Colorado is the place for big skies, crystal-clear rivers and valleys peppered with ranches. And Dunton Hot Springs is the state's original retreat offering super-smart rooms in a rustic setting, the one we first fell in love with. About 90 minutes' drive from Durango, in the San Juan National Forest, this former ghost town and natural hot spring sets the bar for glamping. From the outside, the 12 guest cabins look like 19th-century homesteads crafted from planks and corrugated iron; inside, there are bison-skin rugs, cowhide throws and surprising ethnic touches such as a Rajasthani wedding bed or African mask. More Wild West-themed rooms display homespun cowboy-print curtains, ticking stripe and gingham. Owners Christoph and Katrin Henkel have spared little expense in creating this magical, 200-acre getaway. Chef Carrie Eagle prepares meals using local ingredients, and the list of activities includes snowshoeing, fly-fishing, river rafting and horse riding. Top that? The Henkels have tried with Dunton River Camp, their new property just four miles downriver, where eight super-luxe tents have views of elks grazing on bluebell-covered meadows.
Hidden among fisherman’s casas painted cobalt-blue, pink and pistachio bordering Trancoso’s sleepy village square, where the town’s elders gather to shoot the breeze, Uxua is almost imperceptible to the passer-by. The only giveaway is the tables of smart Cariocas and international hipsters sipping passionfruit Caipirinhas while watching the early evening scene unfold on the Quadrado. Golden light catches the locals playing football around the whitewashed 16th-century church. This is just how expansive Dutch owner Wilbert Das (Diesel’s former creative director) likes it. Surrounded by dense rainforest and teetering high on a ridge overlooking the powder-sand fringed Atlantic, Uxua fits right into the post-hippie utopia of Trancoso. Working with local artisans, Das has turned the hotel into a collection of rustic renovated casas, cottages, an intimate treehouse and a tribal-inspired spa. All are cloaked by hummingbird-flecked tropical gardens and centred around a pool lined with green aventurine quartz, which, for those not up on their healing crystals, is said to be very therapeutic. Interiors are haute-boho: roomy indoor-outdoor sitting rooms and airy living spaces with dazzling-white walls and muslin-canopied beds, accented with lots of reclaimed wood, antiques and vintage finds including brightly painted Virgin Mary statuettes. A decked path runs through mangrove forests to the beach, where there are enormous day beds for post-breakfast snoozing and a beach bar fashioned from an old fishing boat – just stay horizontal and another Caipirinha will soon find its way to you. This is the South American coastal retreat that’s on everyone’s radar. By Chris Caldicott
Occupying prime real estate on Chicago's coveted Magnificent Mile, The Peninsula Chicago combines Hong Kong's cosmopolitan flair with the Windy City's Midwestern charm. Travelers describe the guest rooms as comfortable thanks to their creamy color palette and plush furniture, not to mention their modern techie touches, like a bedside remote command station that controls the lights, television and room temperatures. Meanwhile, the renowned Peninsula Spa is in a class by itself: earning The Peninsula Chicago many accolades from health and leisure magazines. Another honorable mention goes to the afternoon tea served in the lobby bar, which visitors say is a nice and welcome touch. During your stay, guests recommend making time for the tasty Cantonese dishes served in the Shanghai Terrace restaurant. However, for many travelers, it was The Peninsula Chicago's friendly service staff that convinced them to stay here again.
With an ideal location by the National Mall and impeccable service, The Hay-Adams continually impresses travelers. The No. 2 Best Hotel in the District of Columbia exudes historical charm, especially inside its tastefully decorated accommodations. All rooms blend period-inspired details, such as canopied beds and curtains and garlanded white plaster ceilings, with modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and Bose music systems. Additionally, visitors can maintain their fitness regimens in the gym, catch up on work in the 24-hour business center or take in White House views while savoring contemporary American cuisine at The Lafayette. (Courtesy of The Hay-Adams)
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The story of this legendary escape began in 1965 when a British pilot and his American socialite wife built a large house above the sea near Porto Ercole and opened it up to guests. After it was bought by present owner Roberto Sciò in the 1970s, it became a magnet for a steady stream of international A-listers, as seen in the evocative, monochrome Slim Aarons images that hang in the bar. Fifty-plus years on, Il Pellicano is as alluring as ever, with a timeless quality that recalls those heady days – and it has a fiercely loyal following. Sciò’s designer daughter Marie-Louise has cleverly revamped the hotel without sacrificing its sense of history. The 50 airy bedrooms, divided between the main villa and six cottages hidden among olives and cypresses, have polished terracotta floors and a colour palette reflecting the surrounding land and seascapes. The retro yellow-and-white-striped beach towels are still laid out around the heated saltwater pool and along the famous bathing platform over the sea, but there’s a fresh feel to the place, too, with Fornasetti-inspired wallpaper, jazzy fabrics, a great spa and a boutique selling super-chic Eres swimwear. Lazy lunches of octopus salad and chilled local Ansonica roll on into pre-dinner Pelican Martinis whipped up by master mixologist Federico Morosi and suppers of risotto with pears and summer truffles on the candlelit terrace of the Michelin-starred restaurant. This is Tuscany’s most exceptional seaside retreat by miles. By Nicky Swallow
The Peninsula Beverly Hills earns a five-pearl rating, but as one of the best hotels in Beverly Hills, and perhaps in all of Los Angeles, that may be an understatement. Thanks to its attentive staff that discreetly caters to the rich and famous, its status as a luxury Hollywood destination has been steady since its opening in the early '90s. The dining is top-notch, the rooftop pool is an A-list playground, and the spa uses massage oils infused with diamonds. The 194 guest rooms have a floral decor that isn't for everyone, and the management may think it's too pedestrian to have in-room coffeemakers, but at these rates the lack of an Italian espresso machine seems like an oversight. On the plus side, a chauffeur and a Rolls-Royce come included with the rates.
