Courtesy Nayara Tented Camp
Not for nothing did the Chinese call what is still the world’s largest palace, completed in 1420, the Forbidden City: Only members of the imperial family and invited officials could enter. From time immemorial, power and money have sought splendid isolation. Plus ça change, as the French say. Fast-forward precisely 600 years to the age of Covid-19, and the greatest luxury, in both real estate and leisure travel, those ur-signifiers of wealth and social status, is vast, preferably unpeopled (and therefore uncontaminated) space. In real estate this has meant a run on private compounds. In travel it’s “takeovers”: buying out a hotel or resort in its entirety for you and yours.
So in demand is Camp Sarika, for example, the Amangiri’s new sister property in Utah, that people will drive four hours from the airport in Las Vegas to experience its brand of social distancing. What they get are 10 tented pavilions amid 600 acres of geologically magnificent, slot canyon–riddled desert, which is laced with miles of hiking and e-bike trails. The terrain is also ideal for guided backcountry tours, horseback riding, hot air ballooning—and there are not one but two via ferratas.
“Guests used to be aghast at the prospect [of such a drive],” says the Amangiri’s general manager, Julien Surget. “But there has been such a quick reconditioning that people are doing it nonstop. Everyone wants to avoid touchpoints of infection.” Business is brisk. “We opened on a buyout, and we have several more before the end of the year. And more still next year.”
Another way to arrive in nearly touchless fashion, of course, is to fly privately. In Amangiri’s case that means landing in Page, Arizona, and from there taking a helicopter 20 minutes to the camp. It’s a fine example of that related spawn of the pandemic, “bubble” travel. “There has been a huge influx to private aviation of people who had the means before but could not justify the expense,” says Doug Gollan, of Private Jet Card Comparisons. “Now they can. And they’re looking to fly not just domestic but farther afield—to Europe, to Asia. I won’t sugar coat that—it’s expensive.”
It seems as if every hotel and resort in the world with the requisite facilities is getting into the takeover game. In Colorado the idyllically situated eight-tent Dunton River Camp, an offshoot of the meticulously restored 1800s ghost town Dunton Hot Springs, is hot. (They have partnered with the charter jet company XO to facilitate safe passage to and from major American cities.) So is Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. “We just booked its 12-bedroom Magee Homestead for a family of six,” says Jack Ezon of Embark Beyond. “It’s a property that sleeps 24! On 30,000 empty acres. And seven nights ended up as two weeks, when in-school attendance was canceled.”
Even multistory hotels are having a go, reconfiguring top floors as Covid pods. The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s 18,000-square-foot Seven South suite can sleep 18 and has forever views of the Caribbean. La Réserve Paris Apartments, on the other hand, come with Eiffel Tower views and exclusive access to parts of the Bois de Boulogne’s 2,000 nearby acres.
And if the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi is not isolated enough for you—it is on a private island but there will be other guests on it—just book its exclusive-use islet, Ithaafushi Private Island, which sleeps up to 25. Sure, you’ll diminish your children’s or grandchildren’s inheritance by a bit, but it’s not just about the money, is it?
Below, find eleven spots perfect for a total takeover.
Camp Sarika by Amangiri, Utah
The name of this year-round outpost of Utah’s Amangiri hotel is derived from the Sanskirt word for “open space” and “sky”—which pretty much captures its primal appeal. And then, of course, there are the luxuries, so nice to come home to after your outdoorsy adventures: Each of the 10 tented pavilions—equally divided between one- and two-bedroom–comes with a private plunge pool, indoor and outdoor living areas (and showers), a firepit, sunbeds, and telescopes for viewing the night sky. The camp’s central area has a lounge, restaurant, spa, and swimming pool. You never have to budge from the camp, but should you wish to, the facilities at the nearby mothership, Amangiri, are at your disposal. (Open year-round.)
Dunton River Camp, Dolores, Colorado
There’s no better way to channel the prospectors of yore (ones who have struck gold, of course) than these 8 frontier-style but luxurious tents set in a wild Colorado meadow ringed by the San Juan Mountains. You can fish, horseback ride, mountain bike, hike, raft, and more, then repair to the spa tent, the sauna (set along a private stretch of the Dolores River), or the central Farmhouse, a cabin-like building dating from the 1800s where meals are served. The sister property, Dunton Hot Springs, is just a few miles down the road, and unless it, too, has been booked by a private party, you’re welcome to use its thermal springs. (Open from June to mid-October.)
Magee Homestead, Saratoga, Wyoming
Situated on the 30,000-acre Brush Creek Ranch, between the 1-million-acre Medicine Bow National Forest and the North Platte River Valley (superb for fly-fishing), the homestead is its own, built-for-takeovers, all-inclusive world. The style is “luxe frontier”—wood beams, stone fireplaces, fur throws; the food—3 square meals plus treats, wine tastings, picnics, and more–is pasture-to-plate or sourced from the 20,000-square-foot organic greenhouse; there’s a gym, indoor and outdoor pools, and spa; and all the western, home-on-the-range activities you can imagine–plus archery. A private airport, if that’s how your roll, is just 13 miles away. (Open from late May to mid-October.)
