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