Whether it’s for the sublimity of the bedroom, the view, the food, the environment or the whole package, our panel of experts choose the places to put on your wish list…
The 20 Places to Sleep Before You Die
1. COMO Shambhala Estate – Ubud, Bali
Experience holistic nirvana in Bali, where spiritual life is bolstered by stratospheric luxury. Tirta Ewing is a vast, multi-saomed suite of colonial splendour. The bed is a floaty, tented cloud, with decks over-hanging the jungle. The bathroom is sublime. With its own Japanese water garden, waterfall and bath carved out of a boulder, you frolic in your own garden of Eden. Staff zone into needs before you have time to register them. With its sacred vibe, this is actual heaven. AP
BOOK IT: From £458 B&B.
2. Arkaba Homestead – Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Once a sheep station, now an exclusive little wilderness lodge which crouches beneath the frowning crags of the Flinders Ranges in the South Australian outback. The sheep went four years ago. Today the station’s 60,000 acres are a sanctuary for wildlife and up to ten guests. The wildlife, including returning rare species, thrives in a gnarled landscape of prehistoric rock, boulder-strewn river beds and stands of massive red river gum trees. PH
BOOK IT: From $990pp all inclusive, with around seven hours of daily wilderness activities.
3. Aman Venice – Venice, Italy
Palazzo Papadopoli, a former Venetian palace on the Grand Canal, is like staying in an ancient art gallery; each of the 24 rooms is sublime. Soaring ceilings, staggering frescos, chandeliers and cherubs with wraparound views of Venice. Room number two is not the swankiest, but it’s at water level, so you literally feel the pulse of Venice as the canal beats against the walls. Wonderfully womb-like. The terrace upstairs is the most idyllic breakfast setting with gondolas gliding by. AP
BOOK IT: From €950 per room B&B, ten per cent tax.
4. Thotalagala Plantation House – Haputale, Sri Lanka
Stay here and step back in time at Sir Thomas Lipton’s beautiful 1890 Dambatenne tea plantation, balanced on the edge of an escarpment in Hill Deodora, with spectacular views. At Thotalagala (a handsome bungalow built for his manager) lounging on the terrace, by the pool, or in the panelled library feels like the best sort of house party. You won’t want to leave. FD
BOOK IT: From £552 all inclusive. ;
5. Deodora House Montali – Umbria, Italy
A country as impassioned as Italy still has its secrets. Mysteries too. How does a vegetarian restaurant on a hilltop in Umbria, reached by a four-mile stone track, and whose nine rooms are simple to say the least, get so many guests returning every year? Tranquility is part of the answer, along with the views, and owner Alberto’s ebullient hospitality. But the key is the food. Alberto’s wife, Malu, has earned an international reputation for her artistry in the kitchen. If all veggie fare were as good as this, even lions might be converted from their carnivorousness. PH
BOOK IT: From €120pp half-board (breakfast and four-course gourmet evening meal included).
6. Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc – Antibes, France
As a building it is as white as pearl, with dove grey shutters and overlooking a 22-acre garden. As a hotel it is legendary, having occupied the same gorgeous realm of unreality since F Scott Fitzgerald planted the Côte d’Azur on the beau monde map. It is a repository of space and light and is ineffably cool. The colours are cool – paint of the palest ivory, hints of gilt, marble as blonde as arctic fox. A glass lift, framed in polished brass, rises from the foyer as cool as a crystal Tardis. The guest list is cooler still. Every spring the stars arrive in their constellations for the Cannes International Film Festival. The Hotel du Cap is close enough to whizz them across to the Croisette by speedboat. Paradoxically, though, it is unexpectedly unpretentious and trades in simplicity. As a former general manager said, ‘When on vacation the rich like to pay maharajah prices to live like boy scouts.’ PH
BOOK IT: From €560 B&B.
