ELLE's idea of the perfect place to stay is small, simple and stylish, and unique in some way. We have been championing retreats like this for nearly a decade: they are usually privately owned, and all have the same remote and romantic feel as a castaway's hut on a desert island: the chic shack.
RECOMMENDED BY SUSAN WARD DAVIES ELLE TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE DIRECTOR
Hotel Ion, Iceland
One of the most otherworldly places I have ever stayed in, Hotel Ion is the very chicest of shacks. Just 25 miles from Reykjavik, in a remote lunar landscape, its 45 rooms are housed in a long, hut-like structure built on stilts and jutting out over lava fields. Standing next to a geothermic energy plant (the hotel was originally an inn for its workers), whose clouds of steam welcome you, eerily, from a distance, it was reworked by design studio Minarc into a stylish, futuristic hotel, a clever mix of urban (concrete and steel) and earthy (driftwood and lava rocks). With its indoor/outdoor Lava Spa, spectacular glass Northern Lights bar and exquisite modern Nordic menu (lamb tartare with poached egg and angelica–scented skyr or smoked trout with pickled apple), it is totally unforgettable.
Hotel Ion Nesjavellir, 801 Selfoss, Iceland; +354 482 3415; doubles from £180, room only
Fellah Hotel, Morocco
Fancy a hotel that ticks all the cool, arty and philanthropic boxes (Unesco credited, no less)? This arts-centre-cum-hotel, about 20 minutes' drive from Marrakech,
is a design junkie's dream: think Arne Jacobsen and Eames chairs alongside zellige tiles. The local villagers not only work there (one, Touco, has his own on-site tea room), but their children even get to use the kids' club. And with a constant influx of artists in residence, there are always workshops or ideas sessions going on. The Fellah's 60 spacious rooms and suites are spread between 10 villas, each with its own design and amazing, gallery-worthy, original artwork. Take a turn in the gym's boxing ring, join in cookery classes, help out at the micro farm or just chill by the pool knowing that every mojito you order is benefiting the local community. Guilt-free pleasure.
Fellah Hotel Route de Marrakech, El Jadida, Morocco; +212 525 065 000; doubles from £94, room only •
RECOMMENDED BY LIZ SIMPSON EDITOR, i-ESCAPE.COM
Playa Escondida, Mexico
I often daydream about being at Playa Escondida, swinging in a hammock, drinking icy margaritas. This little beach resort backs onto jungle and feels miles from civilisation, with its 29 rooms and villas hidden away among giant ferns and palm trees. Cheery staff smile all day, and the restaurant dishes up delicious seafood casserole with star anise and fresh ceviche with lime, chillies and avocado. Sure, you can zipline, surf and whale watch, but I mostly imagine lazing on the golden sand, soaking up the sun and quiet.
Playa Escondida #1, 63734 Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico; +52 329 291 3641;; doubles from £107, room only
Sublime Comporta, Portugal
The sleepy village of Comporta has been likened to St Tropez in the Eighties. Staying here feels as if you've been let in on a secret, yet it's just a 90-minute drive south of Lisbon. Tucked away in a pine forest, this stunning hotel's 14 bedrooms and suites look straight from the pages of ELLE Decoration. We loved the innovative tasting menus, the spa's sleeping pods for post-massage snoozes, and bike rides to empty golden beaches. Sublime, indeed.
Sublime Comporta EN 261-1, Muda, 7570-337, Comporta, Portugal; +351 269 449 376; doubles from £142, B&B, plus a bottle of wine when booked via i-escape bookers
Le Jardin des Douars, Morocco
As you pass through the gates of this countryside escape 15 minutes from Essaouira, calm slips over you like a djellaba. Botanical gardens brim with colour, and two jade pools are heated to 28°C so you can swim all year round.
The 25 rooms and three villas have traditional tiled floors and antique furniture, plus a deliberate absence of TVs and WiFi, so you're forced to switch off. It cleverly caters for both families and couples; with adult-only areas including a restaurant and candlelit hammam. Unlike other parts of Morocco, Essaouira is a year-round destination, and budget flights from London make it easy to get to.
