Our list of villas this year features hidden gems including over-the-top indulgence to the best of barefoot elegance. From sand and surf to remote mountain retreats, fast-paced city spreads to secluded hideaways––you are sure to find your favourites here too. Thrills and romance are lavishly alive and well at these luxury getaways, whether you fancy fairytale forests and rugged hills; breaching dolphins and fair trade winds; flowering gardens, or breathtaking beaches. Need some help deciding where to go next? Why not pick a villa to suit every mood? You might just want to pack up and check in with every change of season.
Capturing the essential Maldivian experience
Three Bedroom Royal Residence at Jumeirah Vittaveli Royal Residence, Maldives
Lavish and adventurous, take a spin around your ocean view villa’s private island on a luxury yacht where breaching dolphins and fair trade winds are constant companions. Dive the deep blue sea of the Vittaveli to uncover the mysteries of shipwrecks and buried treasure. Then come home sun-kissed to indulge in a seaside cocktail and al fresco dinner prepared by your personal chef. Dining over your private lagoon is the perfect way to chase real-world cares away.
Twelve adults or ten adults and four children will wake to the sound of the sea in the five understatedly elegant bedrooms and six baths that make up this 3,500 square metre paradise. The grounds include a master sanctuary, a two-storey guest house, and two one-bedroom guest villas. Private and tranquil, a lily pond surrounds the adjacent sunken lounge. A stunning living and dining pavilion leads to a designer pool with a wrap-around deck providing incredible panoramic ocean views.
This unique Maldivian island experience is a heartbeat away from resort amenities at Jumeirah Vittaveli, inspired by the region’s fishing villages. Four restaurants offer everything from French dining to beach BBQs. The overwater Talise spa provides the perfect oasis for you to receive the best in Maldivian relaxation and sample locally produced coconut oil. Among the complimentary amenities are evening champagne and canapés, private luxury return transfer, 24-hour resident butler service. Three complimentary hours of spa treatments will complete your royal transformation. jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/maldives/jumeirah-vittaveli
Delicious, decadence and detachment
Three Bedroom Residence Villa at Desroches Island, Four Seasons Resort, Seychelles
Your world-class deserted island adventure at Île Desroches finds you exploring 14 km of white sand beaches and playing to your own tune, wherever that leads. Playgrounds at sea and on land find you in the heart of the Seychelles archipelago, among 115 islands spanning over a million square kilometres. Adrift in your 6km-long island paradise, this five-star resort features stand-alone villas.
Upscale colonial, laid-back luxury shines with a focus on indoor-outdoor living with breathtaking bathrooms and views of the lush private gardens surrounding your getaway. Seclusion enough for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, this castaway experience unfolds among endless white sand beaches, fairytale forest, and rugged hills. Thrill seekers will smile ear-to-ear upon touchdown on the private airstrip. Bicycles are standard issue here and wonderful for you to make your own discoveries at your own pace where you will enjoy touring a small Creole village.
Wildlife thrills here and nature lovers will enjoy a visit to the animal sanctuary located inland, featuring native Aldabra tortoises. Later enjoy an underwater safari where snorkelling puts you face mask-to-fin with angelfish, sea turtles, and butterflyfish. Afterwards, relax at the spa with Terres D’Afrique products in immersive natural treatments. Did someone say formal dining in a lighthouse restaurant? Yes, please. fourseasons.com/seychellesdesroches/privateretreats/
Tuscan romance in hidden gardens
La Casa dell’Unicorno Garden Suite at Relais Borgo Santo Pietro, Italy
This estate is as romantic as its namesake. This cosy escape is hidden on the grounds of the luxury hotel Relais Borgo Santo Pietro and feels a world away. From its high, rustic white-washed wooden ceilings and ornate chandeliers, to the lovingly painted unicorns, romance rules this piece of paradise. The luxurious muted palate soothes with silvers, greys, and blue-velvet, placing dreamy furnishings front and centre highlighting a four-poster bed.
