness the living room, where an earthy palette and low-slung wood seating keeps the focus on the view through glass walls; the woodsy theme continues in 24 guest rooms, as well as in a bunker-like spa with a sleek indoor-outdoor pool. Guests will enjoy the sea views, living rooms with fireplaces, dining areas, and private terraces, found in all the guest rooms, as well as Williche, the hotel’s own boat, which is designed like a traditional Chiloé fishing boat and shuttles guests to other nearby islands in the Chiloé archipelago for touring some 30 UNESCO-designed churches as well as outdoor activities like cycling, hiking, and sea kayaking. From $1,500, all-inclusive for two nights, tierrahotels.com

Freycinet Lodge, Tasmania

Occupying 16 acres on the far east coast of Tasmania, Freycinet Lodge is a plush escape nestled within Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, known for its red-and-pink granite coastline and rare flora and fauna. Since opening, in 1930, the resort has undergone several renovations, but none more stylish than its latest transformation in 2018, which added nine new coastal pavilions inspired by the asymmetry of local rock formations. Designed by Liminal Studio, the curvilinear glass-and-wood cabins overlook Coles Bay, while wraparound wooden decks offer a truly immersive experience. From $299 AUS ($211 USD), freycinetlodge.com.au

The Kumaon, Almora, India

An eight-hour drive from the capital city of Delhi, The Kumaon promises elegant isolation: The 10-room haven resides in a Himalayan forest on a mountain ridge high above the city of Almora. Sri Lanka’s Zowa Architects’ Pradeep Kodikara, a disciple of architect Geoffrey Bawa, and partner Jineshi Samaraweera blended tropical modernism with alpine chic, uniting natural materials like stone, wood, and bamboo with contemporary luxuries (bathrooms feature rain showers with walls of glass that look out on private gardens) and pinewood doors, woven textiles, and copper-and-stone accessories created by local artisans. A communal main building features a library, restaurant, and rooftop lounge overlooking the Himalayas, and rooms housed in five freestanding structures are arranged one on top of the other, allowing for privacy as well as a reduced footprint on the landscape. From 11,649 rupees ($163), thekumaon.com

Kai Sengokuhara, Japan

Billed as an “atelier meets hot-spring ryokan,” Kai Sengokuhara seems to rise from the Kanagawan forest floor with warm wood, reflective glass, and stone-clad walls. Everything on property honors the preternatural setting, from the artwork to the room keys, which were crafted by a local artist from dried flowers native to the area. In the lobby, a water feature made with cedar, lava stone, and moss references the iconic onsens and defining elements of the nearby Hakone region. Starting at the entrance, plaster craftsman Naoki Kusumi created a stunning wall reflective of the region’s strength. The 16 rooms and restaurant hew to the aesthetic with minimalist furnishings in subdued shades and terrace plunge pools filled with naturally antibacterial water from the Owakudani volcanic valley. Guests are left feeling refreshed and recharged; nightly workshops also teach them how to decorate a tenugui, a Japanese hand towel, allowing them to leave with a variety of takeaways.
From 37,000 JPY ($340), including two daily meals, kai-ryokan.jp

Berber Family Lodge, Morocco

The latest in Studio KO’s impressive roster of fashionable Marrakech properties is a nine-room oasis brought to life in collaboration with interior designer and owner Romain Michel Meniere and landscape designer Arnaud Casaus. The Berber Family Lodge pays homage to local architectural practices as much as the beauty of Morocco’s natural resources: All the bricks were crafted with materials on site, and floors and walls are made from local clay, straw, and limestone; roofs utilize fallen bamboo and eucalyptus as well as palm fronds. The nature-hued visual restraint continues inside, where each minimalist lodge features understated rattan furnishings, Berber antiques, and adobe fireplaces. The vibrant colors of the region come through in the rugs, pillows, and other locally made textiles. From 195 euros ($220), berberlodge.net