Le Jardin des Douars Douar Sidi Yassine, Ida Oueguerd, 44000, P°/ Essaouira; +212 524 474 003; doubles from £80, B&B, plus a 30-minute hammam and black-soap exfoliation for i-escape bookers •
RECOMMENDED BY LEE THOMPSON CO-FOUNDER, THE FLASH PACK
Mango Bay Resort, Vietnam
Mango Bay is my go-to place when I need a few days of total escapism from the modern world. Phu Quoc may be well known, but this rustic-style eco-resort will make you feel as if you've discovered a secret beach. There are a range of bungalows, each with a spacious balcony, open-air shower and sea views – but no WiFi, so it is the perfect place for a digital detox.
Mango Bay Resort Ong Lang Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam; +84 773 981 693; doubles from £123, B&B
Amara Ocean Resort, Burma
With 1,200 miles of coastline, much of it long stretches of white sand, Burma is one of my top Flash Packer beach destinations. Several daily flights from Yangon to coastal Ngapali make this idyllic hideaway easy to get to yet still relatively undiscovered – think Thailand 20 years ago. The Amara Ocean Resort is my favourite, with its beautifully designed teak villas on stilts, all with sea views, just steps away from the beach.
Amara Ocean Resort No 42 D1, Aye Yeik Thar 2nd Street, Sein Lei Yeik Thar Housing, Bahan Township, Yangon, Burma; +49 89 272 1596; doubles from £190, B&B •
RECOMMENDED BY TAMARA HEBER-PERCY CO-FOUNDER, MR & MRS SMITH
Areias do Seixo, Portugal
This futuristic, glass-panelled eco-structure, less than half an hour from Lisbon, may look ultra modern from the outside, but its 14 rooms, five villas and one treehouse are charmingly rustic, with four-posters made with driftwood, and draped in soft linens and handmade patchwork quilts. Each room has a sizeable concrete-lined bathroom, but the Three Wishes' is the most impressive, with a whole wall inlaid with pebbles, a big sunken bathtub, walk-in waterfall shower, and a carved wooden tree sculpture, strung with tea lights, for after-
dark soaks. The hotel is very big on sustainability (using geothermal energy and solar power, recycling wherever possible), and if you are too, you can join one of their community-minded experiences, such as lessons in local farming.
Areias do Seixo Praceta do Atlântico, Póvoa de Penafirme, 2560-046 A dos Cunhados, Portugal; +351 261 936 340; doubles from £190, B&B
Six Senses, Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam
The winner of 'Sexiest Bedroom in the World' at the Smith Hotel Awards 2014, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is accessible only by boat. Its 58 villas are set in a beautiful, isolated, beachside spot with white sand and turquoise lagoons. The polished rustic interiors are pared back, yet luxurious. And each thatched-roof villa has its own plunge pool and elegant open-air bathroom. The spa's peaceful treatment pavilions are dotted along the hillside in the jungle, overlooking the bay.
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Ninh Hòa, Khánh Hòa, Vietnam; +84 58 3524 268; doubles from £530, B&B
Pretty Beach House, Australia
Tucked away in Bouddi National Park's treetops, Pretty Beach House has four wood-panelled lodges (the peaceful Hideaway Pavilion is my favourite) decked out with natural fabrics and locally sourced art. Each pavilion has a private terrace framed by wild plants – native gum trees and eucalyptus – with dramatic views across the Brisbane Water, and a private plunge pool. Renowned chef Stefano Manfredi devised the hotel's brilliant Italian menu of handmade pizzas and ravioli filled with seasonal ingredients, such as wild boar and mushroom. Enjoy it at a candlelit table in the wine cellar, overlooking the landscaped grounds.
Pretty Beach House 83 Highview Rd, Pretty Beach NSW 2257, Australia; +61 2 4360 1933; doubles from £903, full board, including selected drinks, minibar, snacks, a didgeridoo-smoking ceremony (with canapés and cocktails) and mountain bike hire •
RECOMMENDED BY TOM MARCHANT CO-FOUNDER BLACK TOMATO
Anemi Hotel, Greece
You'll find this little coastal hideaway on Folegandros, one of the beautiful Cyclades Islands. It may be only a 90-minute boat ride from Santorini, but couldn't be further from its neighbour's hustle and bustle, giving beach-lovers a taste of the sleepier, more traditional Greek island life. Folegandros is known for its almost primitive natural environment, and the Anemi's clean, elegant design reflects this. Right on Karavostasi Beach, the hotel's 44 whitewashed, low-rise rooms have sweeping views of the Aegean. The spacious pool suites are a hit with honeymooners, and with so few tourists, you're likely to have the sands and the clear waters to yourself. Food is a big deal here, with a strong focus on local produce and Greek wines from their own cellar.
