If you’re looking for a mountain escape rich in culture, this is it. As well as spectacular mountains and monasteries, the small Buddhist Kingdom is also a place known for its commitment to happiness, in fact it takes it so seriously it’s been instituted as a goal of the government.
Stay at Amankora’s Punakha Lodge, reached by a suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu River. The lodge is in a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse built by a former chief abbot (head of the monastery). Visit the 17th-century Punakha Dzong and the 15th-century fertility temple Chime Lhakhang, or try one of Six Senses five lodges across the Kingdom’s western and central valleys.
Six Senses Thimphu is set in a steep valley in apple orchards and pine forests dotted with monasteries and temples in Bhutan’s capital and largest city, with a population of about 100,000. It might be deep in the hills, but it’s close enough that when you’re looking for a break from exploring all those mountains, you can immerse yourself in contemporary Bhutanese life. (Image: Six Senses Thimphu)
The Himalayas are to most the pinnacle of all mountains, where dramatic jagged snow capped peaks rise above clouds. In the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, perched at a 2,500 metres, you’ll find Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas – An Oberoi Resort. Built in traditional British colonial style, it’s on the site of British military leader Lord Kitchener’s former summer house nestled in nine hectares of virgin forest. Inside is Burmese teak panelling, polished parquet floors covered with oriental rugs and huge picture windows to take in those dazzling views. If you can tear yourself away for the great outdoors, go on a walk or mountain bike to get the heart pumping and when you get back there’s a heated whirlpool and indoor heated swimming pool to rest those weary muscles.
There are few seasoned adventure travellers who haven’t heard of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Canadian Rockies, home to Banff National Park in Alberta and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia — that glistens after its namesake. Stay at Fairmont Banff Springs in the heart of Banff National Park.
The 132 year old property is dubbed Canada’s ‘Castle in the Rockies’ given its landmark position in the alpine town of Banff, Alberta. On site is a golf course (one of the top five Canadian Public Golf Courses) and spa with manmade waterfalls. Roughly a one hour drive away is Emerald Lake Lodge that sits on a private island on Emerald Lake and oozes history, with century-old fireplaces and an oak bar salvaged from an 1890s saloon. (Image: Emerald Lake Lodge, Christopher Martin)
Regardless of the season the scenery, Japan is nothing short of breathtaking, whether it’s the cherry blossoms in spring, or the deep reds of Japanese maple and yellow Ginkgo trees in autumn. For a truly magical escape head to the Iya Valley, a remote mountainous valley in western Tokushima Prefecture of Shikoku Island where fresh water creeks are filled with Koi fish. The area is also home to ancient vine bridges. Thirteen once spanned the valley but only three survive today and have been maintained for visitors to cross.
Stay at Iya Onsen where you’ll need to brave a steep cable car to reach the open-air onsen fed from a natural spring. Rooms are traditional Japanese style with stunning views across the gorge – some with private open-air baths, and the restaurant has huge floor-to-ceiling windows that have you feeling like you’re sitting in the mountains.
A mountain getaway wouldn’t be complete without some hiking and at Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, it’s not just idyllic, but there’s also a good dose of history. The resort is in Zagori in north-western Greece nestled in a world-class national park teeming with wildlife, untouched nature and enclaves away from the main tourist trunk line. Here you’ll find the rock towers of Astraka and the mythical Drakolimni Lake with arched stone bridges, cobbled streets, picturesque village squares, and alpine altitude lakes. It’s also home to the Steps of Vradeto, a 200-year-old cobbled path with 1000 steps and views of the Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world. After a day of hiking retreat to the spa for a personalised massage.
If biking rather than hiking is your thing (although you can do that too) then Saalfelden Leogang is your place. There are more than 720 kilometres of mountain bike routes. Stay at Naturhotel Forsthofgut Leogang and head out with a bike guide or join the Leogang Bike School just 200 metres down the road where professional guides will show you technique tricks. When you’re done with all that biking, the hotel has a forest spa (the first in Austria) where there’s a ‘quiet-zone’ in the forest where guests walk along a candlelit path to a bed for spa treatments. Cuisine is purely organic and dishes are created from produce sourced within a 50-kilometre radius.
It’s all about adventure at Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region, where you’ll find raging rivers, vast green forests, lakes and a giant glacier. Tucked away in the hills on a private nature reserve on the edge of the national park is Awasi Patagonia. Inspired by old Patagonian shelters and ranching outposts, it has 14 wooden villas and a cosy main lodge that blends into the landscape; all overlooking the Paine mountain range. Each villa has its own indoor and outdoor hot tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows to capture that view. There’s also a Relaix & Chateaux restaurant featuring locally sourced, seasonal produce – a lot of which is grown in the onsite garden, but the pièce de résistance has to be having your own private guide and a 4WD so you can craft your own adventures whether it’s trekking, horseback riding or exploring the Valle del Frances and its monumental glacier.
The traditional Swiss town of Interlaken has long been revered for its impressive mountain scenery. It sits in a valley surrounded by three peaks, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, and not surprisingly there’s no shortage of things to do here from hiking and mountain biking to canyoning, white water rafting and paragliding.
Stay at Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, which opened its doors in 1865 and while it’s had significant restoration, has managed to retain its old-world charm with opulent high ceilings, marble bathrooms and elegant interiors. Take a boat or e-bike to explore the area or hit a round of golf at the nearby 18-hole course that has been in the region since 1966. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in a spa treatment, after-all the resort was officially awarded ‘Wellness Destination’ by the Swiss Tourism Federation for its outstanding Spa Nescens which has an indoor pool, heated outdoor saltwater pool, jacuzzi, relaxation area and treatments that will leave your body looking as good as it feels after all that hiking.
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