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Mountain Lodges
Mountain Lodges
11.03.11

One way to take the chill off winter’s arrival is warming yourself by a roaring fire in a rustic mountain lodge – or escaping to some southern clime where lodges offer an ideal entrée to exotic locales and tropical paradises. We uncovered some fantastic lodges in all corners of the globe that range from luxurious, remote, scenic or just plain cozy. So curl up by the fire and read on…

Into Africa – Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Pamushana

Looking for an escape from the ordinary? There could hardly be a better choice than the Singita Pamushana Lodge, an intimate retreat in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. In the local tribal language Malilangwe means “Call of the Leopard,” and call us it does. The private game reserve in Zimbabwe’s southeast corner is a non-profit trust that purposes to protect its endangered inhabitants from the poaching that has ravaged much of the rest of Zimbabwe’s parks. It also goes to great lengths to include local communities in its operation.

The lodge’s perch above the Malilangwe Dam means panoramic views across 140,000 hilly acres dotted with massive Baobab trees, sandstone hills, endangered species and ancient rock art sites. Thatched-roofed, circular architecture is styled in the local Shoni tradition and accented with rich African prints and colors, warm woods and open living spaces. With the evening calls of the wild as a soundtrack and flickering lanterns illuminating the lush gardens and expansive teak decks, you’ll be on a storybook adventure.

Spend the day on a guided bush walk, cruising the lake for hippos or tracking the rare black rhino-- or any of the Big Five (leopard, lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo), all of whom can be spotted in Zimbabwe. You may even be lucky enough to spot more elusive species like caracal (lynx cat) and aardvark. Later, enjoy a late afternoon nap under a Maponi tree and look forward to a splendid meal at dusk on the sweeping deck. Conserving while you luxuriate, this is one all-inclusive adventure you won’t want to miss.

Mongolia – Nomadic Lodging

Mongolia

You haven’t really gotten away from it all until you’ve journeyed to the outer edges of nowhere. Start in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, then travel 300 miles south into the remote Gobi Desert and you’ll be very close. Set in a national park against the flank of the Mount Bulagtai volcanic outcrop, the Three Camel Lodge stirs an otherworldly experience of lodging and hospitality. Twenty deluxe gers (traditional felt tents used by Mongolia’s nomadic herders) make up the accommodations in this isolated frontier outpost. Operated on wind and solar power, heated with wood stoves and outfitted with traditional southward-facing doors for unobstructed views of the desert, gers provide a truly local experience. Adhering to the tenets of Mongolian Buddhist architecture, local craftsmen did not use a single nail in the roofs of the main buildings. Committed efforts in sustaining local culture, economy and environment make this lodging worth the trek. Ride two-humped Bactrian camels, go on a dinosaur fossil dig, hunt for ancient petroglyphs, indulge in a massage or try a nature hike by day. Then settle into the Bulagtai Bistro for organic traditional specialties and watch Mongolian dancing by night. Try the camel milk at the Thirsty Camel Bar for something a little different. Incredible sunrises, sunsets and starry skies unmarred by civilization are icing on the cake.

Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia

If you’re heading Down Under, you may want to keep heading all the way down to Kangaroo Island off Australia’s dramatic southern coast. The sparsely populated island harbors unspoiled land made up of deserted beaches, limestone cliffs and prolific wildlife to bring you the best of Australia on an intimate scale. Kangaroos, koalas, furry seals and wallabies all live on the island, which is also home to the Southern Ocean Lodge, a remote sanctuary designed to blend into and capture the great panorama. From the minute you walk into the Great Room, you’ll be awed with views. Strung like a fine necklace atop a rugged bluff, the superbly designed lodge features 21 suites (all with fantastic ocean views and heated floors). The indoor eco chic is set off by the pounding surf and rough-and-tumble seascape. Artisan growers provide fresh island ingredients for invigorating meals – like the fabulous local honey – while a cutting-edge spa offers sweeping views and rejuvenates tired muscles from day hikes, cliff walks and nature forays. Take a nocturnal hike, gaze at crystal clear southern constellations, help yourself to a bottle from the wine cellar or sit in your on-deck spa and watch the dolphins frolic. Do as much or as little as you like—it’s all-inclusive.