John Steinbeck certainly chose a beautiful spot to hole up while writing his famous piece on Positano for Harper’s Bazaar in 1953. Positano was just a quiet fishing village then and he described the Sirenuse as ‘an old family house converted into a first-class hotel, spotless and cool’. While still spotless and cool, the summer villa is a lot more upscale these days, immaculately run with huge charm and a maniacal eye for detail by Antonio Sersale and his wife Carla. The handsome ox-blood red building is crammed with precious antiques (starting with a rare 18th-century palanquin in the reception hall), many of them collected by Antonio’s late father Franco, and the white bedrooms have tiled floors from Vietri and balconies with grandstand views. But it’s the small details – the cloth-bound copies of Steinbeck’s article and the pretty beach baskets in the bedrooms, the crisp Frette linens and Eau d’Italie bath goodies – that kick things to another level. Positano is a bit of a madhouse nowadays, but you can avoid it altogether, dreaming away the hours on the pool terrace, booking a massage at the Gae Aulenti-designed Aveda spa or hopping on the hotel’s boat for a spin. In the evening, guests gather in the Champagne & Oyster bar before moving on to La Sponda restaurant to tuck into tonnarelli pasta with lobster and saddle of lamb with artichokes to the sound of guitar and mandolin duo Franco and Andrea. By Nicky Swallow
That tiny-island locale is one reason Beth Blair loves Sunset Key Cottages, another top 10 contender. Its air of exclusivity is “magical, and I could go on and on about the top-notch service and views,” says the Minnesota travel blogger. But something else won her heart: “The pastry baskets that arrive every morning at the front door are a wow factor,” she says. “There's nothing more relaxing than sitting on a beach-facing patio, sipping hot coffee and nibbling on freshly baked muffins.”
The chic accommodations at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto reflect the charm of its Yorkville backdrop. The property's rooms and suites – designed with elegant decor and modern amenities like an in-room iPad to access Four Seasons services and bathrooms equipped with deep soaking tubs and TVs – hold views of the downtown neighborhood's surrounding shops and cafes. Despite the abundance of nearby restaurants, guests suggest enjoying a meal on premises; both Café Boulud and d|bar lounge offer French-inspired menus from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. Serenity-seekers rave about the spacious, sleek setting in the spa, which comes outfitted with an indoor pool, a steam room, a salon and a long list of treatment options.
While the Fairmont Pacific Rim features a long list of luxurious amenities, its downtown Vancouver location is what helps it stand apart from competitors. Set on the Coal Harbour waterfront, the hotel sits across the street from the Canada Place cruise ship terminal. Thanks to the hotel's location, recent guests say the views from the rooms and rooftop are spectacular. When you're not gazing out across the harbor, relax poolside in one of the private cabanas or by one of the cozy outdoor fire pits. For even more serenity, visitors recommend booking a treatment at the Willow Stream Spa. Continue the pampering at Botanist, which serves regionally sourced dishes. Craving a pick-me-up? Venture to giovane cafe + wine bar, which offers house-made pastries for breakfast and Italian cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once you've refueled, retreat to your digs where you'll find a Stearns & Foster bed, an iPod docking station and an iPad2, which you can use to order room service and operate various controls in the guest room. Although this Fairmont's high-tech amenities are an added perk, according to recent visitors, it's the hotel's exceptional service that makes a stay here memorable.
In a city awash with much-loved legends – the Cipriani, the Danieli, the Gritti Palace – it takes something special for a newcomer to turn heads. But Aman, which splashed down here in 2013, as ever, had a trump card: Palazzo Papadopoli. Not only is this 16th-century confection right on the Grand Canal, just past the Rialto Bridge – which guests whizz under in the hotel’s glossy Riva to arrive at the palazzo’s jetty flanked by cerulean bricole – but it has also been home for the last two centuries to the Arrivabene family. Proper Venetian aristocracy, the current count and countess (Giberto and Bianca) still live here with their five children in a sprawling apartment at the top of the building. Beneath it, the first-floor piano nobile – redesigned, along with the whole of the palazzo, in the early 19th century by master of rococo Michelangelo Guggenheim – is a breathtaking, silk-draped, gilded space lit by enormous Murano glass chandeliers. The 24 bedrooms have been slotted into many of the palazzo’s original spaces, so they are all unique. But the opulence does not compete with Jean-Michel Gathy’s minimalist B&B Italia furniture. The Clooneys settled on the Alcova Tiepolo room, with precious frescoes above the bed and a hand-painted Chinoiserie sitting room, for their wedding night. Outside are two private gardens – another rarity in Venice – one of which butts up against the canal’s edge, and soon to be home to a teppanyaki restaurant. This is hands down the most splendid hotel in Venice. By Fiona Kerr