I’m a complete geek when it comes to finding good places to stay. Cosy, handmade, individual, homely, bohemian and eco-friendly are all words that grab my attention. Add to that a view, a hot tub, privacy, and a good price and I’m definitely sold.
People are always asking me for recommendations and tips on how I find such places so I thought I’d write a series of posts on the best places we’ve ever stayed, as well as some tips on how we find them. I’ll cover hostels, couchsurfing, Air BnB, long-term apartments and hotels/holiday rentals.
First up is hotels/holiday rentals.
The most amazing hotels we’ve ever stayed in
These are the sorts of places that tend to be treats. We’re definitely not five star people, but we occasionally like to splash out on something a little more special than a hostel. These are our top ten so far. Bear in mind that some of them are from back when we had a regular salary and were simply going on holiday. Those would be out of our budget these days, but we’re traveling all the time so there’s no complaining there. And you definitely don’t have to spend a fortune to have an amazing time – as the first place clearly demonstrates.
Sol y Luna, Coroico, Bolivia
When you arrive in Coroico there’s a sign that says ‘Welcome to paradise’ and Sol y Luna is like another paradise within that. Built into the side of a hill with stunning views of the cordilleras and cloud forest, Sol y Luna is complex of individual and artfully-designed apartments and cabanas. We stayed in Alaya, which had the most beautiful view from bed we’ve ever experienced. There are also two swimming pools, a slate hot tub, a restaurant, plenty of hammocks, yoga lessons, a meditation room, miradors and birds that sound like magic. If you’re on a tight budget, dorm rooms are also available.
Price: 100-300 bolivianos (£9-27) for a double room.
Casa da Cascata, Carvalhinhos (Silver Coast), Portugal
This house, Casa de Cascata, was stunning. It overlooked a valley in Portugal’s Silver Coast, and included loads of added bonuses such as an infinity pool, a beautiful tiered garden, a Japanese hot tub and a cosy living room. As is often the case, we went in the off-season so got a discount rate. It was the perfect place to relax. At the time, the property was on-sale and we fantasised about buying it ourselves, it was so beautiful. It’s also in driving distance of some beautiful places such as the Silver Coast and Coimbra. We hired a car and a spent a few days in Lisbon afterwards.
Price: £450 per week.
Kasbah du Toubkal, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
When I first heard about Kasbah du Toubkal, I was enchanted by its promise of eco-lodging and its setting amid Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. We weren’t disappointed and Steve cites it as one of his favourite places yet – mainly because of the Jedi-like robes we were given upon arrival. We were also presented with an entire birthday cake for Steve, which we shared with the other guests. Other bonuses included a steam room, a meditation pagoda, and a bath with views across the mountains. This was a wild treat and definitely one we could only
Price: €220 (£175) per night.
Three Sisters, Tallin, Estonia
For the past four years, I’ve taken Steve to a surprise destination for his birthday. Magical Tallin in Estonia was the first, and it was made all the more better by the Three Sisters Hotel. This cosy little hideaway in the old town has a variety of different rooms. I found it hard to choose online so they let us decide once we got there. If we go somewhere for an occasion, I always make sure to tell the hotel, which means they often throw in a gift – this time we got a bottle of champagne.
Price: We went in the off-season so got a good deal at £130 per night for a double room.
Casa Albiano, Albiano (near Barga) Tuscany
We found this gem after hours scouting holiday rental sites. The rustic cottage had romantic views over the Tuscan hills and was close to the beautiful town of Barga. The drive up the hill was a little sketchy but worth it for the privacy. The gardens surrounding the house were charming including a flower-covered pergola and a swimming pool. We hired a car, took a day trip to Lucca, and spent a few days in Rome afterwards.
Price: £850 per week.
Senda Verde, Yolosa, Bolivia
Both Steve and I love animals, especially monkeys, so we jumped at the chance to stay in a tree house in the middle of an animal sanctuary. We were woken up by monkeys shaking the house and could see macaws and parrots flying from the balcony. Best of all, one of the spider monkeys spontaneously joined us on the rope bridge one day and gave Steve a massive hug. Senda Verde is an amazing place just down the hill from Coroico. They take great care of the animals and are careful not to exploit them for tourism. It’s not a petting zoo and the animals clearly come first. We’d love to go back to volunteer.
Price: It cost 140 bolivianos (£13) per person to stay in the tree house. There a also a few cabins, which cost 120-150 bolivianos (£11-13) per person. All money goes to the animal refuge.
Riad Noir d’Ivoire, Marrakech, Morocco
We woke up in the Riad Noir d’Ivoire on Steve’s birthday one year. I had managed to get a good deal after numerous emails with the owner and scouting on hotel booking sites. However, it was still a massive treat (and was back when I had a salary paying job). Our room came with a rooftop jacuzzi, as well as a massive bath. It was one of the most luxurious places we’ve ever been too, but was worth every penny. We felt like royalty.
Price: €150-320 (£119-254) for a double room.
Windmill of the Sun, Tavira, Portugal
Windmill of the Sun was one of the first places Steve and I went on holiday together (the first was Barcelona where we actually got together in the first place!). It was an absolute bargain because we went just before the high season. This meant it was a little too cold to use the pool but the house more than made up for that. It was in a converted windmill and included lots of hidden nooks and crannies. We had two bedrooms to choose from so swapped each night. Our favourite was the top one with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. From here, we took a trip to Seville for one night as it was only a few hours away. It’s necessary to rent a car.
Price: £350 for a week for the entire windmill.
Letizia’s studio, Varenna, Italy
Varenna is one of the most romantic and charming towns we’ve ever visited. It’s on Lake Como and the main part of the town is entirely pedestrianised with cobbled streets snaking up the hill and lots of restaurants with enchanting views over the lake. You can get a ferry to nearby Menaggio and Como, which we did regularly to play crazy golf! Rentals are expensive here, but we found a good one in Letizia’s Studio with a kitchen and terrace overlooking the lake. The only downside was that it was just above a main road – this hardly disturbed us and was worth it for the price and location.
Price: €450 (£357) for a week.
Uptown Reservations, Chelsea, London
We’re not really fans of Valentine’s day but one year we decided to embrace it and go on holiday in our own city. We’d heard of a site a bit like Air BnB called Uptown Reservations where people rent out rooms in their homes. We decided to go somewhere we rarely visit – Chelsea – a mega posh area of London. The house even had a lift. It was a complete novelty for us as we never spend time in West London. We’d never want to live there but being tourists among the super rich of London was amusing, and our host was lovely.
Price: £150 per night for a double room.
Where are the best places you’ve ever stayed? We’d love to hear.