ARCTIC BATH, Sweden
This newly opened sustainable spa, made up of six cabins floating on a river, taps into the healing effects of nature in the remote landscape of Swedish Lapland, said to be Europe’s last true wilderness. In winter, the Lule River freezes around the wooden structures of Arctic Bath and brave guests can take a cure of daily ice baths under the dark skies, alternating with hot stone massages and sessions in the four surrounding saunas. Food is local, seasonal and sustainable. Designed to showcase the beauty of the vast arctic skies and the famous aurora borealis, floating walkways connect the cabins to the shore. Nearby is the little-visited fishing village of Harads, a launchpad for days spent dogsledding or snowmobiling across this white wonderland.
DAR AHLAM, Ouarzazate, Morocco
In the deep midwinter, Morocco offers just the escape we crave: the crystalline light of the dry desert air beyond the Atlas Mountains, the scent of pink-tinted almond blossom, the sun-baked earth under foot. Dar Ahlam translates as “house of dreams”, and at this 19th-century kasbah, its current iteration created by the Parisian party planner Thierry Teyssier, a sense of theatricality is what defines the rhythm of the days. Picnic lunches are suddenly conjured in palm groves, massages are offered on a roof terrace or you will find yourself, after a sensational hammam, enjoying a candle-lit supper in a newly rose-garlanded bower. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are quad bikes and camel rides to nearby gorges and fortified villages, while children can ride donkeys through the palm plantations. Book with cazloyd.com
THE PARKER, Palm Springs
The Parker, on the estate formerly home to singing cowboy Gene Autry and later the pleasuredome of gameshow host Merv Griffin, has always been the place for a good time. A ’50s design classic with a ping-pong table, croquet lawn and two pools immortalised in many a Slim Aarons fashion shoot, it’s defined by its hip retro vibe. In the hotel restaurant, Mister Parker, for instance, a dimly lit cave of a room inspired by Studio 54, guests are given flashlights so they can see their food arrive. Bedrooms feature shagpile carpets and copies of Jacqueline Susann’s cult novel Valley of the Dolls. In February, the legendary dry desert air, known to locals and the celebrities who flock here as “Valium heat”, is at its most welcome and the Art Palm Springs festival and Modernism Week draw crowds from neighboring Los Angeles.
THE PALMYRA HOTEL, Baalbek, Lebanon
This almost 150-year-old historic hotel is a place like no other, with a roster of famous signatures in its leather-bound vistors’ book including Winston Churchill, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Jean Cocteau. It is a true time warp, its old-world splendor enhanced by its large state rooms and bedrooms filled with precious antiques. Faded maps and mildewed books line the walls, and there are busts of Roman emperors and oil paintings of the Baalbek ruins that lie just across the road – themselves reason enough to visit the country. This hotel is nirvana for romantics to whom the past and a sense of atmosphere are more important than constant hot water and slick service, while next-door sister hotel L’Annexe offers a more luxurious experience. What’s more, staying here will enable you to get up early enough to have the entire complex of Roman ruins to yourself. Book with redsavannah.com
THE KENSINGTON, London
This spacious and stylish hotel close to Hyde Park and museum-land, in a quiet corner of London’s South Kensington, manages to be all things to all people. Its friendly staff will organise bikes for families; the bar is a destination hotspot for locals; and the legendary themed teas, inspired by London’s architectural landmarks, draw international visitors and groups celebrating landmark birthdays. With its softly lit chandeliers and cocooning armchairs beside crackling fires, The Kensington is also the perfect place for an elegant Valentine’s Day celebration. For a memorable evening, book the fairy-light-strewn heated Winter Portico leading out from the main drawing rooms, which becomes a private dining stage set for two.