There is an indelible memory I have that comes to me at least once a month.
I am lying on a bench staring up through the square-framed sky inside James Turrell’s interactive artwork, “Skyspace Amarta,” watching the sky change slide by slide as the colors inside the cube I am lying in subtly shift, as the ocean laps outside.
It was a moment of pure encapsulated relaxation — and so surreal, it was as if I were captured in a multi-hued daydream.
It is a memory I use now when I meditate when I need to calm down … or just simply not having the best day.
I remember the cube, the light, the sky, and weightlessness. And I owe it all to the new Patina Maldives resort in the Fari Islands, Maldives.
In the insane world of five-star Maldives properties, where each one tries to outdo the other with a mega-draw (an overwater golf course! A submarine! The underwater restaurant! Outdoor ice skating in 80 degrees! Water slide villas! Underwater spas!) it can be difficult to pick not only where to go for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but which place will stay with you long after you return to the grind at home.
I happened upon the Patina thanks to a friend who mentioned the island’s art collection, curated by Artling.
He mentioned Turrell’s sculpture, described by Artling as a “medium of pure light into a fluid blend of sky, earth, light, space, and existence, as he melts time to a stand-still, activating sensations and producing experiences of wordless thought.”
In this day and age of word bombardment, I was intrigued. And then there were the other artworks scattered across the island: Los Límites de lo Posible IX by Mexican sculptor Jose Davila, the brutalist wave called Momento by Fahr 021.3, and Hongjie Yang’s mysterious Synthesis Monoliths.
The resort itself, designed by renowned Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, has only been open for two years but is already gaining a reputation among the international jet set as a chic hideaway to rejuvenate both mind and body.
Even better, the Patina is one of the only hotels in the country that’s looking to hire locals in upward mobility positions and promote them to management.
While Maldives’ hotels are required to hire locals, it’s usually for lower-paying jobs — while well-paid management positions are filled by foreigners who have experience in five-star chains around the world.
The Patina is looking to fix that with its Vocational Education & Training Center, which is partnered with the renowned Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. The three-year training course yields internationally recognized diplomas and “offers local talent a realistic, credible alternative to hotel schools in Europe,” the hotel’s rep told me.
The Patina is located in the northern region of the Maldives, but if you’re looking for more local culture and a unique food scene, head south to the secluded Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.
Located just 34 miles north of the equator and surrounded by pristine atolls (where you won’t bump into anyone else while diving, snorkeling, or turtle-watching), the Hadahaa motto is SLOW: sustainable, local, organic and whole.
To that end, there’s an effort to grow all of the resort’s food organically, source fish directly from the atoll outside, and serve locally inspired dishes.
During the day, guests can engage in projects to help preserve the reefs and learn about the traditional Maldivian way of life.
Resident marina biologists are on hand to lead discussions and dives, and visitors can also learn survival skills during a “castaway” experience on an uninhabited island (before being rewarded with a seafood barbecue that they may or may not have caught). The resort also offers island tours so you can see how locals live and even eat in a private home.
Pro tip: Start and end your trip in luxury. Turkish Airlines is a cost-effective way to fly business class to the Maldives. Bonus? You can stop off in Istanbul for a day or two on your way.
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