The best hotels offer more than somewhere to lay your head. They connect you to local communities and provide the kind of memory-making activities that tempt you to extend your stay.
For our annual Best of the World list, National Geographic’s editors, writers, photographers, and explorers scoured the globe in search of new hotels and lodges that embrace this sense of place. From a remote retreat in Nepal’s Himalayas to a luxe London crash pad in Winston Churchill’s former workplace, here are our favorite spots to stay this year.
U.S. & Canada
Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort, Hawaiʻi
Families can once again learn to paddle outrigger canoes and make leis, as well as attend luaus and watch movies under the stars, at this iconic property on the west coast of Hawaiʻi’s Big Island. A 2011 tsunami devastated the original resort beloved by generations of return guests, but now, thanks to a multimillion-dollar restoration, “it’s been given a second chance at life,” says cultural manager Rolinda “Kumu Welu” Bean.
HeartSong Lodge, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
From room balconies, guests at Dolly Parton’s new lodge might spot a mother black bear and her cubs—just one of the perks of HeartSong’s tucked-away setting in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. The music icon (and 2024 Nat Geo Traveler of the Year) says that the property “is designed so our guests can be close to nature; it almost feels like the Smokies have found a way to come right on inside.” Families can sign up for a Pink Jeep tour of less visited areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most biodiverse in the United States national park system, or take the free trolley ride to Dollywood’s rollercoasters, live music, and irresistible cinnamon bread.
Under Canvas North Yellowstone-Paradise Valley, Livingston, Montana
In a valley backdropped by Montana’s Absaroka and Gallatin mountains, this new glamping resort sprawls across 50 riverfront acres near Yellowstone National Park’s less visited north entrance. Guests sleep in Under Canvas signature tents, which come sized for two to seven people. An “adventure concierge” can organize guided hikes and horseback rides in the surrounding Paradise Valley region.
Hacienda at Armendaris, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Explore where the buffalo roam from this four-bedroom hacienda, the newest addition to the Ted Turner Reserves, located in the Chihuahuan desert of southwestern New Mexico. The 360,000-acre Armendaris preserve is the site of conservation programs that are helping to restore populations of desert bighorn sheep, Bolson tortoises, aplomado falcons, and other species. “When we spend time in nature, we heal ourselves,” said Turner in an email. “When we protect nature, we heal our planet.”
Wild Lotus Glamping, Bequia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
One of the first glamping resorts in the Caribbean sets up six starfish-shaped tents—furnished with brass beds and wood-fired hot tubs—on the white sands of Bequia, the largest of the Grenadine islands. Guests can spend their days walking the two-mile width of the island, hiking Mt. Peggy, swimming the turquoise waters, or wandering the oceanside Belmont walkway. Back at camp, the onsite, fish-forward restaurant serves dinner around a firepit.
Pink Palm Hotel, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
At St. Thomas’ first new hotel in more than 20 years, the best views might be from the infinity pool, according to owner Brent Pelton. Set high in the hillsides above Charlotte Amalie’s harborfront, the adults-only hotel is a collection of six mid-20th-century buildings decorated with art deco touches and palm tree prints. Stay here for the proximity to the Danish colonial architecture of the capital plus onsite pink rattan swings that’ll look swell in vacation snaps.
Belnem House, Kralendijk, Bonaire
This off-the-grid boutique hotel offers crisply decorated apartments with small kitchens and a swimming pool with a palm-thatched bar. Guests come to relax, but also for the scuba and snorkeling: more than 350 species of fish and 57 species of coral thrive in the translucent blue waters surrounding this boomerang-shaped island 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Belnem House can also arrange trips to Washington-Slagbaai National Park, a 10,500-acre desert oasis for birdwatching and hiking the Kasikunda Climbing Trail.
Mexico & Central and South America
Our Habitas Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
At the edge of the world’s driest non-polar desert, this ecolodge offers nighttime stargazing, morning yoga, and easy access to hiking, biking, and sandboarding in Chile’s otherworldly landscapes. Cabins—built with native boulders and kitted out with locally crafted rattan accessories and aguayos (Andean woven blankets)— surround a restaurant serving specialties such as dulce de leche pancakes and whitefish ceviche. “There’s something leveling about being surrounded by such natural beauty, whether it’s paragliding above dunes during the day or being engulfed in the stars at night,” says Our Habitas founder Oliver Ripley.
Hotelito by MUSA, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Private mezcal tastings, surfing lessons, and foraging tours (for everything from chicken and duck eggs to edible flowers, chiles, and fruit) are just some of the experiences available to guests at this 13-room resort on Mexico’s Pacific shore. A rooftop garden both cools the interior and supplies the onsite restaurant, Alba. At a neighboring turtle sanctuary, guests can volunteer to help hatchlings reach the water.
Kimpton Grand Roatán Resort & Spa, Roatán, Honduras
The world’s second largest barrier reef lies just offshore from this 119-room property, meaning guests can easily access all of the water activities (snorkeling, diving, and fishing) that make this region of Honduras popular. The resort’s Kao Kamasa Spa uses locavore ingredients—cacao, avocados, algae—in its facials and massages. Fair-trade crafts made nearby and sold in the gift shop help support the surrounding community of 12 villages.
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Wilmina, Berlin, Germany
Cell doors and bars on some windows signal that this boutique hotel in Berlin’s Kantstrasse neighborhood was once a 19th-century courthouse and women’s prison. But spending the night here feels far from punishing, thanks to serene, Scandi-chic guest rooms and public spaces—a library, a wood-lined sauna, and the onsite restaurant, Lovis, where modern German cuisine is served. Guests can also catch an art exhibition at the onsite events space, Amtsalon, or sip cocktails in the courtyard garden.
