Twelve enchanting luxury hotels
Jason and I have stayed in some fabulous hotels. They are forever banked in our treasure trove of memories, but they do not make it on to this list. Why? I hear you yell. Both the Waldorf Astoria in New Orleans, and the Fremont Quebec are gorgeous, iconic properties, yet they lack a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. This list is designed to share only truly enchanting luxury hotels. That means places that have stolen a piece of our hearts, and places we never tire of talking about.
Criteria for becoming one of of our top 12 hotels
To qualify for the list, there has to be something truly unique about the property. It has to be a place we desperately want to return to, and not belong to a mainstream chain. Whilst I love the understated luxury of Intercontinental hotels, they frequently lack intimacy. The constant business chatter can really put a dampener on an experience. I spend enough time in hotels like that for my day job, so I’m seeking something different on my travels. In short, I’m seeking the extraordinary…..
Prepare to be enchanted with this tantalising collection of 12 extraordinary luxury (or unique) hotels. All prices quoted assume a one night night stay on the 6th October.
Esterel Hotel, Quebec, Canada
Hidden in the forest, on the banks of a lake which freezes solid in winter, is the heartwarming Esterel. With its spectacular location, and an inviting array of outdoor spa pools, lit by elevated flaming cauldrons, this hotel packs a punch.
You can take daytime strolls across the frozen ice, zip through the forest on snowmobiles or simply relax in the spa. If food and drink are more your thing, the hotel has a fabulous restaurant (we highly recommend the self cooked tuna). My mouth waters just thinking of it!
Once you’ve indulged in the bar or spa, you can return to your room to luxuriate in romantic surroundings. Bask in the glow of your own roaring fireplace, and read a book in the cosy seating area. Or, sink into the humongous bed, where you can admire the winter wonderland through panoramic windows. Book from £138.
Devils Thumb Ranch, Colorado, United States
We loved this ranch so much, we visited two years on the trot. It is easily one of the best hotels in North America that we have visited, and I cannot wait to return. Just a few miles outside the town of Winter Park, it is the perfect escape for a little post ski luxury. Set on a secluded plain, it offers ice skating, cross country skiing, horse riding and other ranch activities.
It has a wonderful spa with a unique Wild West feel, not to mention the most panoramic yoga studio I’ve practised in. Overlooking snow covered plains, and distant mountains, you can practice sun salutations feeling like you are praying to a higher god. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, comforting fireplaces, roll-top baths and rocking chairs on the verandah might.
The piece de resistance is the heated outdoor pool. Open all year round, you can swim from the indoor sanctuary into frigid air, whilst basking in the warmth of toasty waters. Be brave, face the elements, and race to the steaming hot tub for a soak in this winter wonderland. Book from £256.
La Source, Grenada
When we visited this hotel was an independent resort, but La Source, has since been acquired by Sandals. We only hope that a visit now compares favourably to our experience.
The resort is mere minutes from the airport on a crescent shaped beach and is a sport lover’s dream. We booked an ultra-all inclusive package which included all meals, drinks, diving, sports and daily spa treatments.
During our stay, we indulged in endless daily activities including yoga, archery, kayaking, tai chi, diving, water polo and tennis. To maintain our energy, we feasted on mouthwatering concoctions from a number of restaurants. We loved the resort so much, we could not bring ourselves to do any local sightseeing. Yes, not once did we leave, preferring to make maximum use of the gorgeous facilities. Book: from £643.
Grand Hotel Billa, Aosta Valley, Italy
This is actually two hotels – the five star Grand Hotel and the four star Park Hotel Billa, but both share the same facilities. The rooms in the Park hotel are spacious and comfortable, so I don’t recommend paying extra for the five star rooms. From the moment you enter the sleek glass reception, the grandeur of this historical beauty wows you. A lemon staircase rises dramatically from the lounge where a huge fireplace entices you. Surely, only the super rich would be unimpressed.
The hotel is just thirty minutes from nearby ski resorts, and offers guests access to the casino and spa. Soak weary post ski limbs in the water jets, or immerse yourself in steaming waters beneath frigid skies in the outdoor tub. We loved the opulence, superb service, gorgeous spa and dramatic location overlooking the mountains of the Aosta valley.
You can even visit on a weekend break. Simply fly into Turin, hire a car and drive up into the mountains. The short transfer takes around an hour, assuming you do not get lost. Book from £216 for the Grand hotel or £91 for the Park.
Great John Street, Manchester, United Kingdom
This hotel is part of a collection of boutique hotels in and around Manchester. Rooms are designed with the romantic in mind, with huge beds, and sumptuous furnishings in rich shades of reds, browns and purples. It would be folly to treat this hotel as your base. Instead it should be your destination.
Lock yourself away for the weekend, soak in your rolltop bath for two, or linger in the decadent bar. This old converted Victorian school retains hints of its austere heritage, combined with extravagant furnishings. On the rooftop terrace, you can hop into an hot tub overlooking the vibrant city scenes of Manchester, or enjoy a drink in the sun (weather permitting). Book from £148
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Ever fancied going to prison? Nope, I cannot say I have either. Or, at least I hadn’t until I heard about the Malmaison Oxford. Set in a former prison, the rooms are old prison cells but with more luxurious fittings. Plush furnishings, king size beds and roll top baths are a far cry from the austere cells of old.
If you can tear your way out of your ‘cell’ you can feast on colourful cocktails in the sultry looking indoor bar, or enjoy views of the city from the rooftop bar. This is the most unusual place I have ever stayed in the UK, and it is in a great location in one of the prettiest cities in the UK.