The Bunkers, Belgium

An 18th-century fortress got the Belgian-modern treatment at The Bunkers, a rough-luxe bed and breakfast on the outskirts of the country’s northern coast, just a 15-minute drive from Bruges. Local architects Govaert & Vanhoutte, Antwerp interior designer Kristof Goossens, and Kluisbergen landscape architect Leon Van Haesebrouck converted the existing farmhouse structures into a collection of five individually appointed guest homes, each clad in African afromosia wood and featuring concrete floors and a sophisticated palette of black, white, and gray. A former jail and watch house have become the centerpiece of the property, with a Vipp powder-coated black kitchen, a heated indoor swimming pool (it’s connected by an underground tunnel to an infrared sauna), and a glass-walled living room. Guests are encouraged to take in the remoteness of the region from The Observer, a central art piece on the property, which allows guests to climb up and gaze for nearly five miles through open fields and uninterrupted landscapes. From 215 euros ($242), thebunkers.be

Catuçaba Hideaway, Brazil

Sustainability meets style at Catuçaba Hideaway, a four-bedroom LEED-certified private rental home designed and owned by in-demand Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan and design partner Lair Reis. Floating above a verdant valley in the UNESCO-protected Serra do Mar wilderness, under three hours outside São Paulo, the eco-retreat employs solar panels, photovoltaics, and a small wind turbine to power the single-story rectangular structure, which is crafted from regional timber and features a ceramic wood-burning stove by Dutch designer Dick van Hoff. In keeping with the back-to-nature aesthetic, the four bedrooms are spare yet chic, with copper tubs and sinks, decorative objects made by local artisans, and access to a wraparound terrace that overlooks a 12,000-acre farm. There is, however, one unexpected flourish. When closed, glass walls are concealed by accordian-folding bamboo shades, while four square windows stand out with shutters painted in striking Yves Klein blue. From $1,000, offgridhideaways.com

Deplar Farm, Iceland

The Northern Lights may dance overhead, but it’s hard to turn your eyes away from the aesthetics at Deplar Farm, on Northern Iceland’s remote Troll Peninsula. The former sheep farm was transformed into a traditional yet modern refuge by homegrown architecture firm Kollgáta and London’s No. 12 Interiors, but the 13 rooms remain true to the property’s spirit. Beyond the turf roof, local materials like wool wall coverings and blue basalt stone appear throughout the hotel, and guest rooms provide a plush landing—think Serge Mouille–inspired sconces, cozy leather wingback chairs, and rustic sheepskins—after adventures in heli-skiing. But the highlight is a heated pool and swim-up bar that seem to disappear into the mountainside and are perfectly sited to take in the beauty of the dramatic night sky. From 312,000 ISK ($2,575), elevenexperience.com

Shinta Mani Wild, The Bensley Collection, Cambodia

Hospitality VIP Bill Bensley has designed more than 200 of the world’s most jaw-dropping properties for top luxury brands—including St. Regis Resort, Bali; Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in Puerto Rico; and Four Seasons Hualalai, in Hawaii, to name a few—but his own tented conservation camp in the Cambodian jungle puts them to shame. Not a single tree was felled to create the 15 suites, which are luxuriously appointed with custom furnishings and antiques from the architect’s personal collection and hover over a river and waterfalls (the team had to rely on manual labor and buffalos to help transport materials). In addition to the stunning rooms, the accommodations feature an eye-catching steel swimming pool that rests above a monolithic rock adjacent to the river, and a 1,150-foot zipline that drops guests directly into the hotel bar. From $2,345, shintamani.com

Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

With its 12 safari lodges located throughout five regions in Africa, Singita has earned a unique reputation for offering top-notch luxury service and accommodations in some of the most remote parts of the world. Their latest unveiling—completed in February of this year—is the renovation of the nine rooms at their Faru Faru Lodge, located 200 miles from Arusha. Here, the design team of Cecile and Boyd, responsible for all of the Singita properties, renovated the 13-year-old property, resulting in Scandinavian-modern minimalism mixed with African hand-craftsmanship. Textures take over in this neutral palette of beiges and creams, with rattan, grained woods, natural clay, and crisp linens giving lots of depth, without detracting from the wilderness outside. Many of the furnishings and accessories were made locally, and African tribal patterns are subtly incorporated throughout. The living and dining areas were expanded, and additional enclosed dining and lounge areas were added to provide more spaces for leisure. New seating areas closer to the exterior provide more vantage points for viewing the surrounding 350,000-acre Serengeti Mara, including its wildebeest, millions of which migrate directly through the property every year. From $1,475, singita.com

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