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Ultra luxury hot winter destinations & private islands

It’s grey and blustery, sunlight is a rare treat and the sight of your own bare skin even rarer. This is definitely the time to fly to a hot hideaway. Sassy luxury-lusters are seeking exclusive sanctuaries in remote and uncharted territory.  Following in the footsteps of royalty and celebrities, once unheard of, is now reality. From private islands to royal and celebrity retreats, my quest for the best intensifies. 

I’ve hotfooted across isolated white-sands, snorkelled over vibrant reefs in warm emerald seas and stayed in the most pristine award-winning ultra-luxury properties on the planet in search of finery and seclusion, as a Luxury Emerging Destinations Travel Journalist. 

Here’s my pick of the world’s hottest winter retreats fit for would-be castaways.

by: Anisha Shah

Anisha Shah

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Jl Nusa Dua Selatan, Nusa Dua, Bali 80363, Indonesia

The ultra-elegant uber-luxurious Amanusa hotel is Bali with a seriously chic accent. A prevailing sense of peace and spirituality is synonymous with Aman hotels throughout Indonesia. Located on a sensational cliff-top with 35 suites, all with private pools, this was once Princess Diana’s Bali abode. Privacy and seclusion are guaranteed. A private beach, complete with daybeds in secluded alcoves is the setting of my Bali highlight – romantic private beach Balinese massage and candlelight dinner under the stars with team of chefs.

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Set on a private island, Parrot Cay is as synonymous with luxury as it is with Turks and Caicos. The world-renowned spa sanctuary is the height of pampering, where your co-residents will likely be regular A-listers such as Donna Karan, Bruce Willis and Sir Paul McCartney. 1,000 acres of lush grounds are the playground of the elite. Whitewashed suites glisten as sheer materials billow in the breeze. Parrot Cay retains favour for its signature laid-back ambiance.

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Hermitage Bay

PO Box 60, Saint Mary's, Antigua

In January, Antigua Yacht Club hosts the ‘Round the Island Race’ and the Superyacht Challenge, with a vibrant international crowd. Intimate, stylish and ultra-exclusive, Hermitage Bay is a secluded property camouflaged within lush wild hills and private golden beach. The 'It' hotel for honeymooners and those seeking total privacy, features 25 cottage suites stretching 10 acres from cliff-side to beachfront. My sensational hilltop suite with Jacuzzi and infinity pool overlooks sweeping beach and piton views.

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The Siam

3/2 Khao Road | Vachirapayabal, Dusit, Bangkok 10300, Thailand

The Asian fashion and historical capital is a rotating cog of evolution. But when you’ve finished with the frenetic bustle, head to The Siam’s regal oasis of riverfront serenity. The wellness sanctuary features the city’s only riverside pool suites, designed as artistic masterpieces, benefitting progressive shades of romanticism from dawn to dusk. Accruing breathtaking vision and surreal luxury, the property is trending in the fashion world. My highlight is being whisked by private boat to and from the city.

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The Chedi Muscat

P.O. Box 964 Al Khuwair, Muscat, Oman

Oman is an unspoiled haven of Middle Eastern tradition. Surrounded by dramatic mountains, the ‘Grand Canyon of the Middle East,’ and miles of turquoise seas, tradition and modernity converge. The Chedi is a multiple award-winning property, fusing sensual Omani architecture with stylish design. Expect to see a beautiful international crowd sipping Singapore Slings whilst soaking in indented beds in the longest infinity pool in the Middle East. On-site chocolatiers, patisserie chefs and cake artisans bring Arabian Nights fantasies to life.

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Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Carretera Federal Chetumal - Pto. Juarez Km. 298, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico

The most sophisticated and secluded address along Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the Banyan Tree Mayakoba. The entirely separate oasis, with PGA golf course, is cocooned by a network of lagoons. Hop on board the hotel boat tour to spot Turtles and Crocodiles. With the Mexican jungle, Mayan archaeological sites and populous beaches minutes away, this is the definitive residence for an ultra-exclusive haven. Private beachfront allows guests their own portion of the world’s second largest coral reef.

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Ngapali Bay Villas & Spa

Mya Pyin Village | Thandwe, Ngapali 043, Myanmar

As Myanmar tourism expands, many miss the exotic authentic Bay of Bengal. Ngapali Bay hotel & spa features designer glass-front villas along sweeping beachfront. Enjoy fresh lobster and cocktails by a tiny rustic beach bar, while beautiful village ladies wander past balancing baskets of fruit on their heads. The hotel’s USP is it’s familiar feel and beachfront proximity to the working fishermen’s village; a fascinating flurry of activity at dawn.

