In this portfolio of genre-defying luxury hotels and resorts from South Africa to St. Barths, we salute passion projects, many of which have quickly become icons, shining examples of what in hospitality it is possible to achieve. Be prepared to dissolve into desire for hours on end, each a dazzling destination within a destination. Flawlessly discreet staff, exceptional service, breathtaking settings and equally astounding architecture are traits they have in common—though each is utterly unique; qualities that transcend current events.
Hotel Marqués de Riscal / Spain
If a Pink Floyd song could shapeshift into a hotel, meet me at Marqués de Riscal. In the heart of Spain’s Rioja Alavesa, this titanium-wrapped Frank Gehry-designed fantasy channels the seismic scale of a giant pink, gold and silver mushroom. By night, a more seductive shape emerges—a flamenco dancer’s whirling skirt. Welcome to a vino haven where wine weaves through everything from vinotherapy to temptation by Tempranillo. Some rooms boast views of the medieval town of Elciego, and the hotel is the centerpiece of a 100,000-square-meter complex known as “The City of Wine,” conceived to bridge the gap between the 19th and 21st centuries. Wine and wellness pilgrims alike are drawn here to experience SPA Vinothérapie Caudalie Marqués de Riscal, an utterly hedonistic concept in an unparalleled setting
Amangiri / USA
Amangiri is by far the most spectacular resort to have been built on American soil in the 21st century. It took ten years and an Act of Congress to establish this majestic confluence of site-specific architecture and New Age minimalism in southwest Utah. With views of the rock face of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and sacred Navajo land in the distance, the setting is nothing short of spectacular. Each of the 34 suites invites the stark surroundings inside, and some feature a private swimming pool. Enjoy your sky terrace’s daybed for spotting Andromeda by night. A statement pool lies at the heart of the property, built around a behemoth natural rock formation. Spa junkies get the ultimate fix at this 25,000-square-foot temple. Moonlight yoga here is a spine-tingling nocturnal pleasure. We can’t imagine a more otherworldly setting—the resort resides in 600 acres of the Colorado Plateau in southwest Utah.
Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi / Maldives
Every villa at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi feels positively presidential; they don’t quite do starter rooms here. This luxurious all-villa resort spans three private islands in the heart of the South Malé Atoll. Each reef, beach and overwater villa opens onto a deck featuring a swinging daybed, dining gazebo, infinity pool, in-water lounge and an outdoor shower. By day three, your pulse slows with the flow of the tide; spying on schools of needlefish feels gloriously therapeutic. Dine on a private beach with a menu prepared by a chef who will curate a menu based on your preferences and any food allergies you may have. The lavish resort reveals its most alluring face at sunrise and sunset. Work those cross-breezes by sporting a sarong, or tailored shorts, for that “ just hopped out of a speedboat” look. And tell her to leave the status leather at home—a woven basket is très chic for this resort, especially if it’s Gucci. Be prepared, they pamper you senseless here; without a hint of cliché, this is a hedonist’s paradise.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc / France
The iconic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, a crown jewel of the prestige Oetker Collection, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. For the world’s elite, reveling in the resort’s rare and ravishing pleasures has been a rite of passage every season since 1870. Elegantly poised on the southernmost tip of Cap d’Antibes, this legendary lifestyle campus has hosted the crème de la crème–leading figures in the arts, cinema, literature, politics and industry. For this milestone season, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc invited three Michelinstarred chef Eric Frechon from Le Bristol Paris to lead the hotel’s distinguished chefs on crafting new menus for the much-touted restaurants and bars. Lively interior redesigns by renowned architect Patricia Anastassiadis update cherished spaces with new vitality, inspired by their legendary past. At the heart of Riviera chic since the 1930s, the hotel’s storied private seaside cabanas may be booked for full days of sunbathing and private al fresco lunching, while savoring sweeping Mediterranean views.
Laucala Private Island / Fiji
Carved from a jungle that could dwarf King Kong, the sheer physical accomplishment of Laucala still blows my mind. In 1972, Malcolm Forbes bought the island as his private refuge; its current owner, Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, spares no expense in maintaining it as one of the world’s top private tropical islands. Purchased and redeveloped for $30-40 million the island now boasts some of the most intriguing architecture in the South Pacific, along with 25 unique over-the-top villas—all glamorous versions of traditional Fijian dwellings. Think Valley of the Dolls meets Moana. The resort also boasts an organic farm, a village of friendly staff, and a James Bondworthy collection of posh marine vessels. It is one of a handful of resorts that simply defies categorization.
