World's Best Hotels 2013
Picture a cypress-lined road in Tuscany. Now picture yourself arriving at a 10th-century former castle on more than 4,000 acres of rolling hills. Welcome to Castello di Casole, a new 41-suite hotel that already ranks as No. 2 in the world.
We asked our readers to vote in the 18th annual World’s Best Awards for properties like Castello di Casole that have won them over—weighing in on categories such as rooms, location, service, food, and value. The resulting list is not only a go-to hotel resource for planning your next trip, but also reveals the destinations that are important now.
Related: Best Places to Travel in 2014
One of the most exciting trends is the desire to get off the grid. For the first time this year, Four Seasons Resort Bora-Bora and the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand (tied at No. 5) debuted among the top 10 hotels overall for their respective regions. And T+L readers crowned a new No. 1 hotel: Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp in Botswana.
Luckily, there are plenty of amazing places to stay closer to home. U.S. properties represent nearly 20 percent of the top 50 list, from Triple Creek Ranch (No. 13), with 23 intimate cabins with wood-burning fireplaces in western Montana to Elizabeth Pointe Lodge (No. 25) on Amelia Island, FL, with its turn-of-the-century-inspired décor and enormous marble soaking tubs.
Whether you’re ready for a nature retreat or eager to pound the pavement of Hong Kong, Berlin, or Beverly Hills, there’s a property for you among the World’s Best Hotel winners. Read on, and let the daydreaming begin.
No. 1 Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Mombo Camp’s nine tents blend flawlessly into the open plain of the Okavango Delta while retaining a luxurious feel. Private balconies make for prime bird watching, and each tent features mosquito netting on four-poster beds and both indoor and outdoor showers. Tent No. 1, the farthest from the dining area, is the most tranquil. Offering even more privacy are Little Mombo Camp’s three guest rooms, which are set apart and feature a private plunge pool. Raised walkways connect tents and allow rhinos, elephants, and other animals to wander freely through the camp. Relax with a post-game drive cocktail in Little Mombo’s treehouse-luxe library.
No. 2 Castello di Casole—A Timbers Resort, Casole d’Elsa, Italy
A cypress-lined road leads to the rolling 4,200-acre Tuscan estate, whose castle dates back to the 10th century. The 41 rustic suites incorporate oil paintings and reclaimed terra cotta, while Essere Spa, originally the estate’s wine cellar, features seven treatment rooms and massages incorporating orange and basil essential oils.
No. 3 Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa
Two lavish lodges with treetop suites and riverside rooms make up this Singita property. The glass-walled Lebombo Lodge overlooks the plains and the Lebombo Mountain Range, while the Sweni Lodge is nestled among trees along the Sweni River. Join the twice-daily game drives and request a guided walk along the Mozambique border for a good chance of sighting of zebras, giraffes, and impalas.
No. 4 Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Travelers flock to this lush region for wildlife spotting, white-water rafting, and kayaking on Lake Arenal. Among the dozens of area properties, T+L readers are partial to the Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens. Dynamic owner Leo Ghitis has outfitted the 50 villas with spacious decks (some have hot tubs), plantation furniture, and avocado-colored walls. Nostalgia wine bar serves some of Latin America’s best vintages by the glass.
No. 5 Four Seasons Resort Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
Overwater bungalows are the most enticing lodging option at this Four Seasons, yet it counts 107 different rooms scattered along the beachside and lagoon of its private motu (small islet). Walls are made of volcanic stone, and thatched-roofed spaces are decorated with teak and merbau-timber furnishings. All have extraordinary views over the turquoise-blue, coral-filled South Pacific—and some offer glimpses of the majestic black-rock peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia.
No. 5 The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand
The 22-suite Lodge at Kauri Cliffs rests on 6,000 acres of picture-perfect rolling North Island countryside. While golf is the main draw, there are also two tennis courts, an infinity pool, and three secluded swimming beaches. The spa, regarded as one of the best in New Zealand, is in a native totara rainforest with indoor and outdoor fireplaces for chilly Kiwi days. Book the Owner’s Cottage for 4,200 square feet of space, two bedrooms and golf course views.
No. 5 Ritz-Carlton, Berlin
The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin occupies a soaring Art Deco-inspired skyscraper near the Potsdamer Platz. Designed by Peter Silling, the 303 guest rooms—including 40 suites—are decorated with original Markus Luepertz watercolor paintings and plush fabrics in rich tones of gold, blue, and red. Dine on French cuisine at Brasserie Desbrosses, then head to the Curtain Club for premium cocktails.
