Let me take you back to where it all began for Original Travel, with the Big Short Break; pocket adventures designed specifically for those who are short on time but in search of a big experience. From a three day trip of cultural immersion in Istanbul (and baklava eating, obvs) to a seven day safari in Botswana's Okavango Delta, there's a whole world of, well, world out there just waiting to be explored in easily digestible, bite-sized time slots. And here are our top ten hotels for just such an adventure.
Storfjord Hotel, Norway
I've jumped right in with a biggie here. This is a hotel that almost single-handedly turned Europe expert Flora from a run-of-the-mill Norway enthusiast to a full-blown, probably-should-seek-help, obsessive about this Scandinavian wonder-country. At just a 45 minute drive from Alesund airport, getting to Storfjord Hotel won't suck up any of your precious Big Short Break time, yet it feels incredibly remote and secluded. It also only has 23 rooms so you won't have to share your corner of Norwegian heaven with too many others. As you may already know, Norway is all about the great outdoors, and there is no better place to base yourself for getting out there and exploring. While you will probably spend most of the time scraping your jaw off the floor at all the spectacular scenery that surrounds this boutique hotel (it overlooks Storfjord, unsurprisingly), other activities include driving the so-called 'Golden Route', skiing (in winter) at the nearby Stranda Ski Resort, walking, mountain biking and boat trips on the fjord. Phew, I need a lie down… enter, stage left, the Storfjord Hotel. Marvellous.
Malhadinha Nova, Portugal
With its great year-round climate, the Alentejo makes a perfect short break destination for those in need of a wintery vitamin D fix. And Malhadinha Nova is the complete package when it comes to accommodation. Set in its own 450 acre wine estate there are, surprise surprise, lots of wine-tastic activities to enjoy but also horse riding, cycling, yoga, paintballing, helicopter tours, canoeing and even quad biking. Needless to say, you'll never be bored, but if you do fancy something slightly slower paced then there's nothing better than relaxing by the pool in the pretty gardens, indulging in a massage or simply sitting back, glass of wine in hand, admiring the view. If you do find yourself hankering for the ocean then the secret beach retreat of Comporta is just a 30 minute drive away - perfect for a day trip.
Villa Dubrovnik, Croatia
Known as the Dalmatian Coast, the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, strewn with 1,200-odd islands, is quite possibly the most beautiful stretch of coastline in the Mediterranean. The warm, sheltered and wonderfully translucent waters that surround this archipelago lend themselves to aquatic diversions of every kind, but island hopping by sea kayak has to be the most appealing. Drift through water so clear it looks photo-shopped, going from cove to cove, eating al fresco and basking in the glory of the warm Mediterranean sun. This can be done as day trips from Dubrovnik, or as overnight adventures. Either way, a stay at Villa Dubrovnik is a must - a stylish and contemporary seafront hotel set on the cliffs just outside the Old City, with views towards Lokrum Island. You will doubtless be completely enchanted by this beautiful medieval city with its cobbled alleys, al fresco bistros and live outdoor music.
Ice Hotel, Swedish Lapland
Have a gander at most people's bucket list and somewhere near the top you're likely to find the words 'see the Northern Lights'. And for good reason, this is nature at its most spectacular. Ethereal streams of green, blue, pink and yellow light pierce, swirl and dance across the night sky, leaving the most hardened travel nut dumb-struck and, quite possibly, drooling. Nice. Even the name is otherworldly - Aurora Borealis, meaning Roman goddess of the dawn. We have a mantra here at Original Travel (okay, I just made it up) - if it's named after a deity, you know you're in for something special. And hotel-wise, there are few more special than Swedish Lapland's Ice Hotel. Every room is individually sculpted from snow and ice and, as the whole hotel melts over the summer, it has to be completely redesigned and built every year so no two rooms are ever the same. It doesn't get much more original than that. If the skies aren't kind, there are plenty of other fun-filled snow adventures to be had, from dog-sledding to snowshoeing and elk safaris.
