Sep 2023

COOLEST/ CHEAPEST

You don’t need to FLASH wild amounts of cash for a holiday that will make your friends drool. These are our favourite SURPRISINGLY affordable but deeply stylish stays By Kathryn Madden

A DIFFERENT SIDE OF VENICE

VENISSA

It’s the Italian tourist magnet synonymous with winding canals, dashing gondoliers, dazzling masked balls … and eye-watering prices. The more peaceful and purse-pleasing way to visit La Serenissima? Stay at Venissa, a wine resort-cum-oasis set in a historic walled vineyard on Mazzorbo Island, a 50-minute boat ride from the main city. Owned by a family of winemakers, the property boasts five minimalist guestrooms with exposed beam ceilings and antique furnishings (up to 25 square metres in size, palatial by Venetian standards), overlooking the lapping lagoon or adjoining vineyard and vegie garden. While you’re there, dine at the intimate in-house Michelin-starred restaurant run by Francesco Brutto (named Italy’s best young chef in 2016 and 2017), stock up on prosecco and Italian wine – make sure you sample the rare and ancient Dorona di Venezia grape variety – and visit the paintboxbright neighbouring town of Burano. The hotel can also organise a sunset bragozzo trip and lagoonside picnic, guaranteed to incite all the sighs.
Rooms from about $270/night.

SLOW LIVING

THE KIP

Australians seeking a cheap and cheerful beach holiday have long flocked to Bali or Thailand, but Sri Lanka is the new destination to know about – especially for those craving a quieter, more conscious escape. The Kip, founded by Australian-Italian couple Phoebe and Seddy, is a four-bedroom colonial villa in the south Sri Lankan coastal town of Ahangama, enveloped by jungle palms and just 200 metres from the beach. It’s a hideaway for surfers, sun-seekers and creatives, with a strong focus on slow food (plus authentic Italian coffee and pasta), local community (the area has so far escaped mainstream tourism) and laid-back living (kip is another word for nap, enough said). Banana, coconut and avocado trees dot the property, providing shady areas to indulge in open-air yoga or swing gently in a hammock. Sustainability also underscores The Kip, with solar panels powering the hot water system, single-use plastics replaced by bamboo and ceramics, and ethically made furniture by local craftspeople fitting out the barefootluxe design.
Rooms from about $107/night.

CHIC SHACKS

CASA BRAVA

You may not have thought that spending a night in a pigsty or donkey stable was on your bucket list, but at Casa Brava it’s an entirely enticing proposition. This slow B&B in the southern Portuguese countryside was renovated lovingly by French couple Julie and Marc, who swapped Paris for the Algarve in search of the slow life. The property comprises a converted farmhouse with three separate suites (each former animal barns), sun-speckled terraces and fields of lavender and thyme. Casa Brava translates to ‘wild house’ and the experience here is all about nature. You’ll eat organic produce plucked fresh from the vegie garden, soak in the biological pool that’s filtered by plants and river stones, slather yourself in natural body products made in-house, hike or bike to the stunning Algarve coast, and fill your market basket in local town Loulé. It’s the kind of romantic simplicity you almost can’t put a price on, though a stay at Casa Brava won’t break the bank.
Rooms from about $185/night.

CHEAPER THAN THE MALDIVES

KORO SUN RESORT

The overwater bungalow has become a byword for tropical luxury, but can be pretty prohibitive in terms of price. Not so at Koro Sun Resort on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji, where you’ll save big on airfares (and travel time) so you can splash more on your private bure jutting out over the cerulean sea. You could lounge on your deck all day, contemplating if you’ve actually found paradise, or go snorkelling, take out a kayak, or have a swing on the mini golf course before indulging in a banana leaf body wrap at the spa. The whole experience is grounded in traditional Fijian hospitality and warmth, and for a honeymoon or don’t-leave-thehotel holiday, its lure is hard to overstate.
Floating bures from about $1385/night.

NICEST, CHEAPEST ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA

HÔTEL LE SUD

The beautiful thing about France is that even the most humble hotels would be considered the height of chic in any other country. This 29-room property, located in the seaside town of Juan-Les-Pins, makes a charming base from which to explore the Côte d’Azur – without the price tag of the grander, glitzier hotels down the road. It’s inspired by the nearby Picasso Museum in Antibes (you can walk into town), and the design by architect Stéphanie Lizée is awash with sun-kissed stripes and poppy ceramics. When you’re not lazing at the beach just a short stroll away, you’ll be lazing by the pool or sipping on local rosé on the shady terrace. In summer, a food truck serving cheese, charcuterie, pizza and ice cream sets up shop in the garden. Joie de vivre might be a well-worn phrase, but here it feels entirely necessary.
Rooms from about $128/night.

NEW YORK MINUTE

FREEHAND

If you’re the kind of traveller who seeks to spend more on a meal than a room, the Freehand is for you. Set in the former George Washington Hotel in Flatiron, the hotel was once home to writers and musicians and still buzzes with creativity. There are vibey communal lounges, works of art in every corner, and a roster of happenings from live music to fitness classes, Pelotons and all. The rooms are compact but comfortable – and let’s be honest, in the city that never sleeps, you probably won’t either. More important is the rooftop cocktail bar; happy hour at Comodo eatery; and the famous salted chocolate chip cookie from the Smile To Go cafe downstairs.
Rooms from about $244/night.

NON-TOURISTY TUSCANY

IL BACIARINO

In a world of Instagram geotags and influencer hotspots, there are few things better than stumbling upon a hidden gem on holiday. That’s what Il Baciarino feels like – a secret find so glorious you’ll almost want to keep it to yourself. Then again, you may want to shout about the family-run agriturismo from the mountains. It consists of six stone cottages built into the side of a cliff in southern Tuscany, with dizzying views towards the island of Giglio. The pool is nestled among olive and oak groves, aperitif and communal dinners are served under the stars, and the rooms are rustic but chic. Go for your Under the Tuscan Sun experience – though in the region of Maremma, you’ll find not only rolling hills but spectacular coastlines too, with beaches just 25km away.
Rooms from about $160/night.

URBAN BOLTHOLE

LOCKE LIVING

Is it a boutique design hotel? Is it a serviced apartment? The Locke chain is somewhere in between, offering discerning travellers a stylish city stay in London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Manchester, Dublin, Berlin or Munich. Each property melds the dimensions, autonomy (and kitchens) of an Airbnb with hotel-like amenities – concierge services, yoga studios, co-working spaces, cocktail bars and coffee shops – but you won’t be paying for frills you don’t necessarily want or need, like mints on your pillow before bed. You’ve probably seen Eden Locke in Edinburgh (below) on Instagram, splashed in sherbet pastels and lashings of greenery, set in a Georgian terrace on one of the city’s swishest thoroughfares. The chain is aimed at long-term and short-stay guests alike, offering the chance to live like a local in some of the UK and Europe’s coolest postcodes.
Rooms from about $244/night.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE MOTEL

LES CABANETTES

Mad Men meets Provence is the mash-up we didn’t know we needed, but Les Cabanettes – designed by French architect Armand Pellier in the ’60s – is an homage to the modernist movement, all smooth curves, beige stone and sculptural glass windows. In its early days, it was a south-of-France pit stop for holiday-makers travelling to or from Italy and Spain, and today it’s a destination unto itself. With 29 guest rooms that all face south to catch the sun and a central pool that could have been transplanted from Palm Springs, it’s an elevated take on the classic roadside motel – while the region itself, Camargue, is underrated and other-worldly, home to wetlands, white horses and flamingos.
Rooms from about $186/night.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME HOTEL

LA SEMILLA

Hotel La Semilla is positioned just a few blocks back from the madding crowds of Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, but inside it feels like a world away. Hidden behind tropical greenery and decked out in whitewashed woods and treasures from local flea markets, it’s become an IYKYK go-to for travellers seeking something more special than the surrounding cookie-cutter resorts. And it delivers, with little details that make the stay feel more like a haven than a hotel: there’s a library in lieu of in-room TVs, a rooftop terrace for sundown cocktails, bicycles for rent and beach kits filled with towels, umbrellas and coolers.
Rooms from about $124/night.

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