Enter the polished marble hall, take in the view down the Grande Allée that bisects its gardens, scented with the roses they cut to decorate the bedrooms and cooled by what F Scott Fitzgerald called its ‘deferential palms'. The Mediterranean lies beyond, and your spirits cannot but soar. Can there be a lovelier place for breakfast than the terrace of its mansion-like main building, all pale pink stucco, slate mansard roofs and oeil-de-boeuf windows? Or a more flirtatious spot for a coupe de Champagne than the starlit, ocean-liner-like roof terrace of the waterside Eden-Roc restaurant? Or a smarter arena in which to show off your trapeze skills than the swings, rings and rope ladders suspended over the sea, just beyond the heated saltwater swimming pool? Its chintzy bedrooms will never win prizes for innovative design or modernity. There may be Wi-Fi and phones, but a retro panel of bells on the bedside tables still summons your valet, femme d’etage or room service. And yet, in spite of all this – or, more likely, because of it – there’s nowhere else on earth quite like it. Hence the eternal allure that ensures the top-floor rooms of its century-old seaside annexe, Eden-Roc, shielded both from public gaze and waterborne paparazzi, remains the A-list’s lodging of choice during the Cannes Film Festival. By Claire Wrathall
This hotel is the most talked-about hideout on the planet. Out here in the remote lands of southern Utah, where shark-tooth fossils, arrowheads and dinosaur bones poke through the crusty earth, Amangiri materialises out of the wobbling desert air. Seen from a distance, it has a phantasmic appearance, like a train of earth-toned cubes amongst the boulders. Inside, it’s a sleek homage to nature, with 34 airy, minimalistic suites and common areas that blend into the landscape. This is where retired rock stars, exhausted A-listers seeking tune-ups and athletes with deep pockets gather for creative South-western-style cooking and stargazing on the decks at night. Scramble up the hilly splendour that goes on as far as the eye can see – about 600 uninhabited acres. Or hike to the Via Ferratas, triumphantly executing the breathtaking, high-altitude treks and hearing all about the hoodoos, promontories, pinnacles, caves and iron-flat mesas of this untrammelled place from the on-site guide and geologist. Then there’s the pool, which wraps around an immense boulder in the heart of the grounds, or the spa, where Native American-influenced treatments rule the day. Amangiri, just a four-hour drive from Las Vegas, is a low-rise outpost in the dusty desert that goes beyond satisfying creature comforts: it’s an invitation to live deeper. By Becca Hensley
The coastal road between Camps Bay and Llandudno is a conservation area, so it’s undeveloped—just fynbos-covered mountains to one side, and the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the other. Until you round a curve in the road and catch your first glimpse of the Twelve Apostles, named after the Twelve Apostles mountain range that runs parallel to the coast, that is: Built into the contours of the mountainside, there’s a lot of hotel packed into its relatively small footprint. The rooms are flamboyant, old-school glamour, either facing the sea or the mountains.
This 1940s hacienda-style classic, recently the subject of a Hollywood boycott, is almost as well known as the guests it has harboured. Marilyn Monroe lived here on and off during her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, and it was here she posed for her final photo shoot; Liz Taylor and Grace Kelly also used it as a place to crash. These days it's Brad and Angelina, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig who drink and dine in its swish environs, revamped recently with a snazzy La Prairie spa and Wolfgang Puck restaurant serving a Mediterranean-inflected Californian menu. But its true essence remains in the maze of jasmine-scented gardens and lily ponds with resident swans, the courtyards where lizards slither across the tiles, shimmering in the sunlight like jewels. At night, cocooned in one of the alfresco alcoves, you can feast on sweet-pea tortellini and white asparagus with crispy polenta. You'd never know, but there are 100 rooms and suites, all with vintage furniture and spa-like bathrooms; three new hillside villas have huge terraces and infinity pools. At times it can feel like a grand country retreat, but a glance out of a window at the famous vista of sunset and soaring palms provides an instant reminder of its LA setting.
This year, 27 of the top 100 hotels in the world are in Asia — the most of any region. They include an atmospheric hotel with a restored Qing dynasty courtyard in the city of Chengdu, China (the Temple House); two honeymooners’ havens in the Maldives (Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa and Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru), and an immaculate, palatial resort overlooking the Taj Mahal in Agra, India (Oberoi Amarvilas). “Uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal give this hotel its own iconic status,” said one reader, while another raved: “The stuff of legends.”
Beach destinations appear throughout the list, of course — from warm-weather getaways like the Setai, a palatial resort with three pools on Miami Beach, to the Stephanie Inn, a 41-room boutique property on Oregon’s rocky Pacific coast. But mountain resorts also proved to be popular with our readers. Properties like the Swag, in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina; the Little Nell, in the Colorado Rockies, praised as “charming and restful” by one respondent; and Primland, a “hidden gem” in Virginia’s Blue Ridge range, show that travelers value being able to get away from it all by getting above it all. “No words can express the beauty of this hotel and area,” one reader said. “It is a slice of heaven, whether you stay in one of the tree houses or the main lodge,” said another.
This will stop even island regulars in their tracks: on the way to breakfast when they see baby sharks swimming right there in the shallows; passing the giant, gnarling, Tomb Raider-esque banyan tree near the tucked-away spa; at sunset when the pool becomes a mirror for the sky and the only colours that exist in the world are orange and blue. Amilla is a minimalist and clean-lined version of the Maldives, with low-rise buildings in a white wood the same shade as the flour-fine sand. Nothing pokes above the palm trees, even the treehouses high up in the canopy (for those who prefer to fall asleep to the sound of birdcall rather than waves) cleverly blend into their surroundings. Being in or near the water is what it’s all about: the snorkelling is sensational and the house reef is home to a coral-lined underwater chimney where hawksbill turtles, triggerfish and guitar sharks schmooze. But there’s also a knockout spa where trainers from hit London outfit Bodyism lead guests through a gym session to get hearts racing and then brilliant therapists from Bhutan calm them back down again. All is mellow and fairy-lit when it gets dark and everyone seems to be wearing something floaty. Among the half dozen restaurants, Japanese Feeling Koi, set right out over the ocean, is a highlight: reef-fish ceviche with pomegranate; crispy crab roll with green-tea powder. Amilla has some of the most knockout villas in the archipelago. Any which way, it’s a very fun, very glamorous place to stay. By Grainne McBride
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