World's Top Hotels

  • Little Palm Island Resort & Spa (Little Tourch Key) in the Florida Keys.

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    Check out this year’s ultimate collection of top hotels around the world, as selected by T+L readers.

    From January 2012 By

    Miles of hiking trails in Big Sky Country? Check. Outdoor spa treatments? Check! Montana may be the Wild West, but it stakes a claim to one of the world’s finest hotels. At Triple Creek Ranch, rated No. 6, the log cabins are rustic-chic, the cellar stores 2,000 wine bottles, and soaking in a hot tub is the perfect antidote to a day out snowshoeing.

    Every year T+L readers vote on thousands of hotels based on rooms, location, service, food, and value. In 2012, the 10th anniversary of the T+L 500, the winners are a mix of remote escapes and city hotels—and a record 133 have rates that start as low as $250 a night. The highest-ranking hotel for value is Four Seasons Carmelo, Uruguay, whose suites and bungalows are strung along the beach between a eucalyptus forest and the Rio de la Plata. It’s an easy trip from Buenos Aires, a city with four T+L 500 winners.

    The number of high-scoring hotels in Africa also increased this year, with nine hotels in the top 25 and 45 properties overall. Singita Grumeti Reserves, on a spectacular wide plateau in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, ranked No. 1, thanks partially to the recent launch of a mobile safari experience in the 340,000-acre concession.

    California, a perennial favorite, has the largest percentage of T+L 500 hotels in the U.S., with 37 winners. But one romantic escape in Florida ranked higher than the Sunshine State’s best properties: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, a secluded private island retreat on Little Torch Key. It wins over guests with special touches like the Sandbar Session concerts and private picnics on nearby deserted islands.

    What else is new this year? We’re sharing insider tips and advice on which specific hotel rooms to book. At No. 5–ranked Oberoi Udaivilas, in India, for instance, nine lakeside rooms face the nature conservancy, treating in-the-know guests to views of peacocks, deer, and wild boar.

    Read on to see all the hotels that made it into this year’s top 25. —Sarah Spagnolo

  • world's top hotels: Singita Grumeti Reserves

    Photo: Courtesy of Singita Game Reserves

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    Singita Grumeti Reserves, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    Africa’s most luxurious mobile-safari experience is the latest addition to this 340,000-acre Serengeti concession with 4 separate camps. Doubles from $1,700–$2,300, all-inclusive.

    Behind the Scenes: What does a perfect location score look like? A manor house on a wide plateau; a tented camp with views of the Serengeti; 8 suites and 1 villa overlooking the rhino-filled Grumeti River; and a mobile safari that traverses it all.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Ol Donyo Lodge

    Photo: Courtesy of Ol Donyo Lodge

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    Ol Donyo Lodge, Mbirikani Group Ranch, Kenya

    10 suites with savanna-side infinity pools, outdoor showers, and rooftop sleeping areas for nighttime views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Doubles from $840, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Oberoi Udaivilas

    Photo: Courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

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    Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India

    A 30-acre Mewari-style palace on the banks of Lake Pichola, complete with private motorboats, a traditional Kashmiri gondola, and sprawling courtyards rimmed by reflecting pools. Doubles from $700–$870.

    Room to Book: All 19 Premiere Lake rooms have private pools and terraces, but the 9 that face the nature conservatory offer wildlife spotting (peacocks; deer; wild boar) as well as views of the marble palaces of mainland Udaipur.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Triple Creek Ranch

    Photo: Courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch

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    Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT

    Adults-only mountain retreat on thousands of acres, with plush log cabins (wood-burning fireplaces; hot tubs), a 2,000-plus-bottle wine cellar, a chef’s table, and a rotating collection of original art. Doubles from $750–$950, including meals.

    T+L Tip: Don’t miss a snowshoe excursion across the Chief Joseph Pass—first explored by Lewis and Clark in 1805—or the chocolate chip cookies served by cowboy-booted staffers on your return.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Lodge at Kauri Cliffs

    Photo: Courtesy of Kauri Cliffs

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    Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand

    North Island cliffside lodge, golf course, and top spa on 6,000 acres with waterfalls and private beaches. Doubles from $1,140–$1,485, including breakfast and dinner.

    T+L Tip: Ask the Kauri Cliffs team to pack a picnic (soba noodles; smoked-salmon sandwiches) before heading to Pink Beach, one of Kauri Cliffs’ private coves; in summer, barbecue dinners are served on the sand.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Posada de Mike Rapu / Explora Rapa Nui

    Photo: Courtesy of Explora

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    Posada de Mike Rapu / Explora Rapa Nui, Easter Island, Chile

    2007 local wood, stone, and glass LEED-certified lodge 2,300 miles off Chile’s coast; excursions include guided visits to the moai stone quarries and treks to nearby volcanoes. Doubles from $1,590, all-inclusive, 3-night minimum.

