This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
Whether you want unique interior design, world-beating food, incredible value or simply a chance to escape the world for a day or two, you’re guaranteed a memorable stay at every one of our 42 winners and runners-up.
Fully immerse yourself in urban life at these three stylish spots.
Winner: Capella Sydney, Australia
A painstaking labour of love brought Capella Sydney into being: it was formed from the city’s heritage-listed Department of Education building, a striking sandstone monolith in the financial district dating from 1912. Period features are complemented throughout with works by First Nations artists and tasteful design touches like vintage cocktail sets. Respite from the clamour of Sydney is promised at guest-only spa Auriga, which features locally inspired spa treatments. Visitors are actively encouraged to explore the wider city, too. The hotel team enthusiastically curates itineraries that range from private Champagne cruises along the harbour to foraging for endemic foods with Aboriginal Australian guides. From A$690 (£358), B&B.
Palihouse West Hollywood, US: The kitschy-cool decor here spans the public spaces and 95 guest rooms, but the star of the show is the rooftop pool, with views of Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. From $225 (£173), room only.
Palazzo Vilòn, Italy: This hotel in Rome is an exercise in good taste. Vintage design touches complement magnificent period features, with mid-century modern furniture beneath gold-frescoed ceilings. From €820 (£707), B&B.
Get away from it all at properties that offer a true escape from the world.
Winner: Under Canvas Bryce Canyon, US
Those yearning to get far, far away from it all should venture to the fiery red rocks of southwest Utah. Set on a plateau surrounded by 3,000m-high mountains are the 50 luxurious safari tents of Under Canvas Bryce Canyon. These come with king-sized beds, equipped with the kind of sumptuous mattresses usually found in five-star hotels. As close to nature as it gets, the camp’s surroundings offer an outdoor playground on an epic scale, with potential for hiking and biking and the option to climb the nearby slot canyons. Back at base, there’s a restaurant serving bison burgers and an unlimited supply of s’mores to toast by the fire as evening falls, before you drift off to sleep in your tent. The hot ticket is the stargazer suite — with a window above the bed, it allows you to sleep under a blanket of stars. The only thing that Under Canvas Bryce Canyon lacks? Wi-fi — but that’s to help you truly unplug from the outside world. $309 (£250), tent only.
Caravan Agafay, Morocco: In a landscape of ochre sands, home here is a safari tent or an adobe-walled ‘desert lodge’, all with hotel comforts and an organic feel inspired by the desert. From €177 (£153), B&B.
Klahoose Wilderness Resort, Canada: Surrounded by extreme natural beauty, these lodges and cabins have a cosy alpine feel, with balconies hanging over the shores of the Pacific Ocean. From C$832 (£500), full board.
Find exhilarating outdoor activities and buckets of mountain style at our winning high-altitude lodges.
Winner: Six Senses Crans-Montana, Switzerland
High in the Swiss Alps, this chalet-style resort delivers on Six Senses’ promise to connect its guests with the wonders of nature. In winter, residents are seconds from the slopes — they have direct ski in, ski out access and can carve their own trail through the Plaine Morte Glacier. In summer, there’s a wide range of activities available, from paragliding and wakeboarding to hiking and horse-riding. The intimate 45-room property is the perfect post-exertion retreat, with indoor and outdoor pools and ‘biohacking’ spa programmes that use advanced tech to provide hyper-personalised treatments. Afterwards, dinner at Wild Cabin brasserie features hearty Swiss dishes and more mountain views. On clear nights, cosy up for star-lit film showings at the open-air cinema before heading to bed in rooms finished in quartzite stone and local larch. From 880 CHF (£793), B&B.
Anders Mountain Suites, Italy: The wood-panelled walls and stone-grey concrete of this seven-suite retreat create a sense of calm that works in harmony with the landscape. From €210 (£181), B&B.
The Bolder, Norway: With jawdropping views of the fjord below via huge windows, the four lodges here are decorated in earthy tones, with organic materials. From 3,900 NOK (£290), room only.
Unforgettable gourmet experiences are the highlight of a stay at these three retreats.
Winner: Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp, Belgium
In 1238, monks founded a monastery and hospital on this spot in Antwerp. A botanical garden was central to the self-sufficient order so it’s apt that the complex has been transformed into a food-focused hotel, with five restaurants sharing four Michelin stars between them. Hertog Jan at Botanic won two for its omakase-style tasting menus, sourcing produce from the Sanctuary’s greenhouse, herb garden and beehives. Other restaurants at the hotel include Het Gebaar, offering refined lunches and afternoon tea, and glass-walled 1238 Restaurant. Scattered around the complex, rooms combine high luxury with pared-back simplicity, combining rough-plastered walls and felt-upholstered furniture with contemporary art, and terraces overlooking the chapel. From £324 (€377), B&B.
SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites, Argentina: Vintner Susana Balbo’s gastro haven in Mendoza is in a century-old mansion with just seven suites. At restaurant La Vida, diners enjoy 14-course seasonal tasting menus and wine from a cellar stocked with Susana’s finest. Outside, asados (barbecues) are laid on, while guests can take cooking and grilling classes as well as wine tours, tastings and blending sessions. Even when you’re not eating, gastronomy is everywhere. Wine-based spa treatments include grape seed exfoliation, and ‘wellness butlers’ run nightly turndown baths with local aromatic salts and herbs. Doubles from $734 (£578), B&B.
Updown Farmhouse, England: There’s lots to love about this Grade-II listed farmhouse in Kent — the home-from-home vibe, the well-stocked honesty bar, the quirky art on the walls. But the biggest draw is the food. In a conservatory behind the hotel, the Italian-inspired restaurant serves up seasonal flavours and a jovial atmosphere fuelled in part by a well-curated wine list. Book in for a lazy lunch that rolls into dinner, then retire to one of five charmingly individual rooms. From £190, B&B.
Impossibly beautiful locations and a sense of seclusion make these perfect for two.
Winner: Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel, Italy
Nowhere in Italy says romance quite like the Amalfi Coast, and nowhere along this storied coastline is more romantic than Anantara’s reworking of a 13th-century monastery, located halfway up a sheer cliff above Amalfi itself. Here, in your peaceful retreat above town, the crowds become ants scurrying around below and the Tyrrhenian Sea glistens beneath you at every turn. The air is heavy with the fragrance of lemon blossom and the bougainvillea that fringes the old monks’ clifftop meditation path, which seems made for romantic strolls, and there are seemingly never-ending terraces to explore with out-of-the-way spots for two. The cells-turned-rooms are still monastically simple, with cool cream walls, terracotta flooring and windows overlooking the water. Big spenders can enjoy a private dinner in the arabesque cloister, as local musicians serenade them with 18th-century love songs. Doubles from €368 (£314), B&B.
Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, Bali: Situated on a verdant mountainside, Buahan is an idyllic retreat for couples. Surrounded by foliage, its elevated lodges are devoid of walls and doors: instead, plush four-posters overlook the forest canopy. Whether guests choose to use their lodge’s plunge pool or copper bathtub on the terrace, private nighttime soaks are illuminated by the amber glow of fireflies. It’s a veritable Eden, where plant-based dishes and restful morning yoga soothe the soul. From 16m IDR (£840), half board.
Domaine des Etangs, France: The beautiful setting of this estate could be straight out of a fairytale: 2,500 acres of gardens, wildflower-filled meadows and woodland, with the 700-year-old chateau reflected in the lake. Stay in one of its seven suites or sequester yourself away in one of the charming cottages in the grounds. On warm evenings, you can sit out among the blooms by the farmhouse restaurant and feast on dishes such as langoustine and caviar. From €315 (£270), room only.
Lazy days and laid-back tropical style are guaranteed at THESE seaside hotels.
Winner: Ahu Bay, Sri Lanka
Perched on the most petite of promontories and fringed by two soft sweeps of caramel-coloured sand, Ahu Bay is a paean to the irresistible beauty of barefoot, beachfront living. Plump beanbag-style loungers line a pretty infinity pool with Indian Ocean views, while guests chat over cocktails and a laid-back, languid soundtrack at the restaurant. Finished with elegant teak furniture, colourful textiles and handmade tiles, light and breezy bedrooms are homely and calming. And everywhere you look, there’s the splendour of the sea. Fringed by swaying palms and age-old boulders, a pair of unblemished beaches are seconds from the property. They feel particularly special at dusk when, illuminated by the setting sun and firelight, diners sit at simple tables rooted in the sand to enjoy unfussy menus within touching distance of the lapping water. From $350 (£274), B&B.
Andaz Pattaya Jomtien Beach, Thailand: On barely developed Tawanron Beach, the design of this new Andaz blends the best of traditional and contemporary Thailand, with sleek modern rooms alongside reclaimed teak mansions. This is all set inside tropical gardens woven with numerous swimming pools, streams and lotus ponds. The beach is right on the doorstep and, beyond the seashore, a fascinating province home to wild elephants, hidden waterfalls and Chinese-Thai heritage villages. From 7,325 TH (£165), B&B.
