Marrakech is one of the most colourful and vibrant cities on earth but hardly one of the most relaxing! A low-stress way to enjoy it and see more of the region is to stay at the boutique hotel of Tigmi, 15 miles outside the city on the edge of a Berber village. It comprises just 24 luxurious rooms built in traditional style using local materials, and is set among beautiful gardens with two pools, where you can swim while gazing across the desert at the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. When you feel you’ve relaxed enough, simply book a taxi (30 min) to Marrakech for haggling and sightseeing, before being whisked back for the hammam treatment in the spa, followed by an authentic dinner of Moroccan cuisine.
Travel with The Best of Morocco (0800 171 2151; www.morocco-travel.com)
Sitting on the summit of the city’s Montjuïc Mountain and swathed in lush gardens, the Miramar is a former Art Deco palace that truly lives up to its name (miramar means ‘view of the sea’). Combining original features with contemporary flair – including Philippe Starck bathrooms – the hotel, which has an indoor and outdoor pool, a spa and a terrace restaurant, is a classic urban oasis, yet just half a mile from the hustle and bustle of the Ramblas in the city centre.
Travel with The Kiwi Collection (020 3318 9541; www.kiwicollection.com)
A delightful rambling retreat in the 200-year-old artists’ hamlet of Ville d’Avray, just outside Versailles – which is a delight in its own right, as well as having easy rail links to Paris. The Etangs de Corot is set in a peaceful landscape of ponds, gardens and courtyards, has 40 individually decorated rooms and a renowned art gallery and a spa offering vinotherapy. Dine on French cuisine surrounded by reproductions of Corot’s works, or in summer on the restaurant terrace, raised on stilts over the ponds.
Travel with Small Luxury Hotels (00 800 525 48000; www.slh.com)
You might also like...
The hotel: The Residence
This fascinating city, complete with exotic souk, a fantastic collection of Roman mosaics at the Bardo museum, the pretty seaside town of Sidi Bou Said and the archaeological site of Carthage, also boasts the countrys best hotel. The Residence, a £10-ish taxi ride from town, is a five-star triumph of design. After a day haggling for bargains in the city, you can retreat to the sauna, hammam, fitness centre and indoor pool, sip cocktails in the lounge and enjoy three restaurants (Tunisian, Mediterranean and Chinese). In summer theres also a huge outdoor pool, a stretch of sandy beach and a club for children.
Travel with Kirker (020 7593 2288; www.kirkerholidays.co.uk)
Situated on the banks of the Thames, with lawns reaching down to the water, the Runnymede offers a remarkable feeling of escape, despite its proximity to London (it’s just off the M25 or a five-minute cab ride from Egham station, served by frequent trains from Waterloo). The hotel is very family friendly, has a good spa, large pool and a wide choice of restaurants, which all overlook the river, with outside tables during the summer. The website is packed with things to do in the area, from boating on the river to outings to nearby Legoland in Windsor.
Book direct: 01784 220961; www.runnymedehotel.com
Every schoolchild knows that Rome was built on seven hills. But only a few grown-ups know you can stay on top of one of them, in the stunning Cavalieri, which feels more like a resort. It spreads over 15 acres of private parkland and has a 25-metre outdoor pool, an 800-metre fitness trail, tennis courts, a huge gym and activities that include training in gladiatorial skills! The hotel, which is the ideal escape from the hectic rounds of seeing the Vatican, St Peter’s, the Forum, Colosseum (above), Pantheon and the historic quarter, is full of artworks, and all rooms have balconies (some with city views). Plus, there’s a Michelin three-star Pergola restaurant with stunning views to match the cuisine and service.
Travel with Citalia (0844 415 1987; www.citalia.com)
This boaty place, slap-bang on the water at Nacka Strand and named after the America’s Cup J-class yachts, is more seaside than city, yet only a 15-minute taxi ride from downtown – or you can arrive by boat from the Nybroviken. The feel is utterly Swedish, the style both cool and cosy, the decor pure white with blue-and-white-striped fabrics and pale oak furniture. There’s a real fire, candles and the warmest of welcomes from the team. The restaurant is a two-minute stroll away, overlooking a tiny marina. There’s a small spa, hobie cats (small catamarans) for hire (lessons available), swimming and boat trips to the archipelago.
Travel with Mr & Mrs Smith (0845 034 0700; www.mrandmrssmith.com)
In 10 acres of private parkland, this amazing hotel has views over Lake Geneva and the Alps. Its a less-than-10-minute drive from the city centre (and just five from the airport), and youll find an outdoor pool, tennis courts and a spa with aroma, hydro, shiatsu, hot stone and Ayurvedic therapies, plus an indoor pool. There are four restaurants, interiors by Jacques Garcia and a bar where the cool crowd hangs out.
Book direct: 00 41 22 959 5959; www.lareserve.ch