All over the world there are remarkable hotels, lodges and encampments born of bold vision and epic endeavour. Our experts know just the property for you, whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel, boutique hideaway or chic castaway retreat. Here we round up the ultimate luxury hotels and share our first-hand knowledge to recommend accommodation that’s suitable for your style of escape. These places don’t simply have the wow factor. They connect you intimately to their environment and offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences in exceptional locations. Spend a night here and you’ll be talking about it for the rest of your life.
A stone’s throw from the temple complexes at Angkor, this is Siem Reap’s exclusive, retro-chic masterpiece. A 60s designer delight from the halcyon days of new Khmer architecture, Amansara was once the guest residence of King Sihanouk. Today the luxurious property continues the noble tradition, welcoming the fortunate and the famous from Charles de Gaulle to Jackie O, for a unique boutique experience at Angkor.Rise at dawn to photograph the sunrise over Angkor or opt for a more leisurely start and indulge in some spa pampering. Then, fill your days immersing yourself in Aman’s philosophy of zen-like simplicity, with pool-hopping and private lunches among the highlights.
If you can tear yourself away from your tranquil hideaway there are complimentary private tours of the Angkor temple complex available by remorque – Cambodia’s version of the tuk tuk. You’ll explore in the company of an expert local guide and discover the UNESCO-protected sites without the crowds. While you’re out, try a romantic dinner in a traditional wooden house overlooking the royal bathing pond of Srah Srang or let a local chef lead you through a cooking class that introduces you to the flavours of Cambodian cuisine. Otherwise, indulge in some spiritual cleansing with a blessing at the 12th-century Wat Athvea, or explore the ancient buildings on foot or by bike. Then, delve even deeper into the area’s history by discovering lost jungle temples by helicopter before sampling an alternative dining experience at a recommended local restaurant where you can sample authentic curries. This is when your private remorque driver becomes incredibly handy. In the evening, enjoy sunset cocktails aboard Amansara’s lake boat on the nearby Tonle Sap, then dine together on Amansara’s Roof Terrace for a barbecue experience. Lastly, for one of Angkor’s most romantic experiences, let us arrange a private dinner inside one of the temples, accompanied by live musicians and dance performances.
A 50m cliff-top infinity pool perched 100m above the sea that blends into the sky, and seriously chic suites with panoramic views over the Indian Ocean make Alila Villas Uluwatu about as dreamy as Balinese escapes get.
Every arrival at this striking modernist hotel is breathtaking, but, for the ultimate in rock-star arrivals, ask us about arranging a helicopter flight for the short hop from the airport. Fill your days with spa pampering, fine dining and revelling in the 24-hour personal butler service assigned to you for the duration of your stay; choose between private, discreet and indulgent levels of service. There are even complimentary yoga classes in the stunning cliff-edge cabana. Then, descending the 600 steps to the stretch of private beach, you’ll be able to tackle the Bukit Peninsula’s legendary surf breaks.
But, be sure to save some energy to explore beyond the hotel on Journeys by Alila. Visit leading Balinese artists, make an early morning journey to the Jimbaran Fish Market before spending time in the kitchen with the hotel chef or step next door to the black coral temple Pura Luhur Uluwatu for a chance to watch the sunset kecak dance and the thieving monkeys at work. Alternatively, board a local fishing boat for a heavenly beach-hopping odyssey that takes in eight of Bali’s best sand stretches, stopping to sunbathe, swim and snorkel before enjoying a picnic back onboard. Then, leave the warm evenings free for unashamed intimacy over exquisite gourmet food and wine, making sure to try the signature cocktail, the Alila Gin Mojito, as you settle in to enjoy the salmon-pink sunset. For one of the islands most exceptional experiences, let us reserve you a cliff-hanging, open-air cabana so you can luxuriate in each other’s company as you eat roasted king prawns, wasabi-spiked crab and grilled octopus, surrounded by infinite ocean views.
In the heart of Cusco’s San Blas district, Palacio Nazarenas is a one-time convent and palace once frequented by conquistadors. Now boldly reimagined by Belmond as one of Peru’s finest properties, Palacio Nazarenas’ original Inca stonework, colonial frescoes and gold-framed paintings drip with understated South American romance. There are even glass floors to expose the Inca foundations on which it is built.
