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Holiday Inspiration

Chic Shacks Awards 2013

By Susan Ward Davies

Susan Ward Davies: ELLE Travel Editor

Uma by Como, Paro, Bhutan

On a hill just outside the little town of Paro, Western Bhutan, is Uma Paro, a stylish boutique hotel, ringed by mountains, in what looks like an enchanted forest. The 20 rooms have amazing valley views, but I think the nine villas dotted around the grounds are the best, with wood burning stoves in the living room, kitchens, and even your own spa treatment room. When you’re not snuggled up in here, you can learn archery (the national sport) or mountain biking (if you don’t mind switch-backing down steep hairpin bends), or try the amazing ‘hot stone bath’ in the Shambhala spa. This is a luxe version of what the locals do by the riverside: hot rocks are heated in a fire for two hours, and then dropped, sizzling into a hot, herby bath. After a long wallow, flop onto a massage bed to have your muscles kneaded with oil, the perfect, pre- trekking treatment.

Uma by Como, Paro. Doubles from around £180 including breakfast. Enq 00 975 8 271597; comohotels.com/umaparo

Chris Caldicott: Travel photographer

Butts Clermont Houseboats, Kashmir

George Harrison stayed in the Claremont Houseboats in the Sixties, while learning to play the sitar, and not much has changed since. Still decorated in a retro colonial style and packed with atmosphere, rooms feature wood-panelled walls, large beds and en- suite (albeit boat-style) bathrooms. For me, staying here is as much about the spectacular location in a quiet corner of Dal Lake, as it is about elegantly faded nostalgia. Wonderful kahwa Kashmiri tea spiced with saffron and cardamon is on tap all day and you can use the shikara (local canoe) for exploring the lake.

Naseem Bagh, Dal Lake, Kashmir. Doubles from £70, full board.

Enq 00 91 194 242 0325; buttsclermonthouseboat.com

Tom Barber: Co-founder, Original Travel

Wolwedans, Namibia

Wolwedans Private Camp is one of my favourite places for desert solitude with plenty of creature comforts. It is set in the middle of a grassy plain and offers sweeping views of the NamibRand Nature Reserve. It sleeps just four, you have to book on an exclusive basis, but it makes the ideal desert hideaway. I love zoning out in a hammock or walking in the surrounding desert. There are game drives, scenic flights and hot-air ballooning to kep you entertained and you can self cater (food and drink supplied) or hire a private chef. At night there is so little light pollution that from the hammock on the deck you can see stars right down to the horizon.

Wolwedans, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia. Doubles from £198, half board. Enq wolwedans.com

Claus Sendlinger: Founder and CEO of Design Hotels

Papaya Playa Project, a Design Hotels Project

Hidden among the palm trees on the edge of a 1km-long stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, is what we call our ‘jungle-chic beach resort with an urban spirit’. The Papaya Playa Project (a recent ELLE fashion shoot location), is made up of 66 cabañas and casitas, all ecologically built using indigenous materials and Mayan construction techniques. The resort is all about music, art, food, sustainability and spirituality, and the spirit of collaboration (international team, top DJs providing the sounds) means that even guests are encouraged to play their part, with a special beach amphitheatre for readings and performances.

Papaya Playa Project, Km 4.5 Tulum Boca Paila, 
Tulum, Mexico. Doubles from £40. Enq 0800 7468357; designhotels.com

Tom Marchant: Founder of luxury holiday operator Black Tomato Group

Geejam, Jamaica

Former record producer Jon Baker’s original Jamaican hotel is an institution. Catering to a cool, rockstar crowd (Gwen Stefani, Rihanna and Wyclef Jean…). Geejam, and its on-site studio, have reached legendary status. Smack in the middle of the lush rainforest, I find the peace and isolation here is the opposite of Jamaica’s generally overdeveloped tourism environment. With just three cabins, one suite, and a three-bedroom villa, and its very own Wi-Fi -enabled private beach on Mack Bay, Geejam really bucks the trend in providing pure seclusion. Room interiors are inspired by musical genres, with art work and furnishings courtesy of the likes of Banksy, Juergen Teller and Philippe Starck. The three-bedroom Sanwood villa looks like something from the Hollywood Hills , and the Drum & Bass studio suite has a ridiculously large patio overlooking the bay. With its unique mix of wilderness, luxury and seclusion, Geejam is easily one of my favourite hotels in the Caribbean.

San San,
Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica. Doubles from £245, B&B. Enq 00 1876 993 7000; 00 1876 618 8000; geejamhotel.com

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