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
Fogo Island Inn isn't your average hotel. The inn, which is held up by stilts so as not to damage the rocky topography it sits on, features a contemporary, almost futuristic architectural design that seems at odds with the centuries-old fishing village it occupies. Because of the inn's remote location on Fogo Island (situated off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada), the property cultivates a familial, intimate atmosphere that recent guests loved. You won't find much in the surrounding area, but the inn provides all the unique amenities you could need for a relaxing, secluded getaway. In addition to a fitness center, the Fogo Island Inn offers a rooftop deck with wood-fired saunas and two outdoor hot tubs, a 37-seat theater, a small art gallery, a library, a lounge and bar and a restaurant with vaulted ceilings and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows. Aside from the amenities, it was the inn's 29 suites that really impressed visitors, who called a stay at the property a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience. Rooms are outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows (perfect for admiring the ocean views), natural wood floors with in-floor heating, heated towel racks and heated toilet seats with a built-in bidet, among other amenities. The only gripe among lodgers? A stay here does not come cheap.
Dating back to 1745, this cream-and-pink former aristocratic palace is set on 18 acres of landscaped gardens—so, despite its location in the heart of Jaipur, the hotel itself is a sanctuary of sorts. Highlighting Rajasthani decor and miniature paintings, rooms are comfortable (many overlooking the gardens); though, because it's staggered over many levels, guests should be mindful of the stairs they'll likely need to climb and descend. Load up on Indian food at Cinnamon, where diners are treated to a nightly show with local dancers. If you’re not wowed by the Taj Jai Mahal Palace’s commitment to turning this hotel into a living museum, then check your pulse. What you make of it is up to you—whether it’s your launching point for exploring the city, only coming back after a long day on your feet, or if you prefer to spend an afternoon by the pool, followed by a run along the on-property jogging track.
This 13-acre property, enviably sited in the centro, is without peer in a town that has its share of swank hotels. Portals and stone paths lead to tiered swimming pools, two-person cabanas, covered patios, and a tequila bar, and the 67 rooms are grand and outfitted with regionally sourced hardwood floors and Spanish colonial furnishings. Even a standard king, at an already-generous 535 square feet, comes with special treatment: A bubble bath lit by candles is drawn at turndown upon request.
Closer to home, we saw familiar, boutique favorites, such as Vermont’s culinary mecca Twin Farms; Montana’s rustic-luxe Triple Creek Ranch; and Big Sur, California’s adults-only Post Ranch Inn — accessible again now that Highway 1 has recovered from last year’s mudslides — all make the list this year. C Lazy U Ranch, a family-friendly dude ranch in the Colorado Rockies, is making its World’s Best debut — and it managed to crack the top 100. “As someone who has been fortunate enough to travel to 86 countries, I can say that C Lazy U ranks at the very top of the list,” said one devoted fan. “The accommodations and activities are excellent.”
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.
The No. 1 Best Hotel in Utah places powder hounds right next to the slopes of Deer Valley Resort, offering lodgers ski-in, ski-out access. But it's not just a winter escape. A large outdoor pool, kayak and canoe routes and more than 300 miles of accessible hiking trails keep the Montage Deer Valley in season all year long. And aside from the plethora of on-site activities, the courteous and helpful staff is another major reason guests say they return to this luxury retreat. (Courtesy of Montage Deer Valley)
Travelers are hard-pressed to find much to complain about at the Montage Kapalua Bay. Located on the northwest corner of Maui, this 24-acre property offers panoramic views of the beach and ocean. Visitors can spend their time on the water with activities that range from sport fishing to snorkeling. The resort also offers more adventurous pursuits like zip lining and helicopter tours, as well as traditional Hawaiian luau shows. Other activity options include shopping, golfing on two award-winning courses or playing a round of tennis at the hotel's courts. If you're looking to relax, you can enjoy the complimentary beach towels and chairs, take advantage of the poolside Hana Hou Bar & Sunset Patio or indulge in a spa treatment. Accommodations here are one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom suites and each come equipped with separate living and sleeping areas, and furnished lanais. Additional amenities include flat-screen TVs, in-room laundry facilities and bathrooms with separate tubs and showers. To top off their great experiences, recent guests said all staff members, from the pool attendants to the restaurant servers, went above and beyond to ensure they had a pleasurable stay.