The best retreats for sumptuous, private living while on the road.
Prefer a private holiday? We pick the top 10 luxury villas
1. Alfajiri Villas, Kenya
Long described as the most luxurious villas on the East African coast and only an hour's drive south from Mombasa airport, Alfajiri Villas have recentlyundergone a major renovation. Named Beach, Garden and Cliff (occupying lovely spots, as their names suggest), each villa has stunning views over white sandy Diani beach.The interiors are decorated with furniture made in the resort's own workshop with Makuti roofs, Danish ivory floors, carved Lamu doors and oriental antiques. Each sleeping up to eight, they come with a 24-hour butler, infinity pool and veranda.
Stay at Cliff villa for the floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a turret suite with a majestic 270-degree vantage point. There is an 18-hole golf course next door, daily massages, yoga and snorkelling, and it's a good base from which to go on safari. Alfajiri Safaris can organise tailor-made trips to the Masai Mara national reserve and Tsavo East national park. It's also a great place to stay with your children, with two full-time nannies and toys. But it's the privacy that the setting affords that has attracted a number of famous names, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The Beach villa costs US$1,100 (Dh4,040); Garden villa $1,400 (Dh5,145) and Cliff villa $1,700 (Dh6,245) per night based on two people sharing, all inclusive. Alfajiri Villas (www.chiccollection.travel; 00 44 845 604 4553).
2. Owner's Cottage, Huka Lodge, New Zealand
Set in Taupo, on the North Island's Waikato River, Huka Lodge had humble beginnings: in the 1920s Irishman Alan Pye discovered the incredible fly-fishing here and built this now-famous luxury fishing lodge. Huka has 20 one-bedroom cottages, but for larger groups, the four-bedroom, wooden Owner's Cottage is huge and glorious with large living rooms, fireplaces, a breezy deck, and swimming and outside spa pools that blend with the river and cascading Huka Falls beyond. Two bedrooms face the river, while the other two look over a beautiful courtyard garden. You can self-cater or a Huka Lodge chef will serve dishes at your dinner table (or at one of the 22 private and scenic dining spots indoors and out).
"Trophy-sized" trout fishing is obviously a big draw, with expert guides and a helicopter flying you to untouched fishing holes. But there's more to the seven-hectare property than fish, including in-room spa treatments, horse riding, golf and boating on the lake.
Cottages at Huka Lodge (www.hukalodge.co.nz; 00 1 647 378 5791) costs from 2,420 New Zealand dollars (Dh6,664) per night, based on two people sharing, all-inclusive.
3. Villa Barocca, Italy
If you're looking for a dramatic sanctuary, this baroque palazzo fits the bill. The red 17th-century Roman house looks down on the town of Positano and along the Amalfi coastline - a sight best relished from the sofas on one of the three sweeping terraces. If you can peel your eyes away from the view, the inside is decorated in the Baroque-style with elaborate gildings, original furniture, a grand staircase, frescoes and painted ceilings.
Two richly decorated master suites (it can sleep up to eight) come with carved columns, works of art and museum pieces. Top marks go to the luxury spa complex (heated pool, waterfall, jetstream current, Turkish hammam, spa therapies). The centre terrace, arranged as a salon, looks like the backdrop for a royal opera, while the roof-top garden offers shady citrus and fig trees. All mod cons compliment the historic architecture, with a butler and gourmet chef at your service. There's a boat to transport you to local sites and islands, including Capri.
Suites at Villa Barocca (www.hostedvillas.com; 001 416 920 1873) cost from US$21,575 (Dh79,245) per week, property only.
4. Presidential Villa, Four Seasons Resort, Seychelles
This Four Seasons resort is one of only a handful of five-star properties on Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles' 115 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean. Occupying one of the most secluded private beaches, Petite Anse, its 67 villas and 26 residences are built on stilts into the tropical jungle hillside like tree houses. The most spectacular properties, though, are the sprawling two-bed Presidential and three-bed Royal villas (called suites), both beachside. Each suite comprises a number of airy pavilions with separate living spaces and ensuite bedrooms. Enjoy glorious views of the ocean through the floor-to-ceiling windows opening out on to the infinity pool (with whirlpool, of course). You'll also enjoy the services of a live-in butler, and there's a mammoth sundeck with private outdoor shower.
A Royal suite at the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles (www.fourseasons.com/seychelles; 00 248 393 000) costs from €5,082 (Dh24,757) per night. The Presidential suite costs from €3,812 (Dh18,570) per night, including afternoon drinks, 24-hour butler and breakfast, and use of the resort's spa and dive centre.
5. Casa la Cruz, Mexico
Designed by architects Legorreta + Legorreta, the six-bedroom Casa la Cruz is a slick contemporary-style villa on Mexico's Pacific Coast that turns up in many trendy design books. Spread over nearly three hectares of lush gardens within El Tamarindo private beach and golf resort, Casa la Cruz is large enough to comfortably accommodate 12 people, thanks to its many spacious living areas: the red living room, open to the terrace and spectacular view of the Pacific; the hammock terrace with its sand floor, roof-top hot tub and the sleek free-floating cross-shaped pool that lies in the jungle.
There are six bedrooms, some with open shower, bathtub and Jacuzzi, decorated with original Mexican art, elegant textiles and furniture. There's also a separate VIP bungalow and family room, and you're only a10-minute walk from a golden, sandy beach.
Book through the luxury villa specialists, LaCure Villas. Six-bedroom Casa la Cruz (www.lacurevillas.com; 001 416 968 2374) costs from US$7,000 (Dh25,711) per night, property only.
