With winter winding down, we’d like to get away for some spring sunshine. Are there any interesting new hotels opening and where are the best places to go at this time of year for some rays and relaxation?
There are so many wonderful new hotel openings this year that it’s hard to pick just a few. But your request for some sunshine at the start of the year does help me narrow it down.
Let’s start with south-east Asia. It’s a thrilling region to visit at any time of year – beaches, jungle, wildlife, wonderful people and exotic food.
One of the most exciting recent openings in the region has been in Vietnam. It’s a Six Senses resort on the island of Con Dao, part of a picture-postcard archipelago off the south-east coast. The resort has 50 villas with up to four bedrooms and each has an infinity pool, indoor/outdoor bathroom and miles of polished teak and blousy white cotton.
As you’d expect from Six Senses, there’s a gorgeous spa offering Thai therapies, yoga, fresh juices and traditional Vietnamese treatments. And now for the damage; it costs from around £400 a night at this time of year, but check the website for packages and you might get a deal on meals and spa treatments alongside your accommodation. Find flights to Vietnam
In neighbouring Laos, it can get up to the 30 degrees C in February and March, and monthly average rainfall is low, so beyond the occasional shower you’ll be able to sun yourself all day. One of the most exciting new trips in the country, launching in February, is to Shangri-Lao, a luxury camp and expedition base. It’s in the Huay Sae region, 12km from Luang Prabang, and claims to be on the site of the jungle camp used by one of the early European explorers to the area. In the 19th Century, the Frenchman Dr Neis, visited Huay Sae to learn more about the tribes living there.
Guests are invited to book on one to four night expeditions that follow his original route, be it on foot, by horse or by elephant. There’s also bamboo rafting and a chance to learn more about animal welfare and local conservation. True to the Neis story, even the furniture in the tents is 19th century – there’s not a camp bed in sight. Find flights to Laos
If you’re happy to go a little further in search of your vitamin D, how about Australia? One exciting new development this year is the launch by the Great Southern Rail company of a new route, the Southern Spirit, this month. Fly to Adelaide, Melbourne or Brisbane to start one of its five or six-day trips. It’s a region that will be grateful for your tourism when it recovers from the current flooding.
The train between Brisbane and Adelaide calls at the Grampians, the Hunter Valley, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay, among other stop-offs and costs from £2,300 for six days including all meals.
Also in Australia, but this time a little further north in the Northern Territories, is another exciting opening – although you’ll have to wait until April to check in. It’s the Wildman Wilderness Lodge in the Mary River Wetlands just outside Kakadu National Park. It will have 10 cabins and 15 luxury tents with either air conditioning or fans and all have ensuite bathrooms. Guests can opt for sunrise or sunset cruises, wildlife spotting trips, picnics, rainforest walks and fishing. Tents cost from £136 a night including breakfast and dinner. Find flights to Australia
Coming back towards Europe, how about a foodie-themed hotel in Drakenstein, South Africa? Babylonstoren is a new hotel on a 200-hectare farm, much of it faithful to its Cape Dutch roots, with an ornate fowl house, pigeon loft, leaning bell tower and courtyard. There are 14 cottages dotted among the vineyards, fruit groves and vegetable gardens.
Guests can wander the farm, picking its produce and helping with the harvesting, or take a canoe trip, go walking or bird-watching, or just enjoy the gym, spa and swimming pool. The hotel is 60km from Cape Town and costs from £365 a night including breakfast, but keep an eye on the website for packaged deals. Find flights to South Africa