    T+L Tip: Unwind in the Posada’s new Ancestral Sauna, a traditional Rapa Nui–style hothouse warmed by an aromatic open fire of eucalyptus branches (treatments from $50).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: La Residence Phou Vao

    Photo: Courtesy of La Residence Phou Vao

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    La Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos

    French-colonial, all-suite wellness retreat on a frangipani-dotted hill above Luang Prabang; the first Laotian property to use only local ingredients for traditional spa treatments. Doubles from $500.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Hotel Caruso

    Photo: Genivs Loci

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    Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy

    11th-century palace with an infinity pool, terraced gardens, and classic-celebrity cachet (Jackie Kennedy; Humphrey Bogart). Doubles from $850–$1,073.

    Behind the Scenes: An excellent score for location is a given, as the property is perched 1,000 feet above the Mediterranean; to tour the nearby harbors, hop aboard the hotel’s 52-foot boat Ercole (trips from $615).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

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    Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Little Torch Key, FL

    Florida’s most secluded and romantic retreat: a West Indies–style idyll set along a white-sand beach on a 6-acre island accessible only by boat or seaplane, which will also take you to a smaller island for a picnic. Suites from $790–$1,590.

    T+L Tip: Arrive when the resort is hosting one of its Sandbar Session concerts, which bring well-known musicians to the hotel’s beach. Previous headliners? Stephen Marley and the Indigo Girls.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Blackberry Farm

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    Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

    The ne plus ultra of rural luxury, with renowned cuisine, set on a farm in the Great Smoky Mountains. Doubles from $795–$1,095, including meals.

    Behind the Scenes: On-site experts—master gardener John Coykendall; visiting chefs Thomas Keller and David Chang—translated to high scores for service; guests leave armed with tips for creating Southern dishes at home.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Stein Eriksen Lodge

    Photo: Courtesy of Stein Eriksen Lodge

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    Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, UT

    Timeless Norwegian-style mid-mountain chalet at Deer Valley ski resort, committed to raising $100,000 for cancer research through philanthropic programs. Doubles from $250–$839, including breakfast.

    T+L Tip: Make a dinner reservation at least 3 days in advance for Muscovy duck breast and s’mores for dessert at the hotel’s Glitretind restaurant. Be sure to try the lodge’s exclusive Chardonnay cuvee wine, launched in 2011.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa Bora Bora

    Photo: Courtesy of InterContinental

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    InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa Bora Bora, French Polynesia

    The ultimate fantasy: 80 Polynesian-style villas perched above the Motu Piti Aau coral reef. Doubles from $1,079–$1,755.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Hotel Splendido

    Photo: Genivs Loci/Hotel Splendido

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    Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Italy

    A flower-filled hillside villa (a monastery in the 14th and 15th centuries) with views of the bay. Doubles from $1,373–$1,607, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi

    Photo: Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel & Resort

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    Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    A miniature Thai kingdom with 123 Lanna-inspired suites and villas on 60 acres that’s the setting for a Buddhist prayer site, a 33,000-square-foot spa, and an arts-and-crafts village. Doubles from $509–$729.

    Behind the Scenes: More than 500 solicitous staffers create this exotic wonderland, which received a perfect score for service; opt for tutorials in classic dance and northern Thai cuisine.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Peninsula Chicago

    Photo: Courtesy of Peninsula Chicago

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    Peninsula Chicago

    Sleek, 20-story state-of-the-art hotel with 3 restaurants, including Shanghai Terrace and the Lobby—and a 15,000-square-foot Espa in the heart of the Magnificent Mile shopping district. Doubles from $395–$525.

    Room to Book: The Grand Deluxe suites have the best views in the hotel—they all overlook Water Tower Park—and were just updated with Art Deco–inspired accents (lacquer tables; brocade-covered chairs).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

    Photo: Anne Menke

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    Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis

    Unpretentious 36-room wicker-and-wood inn and 1778 great house on 30 acres; the Caribbean’s only historic plantation inn on the beach. Doubles from $391–$670, including breakfast, tea, and dinner.

    Behind the Scenes: Three on-site restaurants (the Great House, Coconuts, and Sea Breeze) and attentive service have made this Caribbean hotel a winner for 2 years running.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Eliot Hotel

    Photo: Courtesy of Eliot Hotel

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    Eliot Hotel, Boston

    Neo-Georgian gem in historic Back Bay that’s been family-owned for 70 years. Bathrooms are being updated with Bardiglio Italian marble. Doubles from $275–$545.