No. 8 Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India
Designed in Mewari style, the Oberoi Udaivilas sits gracefully on its own 50-acre island near Udaipur. Check-in starts with a private boat ride past palaces on Lake Pichola, and a personal butler escorts guests to one of the 87 rooms and suites. While all 19 Premiere Rooms have private pools and terraces, the nine that face the hotel’s 40-acre plus nature preserve offer wildlife spotting (peacocks; deer; wild boar) as well as views of the marble palaces of mainland Udaipur.
No. 9 Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park Area, South Africa
At Bush Lodge, the flagship of Sabi Sabi's collection, courtyards surround sculptures created from uprooted trees and salvaged wood. The 25 thatched suites are decorated in earthy color schemes of cinnamon, cream, and sienna. Twice-daily game drives, firelight boma dinners, and spa treatments using marula tree, African potato, and aloe vera extracts keep parents occupied, while kids can enroll in the EleFun Centre, offering conservation activities and outdoor fun.
No. 10 Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park Area, South Africa
Boulders Lodge is high-style rustic built into the landscape, while Ebony Lodge has a vintage safari feel. Private outdoor showers and well-stocked wine cellars come standard, while photography-focused safaris and cultural outings to a nearby village let you appreciate Kruger’s landscape and the local community. Book Ebony Lodge's Suite 1 for the best views of elephants bathing in the Sand River.
No. 11 Discovery Shores Boracay, Philippines
Set on a 2 ½-mile stretch known for having the world’s softest sand, the 88 suites at this resort feature large glass walls that look towards a scenic rock garden. Take a dip in the pool, or Jet Ski on the Sibuyan Sea. For people watching, head to the Sandbar, where bartenders stir up lychee- and mango-infused mojitos, then sing your heart out with the recreation lounge’s selection of 1,000+ (mostly English-language) karaoke tunes.
No. 12 Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
The Four Seasons had this 1906 Art Nouveau landmark restored into one of its grandest properties. As a result, the lobby features stained-glass windows, a soaring glass cupola, and a custom-designed chandelier made of hundreds of hand-shaped crystal leaves. Of the 179 rooms, book one facing the Danube River or, for true solace, request a room in the inner courtyard. Visit during summer to check out the nearby Festival of Folk Arts at Buda Castle, with handcrafted works from all over Hungary.
No. 13 Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT
Triple Creek Ranch is a service-driven, adults-only property located in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. The 600-acre landscape has 23 plush log cabins, each outfitted with cozy touches like wood-burning fireplaces, hot tubs, and locally woven woolens. Itineraries are tailored to guests’ interests and can include dinners at the chef’s table, wine tastings, and helicopter tours.
No. 14 Jade Mountain St. Lucia
Located at the highest point of the island, Jade Mountain wraps around a hillside, its exterior all curves and rough stone. Inside, each of the 29 Nick Troubetzkoy–designed suites features 15-foot ceilings, loft-like architecture, and an infinity pool or Jacuzzi. Suites have only three walls, offering open-air, panoramic views. Strap on your hiking boots for a 5-hour guided trek through St. Lucia’s Piton Mountains.
No. 14 Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India
It took 15 years to construct this 347-room hotel, designed by renowned Edwardian architect, Henry Lanchester. Guests can browse through antiques from Jodhpur's royal past (105-foot cupola; Silver Ghost Rolls Royce) while sipping flutes of bubbly as part of the daily Champagne Museum Walk. Standard Palace rooms feature Art Deco furnishings and a private bar, while suites are flourished with chrome flaming torches and Ruhlmann sofas.
No. 16 The Lodge Sea Island, GA
The perks of staying at this genteel lodge just off southeastern Georgia’s Atlantic coast include country-style rooms and access to a legendary golf course—complete with a roaming bagpiper come evening. Suites and living rooms are more than 1,000 square feet, with water or golf course views, plus 24-hour butler service. For serious relaxation, guests can access the 65,000-square-foot spa at the lodge’s sister property, The Cloister.
No. 17 Post Hotel & Spa, Lake Louise, Alberta
The five riverside cabins at this family-owned chalet-style lodge are sought after for their privacy—and often booked a year in advance. A hike to the top of 11,600-foot Mount Temple, delivers spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies. Reward yourself back at the hotel’s 26,000-bottle wine cellar—one of the largest in Canada.
