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Luxurious hidden kingdoms

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  • Jack Martin recommends six luxurious bolt-holes to avoid the crowds
  • Post Ranch perches high on the cliffs of California's Big Sur
  • Zanzibar hotel's Jetty Bar perches over a reef 150m from shore
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By Jack Martin
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CNN Traveller

(CNN Traveller) -- Jack Martin recommends six luxurious bolt-holes to avoid the crowds:

The Banyan Tree in Lijiang, China, is 2,400m above sea level and lies below the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Banyan Tree Lijiang
Lijiang, China

Think of China and you will probably think of skyscrapers, crowds and (I presume) the Olympics. This is a place to get away from all that, however, (even the games, if you so choose). The 55-villa resort is 2,400m above sea level and lies beneath the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain --­ believed in local folklore to resemble a jade dragon lying on its side. Architectural style in the luxuriously equipped villas takes its lead from the traditions of the Naxi people of the region.

Post Ranch Inn
Big Sur, California, US

The Post Ranch perches high on the cliffs of Big Sur and its design and ethos are inspired by environmental concerns and the topography of the region. Its 40 rooms (and two houses) have views over mountains or ocean, wood-burning stoves and, in some cases, grass-covered roofs. Activities include star-gazing, early morning yoga and the daily shamanic journey ­led by a drum-beating shaman who leads guests ­spiritually, at least ­ into the past. The Post Ranch also has an award-winning spa, with crystal and gemstone therapy and Hungarian herbal body wraps.

Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski

Zanzibar ­island of spices, crossroads of civilizations, its very air a heady mix of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Well, you can enjoy all of that and stay in secluded luxury at this resort hotel. While it may not be the most intimate (it has 110 rooms and seven villas), guests can stroll through 15ha of gardens, swim in turquoise waters off the private beach or simply relax with something long and cool in the Jetty Bar, which perches over a reef 150m from shore.

Huvafen Fushi
North Male Atoll

The Maldives has several resorts that can lay claim to being beautiful luxury hideaways, but perhaps the pace-setter at the moment is Per Aquum¹s Huvafen Fushi. The 43-bugalow resort has its own lagoon and is a half-hour speedboat ride from the Maldives¹ capital, Male. It opened in 2004 and has been winning awards ever since. The two ocean pavilions are likely to appeal if you really want to get away from it all. These have private plunge pools and dining areas and split level terraces that lead directly into clear blue waters famous for colourful marine life. You barely have to see another soul if you so wish.

Moonlight Head Private Lodge

Moonlight Head sits just off Australia¹s Great Ocean Road near the Southern Ocean. The luxury lodge, which can accommodate parties of up to eight guests, was designed with environmental sustainability in mind, and perches on a bluff overlooking eucalyptus trees and bush. Somewhat stark-looking from the outside, Moonlight Head is luxurious within, with avant-garde furniture providing a contrast with luxurious Persian rugs, and neutral colours set off by bright reds and rich browns. Guests can be transferred by private plane or limousine from Melbourne Airport and the lodge provides three butlers, masseuses and a selection of guides to lead excursions into the bush.

Kasbah du Toubkal
High Atlas

The Kasbah du Toubkal occupies a lofty perch in the High Atlas, around 70km from Marrakech ­and, be prepared, you have to walk the final stretch up to it. Staffed by local Berber people, the hotel prides itself on giving back to the community (in the form of a five per cent surcharge on bills) thus helping to fund projects such as a new school and an ambulance. Visitors can use this place of lofty luxury as their base for trekking into the mountains. Décor is comfortable and luxurious without being over-designed and owes much to Moroccan traditions.

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