    Behind the Scenes: Its scores for service surged this year thanks to family-friendly perks: kids stay for free; toddlers get rubber ducks in the bathtub; pets are greeted with food and water bowls.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Oberoi Rajvilas

    Photo: Courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

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    Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India

    Channel your inner maharajah at this majestic 32-acre countryside resort made up of tents and villas and a traditional Indian spa. Doubles from $710–$870.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo

    Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Carmelo Uruguay

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    Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo, Uruguay

    20 bungalows, 24 suites, and an Asian-influenced spa on a beach nestled between a eucalyptus forest and the Río de la Plata, all just a 3-hour trip north of Buenos Aires. Doubles from $240–$445.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Singita Sabi Sand

    Photo: Courtesy of Singita Game Reserves

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    Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Three lodges—contemporary Boulders, secluded Castleton, and vintage-colonial Ebony (renovated in 2011)—and an impressive wine program. Doubles from $2,352, all-inclusive.

    Room to Book: Ebony Lodge's Suite 1 has a fireplace, outdoor shower, and the best views of elephants bathing in the Sand River. For more wildlife spotting, there are twice-daily game drives and mountain-bike rides through the bush.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Stephanie Inn Hotel

    Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Inn

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    Stephanie Inn Hotel, Cannon Beach, OR

    Shingled hotel overlooking the famous Haystack Rock; the 41 rooms are equipped with fireplaces, private balconies, Tempur-Pedic beds, and Jacuzzis in the overhauled bathrooms. Doubles from $359, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Kirawira Tented Camp

    Photo: Courtesy of Kirawira Camp Western Serengeti

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    Kirawira Tented Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    Grab a front-row seat to watch the annual wildebeest migration from one of the 25 Victorian-style tented camps on a hill in the western Serengeti. Doubles from $660–$970, including meals.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort

    Photo: Jessica Schwartzberg

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    San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort, Santa Barbara, CA

    41 private cottages and suites renovated to the tune of $100 million in 2009—set on 520 lavender-scented acres. Doubles from $650.

    Room to Book: The Kennedy Cottage—the suite where John and Jackie honeymooned in 1953—has private, vine-covered decks and panoramic ocean views.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

    Photo: Courtesy of Park Hyatt

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    Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

    Two hotels in one—a Belle Époque mansion and a sleek 17-story addition—plus soaking tubs, an on-site art gallery, and a 3,500-label wine cellar. 1661 Avda. Doubles from $430–$630.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Hotel Villa Cipriani

    Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Villa Cipriani

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    Hotel Villa Cipriani, Asolo, Italy

    31-room country escape—the former residence of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning—on a hilltop for the ultimate in privacy. Doubles from $268–$555, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

    Photo: Courtesy of andBeyond

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    andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

    Masai-inspired huts with Victorian touches (Persian carpets; velvet-tufted settees) in 3 camps along the rim of a crater. Doubles from $1,440–$3,000, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole

    Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels

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    Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, WY

    Ski-in, ski-out lodge with fireplaces in every room and a team of adventure concierges. Doubles from $249–$970.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Oberoi Amarvilas

    Photo: Courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

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    Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India

    Moghul-themed 102-room palace mirroring the nearby Taj Mahal—all Moorish archways, intricate pavilions, and fountained courtyards. Doubles from $700–$870.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Royal Malewane

    Photo: Courtesy of Royal Malewane

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    Royal Malewane, Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Eight-suite luxury game lodge on 30,000 acres with old-fashioned activities (hot-air-balloon rides; horseback safaris) and a 3-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio. Doubles from $2,846, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club

    Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

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    Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, Kenya

    Stylishly updated 1950’s-era hunting lodge on 100 acres in the Mount Kenya foothills. Doubles from $615–$735, including meals.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

    Photo: Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

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    Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

    135-year-old landmark on the Chao Phraya River with a rich literary history, butler service, and 9 restaurants. Doubles from $400–$488.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Serengeti Migration Camp

    Photo: Courtesy of Serengeti Migration Camp

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    Serengeti Migration Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    20 tents with wraparound porches and attentive service along the Grumeti River, a popular gathering spot for hippos. Doubles from $1,460–$1,560, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Stafford London by Kempinski

    Photo: Courtesy of Stafford Hotel

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    Stafford London by Kempinski

    Refined, recently updated town house behind Green Park with an 8,000-bottle, 17th-century wine cellar and a new rustic restaurant, the Lyttelton. Doubles from $400–$800.

