Ten great places to stay: exclusive

“It’s not about the destination, but about the journey”, said a wise man, a long time ago. And still… We don’t mind a fabulous destination from time to time. After our shortlist on the places we’d recommend you staying if you’re on an average traveller’s budget, we’ve gathered another ten which offer more exclusive overnights. For travellers who don’t mind spending the extra buck for that one, very special experience. Enjoy!

DOMAINE DE SALENTE (FRANCE)

Often we doubt whether we should rate a place great or awesome. Most good places are great, but the Domaine de Salente is so much more than that. If you want quietness, amazing comfort, delicious food – trust us on this one – and gobsmackingly beautiful views over the vineyards in the Montpellier area, then this is the place to be.

Behind its stoney facades, The Domaine de Salente, located in the valley of Herault, at the gates of the city of Gignac, hides a haven of peace and relaxation. Owner Bénédicte welcomes you warmly in her property nestled in the heart of 30 hectares of vineyards and scrubland, while enjoying a breathtaking view of the “Tuscan Languedocienne” brought to flavour by lavender and thyme scents.

Today, Domaine de Salente offers four entirely renovated rooms with a modern look and an equally warm atmosphere, where the soul of the house is fully respected, as well as your comfort. They were designed as an invitation to discover the property landscapes. If you have the opportunity, book the big room on the ground floor: it’s designed and decorated by the owner herself, just as the common spaces of this B&B. Amazing stay!

Price range: medium.

See the Domaine de Salente.

CHÂTEAU DE VAULX (FRANCE)

Ever wanted to stay overnight in a castle, located in a valley and surrounded by a wonderful natural park? Search no further: the Chateau de Vaulx is exactly what you’re looking for.

This castle was built in the 14th century, but has been modified and expanded until the beginning of the 20th century. In the 19th century, the castle was the property of the Geoffray family – in particular Léon Geoffray – who was French Ambassador in Spain and one of the key contributors to the reconciliation of United Kingdom and France before World War I.

Everything about this castle is enormous and spectacularly memorable, as is the love and flair with which the owners have restored, decorated and furnished their home. The extensive views from their hill-top avenue are no less than illustrious. Whatever the season of your visit, the wonderful garden and grounds will stun you. Add to that a charming landscape stippled with romantic old villages and Romanesque churches, grazed by Charolais cattle and alive with birdsong…

Really, what more could you wish for?

Price range: medium.

See the Château de Vaulx.

HAHOLMEN HAVSTUER (NORWAY)

What can we say: the Haholmen Havstuer is a splendid hotel located near the majestic Atlantic Road – on the island of Haholmen. Being on an island means that it’s not really ‘on’ the road, but the access to the boat that brings you to the hotel is. It offers cosy, cabin-style rooms with free Wi-Fi, original wooden floors and private bathrooms. Some are housed in traditional buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Whatever your preferences are, know that you won’t starve, nor die of thirst on the island. Whether you like an easy-going  newspaper with a hot cup of coffee (The old bakery café) , a light bite or drink (The Silver Bell Pub) or looking for hearty Norwegian seafood (Ytterbrygga Restaurant), the place won’t let you down. Nor will it bore you, as the hotel offers cruises and fishing trips on various vessels, including copies of a Viking ship and a traditional 1950s fishing boat.  The hotel’s Saga Siglar Hall tells the history of the area and local shipwrecks, a must hear and see!

Please note that there’s a parking spot for your motorcycle at the access point to the vessel, but it’s not secured. If you really want a closed garage, you might want to ask the hotel whether they can arrange something. Just for your peace of mind – which goes perfect with this hotel. (Basic Rooms – Norwegian Prices)

Price range (basic rooms): Norwegian prices.

See the Haholmen Havstuer.

CASA DE SAN MARTIN (SPAIN)

If you want to relax and enjoy a calm place after a demanding ride, this place will prove to be no less than heaven on earth! The hotel is purposely hidden far away from the main road, as the owners wanted it to be a perfect refuge for anyone wanting to relax with a good book, or take long and relaxing walks in the surrounding countryside.