Lana’i, HI – Private Tropical Paradise

Lana'i

The Lodge at Koele is the antidote to snowy mountain lodges. Discreetly tucked into the cool central highlands of Hawaii’s little known private island of Lana’i, a finely wrought plantation lodge awaits your arrival. Tranquil, intimate and gracious, the property basks in lush gardens, grand old trees, rambling lawns, waterfalls, pagodas and gazebos. Book a suite with a stone fireplace and you won’t miss anything in Colorado, except perhaps the snow. Instead you’ll enjoy warm, gentle trade winds carrying the scent of orchids, plumeria and hibiscus to your lanai (Hawaiian terrace). As a substitute for skiing, two golf courses, lawn sports, riding stables, nature trails and any number of water-borne activities get you in motion. Hulopo’e Bay’s reef teems with tropical fish, green sea turtles and spinner dolphins to swim or snorkel with, while humpback whales pass by during winter. Try the sport of Hawaiian kings and hop a surfboard, or dive down to coral grottoes and lava caves. Deep-sea fishers can angle for yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi or blue marlin, and shoppers can take a shuttle or walk to town. If that all exhausts you, nap on a white sand beach. Upon awaking, order a tropical drink, refuel with fresh island fare and take an evening stroll in shorts. Who needs Aspen? It’s all about laid back and hanging loose—Hawaiian time.

Hawley, PA – Rural Spa Retreat

It doesn’t always have to be about activity. In fact, a lodge can well be suited to simply nurturing your soul. If that appeals to your spirit, the Lodge at Woodloch is quietly beckoning. Set in northeastern Pennsylvania’s serene lake region in a wooded corner of the Pocono Mountains, the lodge is only a 90-mile excursion from New York City and a world away from city living. Indulge in impeccable service, spa treatments, accommodation and cuisine, each stripped down to earthy basics to uncover a friendly, crystal-clean and healthy glow. Wander about in your robe (No one will bat an eye) or sit on your porch rocker and let your mind relax. Amble the outdoor nature path and allow the fresh air to renew you. Soaring windows, soothing saunas, plunge pools, massages and facials invite you to restful harmony with nature. Sip a green juice and learn how to nap, meditate or do yoga, or just curl up in front of a glowing fireplace. Designed to put your mind at rest, Woodlich is isolated and quiet—a place for personal renewal. If you’re worried about doing nothing, don’t—that’s what you come here to do. If you do feel compelled to rouse yourself, there’s plenty of programs and activities ranging from cooking and water coloring to golfing and biking.

Keene, NY – Rustic Adirondack Charmer

Dartbrook

These days, what passes for rustic lodges are often gargantuan exercises in excess on a huge scale. If you prefer smaller, more intimate and truly rustic -- without compromising cleanliness and comfort -- the Dartbrook Lodge may be just what you’re looking for. The friendly owners have crafted a welcome and immaculately cared for mountain charmer based on the Adirondack camp concept of a main lodge with simple surrounding cabins. Just 12 miles east of Lake Placid in northeast New York’s massive Adirondack Park, the lodge’s location in tiny downtown Keene in the High Peaks makes it all the more appealing. Dartbrook covers all the imagery of what a lodge might entail: surrounding peaks, low-key town flavor, pine beams, fireplace, kitchenette, porch, American Indian prints and woodsy mountain memorabilia. The Cedar Run Bakery right next-door makes breakfast, homemade bread and scrumptious treats as well as pre-made lunch or dinners to heat up in your cabin when you just want to curl up in front of the fire. If you fall in love with your rough-hewn furniture and accessories, the neighboring Dartbrook Rustic Goods (the same folks who furnished all the cabins) has everything you need to bring your lodge experience home. Details like local, handmade soaps, free Wi-Fi, games and DVDs to check out from the lodge plus reasonable prices make this a real, down-home deal. Since Keene is also a hiking trail hub, you’ll want to come back next summer, too.

Peru – At the Gates of an Incan Sanctuary

Peru

As the only accommodation at the gates of Machu Picchu, the fabled Lost City of the Incas, the Sanctuary Lodge might not have to try as hard as it does to live up to the aura that its 15th-century neighbor holds. However, it does. Overlooking lush mountains and jungle, the lodge provides the elements of refined and attentive service worthy of Inca kings. Staff will meet you at the rail station where the train stops far below Machu Picchu along the Urubamba River, collect your bags and escort you to the bus that will carry you up to the hotel’s spectacular perch. Arise from your bed and pass through the citadel’s gates or begin your hike up Huayna Picchu – the sugarloaf peak that towers over Machu Picchu -- before the crowds arrive since access is restricted to 400 persons per day. Wandering the ruins for some alone time is a spiritual experience worthy of the journey to this spectacular sanctuary in the clouds. Although the hotel is open to the public during the day, following the departure of the last bus down the hill in the late afternoon, guests have it and the ruins to themselves. To top off your day, revive tired muscles in the unique jungle Jacuzzi and indulge in a delicious dinner with wine—all food and drinks are inclusive.