    T+L Tip: The Stafford’s master sommelier, Gino Nardella, leads wine tastings (from $65) of some of the cellar’s best bottles, including a 1961 Château Lafite Rothschild.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp

    Photo: Courtesy of Mombo Camp

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    Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

    Two groups of tents with plunge pools and unshaded decks for prime bird-watching and rhino-spotting, all linked by raised walkways on an Okavango Delta floodplain. Doubles from $3,286–$4,398, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Couples Tower Isle

    Photo: Courtesy of Couples Tower Isle

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    Couples Tower Isle, St. Mary, Jamaica

    The original Couples property is a 226-room, all-inclusive, adults-only resort with an award-winning spa. Doubles from $316–$588.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

    Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

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    Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, HI

    String of 2-story bungalows built upon ancient lava rock. Its updated Hualalai Spa now has 10 outdoor treatment rooms. Doubles from $635–$1,295.

    Behind the Scenes: Though it has taken top honors in Hawaii for 2 years running, a jump in the hotel’s value score—thanks to new deals such as 50 percent off your second room—is one reason that it nabbed the top spot in 2012.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Ritz-Carlton, Beijing Financial Street

    Photo: The Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street

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    Ritz-Carlton, Beijing Financial Street

    Stunning spaces in a glass-and-chrome skyscraper follow feng shui principles (glass animal  sculptures near doorways; elaborate fountains surrounding the hotel). A location in the Financial District is convenient for business travelers. Doubles from $295–$515.

    Behind the Scenes: Thanks to its unique design, readers gave this property one of the top 5 scores for interiors in Asia—and the highest in China. The jawdropping lobby has paintings by famous local artists (Bo Yun; Shan Fan) and is festooned with 60,000 resin bamboo leaves to represent prosperity.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Turnberry Resort

    Photo: Courtesy of Starwood Hotels

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    Turnberry Resort, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Turnberry, Scotland

    150 rooms (40 recently updated) in a massive estate on a rocky coastal bluff; 2 championship golf courses and a 19th-century lighthouse overlook the bucolic scene. Doubles from $220–$399.

    Room to Book: One of the 4 suites named after the legendary golf course’s Open Championship winners: Watson, Norman, Price, and Cink. Each has unique design touches, and all face the craggy Alisa Craig island.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Olissippo Lapa Palace

    Photo: Courtesy of Lapa Palace

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    Olissippo Lapa Palace, Lisbon, Portugal

    Hilltop hotel—formerly a 19th-century private villa—surrounded by gardens in the embassy district. Doubles from $510–$590, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Plaza Athenee

    Photo: Courtesy of The Dorchester Collection

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    Plaza Athénée, Paris, France

    A Haussmann-era Dorchester Collection hotel—fresh from a 2011 renovation that added high-tech touches—home to a Michelin 3-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant, 35,000-bottle wine cellar, and Eiffel Tower views. Doubles from $1,040–$1,245.

    Room to Book: Light sleepers in search of seclusion will prefer a room facing the ivy-covered interior courtyard. For more streamlined furnishings, request an Art Deco room on the 7th or 8th floor.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Le Quartier Francais (Franschhoek)

    Photo: Courtesy of Le Quartier Francais

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    Le Quartier Francais (Franschhoek), Western Cape, South Africa

    21 whimsical suites and a Cape Village–style cottage; notable South African chef Margot Janse oversees both on-site restaurants. Doubles from $367–$494.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

    Photo: Courtesy of Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

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    Sofitel Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam

    The city’s old-world hideaway. A $20 million redo added a 7-story tower, a spa, and Angelina restaurant; rooms in the original wing maintain a traditional feel. Doubles from $225–$265.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Singita Kruger National Park

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    Singita Kruger National Park (Lebombo Lodge, Sweni Lodge), South Africa

    Two lodges (1 raised) with fashionable interiors by African designers, in the Lebombo Mountain range. Doubles from $3,115, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Peninsula Bangkok

    Photo: Courtesy of Peninsula, Bangkok

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    Peninsula Bangkok

    37-story tower with 370 rooms, a 3-story spa, and top dining, at the river’s edge in Thonburi; complimentary water taxis shuttle guests to the Skytrain. Doubles from $452.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel Peru

    Photo: Courtesy of Inkaterra Machu Picchu

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    Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru

    A 12-acre retreat (85 terra-cotta-roofed casitas; plunge pools; an orchid garden) among waterfalls in the cloud forest below Machu Picchu. Doubles from $996, including breakfast, dinner, and excursions.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Taj Lake Palace

    Photo: Courtesy of Taj Lake Palace

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    Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India

    Centuries-old white-marble palace (intricate silks; frescoed arches) rising from a jagged rock formation in Lake Pichola. Doubles from $749, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Londolozi Private Game Reserve Kruger

    Photo: Courtesy of Londolozi Private Game Reserve

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    Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Five family-run lodges on 42,000 wilderness acres known for leopard sightings. Doubles from $1,588, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

    Photo: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

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    Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

    178 spacious guest rooms—some of the largest in the city—on select floors of a 38-story skyscraper that towers over the Nihonbashi business district. Doubles from $506–$915.