The large bathroom lets you indulge in the romantic with a freestanding bathtub perfect for an extravagant soak. Open and airy, the interior gives way to a private garden and patio with fireplace. A portico houses a Moroccan daybed and is the perfect romantic dining spot underneath a stunning chandelier.
Guests are only a French door away from the hotel’s Mediterranean courtyard with its citrus trees and sun lounges. With access to the hotel’s spa, wine cellar, cookery school, trattoria, and fine-dining restaurant you will experience all of the privacy and indulgence you can handle. borgosantopietro.com
Tuscan sun, serenity and endless views
Villa Oliviera at Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Italy
Lavish and adventurous, take a spin around your ocean view villa’s private island on a luxury yacht where stunning views of the Tuscan countryside, including nearby Montalcino, from the outdoor patio and secluded outdoor heated infinity swimming pool, is a secret you are going to want to keep.
Sitting in UNESCO-listed Val d’Orcia Natural Park, at 418 square metres this villa embodies laid-back luxury with gorgeous stone facades and lavender-lined pool decks. Three enormous suites sleeping up to six guests include romantic touches like fireplaces, walk-in closets and incredible views from private terraces. The dining room includes a kitchen where private chefs will wow you with local cuisine.
The villa once housed an olive press. Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco resides in one of the oldest, best-preserved estates in Tuscany including eleven recently restored 17th and 18th-century farmhouses. Spectacular amenities include an outdoor living area and terrace with shady pergola. Check out the spa at Castiglion del Bosco, a haven of serene hues which takes its inspiration from nature. A refuge of rest, enjoy Florentine apothecary Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella body treatments. rosewoodhotels.com/en/castiglion-del-bosco
Intimate hideaway at the edge of the world
Seascape at Annandale, New Zealand
Come home to yourself here in possibly one of the most remote villas on our list. Your helicopter transport and 4WD Annandale vehicle arrival brings you to a modern hideaway with majestic, panoramic private views of Pigeon Bay. Only a half hour out of Christchurch, unequalled remote romance features a cliff-top experience that is as awe-inspiring as it is timeless. Azure waters and emerald hills only add to the unique, otherworldly experience.
The architecture of the retreat has many exceptional features like the turf roof. Stone walls keep the living natural while floor-to-ceiling glass windows bring the outside in. The sleek, dramatic bathroom features an arrow-slit window where views of rock formations on the coast coax you outside to the outdoor spa. Inside, the living area and fireplace heat up the incredible view which dominates this gem.
Revel at the feeling of floating on the open sea from your perch on the cliff, enjoying the dramatic settings’ ever-changing beauty with the time of day and living in the pulse of nature as you soak up sightings of dolphins and seals over breakfast. annandale.com/accommodations/seascape
Rockstar Caribbean glamour
Imperiale Villa at Eden Roc Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
Four Bedroom Imperiale Villa, a jet-set favourite, has ocean views on a sugary white sand beach that rings its own private lagoon. Open-air courtyards, cascading waterfalls and tropical gardens immediately soothe the weary traveller. Two bedrooms on the first floor also feature private living rooms and baths.
The barefoot approach to luxury here lets you settle into island-mode with natural interiors made up of lightly stained woods and rattan accents. An exquisite dining room with opulent golden seashell accents will help entertain up to 10 of your friends and family. Amenities abound here with a private butler to oversee your private jet schedule and arrange for a cruise on one of the resort’s charter yachts. You’ve never island hopped like this before.
If you sail in on your own, the property’s 130-slip marina provides an elegant, tranquil harbour for seafarers. Polo lessons at the equestrian centre and rounds of golf at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course will keep sports fans happy while those interested in a lazy retreat will enjoy the Caleton Beach Club. edenroccapcana.com
Muse in the poetic setting of West Lake
Three Bedroom Presidential Villa at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake
The private entrance to “Paradise City’s” most exotic villa distinctively welcomes you to one of the most unique properties on the list. Elegant urban style meets the traditional here where intimate, private tea-tastings in your villa feel just as perfect as a bike ride through the picturesque West Lake countryside––a UNESCO World Heritage site known for wandering brooks and lagoons as well as the area’s traditional architecture.
