Top 10 traditional hotel styles for a cultural experience

 

1 RYOKAN, JAPAN

The traditional Japanese inn features tatami mats and sliding-door cupboards from which you unroll futons at night on which to sleep. Guests are served elaborately presented meals at a low table; the only other furnishing might be a tokonoma alcove displaying flowers and a calligraphy scroll. Sanyo-So Ryokan on the Izu Peninsula is one of the best, frequented by the emperor and snug in Japanese gardens dotted with gnarled pines and lotus ponds. See www.princehotels.com

2 CHALET, SWITZERLAND

If you have a penchant for fretted woodwork, deep eaves, crackling fires and mountain views, then a chalet-style hotel provides. Often these are family-run establishments and include half-board meals, allowing encounters with locals. If you want your peasant lifestyle upgraded with 21st-century amenities and stylish alpine knick-knackery, check into Cordee des Alpes in Verbier, which has a suave spa, restaurant serving seafood, and the occasional digression into Chinese and Moroccan decor. See www.hotelcordee.com

3 SAFARI LODGE, SOUTH AFRICA

A safari lodge brings the thatched hut to a whole new level: air-conditioning, fine dining, personal butler, plunge pool. But it's more than just a hotel, usually providing two daily safaris, accompanied by driver and tracker, to see the wildlife. At Phinda Game Reserve you can pick from various lodges; Rock Lodge has decks overlooking the valley, while Zuka Lodge, overlooking a well-trampled waterhole, is great for animal spotting. See www.phindagamereserve.co.za

4 COUNTRY HOUSE, UK

The quintessential English country house is characterised by dahlia-filled gardens, plump sofas, afternoon teas and flowery chintz decor. In the past many were dowdy, tending towards sagging beds and flabby roast-beef dinners, but contemporary upgrades are bringing a new Cool Britannia to these traditional hideaways. Deep in the Dorset countryside, Summer Lodge, once an aristocratic dower house, now boasts one of Britain's best restaurants and the snuggest of snugs. See www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk

5 COURTYARD HOUSE, CHINA

Traditional courtyard residences – a walled compound following the same architectural pattern as Chinese temples and palaces – appear austere from the outside and are punctuated by a single entrance gate. However, they explode inside with colour: red lacquer pillars, writhing gold dragons, scroll-hung walls. Han's Royal Garden Hotel in Beijing is spaced around five courtyards shaded by pomegranate trees and plopping with carp, and has guestrooms lavish with Chinese silks, antiques and porcelain. See www.hansroyalgardenhotel.com

6 CHATEAU, FRANCE

You can have your choice of chateau-hotels in France, from medieval, turreted castles to venerable country mansions. But few appear more gorgeous – or more stereotypically French – than Chateau d'Esclimont in St-Symphorien west of Paris, a Renaissance masterpiece of gabled windows, tall chimneys and pepper-pot towers set in formal French landscaped gardens. Interiors ooze a sense of history and explode with floral prints, portraits and swathes of curtain. See www.esclimont.com

7 RIAD, MOROCCO

Derived from the Arabic word for garden, a riad is an enclosed, multi-storey mansion whose rooms all overlook one or more Andalusian-influenced courtyard replete with splashing fountains, orange trees and ornate plasterwork and Arabic tiling. A riad both shades against the heat and supplies a tranquil, private retreat behind high walls. Villa des Orangers in Marrakesh is one of the best, with magnificent decor over multiple courtyards, one with a swimming pool. See www.villadesorangers.com

8 RANCH, US

Exposed stone walls, big beams, roaring fires and the smell of smoke, cows and cut wood are just the start of the ranch experience. The best offer horse-riding, cattle drives and the opportunity to try penning calves just like a real cowboy. Triple Creek Ranch in Montana is one of the best, with private log cabins hidden among the trees, a Relais & Chateaux restaurant and a world-class wine cellar. See www.triplecreekranch.com

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9 LAKE PALACE, INDIA

The bygone era of turbaned warriors and colonial aristocrats is evoked in the converted palaces of Rajasthan, in which tiger pelts, chandeliers, Victorian-era objects d'art and gilt gaudiness combine. Of several lakeshore palaces none can be beaten by the Taj Lake Palace, which occupies an island in Lake Pichola in Udaipur. The petite fairy-tale palace dates from the 18th century and features moonlit marble, silk hangings, stained glass and antique furniture. See www.tajhotels.com

10 BALINESE VILLA, INDONESIA

Abandon your concrete coastal hotel in Bali for a thatched retreat in Ubud in the central hills, where you'll often get your own plunge pool, private courtyard and views over rice paddies from a villa made of hardwood and decorated with handicrafts and silk cushions. At Pita Maha Resort, created by a prince of Ubud's royal family, you also get a spa to lull you with traditional Balinese massages. See www.pitamaha-bali.com

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