Holiday time is precious so when it comes around, ensuring we use it well is paramount. And that means getting our needs and desires met, stat.
In the new world order, those aren't just about consumption and status as they may have been in the past. Today's traveller wants authenticity and immersion – perhaps served with a side order of social media bragging rights.
How better, then, to achieve all that in a limited window of time, than to go to a beautiful destination that's a little off the beaten track but still accessible, and to stay somewhere that, while encapsulating all that is great about its surroundings, is an experience unto itself.
These five new boutique and bespoke hotels in unique locations are such offerings. From period drama in a small, cool European city, to a whimsical playpen on the sea in Sri Lanka, there's something on this list to appeal to every holiday mind set.
The Owl and The Pussycat, Galle
The Owl officially won 'Most Instragrammable' hotel at this year's SLH (Small Luxury Hotels) Awards. In Sri Lanka's backpacker-turned-boho bolthole and new in the coastal strip, the property named after Edward Lear's 1871 famously whimsical poem is a jewel-coloured retreat of only 17 guestrooms, 10 of which are suites and several of which have kitchens. Oriented around a tropical courtyard with a pool, the property has a private, residential vibe, perfect for kicking back and enjoying the connection to the ocean.
Working with local artisans along with New York architect Uday K. Dhar, the owners created a place inspired by Brazilian Tropicalia (think Carmen Miranda) and the surrounding beauty with orientation to catch sea breezes and views. Furnishings have an emphasis on natural and breathable fabrics and local hard materials, creating a barefoot luxury style.
Featuring relaxed lounge areas and to seaside seating for sunset cocktails or dining from the onsite restaurant, The Runcible Spoon (another Lear reference) serving fresh local cuisine with an emphasis on authentic flavours alongside western dishes.
Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, Havana
When Cuba was open to Americans in 2016, the mantra was "See Havana before the hoards". However, 2017 has seen US airlines' cutting service due to lack of demand. So there's still time – but why wait? Especially as Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski beckons.
After a five-year reimagining, the late 19th-century Manzana de Gomez shopping emporium has emerged as Cuba's most spectacular five-star zone. It takes up a whole city block surrounded by stunning landmarks, so from the rooftop pool you gaze out at the Hotel Inglaterra (opening in 2019), the 1927 Museum of Fine Arts, the ornate Grand Theater, the angel statues of Central Park, and Cuba's neoclassical parliament building. If that's not enough, Ernest Hemingway's favourite bar, El Floridita is a short stroll away.
You may never want to leave though: the hotel is home to a sumptuous spa (with its own amazing views), a tobacco lounge with sommelier, the traditionally furnished Constante Bar and free wi-fi – something you won't find freely in Cuba – yet.
The Anam Cam Ranh, Nha Trang
Traditional and Indochine colonial heritage style permeates this peaceful new luxury resort on the stunning Cam Ranh peninsula in Vietnam, once an important naval base about an hour's drive from Nha Trang. Rooms and villas range from spaces good for couples to family-sized digs.
Amid a lush 12 hectares of gardens, pools and facilities such as tennis court, beach club and lots of eating and drinking space, you'll also find, secreted away near the spa, two special 180-square-metre villas that feature couples' massage tables, a sunken granite two-person Jacuzzi, a steam room and a private outdoor pool. (Did someone say romantic getaway?)
LUX* Bodrum Resort, Bodrum
Those who love sleek lines and a white on white aesthetic will immediately see why this resort received a prestigious design award before it even open. Custom furnishings across rooms and suites ranging from an entry-level double to three-bedroom villas, and are designed to blend with nature and stay out of the way of the views outside. After all, Bodrum sits on the confluence of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas and is the place to see Turkey's famous moonrise.
It has a private beach for a dip in the Aegean and a 20-metre swimming pool as well as its own beach club, Beach Rouge, where you can relax in armchairs and on day beds in the sunshine and dance to DJs, sipping cocktails by moonlight.
There's a number of eateries and ethical and home roasted coffee on site, and a calendar of expert-led workshops on arts, crafts, yoga, meditation and even Turkish coffee preparation, as well as the plush wellness centre offering spa treatments and fitness and wellbeing programs.
And if you really, really don't want to leave, you can always buy one of the residences, available for private ownership.
1898 The Post, Ghent
Samuel Johnston (the poet, not the actor) famously said if a man tires of London, he tires of life. But if a man (or woman) is perhaps hankering to experience another European city away from the greatest hits such as London, then Belgium's Ghent has proven to be more than worth considering. Small, short on tourists but offering a seriously cool culture amid medieval architecture, this city in the province of East Flanders also has amazing history.
1898 The Post is a very new boutique hotel in the upper levels of the former city post office with its neogothic finery, towers and turrets. (A shopping centre sits below.) Rooms are in the two top floors, and range from the 20-square-metre "Stamp" category rooms to suites with their own sitting rooms and internal staircases. All are different, befitting the quirky building, but the design across all displays a sensitivity to history with appropriate contemporary touches. Architecture buffs should seek out the octagonal Tower Suite.