The Taj Mahal Palace is a 1903, grey-and-white stone, red-domed wedding cake of a building that stands sentry over Mumbai’s harbor. When your taxi pulls up through the throngs of families and tourists who choke the roads near the Gateway to India arch and you’re ceremoniously welcomed by doormen in traditional silk kurtas, you have that pinch-me feeling of Wow, I’m really staying here? You’re in good company, as everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Barack Obama has spent the night here too. Because the Taj is such a landmark, there are tourists and locals who come and go from the hotel’s restaurants, shops, and bars, as well as the daily Heritage Walks around the property. But some parts of the hotel are off-limits to non-guests, so you quickly leave the bustle of the lobby behind. The Taj has the best pool in Mumbai, and a dozen restaurants, bars, and cafés, including Wasabi by Morimoto, Souk for Tagines, and Kraft Masala for Indian.
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
Manhattan? Like, so over. Food, fashion, music, art - it's all happening over the East River in Brooklyn. Of the clutch of hotels that have followed the wave, the 70-room Wythe, which opened in 2012, is the clear winner. This converted barrel factory is in Williamsburg, a five-minute subway ride from the island, and a hotbed of bars, restaurants and shops (Pies 'n' Thighs for Southern grub, Catbird for quirky jewellery). Owners Jed Walentas - scion of the New York real-estate family - Australian hotelier Peter Lawrence and Andrew Tarlow, who runs Brooklyn restaurants Diner and Marlow & Sons, have kept things industrial inside, with exposed brick, mosaic and tiled floors, and beamed ceilings. Bedrooms are particularly minimalist, with polished concrete floors, king-size beds and Manhattan views from floor-to-ceiling windows in west-facing rooms. There's even a thwack of skyline from the little window in the walk-in shower. The hotel's rooftop bar, The Ides, does great cocktails and is a raucous spot in summer, but it's the ground-floor restaurant, Reynard, that is a must for its super-fresh, veg-laden dishes including fluke crudo with fennel and caraway, and grass-fed steak with beets, goat's cheese and watercress. The hotel has no gym of its own, but guests are given a pass to Chalk down the road, a haunt for bench-pressing local hipsters.
From its seven pools to its Ka'upulehu Cultural Center, which hosts daily hula and ukulele lessons, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii - The Big Island provides guests a variety of ways to embrace all that Hawaii has to offer. At this Four Seasons outpost's five restaurants and lounges, visitors can savor sushi rolls and American and Italian dishes made with fresh seafood. Meanwhile, golfers can tee off at the oceanfront Hualalai Golf Course. And inside the 243 guest rooms, suites and villas, travelers will find natural elements like bamboo canopy beds, slate floors and bathrooms with granite accents. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai)
There are plenty of hotels on Santorini with giddying views – the most desirable places to stay teeter on the rim of a 300-metre cliff that plunges into the flooded volcanic caldera. But none have the spare, ethereal bone structure of Perivolas. Rooms are sculpted from brushed concrete, pressed into arched doorways and barrelled ceilings with the builders’ bare hands. Bright hits of pink and purple – a sprig of bougainvillaea, a heap of floor cushions – bring the cool white interiors and black volcanic walls into sharper focus. This fierce purity defines every detail at Perivolas, a family dream that materialised in the early 1980s and is still run with great passion and precision by the Psychas clan. The line-up here is scant but special: a hushed restaurant beside a pool almost indistinguishable from the blue horizon, where the chef cures, smokes and ferments local ingredients into artful yet unfussy dishes; and a small, soulful spa streaming with natural light. It takes confidence to leave so much out of a five-star hotel, but Perivolas defines luxury differently than most hotels on the island – or anywhere else for that matter. One of the things that draws devotees back season after season is the fact that time seems to stand still here. Sure, discreet additions might appear, such as the purpose-built gym, lap pool and yoga studio last year. But while the rest of Santorini is engaged in an unseemly scrum for more tourist dollars, life at Perivolas remains blissfully unhurried, unflashy and yes, unspoiled. By Rachel Howard
If the altitude of Cusco lays you low, El Convento will provide pumped-in oxygen to your room, along with its other amenities. The namesake convent dates to the 1500s and archeological ruins are maintained on property. Décor continues the old-new pairing, with stylish rooms and public areas lined with stone arches, while weavers in the courtyard give demonstrations and must-have textiles are available for purchase.
This Four Seasons property attracts beach lovers. Positioned along a beautiful stretch of Hulopoe Bay sand overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this resort offers breathtaking ocean views, manicured grounds and top-notch customer service. During their stays, guests can enjoy outdoor pursuits, such as snorkeling, deep sea fishing, hiking, whale watching, scuba diving and more. Visitors use terms like "paradise" and "heaven on earth" to describe the property. Guest rooms all feature private patios, as well as amenities like 75-inch flat-screen TVs with Blu-ray players, Nespresso machines and free internet access. One of the most loved features is the complimentary shuttle, which will cart you to and from Lanai Town. Recent visitors do say you should brace yourself for the high cost of meals at the resort's multiple restaurants and treatments at the in-house spa. Still, most travelers enjoy this Four Seasons resort's piece of shoreline and its world-class golf course.
