My Favorite Places

by Noriko Yamaguchi
BhutanSearching the world for that unique mountain resort, beach retreat, designer hotel or luxury lodge

After centuries of self-imposed seclusion, the Kingdom of Bhutan started to welcome foreign tourists in 1972, since when the “Land of Illusion” has captivated adventurous travelers.

The proud Bhutanese people have been able to preserve their land, traditions and independence by modernizing gradually and continuing the Buddhist traditions they inherited from Tibet.

Aman Resorts, the first foreign company to operate in the nation, in 2004 opened a mountainside hotel, the Amankora (kora means pilgrimage). The open-plan rooms overlook the sacred Mt. Jomolhari and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Drugyal Dzong. Traditional Bhutanese wood-burning stoves (called bukhari) keep guests warm, and hot-stone baths are perfect for tired bodies.

Palmilla One & Only Palmilla
The resort hotel One & Only Palmilla is located on Los Cabos (meaning the capes) at the end of the 1,600-km Baja California peninsula, the world’s longest promontory that is rich in pristine nature.

The hotel room designs include wrought iron work, sculptures, and traditional local crafts such as embroidery. On the terrace are large, comfy daybeds and powerful telescopes for spectacular whale- and sea lion-watching; sea kayaking is available for the more active guests.

Top U.S. chef Charlie Trotter, an advocate of raw food, has a world-renowned restaurant in Los Cabos, and one can even enjoy dinner in the nearby desert.

Italy Nhow
The need to preserve Milan’s traditional buildings to protect its cityscape is an ongoing challenge. As you near the busy city center, where historic monuments and the cathedral stand in all their glory, the idea of erecting a new building seems totally inappropriate. Thus planners, architects, and designers have recently been creating extreme-design hotels, involving the preservation of ancient buildings while adding modern themes inside.

One such structure is Nhow, opened in 2007. The hotel is a former factory that was boldly renovated and is the center of Fuori Salone, a group of events held during the Salone del Mobile week throughout the city of Milan in April. The corridors and elevator halls on each floor were turned into modern art galleries that also serve as showrooms for furniture and other items that can be bought online.

Although the emphasis in designer hotels is not always on convenience in guestrooms and bathrooms, the Nhow features cozy and playful luxury touches and interesting lifestyle trends.

New Zealand Grasmere
In New Zealand, a lodge—a private guesthouse or villa—is synonymous with luxury accommodations and a limited number of guest rooms. Grasmere, a modern timber lodge with four rooms is 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch and boasts brilliant views of the famous Southern Alps. Guests can enjoy trekking, fishing in Lake Grasmere, and horseback riding. All guests eat together around a large dinner table, the lively conversation helped along by local wines such as Pegasus Bay from nearby Waipara. Although in recent years New Zealand has become famous for white wines, reds such as Pinot Noir remain popular. Far removed from the city’s hustle and bustle, you can’t help but appreciate Nature’s blessings at Grasmere.