What do the words 'boutique hotel' mean to you? Perhaps it's the independently owned and run element? Few rooms, bespoke interiors, secluded locations, impeccable and personal service? - They're all on the list. And it has to be said that the place you rest your head at night is a hugely significant part of your holiday, whether it's a tented camp in the middle of the desert or a secret hideaway in the heart of a city. While the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of a place are the stuff that treasured memories are made of, the hotel could, and should, take your holiday to the next level. So here they are, seven of our favourite boutique boltholes in the world...
Areias do Seixo, Portugal
If you look up the word 'quirky' in the dictionary, you will probably find Areias do Seixo in there somewhere (that's a lie, but you can see what I'm getting at). This 14 bedroom hotel is all mismatched furniture, blackboard walls and beds on wheels. Located an hour from Lisbon, it makes for the perfect combination with the capital.
Jack's Camp, Botswana
The Kalahari is a truly magical spot for a safari - its seemingly endless grasslands will make you feel like the only person on the planet, while the variety of game on offer, from zebra to lion and brown hyena, is quite special. In amongst all this is the glorious Jack's Camp, a veritable haven amidst the unforgiving landscape. Its ten luxurious tents have a distinctive style typified by dark wood furniture, bright colours and walls packed with pictures, not to mention the fabulous pool and iconic mess tent.
Annandale, New Zealand
Those looking for a romantic getaway, pay attention. Few places do sophisticated, elegant luxury as well as New Zealand and the immaculate Annandale is the perfect hideaway. Its one-bedroom farmstead is romantic seclusion at its finest, with its grass roof, glass façade, outdoor spa pool, epic views across the sea and no one for miles in any direction.
El Fenn, Morocco
Marrakech is characterised by bustling, labyrinthine souks, vocal street vendors, intense heat and exotic aromas. If there's anywhere on the planet where you need a boutique bolthole, it's here. And El Fenn is just the ticket - an oasis of tranquillity in amongst the chaos. Set around a colonnaded courtyard and with some of the best views in town from its rooftop restaurant and bar, it is the perfect refuge for a long weekend.
Gheralta Lodge, Ethiopia
There's getting away from it all and then there's Gheralta Lodge, overlooking the stunning Gheralta Mountains in Northern Ethiopia. Accommodating just 30 guests at any one time, this off the beaten track gem is ideally located for accessing the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, but also some of the lesser known cultural sites in this area.
Kura Design Villas, Costa Rica
One of the best things about staying at a boutique hotel is the level of service you receive, and it doesn't get much better than at Kura Design Villas in Costa Rica. The staff here will arrange amazing activities for you (whale watching and canopy tours, anyone?), while the chef will cook you something off menu and the barman will whip you up a bespoke cocktail. All this set amongst lush tropical rainforest with views across the ocean. Perfection.
Tugu Lombok, Indonesia
Tugu Lombok brings together artwork and antiques from all over Indonesia in one beautiful, intimate retreat. Unique touches include bath tubs carved out of volcanic boulders, a spa in an old temple building and vast totem-esque statues that sit in the open air restaurant. Combine this with some of the comfiest beds on the planet (according to our very own Jacqui Brooks) and you're onto a winner.