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A Need for Nature
A collection of escapes that celebrate the outdoors.
A Need for Nature

If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that nature is tonic. More than a balm for uneasy times, the great outdoors offers a break from the daily urban grind, and an opportunity to reconnect with natural environments. From a series of cottages set deep in the forest in the Japanese town of Hakone, to an old-world hideaway in the Californian desert, join Design Hotels for an immersion in some of the world’s most inspiring natural settings.


Amidst Andorra’s Incles Valley—one of Europe’s most hidden corners—sits the L’Ovella Negra Mountain Lodge; a rustic hideaway hewn from stone, wood, and concrete. An easy gateway to local hiking, snowshoe walks, and heli-skiing, the remote retreat fully embraces its adjacency to nature, and is seasoned with regular creative gatherings. A similar concept prevails in Switzerland’s Eastern Alps at Nira Alpina, a ski-in ski-out property where local materials, including wood and granite, strike a stunning balance between regional charm and the comforts of modern living. Studded with balconies and terraces that provide views of a plateau that’s peppered with turquoise lakes, the hotel appeals to nature watchers, while more active guests will appreciate the 120 kilometers of local ski runs.

Crossing continents and the Avalon Hotel & Bungalows in Palm Springs channels the desert’s Golden Age heyday with Kelly Wearstler design and mid-century accents. Outside, manicured gardens, lofty palms and the looming desert are all within touching distance, with complimentary bicycles supplied for closer exploration of the surrounding mountains. It’s a contrasting vibe at the Rabot Hotel From Hotel Chocolat, where British chocolate brand Hotel Chocolat have transformed St Lucia’s oldest cocoa farm into a series of atmospheric cottages defined by pitched wooden roofs and stone walls. Fed by estate-grown herbs and fruits, and the hotel’s exclusive cacao cuisine, guests are treated to views of Soufrière Bay’s twin volcanoes, lush green landscapes and immediate proximity to local wildlife. 

The Giardino Group’s three Swiss properties—Giardino Ascona, Giardino Lago and Giardino Mountain—each provide a front row seat to the country’s impressive and diverse scenery. At the understated yet indulgent retreat of Giardino Lago on Lake Maggiore, mountains frame every angle and abundant greenery is a reminder that you are never far from the natural world here. Luxury mountain resort Giardino Mountain equally showcases the best of Switzerland’s famed attributes, supplemented with crisp Alpine air, and the forests and lakes of the Engadine Valley. In the country’s south, Giardino Ascona conjures the aura of a Mediterranean oasis with its sprawling gardens, various outdoor seating areas and access to a plethora of activities—such as hiking, boating and paragliding—that both incorporate and maximize the beautiful natural surroundings. 

Further north and Utrecht’s Parc Broekhuizen is a 15th century estate—formerly the National Institute for Nature Conservation—set in a national park where finding peace with nature is aided by access to hiking, horse riding, and cycling. A carriage house and stables, an orangery, and landscaped gardens additionally converge to create a space where the outdoors and indoors seamlessly blend. It’s a similar feeling at the Hakone Retreat före & villa 1/f in Hakone, Japan, where the 48-room hotel is literally placed in the very heart of nature. Set in a forest and connected by a path, eleven cottages are accompanied by open-air hot spring baths that face a pond, and are embraced by the soothing sounds of the wind, rustling trees, flowing water, and the forest’s birds.

Image Credit: © design hotels AG

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