7. Ballyfin – County Laois, Ireland
Sheer indulgence. You don’t so much check into Ballyfin as seek asylum. One of Ireland’s grandest country houses, luxuriating in 600 acres of pampered parkland, it has been immaculately and extravagantly restored to make a glory of a hotel. It deliciously combines 18th century elegance and 21st century chic with a fine kitchen and the smiley leavening of Irish informality. And, being Irish, there’s a story to every one of the hundreds of pictures, ornaments and artefacts that adorn the place and make every room a wonder. When the project started, Ballyfin’s managing director declared that he wanted to make the best hotel in the world. ‘Why stop there?’ asked the owner. So they didn’t. PH
BOOK IT: Doubles from €640 B&B.
8. Greystoke – Mahale Mountains, Tanzania
Imagine cerulean waters of gin-clear clarity, a bleached white sandy beach and lush jungle rising steeply into the Mahale Mountains. This is home to Greystoke, one of the most extraordinary lodges in Africa, set on the remote shores of Lake Tanganyika. It is to here that those in the know go off-grid to seek out the amazing chimpanzees that live in the mountains; an experience with no equal. GMG
BOOK IT: From $725 per person sharing B&B.
9. Jacks Camp – Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana
A truly unique destination in the middle of the Makgadikgadi salt flats in Botswana, a wilderness unlike any other. The dozen tented ‘rooms’ with indoor and outdoor bathrooms are packed with eccentric antiques and curios. A real African Queen styled experience. The big treat though is the sense of space when looking out across the flats and up to the star-filled sky, a complete sense of a landscape unchanged by man since the beginning of time. RH
BOOK IT: From £903, including all safaris, meals and drinks.
10. Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons – Great Milton, Oxfordshire
It is possibly the world’s most holistic hotel, certainly among the most sensual. Not just because its creator, Raymond Blanc, believes fervently in its aphrodisiac properties, but because it excites all the senses. Most people know Blanc as a two Michelin-starred chef. He has an equal achievement in creating a template for country-house hotels in which the restaurant is but one, if vital, element. From the eclectic design of the bedrooms to the gardens and fastidious attention to detail, everything you see, touch, taste and smell contributes to a single, overwhelming experience. PH
BOOK IT: From £695 B&B.
11. Finca Cortesin – Andalusia, Spain
Whisper the word ‘Finca’ to anyone who’s in on the secret and the response is unashamedly gushy. Don’t be fooled by the period proportions, this building was built by Spanish art collector Javier Lopez in the last decade. It might have 67 suites but it has been designed in such a way that it feels as though you have the whole place to yourself. You’d be hard pushed to find a better Thai spa in Thailand, or a better slice of sashimi outside of Japan than at Michelin-starred Kabuki Raw. Lopez’s eye for art has spilled over into a 360-degree vision of artful living with discreet success. AB
BOOK IT: From €584 B&B.
12. Blackberry Farm – Tennessee, USA
Oh, those misty Smoky Mountains, those endless acres (4,200)… and, oh, that food – some of the best you’ve ever tasted, served up with southern hospitality and paired with wine from the impressive cellar. This eastern corner of Tennessee should be on your bucket list. LG
BOOK IT: From approx £650.
13. Reserva Do Ibitipoca – Minas Gerais, Brazil
Ibitipoca is the creation of remarkable Renato Machado, who bought and reforested a huge swathe of Minas Gerais, noted for its cowboys, hospitality and wood-fired cuisine. Nothing jars in the beautifully restored 1715 lakeside farmhouse, where tempting dishes are laid out on the traditional wood stove and the wraparound veranda is strewn with rockers and hammocks. The estate’s wildlife and unexpected sculptures are yours to discover on horseback, foot or bike. Wonderfully harmonious and deeply restorative. FD
BOOK IT: From £495pp for three nights, all inclusive.
14. Rosa Alpina – Dolomites, Italy
Set in the lovely village of San Cassiano, high up in the Dolomites, this is a hotel of superlatives, of extraordinary pedigree and timeless elegance. The cosy loft suites impress with their contemporary design, fireplaces and balconies. But it is the scenery that is so breathtaking and whether skiing in winter, or walking the wild flower meadows in summer, it’s nothing short of magical. As for the cuisine… with the best fondue stube imaginable, and the Restaurant St Hubertus having just got its third Michelin star… well, need I say more? And the insider’s tip? Book the private mountain hut for the most gloriously romantic night ever. GMG
BOOK IT: From £203 B&B.