No. 18 The Peninsula Hong Kong
A fleet of 14 Rolls-Royce limousines is the first indication of the Peninsula’s glamour factor. Tucked-away elevators whisk guests to the 297 rooms and suites, including renovated Tower rooms gleaming with burl-wood cabinetry, vintage-inspired hardware, and cream-toned upholstery. Electronic panels control the rooms’ lighting, window treatments, and music and video selection, but we suggest keeping the shades up—you won’t want to miss the heart-stopping views of Victoria Harbour and towering buildings of Hong Kong Island.
No. 19 Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India
Channel your inner Maharaja at this majestic but modern 32-acre resort. Standard rooms have four-poster beds and sunken marble baths, while air-conditioned luxury tents are laden with Burmese teakwood floors and claw-footed tubs. Come evening, head to the Indian specialty restaurant Rajmahal for traditional tandoori skewers and feast your eyes on gold leaf frescoes. At the hotel’s spa, treatments highlight indigenous rituals and specialty baths using rose water, milk and marigolds.
No. 20 Cavas Wine Lodge, Mendoza, Argentina
In the midst of a working vineyard accessible only by a dirt road, Cavas Wine Lodge presents the striking contrast of contemporary casitas. Walls are rounded like mushrooms, and provocative art fills the public spaces. Dine alfresco at the hotel’s restaurant, whose menu—which has included 24-hours-cooked lamb and goat cheese and grilled vegetable ravioli—changes every three months. Pair your meal with one of 250 Argentinean wines from the expansive cellar.
No. 21 Anse Chastanet Resort St. Lucia
Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy designed this 49-open-air-room resort along Soufrière’s tropical hillside, above a volcanic sand beach. Within each eco-friendly Sanctuary suite—some with the fourth wall removed—warm trade winds obviate the need for air-conditioning, just as panoramic Piton views make it clear why TVs were never installed. And some of St. Lucia’s top underwater sites are just a few fin kicks (or a short boat ride) from the water’s edge.
No. 22 Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis
With no casinos, stoplights, or buildings taller than a coconut palm, 30-acre Nevis Island is the epitome of a Caribbean escape. The former 18th-century sugar plantation sits directly on a white-sand beach, and lemon-hued cottages with traditional Nevisian white pyramid roofs dot the palm-fringed property (book one of the six Lower Deluxe Junior suites for ocean views). Body wrap treatments at The Palms Spa utilize locally grown fruit and honey.
No. 23 The Cloister Sea Island, GA
Long a favorite of the East Coast Establishment, this 1928 Mediterranean-style mansion is on 1,000 acres of a barrier island south of Savannah. Beach Club Suites come with kitchens, fireplaces, balconies, and easy access to three pools, an ice cream parlor, a movie theater, and a children's center. Hop on the Cloister Belle, a restored antique yacht, for a 90-minute tour of the salt marsh to see oyster beds and live shrimp.
No. 24 Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Highlands, NC
This historic 1878 stone-and-brick resort has an enviable location amid the Blue Ridge Mountains. After a welcoming champagne toast, guests make their way to one of 80 plush rooms—22 of which just opened in July 2013—furnished with antiques and Italian linens. The 25,000-square-foot spa features a solarium, fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the countryside. Guests also enjoy access to the Old Edwards Club, a Tom Jackson–designed golf course and handsome clubhouse.
No. 25 Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, Amelia Island, FL
Off the coast of Florida, the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge channels a Nantucket vibe. The 20-room Main House fans out into beach grass-tufted sand dunes; the four mini-suites of the Ocean House are Caribbean-inspired with teak chairs, floral linens, and private decks; and the Miller Cottage is built for families with two bedrooms and a patio. Wind down after a full day with a glass of complimentary wine at sunset.
No. 26 Cape Grace, Cape Town
A movable pedestrian bascule bridge provides access from Cape Town’s bustling waterfront to this quiet, mansard-roofed hotel on its own private quay. Sumptuous interiors include dark-wood antiques and blue-and-white Dutch pottery. The 120 large and luxurious rooms, many with striped wallpaper and botanical prints, contain artisanal pieces like forged iron lamps and whimsical chandeliers. Fourth-floor Rooftop Terrace rooms and penthouse suites come with views of Table Mountain.
