Tamara Lohan knows a thing or two about luxury hospitality. In 2002, the London-based entrepreneur co-founded Mr & Mrs Smith, a boutique hotel booking service and collection, with her husband James. Following a trip that fell short of their expectations, the couple decided to dedicate their careers to finding the must-see destinations, the best places to stay, and how to truly experience a new place. The Lohans and their team have reviewed thousands of hotels around the world making the site a go-to travel resource.
What makes a hotel stand out for a jet-setter like Lohan? A memorable welcome, for one. From seaplane taxis to whitewater rafting, here she details the eight most over-the-top arrival moments she has experienced.
It’s hard to top the welcome at Aman Venice: You’re picked up from the airport on a 1930s wooden Riva speed boat, which zips you down a few side canals and onto the Canal Grande. Just after you pass under the iconic Rialto Bridge, you reach the hotel’s private jetty and are led inside like a VIP. For the ultimate effect, have your hair blowing in the wind, wear your biggest shades, and aim to arrive just as the sun is setting.
On Dedon Island in the Philippines, they pick you up in a little jeepney (a bus-cum-jeep you’ll see all over the country). It’s a 45-minute drive to the hotel, but Dedon decks their vehicle with bespoke furniture so you ride in total comfort—the resort, after all, was created by Bobby Dekeyser, founder of the furniture company Dedon. When you arrive, the whole staff greets you barefoot at the entrance, and you settle in for some deep relaxation surrounded by beautiful azure waters.
If you head to Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives, you’re met at the airport and taken to their very own seaplane. Taking off from the water is always a thrill, and once you’re in the air you get that National Geographic view of all the islands surrounded by the reefs—it’s really incredible. Plus, the little seaplane airport is so cute—I could sit and watch them take off from there all day.
To reach Morocco’s Kasbah du Toubkal, you drive to the village of Imlil before embarking on a steep 15-minute trek into the Atlas Mountains while your luggage is brought up by mule (you can hitch a ride if you’re not feeling too energetic). It’s such an adventurous journey in spectacular surroundings, and it feels like you’ve reached somewhere truly special at the end of it—and earned that refreshing mint tea. Depending on when you arrive, you can hear the calls for prayer echoing through the valleys below, which makes it even more memorable.
There’s mystery and majesty when you make your way to Mihir Garh in Rajasthan’s Thar desert. First, you’ll need to pick up a guide from a small town outpost who’ll lead you as far down a dirt track as a car can make it before you and your luggage swap into a wilderness-ready jeep. Then, you’re whisked through remote villages, across rugged shrubland, and past the occasional antelope until you see this fanciful fort appear like a giant sandcastle. As you head through the gates, look out for the stables full of beautiful Marwari horses.
You really earn your welcome cocktail at Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica. Those who like to make an entrance can take a 90-minute adrenaline-rush whitewater rafting route to the hotel.
Speaking of dramatic entrances, at Oman’s remote Six Senses Zighy Bay you can take your pick from a speedboat, or, for that true action-movie feeling, a paraglider. You’ll be driven a couple of hours from the airport high into the mountains where you’ll get strapped to a companion, jump off and fly right into the resort. (It’s ok; they’ll take care of your luggage.)
In England, Cliveden House in Berkshire has one of the most impressive country-house driveways around—you get a real sense of excitement for your stay as soon as you turn onto it. The entrance to Wiltshire’s Lucknam Park relaxes you long before you reach its award-winning spa: You drive along a lengthy tree-lined path through manicured lawns and rolling fields, right up to the handsome hotel.
Published on May 3, 2017