Quartz Co.’s Winter Guide
Nature inspires. It re-invigorates, re-energizes, and transports us. These are facts we’ve learned in the last two years, as a number of global circumstances have prompted a slower, more reflective way of living. In this time of uncertainty, nature has provided respite, a reliable home-away-from-home.
In the current climate, as life close-to-nature becomes increasingly of interest and sustainable living becomes increasingly important, the concept of the eco-house and its closed eco-cycle has become more popular. For the adventurous, the eco-hotel also provides us the opportunity to discover new landscapes, close-up.
For the 2022 edition of our annual Winter Guide, we’ve compiled a list of some of the world’s most impressive eco-hotels. From modern-day treehouses to innovative “glamping” pods, these locations inspire us to dream of a life closer to nature, to seek out alternative ways of living, and to reconsider how we spend our leisure time. These astounding structures and their surroundings are also meant to instill a deeper appreciation for the wonders of nature -- not just for the forests, islands, and seascapes abroad, but for those right outside our front doors, as well.
Located in the secluded Hanazono woods in Japan’s Northern Hokkaido region, Zaborin is a boutique ryokan surrounded by breath-taking nature. The hotel takes its name from the Japanese word for “sitting and forgetting,” a motto that embodies its purpose: visitors are invited to sit, to forget, and to absorb the energy of the forest -- also known as “forest bathing” (森林浴). Each of the resort’s suites also feature an onsen supplied with hot volcanic spring water from a natural hot spring beneath the ryokan. The communal onsen is a cornerstone of Japanese culture, especially in the North, where it is a common après-ski tradition, for its regenerative, qi- enhancing properties. To conserve resources, the spring water is also used to heat and cool the ryokan, depending on the season. Zaborin approaches sustainability with a deep respect for both nature and tradition. The ryokan’s unique wood build even draws its eco-conscious approach from a centuries-old technique. Reminiscent of ”yakisugi” -- a method of preserving wood through burning – the timber felled in preparation for the ryokan’s development was re-used in its build.
Treehotel invites guests to experience Sweden’s Nordic beauty in some of the most unique ways imaginable. Located in Harads, just South of the Arctic circle, the hotel is made up of a series of secluded cabins perched within the trees of the village’s tall pine forest. Each ultra-modern cabin – some with mirrored walls and others made to look like UFOs – feature exquisite views of the forestscape and the nearby Lule River. From September to March, guests have the chance to watch the Northern Lights illuminate the sky above through the rooms’ panoramic windows and skylights. Guests are also invited to discover the charm of the North with an array of nature-centric activities: dogsledding, ice-fishing, foraging, snowshoeing, and even “skijoring” -- horse-pulled skiing. As part of the restaurant’s Nordic dining experience, which offers Northern pantry delicacies made from local produce, guests can also partake in a unique dining experience upon an ice-covered lake.
Blue Lagoon Resort
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon foregrounds the transformative properties of the natural world: how nature is a source of healing and revitalization. The resort – which also functions as a research and development center – is based around the Svartsengi lava field, renowned for its mineral-rich geothermal waters. Harnessing the healing powers of geothermal water, Blue Lagoon offers guests spa experience and culinary enjoyment. Environmental uplift is one of Blue Lagoon’s core mandates and the resort harnesses a closed eco-cycle of geothermal energy to power 100% of its electricity, heating, and hot water. The resort’s architecture and design cultivate a balance between man and nature, enabling visitors to experience the beautiful volcanic surroundings without leaving a footprint.
Pyeong-yang, South Korea
House of Mind offers a completely unique camping experience. Situated in a remote campsite in Pyeong-yang, this series of tent-like “glamping” structures are surrounded by miles of beautiful forest, mountains, and streams. These intricately engineered tents allow visitors to experience nature as closely as possible while protecting against the elements. These units are made using high-quality double-layered performance membranes that are UV-protectant, waterproof, and fire-resistant, offering the best resistant against the extreme weather conditions Korea’s four-season climate.
Located in a remote village in Norway’s beautiful Fjord municipality, the Juvet Landscape Hotel is a hub for exploring some of the Northern European country’s most breathtaking natural sights, including the UNESCO World Heritage area of Geirangerfjord. The resort’s seven cabin sits on stilts, each offering a dramatic view of the valley, forest, and river below. The hotel’s restaurant is located in a renovated 100 year-old farm building and serves up a seasonally-changing menu based on local ingredients.
Fogo Island, Newfoundland
Fogo Island Inn
The Fogo Island Inn sits on a remote coast on an island off of Canada’s Newfoundland. Perched atop a pair of stilts, this ultra-modern hotel offers floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the North Atlantic coast. The inn is an initiative of Shorefast, a Canadian charity dedicated to securing a resilient economic future for Fogo Island and other such rural communities across the globe. The Inn, which is located on the ancestral homelands of the Beothuk, is also committed to using its platforms to encourage a reverence for Indigenous peoples across Canada. Additionally, Fogo Island Inn partners with Carbonzero, allowing guests to achieve carbon neutrality for their stay through carbon offsetting. Upholding its ecologically and socially-minded mission, the inn building acts as a single system, using collected rainwater, solar energy, and wood-fire to power its operations.
Perched in the remote woods of the Plose mountain, Forestis is a retreat surrounded by lush nature of the Italian Dolomites. The hotel’s mission is to encourage physical and mental mindfulness through proximity to nature. Guests are encouraged to soak in the natural sights – expansive mountainscapes and the surrounding forest area – through the building’s sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows. Following the philosophies of forest cuisine, Forestis’ restaurant serves traditional South Tyrolean slow-food cuisine with ingredients sourced from nature and local farms.
Located on Copenhagen’s Hønsebroløbet canal, Kaj Hotel was built to share the joy of living on a houseboat with others. Whether spending a night asleep on the gentle waves or taking a morning swim, the houseboat experience is influenced by nature, and varies depending on the wind and the weather or even the time of day. In this way, living on a houseboat – or spending a weekend in a houseboat hotel – means living in symbiosis with nature. Embodying this respect for natural processes, the Kaj Hotel’s creators constructed the hotel entirely from recycled and surplus materials that add to its charm.
Situated in the Swiss Alps, at an altitude of 1400 m, Monthey’s Whitepod Hotel offers a cosy cocoon in a picturesque and remote mountain landscape. The hotel is comprised of a series of pods, designed to merge environmental conservation with comfort. Each pod is heated using a pellet stove, and each structure’s self-supporting frame is designed to use a minimum of materials. In addition to providing gorgeous mountain views, the hotel also offers dogsledding, day hikes in the Dent de la Valerette, and skiing in Les Portes du Soleil as a means of enjoying the alpine environment.