Anemi Hotel 84 011 Karavostasis, Folegandros, Greece; +30 22860 41610; doubles from about £138, B&B
Bale Mountain Lodge, Ethiopia
Made up of just eight suites, this wilderness retreat is hidden away in the Bale Mountains National Park, in the beautiful south-central region of Ethiopia. Local stone makes rooms blend into the hillside, so as not to scare away the animals, and balconies give sweeping views of the forest.
Each room has a kitchen and a wood burner – perfect for colder nights. Take a jeep or horseback safari for the chance to see rare Ethiopian mountain wolves and Bale monkeys, or make the longer (377km) trip east to Harar, one of the most holy cities in the world.
Bale Mountain Lodge Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia; +251 912 790 802; rooms from £142, all inclusive.
For booking see blacktomato.com •
RECOMMENDED BY TOM DIXON MANAGING DIRECTOR, CANOPY & STARS
L'Ile Flottante, France
The latest creation of Rémi Becherel (France's most celebrated treehouse builder) was inspired by the remains of the castle it was built on, with mini fairy-tale turrets and
a surrounding moat with floating hot tub. There is plenty to do on the 27-acre site, but we wouldn't blame you for staying put: inside there's a king-size bed, coffee machine and even WiFi. But if you do venture out, the food in the nearby village is really very good.
L'Ile Flottante Châteaux dans les Arbres, Domaine de Puybéton, 24440 Nojals-et-Clotte, France; 0117 204 7830. Sleeps two, from £185 per night
The Treehouse at Château de Labro, France
I first stayed at the 16th-century Château de Labro on a mammoth trip through France, where it was a longed-for moment of luxury with its fabulous restaurant, spa and own vineyard. The chateau's treehouse is unexpectedly stylish and elegant, with a crystal chandelier, no less, and a welcome bottle of champagne to enjoy on the balcony overlooking the beautiful estate.
The Treehouse at Château de Labro Aveyron, Labro, 12850 Onet-le-Château, Middi Pyrenees, France; 0117 204 7830; sleeps two, from £208 per night •
RECOMMENDED BY CLAIRE BETTS LATIN AMERICAN EXPERT, LAST FRONTIERS
Galápagos Safari Camp, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
In the highlands of the island of Santa Cruz, the family-owned Galápagos Safari Camp took its inspiration from the African camps that do tented luxury so well. Built at an elevation of almost 1,600ft, making for incredible views of the northern and western islands, its nine tents are spacious, and each has electricity, a surprisingly decent bathroom and a balcony. Wandering around the camp you'll spot giant tortoises roaming freely, or finches taking a dip in the infinity pool.
This is a great place from which to explore the nearby islands if you prefer to be land- rather than boat-based at night.
Galàpagos Safari Camp Finco Palo Santo, Barrio Salasaca, Santa Cruz, Galapagos; +593 99 37 1 7552; tents for two from £1,380 for two nights, including full board and transfers
Entre Cielos Hotel, Argentina
This small, stylish hotel, in the foothills of the Andes, is surrounded by vineyards, including three hectares of Malbec vines from which the hotel's own Marantal wine is made. Of the 16 rooms, by far the quirkiest is Rosa Blanca, which sprouts from the vineyard below on stilts, with a bathtub on the terrace and a skylight for stargazing).
The main building has floor-to-ceiling windows, an excellent restaurant, and there's a pool in the lovely gardens.
Entre Cielos Hotel 1998 Guardia Vieja, Vistalba, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina; +54 0261 498 3377; Rosa Blanca room from £321, B&B ■
This article was first published in ELLE's January 2016 issue. Get our March 2017 issue to see this year's round of the best chic shacks around the world.