Six chic basecamps where a great walk starts on the doorstep
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
High on the Atlas in Morocco
I used to visit Morocco several times a year – hopping along the Barbary Coast from El Jadida to Oualidia to Essaouira, exploring Skoura’s palmeraie and the Vallée du Drâa, or sleeping in tents on the lonely, numinous edge of the northern Sahara. It’s a country with a corner on spectacular landscapes, but none gets my blood moving quicker than the Atlas Mountains, which, with their endless mountain and valley trails – made by people, mules, maybe ibex or gazelle – are a walker’s paradise.
Any worthy hotel here has built the walking experience into its DNA. I am especially fond of Kasbah Bab Ourika, whose English owner has reinvented a fortified house in the Ourika valley into a destination that draws loyal guests from across the world; at lunch on the terrace or by the pool, you’ll hear French and Portuguese, Swedish and myriad versions of accented English. The rooms now number 41, scattered across three buildings (book out The Retreat with friends for equal parts design dreaminess and privacy). But it’s the location that counts: Ourika is the gateway to the High Atlas, and from just outside its walls you can scale hilltops, ford rivers, cross the valley and explore Berber villages, all on foot. From $165; kasbahbabourika.com
Scandinavian style meets Scottish majesty in the Highlands
You have to go almost as far north in Scotland as the country itself extends to reach the little village of Tongue. Once there, though, you’re rewarded with near-unfettered access to one of Britain’s wildest and most majestic coasts. We’ve been fans of Lundies House here since it opened in 2019; it’s part of Anders and Anne Hoch Povlsen’s Wildland project, constituting hundreds of thousands of protected acres across the Highlands, and was designed by Anne Povlsen with more than a small nod to the couple’s Danish heritage.
Its nine rooms – four in the 17th-century main house, a bothy (which can be self-catering) and three further rooms in a converted stable – form a Scandi-chic basecamp from which you exit straight into an almost wholly pristine landscape, replete with seashore, ruined castles, and Bronze Age and Neolithic sites. The two peaks of Ben Loyal and Ben Hope are there for the scaling, and the ruins of Castle Varrich even closer – and easier: a perfect half-hour’s trek that delivers wide-open views all up and down the Kyle of Tongue. From £550; lundies.scot
Discovering Sardinia’s interior secrets on foot
White sand, limpid sea: the key signifiers of Sardinia, as most know it. Less familiar – and far less populous, and more rugged – is its mountainous interior. Su Gologone has long been the hotel of choice for those wanting a soft-adventure and culture-centric experience of this part of the island. Two generations of the Palimodde family who own it have created all sorts of experiences, from jewellery-making to painting courses; but they’re especially strong on walking excursions, which can last anywhere from an hour or two to a whole day, with most departing directly on foot from the hotel.
You can spend the morning weaving down sunny slopes to Cala Luna, a paradisiacal sliver of beach bracketed by empty hills and mysterious caves (a boat will bring you back in the afternoon). Or, if you’re up for a challenge, take an entire day to follow shepherd’s paths that cut through holm oak forests and past deep canyons to Su Sercone, an enormous karst sinkhole at almost 1,000m altitude (the hotel’s staff will provide the picnic lunch). There are further walks for finding ancient hamlets, rare mountain orchids, and hidden springs whose waters have inspired legends of miracles. And at day’s end, a gorgeous hotel with award-winning food and a massive cantina awaits. From €270; sugologone.it
Top trails in New Zealand
New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula, which stretches out from the east coast of the South Island, is so neat in its near-roundness that it was mistaken for an island by James Cook when he came upon it in 1770. Its steep basalt and andesite slopes cascade down to inlets of almost opaque blue sea. They’re blustery, largely bare of forest, rich in endless-horizon views – a fine balance of beautiful and bracing. The town of Akaroa sits on the widest bay here, from which numerous tramps lead into vast tracts of protected land. There is a quick one-hour walk to the eponymous Heritage Park. There’s also the Skyline Circuit, which traces high crests and links to other major trail systems totalling more than 20km. And much in between, for all levels. In Akaroa, the historic five-room Beaufort House is a preserved-in-amber tribute to the old world, with velvet settees, chintz, and charm in abundance.
For full lush indulgence you’ll want to cross the peninsula to Pigeon Bay, where sits Annandale, a working farm whose exclusive-use accommodations give you access to 5,200 private acres crisscrossed with mountain and coastal paths. The houses range from The Homestead, a grand old 19th-century mansion that sleeps 12, to Seascape, an ultra-contemporary one-bedroom villa on its own bay that is, truly, one of the most secluded (and sexiest) places I have ever stayed. (The optional private chef didn’t hurt.) beauforthouse.co.nz; from about €280. annandale.com; The Homestead from $6,995, Seascape from $3,785
Sublime solitude in wild Oregon
Hotels with great walks on the front doorstep are one thing. A hotel you have to walk several spectacularly scenic miles just to get to is something else again. There’s no road into Minam River Lodge, in Oregon’s 360,000-acre Eagle Cap Wilderness: guests are either flown in, or invited to arrive on horseback or foot. The trail stretches about 8.5 miles from a major campground, taking in wildflower meadows, fir, larch and ponderosa woods, and a few river and creek crossings en route. Once you’re ensconced in your Lodge digs (which will be, depending on your proclivity and inclination to splurge out, either a cosy tent, a sweet couple’s or family cabin or a rustic-chic room in the main lodge), there’s more than 500 miles of trails to explore in Eagle Cap, which is the largest wilderness in the state, home to more than 100 alpine lakes and four rivers (and bighorn sheep, and bear, and mountain lion).
Because the Lodge was a homestead before Congress put the area into the National Wilderness Preservation System, it has remained a private inholding – the only hotel inside Eagle Cap. It’s elemental comfort with a modern veneer; slick light fixtures, saddle blankets as bed covers, a pared-back low-fi Ralph Lauren look. There’s no cell service, no TV; but lots of yoga, massage therapists, private sauna- and hot tubbing, and a chef who earned his stripes at Jean-Georges in New York overseeing the gorgeous open kitchen. From $295 a night for a tent, full board, three-night minimum; minam-lodge.com