    T+L Tip: For a taste of Tokyo, the hotel will arrange a guided tour of the vibrant Tsukiji Fish Market followed by authentic sushi-making lessons from a local chef ($494 per person).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: One&Only Palmilla

    Photo: Courtesy of One&Only Resorts

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    One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos

    172-room resort with a boutique-hotel sensibility, 2 restaurants by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and superb butler service, on a private beach dotted with shaded daybeds. Doubles from $585–$740.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

    Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons, Chiang Mai

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    Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

    Tranquil refuge on terraced rice paddies outside the northern Thai city, with haute-rustic rooms set in teak pavilions and pool houses. Cooking classes are well-regarded. Doubles from $585–$650.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

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  • Little Palm Island Resort & Spa (Little Tourch Key) in the Florida Keys.

    Miles of hiking trails in Big Sky Country? Check. Outdoor spa treatments? Check! Montana may be the Wild West, but it stakes a claim to one of the world’s finest hotels. At Triple Creek Ranch, rated No. 6, the log cabins are rustic-chic, the cellar stores 2,000 wine bottles, and soaking in a hot tub is the perfect antidote to a day out snowshoeing.

    Every year T+L readers vote on thousands of hotels based on rooms, location, service, food, and value. In 2012, the 10th anniversary of the T+L 500, the winners are a mix of remote escapes and city hotels—and a record 133 have rates that start as low as $250 a night. The highest-ranking hotel for value is Four Seasons Carmelo, Uruguay, whose suites and bungalows are strung along the beach between a eucalyptus forest and the Rio de la Plata. It’s an easy trip from Buenos Aires, a city with four T+L 500 winners.

    The number of high-scoring hotels in Africa also increased this year, with nine hotels in the top 25 and 45 properties overall. Singita Grumeti Reserves, on a spectacular wide plateau in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, ranked No. 1, thanks partially to the recent launch of a mobile safari experience in the 340,000-acre concession.

    California, a perennial favorite, has the largest percentage of T+L 500 hotels in the U.S., with 37 winners. But one romantic escape in Florida ranked higher than the Sunshine State’s best properties: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, a secluded private island retreat on Little Torch Key. It wins over guests with special touches like the Sandbar Session concerts and private picnics on nearby deserted islands.

    What else is new this year? We’re sharing insider tips and advice on which specific hotel rooms to book. At No. 5–ranked Oberoi Udaivilas, in India, for instance, nine lakeside rooms face the nature conservancy, treating in-the-know guests to views of peacocks, deer, and wild boar.

    Read on to see all the hotels that made it into this year’s top 25. —Sarah Spagnolo

  • world's top hotels: Singita Grumeti Reserves

    Singita Grumeti Reserves, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    Africa’s most luxurious mobile-safari experience is the latest addition to this 340,000-acre Serengeti concession with 4 separate camps. Doubles from $1,700–$2,300, all-inclusive.

    Behind the Scenes: What does a perfect location score look like? A manor house on a wide plateau; a tented camp with views of the Serengeti; 8 suites and 1 villa overlooking the rhino-filled Grumeti River; and a mobile safari that traverses it all.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Ol Donyo Lodge

    Ol Donyo Lodge, Mbirikani Group Ranch, Kenya

    10 suites with savanna-side infinity pools, outdoor showers, and rooftop sleeping areas for nighttime views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Doubles from $840, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Oberoi Udaivilas

    Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India

    A 30-acre Mewari-style palace on the banks of Lake Pichola, complete with private motorboats, a traditional Kashmiri gondola, and sprawling courtyards rimmed by reflecting pools. Doubles from $700–$870.

    Room to Book: All 19 Premiere Lake rooms have private pools and terraces, but the 9 that face the nature conservatory offer wildlife spotting (peacocks; deer; wild boar) as well as views of the marble palaces of mainland Udaipur.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Triple Creek Ranch

    Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT

    Adults-only mountain retreat on thousands of acres, with plush log cabins (wood-burning fireplaces; hot tubs), a 2,000-plus-bottle wine cellar, a chef’s table, and a rotating collection of original art. Doubles from $750–$950, including meals.

