2014 has all the earmarks of being a sparkling year already. The Sochi Olympics coming in February, the FIFA World Cup coming to Brazil, Festa di Santa Francesca Romana in Rome, and an array of sun loving events and festivals worldwide, make for a difficult list of once in a lifetime experiences to choose from this year. This says nothing for the bucket list of fabulous accommodations out there to revel in.
To solve this point of hospitality pain, here’s a short list of extraordinary hotels:
Sochi Winter Olympics – Grand Hotel & Spa Rodina
From February 6-23, the world arrives at the epic Russian resort on the Black Sea for a the Winter Olympics. For those traveling to the compelling Krasnodar Krai region of Russia, where hundreds of thousands of Russians venture forth to sun and surf (and snow ski) most probably are unaware of lavish luxury stays like Grand Hotel Rodina.
This majestic boutique hotel offers the most interesting combination of neo-classical design, combined with magnificent subtropical garden flavor, and ultra modern amenities. Just describing the place tasks the author trying to relate it. Situated on 37 acres amid enormous cedars, and delicate maple trees, the sea air mixed with scented rhododendron defies description or analysis. Impressive—that’s the best way to think of this Russian landmark of hospitality.
Among the memorable amenities are the magnificent resort locale, the exquisite culinary art of it’s Black Magnolia restaurant, a world famous wine cellar, the chic LILI bar, the spa and pools and fitness center, movie theater, billiard room, and the library. If ever there were a hotel stay worth in excess of $5,000 per night, the 2,099 square foot deluxe suite here is one of my choices for the ultimate bucket list. Second to that, the Junior Suites go for just over $1,300, in case your “end all” Russian holiday has a budget. Imagine your Olympic excursions to the seaside venues, then up the mountains to Krasnaya Polyana and the alpine events, then back down to this lush garden paradise.
ph: +7 (495) 644 – 44 – 99, http://www.grandhotelrodina.ru
Festa di Primavera Mostra delle Azalee-Rome, Residenza Napoleone III
Spring comes early in Rome, and there’s no better excuse to visit than the Azalea fest there. At this celebration of the rites of spring, millions of blossoms spring forth, while 3,000 vases of the beautiful flowers line the Spanish Steps. As for a place to stay you’ll always remember, Residenza Napoleone III is unforgettable.
All set to satisfy your need for romantic Roman holiday experiences, La Residenza Napoleone III is a luxurious showplace you’d expect Cary Grant or even Brad Pitt to come waltzing out of. Situated in the XVI Century Palazzo Rupoli on Rome’s fabulous shopping street Via Condotti, this is the place to live your aristocratic fantasies (or reality) out. In the historic city center, everything from designer shopping at Valentino, Bulgari, Armani, Ferragama and more, to the Trevi Fountains, the Coliseum, and the Pantheon are right at hand.
Named for Emperor Napoleon III, who actually once lived here, the residence offers two distinct suites at the top of the grand marble staircase at its center. Either the Napoleon Suite, or the Roof Garden Suite are imbued with a true sense of what the emperors of Rome must have experienced—the eternal city just beneath their feet. Rates at this lavish Rome residence range from $2,600 for the Napoleon Suite with adjoining Blue Room, to $1,000 per night for the Roof Garden Suite.
ph: +39 0066 880 8083, www.residenzanapoleone.com
Malia and Crete – Creta Maris Beach Resort
If you have to ask where or what Malia is you’re probably not the sand and surf type, and legendary beach parties are a distant and foggy recollection for you. Malia makes Cancun seem like a lonesome beach stroll. However, even the diehard party down jet setter needs a comfy place to crash in between. Non-stop music, dancing, and friction in between the sexes is a drain. The Creta Maris Beach Resort is distant enough from the revelry of Malia, yet close enough to enjoy the party without the continual noise.
The resort is actually quite massive, with 675 rooms spread out into bungalows, family rooms, suites, and ultra exclusive VIP suites. Situated outside Hersonissos in the village of Creta Maris, this stunning beach resort is a whole rack of picture postcards, a stay for just about any traveler fantasy get away from family vacation to the aforementioned beach and clubbing stint.
The quant twisting paths of the village flow seamlessly into the Aegean architecture of this lush landscape. Five star amenities, famous Cretan hospitality, culinary experiences, even a burro ride in the hills, the traveler is inundated with endless possibilities. Jet ski in the morning, relax at the Hammam Spa before lunch, party at the resorts discos and events, or plunge down the beach at Malia. Stay in the bungalows with a sea view for about $250 a night, or live the luxury life in the TOP VIP Suite “On the Rocks” for just over $800.
ph: +30 28970-27110, http://www.maris.gr/creta.aspx
Patagonia – Aldebaran Hotel
Patagonia, for those who’ve only heard tell of the region, is the place Magellan named for the people he found here, people he called giants for their tall stature compared to his men. The Tehuelche people were mysterious to early explorers, but no more interesting or mysterious than this remarkable place adjoining the Andres in the southern hemisphere. The area of Patagonia, about twice the size of Texas, is far more diverse than the casual observer might think. The land of the gaucho, those immense cattle herds you’ve heard about—this exists too. Far from the rocky outcrop and frozen wasteland some might envision, Patagonia’s alpine wonderland, innumerable seaside paradises, and forested hills are unbelievable.
Set on a Peninsula at Nahuel Huapi Lake in the Andes, the famous (for Argentineans) vacation land of San Carlos de Bariloche is a stone’s throw from the Aldebaran Hotel. Intimate and reclusive to the extreme, imbued with an old world meticulous tone, this luxurious and exotic bit of Argentine hospitality really needs no special occasion as an additional draw card. If you need such additional virtues for you “bucket list” getaways, the area has myriad sightseeing tours, boat trips in alpine splendor, shopping boutiques, and dozens of driving excursions.
As for the hotel itself, dining overlooking Nahuel Huapi Lake at SIRIUS restaurant gives the taste of the finest Argentina has to offer gastronomically, just as the Aquarius Spa affords uncompromising relaxation and therapy. Like any five star experience, there’s no amenity overlooked at this 10-room distinctive nature-stay. You can expect to pay from around $350 per night, which considering your surroundings is a bargain.
+54 0294 444 8678, http://www.aldebaranpatagonia.com
New Zealand Festival 2014–Wharekauhau Lodge
February 21 – March 16, the New Zealand Festival 2014 is the biggest arts event in Wellington, or New Zealand for that matter. Anyone visiting this unbelievably picturesque country down under, who’s got an eye or ear for the creative, will certainly be hunting chic hospitality to go along. To that end, Wellington has a superb selection, but none more elegant than Wharekauhau Lodge.
Sitting on 5,500 acres of magnificent New Zealand countryside, this is about as rich a Kiwi adventure as there is. World-renown for their artisan foods and boutique wines, the chefs here are not outdone by the trekking guides. A world of outdoor sports is also afoot, including jet-skiing, archery, and clay targets. When muscles tire at the end of an eventful day, world-class day spa and other relaxing amenities are at arms reach.
While the five star luxury and service here is it’s own reward, the real pleasure of this place is the farmland, seashore, and pristine countryside. Of all the places on this bucket list of “to die for” destinations, New Zealand is unsurpassed in natural beauty. And this hotel fits seamlessly into the landscape. The Lodge Suites here offer the most individualized and exclusive value, these run from $600 to $800 per night, depending on the season.
+64 6 307 7581, http://www.wharekauhau.co.nz/Home
Phil Butler is editor of Everything PR News, a partner at hospitality PR firm Pamil Visions, and an editor/contributor to a number of travel media including Travel Daily News, Epoch Times, and others.