The elegant suites are enriched with oxygen to combat the altitude and have 24-hour butler service; as well as helping to pack and unpack luggage or provide tips on where to go in the city, butlers can teach you how to mix the perfect pisco sour at your in-room bar. Facilities also include Cusco’s first outdoor swimming pool, heated against those chilly Andean evenings. But, it’s the surrounding Andean landscapes and pre-Columbian ruins that you’re here for, right? Around you is the historic heart of the Sacred Valley and you can’t help but adventure out. The trekking (with or without guides), horseback riding and mountain biking in these parts of Peru don’t get any better. And when you’ve had enough action and Inca architecture for one day, there’s a fabulous spa – the only fully oxygenated spa in the world – and startlingly good food to enjoy courtesy of celebrity chef Virgilio Martinez who whips up creations in the kitchens. He’s also available for cooking lessons and guided tours of the market. After you’ve dined on crackling pork, grilled alpaca or even confited guinea pig, retire to the bar to try the seriously good pisco tasting menu and swap stories of your discoveries.
Hidden amid the dunes and scrub of the Simpson Desert, Longitude 131° is a boutique retreat in the heart of the Red Centre, enjoying unrivalled, unimpeded views of Uluru – Ayers Rock. It truly epitomises the best of Outback spirit.
White-tented cabins are less canvas night stop and more luxury retreat. Although the flowing parachute-style material, binoculars and maps hint at the wilderness outside, bespoke furnishings and a Bailie bed with organic linen tame the impression while providing the perfect vantage point to watch the changing light fall on Uluru. Served up with a glass of champagne, of course. If you do wish to rough it, in relative terms, you can borrow a luxurious swag – a bespoke sleeping mat based on a traditional bushman’s bed roll – and settle down under the stars on your balcony. Spend your time here on walkabout, exploring the wilderness around Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the Red Centre on complimentary adventure trips. Respect local Aborigines, though, and resist the urge to climb Uluru. Instead, let us arrange a guided walk with a local expert around the vast base of this stunning monolith. If you can rouse yourself from your deep desert slumber, be sure to also catch sunrise over the Rock and reward yourself with fresh pastries at its base. To explore further, join a camel train or hire a Harley. For the ultimate touring option, however, take to the skies with a helicopter flight.
Then, back at the hotel, join an aboriginal dot-painting workshop with a local artist, indulge yourself in the spa or simply cool off by floating in the icy water of the dune-top plunge pool – a surreal experience in the centre of the arid desert. On alternate evenings, you’ll also dine al fresco at secret locations with a four-course meal at ‘Table 131’. Although this is a spectacular culinary and cultural evening, for the most intimate evening, arrange a private supper in one of the outdoor dining pods or atop a dune, where the two of you can sink into the vast desert starscape.
Imagine life as a Japanese royal at this ryokan inn, a beautiful hot-springs retreat in Hakone National Park that was once the favourite escape of the Kanin-no-miya – a branch of the Imperial family of Japan. Ryokan are all about simplicity and Zen-like serenity, which is afforded here by the fragrant flowers, the gurgle of surrounding hot springs and the sounds of delicate rice-paper doors sliding open or closed.
Although Gora Kadan retains its traditional style, today it has modern design touches, meaning that it is a mesmerising mixture of traditional and modern that offers the very best of Japanese hospitality. The quiet elegance extends to your room where woven tatami mats muffle your footsteps. Outside each room is a private garden and personal soaking tub; lie back and take in the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji. After, slip into your traditional yukata robes and quietly explore the grounds, then feel the 21st century slip away as you immerse yourself in an onsen hot tub among the trees and bamboo forests. Or, have all your cares smoothed away with a traditional Shiatsu massage. Come the evenings, you’ll then be treated to sensational kaiseiki cuisine meticulously prepared by skilled chefs across a near-endless spread of indulgent courses. For one of the most romantic dining experiences, let us arrange for you to dine privately in the Kaiseiki Flower Garden – an intimate dining nook with beautiful garden views.
Sat on the banks of a bywater of the Grumeti River, &Beyond’s tented camp provides a private Serengeti safari experience in some of the most secluded parts of this famous game park. It also sits smack bang in the path of the annual Great Migration and its dramatic river crossings, making it an ideal base for a close-up animal encounter as part of a luxury safari.
Outside of June-July when the migration is on the move, there is still outstanding game viewing that can be tracked during twice-daily game drives in specially adapted 4WD vehicles, led by an expert naturalist of course. Look out for lion, leopard, cheetah, large packs of hyena and herds of elephant. As well as seasonal sightings of the wildebeest on the move, you can also witness the topi antelope migration through the park. To full appreciate the scale of the herds or to experience sunrise over the savannah, take to the air on a Serengeti balloon flight that gives you an eagle’s eye-view of the sweeping plains. And, when not searching for game, sink into the camp’s rim-flow swimming pool and watch hippos in the river below. Then, in the evening, enjoy sundowners on the spacious decks before indulging with fireside dining in a boma. Expect barbecue meats cooked over a traditional jiko fire while the sounds of the African night echo in the darkness.