The top Fairmont property in the country and the No. 1 Best Hotel in San Diego is the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Nestled within Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve on 400 acres, this tranquil property charms guests with its Mediterranean-style architecture, friendly employees and award-winning cuisine. Each room and suite overlooks the surrounding canyon or the on-site golf course and is outfitted with dark wood furniture, a Nespresso coffee maker and a bathroom with marble accents. Outside the rooms, travelers can stay active at the Equestrian Center, in the fitness center or on one of two tennis courts. Meanwhile, R&R-seekers can visit the spa or lounge by the adults-only pool. (Courtesy of Fairmont Grand Del Mar)
Back when this hotel opened in 1995, there were few places in the Maldives to rival it. Landing here by seaplane felt like arriving at an escape cast out at the edge of the world. These days, neighbouring lights are aplenty, but this pristine paradise still feels wild enough to instil excitement. The groundbreaking barefoot ethos created by husband-and-wife owners Sonu and Eva Shivdasani ensures immediate surrender. Explore the island by bike, stopping to bob, chat, and giggle in the warm ocean for hours. Seventy rustic, thatched-roof villas, each hidden in the jungle shade (no stilts over water here) are designed with pared-back simplicity: natural tones, soft textures, lots of driftwood. Each comes with the softest organic sheets, huge daybeds, private pools, hammocks, and a sound system on which to blare out Nat King Cole. There’s snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing trips, and treatments in the spa (tension-soothing massages with lemongrass oil, rose-crystal lymphatic facials, a touch of Ayurveda). At the forward-thinking art studio, wine bottles are upcycled into sculptures. Food is central, with enough sushi to sink a ship, epic make-your-own salad bars, addictive egg appam, an ice cream parlour, a cheese room, and the new Out of the Blue restaurant, with slides straight into the sea. No wonder everybody here is beaming. One of the first luxe–but–laid-back hotels to open in the Indian Ocean, Fushi still delivers on fresh, cool charisma. By Daisy Finer
Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton
This Belle Époque hotel was built in 1886 on land that previously belonged to Pope Leo XIII—and pedigree aside, there's plenty to appreciate. Located near Casino Square, its design has a contemporary edge and a glass-domed atrium, and guests can enjoy excellent food throughout; try Yoshi, opened by Joël Robuchon, for Japanese delicacies in a secluded garden dining room. The spa is also top-notch, with a sauna, hammam, caldarium, ice fountain, and aromatherapy showers to round it out.
Amidst the noise and bluster of so many new British hotel openings, with their sushi chefs and foraging sessions, shiny sit-up-and-beg bicycles to borrow and pristine racks of Hunter wellies, it is worth remembering the enduring classics that are well-loved for a reason. Lucknam Park has serious pedigree. It is deliciously, reassuringly old fashioned. The deeply pretty Georgian manor house, all honeyed Bath stone, sits at the end of an avenue of sky-high beech and lime trees, surrounded by exquisite gardens like a Jane Austen film set. In the grounds there’s a personable cottage for weekending families, a world-class equestrian centre and a serious cooking school. But you don’t have to whip up your own supper. Chef Hywel Jones (who has retained his Michelin star for a 14th year) plates up exquisite food in his eponymous restaurant. That in itself is a reason to stay. As are the roaring fires, the panelled libraries, the swagged four-poster beds and the moody oil paintings. Yet it's not stuffy. A purposeful drive in recent years to make the place feel less formal has resulted in a cheery bounce in the staff's step, a raising of chatter levels to almost a hum in the evenings and a relaxed atmosphere where you can wear your robe down to the ESPA spa and back again without feeling like a terrible slob. Eagle-eyed guests will spot the curious Greek elements dotted around – the urns in the bathroom, the Acropolis paintings in the dining room, the Hellenic motif on the plates. The owners also have Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens in their stable but this country retreat feels resonant and rooted, delightfully British to the core. By Issy von Simson
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
Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling like royalty, sleeping in some of the world’s most expensive suites, and eating in Michelin-starred restaurants? The time and money for that kind of trip can be tricky to come by, but it’s always good to be ready just in case the opportunity arises, right? We here at Oyster have been lucky enough to have visited thousands of hotels around the globe and across the states. The U.S. is known for having high standards when it comes to hotels, and hotels stateside offer some of the most decadent services around. So we’ve put together a list of the best luxury properties in the States for those planning a luxe trip -- and for those who just like to dream. Enjoy!
