The urge to connect with the soil can go further than digging up potatoes and mowing the lawn. At the seven hotels on these pages, you can really get close to the earth, right down to sleeping inside it. Some of these destinations are literally subterranean; others are nestled in the landscape. Walls are made of the rawest materials: granite or chalk or (as at Michel Bras in France) glass that looks out onto a glorious view of open fields. Yet this very primitiveness is paradoxically comforting. And whether the hotel is in the Australian outback or on an Aegean island, each extraordinary place also offers pleasures of the most civilized kind, including remarkable hospitality and, of course, wonderful food.
The setting Carved into the volcanic cliffs of Negril's westernmost tip, this two-year-old boutique hotel for the hip belongs to Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. Grottoes and rock walkways perch over the sea; you climb down a coral staircase to snorkel along the tropical reef.
The rooms The Caves' 10 wood-framed, thatch-roofed cottages are hidden among palms and jungle. Walls painted Caribbean colors, hand-carved furniture, ceiling fans and mosquito-netted beds replay the island fantasy.
What to do Take in Aveda Spa treatments like open-air massages in a stone gazebo. Videos, CDs, a pool, a Jacuzzi and a sauna are available.
Where to eat Act like a reclusive rock star and eat on a private aerie hewn from a cliff, or join the party in the gazebo dining room.
What to eat Joy Miller is a great home-style chef. Her oxtail and curried-mutton stews, kingfish escovitch, jerk chicken, Jamaican breads and Yankee brownies are unpretentious and satisfying.
Details Lighthouse Rd., West End, Negril, Jamaica; 876-957-0270 or call Island Outpost Hotels at 800-688-7678; $375 per night for a two-person cottage to $825 per night for a four-person cottage.
Coober Pedy, South Australia
The setting Coober Pedy is an opal-mining town where the locals are literally troglodytes. The scene is cool: temperatures inside the caves can be 20 degrees lower than outside.
The rooms Desert Cave offers 19 stony yet comfortable bedrooms (or are they really bed caves?), each one equipped with television, phone and minibar. Claustrophobics should avoid them at all costs.
What to do After a tour of the subterranean church, accompany the desert mailman to some of the earth's most remote townships and cattle stations, then fossick for your own opal. As they say around here, "Head down, bum up!"
Where to eat Despite the name, Umberto's is not Italian--and it's aboveground. The more casual Crystal Café is an underground spot for lunch.
What to eat Chef John Mundell serves a typically Aussie hybrid cuisine: chargrilled kangaroo with plum sauce, tempura-fried dory with sun-dried tomato chutney, barramundi stuffed with fish mousse and topped with a pesto cream.
Details Hutchison St., Coober Pedy, South Australia; 011-61-8-8672-5688; $99 per night for two.