The Silo Hotel / South Africa
Setting a new standard in architectural upcycling, a 1924 grain elevator on Cape Town’s waterfront now houses The Silo Hotel and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Opened in 2017, the hotel is perched dramatically above 42 cement silos on the V&A Waterfront. Inside the hotel, guests are greeted with whimsical colors and textures, accented by a stellar collection of contemporary African art.
The 28 guest rooms feature bespoke headboards beneath Egyptian crystal chandeliers, while deep-soaking tubs anchor the bathroom layout. Floor-to-ceiling windows endow the “wow factor”, overlooking views of the harbor, the city, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head right around to Robben Island. Need to impress on your next executive trip to Cape Town? Booking here may prove a solid investment. The rooftop lounge, complete with chic pool and sweeping panoramic views, draws a stylish mix of international guests for sunset cocktails. Mix business and pleasure with a frosty highball in hand, watching one of the world’s most exquisite cities light up. A testament to striking truly complementary chords, the hotel appeals to both the business elite and design geeks in equal measure.
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel / France
Talk about playing the long game; Hôtel de Crillon has embodied the epitome of Parisian style since 1758, and even more so since its reimagining by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts in 2017. A jewel of the capital’s Place de la Concorde, its listed façade of sculptures by Coustou defined curb appeal in its day. The palace became a hotel in 1909, playing host to luminaries from Charlie Chaplin to Leonard Bernstein. For the Rosewood revamp, Karl Lagerfeld designed Les Grands Appartements, the most lavish suites on property. Quite a coup, as one still senses the gravitas of history, while reveling in a spirited contemporary sensibility ventilating previously stuffy salons. The Marie-Antoinette Suite, reconceived by an all-female team of designers and artisans, features a terrace overlooking the Place de la Concorde, where many French aristocrats faced the guillotine during the Revolution. A rather resplendent backdrop for Paris Fashion Week parties, to say the least.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad / India
The theatrics of Falaknuma Palace begin at the gatehouse. Upon arrival you step into an open horse carriage complete with liveried coachmen and trot up a hill to a staircase lined with ceremonial guards. As you ascend, a surprise shower of pink and red rose petals softly rains down, carpeting the exterior steps. High up above Hyderabad, the restored Falaknuma Palace is a true beauty. Built in 1893, Falaknuma was home to the sixth Nizam, who ruled over a kingdom the size of France. A stay here gives rare insight into the king who once used the Jacob Diamond as a paperweight. It’s a five-star deluxe palace hotel and is tipped to be the grandest in the country. Recreating the amorous relationship between monarchs and their appetite, Falaknuma offers gastronomic recipes culled from state-banquet menus.
Amanyara / Turks & Caicos
A perennial favorite, Amanyara is a breath of fresh air in the sultry Caribbean heat. At the chromatic meeting point of the cerulean Caribbean and sapphire Atlantic, the resort’s talcum-soft beach and intense turquoise waters prove a most alluring asset. Guests here don’t check into anything as pedestrian as a suite, they’re ushered to private pavilions framed by wild mangroves. The reception area reveals a dramatic open-air structure and serene reflecting pool surrounded by a library, signature restaurant, and distinctive circular bar. On my first morning, I bumped into an old friend and renown chef at sunrise yoga. When locals heard Top Chef Masters’ Susur Lee would be in residence at Amanyara, you can bet nimble fingers dialed reservations faster than a sous chef searing scallops. When Aman builds venues this divine, it’s destiny to crown them with culinary royalty.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle / Thailand
True luxury lies in the quality of experience, not just the thread count of sheets or a fleet of Phantoms. Four Seasons made experience its main differentiator before it was trendy, and in the process, redefined luxury itself. The best travel anecdotes are rooted in continuity and emotional coherence. This was never more true than at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, at Thailand’s northern border towards Burma and Laos. On meeting Yuki, one of the resident rescue elephants, I was instantly besotted. Dressed in the mahout garments laid out in my tent, my pulse raced as I climbed onto Yuki for the first time. Mind you, this isn’t riding in a tourist basket; this is as bareback as it gets, and nothing unites you more with an elephant than learning to praise her. Later, from the sanctuary of a five-star tent, I kicked back in a hand-hammered copper tub with rather winning views of the grazing herd below.
