Top 10 Back-To-Nature Destinations

Writer Zoe Louise Cronk | Published July 15, 2019

These bucket-list hotels are not only immersed in nature but also work to protect the environments they inhabit, making them memorable eco-escapes.

  • Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa, Maldives

    Idyllic resorts can be found all over the world, but few with vistas so vibrant you’d be forgiven for thinking the colours had been enhanced with a photo filter. Even better is one that takes responsibility for its environmental impact. Here, you can lay back and indulge your senses totally guilt-free. It’s called the Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa and is located on the North Malé Atoll, a convenient 15 to 20-minute speedboat ride from the airport. Pristine golden beaches, fantastic snorkelling, friendly circling reef sharks, an orchid garden, secluded island cottages, and overwater villas that look out on nothing but the crystal-clear Indian Ocean… the list of nature-based reasons to visit goes on. And for those with conservation and low carbon footprints high on their list of requirements, note that the Sheraton have really kicked their earth-friendly efforts into high gear this year. Initiatives includes banning single-use plastics, building their own bottling plant (preventing any need for plastic water bottles), launching a coral regeneration programme in association with the marine biologists Reefscapers, and introducing heat exchangers so zero energy is needed for heating domestic and laundry water. What’s more, you’d never know this place is so ‘green’ — it all happens quietly in the background while staff attend to your every need and deliver the escapism you’ve been looking for.

  • Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, Australia

    Nature lover in need of a digital detox? Listen up. Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef on the North West Cape of Australia sits nestled between the sand dunes of the Cape Range National Park and overlooks not just the beach but the Australian bush too. It’s a hive of eco-activity with zero internet connection or phone signal, so prepare to check your social media addiction at the door and settle in for a real departure from the everyday. As for accommodation, you’ll reside in one of 16 ocean-facing Wilderness Tents, complete with organic cotton sheets, chemical-free soaps made with local herbs and solar-powered lighting. The main draw of this location, however, hides underwater. It’s estimated that between June and November, almost 30,000 humpback whales migrate along the Ningaloo Coast swimming to breeding grounds in the Exmouth Gulf. Guests at the Sal Salis are able to witness this mesmerising sight by swimming arm to fin with them. Dolphins, whale sharks, rays, turtles and more are all likely to pass you by as you bob in the ocean for an unforgettable experience.

  • Castaway Resort, Thailand

    If your ideal holiday involves a true escape from the everyday, then the Castaway Resort is for you. Here in Koh Lipe, Thailand, a trendy yet rustic one or two-storey abode made from natural hardwood will be your home for the duration of your visit, which can take the form of a private holiday or retreat focused on yoga, martial arts or underwater photography.  Huts are immersed in the trees or just steps from the waves and are delightfully well-equipped yet still basic enough to give you the feeling of getting back to nature. Discover the uninhabited islands of the Tarutao National Marine Park where the coral reefs teem with fish in a rainbow of colours. The resort uses minimal energy thanks to a number of sustainability initiatives, and runs weekly beach cleans, empowering guests to engage in environmental conservation for themselves.

  • The Hideout, Bali

    The Hideout is all your childhood treehouse-loving dreams come true. This handcrafted bamboo hut is tucked away in the mountainous forest of the Gunung Agung volcano in Bali, spanning a spacious two storeys with fully equipped kitchen, deluxe bedroom (including king-sized bed) and cosy living area. Its secluded spot and self-sustaining status make it an outdoor enthusiast’s ideal getaway. Life here requires only the magnificent water-wheel that acts as the hut’s only source of water (thanks to a reverse-osmosis filter that ensures it’s clean to drink as well as bathe in) and electricity. How to pass the time? Trek through the rice fields, don your hiking boots to climb up Mount Agung, go scuba diving or take to two wheels to visit the local temples and markets. If you don’t fancy leaving The Hideout, there are nine musical instruments and an entire library’s worth of books close at hand, as well as art supplies, board games and yoga mats. Combine all this with a subtle soundtrack of chirping birdsong and flowing water from the nearby river, and you’re guaranteed a truly peaceful escape.