Casa Chablé, Mexico: In the dense mangrove forests of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and with just 10 rooms, peace and quiet are virtually guaranteed here. A bone-white beach lies a few steps from your room; if you can remove yourself from it, kayaking and snorkelling tours are on offer. Evenings are spent mezcal tasting, tucking into Mexican seafood or relaxing in your guest room or bungalow — a picture of boho luxury in thatch and dark wood. From $1,469 (£1,150), full board.
From spa hotels to wilderness lodges, give your wellbeing a boost.
Winner: Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai, Thailand
With burnout on the rise worldwide, the owners of Aleenta Retreat in Chiang Mai are offering a holistic space in which to gently press the reset button. Everything about the resort aims to promote inner wellbeing. Instant calm is achieved just by dropping your bags in one of the peaceful teakwood guest rooms encircling the courtyard pool. The restaurant keeps things local with fresh Lanna dishes, a cuisine from northern Thailand featuring mind-sharpening spicy broths and sticky rice swaddled in banana leaves. But the real magic happens within the resort’s meditative Ayurah Spa & Wellness Centre, which uses a curated programme to tap into mindfulness through jungle walks, spa treatments, yoga and tai chi. Retreats here range from a couple of nights to a week, touching on some of life’s bigger-picture themes, such as mastering self-love with an energy coach and the art of deep rest through Vipassana meditation, taught at either beginner or ‘monk level’. From 4,850 TH (£112), room only.
The Cōmodo, Austria: A health resort since the 19th century, Bad Gastein is a fitting location for this luxury hotel, and guests can try treatments that make full use of the local thermal waters. From €268 (£230), B&B.
Trakt Forest Hotel, Sweden: There’s little to distract from the business of absorbing nature and focusing on wellbeing at these five suites on stilts, while forest bathing can be taken quite literally with a soak in the outdoor hot tubs. From 6,200 SEK (£450), room only.
The properties that prove a world-class break needn’t cost the Earth.
Winner: Cap Karoso, Sumba
The owners of this Indonesian island retreat waited for the ancestral blessing of 600 local residents before finally opening its doors. It was a move that set the overall tone of the low-impact hotel, which is deeply rooted in its community. Natural materials and Sumbanese crafts feature in the 67 modern rooms, which have views over the Flores Sea. Initiatives at the hotel range from employing underprivileged youths and arranging creative collaborations between visiting international artists and Indonesian craftspeople to treating water onsite and teaching young guests about permaculture at the kids’ club. On the resort’s abundant farm, an agricultural school demonstrates eco-friendly techniques to the island’s farmers, watched by the hotel’s buffalo herd. From 4,259,524 IDR (£222), B&B.
Le Bois de Chambres, France: Accommodation here is in old farmhouse buildings on a 15th-century estate, each clad in thermal insulation and surrounded by grounds where biodiversity is promoted. From €145 (£124), B&B.
Birch Selsdon, England: Birch aims to be one of London’s largest rewilding projects, turning its 200-acre grounds from a golf course back to its original biodiverse state. Inside the grand old pile, much of the furniture in the guest rooms is upcycled. From £140, room only.
Some hotels are so one-of-a-kind they defy categorisation — here’s the cream of the crop.
Winner: Canfranc Estación, Spain
Canfranc Estación was Europe’s second-biggest train station when its ribbon was cut in 1928. Now, the ‘Titanic of the Mountains’ takes you back to an age when travel was truly grand, with a five-star makeover courtesy of Barceló and a contemporary design echoing its art deco roots. The exterior would make the perfect setting for a West Anderson film, while the vaulted concourse shines as a soaring, light-flooded lobby that leaves new arrivals speechless with its scale and opulence. The 104 rooms and suites steam ahead style-wise, with polished parquet, bronze globe chandeliers, black-and-white photos and rich colours referencing Aragonese costume. After a day hiking the Camino de Santiago or skiing in the snow-capped Pyrenees, try fine dining in a converted railway carriage, local spa treatments and cocktails in the library at this creative retreat. From €149 (£128), room only.
Villa Palladio Jaipur, India: Hidden behind dazzling white compound walls, just 25 minutes from central Jaipur, lies this wonderfully whimsical sanctuary. The designers have gone all-out with their maximalist grand vision— a kaleidoscopic riot of rose and pink, hand-painted murals of palm trees and vines, and canopied beds dressed in elaborately embroidered sheets define the nine rooms. Some respite for the eye can be found in the calm of the sky-blue swimming pool and surrounding tropical gardens. From IR30,500 (£288), room only.
