These first-rate hotels are a destination in their own right
We love a good hotel – the service, the breakfast spread, the excuse to not make the bed in the morning. But what separates the good from the world’s best hotels?
Selected for their unique aesthetic, unfaltering dedication to service and breathtaking location, read on to discover our pick of the hotels worth planning your next holiday around…
1. Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE
Forget Dubai’s expensive – often overpriced – towering glass hotels. The Waldorf Astoria in nearby Ras Al Khaimah is the ultimate break in the UAE.
Originally built as a luxury apartment block to house sailors taking part in a round-the-world yacht race, this mammoth building became a hotel in 2013 and now houses hundreds of spectacular, oversized rooms and suites.
There are two pools (one is adults-only), it has a private beach – with bar service right on the sand – and there are multiple restaurants to choose from. Plus, there’s a golf course, water sports centre and dreamy spa.
You’ll find no end to the entertainment and indulgence at this hotel, but should you want to get out and about, head into the mountains for a stunning view from the UAE’s highest peak: Jebel Jais.
2. The Icehotel, Sweden
This really is a hotel with a difference. Built using frozen water from the river in Jukkasjärvi, the Icehotel in Sweden is only open for a few months each year. Come springtime the ice-block walls melt and return to where they came from, leaving little sign of the resort that once stood.
Each year it has a different design and this year the hotel will have 15 new suites built by 33 artists from over 13 different countries, including the ‘Spruce Woods’ suite from Canadian friends Christopher Pancoe and Jennie O’Keefe, which gives guests the chance to gather around a central frozen fire in a remote forest camp before sleeping on a frozen bed.
The ‘Living Ocean Suite’, by British father-daughter duo Jonathan Paul Green Marnie Green, depicts an eerie underwater world inspired by the negative effects of overfishing and climate change, complete with ice-carved corals, shells and fish.
The hotel itself is the main event here, but you’ll be kept busy with plenty of activities on offer, such as husky sledding, snowmobiling, winter wilderness dinners, ice sculpting and aurora photo workshops.
3. The Treehotel, Sweden
Sweden isn’t short of unique accommodation. Combine your Icehotel stay with one in the Treehotel, where rooms are suspended among the tall pines surrounding the small village of Harads.
This hotel has it all, mixing modernist, minimalist design and back-to nature values with childhood fantasies of sleeping in the treetops – plus all the luxuries you’d expect at a four-star property, including a fabulous restaurant serving expertly prepared local ingredients.
Choose from the Mirrorcube room, which is literally a mirror among the trees, the Bird’s Nest, the UFO-style room and the 7th Room, which has a net suspended among the trees where you can lie down to observe the ground below, or stare up to the tree canopy. If you’re lucky, you might spot the northern lights.
4. Il Sereno, Lake Como, Italy
The Italian Lakes are a dreamy destinations regardless of where you stay, but check into Il Sereno and your holiday will be immediately transformed.
With 30 lakeside suites – there are no bog-standard hotel rooms here – and a pool with spectacular views across the water to the mountains, it’s a stunning place to spend a long weekend lounging around.
The brand-new spa is one of only a handful of Valmont Switzerland spas in the world, renowned for their effective facials and natural beauty products.
The Michelin-star restaurant, Berton al Lago, is a destination restaurant in itself, offering alfresco lakeside dining and recently launching a seven-course vegetarian tasting menu using ingredients from the hotel’s own herb garden.
5. OZEN by Atmosphere, the Maldives
The Maldives is all about luxury, and there’s no better place to experience that than the OZEN resort by Atmosphere Hotels. It’s got all the essential luxurious experiences you’d expect from a five-star hotel in the Maldives: exceptional seaside dining, villas over the ocean and endless stretches of bright white sand.
But the icing on the cake here is their ‘Indulgence Plan’. All guests checking into OZEN are automatically on the all-inclusive plan, which offers an award-winning alcohol selection (including champagnes), a la carte dining throughout, an underwater dining experience, unlimited snorkelling and spa treatments.
6. Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
Sitting along a mountain ridge 500m above Lake Lucerne, the impressive Bürgenstock Resort (pictured above and main image) relaunched last year after huge investment – and a worthwhile investment it was. This place is special.
The resort’s own private catamaran brings guests across Lake Lucerne before the fully restored funicular, which dates back to 1888, takes them directly up and into the reception of the mountain-top resort.
There are four hotels to choose from – the three-star traditional Taverne 1879, the four-star Palace Hotel from 1903, the five-star breathtaking Bürgenstock, – which has far-reaching views across Lake Lucerne – and a medical and wellbeing focused Waldhotel.
The resort’s highlight is the 10,000-square-metre Alpine Spa, one of the biggest in Europe. The infinity pool overlooks the lake, giving the illusion you’re almost swimming in the mountain waters.
No wonder this was where Audrey Hepburn chose to get married.
7. The Lodge at Feline Fields, Botswana
Set in the bush in a remote part of the savannah, The Lodge at Feline Fields is in prime position west of the Okavango Delta – one of Botswana’s top wildlife watching destinations.
You might struggle to leave the lodge, though, as here you’ll find yourself in wilderness bliss – each of the six suites is set well away from the main lodge, offering sublime seclusion for your own Out of Africa adventure.
Take an open-air massage, dip in the plunge pool, relax on the lodge’s upper deck with a good book and some binoculars or – if you’re feeling active – head out on a game drive with expert wildlife guides.
You can feel good about staying here too – luxury safari lodge focuses on low-volume eco-tourism with and raises funds for the Feline Fields Trust.
8. Eden Roc Cap Cana, the Dominican Republic
This Caribbean island resort is easy to reach: after a nine-hour flight direct from London with BA, it’s just a 10-minute drive to the shores of Cap Cana. Eden Roc Cap Cana is the ultimate place to unwind after a long journey – there’s a brand new spa with 30,000 square feet of indulgence space, and the culinary director has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants such as Le Gavroche, meaning the food here is exceptional.
The 34 individual, free-standing suites – encompassing Caribbean and European interior design – each have their own private pool, gazebo and exterior rain shower.
Spend your days in the spa, by the pool or on the beach and you may never want to leave. There’s an 18-hole golf course and three million square metre, state-of-the-art equestrian ranch if you insist on getting active, but the highlight here is sitting back to relax, without a care in the world.
9. Hoshinoya, Tokyo, Japan
The perfect antidote to over-the-top Tokyo, this beautifully designed, high-end luxury take on a traditional ryokan is one of the finest retreats in the Japanese capital.
Set inside a 17-storey skyscraper, the Hoshinoya blends contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship to create an elegant space for escaping the busy city streets.
The top floor is home to impressive onsen (natural hot-spring bath), fed by mineral-rich hot spring water pumped up from 1,500 metres below ground. The spa offers Japanese-inspired treatments, focused on guiding the body towards its ‘optimal state’.
Don’t miss taking part in a traditional tea ceremony, and enjoy the French-Japanese fusion cuisine in the excellent restaurant.
If you want to get out of the city, they have a sister hotel on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi, near Mount Fuji, offering glamping Japan-style.
10. Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada
The unique Fogo Island Inn is located on a remote promontory off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Designed by architect Todd Saunders as a bold, dramatic statement among an equally dramatic coastline, it truly feels like you’re on the edge of the Earth when looking out to the uninterrupted ocean beyond.
The inn has just 29 suites, each individually designed with locally handmade furniture, and a restaurant with huge windows for sublime views out to sea.
There’s also a library, 37-seat cinema and a rooftop deck complete with wood-fired saunas and two outdoor hot tubs to enjoy during your stay.