The Five Best: Luxury hotel hideaways

Taking advantage of the surreal desert-island-castaway landscape of Anguilla (a Leeward island in the north-east Caribbean), award-winning New York architect Myron Goldfinger created his own inimitable vision of castles in the sand, in the shape of the
Covecastles resort.

1. Taking advantage of the surreal desert-island-castaway landscape of Anguilla (a Leeward island in the north-east Caribbean), award-winning New York architect Myron Goldfinger created his own inimitable vision of castles in the sand, in the shape of the Covecastles resort. These startling white, geometric beach houses on Anguilla's north shore are as much Le Corbusier-esque sculpture as they are a place to stay. Every beach house opens on to the sea, the most luxurious of which are the two Grand Villas - vast airy structures with split-level, tree-filled atriums connected by curving staircases just begging for a sashaying descent.

Beach house sleeping two, from £439 per night, room-only. Contact Covecastles, 001 264 497 6801, www.covecastles.com

2. With the hordes of tourists visiting Venice each year, it's not a destination you'd normally recommend as a place to get away from it all. But in the Cipriani, tucked away on the tiny island of Giudecca, the city has one of the most luxurious hideaways in the world. Far from the maddening crowds, this tranquil haven last year added the Casanova Spa to its already considerable charms - which include pretty gardens, an outdoor heated pool and tennis courts. If you really want to push the boat out, stay in a suite in one of the 15th century Palazzi buildings, which come with a personal butler attached. And should all that Garbo-style solitude get a bit much, you can always nip across the lagoon (incognito in designer shades obviously) on the free motor launch for a spot of sightseeing, designer label shopping or a Bellini at Harry's Bar.

Open 18 March-23 October 2005. Standard double rooms from £449 per night (low season) to £575 (high) including breakfast. Book direct on 00 39 (0) 41 520 7744, or online from www.orient-express.com

3. Parrot Cay has become a perennial favourite on the luxury island-hopping circuit. Located in a tiny corner of an uninhabited 1,000-acre island within the Turks and Caicos, in the British West Indies. Dreamt up by the duchess of design hotels, Christina Ong (owner of The Metropolitan and The Halkin hotels in London), Parrot Cay caters to those who like their holidays to come with a little healing. Possibly the poshest place to say your "oms", Shambhala is known for its five-day yoga retreats. It also has Pilates studios, Japanese baths, open-air showers and a women-only Jacuzzi garden.

Double rooms from £285 per night. Contact Parrot Cay, 001 649 946 7788, www.parrotcay.com.bz

4. The Seychelles, swanky honeymoon spot of the 1970s, is now the choice for the sybarite who likes to relax everything but their gold card. The North Island resort is possibly the most expensive, ambitious and acclaimed of the recent Indian Ocean openings. Virtually uninhabited for the last 25 years, North Island was bought by Johannesburg-based Wilderness Safaris, which specialises in low-impact, high-luxury tourism. Green-minded architects Lesley Carstens and Silvio Rech (the latter behind Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater Lodge) worked with local craftsmen to design 11 "rustic" villas each with a thatched roof, private plunge pool, marble bathroom and beach views.

Double villas from £2,190, full board. Contact Wilderness Safaris on 0027 11807 1800, www.north-island.com

5. Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily, is closer to Tunisia than it is to Italy. This volcanic island, favoured holiday spot of such luminaries as Madonna, Sting and Julia Roberts, has a high cost of living and little in the way of hotels. What accommodation there is here tends to be rather exclusive, the most coveted of which are the "dammusi" - stone-built cottages with Arabic-style cupola roofs. Walls are constructed from lava boulders, thick enough to withstand Pantelleria's ferocious summer heat. Strictly speaking, these houses are self-catering, but come with hotel-style services such as a chef, maid and helicopter transfers, on request.

Dammuso Tramonto (sleeps four) from £1,521 per week. Contact Think Sicily on 020-7377 8518, www.thinksicily.com

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