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Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Kuala Lumpur 50088, Malaysia

The easiest way to combat Kuala Lumpur heat is to cool off in shopping malls, rehydrate in uber-trendy bars and grab posh nosh at your pick of global restaurants. To rest my weary head, the exquisite Mandarin Oriental is flawless. My sumptuous suite boasts floor-to-ceiling glass views of the Petronas Towers from lounge, and dining room for 10, complete with handpicked art. Meet friends for a late-night swim and drinks before retiring to a designer Orient-themed bedroom.

The Residence Zanzibar

Mchangamle, Kizimkazi 2404, Tanzania

For perfect stargazing nights and hot sunny days, The Residence embodies the exoticism and mystique of the castaway African Spice Island, Zanzibar. Secluded beachfront pool villas are set along vast white-sands and coconut palms. Villa bicycles encourage exploration of 80-acre grounds. The glass-walled infinity pool radiates sophistication whilst a full-service spa enhances total relaxation. My highlight is champagne picnic on the private pier, watching local women wade through shallows of the sea at low tide, picking seaweed.

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This private island is the choice retreat of the Royal family, most recently Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The 3 x 1.5 mile island is renowned for its wild 70s hedonism, a legacy continued at world-famous Basil’s Bar. Cotton House, the sole full-service hotel, boasts an impressive guest book of celebrity signatures. 17 suites span 13 acres, neighbouring mansions of Mick Jagger and Bryan Adams. Private golf buggies enable the few guests to whiz around 9 bewitching beaches, oozing exclusivity.

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Turtle Inn

Placencia Village, Placencia, Belize

Placencia is a sleepy peninsula in Belize blessed with peace. One long road is lined by white sands, warm Caribbean Sea and mangrove lagoon. The village feeling is like rewinding to Barbados before its heyday, echoed by the Kriol language. Cute beach bars spill into the sea, home to the world’s second largest barrier reef offering world-class diving. Turtle Inn is a refuge of understated luxury. Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppolla, has turned castaway villas into an enchanted fairytale film set.

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Taj Lake Palace

Lake Pichola,Udaipur,313001,Rajasthan, India

Built by a King, fit for royalty, Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur has hosted royalty, celebrities and Bond film Octopussy. The ultra-glam islet is a floating marble palace amidst Lake Pichola. My Grand Royal Suite is adorned in antique gilded swing, reminiscent of Princesses afore. Hire the King’s boat with royal oarsmen for the most regal dining experience on the planet – also where my partner recently proposed. Complete with classical dancers, musician, fireworks and Champagne 10-course meal my answer was, ‘Yes!’

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Private speedboat or seaplane drops guests onto a droplet of white sand anchored amidst luminescent azure waters. Multiple award-winning Hufaven Fushi is an uber-stylish Maldives trendsetter. Being massaged to the rhythm of the reef, in the world’s first underwater spa, is surreal. My highlight is swimming to breakfast from my plush overwater villa, with infinity pool, alongside friendly reef shark & rays. Huvafen Fushi’s dazzling display of celebrity frequenters; George Clooney, Kate Moss and Tom Cruise, only enhance a flawless recipe.

Azura Quilalea Private Island

Quilalea Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Just 9 seafront villas pepper Azura Quilalea private island. The lush oasis is a globule in the coral-filled Quirimbas marine sanctuary. World-class diving sites and snorkeling straight off island beaches alongside humpback whales, dolphins and nesting turtles, enhance the desert island experience. Surrounding baobab and frangipani hides it's own wildlife; an idyll for kayaking. Mozambique offers scenes of serenity with panoramic lunar landscapes and unpolluted night skies studded with entire starry constellations

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North Island

North of Mahe Island North Island 22440 Seychelles

‘North’ is the most expensive private island in the world. Media hype reached frenzy as the royal couple honeymooned here, followed by the Beckhams. 11 unashamedly high-tech, ultra-luxury, oversized villas (450 square meters) with vast private beaches, span Noah’s Ark island, with free-roaming giant turtles.

A no-menu concept enables guests to eat anything, anytime, anywhere; the final word in luxury. I love booking out the private yacht for island-hopping, snorkeling and champagne sunset cruising amidst the Seychelles necklace of pearlescent islands.