Cross the pinnacle of Patagonia
Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is a feverish dreamscape of black granite peaks and blue-white glaciers, torrents rushing through gorges and glimpses of evergreen forest. Explora has always been on top in these areas, as has Explora Torres del Paine, its lodge right on the edge of the Salto Chico waterfall which flows into Lake Pehoé.
The team in charge describes it, aptly, as an extension of the landscape: walls of windows, bay windows and wide terraces abound, so that you are never without the opportunity to take your breath away for a moment by the severe grandeur of the mountains. There are high mountain climbs for aspirants; guided walks on sections of the park’s famous W Circuit for the wilderness and wildlife curious (expect condors, huemul deer, maybe even cougars); and over a dozen great trails to ride on one of Torres del Paine’s own stables’ rugged crossings. From $496, minimum stay three nights, explore.com
Massive views and minimalism in the Dolomites
The Dolomites: In summer, you come for the wild swimming in a glacial pond, the clean lung-renewing air, the spa treatments, the long scenic hikes (and the justified local sausages, pastries and full-bodied wines). But at the end of the day, you also want a view to sigh, especially at sunrise and sunset. Enter Forestis, the former sanatorium turned member of the Small Luxury Hotel which sits 1,800m above sea level just southeast of Brixen.
Each of the 62 rooms offers a larger-than-life panorama directly facing the Geislergruppe massif. There’s an excellent full-service spa, with an emphasis on alpine plants in treatments. Guided hikes, of course, and warm outdoor plunge pools. Local stone and pine commune with low sofas and sexy tables, in spaces designed to flatter and frame the views (which no design probably could have distracted from for long, anyway). From 720€, forestis.it
Raj Style and Himalayan Views in Shimla
Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh, was a mainstay of British India – a high-altitude, low-temperature hill station to which, after the mid-19th century, the Raj moved to move operations more or less in their entirety over the scorching summer months. In the southwestern Himalayan ranges, surrounded by a forest of deodar cedars, it is home to a curious and charming mixture of temples, tudorbethan cottages and neo-Gothic churches. Wildflower Hall, in slightly higher (and historically much smarter) nearby Mashobra, has its own rich heritage – built on the estate owned by Lord Kitchener, before it fell into the hands of the Indian government and then Oberoi Hotels , who invested significantly in the construction of the hotel.
A snooker and billiard room, library, and bar are complemented by an elegant spa and several gourmet restaurants. The views of the Forest Sanctuary and the Himalayas from every vantage point — spa terrace, private pool suite — are, like history, cinematic stuff. From around £260, oberoihotels.com
The ultimate Alaska exclusive
If you want to go as far as you can in the private mission of the mountain (and have a tremendous disposable income to support the effort), there’s Sheldon Chalet, which opened in 2018 in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater on the Ruth Glacier, just 10 miles from the summit of Denali, Alaska’s tallest mountain. You are purchasing the exclusive five-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath cottage. You arrive and leave by helicopter; you enjoy the care of a staff that includes a chef and guides; you sleep under a soft eiderdown and drink fine wines; all the expedition kit you would need is already at your fingertips, in your size.
At the height of summer, there is still snow (although temperatures can soar to 60°F and daylight never goes away); in winter, viewing the Northern Lights is one of the finest in North America, and you can take a glacier hike under a full moon. Rates are, predictably, out of this world; but then, so are the views. sheldonchalet.com; exclusive use for three nights from $94,500, pelorusx.com
Charming Thailand at the top
North of Chiang Rai in Thailand lies the golden triangle as far as it goes – steep hills and gorges forming a seemingly impenetrable wild jungle like a series of Song Dynasty watercolor views that last for days. Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort was joined in 2016 by Jason Friedman, a New York-born Asian-lover who has lived in Thailand for nearly 30 years (he’s the man behind countless wilderness hotels here, including the original Four Seasons Tented Camp and Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia’s Cardamom mountains). It is owned by ML Sudavdee Kriangkrai – aka Mom Da, one of Thailand’s most esteemed interior designers.
Suites, cottages and family homes enjoy 800 private acres of mountain peaks and slopes, scattered among the tea plantation, orchards, reservoir and vegetable gardens of Phu Chaisai (the terraced lettuce garden occupies its own only half a hill; Mom Da attaches great importance to durability). The design is rustic and charming, with bamboo walls and handmade wood and bamboo furniture dressed in bright Thai silks. Guided treks are the thing here – long treks ending at villages or temples for merit ceremonies. It’s as authentic and atmospheric as Thailand in 2022. From around £115, phu-chaisai.com