England & Scotland – Lord of the Lodge

Brewlands

Sporting lodges stir the blood of outdoor enthusiasts who dream of conversation and whisky by the crackling fireside and the thrill of the catch in the remote and majestic English and Scottish lake districts and highlands. Filled with great history, these fantastic estates come complete with hills, rivers, glens and moors and the lure of being lord of the land. Fortunately, due to the high cost of maintenance, owners (known as lairds) make them available for rent, meaning you too can be laird for a week. These small and large country estates and lodges are perfect for family reunions, groups of couples or friends—and not necessarily even for hunting. Walking, riding, fishing, croquet and golfing can all be part your sporting retreat, or even a piper for special occasions. Lodges come with full or partial catering and have a “stalker” (hunting professional) or staff that have often been on site for generations to impart nuggets of history and local legends. Book into a lodge like Brewlands, and steep yourself in the warm glow of historic, English country lore. For more information and options, visit: www.georgegoldsmith.com/sporting-estates

Costa Rica – Hideaway on Cloud Nine

Costa Rica

Less than an hour north of Costa Rica’s capital, a rain and cloud forest awaits that will immediately allow you to leave behind any trace of civilization . The winding, bumpy road to get there enhances its remoteness and delivers a proverbial pot of gold at its fantastic end. Rushing rivers, waterfalls and a symphony of forest sounds greet you in this lush paradise teeming with birds, monkeys, butterflies, frogs, jaguars and other exotic fauna. Built into a mountainside and designed to bring the bountiful beauty of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park indoors, the Peace Lodge sums it up perfectly. The refreshing cool air of the forest means air conditioning is unnecessary—instead, the rustic rooms hold stone fireplaces, rainforest bathrooms with waterfall showers and on-deck hammocks and Jacuzzis from which to stare at gorgeous views. Wander the butterfly gardens and aviary, and feed the hummingbirds and toucans right from your hand. The animal park houses rescued animals ranging from jungle cats to sloth. Hike to the waterfalls while watching for colorful birds, fish for trout in the pond and take a night frog tour for forest adventure. Viewable from the lodge, the Poás volcano lies only 20 minutes away for intrepid climbers. Book a two-night stay and get to bed early—the jungle awakens with the sun in a grand chorus of sound. For more information, visit: www.waterfallgardens.com/about_peace_lodge.php

Lake Tahoe, CA – A Bear’s Lair Extraordinaire

Lake Tahoe

The rounded red door lodged into a stone wall that stands under a grand wood awning is the first enticing glimpse of this luxurious small lodge. Tucked quietly away just a few blocks from Lake Tahoe’s lively South Shore casinos, the intimate Black Bear Inn is one of those places you just can’t resist the temptation to open the door. The Great Room invites you in and warmly welcomes you to linger as you take in the great stone fireplace, log pole staircase and all the romantic trimmings of a glowing forest lodge. The main lodge features only five bedrooms, while three idyllic cabins wait in back for those seeking greater seclusion. Pitched roofs, beamed ceilings, warm colors and room fireplaces keep you snug and warm and a stellar hot breakfast awaits you after a solid’s night sleep. And just up Ski Run Blvd., Heavenly Ski Resort beckons with top-notch ski runs and a tram that takes you to the peak for fantastic lake views. Stop in at Heavenly Village at the foot of the tram for some après-ski drinks, people watching, shopping, movies or ice skating, and bask in the knowledge that you, along with a few lucky others, have a warm and cozy “Black Bear” waiting for your return.

St. Anton, Austria – Tyrolean Warmth

If you’re looking for a ski vacation, there is no truer starting point than the Alps. Situated in the Tyrolean wonderland on the rail line between Zurich and Innsbruck, cozy St. Anton has long been a calling card for skiers with all the hall marks of charming European ambience. Touted as the cradle of Alpine skiing, St. Anton had the first ski club and still hosts the annual Kandahar World Cup ski race (Jan/Feb)—established in 1928. As part of the greater Arlberg ski area, skiers have access to a mind-boggling 248 area ski runs that include neighboring Lech, St. Cristoph, Stuben and Zürs; but the fun doesn’t stop there. St. Anton is also legendary for its après-ski bars and nightlife.

Although it doesn’t have the word “lodge” in it, Berschlössl(meaning: small mountain castle) has all the makings of a European version with charm written all over it: warm, pine walls, individually decorated rooms, delightful traditional furnishings, cozy down comforters, a ski service shop, and a hearty breakfast with local meats and cheeses to get the day started right. And how about its location at the base of the mountain next to the ski lift and ski school? Fall out of your bed, into your boots and onto the lift. When you’re tired, ski directly to the terrace for an après-ski pick-me-up and watch the mountain activity from your perch. Revive your ski legs in the squeaky clean sauna, walk to town for a great meal and return to one of 10 cozy rooms for a sound night of sleep. Free wireless and garage parking come with your sweet European dreams. We hardly think you’ll miss the word lodge.

