Masterminding a group holiday can be the stuff of nightmares, where the ping of WhatsApp messages haunts your sleep and the fear of a flop stalks your waking hours. But whether you’re brainstorming a birthday in the Balearics or a beard-stroking break in Budapest, these luxury villas for large groups are guaranteed to wow even your most hard-to-please friends…
With its wood-shuttered windows, sweeping staircases, stone walls and tiled floors, Villa Havana evokes a characterful casa in the heart of the Cuban capital. Indeed, there’s space to accommodate the entire Buena Vista Social Club here, with room for 16 in eight ensuite bedrooms. In fact, its location is actually just outside Palma, in the sun-blessed south of Mallorca, with views that slope down to the city and out to the Mediterranean from the fruit-filled gardens, outdoor terraces and pool, set amid fragrant pine groves.
ES BEC D’AGUILA
This pull-out-all-the-stops pad, on the Balearic isle of Menorca, is as close to private-home perfection as you’re likely to find with Wallpaper*-worthy interiors, an aquamarine cocktail bar, terraces around every corner and pergola-covered daybeds beside the sun-bathed hilltop pool. Indeed, it’s the house’s perch-like position that gives it its name – the Eagle’s Beak – staring down as its does with solipsistic surety from a cleft of native shrubbery. Prepare for tantrums on departure: this one’s hard to leave…
Wake up to wilderness – 3,300 acres of it, to be exact – on the Isle of Sheppey’s Elmley nature reserve, with a symphony of birdsong in the air and mist rising across golden-toasted fields. The young second-generation owners behind this enterprising estate have overhauled its resident 17th-century farmhouse, with space to sleep 14 and on-call chefs, spa treatments and wildlife tours if you want to up the indulgence further. One for groups of budding Attenboroughs, there are nature trails to explore and four animal hides for spying Kent’s wildlife. For the less adventurous, there are gardens for gambolling, fire pits for cosying and lounges for sipping whisky and settling in for board games.
IAN FLEMING VILLA
GoldenEye Hotel has long been a retreat for international men (and women) of mystery. None more so than naval commander, Ian Fleming, who landed on an intelligence operation in 1942 – codename ‘GoldenEye’ – and was so bewitched, he vowed to return. Sure enough, when land came up for sale, the soon-to-be-world-famous Bond author bought it to build his private villa in Jamaica. It’s here that you can now lay your head, in the home where Fleming penned all 13 of his spy novels. English accent aside, the character is all Caribbean: windows are replaced by Jamaican jalousie blinds; a private beach, pool and tropical gardens invite horizontal lounging; and when you do want to shake things up, there’s rum, lobster and coconut rice at the hotel’s bars and restaurants – though naturally you have your own chef, too.
DAR EL SADAKA
Fancy a villa with your own orangutan? This eccentric pad in Marrakech’s oasis-esque Palmeraie comes with a menagerie of creatures thanks to French visual artist, Jean-François Fourtou, who’s peppered the grounds and nine bedrooms with an arc’s-worth of sculptures. There’s a squad of staff (in case the animals get out of hand), plus a cinema room and ping-pong tables, massage suites and a hammam, plus acres of grounds with a pool and tennis courts for working off the banquets of chef-cooked meals. Get to them before the giraffe does…
For that significant birthday bash, may we propose the most decadent villa on the Riviera Maya, complete with a private butler and cook. Set within 15 acres of tropical gardens on the grounds of Hotel Esencia, it’s got three party-ready bedrooms fanning off a central colonial-style courtyard and a beachfront cabaña on the sands of Xpu-Há, a mere three-minute skip away. Them aside, exuberant extras include a poolside palapa and an outdoor grill, plus a roof terrace topped with a hot tub, overlooking the tangled Yucatán jungle.
MORUKURU OCEAN HOUSE
Few villas can claim whale-watching straight from bed, but Morukuru Ocean House is no ordinary villa. Its location, for one, is noteworthy: in South Africa’s untouched De Hoop Nature Reserve, where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet and migratory southern right whales pause to nurse their young between July and October. But even if you travel outside that period, you’ll be unlocking a world of footprint-free beaches – a rare thing during the South African summer. This hotel-sized villa is yours alone, with hosts who’ll organise free daily activities, cooks who’ll whip up extravagant all-inclusive meals and even drinks on the house, too. Our kind of party…
THE WRITER’S VILLA AT BRODY HOUSE
If your conga days are over, this cultured crashpad is the place to celebrate. Crafted during the golden age of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Writer’s Villa went on to be lived in by author Jaap Scholten. It’s now owned and styled by the team behind cultural-honeypot hotel, Brody House, although the villa’s location is more bucolic: out in the Hegyvidek district, boarding the Hungarian hills. Accordingly, there are fountains by the pool and leaf motifs above the drawing room’s wood-panelled walls, plus a dining room with an ornate window that seems to clink glasses in anticipation of an occasion.
For more inspiration, house-hunt your way around our villas for couples and families…