Shiguchi Hokkaido, Japan: Every so often, a hotel comes along that shifts the nature of a place. Shiguchi is one such disrupter: a cultural retreat in a region where glitzy ski resorts dominate. The centuries-old wooden farmhouse buildings, previously abandoned near Tokyo, were dismantled and painstakingly reassembled here and now house a gallery and guest villas. Their walls are lined with artworks that compete with the beautiful scenery framed by the windows. From Y72,200 (£390), including B&B.
Country House Retreat
Make like a lord or lady by booking into one of our favourite rural estates.
Winner: Boys Hall, England
Kent’s Boys Hall certainly isn’t new. The timbered Wealden hall house was built by aristocrat Thomas Boys in 1616, and has supposedly seen the likes of Charles I grace its delightfully wonky interiors. After years of transformation from a private home by owners Kristie and Brad Lomas, it’s now one of Britain’s most stunning country house hotels. Currently with just nine bedrooms (though more are planned), its intimate scale and thoughtful interior design — medieval enough to fit the structure, modern enough to feel stylish — lend a personable, homely air. Likewise the restaurant, set under a vaulted barn-like ceiling, lacks the stuffiness you’ll encounter at many other countryside manors, and serves up delights such as sticky brawn crumpet with kohlrabi. From £180, B&B.
The Lodge, Majorca: With its sprawling estate rubbing up against the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, The Lodge puts the focus on the outside. There’s no need for art on the walls: eyes are drawn to the views of gardens, orchards and lavender fields through the windows of the main 16th-century farmhouse. There are also putty-paletted suites scattered round the site, each with its own private outdoor space. When you’ve done roaming, head to restaurant Singular for locally sourced dishes served on a terrace cantilevered over a hillock. From €445 (£380), B&B.
La Nauve Cognac, France: Opulent doesn’t half describe this pile just outside the centre of French brandy-making town Cognac. Housed in a former distillery, the belle époque mansion is more chateau than dusty cellar, with interiors that exude a modern Marie Antoinette-style grandeur. Just 12 suites — and 12 acres of gardens — spell low-guest density, so you can skirt along a small canal and past fruit trees feeling like a member of the royal court. Meander along the squiggling Charente river on a canoe, then return to sip through the library of cognacs. From €400 (£344), B&B.
These boltholes have been brought back to life, from a refurbished motel to a safari lodge.
Winner: Life House, Berkshires, USA
This old 1970s-era Days Inn motel has recently received an unexpected plot twist, reinventing itself as a hip writer’s retreat in the mountains of the Berkshires in Massachusetts. In a playful nod to the building’s previous chapter, interiors now feature retro-inspired jazzy prints and plush velvet fabrics, but the whole package has been brought bang up to date for a new generation of travellers, with a cocktail bar and restaurant producing dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Writers and bibliophiles will find much to love here, from the handsome wooden desks inside the 64 guest rooms worthy of professional authors to a library lounge with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a crackling log fire for evenings spent dipping into a classic. Should writer’s block strike, there are the cultural offerings of the town of Lenox nearby along with various head-clearing hikes on the doorstep. From $211 (£166), room only.
andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti River Lodge, Tanzania: Largely levelled by a flood in 2020, this safari lodge has embraced a bold redesign and a focus on sustainability. The 10 guest suites have doubled in size and now have private plunge pools on the deck. From £909 per person, all-inclusive.
The Nici, Dorset, England: The Nici has brought Miami to the English coast, transforming a tired old hotel into a slice of cheery Americana. Tropical energy infuses the property, from the cabana-lined outdoor pool to the bold foliage wallpaper. From £230, B&B.
Three buildings given a new life as artfully converted hotels.
Winner: Sommerro, Oslo, Norway
In Oslo’s Frogner neighbourhood, Sommerro is the hotly anticipated rebirth of a 1930s landmark, the former HQ of an electrical company. The 231 rooms and suites spin together art deco patterns, retro wood panelling, chandeliers, geometric tiles and the dreamy folklore illustrations of Norwegian artist Gerhard Munthe. It’s more of a cultural hub than a mere hotel. There’s a small library; a cinema decked out in bronze velvet club chairs; a rooftop Nordic-Japanese restaurant; tea salon; wine and pintxos bar; and a spa with a resident sleep therapist. The outdoor pool has spirit-lifting views of the city and surrounding fjord, but loveliest of all are the revamped historic public baths, emblazoned with Per Krohg’s mosaics of swimming women and seals. From €162 (£139), B&B.