The house has a character and charm all of its own – a place where there is no need to hurry anything…

The property of San Martin dates back over a thousand years having once belonged to the oldest monastery in Spain. Welcoming guests upon arrival at the entrance is a statuesque elm tree, affording shade from the morning sun. More of a night type of person? Then you might find the balconies and terraces to provide to be an opportunity to sit and take in the ever-changing mountain scenery, particularly at night when shooting stars abound.

Sounds about perfect, doesn’t it? Well, it sort of is: the rooms are very cosy and charming, the food is stunning and the views on the Pyrénées just magnificent. The property consists of 92 hectares and is surrounded by forests of pines and oaks, which seems about enough for anyone who’s into nature and stillness. To conclude with the perfect example: they don’t even own a television.

Price range: high.

See the Casa de San Martin.

PARADOR ALARCON (SPAIN)

Having witnessed more than 13 centuries of history, the Parador de Alarcón will take you right back to the Middle Ages with its historic features, especially the castle tower and its age-related red and orange textiles.

Balancing high upon the rugged Pico de los Hidalgos in a meander of the Júcar River, almost as if it were an eagle’s nest, the Parador overlooks one of Spain’s most captivating little villages. You’ll quickly discover that it’s no wonder Alarcón has been declared an Area of Artistic-Historical Importance due to its beauty and harmony…

Apart from the town, the alluring waters of the Jucar River will provide the possibility to go sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing and fishing. The river slows as it passes Alarcón, flowing through many delightful spots, and encircling and protecting the town’s former fortress.

Situated around 180 km from Madrid and 170 km from Valencia, Alarcon is an ideal spot to spend a weekend and get away from it all – while still being within riding distance of some more lively cities who are well worth a visit.

Price range (ask for the tower room):  medium/high.

See the Parador Alacron.

SU GOLOGONE (ITALY)

An ‘experience hotel’, that’s how Su Gologone presents itself. The hotel resides in the heart of Barbagia – a part of the island rich in traditions and history.

A wonderful area, in which ancient olive trees and vineyards cling to the slopes of the mountainous Supramonte area, where the air is pregnant with myrtle and rosemary scents. Just close your eyes and try to imagine. Surprisingly not situated at the coast – but a mere twentyfive kilometers from the nearest beach – the hotel is surrounded by Mediterranean flora, while every detail of the hotel reflects the character of its location.

The furnishings and materials – juniper wood, terracotta and inlaid plaster – are deeply authentic. Today, travellers are welcomed by Pasqua and her daughter, Giovanna. The latter has transformed the hotel into a world-renowned destination, creating interiors which feature the works of major Sardinian artists and furnishings made in Su Gologone’s own Botteghe d’Arte. She also designed alfresco settings such as the Terrazzo del Sogni, Terrazzo dei Desideri and Magico Tablao bar, and plenty of hidden corners you’ll discover during your stay.

Prepare for warm hospitality, untainted nature, enduring customs and mouth-watering cuisine (gnocchi al Finochietti for exemple). Seems perfect, right? Well, it kind of is, although we would suggest to avoid school holidays and August altogether…

Price range: high.

See the Su Gologne.

HOTEL AIRE DE BARDENAS (SPAIN)

What do you get when you ask architects Emiliano Lopez and Monica Rivera to design a hotel, using primarily glass, steel and wood? The amazing Aire de Bardenas hotel!

This must be one of the best hotels in the area of the Bardenas, being very cosy and welcoming, but very modern at the same time. Nothing you’ve ever seen before. Built alongside the Bardenas Reales National Park, Hotel Aire de Bardenas sits in a rocky wheat field, appearing as if it had just ‘landed’ there overnight. Built using dry construction techniques and iron, stone, glass and wood, the hotel consists of twentytwo single-storey rooms – some with exterior bathtubs – spread alover the harsh terrain, while wooden crates, a typical sight in the area’s crop fields, are used as wind- breaking boundary walls. Need to get out, from time to time?