Since opening in 2001, The Peninsula Chicago has wowed visitors with its Magnificent Mile address, friendly staff and modern decor. Each guest room and suite offers cream, black and navy blue hues, as well as a Nespresso coffee maker, Bernardaud china, a tablet and one king-sized or two double beds with custom Pratesi linens. On the hotel's 19th and 20th floors, travelers will find The Peninsula Spa, which offers Asian-inspired treatments, an indoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Chicago also houses four on-site dining venues that serve small bites, European dishes, modern American fare and Asian cuisine. (Courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago)
People talk about old classics, but this one has roots dating back to the 11th century. Shipwrecked en route to Constantinople, a wealthy Italian family built the foundations of the Caruso on a limestone bluff above Ravello, a symbol of their power and good fortune to have escaped unharmed. And here, their high eyrie remained, withstanding the wars of the Middle Ages, neglected, repaired, neglected again, until 1893 when Pantaleone Caruso stepped in and turned it into a hotel. Belmond (then Orient-Express hotels) took over in 2000 and began a serious restoration: art historians were shipped in to unearth the building’s arcadian frescos, archaeologists arrived to uncover the original medieval foundations. Today, Old Masters hang in the marble corridors and the 50 bedrooms have been brought up-to-date, but not charm-crushingly modernised. They retain their original vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and terracotta tiles, and have bathrooms stashed with bottles of Penhaligon’s. It has just opened Villa Margherita too, a two-bedroom retreat deep in the heady gardens. Guests feast on lunches of lobster, langoustine and truffles, or head down to the water to explore the craggy coastline on the hotel’s pretty wooden boat. It’s a place synonymous with seclusion, with its lemon-scented air and hanging gardens spilling down onto the Tyrrhenian Sea, stony nooks and quiet spots to sit and take in the dizzying views. And romance: it is said to be where Jackie Kennedy and Gianni Agnelli began their affair, where Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf came to hide out. A truly brightening, timeless place. By Martha Ward
If you're sightseeing, you may only be after a basic hotel, but its location will be crucial to you. Hotels.com gives you detailed maps of the Quebec area and each landmark and transportation option to allow you to book the cheapest hotel in Quebec nearest the attractions you actually care about. You can even search outside the city and find budget hotels across Quebec.
The No. 1 Best Hotel in Vermont also happens to be one of its most unique. Situated on 300 acres of farmland in Barnard, Vermont, this adults-only, all-inclusive property features a spa, a pub and just 20 accommodations equipped with fireplaces and separate showers and bathtubs. Additionally, all guests have access to complimentary laundry service, minifridge snacks and packing and unpacking services, plus daily breakfast, lunch, dinner and alcoholic beverages at the on-site restaurant are included in the room rate. Activities, such as canoeing and kayaking, fly-fishing, tennis and snowshoeing, are also covered. (Courtesy of Twin Farms)
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai is the No. 1 Best Hotel in Lana'i, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii and the No. 1 Best Hotel in the USA for 2018. Overlooking Hulopoe Bay, this luxurious resort offers some of Hawaii's most jaw-dropping panoramas, according to previous guests. Travelers can take in the views from the property's golf course, pools and hiking trails or while dining at one of five eateries, including the AAA Four Diamond-awarded One Forty. Most of the property's contemporary accommodations also feature lanais with ocean vistas. For a complete list of America's top hotels, check out U.S. News' Best Hotels in the USA ranking. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Barbara Kraft)
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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
This 21-room mansion-turned-hotel was the survey’s No. 1 winner among small city hotels, and it embodies that time-machine charm of the Holy City: fireplaces in every room, hors d’oeuvres and sherry in the lobby, and chocolate truffles on your pillow at bedtime. With so many seductive treats, readers also awarded the Second-Empire-style hotel a high ranking for romance. Meanwhile, with Southern-meets-global dishes like antelope country paté, cast-iron poulet rouge and sweet potato doughnuts, the on-site Circa 1886 restaurant helped the Wentworth win the gold medal for small-city hotel dining.
Montage Laguna Beach occupies a prime swath of real estate along the Southern California coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In addition to enjoying the large beach area, guests can lounge poolside, shop at the in-house boutiques, enjoy spa treatments and eat gourmet meals at one of three on-site restaurants. And with excellent service and rooms with superb views, it's easy to see why the property claims the No. 6 Best Hotel in California honor for 2017. (Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach)
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!
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.
Highly recommend for a white Christmas! The city is so magical complete with German Christmas markets and carolers (come prepared for the cold!). Old town is beautiful (very European) and there is lots to do. Recommend trying the toboggan ride (great for all ages) and a visit to nearby Jacques-Cartier National Park if you like the outdoors! Tip: make sure you have the right change (in coins) for the buses.