Enjoy staying amidst stately ancient pagodas and temples of Hangzhou’s historic district. This five-star, three-storey house is an incredible Jiang-Nan style accommodation with three bedrooms, an exercise room, and entertainment nooks where ancient Chinese splendour meets modern amenities.
The private pool and many manicured gardens provide peace and tranquillity as well as fun and enjoyment with breathtaking views of the bamboo forest and lily ponds. Indulge at The Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel, made to look like a Chinese palace and afterwards you will eat with abandon when you discover the regional cuisine at Four-Star Jin Sha restaurant which specialises in locally sourced ingredients. fourseasons.com
Lounging in the Billionaire’s Playground
Sienna at Mustique, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
This six bedroom, 15,000 sq. ft. villa lies in the heart of the Caribbean and is everything a tropical getaway demands––grandeur, sweeping ocean views, lush tropical gardens and a right mix of who’s-who on the island. Guests will note this is elegance at its finest with a dramatic circular entry where the journey begins high on a hilltop overlooking Macaroni Beach.
This Italian-inspired sanctuary welcomes guests with gorgeous water features, two pools, spacious marble bathrooms, a large media room, as well as a gourmet kitchen. One of the pools is constructed from white Mexican stone where you will enjoy cooling off in the swim-in cave. The other is a diving pool made of a dramatic black stone in the shape of a semi-circle.
Sweeping sundecks have forever views of the Caribbean Sea. The property has large outdoor terraces perfect for enjoying the outdoor lifestyle. A lavish chandelier hangs from the great room’s twenty-foot ceilings. All bathrooms are en-suite, with one featuring a romantic indoor-outdoor shower area. The property comes with a large Kawasaki mule for your enjoyment. A butler and personal chef will see to all your needs during your stay. mustique-island.com/villa/sienna/
Seductive and stylish in Indochina
Shinta Mani Angkor, Cambodia
The dramatic entrance to this exotic property finds guests walking through a fantastic white marble arch, a replica of Angkor Wat’s ancient façade. Soft lighting, the smell of incense and a sense of the exotic greet you upon your arrival at this boutique hotel where Cambodian design meets the eclectic interior wizardry of Bill Bensley.
Relax among your mod, luxury accommodation after touring Angkor’s world-renown temples. Then take a soothing spa treatment after a swim in the pool. Each of the ten private villas comes with a private lap pool surrounded by an art deco black-and-white terrace, a secluded rooftop terrace, and a private tropical garden. Swing-seat dining will bring out the playful and romantic in you, as will the library and gallery. Informal by day and elegant at night, you might want to pack something long as they caution against swinging in skirts.
Created as an environment Bensley would personally enjoy, every attention to detail and privacy has been paid. Each villa includes 156 sq. metres of space in two pavilions and bathroom with floor-to-ceiling garden views. Exotic, romantic artistic details include three-dimensional textured murals depicting the folds of Jayavarman’s robe, known as the greatest Khmer King. You will enjoy being spoiled by a Bensley Butler, legendary clandestine miracle makers. shintamani.com/angkor-bensley-collection
Villa that divides a continent from the wild Indian Ocean
Cliff Villa at Alfajiri, Kenya
Only an hour’s drive from Mombasa, Alfajiri could very well be some of the most exceptional residences on the Kenyan coast. With jaw-dropping views of the Indian Ocean on the East African coast, this destination is unequalled. They say that their concept is “as you please” and the freedom of the sentiment is felt immediately upon arrival at the airy outdoor-indoor three-storey villa.
