The world's most beautiful 'star beds'
From African deserts to the Arctic wilderness, the best places to sleep under the stars
Sleeping outdoors is no longer the preserve of hardened campers.
From southern Africa to New York City, some of the world's most luxurious lodges and hotels now offer so-called "star beds", in which you can sleep under the night sky in the utmost comfort. Here are some of the world's best options for a heavenly stay.
Ol Donyo Lodge – Chyulus, Southern Kenya
Set on a private 275,000-acre ranch in south-eastern Kenya, this lodge is overlooked by one of Africa's most evocative sights: Mount Kilimanjaro. The rooms have views of the plains and the mountain, and many have roof terraces equipped with star beds.
Ol Donyo, which was built in 2008 from natural materials and runs largely on solar power, is owned collectively by 4,000 Maasai. Their philosophy is to "merge your outdoor and indoor living" - which means large open rooms and a private plunge pool for each. The area has a wealth of wildlife too: some of Africa's last giant bull elephants roam the plains, and if you're sleeping out you may hear the grumbling of lions or calling of leopards.
From £3,000 per person for four nights, full board, including all activities and flights, booked with the Luxury Safari Company
Tinyeleti Treehouse, Kruger national park, South Africa
The name means "Many Stars", and the Tinyeleti Treehouse, beside the Sabie River in Kruger National Park - lives up to the claim. The deck, measuring more than 500 square feet, can accommodate two adults and two children in its canopied beds. There's no electricity, although torches are provided, and the operators swear there is a bit of phone signal. Wi-fi? "You must be joking!" says the lodge's website. Radios are provided for safety, and a double door keeps the local wildlife away from the gourmet picnic basket that will sustain you as dusk settles over the bush.
Enquiries to www.lionsands.com
Kalahari Plains Camp – Kalahari, Botswana
Promising "endless skies", this camp is set in a remote part of Botswana's largest conservation area, in the gorgeous starkness of the Kalahari Desert. As well as indoor beds, the eight canvas units each have a star bed on the roof, so you can sleep out whenever you like. According to the Luxury Safari Company, the time to go is between November and March, to enjoy the blooming of the wild flowers and the best of the animals - including the black-maned lion and the cheetah, plus more than 200 species of birds. The camp is eco-friendly too, running entirely on solar power.
From £2,500 per person for four nights, full board, including all activities and flights, booked with the Luxury Safari Company
Royal Residence, Jumeirah Vittaveli, the Maldives
Most luxury star beds cater for couples or families, but the Royal Residence at Jumeirah Vittaveli in the Maldives could accommodate a football team, including the substitutes. And what a time they would have, contemplating the vastness of the universe and admiring the reflection of the stars in the dark, glossy waters of the Indian Ocean. Guests also have the run of a private beach, their own dedicated restaurant and two swimming pools. "No demand is out of reach and no luxury spared," according to the people behind the newly refurbished property promises. "A dedicated butler will be on hand to create a totally bespoke experience for guests."
From £27,475 per night for 14 people. Email JVMRoyalResidence@jumeirah.com to book
AKA Central Park, New York
While most star beds are surrounded by the great outdoors, one or two of them showcase a more human environment. For the summer months only, the AKA Central Park in New York can lay on an outdoor sleeping experience in its 17th-floor "sky suites", offering spectacular views of Manhattan. The bed is set up on the "1,000-square-foot wraparound terrace with a wood-burning fireplace", says Jetsetter magazine, and guests are furnished with "snazzy glamping pajamas from Bergdorf Goodman". The suites themselves boast fully-fitted kitchens and a MacPro laptop.
From £2,975 per room per night, until 3 September, from Stay AKA
andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia
Dry desert air and a complete absence of light pollution earned the Namib Desert the first International Dark Sky Reserve gold award in 2013. It's a remarkable place at any time: during daylight hours, towering sand dunes glow red under the sun and after dark the stars come out in force. The luxury stone cottages at the andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, in the heart of the national park, incorporate glass skylights above the beds so that visitors can marvel at the skies while sheltered from the chill of the desert night. The lodge also has its own observatory - and a resident astronomer - for professionally-guided stargazing.
From £384 per person per night, full board and including all activities, booked direct with andBeyond
Saariselka Northern Lights expedition
The Hotel Kakslauttanen, in Finnish Lapland, takes the stargazing-under-glass experience a step further, with its futuristic glass igloo. Wexas Travel's five-day Northern Lights break includes a first night under the transparent dome, followed by a snowmobile expedition, a Lappish feast, a husky safari, skiing, ice fishing and snowshoeing.