World's Most Opulent Villas

Courtesy Eagles Nest

Need a vacation rental with a Michelin-starred chef, a
private recording studio or a Porsche in the garage? These over-the-top villas
deliver.

What kind of holiday rental home costs $10,000 a day?
Perhaps one set on a private Caribbean beach, with a personal fleet of boats
and Wave Runners? An Alpine chalet, with postcard-perfect views of the
Matterhorn from every window? Or maybe a personal spa, with a lap pool, hiking
trails, a state-of-the-art gym—and an on-call personal trainer to make sure you
use them?

The answer: yes, yes and yes. For
today’s new generation of well-heeled travelers—who are increasingly eschewing
hotels for private rental villas—the bar for luxe hideaways has reached
dizzying heights. For a certain breed of jet-setter, home theatres,
Ducasse-worthy kitchens and private bars stocked with top-shelf liquor are all
de rigueur; what they’re after are award-winning chefs ready to whip up
personalized dinner-party menus or on-demand yachts with captains who know the
best deep-sea fishing spots.

Somewhat ironically, this surge in
over-the-topness could be considered a by-product of harder economic times.
“Before the global financial crisis there was a glut of high-end construction,”
explains Brian Sharples, founder of HomeAway, a network of villa
rental websites representing 650,000 properties with prices ranging from a few
hundred dollars up to $392,000 a week. “Many owners of luxury properties who
were over-leveraged have now turned to rentals as a way to defray ownership
costs.” The result is a supercompetitive market where added extras like sports
cars and ski equipment are as common as evening turndown treats in hotels.

While many of the world’s most
opulent villas lure guests with an array of cool toys (and we do mean cool—how
does recording studio equipment once used by John Lennon sound?), others deal
in what may be the most coveted holiday-home currency: privacy. Is it any
wonder that rock stars and royals duck the paparazzi by hiding out on islands
like St. Barth and Mustique (particularly when there are homes like Shogun—set
alone on a cloistered estate and reminiscent of a Japanese imperial palace, koi
pond included)?

Of course, for those seeking true
sanctuary, the right vacation villa is only part of the equation; the right
staff is also key. (After all, a Viking stove isn’t much use if you’re a
terrible cook; and 17,000 square feet seems like a lot, when you have to vacuum
it yourself.) That’s why many of the villas on our list come with phalanxes of
personnel. Many also offer private transport—via luxury car, boat or
helicopter—to zip guests anyplace they desire. But, really, when your home away
from home is as outrageously opulent as these villas, why go anywhere else?