There are many hotels that may take your breath away, but we've done the hard job of narrowing it down to a hand-picked selection of the best hotels in the world.
Amangiri, Utah, USA
No ‘best of’ list would be complete without an entry for this otherworldly paradise. Set in rocky desert, among some of the most dramatic surroundings Earth can muster, Amangiri is a bona fide traveller’s pilgrimage. Guests visit for the isolation and exceptional architecture – an ambitious collaboration between Rick Joy, Wendell Burnette and Marwan Al-Sayed that interprets the traditional lines of Native American building in an effortless, contemporary voice. There are myriad things to do here, from yoga to hiking, but you’ll do none of them. Just sit back by that infamous pool, gaze at the landscape beyond, and breathe. Deeply. Rooms from £1,500, aman.com.
Belmond La Residencia, Deià, Mallorca
Backed by rugged green mountains that appear to tumble from the sky, the setting at this hotel is unparalleled in the Balearics. La Residencia was first cobbled together from two 16th-century villas, now joined by a host of stone cottages, all of which are nestled in a crook in the landscape. The sheer scale of the estate lends an immediate sense of majesty – this could be the summer home of kings – but winding pathways, mix-and-match architecture and creeping, mature gardens give a comely, warming character. Take art classes in the grounds, a dip in one of the beautiful pools or play a round of tennis on the scenic private courts. Rooms from £550, belmond.com.
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thailand
One of the world’s most fabled hotels and an all-time favourite of many travel aficionados, this Chao Phraya River landmark first opened in 1876 as The Oriental. Following a century of mergers and acquisitions, the property arrived at its current station as flagship of the Mandarin Oriental group. Many of the brightest lights from art, film, literature and society have held court at the hotel, with suites named after Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward and Barbara Cartland. Tea in the Authors’ Lounge – all white rattan and balconied galleries – is a Bangkok institution, and dinner by the river at Sala Rim Naam is a delight. Rooms from £750, mandarinoriental.com.
Fife Arms, Braemar, Scotland
The Hauser & Wirth gallery is a force in the international art world, representing the likes of Louise Bourgeois and Annie Leibovitz. So when co-founders and creative power-couple Iwan and Manuela Wirth announced they had bought the Fife Arms, a tired but much-loved local landmark, all eyes were on them. Thanks to design wizard Russell Sage, the former coaching inn has been transformed into an eclectic tartan fantasia, strewn with works from the owners’ art collection. Those seeking a conventional Highlands castle experience should probably look elsewhere, but for the rest of us, this hotel promises something truly unique. Rooms from £250, thefifearms.com.
Maison de la Luz, New Orleans, USA
Following a spate of boutique openings in the last year, the capital of jazz and soul food finally has hotels worthy of it. The most splendid of all is Maison de la Luz, in which you’ll find an achingly chic take on bohemian decor that artfully captures both the city’s rich heritage and cosmopolitan attitude. The hotel is a warren of jewel-box drawing rooms and hidden passageways. Bedrooms have soaring ceilings, period details and ivory and faded navy schemes that provide solace from the bombastic hues of the riotous public spaces. A new hotel this may be, but it’s already a part of the fabric of this exuberant city. Rooms from £300, maisondelaluz.com.
The Bowery Hotel, East Village, New York
It may not have the opulence of some of the city’s grande dames, but The Bowery makes up for it when it comes to exclusive, clubby sumptuousness. You’ll feel it upon entry, where a crackling fire welcomes guests to a decadent, ruby-toned lobby. Upstairs, bright, airy suites enjoy some of New York’s most ravishing views, and are finished with vintage furniture and a sophisticated colour combo of milk and coral. Infamous Italian eatery Gemma is a major draw. An extravagantly decorated affair, with beamed ceilings and wrought-iron chandeliers, it serves Sicilian meatballs, grilled octopus and an irresistible short rib pappardelle. Rooms from £300, theboweryhotel.com.
Cobblers Cove, Barbados
We’re rather enamoured with the redecoration of Barbados’ genteel classic, Cobblers Cove. The powder-pink blancmange of a hotel was given the full treatment by the refined minds at Soane Britain, who’ve not only rethought the property’s Great House, but have also launched a collection of pieces used in the project that you can pick up at home. The hotel can arrange for picnics on deserted islands or swimming with turtles, but a spot by the pool, enjoying the tropical birds in the swaying palms, is fulfilment enough for us. Skip the overwrought grand hotels down the road and head straight to this boutique bolthole. Rooms from £280, cobblerscove.com.
La Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul de Vence, France
La Colombe d’Or has a conflicted spirit – it is somehow both an icon but also joyfully under the radar. It originally opened as a watering hole for locals in the early 20th century. Rooms weren’t added until the outbreak of World War II, when it became a favourite spot for artists seeking comfort from the outside world. Among their numbers were luminaries such as Picasso and Léger, who often paid for board and lodgings with artwork. There is a palpable creative energy that can’t quite be explained, but we ask where else one could sunbathe, by a pool, beneath an Alexander Calder mobile? Rooms from £180, la-colombe-dor.com.
Chateau du Grand Luce, Loire Valley, France
A debuting lady but a future grande dame, this hotel occupies an 18th-century chateau that is one of the most exquisite examples of neoclassical architecture in France. The decor is sympathetic to the building’s opulent character but introduces comfort and convenience, too. Feel like Marie Antoinette by the garden’s perfect round pool. Rooms from £450, chateaugrandluce.com.