15. Gili Lankanfushi – Maldives
One of the first completely ‘over water’ villa experiences in the world. Originally set up by the talented Soneva duo this hotel has a true Robinson Crusoe feel. Built almost entirely of reclaimed and well weathered local timber, the suites have a ramshackle look that disguises the level of considered detail. It’s the perfect natural camouflaged look for this sensitive ocean environment. Local artisans have fashioned everything from coat hooks to fabrics and artwork – nothing is too shiny or corporate. There is absolute privacy in the standalone villas, reached by small boat. Indoor/outdoor bathrooms with added natural ‘sea water bath’ and private sun deck create the ultimate romantic retreat. RH
BOOK IT: From £677 B&B.
16. The Peninsula – Tokyo
Unwavering service that doesn’t get tiresome – always a delight. As the smiling bellboys welcome you through the door of the rose-coloured building inspired by a Japanese lantern, take note of the interiors: elegant and modern, with marble walkways and Japanese accents throughout. Each room – some of the biggest in the city – has giant frame windows overlooking the snazzy stores of Ginza or The Imperial Garden (the Emperor lives next door). For 24th-floor views, head to the swish rooftop restaurant, Peter, and feast on kaiseki. It’s pricey but it’s the best. AB
BOOK IT: From £417.
17. Walig Hut, Gstaad Palace – Gstaad, Switzerland
Live out your Sound of Music fantasy in a remote Swiss Alpine hut 1,800m above Gsteig. The original 18th-century chalet features antiquated technology (note the cattle trough that doubles as a wine cooler) but you absolutely wouldn’t want it any other way, swaddled in deerskin rugs next to the blazing kitchen hearth. It might be the place for a digital detox but it’s certainly not the place for a physical one, as chef Maurizio’s hearty cheese-laden Alpine cooking is impossible to resist. Although there is a second bedroom, it’s far too romantic for company beyond you and your beau. Continue the fairytale with a trip up to Jardin des Monts, an edelweiss-covered mountain herb farm that supplies the spa back at Gstaad Palace, which is just the place to reacclimatise back into the real world. AB
BOOK IT: From £1,205 for two, including dinner.
18. Il Ngwesi Lodge – Laikipia, Kenya
This eco lodge provides a unique entrée to Africa. It may be more than 20 years old but so what? The Africa that it represents is even older. Owned and run by the Maasai, it remains a pioneer in the way it enables a local community to enjoy the benefits of tourism undiluted. And while it has all the elements of a modern safari lodge – verandas, pool, game drives – the hosts and guides are heirs to the knowledge, traditions and insight of generations of stockmen, hunters and warriors who were their ancestors. PH
BOOK IT: From approx. £218 full board.
19. The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel – New York
An Upper East Side institution, with views of Central Park, which exudes a palpably buzzy old-school Manhattan atmosphere. Known
as ‘the New York White House’ during the John F. Kennedy years (Monroe was sneaked in here after singing her Happy Birthday tribute), Woody Allen and his jazz band play in the café weekly and the low-lit Bemelmans Bar is a hot cocktail scene. Think Art Deco architecture, a tonne of marble, cocooning bedrooms, a Sisley spa and the best lobster salad on earth. Glamorous comfort. DF
BOOK IT: From approx. £360.
20. Raas Devigarh – Udaipur, India
One of the most glorious palace hotels in India, just a short dash from Udaipur. Come as part of your Rajasthan recce or make it a wellbeing break. The ila Only spa is a sensation of ritualist treatments and yoga, fuelled by garden-to-plate salads. But it’s the building that will blow you away, complete with Marwari horse murals, mirrored ante-chambers, turrets, swings and courtyards. This is next generation India. Polished and comfortable, rooted in Rajput grandeur. DF
BOOK IT: Palace suite from approx. £290.
All prices are based on a double room rate for one night unless otherwise stated
Contributors: Peter Hughes, Fiona Duncan, Daisy Finer, Anna Pasternak, Robin Hutson, George Morgan-Grenville, Lydia Gard, Anastasia Bernhardt