Evason Hideaway Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
However you arrive at the Evason Hideaway Six Senses Zighy Bay, you are in for an adventure. Even your transfer options are ridiculously extravagant. You can skim across the Bay in a speedboat from the neighbouring town of Dibba. Speed demons can blaze a trail across the dusty desert to descend hairpin mountain bends in a 4 x 4, and thrill seekers can make a dramatic entrance on a tandem paraglider. The Hideaway has to be one of the best luxury hotels in Oman.
Zighy Bay is on a secluded peninsula, marooned from everyday life by dusty, mountain peaks. No expense has been spared creating this luxury hideaway. All suites come with a swimming pool, personal butler, and indoor and outdoor showers. Bathrooms contain the biggest tub I have ever seen, and a bed from heaven. Take your pick of pillows from the endless selection, and then settle in for blissful days of pampering in the ultimate privacy.
We visited on our honeymoon, just after the hotel had opened. Our honeymoon package included spa treatments, a private drinks reception on the beach, and a day on a dhow. Guests also have access to free bikes and kayaks.
Ma’In Hot Springs (formerly Six Senses), Jordan
This is the only entrant onto our list where I feel obliged to add a warning. We visited this hotel twice (the second stay comped due to our complaint about service on the first visit). On both occasions, the service was exceptionally poor. Nevertheless, this hotel should be on your bucket list, as you are unlikely to visit such a unique, dramatic property.
Just twenty minutes from the Dead Sea, or a few hours from the Amman, the Ma’In Hot Springs is situated in a spectacular location over 260 metres below sea level. Stop off for the obligatory photo by the entrance to prove that humans can breathe below sea level.
As you meander down the goat and shepherd strewn road, you catch your first glimpse of the hotel nestled in a narrow gully. Shimmering clouds of mist rise from the boiling thermal spas cascading over the cliffside, and locals squeak and chatter as they launch themselves into numerous pools.
The hotel complex also has a seriously sexy spa. Natural hot springs cascade over rocks into an inky black pool, whilst drapes flutter above day beds.
On our second visit we stayed in a suite which was utterly sublime. It included a huge living area, mammoth bed and glorious views up the valley. Despite that, I likely would return, as the location and decor screams class, plus a day at a beach club on the Dead Sea is not to be missed. Be warned though, not everything floats in the Dead Sea, as I discovered when I accidentally kicked off Jason’s new designer sunglasses. Note also that trying to float in the Dead Sea is rarely as serene as it looks. I felt more like a beached whale, with fins flapping, as I tried to capture the obligatory picture. Book from £148
The Residence, Zanzibar
The residence is a member of the Cenizaro family of luxury hotels. Nestled on the edge of a shimmering white beach far from civilisation, this is another luxurious escape. Each suite has its own pool, not to mention an indoor and outdoor seating area, four poster bed, large standalone bath tub, indoor and outdoor shower and of course fabulous garden or ocean views.
We stayed in a ocean view villa which was nothing short of sublime. There is a fabulous resort pool, spa and running trails, but we spent most of our time in our pool, chilling on our deck or doing water sports. This is a fantastic destination for people desperately seeking relaxation, and you can easily spend a week here without leaving the confines of your own villa.
If you fancy some company, you can eat in one of two restaurants, but we preferred to go to the oceanfront restaurant. Note, don’t miss sunsets here. Order a glass of the Spier 1692 white wine, and sit back to watch the evening show. Likewise, don’t miss the monkeys scampering around the deck at breakfast time. Book from £333.
Kamuela Villas, Ubud, Bali
Each villa is in a private courtyard with a sizeable private pool, sun loungers and an outdoor covered seating area. The glass bedroom houses a central four poster bed. Panoramic views of the garden may tempt you to leave your curtains open. Frankly, you want to wake early, as failure to do so will mean you miss the morning monkey parade around the walls of your villa.
The bathrooms are gorgeous with a double shower, soaking tub, and direct access to the pool. Staff serve breakfast in your outdoor lounge, and you can opt for a romantic night in if you wish. Looks pretty cool doesn’t it? Book from £333
Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Krabi, Thailand
This hotel had recently opened when we visited, and we opted for a top floor villa with balcony hot tub. Panoramic windows overlook the limestone kaarsts of Pai Plong Bay, and from your king size bed, you will be able to soak up spectacular views as the sun rises.
If that doesn’t leave you feeling at one with nature, you can take a leisurely shower in your rain shower with windows overlooking the rainforest. If you prefer a bath, you can push back the bedroom divider and soak in the tub whilst admiring the views.
The resort is only accessible by boat, adding to the air of exclusivity, and has a range of other facilities on site. From the dive school to the resort pool, reading library or selection of bars, this hotel should be on your bucket list. Book from £143.
Yab Yum, Goa, India
Yab Yum offers the best value of our options. Rather than pure luxury, this is barefoot fantasy. As you wander through the huge wooden gateway, a tropical Narnia awaits. Sandy footpaths meander through swaying palm trees, and giant sized coconuts litter the gardens.
Those coconuts house king sized beds on raised plateaus. Semi open air bathrooms (complete with resident frogs) are en-suite and brightly coloured furnishings lift your spirits. Clamber into your hammock, enjoy open aired breakfasts outside your villa or head to yoga in the lanai. This is a fairytale setting at a fairytale price. Book from £40.
View the gallery of our top enchanting luxury hotels
Which would you like to visit?
So there you have it. Of the hundreds of hotels we have visited, just 11 have made it in to the list so far. We will add others over time but which is your number one from the existing list?