Singita Sweni Lodge, South Africa
Following a major redecoration, Singita Sweni is now the country’s most dazzling safari lodge. The building is all glass walls, but has been softened with colour, pattern, print and texture. There are infinity lap pools, a superb restaurant, outdoor showers and stargazing decks. And, of course, game drives and guided walking safaris in Kruger National Park. Rooms from £1,865, singita.com.
Cotton House, St Vincent and the Grenadines
Once a private island beloved of Princess Margaret, Mustique is now partially open to tourists, and this tiny atoll has just a handful of hotels. The loveliest is Cotton House, a whitewashed refuge of verandas, pools and sprawling lawns. Think of it as a quintessential English country house hotel gone tropical. Keep your eyes peeled for Mustique fans, the Cambridges. Rooms from £400, cottonhouse.net.
Borgo Pignano, Tuscany, Italy
A secluded spot up in the Tuscan hills, Pignano is ubiquitous of Italian countryside dreams. The 750-acre estate boasts a principal 18th-century villa, a pool intricately carved into a quarried rock edge, layered semi-formal gardens and a fully operational organic farm. The produce is used liberally in the sustainable restaurant’s classic cooking. Rooms from £312, borgopignano.com.
Ett Hem, Stockholm, Sweden
The name translates as 'a home', and that’s exactly what this hotel is – a Nordic home away from home. A former private residence, Ett Hem is located in the city’s embassy district and benefits from its majesterial architecture. Decorating powerhouse Ilse Crawford created the interiors, truly esoteric in their design mastery. There’s no restaurant, so instead guests grab seats by the kitchen and eat from a list of things the chefs imagine that day. A bells and whistles hotel this may not be, but it’s the most beautiful in Scandinavia. Rooms from £300, etthem.se.
Heckfield Place, Hampshire, UK
Gerald Chan’s country pile Heckfield Place finally threw its doors open last year and had us all in immediate, rapturous delight. Ben Thompson, a protégé of Ilse Crawford, designed the hotel’s interiors, giving easy luxury to the building’s handsome Georgian bones. Persian carpets, fine antiques and the owner’s brilliant collection of British art are interspersed with future classics by the likes of Soane, Rose Uniacke and Pinch. From the natural treatments at the Little Bothy Spa to fêted chef Skye Gyngell’s pared-back cooking, Heckfield is the consummate choice in the fiercely competitive country house hotel scene. Rooms from £350, heckfieldplace.com.
Aman Venice, Italy
There are contenders to Aman’s crown as queen of the canals, but few can compete with the hotel’s blend of Venetian heritage and contemporary finish. You might not think of the Aman group’s clean Asian aesthetic as a natural fit for the eccentric glamour of Italy’s floating city, but the style clash works. Located in the quiet but central San Polo district, the 16th-century palazzo has retained its period features: think frescoes, chequered marble floors and gilt moulding, with modern Italian furniture and a simple design ethos. Dine in Arva restaurant, where fantasies of the city’s merchant port past are conjured with silk wall coverings and alluring Grand Canal views. Rooms from £1,300, aman.com.
Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
An idyll off the coast of Indonesia, Sumba is more than twice the size of Bali and far less known. The island’s exceptional Nihi resort started as one beach shack, placed for its proximity to world class surfing. It has now grown into 27 beachside villas, awash in thatch, teak and flowing linen. Don’t leave without taking a sunset horse ride along the beach. Rooms from £1,627, nihi.com.
Babylonstoren, South Africa
Babylonstoren is the finest hotel in South Africa’s winelands; a Cape Dutch farmstead masterpiece of manicured kitchen gardens, working vineyards and rustic but refined cottages. Borrow bicycles to explore the estate, tour the herbery with the head gardener, and indulge in farm-to-table dining at Babel, the hotel’s often fully booked restaurant. Rooms from £450, babylonstoren.com.
Until recently, truly beautiful hotels, outstanding in their design and setting, were few and far between in the Maldives. That all changed with the opening of Joali, a new property built on a previously deserted island. The place is strewn with art and sculpture, and spacious suites feature designer furniture and private infinity pools as standard. Rooms from £1,200, joali.com.
Ham Yard Hotel, London
The jewel in Kit Kemp’s crown, Ham Yard offers a place to stay in central London’s Soho with oodles of eccentricity and character. There’s a rooftop terrace, cinema and even a bowling alley, but the hotel’s soul is Kemp’s artful design – a playful blend of spots, stripes and floral prints. And then there’s the ever-popular bar, restaurant and terrace. Rooms from £450, firmdalehotels.com.
L’Hotel Marrakech, Morocco
It may not be the grandest in all of Marrakech – that title would go to the Royal Mansour or La Mamounia – but L’Hotel is indeed the most special. Owned and lovingly designed by Jasper Conran, it is a study in effortless chic. Within the confines of the 19th-century riad and its gardens, Conran’s eye has curated a haven of subtle good taste in which a monochrome base is dotted with a Moroccan palette of burnt reds and sun-bleached ochres. They even found space for a saltwater lap pool, cosseted on all sides by lush, verdant foliage. Rooms from £400, l-hotelmarrakech.com.