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Art enthusiasts will want to put a date in the diary to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, which as well as holding the largest Canadian art collection, has Renaissance art, African and Oceanic art and a Henry Moore sculpture centre. The Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal is a must-see with work by Rembrandt, Picasso and Monet, as well as work by Canadian artists such as Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy.
The Indian ethos that the guest is god rings true of many grand hotels in the country, yet the Oberoi likes to put its own spin on things. Rising like a great gilded cake from the western shores of Lake Pichola, magnificent Udaivilas is just the spot to wash up after a dusty Rajasthan road trip. This particular pleasure palace is a relatively recent arrival but, like the 18th-century mansions it overlooks, it was built to showcase the craftsmanship of the Rajput era: marble-carved lotus ponds; glittering thikri mosaics; delicate miniatures painted on pale gold walls hand-plastered with lime, crushed marble, egg white and tamarind. The spectacular Candle Room contains a dome set with thousands of pieces of mirrored glass. Udaipur’s busy market streets are only a few miles away, but Udaivilas has the luxury of space: 30 acres of what used to be the Maharana of Mewar’s hunting estate, with bird-filled grounds and views of the pretty lake and its floating mansions. All this grandeur could feel cold and overwhelming if it weren’t for the excellent staff. Guests are greeted off the motor boat by doormen with great twirling moustaches and within minutes everyone knows your name. Small, personal interventions include gifts of a metal-wrought tea light or beaded bag, say, left in your room alongside a handwritten note. In the most romantic city in India, this is the most spectacular place to stay. By Pippa de Bruyn
Québec City not only has a fantastic Old Town which one can spend days exploring, but is in the centre of lovely countryside that offers an excellent range of scenic daytrips. The attractions are nearby, so no change of hotel will be necessary for any of these trips. Orleans Island is just 15 minutes drive from the Old Town. Aside from some great views of the St. Lawrence, Orleans Island is best known as a gourmet destination, with a number of great restaurants focussing on top quality local produce. Jacque Cartier National Park is just 30 minutes drive north and is known for its deep river valleys, pristine trails and extensive wildlife, including moose and red fox. Families and keen photographers may enjoy a trip on the Charlevoix Railway, which travels from Quebec City to La Malbaie, with much of the track running along the lovely St. Lawrence River.
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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)
Before Buenos Aires surrendered to the motor car – and every Argentine male modelled his ego on that of Formula One legend Juan Manuel Fangio – Avenida Alvear was one of the city’s main thoroughfares, with horse-drawn carriages and trams rolling by en route to Palermo’s lush gardens and shady parks. Something of this Belle Epoque spirit still endures and nowhere more so than at the Palacio Duhau, completed in 1934 as the city mansion of a landed family. Its grand neoclassical façade is right on the avenue, and the lobby is a stately, serene space where light pours in from the terrace onto the fluted marble columns, intricately carved wooden doors and low-slung white leather sofas. The tiered gardens on the terrace are worthy of a scene in The Great Gatsby. Rooms range from spacious and functional to sumptuous and palatial; the boudoir suite has butler service, an enormous marble bathroom and, perhaps more impressive, two private terraces overlooking the avenue below. The Duhau restaurant and public spaces channel the property’s storied glamour, with local couples having lunch and out-of-towners sipping rum-laced Arnaud’s milk-punch cocktails. The surrounding barrio of Recoleta is known for its old-world architecture, and this hotel, modelled on the Château du Marais near Paris, is the maximum expression of Argentine Francophilia. Its only rival on this stately strip is the Alvear Palace – but where the latter flaunts its ostentation, the Hyatt’s grandest South American property rather keeps itself to itself. By Chris Moss
Set in the Arashiyama district on the western side of Kyoto (an area frequented by Japanese nobles of years gone by), Suiran sits seamlessly on the jade waters of the Katsura river. The original buildings, which now house the restaurants and lobby, are constructed around beautifully manicured Japanese gardens, and sunlight-dappled pebble-stone pathways lead the way to the more modern low-rise buildings that house the rooms. Yukata-clad staff welcome you warmly with a hot towel and tea whilst discretely whisking your luggage off to your room, leaving you to enjoy the serene surroundings, bathed in light and soothed by the sounds of flowing water. Here, chaotic city life is a distant memory and the deliberate and un-rushed pace is the catalyst for achieving a state of repose.