If you’re heading to the Yunnan province in China, a stay at one of Lijiang’s traditional Naxi houses is a good bet for old-world atmosphere – your front door opens out onto the narrow lanes, wending canals and flickering red lanterns of the old town. Immediately you feel part of the place, immersed rather than just passing through. We love our traditional, sometimes offbeat accommodation at Peregrine, and we think they add so much to any holiday. Here are a few of our favourites – we’d love to know yours.
Doesn’t sound very welcoming, granted, but read on – this is something seriously special. Amid the parched wilds of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert lies the Darvaza Crater - the self-styled ‘Gates of Hell’. May sounds like hyperbole, when you're there it doesn't feel far from the truth – peer over the crater rim and you’re faced with countless fires broiling beneath you, all burning off natural gas in this vast, yawning hole in the earth. Adding to the End-of-Days feeling, unfortunate desert animals have been known to hurtle towards then throw themselves into the fiery pit. The night is when the crater really astounds. Camp – at a safe distance – and you’re treated to a spectacle that merits the tag ‘unique’ – the glowing crater emerging from the desert floor, like a fire burning through the earth's skin, raging at the starred night sky.
From a ringside seat by Dante’s inferno to deep within the frozen continent: a night’s camping in Antarctica surely confers the ultimate in holiday-story bragging rights. The magical, languorous sunset... the gin-clear air... the play of light against ice and rock... the natural world is addictive here, every tiniest detail absorbing, and never more so than when you’re emerging from your snug to take it all in – if you’re fortunate enough to be Antarctica-bound, make sure a night under canvas is on your to-do list.
How’s this for a day out and about: wander along West Africa’s finest trekking trail, a grand, rugged escarpment with spellbinding views across the sahel and the Pays Dogon. Then drop into a Dogon village, witness their remarkable masked dance and spend time with the local elders, hearing them weave mystical tales of their land’s origins. And follow this up with a night to remember: in the warm night air, climb atop the rooftop of the village house, spread out your sleeping bag, lie back and fall asleep under the biggest blanket of diamond-scattered stars you’ll ever see.
With the Bedouin in Lawrence of Arabia-land
It’s a pretty good living room to have: sculpted sandstone rocks rearing up dramatically from the red desert floor, rock bridges and natural arches, and not a neighbour for, ooh, 50, maybe 100 miles. Yet the Bedouin are not boastful people but gregarious hosts, happy to share, as their long, illustrious tradition in desert hospitality dictates. And what wonderful treats to share: a campfire, food cooked in the traditional style, perhaps some music, and the sunset to end all sunsets, when the earth becomes a flaming orange and dark shadows and ochre reds meld together improbably. The Wadi Rum isn’t Jordan’s most famous spectacle – that honour goes to Petra – but spend a night here and you’d be hard-pressed to argue against it being the country’s most seductive.
Iban Longhouse, Borneo
The day begins typically enough – learning how to use a blowpipe and taking a stroll around ancient jungle – and from there things get exotic. Head upriver and you’re into territory once firmly marked out as that of ‘headhunters’, and your hosts for the night will be direct descendants of that legendary people. The overwhelming impression of life in an Iban longhouse, however, is of a family community. Staying here is true cultural immersion –you are part of the family in an Iban longhouse. From food to dancing, music to games, maybe a little of the local potent rice wine, tuak – life here may be difficult, but it is also determinedly joyous. By the time you are bedding down on your reed mat and locally-woven blankets, the happy, egalitarian spell will have well and truly been cast.