Bask in the sunshine – but without the long-haul drama.
Our own summer may be in top gear, but there are other times of the year when we need somewhere to reboot with a dose vitamin D. Spending a long weekend catching a few rays free of jet lag is easily within reach thanks to our pick of cool hotels in warm climates. Greece, Morocco and Turkey are all just a hop away by plane – less than three and a half hours so, with an early flight, you could be unpacking by lunchtime. All are destinations currently enjoying hot spot status and are best visited in the shoulder season before temperatures soar. Opt for desert sunshine in the immaculately landscaped grounds of Taj Palace Marrakesh, a heady mix of globally influenced opulence. Or the rooftop of Mama Shelter in the heart of Istanbul is an ideal place to soak up the sun and delights of the Turkish capital. Whereas New Hotel is perfectly situated to appreciate the best of both old and new Athens thanks to a location near the tavernas of the Plaka area, the Acropolis museum and the palm-dotted National Gardens. So dig out the Factor 30; a short haul hop means you’ll be walking on sunshine in no time….
The lowdown: High style in a setting that is 2,500 years old.
Best for: Fusing the best of ancient and modern Greece.
Athens has hit the news for the last few years for all the wrong reasons but the city is still, as it always was, a vibrant and cosmopolitan European capital and average temperatures in spring are a balmy 20 degrees.
Set bang in the city centre, this hotel, like the capital itself, encapsulates both ancient and modern. Once the Olympic Palace Hotel, it was gutted and every stick of the interiors recycled and re-used by Brazilian design duo the Campana Brothers to create a modern luxury boutique hotel but with industrial salvage style – reclaimed wood is used as wall art in the restaurant and lobby areas.
Opened in 2006, the hotel has recently added a penthouse (with 360 degree views of the nearby Acropolis and bathroom cast entirely in marble) and an art lounge, with library, for guests to dip into.
By day it serves local style snacks (smoked eggplant with walnuts) and by night transforms into a cocktail bar, crammed with hip locals.
Rooms are sparse yet luxurious with good views of the city below, service is friendly and the location couldn’t be bettered.
The lowdown: A hip city base where kitsch meets urban.
Best for: Experiencing the modern side of Istanbul.
Another addition to the rapidly expanding family of Mama Shelter hotels, this is the sunnier sibling to the Paris original; bedrooms are light and white to reflect the location, but still have Phillipe Stark’s signature surreal touches, from chalkboard ceilings to graffiti rugs.
The concept of designer rooms at affordable prices is still at it’s heart – rooms range in size and all enjoy utilitarian style bathrooms and notably comfortable beds – but the public spaces are where it’s at; the restaurant’s communal dining tables are used for socializing and working and are buzzing with in-the- know locals as well as guests (always a good sign).
Both here and on the roof terrace, the cuisine is a mélange of Turkish and French flavours, which is apt, as the hotel is situated in the city’s former European quarter, now a vibrant and fashionable neighbourhood full of boutiques and chic eateries.
The lowdown: Palatial grandeur and luxury service overlooking snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
Best for: Basking in a mix of Moorish, Indian and Venetian architecture as well as sunshine.
This is the newest addition to the Taj Hotel portfolio – they have luxury destinations all over the world – so they knows a thing or two about creating exotic and indulgent retreats.
Set in over 55 hectares of cultivated grounds, just slightly away from the madness and heat of the city, Taj Palace Marrakech stands majestically against a dramatic mountain backdrop.
The interior is lavish as you’d expect of a Taj hotel; a melting pot that evoke the Berber Kasbahs of Morocco, Ottoman splendour and rich Indian pageantry (Taj Hotels are from India after all).
Silks, velvets, fretwork, gold leaf and painted ceilings adorn the rooms and suites throughout.
Cuisine, like the décor, has a range of flavours with several dining options; tastes of India, Morocco or Asia can all be sampled without ever having to leave the resort. By day, cool off by the pool or take your pick of the two Moroccan hammams at the Jiva Grande Spa.