'If we want things to stay as they are,' Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa famously wrote, 'things will have to change.' Anyone who knows and loves The Carlyle will want things at this Upper East Side institution to stay as they are, while also understanding that a certain amount of tweaking is, alas, necessary. Designer Tony Chi, who did such a fine job at The Carlyle’s sister property, Rosewood London, is currently overhauling 80 percent of the hotel’s 190 rooms. The first of these will become available in early 2019. Renovations here have always been a fraught business, not least because, as well as being a hotel, it also contains 50 or so privately owned apartments spread across its 35 floors, making it impossible to do the whole place up all at once. Thus some rooms are florid and chintzy; some are 1920s time capsules; some are slick and steely; and still others are something in between. Broadly speaking, they get better the higher the floor. Plus, you get to spend more time in the elevators —not an activity to enjoy in everyday life, but this is not everyday life. The ones at The Carlyle are the stuff of legend, as much admired as the astounding Dorothy Draper lobby or Bemelmans Bar. Imagine if you had been there when Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, and Steve Jobs all piled in (true story). You would have been in awe. Not of them, of course, but of the real superstar – the unflappable, icy-calm, white-gloved Carlyle elevator operator. By Steve King
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.
Building a hotel into the face of Santorini’s dramatic sea cliffs lends an immediate advantage: The location alone is enough to make it a showstopper. Happily, the 18-room Mystique lives up to its stunning site, and is well worth the step-filled trip it takes to get there. The free-form rooms, decorated in what might be called cave-art style (driftwood for headboards, a dining table and chairs that appear to be made of egg-shaped boulders), are carved directly into the cliff, and the views—toward the town of Fira—are magnificent.
At this hotel on the pandanus-lined beachfront of Cabarita, the signature cocktail made with local Ink Gin changes from deep blue into shades of dusty pink. It completes the photographic panorama of navy and white sun beds, oversized sun hats and bronzed pool boys. It’s here, in this lazy coastal pocket halfway between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, that the linen-clad set come to kick back on long, hot summer days. Among the 21 rooms by Brisbane designer Anna Spiro, no two are the same. Each is a revision in Sixties eclecticism, with brass fixtures, antique memorabilia and dark wood furniture whimsically combined with a Mediterranean sensibility of patterned floor tiles, starched linens and wall panelling. Bathers migrate from the pool to dinner at Paper Daisy, the hotel’s restaurant helmed by Noma alumnus Ben Devlin, to try flavours of the surrounding landscape. For breakfast there are kefir pancakes with macadamia cream, passionfruit and berries, and lunches of prawn sandwiches with iceberg lettuce and avocado. A Moroccan-accented day spa with a domed hammam-style steam room was added in 2017. But it is perhaps general manager Mauro De Riso, with his charming sense of Italian hospitality, that stands out as the greatest investment made by owners Elisha and Siobhan Bickle. This boutique seaside bolthole etches a new, more sophisticated vision of the Australian lifestyle of surf, sun and sand on to the scene. By John Hannan
Set just steps from the Magnificent Mile, the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is central to all of the city's best restaurants, shops and nightlife. Rooms and suites at this Four Seasons outpost offer city or lake views and feature marble bathrooms, private bars and chic contemporary decor. The No. 3 Best Hotel in Chicago is also home to a spa, a large indoor pool and a restaurant serving globally inspired cuisine. (Peter Peirce/Four Seasons Hotel Chicago)
The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hilton Head, sits on 5,000 oceanfront acres within The Sea Pines Resort. Guests heap praise on this elegant property, especially its welcoming staff and well-appointed rooms. All 60 accommodations offer 480 square feet of space, Nespresso coffee makers, walk-in rain showers and blackout curtains. Plus, all room rates cover two hours of daily court time at the on-site tennis club, reduced green fees at the property's three golf courses and preferred reservations at the on-site restaurants, among other perks. (Courtesy of The Sea Pines Resort and Rob Tipton)
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.
Rajasthan isn’t exactly lacking in grand heritage hotels, but there are at least two reasons to visit this property above all others. First, a section of it is still home to the former Maharaja of Jodhpur and his family (one of the largest private residences in the world) and second, for the extraordinary scale of the imposing architecture and the 26 acres of precisely manicured grounds. High on Chittar Hill, overlooking the Blue City, this golden-coloured sandstone pile has operated as a hotel since 1971, but it was the arrival of Taj Hotels in 2005 that elevated the service to match its royal setting. Art Deco interiors unfold over ornamental latticed stonework, artfully lit carved pillars, a sweeping marble staircase, exotic frescos and a neck-aching, 105-foot-high cupola. There are some pretty spectacular rooms – such as the Maharani Suite with the original bath carved from a single piece of pink Italian marble – but choose a Royal Suite for terrazzo flooring, original palace artwork and grand bathrooms leading to private balconies that frame views of the peacock-speckled gardens. A morning workout in the marble squash courts will justify a lazy afternoon in the subterranean spa, and then dinner of spice-laced Jodhpuri murgh in Risala restaurant. To stay here among the old-world opulence is to really get a flavour of Jodhpur’s gilded glory. By Lauren Ho
The golden rule of Bangkok: if it’s even remotely out of the way, don’t bother (a cab across town at rush hour could take as long as your flight over). The Siam is the exception. Although we’re not sure that Bill Bensley designed this low-slung and sleek urban retreat, on the north-east bank of the Chao Phraya river, as a destination in itself, it has certainly become one. It’s possible to spend a whole afternoon ogling the 16th-century Burmese Buddhas and vintage toy race cars displayed with particular flair from the hotel’s film room to its grand upstairs bar (owner Krissada Clapp makes weekly visits to local antiques dealer House of Chao, and tweaks the hotel’s collection almost daily). Located north of the Grand Palace and the hordes of flip-flop-wearing twenty-somethings streaming through the neon glow of Khao San Road, The Siam is a vitally tranquil place to return to after a day of tuk-tuk-ing between temples and haggling for silks at Chatuchak market. The gentle gurgle of water from stone fountains form a soundtrack for the sun-flooded courtyard, a profusion of palms and greenery; the enormous hammam-style spa, with its opulent marble pillars, does utterly resetting Reiki massages – though a soak in the clawfoot tubs in the teak-clad, Art Deco-style rooms does the trick, too. And early evening cocktails on the terrace, as the lights begin to flicker in the darkening skies on the other side of the moody Chao Phraya, can feel as though you’ve escaped the city entirely. To get back into the thick of it, though, the hotel’s river boat ferries guests towards that neon all day and night. Three years after opening, this is still Bangkok’s most accomplished urban hideaway. By Erin Florio
Tucked in the Virginia countryside amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland attracts travelers looking for a mix of activity and relaxation. There is no shortage of things to do here, from kayaking and golfing to horseback riding and stargazing. The property also has a spa, and hosts yoga and meditation classes. And guests appreciate the variety of accommodation options, too, with a traditional lodge, suites, cottages and even tree houses to choose from. (Courtesy of Primland)