Have you ever been tempted to leave the modern world behind and immerse yourself in a completely different era? After reading the likes of Jane Austen or watching a particularly riveting period drama on screen, it can be tempting to start romanticizing what living in another time might have been like: fancy dresses, horse-drawn carriages, lavish parties and servants who wait on you hand and foot. Imagine being surrounded by the glamor, luxury and excess of a different time, in dreamlike, far-off places such as Ireland, Italy and India.
Fortunately, there is a way to satisfy this curiosity and live like you’re a part of the privileged class in a different time. While visiting parts of the world that are rich in culture, history, architecture and naturally beautiful landscapes, visitors can opt to stay in luxurious historical locations that have managed to maintain the aura of another era. Pack that historical romance and turn off your cell phone, and spend a week in a castle in Ireland, tour a ranch in the Western U.S. or live like absolute royalty in a decadent palace in India. These sojourns will give you that much-needed taste of living like royalty from another time without the dangers of actually having to travel back in time. It’s like playing an incredible game of make-believe!
Stay in a castle in Ireland
Ireland is filled with lush green rolling hills, large skies, blue lakes, and of course a riveting history. It also has breathtaking and luxurious old castles where you can while away a week (or more) on vacation. Some examples of the many castles visitors can relax in include Ashford Castle, which is on the banks of a lake. Ashford Castle is 700 years old and offers present-day guests fantastic cuisine and stylish rooms and suites that overlook a lake. Rooms begin at around 250 Euros and can cost upwards of 800 Euros per night. Dromoland Castle, built in the 16th century, was once a royal seat and is now a luxury hotel. It has beautiful details straight out of a historical romance novel: hand-carved paneled walls, antique furnishings and an estate where guests can hunt, fish, ride horseback and more. Rates range from approximately 400 Euros a night to upwards of 950 Euros a night. Waterford Castle (approximately 100 Euros per night and up), with décor that is reminiscent of a 15th century castle, has bedrooms that overlook a sprawling estate. Finally, Adare Manor is in the picturesque village of Adare and is a stylish getaway. The Manor has romantic architecture and there are ruins on the grounds are over 800 years old (rates are approximately 300-950 Euros per night).
Explore a ranch in the Western U.S.
Old Western movies evoke the romantic images of watching sunsets over a wide plain, horseback riding and telling stories around a campfire. This idealization of the “Wild West” and its own version of glamor actually began in the 19th century, when families who had recently moved out to the American West invited friends and family from the cities back home to stay on their cattle ranches. Visitors today can still have this same novel experience in the Wild West by spending a vacation at a working ranch. Don’t worry, it’s not as gritty as it sounds: many of the ranches are clean and modern, all while embodying that beautiful rustic and country feel of the West. Examples of places where modern-day travelers can stay include The Home Ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Family-friendly, this ranch provides western style riding and gives willing guests a crash course in cattle work. Another option is The Resort at Paws Up, a Montana ranch with luxury accommodations that allows visitors to ride the land where Lewis & Clark explored. Visitors can also go fly fishing, enjoy fine cuisine and wine and relax at a spa. Rates vary depending on the time of year and the size of room or suite.
Unwind at a Renaissance villa in the Veneto region near Venice
In the Renaissance, the influential architect Andrea Palladio built endless buildings in the Veneto region, which was at the time under the control of the Venetian Republic. Today, most of the Palladian villas that are still scattered throughout the idyllic region are protected by UNESCO. Wealthy families from Venice were often those who commissioned the palaces to be built and used them as country retreats from the busy city. Like the wealthy Venetians who originally enjoyed them, modern-day visitors can still unwind in the tranquil Italian countryside in these magnificent structures, which feature exquisite architecture and sometimes frescoes dating back to the Renaissance. A few examples of villas that travellers can enjoy today include the 16th century Villa dei Vescovi, which was once the summer residence of the Bishops of Padua. Apartments with views of an orchard can be rented for 4 nights starting at 603 Euros. The Villa Saraceno was built by Palladio in 1550 as a retreat and a working farm. When it was being restored, frescoes were discovered on the walls. An apartment that can sleep 16 can be rented for 603 Euros for 4 nights.
Experience an Estancia in Argentina
Like their counterparts in the American West, many Argentinians once grew wealthy off of massive cattle ranches (these Argentinian ranchers became rich by selling the meat to Europe in the early 20th century). Many of the sprawling antique estates and ranches, called estancias, now welcome visitors who want a taste of what was once the South American frontier. Visitors can watch polo matches, taste the famous Argentinian asados (barbeques featuring lots of grilled meats), and simply unwind in the vast countryside. Many estancias offer modern amenities such as spas and luxury swimming pools. The Spanish-colonial style El Colibri Estancia in the Cordoba region of Argentina is a polo destination with horse riding, luxury service and cuisine. Estancias such as La Bamba or Estancia El Ombu in the picturesque and historical town of San Antonio de Areco, about a 2 hour drive outside of Buenos Aires, are elegant retreats featuring dark colonial furniture, works of art and local textiles and of course, excellent food.
Relax in a manor house in England
Anyone who is a fan of the romantic settings of Jane Austen novels, watches “Downton Abbey” or is fascinated by the stories of the English royal families should consider traveling to England to live like a lord or lady of their own manor. Staying at Cliveden in England is indeed a royal experience. Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw all once retreated here, not to mention every king and queen has spent time here as well. A luxurious retreat at Cliveden will cost anywhere from 300 to 800 GBP or more per night. The English countryside is peppered with picturesque manor houses that reflect the various periods of architecture in England, depending on when they were built. For visitors on a tighter budget, it’s not always necessary to book an overnight stay to enjoy one of these elegant and unique country retreats. Bowood House is a lovely old Georgian manor house that is surrounded by English gardens and a picturesque lake. The house itself has unique collection of items including Queen Victoria’s wedding chair and Napoleon’s death mask. It is open to the public during the day in summer for the reasonable adult entry fee of 10.75 GBP.
Be pampered at a palace in India
India is home to one of the most famous palaces in the world, the Taj Mahal. But there are many other lavish palaces throughout the country that can be enjoyed. Alsisar Mahal is a hotel in the picturesque village of Shekhawat with huge rooms. It was originally built as a fortress palace in the 18th century. The hotel rooms are furnished in styles that respect the time period of the building, while providing all modern amenities to guests. It is surprisingly affordable at around $125 per night.
Another option for living like a royal prince or princess in India is by staying in the Umaid Bhawan Palace, built between 1928 and 1943 and designed in a blend of eastern and western architectural influences. Nowadays, it is frequented by Hollywood and Indian celebrities. Located near Jodhpur, it has huge suites: a historical palace room will cost around $300-400. Finally, a palace demonstrating both French and Indian style of architecture is Sariska Palace in Rajasthan, which was built by the Maharaja of Alwar as a royal hunting lodge. Rooms and suites are designed to look regal and are where the real Maharaja used to relax. Visitors can explore the grounds and gardens and relax in a pool and spa.