Six chic base camps where a beautiful walk starts on the doorstep
High on the Atlas in Morocco
I used to visit Morocco several times a year – hopping along the Barbary coast from El Jadida to Oualidia to Essaouira, exploring the palm grove of Skoura and the Draa Valley, or sleeping in tents at the solitary and numinous edge of the northern Sahara. It’s a country with a corner of spectacular scenery, but none gets my blood moving faster than the Atlas Mountains, which with their endless mountain and valley trails – trodden by people, mules, maybe ibexes or gazelles – are a hiker’s paradise.
Any worthy hotel here has built the walking experience into its DNA. I particularly like Kasbah Bab Ourika, whose English owner has reinvented a fortified house in the Ourika Valley into a destination that attracts loyal customers from all over the world; at lunch on the terrace or by the pool, you will hear French and Portuguese versions, Swedish and a myriad of accented English. Rooms now number 41, spread across three buildings (book The Retreat with friends for a design that’s equal parts reverie and intimacy). But it’s the location that counts: Ourika is the gateway to the High Atlas, and just outside its walls you can climb hills, ford rivers, cross the valley and explore villages. Berbers, all on foot. From $165; kasbahbabourika.com
Scandinavian style meets Scottish majesty in the Highlands
You have to go almost as far north of Scotland as the country itself stretches to reach the small village of Tongue. Once there, however, you’re rewarded with near unlimited access to one of Britain’s wildest and most majestic coastlines. We’ve been fans of Lundies House here since it opened in 2019; it is part of Anders and Anne Hoch Povlsen’s Wildland project, making up hundreds of thousands of protected acres across the Highlands, and was designed by Anne Povlsen with more than a little nod to Danish heritage of the couple.
Its nine bedrooms – four in the 17th-century main house, a bothy (which can be independent) and three other bedrooms in a converted stable – form a Scandi-chic base camp from which you step straight out into an almost entirely pristine landscape , is full of shorelines, ruined castles and Bronze Age and Neolithic sites. The two peaks of Ben Loyal and Ben Hope are there for climbing, and the ruins of Varrich Castle even closer – and easier: a perfect half-hour hike that offers unobstructed views of the entire Kyle of Tongue. From £550; mondays.scot
Discover the inner secrets of Sardinia on foot
White sand, clear sea: the main meanings of Sardinia, as most know it. Less familiar – and much less populated and more rugged – is its mountainous interior. Su Gologone has long been the hotel of choice for those wanting a soft, adventure-focused experience in the culture of this part of the island. Two generations of the Palimodde family who own it have created all kinds of experiences, from jewelry making to painting lessons; but they’re particularly good at walking tours, which can last anywhere from an hour or two to a full day, with most departing directly on foot from the hotel.
You can spend the morning hitting the sunny slopes of Cala Luna, a strip of heavenly beach surrounded by empty hills and mysterious caves (a boat will bring you back in the afternoon). Or, if you’re up for a challenge, take a full day to follow shepherd’s trails through holm oak forests and along deep canyons to Su Sercone, a massive karst sinkhole nearly 1,000m above sea level. altitude (hotel staff will provide picnic lunch). There are other walks to find ancient hamlets, rare mountain orchids and hidden springs whose waters have inspired legends of miracles. And at the end of the day, a magnificent hotel with award-winning cuisine and a huge canteen awaits you. From €270; sugologone.it
New Zealand’s Best Hikes
New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula, stretching from the east coast of the South Island, is so neat in its near-roundness that it was mistaken for an island by James Cook when he discovered it in 1770. Its steep slopes of basalt and andesite cascade down to coves of an almost opaque blue. They are breezy, mostly bare of forest, rich with endless horizon views – a nice balance of beauty and invigoration. The town of Akaroa sits on the widest bay here, from which many tramps lead to large swaths of protected land. There’s a brisk one-hour walk to the eponymous heritage park. There is also the Skyline circuit, which traces high ridges and links to other major trail networks totaling over 20km. And many in between, for all levels. In Akaroa, the historic five-room Beaufort House is an amber-preserved homage to the old world, with velvet couches, chintz, and charm aplenty.
For complete lush indulgence, you’ll want to cross the peninsula to Pigeon Bay, home to Annandale, a working farm whose exclusive-use accommodations give you access to 5,200 private acres criss-crossed by mountain and coastal trails. Homes range from The Homestead, a grand 19th-century mansion sleeping 12, to Seascape, an ultra-contemporary one-bedroom villa on its own bay that is, truly, one of the most secluded (and sexiest) that I have ever stayed. (The optional private chef didn’t hurt.) beauforthouse.co.nz; from around €280. anandale.com; The Homestead from $6,995, Seascape from $3,785
Sublime solitude in wild Oregon
Hotels with great walks at the front door are one thing. A hotel where you have to walk several spectacularly scenic miles to get to is something else entirely. There’s no road to Minam River Lodge in Oregon’s 360,000-acre Eagle Cap Wilderness: Guests are either flown in or welcome to arrive on horseback or on foot. The trail is approximately 8.5 miles from a major campground, through wildflower meadows, woods of fir, larch, and ponderosa, and a few river and stream crossings in road course. Once you’ve settled into your lodge (which will be, depending on your propensity and desire to splurge, either a cozy tent, a cozy couple or family cabin, or a rustic-chic room in the main lodge), there has more than 500 miles of trails to explore in Eagle Cap, which is the state’s largest wilderness area, home to more than 100 alpine lakes and four rivers (and bighorn sheep, bears, and cougars).
Because the Lodge was a farm before Congress put the area in the National Wilderness Preservation System, it remained privately owned – the only hotel inside Eagle Cap. It’s elemental comfort with a modern veneer; sleek light fixtures, saddle blankets as bedspreads, a clean, low-fi Ralph Lauren look. There is no cell service, no television; but lots of yoga, massage therapists, a private sauna and hot tub, and a tried-and-true chef at Jean-Georges in New York overseeing the gorgeous open kitchen. From $295 per night in a tent, full board, minimum three nights; minam-lodge.com