Whistler, Canada – At the Top of the Heap

Whistler

As the upscale locales of Vail and Aspen enjoyed their reputation as trendiest winter playgrounds in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the resort of Whistler-Blackcomb 90 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia quietly made its way to the top-ten ski resorts in the world. Just in time for the 2010 Olympics, it triumphantly arrived as the top destination for all-terrain adventure. A plethora of hotels, restaurants and condos exploded onto the scene to create an all-season vacation village that rivals any in the world. Over 90 restaurants call Whistler’s pedestrian Village home, as do bar and nightlife options galore. Nita Lake Lodge, perched at the edge of a small namesake lake just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway, is far enough away from the Whistler hub for peace and quiet, but close enough to be in on the action. An array of modern studio, one- or two-bedroom suites accommodate a solo, duo or family excursion. All options have kitchenettes, fireplaces, heated stone floors in the bathroom and mountain, lake or forest views. Three gourmet restaurants, a spa, library, games room, rooftop hot tubs and shuttle service to Whistler Village make your stay a breeze. Get a hot rock massage while watching the snow fall outdoors and check into winter bliss.

Central Europe Backcountry Lodges of the Alps

Alps

Somewhat akin to backcountry lodges in the U.S. and Canada, European mountain huts are in a league of their own when it comes to culture and tradition. Ranging from basic to very comfortable, mountain huts comprise a large network strung across the Alps that serve as refuges for hikers, bikers, climbers and skiers in Austria (Hütten), France (gîte d’étape/refuge), Italy (rifugio) and Switzerland (Hütten). Operated privately, often by a ski, mountaineering or alpine club, huts each have their own history and personality, many with websites or Facebook pages. No matter their set-up or level of simplicity, the huts do not compromise an ounce of what Europeans expect in civilized gastronomy or culture—even when they’re in remote, high Alpine regions and food is delivered by helicopter. Like a mountain hostel, huts are staffed and offer guests a bed or bunk (usually with sheets and blankets, or even down comforters), hearty fare and incredible views from often incredulous locations. Huts in the lower elevations (like Rifugiolagazuoi) offer even more amenities, things like electrical power, restaurants, full bars and espresso machines, not to mention private rooms with baths. Ski, hike, bike, climb or telemark in for an overnight on a multiple-day advenutre, on a full-moon ski outing, to join an all-night dance party or pizza fest or simply to indulge in an enormous meal before skiing or hiking back out with a headlamp attached. An evening may include singing, dancing and socializing with a wide variety of friendly people and hardly a wink of sleep. It’s all part of enjoying fresh air, life and the rich traditions of the Alps.
Austria
France
Italy
Switzerland

Verbier, Switzerland – Flying on Alpine Highs

Switzlerland

For an elite high-Alps ski lodge with top European flair, Verbier, Switzerland has the answer on all fronts. Located in the far southwestern corner of the country, two hours from Geneva, the popular winter locale is home to The Lodge, a nine-bedroom chalet owned by Virgin Atlantic owner Sir Richard Branson. Helicopter into nearby Le Chable or take the train to Martigny and make your way to luxury. You’ll arrive to a whole new world of discerning travel. The Lodge comes equipped with unique rustic chic rooms, fantastic Michelin-starred cuisine prepared by a dedicated chef in an open-plan kitchen, a spa, pool, Jacuzzis, steam room, mini ice rink, boot-drying room and the ever-popular party room. Relax with a Bolivar cigar or wine from Sir Richard’s wine cellar while enjoying personal touches that make this chalet unlike any other: pre-stamped postcards, Branson family photos, books, name on your door and more. A ton of activity awaits on the outside for most every alpine sport interest—cross-country, snowboarding, snowshoeing, paragliding, heli-skiing—and that’s just in the winter. The main ski lift lies only one minute away. You can rent the lodge by the week for up to 18 guests, or reserve an individual room, but only if the lodge hasn’t been booked for exclusive use. It doesn’t come cheap, but the experience includes top-flight meals, afternoon tea, unlimited drinks of all variety, minibar, 24-hour chauffeur, stunning views and “really nice staff”—priceless.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve chosen a place to lodge, read our Travel Tips to prepare for your winter journey. And don’t forget your wardrobe! Check our Packing Guide for lists and tips, or call our outfitters for personal assistance in selecting what’s right. We also encourage you to visit our Facebook page to read what other travelers are saying about clothes and travel. Let us know about your favorite lodges!

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