ION Adventure Hotel / Iceland
Poised against a backdrop of mountainous lava fields, the ION is a master class in concrete and glass; a Nordic-modern beacon less than an hour from Reykjavik. Whether you yearn to fly-fish for Arctic char, snorkel the Silfra fissure, or simply fly-and-flop into a soulful, stirring soak beneath aurora borealis, the ION team caters to your wish and whimsy. On arrival, revel in the best of local design, culture, and cuisine; the ethos here embraces a local approach from everything from the artwork to bathing amenities. The hotel maintains sustainable practices by using recycled materials and geothermal heating. Playing right into the wheelhouse of design nerds, outdoor enthusiasts and romantic couples, you never know who you’ll chat up at the hotel’s Northern Lights bar. All 45 of the sleek rooms feature fair-trade organic linens and swoon worthy views of Lake Thingvellir or Mount Hengill. The land of fire and ice never looked more ready for prime time.
Amanjiwo / Indonesia
Nestled in a natural amphitheater, Amanjiwo faces the world’s largest Buddhist monument, the ninth-century Borobudur. Amanjiwo, what many hoteliers consider the world’s most extraordinary resort, is a cultural crucible renowned for its architecture. A circular monolith, crafted from local limestone, rises to a domed centerpiece. The atmospheric entrance of the main structure frames the Borobudur UNESCO World Heritage Site in the distance, clocking encircling volcanoes. Visually arresting, to say the least. The resort’s footprint cascades along the Menoreh Hills, an ideal basecamp for exploring Central Java’s cultural highlights. From various vantage points of the hotel, you feel embraced by the valley, as if floating in a hot-air balloon, with Jurassic ferns and rampant flora riot in lipstick pinks below. Amanjiwo delivers intangible delights, inspiring a more refined reality, making you feel a little more loved. In the big-spend game, nothing feels more satisfying than staying with a company that genuinely takes care of you. And nothing strikes travel envy in frenemies like low-key references to a stay here.
Villa Rockstar, Eden Rock-St. Barths / Saint Barthélemy
As the first hotel to open on Saint Barthélemy, Eden Rock St.-Barths has been a beacon of glamour for over 60 years. Welcome to the island’s most fashionable address, where even celebrities come to people-watch. At the 37-suite Eden Rock, big shots flock to the 16,000-square-foot, three-level Villa Rockstar, which features six master suites, a gourmet kitchen, gym, dining table for 14 guests, swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, a billiards table, and a full-time chef and butler. I checked into the resort’s infamous Freddie Mercury suite, boasting the most vainglorious bathroom—hundreds of 24-carat white gold tiles encircling an oval stone Boffi bathtub big enough for two. You’ll get high marks for linen shirts, but minus points for mobile phones at dinner. Delivering an intoxicating blend of elegant and effortless ambiance in spades, you’ll simply unravel in the embrace of this villa.
La Mamounia / Morocco
A hotel of beguiling extremes, La Mamounia takes you from luxuriously sublime to ludicrously simple pleasures. From the sybaritic splendor of the lobby to perfectly executed turndown, I marveled at the haute Moorish makeover of this 1923 Art Deco landmark, and the service pirouettes of the polished, trilingual staff. From the crisp concierge to coiffed cabana boys, hand-tailored and locally-embroidered for every hotel role, this is choreographed service worthy of an Esther Williams extravaganza. Inside, soaring arches fit for a Pharaoh fan into the distance like a mirage. Imagine Kutubiyya mosque on steroids and you’re halfway there. La Mamounia’s 27,000-square-foot spa features arabesque screens, luminous mosaic tile; ruby, claret and aubergine hues cast a sedative spell. World leaders, business moguls and movie stars alike have put their faith in the manicured perfection of La Mamounia, where blunders are about as likely as a Caribbean blizzard.