Albergo Diffuso Kruja, Krujë, Albania
Italians conceived of the albergo diffuso (scattered hotel) to bring tourism to deserted villages. Instead of guest rooms in a single building, they’re located in historic dwellings across the town. This summer, Albania’s first such hotel, Albergo Diffuso Kruja, will launch in the cobblestoned mountain town of Krujë, with rooms located in old rowhouses and an imposing sixth-century castle. Visitors can explore Krujë’s history museum and centuries-old crafts bazaar before heading out to the forested canyons of Qafë Shtama National Park.
Raffles London at the OWO, London, England
Near buzzing Trafalgar Square in London’s Whitehall neighborhood, the circa-1906 Old War Office (OWO) has been transformed into a luxury hotel with oak and walnut paneling, mosaic floors, and a castle-worthy central marble staircase. Visitors can take tea with views of Horse Guards, the ceremonial parade ground that is the official entrance to Buckingham Palace, and stay in clubby guest rooms carved out of the grand building where Winston Churchill hammered out problems during the First and Second World Wars.
Middle East & Africa
Singita Mara River Tented Camp, Tanzania
Beaded Masai wall hangings and Kuria geometric-patterned cushions riff on local design traditions at these six luxury safari tents in the wildlife-rich Lamai Triangle of the Tanzanian Serengeti. The place is at its best during the Great Migration from May through July, when travelers may witness hundreds of wildebeests streaming across the grasslands—either on a 4X4 drive or from their tent porch.
Moon Retreat, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Amid the ocher sands of the Mleiha Desert, this resort about 45 miles from Dubai’s airport includes 10 geodesic dome cabins for two, each with its own plunge pool. (There are larger one- and two-bedroom tents for families.) Arrange a drive to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to spot rare Arabian oryx or head to the Mleiha Archaeological Centre to explore Paleolithic-era fossils. Dubai-based founder of Travel Essence magazine Yvonne Mtengwa calls the retreat “one of Sharjah’s best-kept secrets. You have only the dome between you and the desert.”
Residence Douz, Douz, Tunisia
De-stress in a hammam spa, learn about Saharan Berber culture, and try flavorful Tunisian mezzes at this new, 50-villa retreat at the edge of the dunes. Nearby adventures include trips to Jebil National Park, camel rides out to the Ksar Ghilane hot springs, and tours of the traditional troglodyte cave dwellings of Matamata, made famous by Star Wars.
Shinta Mani Mustang, Jomsom, Nepal
Guests at Shinta Mani’s all-inclusive lodge are paired with guides who take them adventuring amid the dramatic mountain and desert landscapes of Nepal’s Lower Mustang region. Experiences include biking to centuries-old Buddhist monasteries and trekking to high-altitude Dumba Lake. Lodge buildings use native Baglung stone and glass to evoke traditional Nepali houses; guest rooms are furnished with tiger motif rugs and antiques. At the 60-seat Nilgiri restaurant, dishes such as Himalayan yak momos (dumplings) and Tibetan thukpa (meat and noodle soup) rely on ingredients from local farms.
Kurulu Bay, Ahangama, Sri Lanka
Thirty minutes from the oceanfront Dutch colonial town of Galle, this secluded clutch of 14 contemporary treehouse suites and palm-shaded cottages overlooks Koggala Lake, the largest one in Sri Lanka. Guests can spot wildlife (crocodiles, great hornbills) amid the property’s lush mangroves or take a yoga class in an open-air pavilion facing the water. Kurulu’s sea-to-table restaurant offers a range of dishes including langoustine lobster curry, red snapper sashimi, and grilled mahi mahi.
AndBeyond Punakha River Lodge, Punakha, Bhutan
This new resort in the Himalayan foothills of Bhutan offers river rafting and kayaking, as well as traditional hot stone baths. Six tents and two villas incorporate local architectural elements (including the recognizable Jabzhi roofs) along with decor choices that draw from the region’s natural materials (bamboo, wool, wood). Plus, the property allocates land to local farmers who, in turn, sell produce back to the resort.
Australia & New Zealand
Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Kangaroo Island—the wildlife-filled “Galápagos of Australia” in the Southern Ocean—and this iconic eco-hotel were decimated in the wildfires of 2019 and 2020. But both the landscape and the lodge are rebounding, the latter with new glassed-in suites, a curving bar and restaurant skirting the coastline, and new landscaping with native juniper and succulents to ward off future flames. It’s a plush hopping-off point for walks amid the rock formations and seal colonies of nearby Flinders Chase National Park or spotting resident kangaroos and koalas on guided walking or driving tours.
Hara House, Bright, Victoria, Australia
Amid the hiking and skiing paths of northeastern Victoria’s mountainous High Country, this 20-room boutique hotel is a tropical-cool retrofit of a 1980s motel. Guests can tuck into a meal starring homegrown Aussie ingredients (wattleseed, blood lime) at the onsite Pepperberry restaurant or borrow a bike to pedal near (the town of Bright is about 10 minutes away) or far (the nearby Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is 62 miles long). “It’s a destination that invites you to slow down, breathe deeply, and connect with the natural rhythms of life,” says Hara House owner Shannon Crawley.
Pāmu PurePod, Rotorua, New Zealand
Powered by solar panels and constructed almost entirely of glass, New Zealand’s dozen PurePods dot farmland on both islands. The newest property in this chain of luxurious, off-grid eco-cabins is set amid the rolling hills of the Bay of Plenty region. Guests can pre-order breakfast and dinner picnic baskets to enjoy from the deck on the modernist structure. Nearby diversions include countryside hikes, dips in natural hot springs, or mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa Forest with its indigenous plants and towering California redwoods.
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Reporting by Heather Greenwood Davis and Connor McGovern.