    T+L Tip: Don’t miss a snowshoe excursion across the Chief Joseph Pass—first explored by Lewis and Clark in 1805—or the chocolate chip cookies served by cowboy-booted staffers on your return.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Lodge at Kauri Cliffs

    Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand

    North Island cliffside lodge, golf course, and top spa on 6,000 acres with waterfalls and private beaches. Doubles from $1,140–$1,485, including breakfast and dinner.

    T+L Tip: Ask the Kauri Cliffs team to pack a picnic (soba noodles; smoked-salmon sandwiches) before heading to Pink Beach, one of Kauri Cliffs’ private coves; in summer, barbecue dinners are served on the sand.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Posada de Mike Rapu / Explora Rapa Nui

    Posada de Mike Rapu / Explora Rapa Nui, Easter Island, Chile

    2007 local wood, stone, and glass LEED-certified lodge 2,300 miles off Chile’s coast; excursions include guided visits to the moai stone quarries and treks to nearby volcanoes. Doubles from $1,590, all-inclusive, 3-night minimum.

    T+L Tip: Unwind in the Posada’s new Ancestral Sauna, a traditional Rapa Nui–style hothouse warmed by an aromatic open fire of eucalyptus branches (treatments from $50).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: La Residence Phou Vao

    La Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos

    French-colonial, all-suite wellness retreat on a frangipani-dotted hill above Luang Prabang; the first Laotian property to use only local ingredients for traditional spa treatments. Doubles from $500.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Hotel Caruso

    Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy

    11th-century palace with an infinity pool, terraced gardens, and classic-celebrity cachet (Jackie Kennedy; Humphrey Bogart). Doubles from $850–$1,073.

    Behind the Scenes: An excellent score for location is a given, as the property is perched 1,000 feet above the Mediterranean; to tour the nearby harbors, hop aboard the hotel’s 52-foot boat Ercole (trips from $615).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

    Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Little Torch Key, FL

    Florida’s most secluded and romantic retreat: a West Indies–style idyll set along a white-sand beach on a 6-acre island accessible only by boat or seaplane, which will also take you to a smaller island for a picnic. Suites from $790–$1,590.

    T+L Tip: Arrive when the resort is hosting one of its Sandbar Session concerts, which bring well-known musicians to the hotel’s beach. Previous headliners? Stephen Marley and the Indigo Girls.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Blackberry Farm

    Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

    The ne plus ultra of rural luxury, with renowned cuisine, set on a farm in the Great Smoky Mountains. Doubles from $795–$1,095, including meals.

    Behind the Scenes: On-site experts—master gardener John Coykendall; visiting chefs Thomas Keller and David Chang—translated to high scores for service; guests leave armed with tips for creating Southern dishes at home.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Stein Eriksen Lodge

    Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, UT

    Timeless Norwegian-style mid-mountain chalet at Deer Valley ski resort, committed to raising $100,000 for cancer research through philanthropic programs. Doubles from $250–$839, including breakfast.

    T+L Tip: Make a dinner reservation at least 3 days in advance for Muscovy duck breast and s’mores for dessert at the hotel’s Glitretind restaurant. Be sure to try the lodge’s exclusive Chardonnay cuvee wine, launched in 2011.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa Bora Bora

    InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa Bora Bora, French Polynesia

    The ultimate fantasy: 80 Polynesian-style villas perched above the Motu Piti Aau coral reef. Doubles from $1,079–$1,755.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Hotel Splendido

    Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Italy

    A flower-filled hillside villa (a monastery in the 14th and 15th centuries) with views of the bay. Doubles from $1,373–$1,607, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi

    Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    A miniature Thai kingdom with 123 Lanna-inspired suites and villas on 60 acres that’s the setting for a Buddhist prayer site, a 33,000-square-foot spa, and an arts-and-crafts village. Doubles from $509–$729.

    Behind the Scenes: More than 500 solicitous staffers create this exotic wonderland, which received a perfect score for service; opt for tutorials in classic dance and northern Thai cuisine.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Peninsula Chicago

    Peninsula Chicago

    Sleek, 20-story state-of-the-art hotel with 3 restaurants, including Shanghai Terrace and the Lobby—and a 15,000-square-foot Espa in the heart of the Magnificent Mile shopping district. Doubles from $395–$525.

    Room to Book: The Grand Deluxe suites have the best views in the hotel—they all overlook Water Tower Park—and were just updated with Art Deco–inspired accents (lacquer tables; brocade-covered chairs).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

    Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis

    Unpretentious 36-room wicker-and-wood inn and 1778 great house on 30 acres; the Caribbean’s only historic plantation inn on the beach. Doubles from $391–$670, including breakfast, tea, and dinner.

