In the depths of lockdown, where do you dream of? Remote islands and deserted beaches? Mountain tops or buzzy cities?
I dream of hotels: ones I've been to; ones I want to go to. I even made an entire wishlist in the first lockdown. I love everything about them. The ritual of arrival, the pool-side culture, the focus on enjoying yourself: they are an antidote to our anxious, Covid era.
Throughout history, people have often retreated to hotels in troubled times. Now, more than ever, they present the possibility of escape. Not just from our (rather more static) daily lives, but also our homes, where we have all spent more time than usual this year.
2020 was supposed to be a bumper year for new, noteworthy hotels. And we all know what happened. As parts of the world tentatively reopened to tourists – and closed again for many destinations – new hotels also opened.
Although their time so far has been fraught with social distancing rules and regulations, there is still cause to celebrate. The fact that they opened in these times is reason enough to stay hopeful.
Here are the best hotels that have quietly opened their doors during the pandemic.
Forestis, Dolomites, Italy
"Peace is the new luxury": perhaps there is no better mantra to adopt in 2020 than this one. It is also the tagline of Forestis, a new, year-round Tyrolean mountain retreat with a sustainable ethos, on the site of a former tuberculosis sanatorium established by the Austrian monarchy. Peace isn't hard to find up here either: at 1800m above sea level, all 62 suites (and the swimming pool) have panoramic views of the dense mountain forest and the Unesco-listed massif of Dolomites. Original traditional architecture has been modernised: think angular edges and huge picture windows. When you're not taking advantage of their ski-in and out offering (the Plose ski region is nearby), chances are you'll be in the spa.
Pater Noster, Hamneskar, Sweden
Pater Noster lighthouse, on Hamneskar island off the west coast of Sweden, lit up the horizon for sailors from 1868 and was, at the time, considered a high-tech masterpiece. It almost went into disrepair before being saved by volunteers and reopened for visitors in 2007. Now, it's been repurposed into a nine-bedroom guesthouse by award-winning design agency Stylt. Guests can go sailing, kayaking, scuba diving or deep-sea fishing (before cooking their catch) – or else they can eat homemade dishes, many of which contain the local seaweed, at the summer cafe. The best bed in the house isn't actually in a room: guests can book an outdoor sleeping area on the cliffs with views out to sea. Transportation to the lighthouse is by rigid inflatable boat from Marstrand or Gothenburg.
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Camp Sarika, Utah, US
Aman has announced the arrival of Camp Sarika, 10 tented, west-facing pavilions with firepits and private plunge pools on an encampment set on top of flat-topped mesa rocks. The camp is attached to (and a 30-minute hike or five-minute drive away from) the exclusive Amangiri resort, where many a celebrity flocked once their local lockdown was lifted. There's a restaurant and lounge, two spa suites, a pool and hot tub, though guests can also use the facilities at the main hotel. Activities include desert and mountain hiking, canyoneering and horse riding.
Hotel Magdalena, Austin, Texas
The Bunkhouse hotel group, which spans Texas, California and Mexico, has added another place to their portfolio, this time in Austin's lively South Congress neighbourhood. The design is the first mass timber hotel in North America. It's also specifically inspired by 1970s local lakeside culture – referencing the nearby natural swimming hole of Barton Springs. Outside, four buildings are connected by walkways and courtyards with porches, to create a treehouse feel. Inside, you can expect red, blue or green Spanish tiles, poured concrete and bespoke walnut furniture. There's also a rock quarry, a 84sq m pool, a terrazzo bar and a restaurant with a live-fire grill.
The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon, Japan
A jungle-like lobby, minimalist rooms, dazzling views – and, no doubt, a soon-to-descend hip crowd: The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon, is a fresh and modern Kengo Kuma-designed hotel, and Ian Schrager's first Japan venture, in a cloud-brushing skyscraper. Tokyo's first EDITION was never going to play by conventional rules. It offers a cool, 21st-century perspective on luxury, underpinned with lingering hints of Japan – from the gold leaf artworks in the guestrooms to the expanses of wood slates. The Jade Room – the signature restaurant, conceptualised by cult British chef Tom Aikens (his first restaurant in Japan) – and adjacent Garden Terrace (an open-air luxury) are due to open this year.
Raffles Bali, Indonesia
The latest Raffles to open is its 15th hotel – on the coast of Bali's Bukit peninsula, a short hop from the southern end of the calm, aquamarine waters of the half-moon-shaped Jimbaran Bay. Accommodation is limited to just 32 private villas, each with a private pool, with meals taken at either the lofty, ocean-view Rumari restaurant or Loloan Beach Bar and Grill down by the surf.