Ithaafushi Private Island, Waldorf Astoria, Maldives
Nothing makes you feel as apart from the world as your own private island. While the entire Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi does in fact occupy a private island, it has 119 overwater, beach, and reef villas. Its islet gives you those extra degrees of separation if you want them: It sleeps 25 in two villas and a four-bedroom residence, has its own 5 swimming pools, a dedicated team of chefs, a spa, a yacht mooring, and a private entertainment clubhouse. Robinson Crusoe never had it this good.
La Réserve Paris Apartments
This sister property to the La Réserve palace hotel is located in the city’s swanky residential 16th arrondissement, overlooking the Trocadero and with unbeatable views of the Eiffel Tower. The 10 fully equipped apartments range from 1 to 4 bedrooms; you can book them piecemeal or do a full building buyout. Thinking of staying for longer? A home gym and theater will be set up for you. The 16th is also home to the Bois de Boulogne, known as the “lungs of Paris.” These former hunting grounds of French kings date back to the 7th century, and are now home to hiking trails, ponds, and the Roland Garros tennis courts, where the French Open is held. Guests of the La Réserve Apartments get exclusive access to the courts.
Seven South Suite, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
One of the key things to know about this property is that it’s located on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach—the place you want to be if you’re a beach lover. Book the top floor of the resort’s Ocean Tower—its suites combine to form the mega 11-bedroom Seven South suite, which can sleep 18 people and is said to be the largest in the Caribbean—and you get not only 18,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space but also endless, panoramic, top-of-the-world views of the Caribbean Sea. Back on earth: Seven South comes with private check-in and elevator access, a dedicated concierge, and, of course, a private beach cabana.
Shou Sugi Ban House, Long Island, New York
The 13 guest suites/studios of the wellness retreat in Water Mill, in the Hamptons, are all accessible via private entrances from the outside and available for a full buyout. All have kobe-style beds and fireplaces, and half of them have ofuro, the wooden Japanese soaking tubs. Wellness programming will be arranged ahead of time with your group (yoga? reiki?), meals are designed by Mads Refslund, co-founder of Noma, the property has three Teslas for guest use, as well as a private tennis court, various pools, and, naturally, a fitness studio.
Dupont Circle Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Have a yen to contemplate American politics during this election season from an especially close perch? The heated 600-foot outdoor terrace of this recently renovated hotel’s crown jewel, the Penthouse Suite (Midcentury Modern ribbed glass mirrors and brass details), overlooks Dupont Circle and has views of the Washington Monument. Inside: Fireplace, wet bar, private dining area, and lounge. The top suite can be combined with others on the rooftop floor to create a private, up to 12-bedroom pod. Private elevator and garage access are also available.
Nayara Tented Camp, Arenal, Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
This offshoot of the Nayara Springs resort has 19 1,700-square-foot luxe tents modeled on the glamorous, multi-room creations of high-end African safari companies. (Some are linkable–ideal for families.) Each sits on its own platform, has a plunge pool fed by nearby hot springs, and stunning views of Arenal Volcano. This area has become a magnet for the active–you can horseback ride, hike, kayak, canoe, zip line, mountain bike, white-water raft, and take canopy or ATV tours. Or do nothing at all. Hours-long soaks in the aforementioned hot pools are always on the menu, and the spa has breezy, open-sided treatment rooms looking out over the surrounding rainforest.
La Chartreuse De Cos d’Estournel, Bordeaux, France
Set in the heart of a 200-acre vineyard in Bordeaux, La Chartreuse is the private residence of Michel Reybier, owner of La Reserve hotels in Paris, Ramatuelle, Geneva, and Zurich. The Jacques Garcia-designed house is decorated in a mix or European antiques an Asian tapestries, has 6 bedrooms and 2 suites, a library, a hammam, indoor and out door swimming pools, and a wine cellar of course. (The Cos d’Estournel vineyard is one of just 14 Chateaux ranked as second Growth in 1855.)
The Beaumont, London, United Kingdom
Looking for an urban yet safe and cozy escape for the holidays? The 5th floor presidential suite of London’s art- deco Beaumont can be configured as a 1-, 2-, or 3-bedroom suite. It can also be combined with neighboring rooms to create a private pod with 5 bedrooms sleeping up to 10. The large sitting room has a working fireplace (grab a book from a library specially created by the neighborhood bookstore, Haywood Hill), the pantry kitchen can be stocked with whatever you desire, and the floor comes with its own private elevator bank—further coronavirus protection.
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