In that case a ride through the park will offer you stunning lunar landscapes, while a daytrip to the city of Tudela and its 12th-century cathedral will prove to be a real treat too. If you have the possibility to pick rooms, we’d suggest you to go for the ones in the front, as they will offer you an immaculate view on the landscape at sunrise.

The food is delicious with tasty vegetables from the garden, while the staff will do everything to be as welcoming and attentive as it gets. Amazing place to stay.

Price range: high.

See the Hotel Aire de Bardenas.

CONSOLACION (SPAIN)

Brace yourself for one of the best hotels in Spain – if we could decide, that is. It features only twelve rooms, and rates are all but cheap. But in return you get great food and a boat load of deafening silence.

It’s quite difficult to put Consolacion into one specific category: it’s not really a boutique hotel although it has a proper amount of boutique charisma. And even though it’s located in the middle of a natural paradise, neither is it a countryside hotel. It sort of combines both, soaked in design. You only have to eyeball the combination of the modern cubes and the outhouse to know what we mean.

But it is truly brilliant if you’re looking to bathe in luxury while spending some time in the middle of the mountainous and truly gorgeous Matarraña region – without a doubt one of Spain’s most beautiful – and rather ‘undiscovered’ – regions. As every room comes with giant windows pointed at the mountains, the views are mind boggling – from sunrise until far after sunset.

The owners have a passion for what they do, not only accommodation wise but also in making fine cuisine an integral part of the Consolación experience. Great hotel, great food and an atmosphere you would never want to leave behind. Don’t think twice, just book.  

Price range: medium/high.

See the Consolacion.

CORTIJO DEL MARQUES (SPAIN)

If we’d have to pick one place to run a Motorcycle Diaries-hotel from, this would without a doubt be the one. For starters the location: the Cortijo del Marqués is a historical property in the countryside, hidden outside the old village of Deifontes, church inclusive.

Granada is just 20 kilometers away, where the marvels of the Alhambra palace and the Albayzin quarter await you. The history of the property has so far been traced back to about 500 years ago, though the Roman columns in one of the hotel rooms whisper of a still richer story. But it is the perfect place to wind down and relax as well: surrounded by olive groves with wide swept views of the surrounding mountain ranges, the current owners have restored this property mixing old world charm with modern comforts. The rooms are great, the food fantastic, the staff is beyond wonderful.

Last but not least, it is  is also a perfect base for a number of outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, horse riding, or hiking. The only thing that may surprise you about this hotel, is that due to the fact that’s been run by an Austrian/Dutch couple, it lacks a bit of the real Andalucian atmosphere – but you’ll find plenty of that surrounding the place.

P.S.:  the gravel road that leads to the hotel is easy, don’t let this one obstacle scare you!

Price range: medium/high.

See the Cortijo del Marques.

WHITEPOD (SWITZERLAND)

Yes, you’re absolutely right – this ain’t actually a real hotel. But although some of you might describe Whitepod as a camping, that doesn’t quite cut it either, as it is not camping in the traditional way. This is Glamping. Eco Glamping. And we loved it.

Since its creation in 2004, Whitepod aims to prove that hospitality and environmental conservation can coexist: the use of energy and water is controlled, any waste is recycled, ingredients are purchased locally, and the staff lives nearby and simply walks to work.

Sleeping in a pod heated by a pellet stove facing an breathtaking view: places like this have a direct impact on your mood. Maybe some people will not like the fact that you can’t park in front of the door and you have to get there by foot, but there’s a luggage service, at any time you arrive and from 9 am – so just don’t leave early! The food in the restaurant is great, as are the loads of walking trails for early morning walks! The views are amazing, the concept simple, the set up very different from anything we’ve ever tried before.

Well worth considering if you’re tired of traditional hotels.

Price range: high.

See the Whitepod.

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