    Behind the Scenes: Three on-site restaurants (the Great House, Coconuts, and Sea Breeze) and attentive service have made this Caribbean hotel a winner for 2 years running.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Eliot Hotel

    Eliot Hotel, Boston

    Neo-Georgian gem in historic Back Bay that’s been family-owned for 70 years. Bathrooms are being updated with Bardiglio Italian marble. Doubles from $275–$545.

    Behind the Scenes: Its scores for service surged this year thanks to family-friendly perks: kids stay for free; toddlers get rubber ducks in the bathtub; pets are greeted with food and water bowls.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Oberoi Rajvilas

    Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India

    Channel your inner maharajah at this majestic 32-acre countryside resort made up of tents and villas and a traditional Indian spa. Doubles from $710–$870.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo

    Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo, Uruguay

    20 bungalows, 24 suites, and an Asian-influenced spa on a beach nestled between a eucalyptus forest and the Río de la Plata, all just a 3-hour trip north of Buenos Aires. Doubles from $240–$445.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Singita Sabi Sand

    Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Three lodges—contemporary Boulders, secluded Castleton, and vintage-colonial Ebony (renovated in 2011)—and an impressive wine program. Doubles from $2,352, all-inclusive.

    Room to Book: Ebony Lodge's Suite 1 has a fireplace, outdoor shower, and the best views of elephants bathing in the Sand River. For more wildlife spotting, there are twice-daily game drives and mountain-bike rides through the bush.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Stephanie Inn Hotel

    Stephanie Inn Hotel, Cannon Beach, OR

    Shingled hotel overlooking the famous Haystack Rock; the 41 rooms are equipped with fireplaces, private balconies, Tempur-Pedic beds, and Jacuzzis in the overhauled bathrooms. Doubles from $359, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Kirawira Tented Camp

    Kirawira Tented Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    Grab a front-row seat to watch the annual wildebeest migration from one of the 25 Victorian-style tented camps on a hill in the western Serengeti. Doubles from $660–$970, including meals.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort

    San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort, Santa Barbara, CA

    41 private cottages and suites renovated to the tune of $100 million in 2009—set on 520 lavender-scented acres. Doubles from $650.

    Room to Book: The Kennedy Cottage—the suite where John and Jackie honeymooned in 1953—has private, vine-covered decks and panoramic ocean views.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

    Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

    Two hotels in one—a Belle Époque mansion and a sleek 17-story addition—plus soaking tubs, an on-site art gallery, and a 3,500-label wine cellar. 1661 Avda. Doubles from $430–$630.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Hotel Villa Cipriani

    Hotel Villa Cipriani, Asolo, Italy

    31-room country escape—the former residence of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning—on a hilltop for the ultimate in privacy. Doubles from $268–$555, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

    andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

    Masai-inspired huts with Victorian touches (Persian carpets; velvet-tufted settees) in 3 camps along the rim of a crater. Doubles from $1,440–$3,000, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole

    Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, WY

    Ski-in, ski-out lodge with fireplaces in every room and a team of adventure concierges. Doubles from $249–$970.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Oberoi Amarvilas

    Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India

    Moghul-themed 102-room palace mirroring the nearby Taj Mahal—all Moorish archways, intricate pavilions, and fountained courtyards. Doubles from $700–$870.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Royal Malewane

    Royal Malewane, Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Eight-suite luxury game lodge on 30,000 acres with old-fashioned activities (hot-air-balloon rides; horseback safaris) and a 3-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio. Doubles from $2,846, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club

    Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, Kenya

    Stylishly updated 1950’s-era hunting lodge on 100 acres in the Mount Kenya foothills. Doubles from $615–$735, including meals.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

    Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

    135-year-old landmark on the Chao Phraya River with a rich literary history, butler service, and 9 restaurants. Doubles from $400–$488.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Serengeti Migration Camp

    Serengeti Migration Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    20 tents with wraparound porches and attentive service along the Grumeti River, a popular gathering spot for hippos. Doubles from $1,460–$1,560, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Stafford London by Kempinski

    Stafford London by Kempinski

    Refined, recently updated town house behind Green Park with an 8,000-bottle, 17th-century wine cellar and a new rustic restaurant, the Lyttelton. Doubles from $400–$800.

    T+L Tip: The Stafford’s master sommelier, Gino Nardella, leads wine tastings (from $65) of some of the cellar’s best bottles, including a 1961 Château Lafite Rothschild.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp

    Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

    Two groups of tents with plunge pools and unshaded decks for prime bird-watching and rhino-spotting, all linked by raised walkways on an Okavango Delta floodplain. Doubles from $3,286–$4,398, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Couples Tower Isle

    Couples Tower Isle, St. Mary, Jamaica

    The original Couples property is a 226-room, all-inclusive, adults-only resort with an award-winning spa. Doubles from $316–$588.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

    Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, HI

    String of 2-story bungalows built upon ancient lava rock. Its updated Hualalai Spa now has 10 outdoor treatment rooms. Doubles from $635–$1,295.