Palácio Ludovice Wine Experience Hotel, Lisbon: This former palace was built for João Frederico Ludovice, architect to Portuguese King João V in the 1700s. Contemporary glamour has been added to interiors adorned with 18th-century blue-and-white azulejo tiles, stucco and frescoes. From €200 (£172), room only.
Telegraphenamt, Berlin: Taking the neo-baroque bones of Germany’s biggest post and telegraph office, this boutique hotel retains features like exposed brick, parquet and arched windows. The 97 rooms and suites are monochrome, modernist and stylishly functional. From €284 (£244), room only.
Our three cosy boltholes are small but perfectly formed.
Winner: De Durgerdam, Netherlands
Still within the municipality of Amsterdam, this 17th-century lakeside getaway in the coastal village of Durgerdam is the perfect antidote to city life. Built as an inn for fishermen and sailors in 1664, the clapboard construction — set right on the waterfront — has seen many iterations, and was even a regular haunt of Dutch Prince Henrik in the 19th century. The wood-lined restaurant is a draw even if you’re not staying at the hotel, with simple menus of barbecue herring or roasted cod with mussels crafted by Richard van Oostenbrugge and Thomas Groot, two local chefs who have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants. Meanwhile, the 14 bedrooms subtly reference the fishing village surrounds with decorative shells, wavy wood headboards and soothing tones in ochre and green. From €305 (£262), room only.
Vermelho Hotel, Portugal: In the sleepy fishing village of Melides comes an unusual addition — a boutique hotel owned by shoe royalty Christian Louboutin. The 13 bedrooms feature parquet flooring, one-of-a-kind artworks, patterned tiles and delicate frescoes. Sophisticated touches come via the Indian Lounge — complete with gilded tables and peach sofas — and a garden designed by Louis Benech, responsible for recent landscaping at Versailles. Life in the village is slow and unbuttoned, making it the perfect setting for long lunches and wild walks — you can leave the stilettos at home. From €400 (£344), B&B.
No 17 the Promenade, Scotland: In the coastal town of Oban, this hotel majors in classic Scottish hospitality and has plenty of inviting cosy corners and flickering fireplaces. There are only seven bedrooms, which mix vintage pieces with modern metallics, yet there are five dining options right on site, from an Italian restaurant to an intimate residents’ salon. After tucking into Isle of Mull scallops, order a glass of something cold and grab a seat at the outdoor bar overlooking the neighbouring isle of Kerrera. From £145, B&B.
Winning hotels that prove a great stay needn’t put you out of pocket.
Winner: Leven, England
Once upon a time, Manchester’s Gay Village was where you went for a good time, before retiring to bed elsewhere. But all that’s changed with the unveiling of the Leven hotel, right alongside buzzing Canal Street. The red-brick walls of this former cotton warehouse have witnessed various reincarnations over the years, including stints as a brewery and comedy club. Its latest transformation into a 42-room hotel celebrates the industrial heritage of the building, with the guest entrance in the loading dock, and preserved steel-framed Crittall windows throughout. Room rates have been kept in check and there’s an extra incentive for the budget-conscious digital nomad: a spacious communal lounge with wooden canteen tables providing the perfect perch to work-from-hotel. If you’d rather relax than hunker over a laptop, a lobby bar serves cocktails until late. There’s also a large selection of room types available, from doubles with king-size beds to duplex penthouse suites with lounge areas and kitchens. From £89, room only.
NŌSTOS Sérifos, Greece: One look at this steal of a boutique hotel on the southern cusp of the wild, olive-cloaked island of Serifos and you’ll be glad you took that two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus. The minimalist-cool bolthole slots seamlessly into its natural environment, with interiors capturing the dazzling white light and intense blues of the Aegean. Nature is woven into the hotel’s sustainable ethos, with recycling, solar panels and thermal insulation upping the eco credentials. And you’re just a flip-flop away from the slosh of the sea on the great creamy curve of Livadakia Beach. From €61 (£52), B&B.
Ying’nFlo, Hong Kong: Ying’nFlo has a prime location in the shopping and eating district of Wan Chai. And there are plenty of other reasons to stay here: bright pastel-hued rooms with mountain views and mini-kitchens that you can actually cook a proper meal in. It’s a good place to meet fellow travellers, too, perhaps over the foosball table in the music lounge or in the cafe. Novel vending machines sell snacks, drinks, condoms and dog leads. Art is a theme here, seen in wall murals by Berlin-based artist Josephine Rais and rainbow-shaped floor lamps. From HK$880 (£88), room only.
The judging panel of travel writers
National Geographic Traveller (UK) team
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