The World’s Best Wilderness Resorts

Ever feel the urge to get away and retreat to the outdoors? From a striking Iceland wilderness resort to a luxurious mountain lodge in Scottsdale, use our hotels list as a guide to the natural wonders of the world.

Km 5, 5 Norte S/N, Natales, Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena, Chile
If there were ever a hotel with history, it’s the Singular Patagonia. Opened as a hotel in November 2011, the original building once served as a post-Victorian cold-storage factory built by the British in 1915 for the purpose of processing sheep’s wool and meat to be shipped back to England. Overlooking the waters of Last Hope Sound, the long, red-brick building is located just outside the town of Puerto Natales. After operating for almost 70 years as a factory, it was declared a national historic landmark before being transformed into a luxury hotel.

History is by no means forgotten. The hallways are still stocked with brightly colored machinery—from steam condensers to boilers and forges—all stamped with the name of the British city in which they were built: Derby, Birmingham, London, or Glasgow. Designed by Chilean interior designer Enrique Concha and local architect Pedro Kovacic, the 57 bedrooms stretch along a new wing that was added to the original buildings, and these rooms are furnished with Victorian-inspired furniture.
Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0, Canada
In a remote spot off Vancouver Island in British Columbia, surrounded by rain forest, mountains, and beaches, the Clayoquot Wilderness Retreat first opened in 1998 as an overnight floating lodge experience; since then, it has grown into a luxury tent retreat. While the camp has a rugged outpost atmosphere, with huge stone fireplaces and a long wooden cookhouse, it’s an outpost with every possible luxury: from white linen tablecloths and polished silverware to soft comforters and high-thread-count bedding.
Nesjavellir 801, 801 Nesjavellir, Iceland
Nestled within a landscape of moss and lava less than an hour from Reykjavik, the Ion Adventure Hotel is one of the few true luxury hotels outside of Iceland’s capital. Under the careful eye of owner Sigurlaug Sverrisdóttir, a no-frills barracks for geothermal power plant workers was transformed into a concrete-and-glass Nordic-modern showpiece that wears its reverence for the natural setting on its sleeve. Sverrisdóttir is committed to using local products—everything from the artwork to the bath products to the food are sourced from the area—and the hotel’s sustainable materials and practices, like using geothermal cooling for power, have earned it a number of awards. Plus, all 45 of the sleek but comfortable rooms feature fair-trade organic linens and floor-to-ceiling views of Lake Thingvellir or Mount Hengill, an active volcano. The glass Northern Lights Bar juts out toward the horizon, providing a perfect viewing spot when the aurora borealis appears; beneath it sits a large rectangular hot tub adjacent to the spa. As for adventure, the hotel is happy to arrange any number of excursions, including fly-fishing, horseback riding, kayaking and, for the truly bold, snorkeling in the Silfra fissure.

5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253, USA
As obvious as it may sound, what sets Sanctuary apart from any other Scottsdale resort is location. Sitting on the north side of Camelback Mountain yet minutes from downtown Scottsdale, it has a balance of desert mountain isolation and easy access that no other Scottsdale resort can match. Since Sanctuary opened in 2002, the combination has especially appealed to publicity-shy celebs (Beyoncé and Jay-Z even stayed here while on their honeymoon). The views from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the adobe casitas look out at the mountain and across Paradise Valley. The casitas have wood-block floors, glass-tiled showers, and, in many of them, oversize tubs with romantic votive candles.
Tocopilla 4, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Step inside from the dusty street into this walled oasis in the town of San Pedro. With only eight unique cottages and plenty of sun-drenched terrace space, this exquisite hotel (a Relais & Chateaux property) has sofas strewn with local textiles in vivid colors. Awasi is all about privacy and getting away from the crowds, so meet with your private guide to custom-design the excursions to your interests and activity level (after acclimating to San Pedro’s 8,000-feet altitude). Visit far-flung altiplanic villages, enjoy dawn with just you and the flamingos. Back on the homestead after a day, the chef woos guests with refined creations, local ingredients, and a great wine list. After dinner, linger by the mammoth fire pit to sip the rest of your Chilean cabernet under the stars.
40060 Paws Up Rd, Greenough, MT 59823, USA
One of the most luxurious Western guest ranches, opened in 2005, the Resort at Paws Up, in Greenough, sprawls over 37,000 acres of classic Montana landscape: elk-filled meadows, rocky peaks, and ponderosa pines in the Blackfoot Valley, with the river of the same name running through it all. The most sought-after accommodations are the “glamping” tents on the banks of the Blackfoot or along Elk Creek that are available May through October and organized into five separate camps, taking just six guests each. The camps combine a Western lifestyle with an African safari formula: canvas suites with private baths, a communal dining pavilion with fireplace and fire pit, private camp chef, and butlers to help organize guest activities. Families and friends who prefer four walls between themselves and nature stay in enormous wood-and-stone villas with heated hardwood floors, fireplaces, leather furniture, huge flat-screen TVs, and panoramic windows; some of these homes come with outdoor hot tubs and tented bedrooms for kids.