6. Villa Ezzahra, Morocco
Elegant riads aren't thin on the ground in Morocco but this private bolthole resembles a mini palace. Situated in the great oasis of La Palmeraie, eight km from Marrakech's medina, it sleeps up to 14 and comes with a staff of 15 including beauticians, chefs, cleaners and a head butler to cater for all your wants and needs.
The colourful bedrooms feature plunge baths, and the enormous open dining spaces have typical Moroccan stone walls, thick rugs, sculptural lamps and open fireplaces. Added luxuries include everything from a cinema and library to its own spa and roof terrace with sunset view. But the villa's real selling point is the extensive garden: a gorgeous traditional Berber tent stands behind the 16x6-metre pool; double sunbeds, rolling lawns and a paddle tennis court complete the look. A newly completed two-bed property next door, Villa Khozamo, now accommodates more guests, making it a fabulous retreat for families or larger groups.
Properties at Villa Ezzahra (www.ezzahra-morocco.com; 00 11 207 384 2332; cost from £199 (Dh1,134) per person, per night for 14 guests staying seven nights, all inclusive, including unlimited hamman, massage and beauty treatments.
7. Malakiya Villas, Dubai, UAE
Hidden within the grounds of the Madinat Jumeirah, the seven Malakiya Villas are lavish even by Dubai's standards and often play host to royalty. Enormous reception rooms feature traditional style furniture, with separate kitchen areas, and terraces leading into two or three ornate bedrooms with spacious marble bathrooms. There is private check-in and a butler service, individual courtyards, Jacuzzi and private pool just steps away. Here, you can relax while watching the abra or water taxis float by. Guests also have access to all the facilities of the Madinat Jumeirah complex, including Wild Wadi, the private beach and luxury Six Senses spa, the theatre, the souq and restaurants, yet are removed enough to enjoy complete privacy.
Prices at Malakiya Villas (www.malakiyavillas.com; 4 366 6200) start from Dh18,000 per night in a two-bedroom villa, and Dh21,600 per night in a three-bedroom villa, includingbreakfast, access to the executive club lounge and airport transfers.
8. Skye House, Galle, Sri Lanka
Tropical Sri Lanka is a relatively short four-hour hop from the UAE and offers a bewildering array of activities for an island destination, including historic tours, surfing and leopard-spotting on safari .
The Skye House, a lovely modern beach house that sleeps up to 14 people, sits 10km outside Galle in the south. Built right on the beach, a veranda runs around the upper and lower floors for fine views of the large pool, palms and waves breaking on the shore. Inside, the decoration is refreshingly simple and uncluttered, with white canopied four-poster beds, rolltop baths and dark wood floors. Each of the bedrooms is ensuite and the children's room has six bunk beds, making this the perfect hideaway for large families. Although the Skye House cannot be described as opulent, the style perfectly befits the location. The house comes with a small cadre of staff including a chef charged with cooking up traditional Sri Lankan fare, and two stewards and two maids to ensure that you don't have to lift a finger.
The Skye House costs from US$900 (Dh3,306) per night, house only including staff. To book, visit www. villasinsrilanka.com or call 00 94 91 223 2568.
9. Jimbaran Puri Villas, Bali
The luxury travel company Orient Express opened these villas in Jimbaran Puri, a chic beachside hotel on the southern tip of Bali, last year. Each of the one- or two-bed villas come with teak decks, huge beds, sunken bathtubs and outdoor showers. You'll also have your own nine-metre pool and tropical garden to play in.
Inside, the decor is a contemporary take on traditional Balinese, with soaring thatched ceilings. Guests can use all the resort's facilities, including a private beach, a cascading pool and a beachside restaurant serving up "the freshest seafood in Bali". But the villas are a perfect oasis to return to - relax on your daybed in the discreet confines of your courtyard while asking your 24-hour butler to indulge you with drinks. Personal attention is high on the agenda. Should the peace and quiet become too much, you're a cheap taxi ride from nightspots such as Kuta, Legian and Seminyak.
Prices at Jimbaran Puri Villas (www.jimbaranpuribali.com; 00 62 361 701605) start from US$847 (Dh3,111) for a one-bedroom and $1,174 (Dh4,312) for a two-bedroom villa per night, including breakfast, a butler,afternoon tea and 20-minute jet-lag massage.
10. Covecastles Villa Resort, Anguilla
Covecastles opened 20 years ago when there was very little on this Caribbean island. This parade of 16 two-storey luxury villas on a deserted stretch of Shoal Bay West is the "geometrical fantasy" of the award-winning New York architect Myron Goldfinger. He had a vision of bold and modern castles in the sand - imagine a James Bond escape or how a hotel in space would look (albeit dropped on a beach) and this is it.
Choose from one- to six-bedroom villas with a split-level dining room, dream kitchen and a 15-metre beachfront veranda strung with hammocks. The Point, a super-luxe five-bed grand villa, is the most striking, with a private pool and tennis courts, outdoor hot tub, bedrooms opening up onto decks and lots of glass windows that perfectly frame the serene views of St Martin. The award-winning French chef Dominique Theyenet will prepare all your French-Caribbean meals, which you can enjoy at one of the seven restaurant tables or served privately in your villa. Swim with dolphins, snorkel or take out a bike. There are also spa treatments and sunset cruises.
Prices for the Point at Covecastles Villa Resort (www.covecastles.com; 00 1 264 497 6801) start from US$4,320 (Dh15,867) in low season and $7,674 (Dh28,186) high season for up to 10 people per night.
All prices include taxes.