The Best Hotels In The World, According To Lonely Planet
Our friends over at Lonely Planet have put together their first annual best hotels in the world list, breaking the impossible down into three categories: extraordinary, eco-friendly and best value.
The list includes some super sweet properties all over this globe of ours, so if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, wallet-friendly or even eco-driven, check out their favorites below.
Captions and photos courtesy of Lonely Planet.
Rising from the shifting sands, Qasr Al Sarab appears like a mirage on the edge of the vast Empty Quarter desert. Outside high crenellated walls echo fortresses of old. Inside rooms continue the dream of Arabian Nights with sumptuous fabrics, carved Islamic designs, woven rugs, wooden doors and metalwork lanterns. The Library's museum-quality artifacts come from a time when the area's few residents were date farmers or Bedouins. Delve into the regional culture with tastefully-done resort activities; dinner is a luxe affair poolside or lounging above on terrace divans.
Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania
Image courtesy of Cradle Mountain Lodge
A stay at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge plunges you into the heart of Tasmania’s wilderness, with luxury that feels as organic as your surrounds. The cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees. Locally sourced game, wine, cheeses and honey permeate the restaurant’s menu, one of Tasmania’s best. The view from the spa is a dense thicket of King Billy pine trees. Your immersion into Tasmania’s wilds would be total, if you weren’t being so thoroughly spoiled by the five-star service.
Image courtesy of Tom Chudleigh at Free Spirit Spheres
Suspended in the trees on sturdy guide ropes, Vancouver Island’s Free Spirit Spheres look like giant eyeballs peering deep into the British Columbia woodlands. Step inside and the handmade orbs – accessed via spiral rope staircases or slender steel bridges – are lined like comfy boat cabins with built-in beds and cabinets. It’s not like roughing it in a walk-in bird’s nest, though. The tranquil site’s immaculate ground level amenities include showers, sauna and a full kitchen while leaf-dappled trails wind around the area’s duck-studded pond and lure you into the surrounding forest.
Saugerties Lighthouse is an historic 1869 landmark that makes a wonderful base for exploring the scenic Hudson Valley. Its rooms have quaint touches of Americana - antique furnishings, quilt bedspreads - and ample natural light, with windows overlooking the river (the West Room also has views of the Catskill mountains). To reach the lighthouse, guests stroll along a half-mile long boardwalk through lush wetlands, which fills with birdsong at dawn and dusk.
Imagine waking to the sonorous call of the endangered black-crested gibbon, stretching in your bed a hundred feet up in the triple canopy, and nursing a coffee on your balcony as you watch the dawn mist crowd in over the jungle valley below. The tree houses erected by conservation group Animo are a thing of architectural wonder, straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. But more extraordinary still is that to reach these vertiginous eyries you'll have to trek through the fecund realm of the tiger, then catch a series of exhilarating zip lines strung across the forest canopy, before flying into your night's accommodation.
BEST VALUE: Inkosana, Champagne Valley, Drakensburg, South Africa
Image courtesy of Inkosana Lodge
Nestled in the undulating hills of Champagne Valley in the Drakensberg region, Inkosana Lodge has everything, from a stunning setting in indigenous gardens with a panorama of the Drakensberg peaks, to great accommodation options - a backpacker's lodge with bunk beds and private thatched-roofed rondavels with (or without) ensuites. Inkosana is the perfect launching pad for walks - long and short. However, Inkosana is also renowned as a relaxing getaway - think prolific birdlife, a swimming tank and home-cooked meals.
Whether you’re savouring a leisurely breakfast in the sun-dappled courtyard or snuggling down in an antique bed, the Old Plovdiv Guesthouse oozes old-world charm. This beautifully restored boutique hostel is right in the heart of Bulgaria, Plovdiv’s colourful and cobblestoned Old Town. Private and dorm rooms are all bedecked with hand-picked antiques, and lovingly painted in pastel shades from orange to sky blue.
Gasthof Grüner Baum is unexpected. The inn’s some 500-year-old bones combine with an arresting, if ever graceful, contemporary refit. Light filters across floors, stark white walls are offset by pale, patinaed boiserie and a scattering of antiques. There are just ten rooms: all unique, all generous of scale and featuring a beguiling mix of elegant, often witty, modern furniture, vintage curios and unfussy, but rather luxurious, linen.
Encased in a terracotta building sandwiched between a bar and a micro-creamery, Hotel Hotel Hostel’s interior is modern but minimalist with exposed brick walls, grey office-style carpets and low-slung beds creating a look best described as ‘industrial-chic’. Far from being just another hostel for cash-strapped backpackers, HHH is a hybrid that welcomes all-comers. You can hang out in its brain surgery-clean lounge and kitchen with old hippies, young hipsters, or even parents with their kids. Aside from dorms and double rooms, some with private bathrooms, the accommodation includes a specially designed family room.
ECO: Chole Minji, Chole Island, Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania
Image courtesy of Chole Minji
This lodge is like nowhere else along the Tanzanian coast. Accommodation is in imaginatively designed tree houses – simple, chic and nestled amid the vegetation for maximum privacy. Sea and sand dominate life there, snorkelling and diving are highlights, as are excursions to glistening white sandbanks and neighbouring islands. All profits are channelled into local eco-projects. Over the almost two decades of its existence, the lodge has had a major positive impact on island life, especially in the areas of education and health. Village tours and visits to the nearby school and clinic give a glimpse of what has been achieved.
Tucked away down a seldom trampled dirt road some 38km from the next nearest anything, the tiny hamlet of Chepu sits in the northern sector of Parque Nacional Chiloé. The owners of EcoLodge Chepu Adventures have designed everything at this eco-fierce property with the end goal of complete self-sufficiency, from infrared solar showers to wind-generated electricity to wood-alternative fibre construction. Fernando and Amory, two lovely souls who fled Santiago years ago in search of an off-the-grid life, wine and dine green-conscious travellers, who cannot get enough of the mystical kayak trips at dawn, the views and the BBQs.
In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Taos, New Mexico, lies a small collection of buildings completely off the grid that seem equal parts Gaudí masterpiece and Dr Seuss whimsy. These are the so-called Earthships: radically designed buildings made from recycled materials and boasting impeccable green credentials. Solar panels generate electricity around the house, while a rain- and snow-collecting cistern provides all the water for the house. Yet you won't have to sacrifice comfort staying here. These rentals come with wi-fi and smart TVs, and have a bohemian-chic interior that will appeal to design-minded folk.
It takes no small effort to reach the bungalows of Nuli Sapi (www.facebook.com/NuliSapi). But once there, you'll be awestruck. Aside from admiring the tropical beauty and photogenic sunsets, there's much to do here, and Nuli Sapi is deeply committed to the surrounding communities. Locals can take you out bushwalking, snorkelling with manta rays, fishing or simply for a village visit where you can learn about traditional cooking techniques. And if you need some down time, you can take one of Nuli Sapi's outrigger canoes for a quiet paddle to one of the neighbouring islands.
Russia isn’t exactly celebrated for its eco-friendliness, but the country’s only purpose-built hostel on the shores of Eastern Siberia’s Lake Baikal bucks the trend big time. The enlightened owner, crafted a green sanctuary complete with solar-heated water, triple insulation, an electricity supply generated partially from solar panels, and energy-saving lighting and electrical devices throughout. It’s the perfect spot to recover from cramped, airless sleeper train journeys on the Trans-Siberian Railway while feeling good in the knowledge that you are doing little to damage Siberia’s pristine eco-system.