A TRIP FOR THE SOUL

Story By
D Metta

For many of us, vacations are increasingly about peace and relaxation. Life in the fast lane and a combination of too many things and too little time, is now the norm. Constant exposure to the world’s endless going-ons through social media further saturates our hectic life, resulting in an increase of stressed individuals and frazzled nerves.  In fact, the everyday demand is such that we are often left burned out at the end of every day, let alone week or month.

A vacation is a mean to escape from the frenzy; to purge our souls of jaded weariness with all things different yet comforting. Spending a night or two in a corner of the world where time stands still, away from the din of the masses, is certainly part of the recipe, a challenge to which these following Design Hotels™ members have risen in more ways than one.

Alila Jabal Akhdar
Jabal Akhdar, Oman

Jabal Akhdar, literally meaning “The Green Mountain” in Arabic, is a spectacular mountainous region in northern Oman which combines its rocky terrain with an endless spread of rugged desert below and beyond. Cradled in this stunning landscape of soaring mountains and dramatic gorges, Alila Jabal Akhdar blends perfectly with its surrounds, like a medieval village rising out of the past.

On first impression, this boutique hotel might not seem like much—a cluster of rock-faced buildings scattered on a barren cliff top. The discreet design, built from local stones and wood using traditional techniques to mimic the architecture of the area, may not be your usual holiday-postcard look, but it definitely sets the ambience as one crosses the fort-like entrance and steps into a luxurious oasis hidden behind these sturdy walls.

Inside, a blend of ethnic simplicity and contemporary luxury awaits.  Seventy-eight suites and two private villas are available for guests, as well as a first-class spa facility. Designed by Atkins, an architecture firm based in the UK, the concept of Alila Jabal Akhdar is space—or more specifically, an abundance of it in order to create a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere. Rooms decorated in earthy tones and simple yet beautiful furnishings further enhance the effect. Local artworks reflecting the rich Omani culture, such as copper ornaments, hand-woven baskets and colorful rugs, give just enough local accent without interfering with the spacious character of the place.

Pedras Salgadas Spa & Nature Park
Bornes De Aguiar, Portugal

A harmonious marriage with nature is a philosophy embraced by Pedras Salgadas Spa & Nature Park in Portugal. Built in the heart of a centuries-old parkland, this 4-star resort is designed to be immersed in nature—literally. Nature is their foundations as well as their aim, as demonstrated in the careful, eco-friendly design from award-winning architect Luís Rebelo Andrade of the eco-houses and tree-houses.

A grand total of twelve eco-houses and two tree-houses are strategically scattered throughout the park. Lightweight and self-supporting, the construction of each house is set to fit the contour of its environment with as minimal disruption as possible to the existing landscape. While they may be modern in appearance, these houses nevertheless blend seamlessly into their surroundings with their dark and subtle color palette.

The interior is all about balance: clean lines, natural light and neutral hues. The unadorned living spaces with their white-on-white interiors are simplicity at its best, only enhanced by the occasional interruptions from dark wooden floorings or modest furniture. Large, full-length windows frame scenes of surrounding nature at unexpected corners, while wood-lined private decks are mere steps away for a more up-close-and-personal experience with the mesmerizing world of nature outside.

Eremito
Parrano, Italy

Italy needs no introduction in the world of travelers, seasoned or otherwise. But perhaps not much is widely known of Parrano, a medieval stone village located in the very heart of Umbria, a region in central Italy often referred to as the country’s “green heart”. Widely considered the spiritual center of the country owing to the abundance of monasteries in the region, Umbria is a fitting location for Eremito hotel, an eco-resort designed to offer a taste of quiet monastic life during the middle ages.

Nestled deep in the mountains of Umbria and surrounded by 3,000 hectares of lush green forest, Eremito is the brain child of Marcello Murzilli, a former fashion designer turned hotelier whose idea of modern luxury is to combine ecology, technology and spirituality. The original structure, dating back from the early 14th century, is an old monastery building, carefully and faithfully restored stone by stone to match its historic roots. The word Eremito itself means ‘hermit’ in Italian, a fitting name for a place where one can escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and find peace and contemplation.

The fourteen available rooms, small in size and simple in decorations, are beautiful recreations of monastic cells, or “celluzze” as they are called. Each contains a wrought-iron single bed covered with soft, hand-embroidered linens, a bathroom en suite, and a marble basin in an alcove carved into the wall—a true reflection of Fransiscan minimalism. The thick stone walls keep the rooms cool in summer and comfortably warm in winter, with square windows providing a stunning view of the surrounding valleys or the rose garden. In the common area, piles of cushions on rugs or thin mattresses are scattered between stone arches, while in the candlelit dining room, vegetarian meals are served on long, wooden rectory tables, just as they have been for centuries. Outside, a number of terraces and a courtyard beckon guests to step outdoors and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Umbrian countryside.

Bookings through www.designhotels.com or via the appropriate number.