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The 24 properties that make up National Geographic’s new “Unique Lodges of the World” collection offer more than just stunning ocean views and top-notch amenities. Spanning six continents, the boutique hotels each went through a rigorous vetting process judging on property design, quality of service and guest experience as well as a commitment to sustainable tourism. Many of the properties use clean, renewable energy, and each prioritizes locally grown food and offer social and economic benefits to the surrounding community.
“The National Geographic brand is universally recognized for its commitment to exploring and protecting the planet, so we are uniquely positioned to unite and promote these exceptional properties and to set a new standard for tourism,” said Lynn Cutter, executive vice president for travel and licensing for National Geographic.
Below are five of our favorites from National Geographic’s new collection.
Africa: Kasbah du Toubkal in Morocco The Kasbah du Toubkal hotel lies in the village of Imlil, Morocco, amidst the country’s High Atlas Mountains. The property is surrounded by the lush foliage of Toubkal National Park and provides guests with scenic views of nearby snowcapped mountains, including Jbel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa.
Kasbah du Toubkal offers 14 en suite rooms; three of which can be transformed into a private house. The property also financially supports the Association Bassins d’Imlil, which aids local and independent community development. Their support has allowed the nearby community to get an ambulance, a “hammam” (Turkish bath) and a formal trash collection service. What’s more, it has helped to establish and fund “Education For All,” a nonprofit organization that gives young girls in the area the opportunity to pursue a higher education.
Asia: Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro, BhutanThis Bhutanese property strikes the perfect balance between honoring the country’s rich history while remaining on the cutting edge of technology. Zhiwa Ling Hotel features hand-carved wooden cornices and natural stone and provides guests with amenities including a traditional Bhutanese outdoor hot-stone bath and Swedish under-floor heating. The second floor of the 45-room hotel has a Buddhist temple built with 450-year-old timbers from the renowned Gangtey Monastery.
Other amenities include a spa/fitness center, a tea house, a meditation house and an on-site greenhouse, which produces almost all of the property’s produce and flowers. The Zhiwa Ling staff has a history of leading several community projects, including organized tree plantings and cleanup initiatives.
National Geographic’s “unique lodges of the world” collection comprises 24 boutique hotels, including the pictured Kasbah du Toubkal resort in Morocco, with a commitment to sustainable tourism. // © 2015 Kasbah du Toubkal/National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
Zhiwa Ling’s design reflects Bhutanese culture and has established its own composting and wastewater management system. // © 2015 Zhiwa Ling Hotel/National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
Longitude 131˚ is built entirely on the curve of a sand dune — invisible to the nearby township where most out-of-town visitors stay. // © 2015 Longitude 131˚/National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
Aiming to sustain the character of Santorini, Kapari Natural Resort was built out of traditional materials. // © 2015 Kapari Natural Resort/National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
Surrounded by dense forest, Mashpi Lodge is an ecotourism hot spot; the property recycles and composts its waste and employs wastewater management through a water treatment plant. // © 2015 Mashpi Lodge/National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
Australia: Longitude 131˚, Northern Territory, AustraliaFacing Uluru, one of the world’s largest monoliths, Longitude 131˚ is also at the gateway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The property features 15 elevated “luxury tents” that provide guests with breathtaking views of the outback’s desert landscape and stunning rock formations. Floors are insulated with natural stone, creating a cooling effect in the summer and warmth in the winter. Each tent is built on stilts so it can be dismantled and removed with minimal impact on the environment. Rooftop solar panels provide hot water for kitchen and guest tents.
Europe: Kapari Natural Resort, Santorini, Greece The only European lodge I in the collection, Kapari Natural Resort in Santorini, Greece, is located in the village of Imerovigli. The resort was recently restored and features the island’s unique architecture and views of the Aegean Sea and the caldera.
“Smart technology meters” can be found in every guest room to measure energy use, and a geothermal heat pump decreases electricity and hot water consumption. The property is located about 1 mile from Fira, the island’s capital, and 6 miles from the island’s main port. There are several room types available (including both suites and private residences), and amenities include 24-hour room service, a wide collection of coffees and an infinity pool that provides a panoramic view of the sea.
South America: Mashpi Lodge, Quito, Ecuador Mashpi Lodge in Quito, Ecuador, calls itself a “luxury cocoon in the clouds.” It is perched on a plateau that overlooks forested mountains, seen through the lodge’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Ecuadorian property is styled minimally, showcasing a mix of earth tones and bright splashes of color, ideal for optimal guest relaxation. The lodge also has a resident biologist that leads research and conservation initiatives, as the surrounding forests were once targeted by timber companies and loggers.
Guests can stay in one of 22 rooms and enjoy the property’s outdoor terrace and a wellness space, which houses a Jacuzzi pool encased in carved wooden panels designed to let in the sights and the sounds of the surrounding forest.