Where to stay in Istanbul
What's so special
The Four Seasons combines all the best elements of a top hotel. It is situated in a central location in a 100-year-old prison in the historic quarter of the city. The accommodation is luxurious and the standard of service is high.
How they rate it
“Chain hotel it may be, characterless it most definitely is not,” says The Daily Telegraph. Standing “virtually in the shadow of the Aya Sofia, only minutes from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, and backing onto excavations of a former Byzantine Palace, it’s a perfect base for sightseeing on foot”. The rooms have high ceilings and are located around a spacious courtyard, which was once the inmates’ exercise yard. Some have panoramic views over the Sea of Marmara and the Aya Sofia.
The hotel restaurant is located in an ornate pavilion in the courtyard and serves up “the best of Turkish and international dishes”. It is regarded as one of the best hotel restaurants in Istanbul.
Rates start from £680, room only. For more information, visit www.fourseasons.com/istanbul, or call 00 90 402 3000.
What's so special
From the outside, this hotel looks like a bland high-rise, but don’t be fooled. Inside, this is a sleek modern gem. Moreover, it commands views that no other hotel in the city can compete with – looking out over the Bosphorus Strait, the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Anatolian shores.
How they rate it
“It may seem perverse to come to Istanbul, city of Ottoman opulence and nightly decadence, only to hole up in a hotel with a name that evokes rosy cheeks, shorts and Alpine hiking,” says Nick Redman in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine.
Yet “Swissotel is an unsung five-star”. The rooms are “appealingly modern: icing-white walls, square pillars and orchids in oversize vases”. There are also “some of Istanbul’s sexiest apartments” available in the adjacent tower. “They’re precision-designer-engineered and furnished with exotic materials (horsehair, dark ash).”
The buffet on the breakfast terrace is “awesome”. Gaja, on the roof of the hotel, serves wonderful food, including bouillabaisse and lobster. Enjoy it while “watching the liquid-diamond headlights of traffic below”.
Doubles rooms cost from £228, including breakfast. For more information, see www.swissotel.com, or call 00 90 212 326 1100.
Nicaraguan beach retreats
For pristine sands, sea turtles, fun surf and seafood shacks, try one of these Nicaraguan beach retreats, says Laura Holt in The Independent.
Mukul Resort, Playa Manzanillo (pictured) has just opened. Set within Guacalito de la Isla, a private beach community, it offers 12 ocean-view villas with tropical gardens, and al fresco monsoon showers. There are also 23 treehouse-style huts above the beach.
• Doubles start at $635 (£397), half board (Mukulresort.com).
Big Corn Island, home to Arenas, lies 40 miles off the Caribbean coast. Sleepingoptions are basic, but Arenas offers a set of more comprehensive suites and bungalows. “A beach bar with wooden chairs dotted amid brightly painted boats, Caribbean music and ice-cold beers add to the laid-back ambience.”
• Doubles cost from $104 (£65), room only (Arenasbeachhotel.com).
Morgan’s Rock in Playa Ocotal “is a hacienda with heart”. It offers 15 luxury bungalows and, since 2001, more than 1.5 million native hardwood and fruit trees have been planted. Morgan’s Rock has also been responsible for protecting 800 acres of forest and reintroducing endangered species to the private reserve. “Perfect for nature lovers and adventurers, activities include jungle tours, horse-riding and watching sea turtles waddle up the beach.”
• Doubles from $377 (£236), half board (Morgansrock.com).