  • Titilaka Lodge, Peru

    Lake Titicaca is internationally renowned thanks to its status as the highest navigable lake in the world, but that’s not the only reason visitors flock to its shores. There are many legends surrounding this unique natural setting, which sits sandwiched between Peru and Bolivia, including one about a forgotten sunken city and an Andean God who is said to rise from its depths. It’s no surprise then that the place is so often described as mystical and ethereal, with the Floating Islands of Uros providing quite the spectacle for anyone with spiritual wanderlust. One of the best spots from which to admire the islands and lake is from the five-star Titilaka Lodge. It sits 12,500ft above sea level on a secluded peninsula surrounded by four acres of well-maintained grounds and a private beach, offering spectacular views at every turn. If that wasn’t enough, interiors are bright and welcoming with large windows that allow uninhibited sunlight to stream onto the bare brickwork, lavish soft furnishings and bespoke artwork, all in a mishmash of vibrant colours. As well as a raved-about Peruvian restaurant and spa, there’s a private boathouse with sailboats, paddleboards and kayaks for guests to delve into the floating reeds. The hotel takes social responsibility seriously too, and is committed to minimising their ecological footprint and supporting local communities.

  • Karkloof Safari Villas, South Africa

    Google Karkloof Safari Villas in South Africa (not far from Pietermaritzburg) and you’ll click on Africa’s best-kept secret, a 3,000-hectare nature reserve complete with churning waterfalls, lush greenery, varied terrain and plenty of animal life. This site of esteemed natural beauty will soon hold the title as the world’s first exclusive safe park, using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to ensure the conservation of all of the animals, flora and fauna residing in the park. The team – all of whom are passionate about protecting the reserve – eagerly encourage guests to explore the hotel’s breathtaking surroundings via all manner of activities from bushwalking and hot air ballooning to wildlife photography, bird watching and fishing. There’s even a Junior Rangers Programme for the kiddies which lets them learn more about wildlife in its natural habitat as they explore the reserve on fun-filled game drives and guided walks. As for the hotel itself — which is hidden amongst the trees — it’s luxuriously kitted in out in the epitome of eco-chic with high ceilings, cosy rugs and opulent chandeliers.

  • Orka Island Cabins, Alaska

    Private island? Chic, solar-powered yurt lodging? A serene setting amidst the unblemished waters of an icy cove? Orca Island Cabins in Alaska’s Resurrection Bay ticks most boxes. Built into the groves of the island’s spruce trees and designed to minimise environmental impact, the cabins provide the perfect base from which to explore the beautiful landscape via sea kayak or an invigorating hike. Guests seeking to delve further into their surroundings can enjoy guided adventures into the Kenai Fjords National Park, gain insight into the diverse local marine and plant life and intriguing geological make-up of Resurrection Bay, or go on a wildlife-spotting cruise where lucky ones will catch glances of sea lions, harbour porpoise and bald eagles. For those really looking to get back to nature, opt for a fishing trip where you can catch your own halibut or seabass before grilling it yourself for supper.

  • Aristi Mountain Resort, Greece

    In a pretty, traditional village in northwest Greece is a deluxe, lodge-style hotel known as the Aristi Mountain Resort. Crafted from locally sourced stone and wood and designed to blend into the landscape as well as preserve it, Aristi is a refuge for anyone looking to get back to nature. From the very beginning, sustainability has been front and centre. The resort uses only LED bulbs and heat pumps that keeps oil consumption low. They’re proud members of the ‘National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World’, and are currently participating in the ‘Planet or Plastic?’ initiative that raises awareness of plastic’s impact on our oceans. By mid-2019, they hope to have eliminated all single-use plastic bottles and straws. As for the rooms, each is well-equipped, neutrally hued and fragranced with nature’s most delightful scents, like lavender, mint, sage and rosemary. The Aristi is also home to the region’s only spa, notable for its views of the Vikos Gorge and Mount Tymphe. It’s this prime location that makes it ideal for anyone wanting to enjoy the great outdoors. Hike 2,500 metres up to the Gamila summit, meander along the Voidomatis River or pay a visit to the nearby Zagorochoria villages. Alternatively, simply lay back on the veranda and while away an afternoon wildlife-spotting and taking in the panoramas.

  • Butterfly House, Brazil

    Hippy vibes abound in this Brazilian retreat that has all the comfort you need with no unnecessary frills. Thatched grass roofing, walls crafted from Colombian bamboo and environmentally-tinted colouring reflect the wilderness of the untouched jungle that surrounds the Butterfly House. Inside each of the beautifully appointed suites and bungalows is decor that’s all about bohemian romance, an ambiance that is reflected around the resort where there’s also a yoga deck, an acclaimed restaurant serving up local delights and both a palm-shrouded pool and private beach with hammocks and bamboo recliners. Located on the protected conservation area of the Maraú Peninsula, the Butterfly House has Camamu Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It’s thanks to this unrivalled setting that there is so much to explore, including coral reefs, freshwater ponds, World Heritage-listed tropical rainforest (where indigenous tribes still reside) and Barra Grande, a nearby Brazilian fishing village.