There’s a town in Virginia called Rural Retreat, just off the old Lee Highway in Wythe County. The population: 1,500, give or take.
As a concept, getting away from it all has broader appeal.
This fall, Canyon Ranch — a pioneer in wellness long before it was a marketing bonanza — will open a dedicated wellness retreat among the redwoods of Woodside, Calif., to help pilgrims find a way to “a full rebirth of mind, body, spirit, and soul,” according to the company.
The less ambitious might just want a long weekend of digital detox in an isolated spot (like the Nimmo Bay Resort and its nine waterside cabins in British Columbia, reachable by helicopter), or to take a pretty drive (north along the Merritt Parkway, say, where New York fades away into Connecticut) to see the leaves change.
Far from neighbors and close to nature, these five really rural retreats are worth a detour.
From the family who changed the gastro-landscape with Blackberry Farm, this 5,200-acre compound aims to bring the same bucolic chic to another corner of the Great Smoky Mountains. There’s a common lodge — albeit up to Relais & Chateaux standards — and an array of houses built with local materials. But the most remote accommodations are out by the Firetower. (Originally built as a lookout tower in the 1950s, it’s now the anchor for a bar and restaurant, with flagstone terraces and antler chandeliers.)
The six Watchman Cabins were inspired by a 19th-century dogtrot-style house used by generations who had farmed this land in Tennessee; three of them are made of wood salvaged from the original two-story building. Each structure has a wood-burning stove, a wall of windows and a private deck overlooking unspoiled mountain terrain, along with a gigantic bathtub — for soaking after an 80-minute “inspirational hike” led by the resort’s wellness team.
A couple of Brooklynites escaped to the Catskills in 2017, found a shabby 1962 motor lodge with a central A-frame, converted it into a 10-room hotel and injected some serious style into a one-stoplight town.
To support friends and other small businesses, the designer Megan Pflug and her artist husband J. Penry outfitted the guest rooms with vintage pieces from nearby antique shops like Chipped Tarnished and Torn: felt-and-leather headboards by Moses Nadel (a pal from the Rhode Island School of Design); bedding by Red Land Cotton that they discovered in Rhinebeck (about 40 miles south); and toiletries custom-made for them by Village Common, an apothecary in Catskill (a 25-minute drive away).
The A-frame now houses a communal kitchen and lush living room, where velvet chairs, terra cotta jugs and a collection of National Geographic back issues (found in the attic, along with the snowmobile posters that hang in some rooms) complement the handsome stone fireplace. A restaurant and wine bar are due to open in January.
Opened earlier this year by the art-collecting hoteliers Alex and Carrie Vik, Puro Vik is collection of 22 glass houses set among tall trees on steep hills in Chile’s Millahue Valley. Unique interiors vary according to artists who have caught the Viks’ imagination — the 19th-century Japanese painter Hiroshige, for instance, and the American blown-glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Each house has an open-air bathtub built for two, from which the Chilean landscape is the art on display.
The North American autumn is late spring, approaching summer in South America, so everything’s in bloom — from the vineyards to the Andes. Though secluded in nature, the enclave is in walking distance from Vik Chile, the titanium-hooded sister hotel that’s bursting with eccentric design.
The Pig — at Bridge Place
The sixth in the passel of The Pig hotels in the English countryside — the owners call them “restaurants with rooms” — this five-acre Kent property revolves around the storied Bridge Place, a 17th-century mansion that masqueraded as a nightclub and playground for British rock ’n’ roll royalty in the 1970s.
That acid washed history is celebrated in the rooms and crannies in the nimbly renovated house. (See the framed vintage set lists, gold-painted beds, deep sofas and the smoke stained mantel piece.)
But those who’d like to be less dazed and confused should book one of the seven Hop Pickers’ Huts, which are set on stilts along a boardwalk by a tributary of the Nailbourne river. Each reclaimed-rustic hut has a wood-burning stove, a deep bathtub in the bedroom and things growing in planters on the porch.
Meals at all the Pigs are made with ingredients they grow, cure, forage and raise themselves, or source locally. The immaculate kitchen gardens, open to guests year-round, are there to prove it.
Zuri Zanzibar Hotel & Resort
Nestled on a pristine beach in a big lagoon, this isolated idyll prides itself on being far from civilization. (Don’t stress: there is internet access.)
Fifty-five thatched bungalows and villas are scattered amid a kind of tropical park on the Indian Ocean, far enough apart to give guests privacy to meditate undisturbed. There are outdoor showers (naturally), baobab trees (known as the tree of life in these parts, with a bulbous trunk and root-like branches) and an infinity pool set back from the sea.
The sight of dhows — traditional wooden sailboats — bobbing on the horizon at sunset might help even the confirmed cynic define “mindfulness.”
For those needing an extra push, see the wooden yoga pavilion. There is a bar that spills onto the palm-studded white sand beach; a dining room festooned with African baskets; and meals flavored with lemongrass, turmeric and cardamom plucked from the hotel’s elaborate spice garden.
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