    Behind the Scenes: Though it has taken top honors in Hawaii for 2 years running, a jump in the hotel’s value score—thanks to new deals such as 50 percent off your second room—is one reason that it nabbed the top spot in 2012.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Ritz-Carlton, Beijing Financial Street

    Ritz-Carlton, Beijing Financial Street

    Stunning spaces in a glass-and-chrome skyscraper follow feng shui principles (glass animal  sculptures near doorways; elaborate fountains surrounding the hotel). A location in the Financial District is convenient for business travelers. Doubles from $295–$515.

    Behind the Scenes: Thanks to its unique design, readers gave this property one of the top 5 scores for interiors in Asia—and the highest in China. The jawdropping lobby has paintings by famous local artists (Bo Yun; Shan Fan) and is festooned with 60,000 resin bamboo leaves to represent prosperity.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Turnberry Resort

    Turnberry Resort, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Turnberry, Scotland

    150 rooms (40 recently updated) in a massive estate on a rocky coastal bluff; 2 championship golf courses and a 19th-century lighthouse overlook the bucolic scene. Doubles from $220–$399.

    Room to Book: One of the 4 suites named after the legendary golf course’s Open Championship winners: Watson, Norman, Price, and Cink. Each has unique design touches, and all face the craggy Alisa Craig island.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Olissippo Lapa Palace

    Olissippo Lapa Palace, Lisbon, Portugal

    Hilltop hotel—formerly a 19th-century private villa—surrounded by gardens in the embassy district. Doubles from $510–$590, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Plaza Athenee

    Plaza Athénée, Paris, France

    A Haussmann-era Dorchester Collection hotel—fresh from a 2011 renovation that added high-tech touches—home to a Michelin 3-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant, 35,000-bottle wine cellar, and Eiffel Tower views. Doubles from $1,040–$1,245.

    Room to Book: Light sleepers in search of seclusion will prefer a room facing the ivy-covered interior courtyard. For more streamlined furnishings, request an Art Deco room on the 7th or 8th floor.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Le Quartier Francais (Franschhoek)

    Le Quartier Francais (Franschhoek), Western Cape, South Africa

    21 whimsical suites and a Cape Village–style cottage; notable South African chef Margot Janse oversees both on-site restaurants. Doubles from $367–$494.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

    Sofitel Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam

    The city’s old-world hideaway. A $20 million redo added a 7-story tower, a spa, and Angelina restaurant; rooms in the original wing maintain a traditional feel. Doubles from $225–$265.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Singita Kruger National Park

    Singita Kruger National Park (Lebombo Lodge, Sweni Lodge), South Africa

    Two lodges (1 raised) with fashionable interiors by African designers, in the Lebombo Mountain range. Doubles from $3,115, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Peninsula Bangkok

    Peninsula Bangkok

    37-story tower with 370 rooms, a 3-story spa, and top dining, at the river’s edge in Thonburi; complimentary water taxis shuttle guests to the Skytrain. Doubles from $452.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel Peru

    Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru

    A 12-acre retreat (85 terra-cotta-roofed casitas; plunge pools; an orchid garden) among waterfalls in the cloud forest below Machu Picchu. Doubles from $996, including breakfast, dinner, and excursions.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Taj Lake Palace

    Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India

    Centuries-old white-marble palace (intricate silks; frescoed arches) rising from a jagged rock formation in Lake Pichola. Doubles from $749, including breakfast.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Londolozi Private Game Reserve Kruger

    Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Five family-run lodges on 42,000 wilderness acres known for leopard sightings. Doubles from $1,588, all-inclusive.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

    Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

    178 spacious guest rooms—some of the largest in the city—on select floors of a 38-story skyscraper that towers over the Nihonbashi business district. Doubles from $506–$915.

    T+L Tip: For a taste of Tokyo, the hotel will arrange a guided tour of the vibrant Tsukiji Fish Market followed by authentic sushi-making lessons from a local chef ($494 per person).

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: One&Only Palmilla

    One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos

    172-room resort with a boutique-hotel sensibility, 2 restaurants by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and superb butler service, on a private beach dotted with shaded daybeds. Doubles from $585–$740.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

  • world's top hotels: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

    Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

    Tranquil refuge on terraced rice paddies outside the northern Thai city, with haute-rustic rooms set in teak pavilions and pool houses. Cooking classes are well-regarded. Doubles from $585–$650.

    See the full list of the T+L 500.

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