Il Salviatino, Italy
Those with a penchant for the high life and a taste for the classics, with a dash of Clooney-esque charm and glamour thrown in for good measure, should look no further than Il Salviatino, nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany. Located just a short drive from Florence, spend your days pretending you're in a Woody Allen movie (one of the good ones, anyway) basking in the gloriously heady combination of romance, culture, history, architecture and, of course, culinary delights. And if the hustle and bustle becomes too much, you can escape back to Il Salviatino for some well-earned R&R - the view across the uninterrupted Tuscan countryside from the three-tiered, outdoor swimming pool is right up there as one of the best… but that's another list altogether. Punctuate your stay with activities such as wine tasting, cycling and truffle hunting, before watching the sun go down over Florence, drink in hand. The word ' heaven' springs to mind.
Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco
Another hotel that gives you the best of both worlds; remote countryside with the hustle and bustle of the city nearby, is Kasbah Tamadot in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Kasbah Tamadot is a relaxed and intimate hotel - the perfect place to base yourself, whether you simply want to sit back, relax and enjoy some inspiring views or fancy something a little more adventurous; the Atlas mountains provide some of the best trekking in the world. Walk with local guides along winding mule trails, through orchards, terraced fields and tiny Berber villages, stopping for picnic lunches by streams or waterfalls. If, after the life-affirming soul food that is such time spent in the Atlas Mountains, you fancy sticking a rocket in your holiday and turbo charging it to the max, Marrakech is just a 45 minute drive away. A few hours getting thoroughly lost amongst the labyrinthine alleys of the souq, as street vendors shout and incense swirls, are hard to beat.
Hacienda San Rafael, Spain
Andalucia is perfect for a spring break (not the American sort) with its wealth of history and culture, and idyllic countryside dotted with the characteristic pueblos blancos. Hacienda San Rafael is a family run, former olive farm in a beautiful rural setting, perfect for exploring the various attractions of western Andalucia. Its relaxed, rustic charm is a window into traditional Spanish life. For those in the mood for adventure, there are great walking and horse riding trails in the hills, while those in search of complete relaxation will love lazing in the Hacienda's garden, eating tapas and sipping chilled sherry from the vineyards of nearby Jerez. Seville is just a 45 minute drive away for those wanting to explore its superb Moorish architecture, take in a traditional flamenco show and sample some of the best tapas you'll ever find.
No top 10 hotel list would be complete without an Aman featuring somewhere along the line, so here it is: Amanruya on Turkey's Aegean coast. Breathe in the fresh sea air, feel the white sand between your toes and listen to nothing but the sound of the gentle waves rolling in as you look out over the cobalt blue sea. Aaaannd relax, it doesn't get much better than this. Amanruya is made up of 36 very private cottages, each with its own pool and sun loungers so if you need to switch off, relax and rejuvenate, this is the Big Short Break for you. On the off chance you fancy something a little more stimulating, this is a region brimming with culture and a day spent immersing yourself in 5000 years worth of Roman and Greek history in the nearby ancient city of Ephesus is well worth it.
Les Sources de Caudalie, France
France. As the most visited country on the planet, you've got to admit - our old rivals from across the channel have got to be doing something right. And Les Sources de Caudalie on the outskirts of Bordeaux is a case in point. Anyone with a fondness for du vin will feel right at home at this quintessentially French abode, nestled nicely in the Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. In fact, every aspect of your stay will be permeated by the grapey stuff, even the spa uses by-products from the wine-making process so you can enjoy everything from a Merlot wrap to a crushed Cabernet scrub. Neat. This is a Big Short Break that not only lives up to the 'la vie en rose' stereotype, but positively basks in its glory. In fact, spending a few days doing tastings at some of the best wineries in the world, visiting the elegant city of Bordeaux and indulging in some serious retail therapy, and enjoying some simply glorious gastronomy sounds all right to me!
There's original, and then there's sleeping in a futuristic glass-roofed igloo in a Finnish forest. Yep, Hotel Kakslauttanen is another fantastic option for a fun-filled snow adventure; there can't be many better ways of viewing the Northern Lights than from your very own igloo, while other activities include husky, snowmobile and even reindeer safaris. Kakslauttanen is also home to the world's largest bong... ahem, I mean smoke sauna. The ancient Finns regarded the sauna as a sacred healing place and smoke saunas are filled with, you guessed it, smoke, while they heat up, which is then ventilated out through an opening in the wall. The steam left behind is, apparently, 'soft, honey-flavoured and sweet, and after the visit one is endowed with an incredibly pleasant feeling for many days.' Off to the giant bong we go, then.