No. 27 La Résidence Phou Vao Luang Prabang, Laos
Positioned in the hills above the former royal capital of Luang Prabang, this French-colonial-style property is a charming wellness escape. The Mekong Spa relies solely on local, organic ingredients for its traditional Laotian herbal therapies, from the ambitiously titled Jet Lag Delight to the gentler Seven Flowers Royal Treatment. Guest suites contain rosewood furniture and Laotian cotton sofas, and are surrounded by fragrant frangipani.
No. 28 The Peninsula Beverly Hills, CA
The Peninsula Beverly Hills offers a 6,000-square-foot rooftop garden, complete with palm trees, wisteria, and jasmine, where guests can dine alfresco and sip cocktails under the stars. Designed by James Northcutt, the property prides itself on extraordinary service. Check-in starts at the airport, where a Peninsula concierge will retrieve your luggage, lead you to a car idling at the curb, and present you with a room service menu on your way to the hotel.
No. 29 Taj Lake Palace Udaipur, India
Rising from a rock foundation on its own island in Lake Pichola, this 263-year-old white marble palace offers water views from every one of its 66 rooms and 17 suites. Décor is nothing less than opulent, with glistening mosaics, rich silks, and colored frescoes gracing the classic interiors. For a day trip into the city of Udaipur, hire one of the hotel’s vintage cars with a personal butler included.
No. 30 Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, British Columbia
Located on a remote, pine forest–ringed promontory, this 75-room inn is best enjoyed during stormy weather. Inside, duvet-covered beds and deep soaking tubs rest beside floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the churning ocean and rain-lashed coast. This is one of the world’s top storm-watching destinations; don a slicker for a walk on Chesterman Beach, or snuggle up by the fireplace with a Pacific Northwest Pinot Noir and the binoculars provided in each room.
No. 31 Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Many of the 393 rooms in this 1876 hotel have floor-to-ceiling windows, with views of the Chao Phraya River. Take your pick among nine restaurants—including the 1930’s-inspired China House for dim sum. Guests can attend a cooking school, catch a ferry across the water to the hotel’s spa, or troll the lobby for celebrity sightings. Afterhours, wander into the Bamboo Bar for perfectly mixed cocktails like the Singapore Sling.
No. 32 Rosewood Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Located where the creamy white beach meets the jungle, Rosewood Mayakoba resort sits before the second largest coral reef in the world. All 128 suites feature private plunge pools; some also have patios with Yucatán limestone showers and sunken soaking tubs in gardens. The fetching spa is on a private island, and guests can test their swing at a championship 18-hole Greg Norman golf course. And we almost forgot to mention: private butlers cater to every your whim.
No. 33 Stafford London by Kempinski
With three distinct buildings, this refined property offers something for everyone: tastefully appointed rooms with a traditional décor in the main house; country flair in the Carriage House rooms; and sprawling modern suites at Stafford Mews. Lyttelton restaurant focuses on hearty British cooking, while the American bar displays more than 3,000 memorabilia items (photographs, airplane models). Despite the name, the in-house wine cellar specializes in Burgundy and Bordeaux.
No. 34 andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Each of these tented camps displays rustic furnishings along with elegant safari touches like canvas fabrics and flagstone flooring. Days are filled with wildlife sightings—giraffes, lions, hippos during game drives—as well as cultural activities like a visit to local Maasai villages. Wind down with dinner around the open hearth or a dip in the freshwater pool.
No. 35 Amansara Siem Reap, Cambodia
Within a garden compound 10 minutes from the Angkor Wat temples, this former guesthouse for Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk treats its visitors like royalty—the staff-to-guest ratio is about four to one. Half of the 24 stucco and timber suites surround a lush central courtyard; the other dozen feature private plunge pools. Our favorite amenity: guests coming back from the temples will find a personally drawn bath with floating lotus flowers.
No. 35 Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
Rooms at this Mandarin Oriental property are tech-friendly, with Wi-Fi and touch-screen lighting and temperature control, and are adorned with plush velvety fabrics, wood wall panels, and colorfully glazed Asian ceramics. Though the three-floor spa features Chinese herbal steam rooms, guests may be perfectly content to lounge in their own airy marble bathrooms, kitted out with Hermès toiletries. Of the 10 restaurants, try Man Wah for its classic Cantonese cuisine.