A short, cobblestoned walk up from Cusco’s central plaza sits an elegant hotel with ancient roots. The story of this Belmond all-suite property—which opened in 2012—is reflected in its décor: Original Inca stone walls from the building’s footprint give way to the colonial-era frescoes and gilded 17th-century décor of its private mansion days, while a small restored chapel and serene arcades reveals its time as a convent. Now, tucked-away terraces and gardens, bubbling fountains, and Cusco’s first heated pool encourage contemplation of another kind to guests of the 55 accommodations. With butler service included for all rooms, checking in and getting acquainted with your suite is a breeze. Despite the historic air, all the technology is up-to-date, so enjoy the in-room iPads, espresso/tea machines, heated bathroom floors, and pumped-in oxygen to help ease any altitude issues.
The Beverly Hills Hotel is iconic to La-La Land lore, made famous by The Eagles tune "Hotel California." But the Pink Palace has racked up quite a few fabled stories: Katharine Hepburn is said to have jumped into the pool fully clothed, and Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed six honeymoons here. Today, this Dorchester Collection hotel continues to cater to discerning travelers with stylish guest rooms (equipped with marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, high-speed internet access and gourmet minibars), business amenities and a supreme Sunset Boulevard location. Travelers say the customer service is just as legendary as the hotel itself, praising the hotel staff for its attentiveness. And the on-site Polo Lounge is not only known for its celeb-spotting – it's known for serving up a mean breakfast as well.
Just three blocks from the mighty Mekong River, surrounded by gilded Buddhist temples, and in the upscale heart of the city center, Villa Maly has a coveted address in Luang Prabang. The two-story house, awash with white paint and deep wood accents, feels like entering the home of your chicest Laoation friend—that is, if your friend were a grandson of a 19th-century Lao king. (And, actually, it was Prince Khamtan Ounkham who built the house in 1938, and prominent French nouveau details are a nod to the years he spent studying in France.) Belly up to the Maly Bar for cocktails and light snacks, or enjoy a D.I.Y poolside barbecue with marinated meats and vegetables; and don't forget to make use of the hotel's complementary bike rentals while you're at it.
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That tiny-island locale is one reason Beth Blair loves Sunset Key Cottages, another top 10 contender. Its air of exclusivity is “magical, and I could go on and on about the top-notch service and views,” says the Minnesota travel blogger. But something else won her heart: “The pastry baskets that arrive every morning at the front door are a wow factor,” she says. “There's nothing more relaxing than sitting on a beach-facing patio, sipping hot coffee and nibbling on freshly baked muffins.”
Set in the Arashiyama district on the western side of Kyoto (an area frequented by Japanese nobles of years gone by), Suiran sits seamlessly on the jade waters of the Katsura river. The original buildings, which now house the restaurants and lobby, are constructed around beautifully manicured Japanese gardens, and sunlight-dappled pebble-stone pathways lead the way to the more modern low-rise buildings that house the rooms. Yukata-clad staff welcome you warmly with a hot towel and tea whilst discretely whisking your luggage off to your room, leaving you to enjoy the serene surroundings, bathed in light and soothed by the sounds of flowing water. Here, chaotic city life is a distant memory and the deliberate and un-rushed pace is the catalyst for achieving a state of repose.
'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
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