Escape to the Ecuadorian cloud forest or your own private Indian Ocean atoll with our pick of the most secluded places to stay, writes Susan d’Arcy.

There are about 7.9 billion people in the world, with an extra 83 million being added annually, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that there can’t be a single square kilometre that isn’t teeming with people. 

Happily, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite an ever-increasing global population, there are still plenty of splendidly isolated hotels. These places manage the trickiest of balancing acts: being both five-star spoiling for visitors and six-star sensitive to their fragile environments. 

We suggest the most special hideaways in pristine pockets of beauty where you can settle down and reset your soul in style.

1. Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

From Singapore it’s a 45-minute ferry to Batam, then a 90-minute flight to the Riau archipelago, but Bawah Reserve in Indonesia is worth the effort. The 35 villas – 11 over water – are constructed from bamboo, driftwood and teak, and come with azure lagoons and 13 creamy beaches. Try exploring Bawah’s virgin forests, looking out for butterflies.

2. Eremito, Italy

This modern-day Umbrian monastery has no TV or wi-fi and acts as a buffer zone between you and the digital world. Inspired by 14th-century design, the 17 rooms have wrought-iron beds, rough-hewn stone desks and window seats from which to watch tendrils of mist play chase in the valley. Dinner is vegetarian, eaten by candlelight and, preferably, in monastic silence. Activities include yoga, meditation, walks, forest bathing and stargazing. Sign up for the Gregorian chant workshop and you’ll be well on your way to spiritual awakening in Italy.

3. Pater Noster, Sweden

For more than a century Pater Noster lighthouse has guided sailors through the hazardous waters off Hamneskar, a rocky nugget at the far end of the west coast of Sweden. These days the lighthouse master’s old home has been transformed into a safe harbour for adventurous tourists, with nine cosy bedrooms in dark blues and greens, featuring custom-made wallpapers and vintage maritime clocks and lanterns. There’s deep-sea fishing and lessons on how to cook your catch, as well as sailing, kayaking, scuba diving and meditation. For the daring there’s an outdoor sleeping area on the cliffs overlooking those waves.

4. Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway

The seven Landscape rooms at this old farm outside Sylte (population 411) on the west coast of Norway are so private that, despite having glass walls, they don’t need curtains. To ensure that the pine and birch forests and Valldola River valley keep your attention, their interiors are deliberately muted and meditative. Hike the woods and pass cascading waterfalls to mountain summits. Dinner, in the former cowshed, is a culinary immersion, featuring hay-flavoured ice cream with pine-sprout syrup.

5. Cosmoledo Atoll, Seychelles

Cosmoledo Atoll is the world capital of monster GTs (that’s giant trevally, the fish, although the bartenders here do make a mean gin and tonic too). You don’t have to be a fly-fisher to become hooked on this place – its pristine sand dunes, expansive flats and mangroves attract rare brown booby birds, while Malagasy turtle doves circle overhead. Don’t bother with the faff of wetsuits – merely swimming from the beach with a snorkel ticks off green and hawksbill turtles, manta rays and colourful coral reefs. The Seychelles atoll’s eco camp has eight pods, simply furnished with king-size beds that come with beach views.

6. Nihi Sumba, Indonesia

Sumba is an hour’s flight from Bali, and a world away from its bustle – locals here still get about on horseback. Nihi Sumba, however, is reassuringly refined, its 28 villas having Crusoe touches with five-star flair. Trek Sumba’s empty savannah and mountain bike to Stone Age sites, but you’ll be drawn back to the resort’s cappuccino-coloured beach. Offshore is Occy’s Left, one of the world’s most renowned surf breaks – catch it right and you’ll have a thrilling ride through 300 metres of ripple walls and barrels. Or save yourself for a trot on one of Nihi Sumba’s horses.

7. Anantara Qasr al Sarab, Abu Dhabi

The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted desert and rising like a mirage from its rust-red dunes is this romantic modern-day Bedouin fortress, 90 minutes’ drive from downtown Abu Dhabi. The shifting sands, the silhouettes of camel trains and the incredible sunsets are enough to keep guests thoroughly entertained, but visitors can also try their hand at archery and cycling on specially adapted fat bikes. There are 204 rooms, suites and pool villas, but the subtle Arabian aesthetic, with plenty of exposed wood, twinkling lanterns and water features, ensures a surprisingly intimate ambience.

8. Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

The 6,000-acre protected reserve that surrounds this lodge straddles Ecuador’s Choco rain and cloud forest, making it one of the planet’s richest areas in terms of biodiversity. Get your bearings on its Dragonfly gondola, which flies over the lush canopy, then get up close on night and day patrols, spotting butterflies as big as your hand, rare birds, tree frogs, monkeys and even pumas. The 24-room glass-fronted lodge – a 2.5-hour drive from Quito – is sleek, boutique and sustainable; not one tree was felled during construction.

9. Camp Cecil de la Isla, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the aquarium of the world”, and this camp on the UNESCO-protected island of Espiritu Santo in Baja California, Mexico offers a glamorous springboard to the aquatic action. From the eight shoreline tents guests may spot green turtles waddling up the beach. In the water plump sea lions and playful dolphins are ten a penny and make enthusiastic swimming buddies, while flying fish are so numerous that even amateur photographers can capture award-winning images. Come between May and October to see blue and humpback whales.

10. Domaine des Etangs, France

Many people who travel from Britain to France make a beeline for the Dordogne, but those in the know direct themselves a little further northwest, to unspoilt Charente. Here you’ll find this 13th-century château. Wrapped in the estate are seven lakes, ancient woodlands, wildflower pastures and lots of cows – that’s the castle’s Limousin herd. The seven suites in the main house are lavish, some with Picassos on the walls, but for sylvan charm the six stone cottages are so hidden away that they come with electric cars.

11. Hotel Union Oye, Norway

The rooms at this 19th-century mansion on Norway’s west coast are named after previous guests. Which makes sense when they are such notables as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Roald Amundsen. The fjords have changed little since those figures checked in. Rooms retain a liberal sprinkling of silk swags, antique dressers and ancestral oils. Exploring the epic emptiness of the fjords, however, has had an upgrade, so on top of the usual boat, bike and kayak options, the hotel’s sister company can provide a view from a helicopter.

12. Fogo Island Inn, Canada

Board the ferry at Farewell (yes, really), wave goodbye to the more refined parts of Canada and 50 minutes later wash up on Fogo Island. It is Newfoundland’s quirkiest outpost. Fogo Island Inn is moments from untamed forests, lichen-covered barrens and wild stretches of the North Atlantic, where puffins, pods of whales and icebergs put in summer appearances. Back at base, all 29 rooms have traditional handmade quilts, wallpapers by local artists and floor-to-ceiling windows with wide-open ocean views. Rooftop wood-fired saunas and hot tubs complete the package.

13. Dharana at Shillim, India

When well-to-do Mumbai couples crave quiet contemplation they jump in their cars for the three-hour drive to this 320-acre haven in the Benevolent Mountains near Pune. Here in India relaxation comes courtesy of this spa’s patchwork of lush forests, paddy fields and bamboo plantations. An almost monastic serenity extends to the wood-and-stone villas too. There is morning yoga in an open-air studio overlooking hilly jungles, followed by lung-busting hikes and mind-clearing activities, such as clay therapy (pottery classes) and meditation in a holy cave.

14. Son Palou, Mallorca

Surrounded by apple orchards, olive groves, the rugged peaks of the Tramuntana mountains and the fertile Orient Valley, this 14th-century hilltop manor house has R&R writ deep in its Mallorca DNA. Of course there’s prime walking, yet the beaches at Soller are a 30-minute drive away. Rooms are cheery, with traditional beamed ceilings and terracotta-tiled floors. Dinner involves fruit and vegetables from the hotel’s estate in signature dishes such as grandma’s croquettes and moreish ensaimada (pastries) stuffed with cream and smothered in apricot puree.

15. Consolacion, Spain

Despite its Tuscan good looks and location two hours from Barcelona, Matarrana isn’t on the radar for many Spanish, let alone British, travellers. Those that do make it to the village of Monroyo are rewarded with this thoughtful conversion of a 16th-century church. The slow-food restaurant, a library, chillout zone and three rooms are in the original building. The 10 modernist cubes, perched on a bluff, are striking additions. Each has an entire wall of glass for unforgettable views. The area is famed for its hams and truffles.

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