THE WALLAWWA Kotugoda, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, is a brave new world – a shiny city of the future, with high-rises and new developments changing the urban landscape by the month. The Wallawwa, however, just 20 miles north of the city, remains a jewel of the colonial era, a 200-year-old mansion that is the first boutique hotel in the Teardrop portfolio – a collection of sensational small hotels with soul in beautiful corners of Sri Lanka. It is only a 20-minute drive from the airport, but so secluded in its lush tropical garden estate that it feels like a world apart. There are lazy plantation chairs and whirring fans and weaver birds darting between the jasmine and hibiscus that drape over the colonnaded walkways to the hotel’s enormous 18 rooms and suites, of which the Mountbatten is worth putting on the bucket list. This is so much more than an airport pit stop, with a brilliant library and shelves of old-fashioned board games to detain you, a charming shop, the Z Spa for jet-lag cures, and memorable cashew-and-green-pea curry in The Verandah restaurant. Stay for days and explore the lively fishing community and markets of the Negombo neighborhood. Book with wixsquared.com
THE ACADEMY HOTEL Bloomsbury, London
Consisting of five interlinked Georgian townhouses in London’s Bloomsbury, the Academy Hotel has reopened after a multi-million-pound renovation and redesign overseen by Alexandra Champalimaud, whose hotel projects range from London’s Dorchester to Raffles in Singapore. There is a domestic coziness about the hotel – original fireplaces, rich wallpapers, reception areas with the intimacy of a London drawing room, a bar opening out into an unexpected courtyard. Situated in London’s most literary neighborhood, the Academy maintains its literary cred with a charming library and the Academy Book Club, which hosts book launches and readings from contemporary authors. It is also just a short stroll from the British Museum (and its early-morning openings and late-night Fridays), which hosts a brilliant new exhibition of Islamic Art in October. Opt for one of the more spacious Bloomsbury suites, and kick off your evening in the Alchemy Bar with its signature drink, an Alkkemist gin, said to be a blend of “samphire, Muscat grapes and distilled moonlight”.
BUNEA HIDE Carpathian Mountains, Romania
The only way to get to this most remote and simplest of lodges in the primeval forests of Carpathia is on foot. And in October, the autumnal colors are sensational; the smell of wild mushroom and leaf mould heady. Bunea Hide is actually one of a handful of hides built by Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC ) that stud the steep slopes of the Fagaras Mountains. This one, with a cold-water shower, a double room and bunks sleeping six, is a Hans Christian Anderson fantasy of scented cedar wood with wrap-around windows looking onto a rowan- and alder-fringed clearing. As the sun sets over the Pacineagu Lake far below, and the kitchen table is laid with crudités, local organic wines and cheeses, you might be surprised when a kingly red deer – a stag with giant antlers – surprises you by strutting out and grazing center-stage, followed by a group of hungry young bears. October also sees the introduction of European bison to this region, which is rich in wildlife (wolves, foxes, wild boar and beavers) and has been dubbed the Yellowstone of Europe.
NOBU RYOKAN Malibu, California
The two-year-old, 16-bedroom Nobu Ryokan beach house is the first hotel offshoot of the legendary Nobu kitchen – and is the perfect recuperative and romantic retreat, where you can hole up for days in your sensational suite, watching the sunlight filter through linen shoji screens while you light the fire in your hearth against those chilly ocean evenings. Designed as a Japanese ryokan with wooden immersive bathtubs, it sits inconspicuously over the bracing sandy length of the Malibu coast, with a meditative rock-and-water garden and minimalist teak-and-cedar low-lying structure that encourage instant decompression. Private decks embrace the invigorating scents of brine and kelp and the boom of the surf, through which whales, dolphins and pelicans rock. Carbon Beach stretches for miles in either direction – though it is but a skip to Nobu restaurant next door, with its extraordinary Japanese-fusion cuisine. The iconic Malibu Pier is just a 10-minute stroll away and there are endless hiking opportunities in the canyons that branch off the coast.
FOUR SEASONS ASTIR PALACE Athens Riviera, Greece
The Four Seasons Astir Palace boldly strides 75 acres of the most expensive strip of Athenian real estate – the coastal land that stretches between the Parthenon in the historic center and the archaeological site of Sounion on the tip of the Attic peninsula. This year sees the much-lauded relaunch of the city’s 1960s landmark. Once the cherished beach club and watering hole of Onassis, Bardot and Sinatra, its old-school allure was eventually eclipsed by the more bohemian charms of the Greek islands, when the jet set migrated elsewhere. But the Athenian Riviera’s Astir Palace enjoyed a huge revival this summer, after the massive restoration project and the injection of Four Seasons style, polish and service, without losing a unique sense of heritage vibe and sleek Greek modernist aesthetic. In October, the crowds have dissipated and the sun hangs lower on the horizon, but no less golden through the long Mediterranean summer that bumps up to November. With six restaurants, three private coves, three pools (one with a floating olive grove), water sports, a massive spa, crèches and a kids’ club, it will make a spontaneous European weekend in fall feel like a long vacation.