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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
A perennial favorite among experts and guests, The Allison Inn & Spa is located in Oregon's wine country. The hotel impresses travelers with its spacious rooms and suites, complete with private terraces, gas fireplaces and spa-like bathrooms. The Allison Inn & Spa, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Oregon, also houses a spa and salon, an indoor swimming pool and the award-winning JORY Restaurant, which pairs Pacific Northwest cuisine with its extensive wine menu. (Courtesy of The Allison Inn & Spa)
This 20-room mansion could make anyone nostalgic for the Gilded Age: it was built in 1873 as the summer home of a Congressman. Each room has its own décor personality (like Louis XIV, Gothic or Regency), as well as fireplaces, heated bathroom floors and even TVs by the tub—earning the hotel a near-perfect score in the rooms category. Readers also declared the Chanler a worthy dining destination even if you don’t spend the night: the Spiced Pear does a signature New England tasting menu that speaks with a French accent—like butter-poached lobster, cold oysters with pickled-pear mignonette and, for dessert, seasonally-inspired soufflés.
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The 92-room mainstay scored well for its location—with ski-in, ski-out access to Aspen Mountain—but some might argue that the ski trails are lucky to be situated near this charismatic hotel. Not surprisingly, readers also ranked the Little Nell in the top 5 for its excellent nightlife scene: it’s home to the elegant lounge Element 47 and the more traditional Ajax Tavern, known for its beloved cheeseburger and truffle fries. The hotel also scored well for its high level of service: You can take advantage of the Ski Concierges, who can set up your lessons and warm your boots, while your dog can get butler-level services, too, from dog-walking to a Puppy Jet Lag kit.
DH Lawrence penned a love letter about it, Mussolini held court during the war, Churchill was moved to get out his watercolours and his memory lives on in the ancient resident cat of the same name that slinks around picking up titbits of the Michelin-starred food. This peachy-pink palazzo on the still waters of Lake Garda has been stealing hearts since the 1890s, and at the turn of the millennium, it was opened as a hotel, the loveliest in all of Italy. But what makes it so special are all the non-hotel bits: the exquisite antiques everywhere, the silver photo frames filled with black-and-white family shots, the engraved tumblers of fresh roses, the deep bath tubs, and the circus-striped umbrellas by the charcoal-grey slick of swimming pool. Helicopters land on the pristinely manicured croquet lawn and return guests arrive to a fanfare of hugs and kisses, pats on backs. They come here to feast like kings at night on plates of tortellini carbonara, spend the day lolling fatly by the pool watching the ducks and the windsurfers pootle past, and sleep outrageously well under frescoed ceilings in beds made up with crisp, scallop-edged Frette linen. Steep mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the garden, and early mornings are particularly magic, the silvery pale ethereal light drifting across the lake. The feel of the place is old-school, spick and span, timeless, a bit matronly – and for anyone who likes a bit of Great Gatsby-style cosseting, it’s a dreamy retreat. By Issy von Simson