The high life
The Treehotel in Sweden.
A few planks of wood and a blanket to sit on is all a child needs to create a tree house that feels like a palace. When you're older, however, a few more creature comforts are called for. These luxury lodgings will have you turning over a new leaf.
If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Look up in the trees, and you may see a house that resembles an eagle's nest. Look harder, and you may even spot the almost invisible cube that hovers nearby. Yes, at Sweden's Treehotel, the lodgings fall somewhere between James Bond and a fairy tale.
Hidden in the forest in Sweden's far north, less than 100 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, is a unique collection of five tree houses tucked away amid 100-year-old pines. Each floats between four and six metres above the forest floor, and each has its own unique features. The Cabin is like a capsule in the trees, while the Bird's Nest, which appears to be constructed of twigs, is accessed via an electronic stepladder.
The Treehouse cabin.
The showstopper of the collection, however, is the Mirrorcube. With its special cladding that reflects the surrounding treetops, it is effectively invisible. Only the wooden rope bridge leading to the door gives a clue to its existence. The wraparound glass walls give you a unique perspective on the forest, and you can climb a ladder onto the roof.
Apart from the under-floor heating, facilities are fairly basic: there's a bed, an environmentally friendly toilet, and tea and coffee facilities. For meals and showers, guests head back to the hotel's HQ, a lodge located nearby. Staff can also organise a range of activities that allow you to explore this pristine landscape, including husky safaris.
Treehotel Sweden; +46 9281 0403, treehotel.se. Rates start at 4450 Swedish krona (approximately $650) per house per night.
MAKE MINE A MAASAI
Some hotels give you a personal butler. At Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, they give you a personal Maasai warrior chaperone. Not that he follows you around all day – you only need him at night, when you want to walk from your tree house to the main lodge, or back again.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is located in the heart of one of Tanzania's wildlife-packed national parks, and not all the wildlife is friendly. The water buffalo, in particular, are real troublemakers. These beasts neither run away nor give a warning growl when approached: they wait until you step on them, then they let you know how unhappy they are! My Maasai guide points out a buffalo hidden in the shadows near my tree house. I resolve not to leave my room until morning.
Not that that's a hardship. Nestled in the canopy of an ancient mahogany tree, my airy suite – one of just 10 – has bleached wooden interiors and soft fabrics. While I lounge in the clawfoot bath listening to the sounds of the forest, inquisitive gibbons thud onto my porch, making me glad I locked my screen doors. During the night a storm blows through. I feel like I'm in a storm-tossed sea - and loving every minute.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Tanzania; +27 11 809 4300, lakemanyara.com. All-inclusive rates start at $US755 ($734) per person, twin share.
Start with a tree or two. Plant them by the edge of a scenic, reed-fringed lake, then let them grow to a majestic height. Come back in 100 years or so, and you have the perfect location for a tree house.
That's what happened at Le Vieux Manoir, a Swiss country retreat on the shores of Lake Murten. The tree house they conjured up, however, is not just any tree house. The room itself is simple enough – a small cube with glass walls called the Glass Diamond – but it has a superbly tranquil lake view, which can be enjoyed from the silk-clad bed, the outdoor terrace or even the glass-paned shower.
Staying in the Glass Diamond, you can watch the sun set over the water or feel the smooth old leather of the armchairs on your skin. The room is simply furnished, but the details are delightful; you'll notice, for instance, Hermès silk lining the shelves. It's easy to feel that you're floating in your own private universe.
Le Vieux Manoir, Murten, Switzerland; +41 26 678 6161, vieuxmanoir.ch. Rates start at €980 (approximately $1220) per night for two, including breakfast.