Stunning private a la carte dining al fresco accompanied by surf song is not to be missed here. Experienced, discreet servers use only local ingredients to prepare delicious dishes including locally caught seafood. Interiors are filled with artefacts from Africa and the Far East. The surrounding gardens are well cared for and full of palm trees and enchanting topical flora. The villa has a private swimming pool with a private beach below called Diani beach and one of the finest in the country which seems to go on forever.
Four en-suite bedrooms accommodate eight guests, making it the ideal hideaway for a family get together. Enjoy snorkelling at nearby coral reefs and sailing in a traditional African dhow. Have fun playing a little tennis at the onsite tennis courts, play golf at a championship 18-hole course only minutes away, or workout at the gym before getting a massage in your villa. For thrill seekers, diving, kite-surfing, and deep sea fishing can all be arranged. alfajirivillas.com
Living the sophisticated Bond life
Villa Sheherezade of Adriatic Luxury Hotels, Croatia
This stunning villa lies on the breathtaking coast of Croatia and has been likened by some to a mini Taj Mahal. Maybe that’s why Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor stayed here once upon a time. The large marble structure is a vision from the crystal blue Adriatic. Crowned by two large rooftop terraces, you will overlook not only the gorgeous sea but also the walled city of Dubrovnik, only a short walk away. But why not just arrange a ride in the Rolls Royce.
When you arrive the biggest challenge you will face is whether to swim in the ocean off the private beach or take a dip the private pool, unless you want to soak in the hot tub. 5 sophisticated bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms and are lavishly outfitted for comfort.
Your personal chef is on standby, ready to make whatever you and your friends desire. More like a castle then a villa, the huge walled pool is situated in the centre and is quite an impressive sight. Too bad your eyes will be closed as you soak in the sun. No problem if you want to dock your yacht, the villa has its own pier, perfect for a secret sail. adriaticluxuryhotels.com/en/villa-sheherezade
Go for White & Gold in Sensual Mykonos
Golden Villa 2 Bed with Pool at Cavo Tagoo, Mykonos
On the island of Delos, this cliffside villa blends perfectly into the birthplace of the mythical god of the sun with whitewashed beauty that will leave you feeling like you are in a dream. The service at this 5-star hotel and villas are beyond compare and feature amazing panoramic views of the Aegean sea, only 600 m from the centre of Mykonos which provides guests with easy beach access and glamorous nightlife when the sun goes down.
A wonderful example of Cycladic architecture, all the villas have private pools which seem to float on the water’s edge. Clean, ultra-chic interiors enhance the beach vibe. Natural materials and winding paths add to the tranquillity of the setting. The property brings in equal measure peace and pleasure through luxury accommodations that delight and surprise as well as providing unique culinary journeys that will find you uncovering flavourful adventures of the Cyclades Islands. The dining is superb at the “Breakfast Nook” at Tagoo Restaurant or by the stunning pool. But maybe you’d prefer breakfast in bed. After unwinding in the world-class spa enjoy remarkable wines of the region at Kiku. cavotagoo.com/mykonos/villas/
Jungle fever with the Mayan kiss
Premiere Suite at Be Tulum, Mexico
Mayan art and soothing natural materials welcome you to barefoot elegance on the beaches of the Mayan Riviera. Built into the cliffs of the Yucatan, this beachfront villa will find you falling asleep in the rustic charm amidst swaying palm trees surrounded by white sand beaches and lush tropical jungles.
The oceanfront terrace and pool will provide the perfect peaceful setting for your yoga practice or all-day relaxation and find you walking out onto the beach like you own the place. No need to go anywhere. Just breathe and enjoy what this villa has to offer, only steps from the ocean and rugged beachfront.
The hotel’s three restaurants are a quick way to sample the region’s rich traditional food and beverages. Enjoy the raw bar, Maresias meaning “sea bar,” where you can indulge on oysters and other raw seafood like ceviche. Mayan treatments are a real treasure for your body and spirit at the Yaan Spa, more of a wellness sanctuary. The spa features a rooftop garden where they grow herbs and plants that find their way into the various body treatments. betulum.com ◼
© This article was first published in Apr-May 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.