Five best: Adventure getaways

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The Independent Travel

Ni'tun Reserve, Guatemala

The ultimate retreat for the ethically minded, Ni'tun's four cool, thatched cabanas feature traditionally plastered walls, indigenous textiles and views of either the neighbouring forest or lakeside. Guests also have the chance to try jungle-trekking, bird-watching, horse-riding or just swimming in the jade-coloured adjacent waters. Set on the shores of Lake Peten Itza, about three kilometres from San Andres, the fact that the property is reached by boat doesn't stop guests from venturing out. Nearby attractions include the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, several natural parks and a community-run medicinal plant project, though Ni'tun's open-sided bar and restaurant are equally worthy of a visit.

Double rooms start from around £95 per night, including breakfast and airport transfers,

Cape Adventure, Scotland

It may be one of Scotland's best-known outdoor activity centres but staying at Cape Adventure doesn't mean roughing it. Way up in the wild north-west of the country, guests come here for the unique mix of wilderness and comfort (families are welcome, there are double beds for couples and, as well as wood-burning stoves and fresh flowers, the food veers towards the gourmet end of the scale). The other great selling point of Cape Adventure is the expert instruction. Whether you're an experienced sea kayaker or a novice climber, the emphasis is on enthusiastic encouragement rather than more macho methods of persuasion.

Two-night stays, including all meals and activities, cost £250 per person; Ardmore, Rhinconich, Sutherland, 01971 521006,

Whitepod, Switzerland

The epitome of eco-chic, Switzerland's five whitepods - a glamorous take on winter tents - are as stylish as they are low-impact. Sleeping just 10 guests and set in a remote spot, high in the Alps, the attraction of staying here - apart from the wood-burning stoves, organic bedding and some very silent nights - is that you can start your skiing straight from the tent flap. In the centre of the pods is a restored 19th-century chalet, with a dining room, lounge and main bathroom. And, if you don't want to ski, a team of experienced mountain guides is on hand to take you para-hiking, dog-sledging or snowshoe-trekking.

Rates start at £240 per person per night, all-inclusive, 00 41 7974 46219,

Lisu Lodge, Thailand

Situated around an hour from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, this is the archetypal hill-tribe experience condensed for those without much time - or the cash to hang around. Built in traditional style but boasting all the usual modern amenities, what makes the centre's thatched-roof, bamboo-walled guest pavilions different is that they are staffed and managed by a Lisu tribe. Not that there's much time for sleeping. Set in a scenic position overlooking a lush mountain valley, mountain-biking, river-rafting, elephant trekking and hill-tribe visits are what people really come here for.

Two-day, one-night trips start from around £80 per person, including transport, meals and accommodation, 00 66 2651 9101;

Le Kambary, Mali

If George Lucas were asked to design a hotel, this might well be the result. Part space ship, part pizza oven, Le Kambary's series of cool, stone domes is surrounded by gardens and a small pool, and rises eerily out of an otherwise dust-smothered landscape. The latest in desert chic, its simple but natty rooms have been designed with thermal regulation in mind, retaining heat at night and repelling it during the day. Why else do people make the long trek here? To hike through Dogon villages on the nearby Bandiagara escarpment, to sail up river to Timbuktu on a pirogue (a type of dug-out canoe) or to set out into the Sahara to try their hand at sand-skiing.

Double rooms start from around £20 per night, 00 223 244 2388;