Who says there aren’t any surprises anymore?
Sure, the 25 best hotels on the T+L 500—the annual list of the world’s top 500 properties, as chosen by Travel + Leisure readers—include many familiar names: Four Seasons, Oberoi, Ritz-Carlton, and Taj. There are also familiar places: former maharajah’s palaces in India, swanky city hotels in the U.S., and opulent game reserves in South Africa all scored high.
But there’s been some shakeup at the top of this prestigious list. This year’s top 25 welcomes a couple newcomers: the luxury log-cabin retreat of Triple Creek Ranch, in Darby, Montana; and the similarly rustic-yet-posh Treetops Lodge and Estate, set on the volcanic plateau of Rotorua, New Zealand. It’s a statement that T+L readers are always exploring and looking for new experiences.
Another big shift: Two properties in India jumped dramatically higher in this year’s rankings. One was the spectacularly opulent Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, which scored the number 2 spot this year (up from number 11 in 2008); the other was the Oberoi Amarvilas, adjacent to the Taj Mahal in Agra (up to number 6 from last year’s 10th-place ranking).
This year’s Top 25 also include several high-end African safari camps, where guests can see “The Big Five” in sequestered luxury. Coming in at number 3 was the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in Masai Mara, Kenya. Kirawira Camp in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, and Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, in Kruger National Park, followed up, respectively, at number 7 and number 8.
Of course, many readers gravitate to the tried-and-true luxury of the world’s top-end hotel chains. And overall, the rankings—which encompassed properties in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America, the Austral-Pacific, and the Caribbean—included many well-known hotel groups. More than 40 Four Seasons properties made the list, along with nearly 40 Ritz-Carltons, 22 Fairmont hotels, and 10 JW Marriotts. But there were many boutique property-winners, too, including Sebel Reef House and Spa on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the Market Pavilion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.
But what you really want to know, of course: who’s number 1 this year?Find out, check out the other top 24 hotels in the world, then browse all of the world’s top hotels by continent.