All guests have the opportunity to hike, rappel, canoe, play paintball, take cooking classes, and more, but the main action is on-site fly-fishing and horseback riding for all levels on 100 miles of private trails or in a 23,000-square-foot equestrian arena; adults and kids 12 and up can help move small herds of Black Angus cattle on sample stock drives. If parents want private adventure time, kid wranglers entertain young’uns. In the evening, communal entertainment takes place in a renovated barn that serves as stock sales venue, dance floor, and movie theater. Despite the busy activity menu and flow of golf carts transporting guests to and fro, the ranch is large enough, and accommodation so widely spaced that guests can survey the landscape and not see anyone.
El cascajo, Ecuador
Set on two extinct volcanic craters 450 feet above sea level in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the extremely high-end (but still carbon neutral) Pikaia Lodge, which opened in mid-2014, is unlike anything the Galapagos has ever seen. With strict building regulations on the highly fragile islands, Pikaia, owned by a live-aboard dive yacht impresario, was the first lodge to be granted a building permit in more than a decade, and the lodge is built entirely of recycled materials. The terrain, a mix of dry savanna and tropical highland forest, was regenerated with 12,000 endemic trees and grazing habitats for giant tortoises, for which Pikaia created its own private reserve. The entire all-inclusive property is powered with portable Eolic wind generators and soundproof electric generators using clean biodiesel. Despite the ecofriendly ethos of the property, there is no shortage of all-out luxury, from the infinity pool that’s softly illuminated at night, to the cushy spa or the lounge with a 3-D HDTV screen for lectures and videos. There’s also a contemporary restaurant and a wellness center on-site, plus two slick yachts used for excursions to neighboring islands and dive trips.
52068 W Fork Rd #38, Dolores, CO 81323, USA
Among the most lauded hotel openings in recent years, Dunton Hot Springs is a glitterati mainstay, with its batch of former mining community cabins that look straight out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue. You don’t have to book a pricey stay at this Relais & Chateaux property to be part of the experience, however—the spa is open to the public. Make an appointment for the indulgent, only-in-Colorado Dolores hot-stone massage, which uses heated stones culled from the Dolores River to work out your kinks. Then, take a soak in the on-site sulfuric hot springs, which were once a restorative playground for the Ute Indians.
San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta Region, Chile
A short drive outside the town of San Pedro de Atacama, Tierra Atacama has wonderful views of fields and Volvano Licancabur. The hotel is part of the Tierra hotel group owned by the Chilean-American Purcell family (who also own Tierra Patagonia, Tierra Chiloé, and Ski Portillo). The property originally served as a cattle corral, but Chilean landscape artist Teresa Moller has transformed the grounds, preserving the ancient algarrobo and chañar trees and restoring the adobe walls.

The bedrooms are decorated in natural colors, with local touches like ceramics marching along the sills of the extra-large windows. Animal-skin rugs and alpaca throws provide a touch of warmth for the cool desert nights. You can see the incredible silhouette of Volcano Licancabur from all the rooms, but the Poniente rooms are slightly larger and have better views. There is a friendly communal vibe at the hotel, and upon arrival guests meet with the head guide in the main lounge to choose from the range of group activities on offer each day.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks