Looking for somewhere extra special to rest your weary holiday head?
Here are ten of the world’s best hotels that will absolutely make your stay. Whether it’s the setting, the history or the ambience, all these hotels offer something really special – and many of them are surprisingly affordable if you book in advance or shop around.
1. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Canada
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada occupies arguably the most beautiful setting on earth. The towering, snow-capped granite peaks of the Rockies form a perfect three-sided backdrop around the pristine waters of Lake Louise. When frozen, the lake looks like a giant stage set for a ballet spectacular on ice. If that were the case, the Chateau would provide the best seats in the house!
To be honest, the building itself is a little disappointing at first sight (I’d been expecting another grand historic railway hotel like the Fairmont Banff Springs). The Chateau is a fairly modern looking structure that’s been rebuilt, added to and rendered over time. Step inside however and you literally step back in the time. Wow.
2. Kuzuko Lodge, Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
If you’re looking for that quintessential African luxury lodge experience, you’ll find it at Kuzuko. Meaning ‘place of glory’, this five-star piece of paradise is perfectly integrated into the wild surrounds of the Addo Elephant National Park in Eastern Cape on the edge of South Africa’s vast Karoo.
The stand-alone chalets with their sweeping views are stunning; the lodge staff attentive and obliging; the cuisine exceptional with a sumptuous high-tea served every afternoon. There are morning and evening game drives on offer, with a huge variety of local residents to spot.
And good things do come in small packages. We were lucky to come across an aardwolf on one of our drives, an extremely elusive nocturnal predator that looks somewhere between a fox and a hyena.
3. River Kwai Jungle Rafts ‘floatel’, Thailand
Switching off is getting nigh on impossible in this constantly connected world of ours, even on holiday. But on a tour of northern Thailand we had the chance to disconnect completely at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts hotel. We had no choice – there’s no electricity!
Hidden away in thick jungle and constructed of bamboo, this hotel that floats on the River Kwai (and it’s just as amazing as it sounds) blew our minds. At night the hotel is lit with lanterns, making it one of the most romantic and unique stays in Thailand.
4. Te Waonui Forest Retreat, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
It’s the last place you’d expect to find a rainforest retreat – at the foot of a glacier. But that’s what you get at the Te Waonui Forest Retreat, located halfway down the wild and wooly west coast of New Zealand’s South Island at Franz Josef.
We absolutely loved this hotel. Effortlessly chic and sophisticated, and finished with beautiful natural textures throughout. So much so that the rooms almost feel like part of the surrounding forest. There’s a sensational wine cellar and degustation menu of local produce on offer. Take a stroll next door to the Glacier Hot Pools for a long soak after your Franz Josef climb.
5. Spicers Peak Lodge, South-east Queensland, Australia
Closer to home and Spicers Peak Lodge in Queensland’s glorious South East is an uber-exclusive and fittingly secluded luxury retreat that many well-heeled guests prefer to arrive at by helicopter rather than by road.
We got to experience a night here while taking part in the four-day Scenic Rim Trail, a guided walking adventure through that part of the semi-circle of mountains known as the Scenic Rim that stretch roughly from Toowoomba to Tamborine.
Spicers operates in Queensland and NSW and is renowned for offering unique luxury getaways. Peak Lodge is Australia’s highest non-alpine lodge and a member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate something special, you can’t go wrong here.
6. Yassawa Island Resort & Spa, Fiji
As amazing hotels go, Fiji has more than its fair share of fancy five and six-star options. But for us, the Yassawa Island Resort & Spa – located on stunning Yassawa Island at the northern most tip of the Yassawa group – can’t be beaten.
The beaches here have been named top ten in the world and apart from a handful of local villages, the resort is the only development on the island. There are just eighteen stand-alone and superbly appointed bures on offer, so most of the time it feels like you have the entire island to yourself.
Take a transfer from Nadi by seaplane, then kick off your shoes and feel that sand between your toes.
7. Peninsula Bangkok, Thailand
A quick search on TripAdvisor confirms the Peninsula Bangkok as one of the Thai capital’s top five hotels, so on a recent media trip we jumped at the chance to have a nosey inside the hotel’s most expensive offering, the Peninsula Suite. We’re talking private butler, wine cellar, gym and heli-pad on the roof. OK, so realistically most of us will be staying on the lower floors, but it’s nice to dream.
And during your stay, check out the Peninsula Academy’s ’Senses of Thainess’ programme: a range of bespoke cultural experiences including local cooking classes, traditional Thai painting and even a Muay Thai kickboxing class.
8. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada
Standing of an early evening under the imposing portico of Le Chateau Frontenac in the Francophile Canadian stronghold of Quebec City, you could well be forgiven for thinking you just stepped back in time to 17th century Europe. The turrets and spires of the hotel cast long shadows across the lamp-lit cobbled streets of the old walled city. The wheels of horse-drawn carriages clatter in the distance and the silhouette of the chateau roofline looms large in the cloudless dusk sky. Goose-bump material.
Completed in 1893, the architecture of the Chateau is reminiscent of the great French palaces of Versailles and the Louvre, with opulent interiors, ornate gold finishes and haughty waiters, which only adds to the experience. The ambience alone makes Le Chateau Frontenac a worthy entrant on this list of ten of the world’s best hotels. Très magnifique!
9. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Machu Picchu, Peru
Nothing makes a weary traveller see red faster than the news that their hotel is overbooked, but in this case we couldn’t have been happier thanks to an upgrade for our whole tour group to the seriously stunning Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.
This hotel is located not far from the train station at Aguas Calientes, the small town wedged precariously between the sheer cliffs leading up to Machu Picchu. It’s an extraordinary piece of Peruvian paradise, set up a terraced hillside amongst stunning gardens buzzing with tiny colourful finches. The rooms are a serene sanctuary to return to following a day of climbing up at the citadel. One word of warning – as at Machu Picchu – there are lots of stairs!
10. La Residence, Hue, Vietnam
Vietnam is one of our all-time favourite travel destinations and home to one of our all-time favourite hotels, La Residence in Hue. The former French colonial governor’s art-deco-style residence has been fully restored and turned into a luxury boutique hotel. It’s one of the finest in Vietnam and a fascinating step back in time.
Enjoy a cocktail at the pool bar with views across the Perfume River towards the Imperial Citadel, or wangle a ride around the city in one of the classic cars parked out front. The degustation dinner menu is a superb way to end your day. Tres bon!
Adam travelled as a guest of Evergreen Tours, On The Go Tours, Scenic Tours, the Yassawa Island Resort & Spa, Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers Retreats and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten of the world’s best hotels? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. Adam loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.