From luxury lodges in the middle of the Serengeti to private-pool beachfront villas, the world is jam-packed full of truly remarkable hotels. And, whether you’re after an exotic Asian getaway or adventurous Latin America retreat, here we’ve rounded up some of the world’s best luxury hotels for truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences, matched only by their just-as spectacular locations.
1. &Beyond Tengile River Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Whether taking in the river views from your private pool or spotting the Big Five on expert-led game drives, this brand-new lodge – opened in December 2018 – is a new word in sustainable luxury. With solar power and environmentally-friendly materials throughout, just nine ‘floating’ suites perch on the bend of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve’s river, with stunning forest views, personal lap pools, timber decks and al fresco showers – there’s even in-suite WiFi.
Birdwatching tours, interpretive bush walks and twice-daily game drives under the guidance of the resident rangers are all included, on which you’ll spot everything from lion and leopard to rhino and elephant in the world-famous Kruger Park that shares its unfenced border with Sabi Sands. Then, each day is culminated with an array of indulgent spa treatments before gourmet dining and expertly-mixed cocktails, enjoyed at the fireside outdoor boma.
2. Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
Dramatic, modern, chic – this truly exquisite fusion of 50m cliff-top infinity pools, spectacular panoramic views and ultra-contemporary suites is one of Indonesia’s best. Why not start it all off in style with a helicopter arrival? Then, 24-hour personal butler service is enjoyed alongside complimentary yoga classes on a cliff-edge cabana, a private beach for surfing and creative spa treatments.
‘Journeys by Alila’ also offers chances to visit local fish markets and leading Balinese artists, take cooking classes with the hotel chef and enjoy sunset kecak dances at the nearby temple. Perhaps go beach-hopping from a local fishing boat for snorkelling, sunbathing and picnics before sunset dining back at the hotel with the likes of grilled octopus and roasted king prawns on offer, washed down by world-class wines and the Alila signature – gin mojito cocktails. For an extra-special occasion, opt for the cliff-hanging, open-air cabana for gorgeous ocean views as you dine.
3. Awasi Patagonia, Chile
A true South American gem, this design-led, Relais & Châteaux offering lies in the heart of Patagonia’s dramatic landscapes and world-beating glaciers. With snow-dusted mountains, remote forests and deep-blue lakes, it all feels stunningly isolated, and is a gorgeous backdrop to the luxury timber villas – of which there are just 14, all privately located with ultra-clear views of the granite spires of Torres del Paine or Lake Sarmiento.
Back inside, modernist and timber designs are reminiscent of Scandi luxury, with personal hot tubs, wood-burning stoves and cosy living rooms. Dining is, as expected, world-class, with local, ultra-fresh and seasonal ingredients served up to your exacting taste in what is truly some of Chile’s best gourmet dining. It’s made all the better with your own personal guide and vehicle to explore at your own pace – head on Torres del Paine hikes, wildlife walks, 4WD park trips and steppe horse rides with the gauchos of the local estancia, and even track pumas with the conservation team of South America’s first puma foundation.
4. L7 Luxury Lodge, Finnish Lapland, Finland
Luxury and the northern remotes of Lapland may not sound synonymous, but this lodge evades all expectations in its Scandi-luxe, rustic and utterly stylish interiors. Just seven rooms ensure a sense of romantic seclusion, with plush furnishings, timber-clad walls and polished wooden floors looking out onto snow-laden forests. And, those views are made to be explored.
Hire skis and snowshoes for free or hop on a snowmobile for thrilling experiences in the next-door national park – or come summer, hikes through the boreal forests are just as serene. Return to log-cabin cosiness for seasonal gastronomy that’s a true trip highlight, with all-inclusive, multi-course dining based on local ingredients, from open sandwiches to Lappish soups and ultra-fresh smoked salmon, in between indulgent afternoon teas. Just don’t forget to spend some time in the bubbling Jacuzzi and traditional Finnish saunas before whiling evenings by the roaring fire – before stepping out to witness, with the luck, those dazzling Northern Lights.
5. Longitude 131°, Red Centre, Australia
Burrowed amid the dunes of the Simpson Desert in Australia’s arid Red Centre, this boutique gem is the ultimate in remote luxury, with mighty Uluru a spectacular view from luxury tented cabins adorned with organic linens, bespoke furnishings and complimentary binoculars and maps. For something more rustic, bespoke ‘swag’ roll sleeping mats are offered for slumbering under the stars on your private balcony.
All adventures are included, from camel rides and Harley hires to expertly-guided walks around the base of Uluru; be sure to get up early one day to catch the sun rise before a fresh pastry breakfast at the base of the monolith. Our favourite, though, has to be a helicopter flight, for truly exceptional views. Back at base, relax with a spa treatment, take a dip in the plunge pool or enjoy an aboriginal painting workshop with a local artist. It’s all culminated with champagne sundowners and al fresco dining at private locations for indulgent four-course meals – or go one up and enjoy a private dinner atop a dune or in one of the outdoor dining pods.
6. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, British Columbia, Canada
A collection of luxury, safari-style tents among a protected old-growth rainforest, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort lies on the shores of the eponymous Sound and can only be reached via a boat or sea plane ride – a rather charming constraint. Guest cabins perch in the rainforest or by the lake with indoor-outdoor showers, wood stoves and underfloor heating, while indulgences continue at the lakeside spa’s cedar-wood hot tubs and two saunas.
Then, local, gourmet and all-inclusive meals, from seared Clayoquot Salmon to freshly-caught Dungeness crab, are served among log fires and gleaming silver. Guests even toast their final evening with a multi-course, wine-paired tasting menu. It’s all done alongside an array of included adventures, from salmon fishing and kayaking trips to rainforest horse rides and lakeside hikes. That’s not forgetting paddle-boarding and surfing on deserted beaches, trail walks with a First Nations guide and watching for whales, eagles, black bears and even cougar.
7. Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco, Peru
A luxe spa, 24-hour butler service and original Inca artwork are just some of the delights that await in one of Peru’s most outstanding and historic properties. Amid Cusco’s colonial splendour, Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, once a convent and palace, is laced with colonial frescoes and gold-framed artwork alongside glass floors, which give a fascinating insight into the Incan foundations on which it was built. Reminders of your location continue in rooms, too, with opulent suites enriched with oxygen to help with the altitude alongside in-room bars where your discrete butlers can even mix pisco sours in a private cocktail class.
If that wasn’t enough, the world’s only fully oxygenated spa and Cusco’s first outdoor swimming pool are a wonderful antidote to chilly evenings – though you’ll want to have spent the day exploring. After Sacred Valley hikes, horse riding and mountain biking among the Incan history, look forward to fuelling up each night at the restaurant, where celebrity chef Virgilio Martinez creates delicacies like grilled alpaca and crackling pork. There’s even chances to head on guided tours of the market or enjoy cooking classes – all washed down with the hotel bar’s extensive pisco tasting menu.
8. Gora Kadan, Hakone, Japan
Once the hotel choice of Japan’s Imperial family, this ryokan hot-springs inn in the heart of Hakone National Park makes for an unforgettable luxury stay, with ultra-fragrant flowers and the bubbling of the nearby hot springs exuding a feeling of peace you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere but Japan.
Spend days sinking into an onsen hot tub among the bamboo forest, indulging in a traditional Sitatsu massage – your yukata robe to hand – and wandering the perfectly-manicured gardens. The delights continue in the sleek suites, with tatami mats, private gardens and personal soaking tubs with epic views of snow-capped Mount Fuji. Dining is impressive, too, with chef-curated classic kaiseiki cuisine served in a myriad of indulgent fish and meat courses that can be taken in the serene Kaiseiki Flower Garden.
9. &Beyond Grumeti Serengeti, Tanzania
In keeping with &Beyond’s luxe reputation, this spectacular offering doesn’t disappoint in what is truly a Serengeti experience with a difference. Sprawling decks and rim-flow swimming pools form a wonderful base from which to watch hippos in the river below as well as many other game who come to drink at the watering hole. On the banks of the famous Grumeti river, you’re also perfectly positioned to experience the annual Great Wildebeest Migration and their heart-racing river crossings.
It continues beyond the camp, too, with twice-daily expert-led game drives in specially adapted 4WD vehicles on which you’ll spot the Big Five alongside cheetah, hyena and more. There’s even the chance to head on a Serengeti balloon flight for an unforgettable view of the sweeping plains dotted with baobab trees and herds of slowly-moving elephant. Back at base, after sundowners on the deck, enjoy fireside dining in the boma with barbecue meats cooked over a traditional jiko, accompanied by the nighttime howls of the African wildlife.
10. Amansara Angkor, Cambodia
The world-famous Angkor Wat is spectacular enough, and this hotel perfectly matches its splendour as a luxury base from which to explore. With a chic and exclusive vibe, this was once the resident of King Sihanouk, and offers myriad boutique experiences, from sunrise photography over Angkor to spa treatments.
Days are spent pool lounging and enjoying private lunches in a tranquil hideaway alongside complimentary private tours of the Angkor temple complex by remorque – Cambodia’s version of the tuk tuk, as well as traditional wooden house dinners and local chef-led cooking classes. You can even get a blessing at the 12th-century Wat Athvea or head on a helicopter ride to see the lost jungle temples from above. Then, sunset cocktails aboard Amansara’s lake boat on the nearby Tonle Sap are a wonderful prelude to a roof terrace barbecue – or even a private dinner inside one of the temples, accompanied by live musicians and dance performances.
Dave Warne is Product Director at The Luxury Holiday Company. The Luxury Holiday Company offers completely bespoke holidays designed to deliver unrivalled luxury, arranged by specialists who have more than 200 years of collective travel experience.