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Hotels
Hotels Worth The Trip
07.28.11

This season, we went in search of hotels that provide a destination in and of themselves. Places that inspire us to dream, explore and relax while enjoying mountains, cities, coasts, lakes, gardens and fall foliage. We found many inspiring properties that fit the bill in more ways than one, be it their stellar amenities, intriguing heritage, a great location or all of the above. Check them out before you decide where to check in.

Baden-Baden, Germany – A Black Forest Respite

Germany

The name of Germany’s premier spa town boasts the word for “bath” twice. Dating back to Roman times, Baden-Baden is the gateway to the famous Black Forest region along the country’s southwest border with France. The city’s numerous thermal springs, rehabilitation and medical clinics—combined with its wellness and beauty spas—make it a true restorative retreat. Fully trained and licensed German practitioners offer top-notch holistic therapies and treatments. A stay at Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa reveals the stellar standard of service afforded to the well-heeled in Germany. The grand 19th-century hotel overlooks a verdant park, outfitted in superb foliage during autumn. Stroll along the Oos River or on a myriad of gentle walking paths, savor treatments at the first-rate hotel spa and indulge in an afternoon coffee break with scrumptious German sweets. Baden-Baden’s famous casino provides evening entertainment, while the Black Forest awaits with castles, ruins and fairytale forests.

Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand – Elegance in the Otherworld

New Zealand

In the center of New Zealand’s North Island, Tongariro National Park beckons adventurers with otherworldly scenery. Resting at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, the historic Chateau Tongariro adds an alluring dimension to this fascinating land. Modeled after Chateau Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park, the hotel opened for business in 1929 to provide luxury in the wild. A grand, sweeping entrance welcomed guests into a world of plush living filled with chandeliers, crystal glasses, fine food, VIP parties, splendid views from the arched Ngauruhoe Window and a roaring log fireplace in the Ruapehu Lounge Bar. All is still in place 82 years later, following the restoration and construction of an additional wing. Guests can enjoy many activities, such as skiing, wild-trout fishing and hiking. In addition, the park’s three active volcanoes provide plenty to see.

Singapore – Historic Colonial Jewel

Singapore

The tiny Southeast Asian powerhouse of Singapore is awash in modern wonders, financial prosperity and glitzy shopping venues—but Raffles Hotel (named after Singapore’s founder Sir Stamford Raffles) offers a cooling breeze of old-world appeal. Rich in tradition, colonial architecture and period furnishings, this historic hotel is dressed in teak, marble and tile, bringing the romance of the colonial silk and tea trade alive. Established in 1887, Raffles has a storied history. Envision Singapore’s last surviving wild tiger crouched under the once-elevated building, trying to escape its pursuers in 1902. Take a seat at the Long Bar, where bartender Ngiam Tong Boon mixed the first Singapore Sling in 1910, and imagine the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Jean Harlow and Maurice Chevalier sitting nearby. Relax on a shady verandah in the Palm Court, where British playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham is said to have penned his famous stories. Invoking the fables of the exotic east, Raffles is a place to bathe in history and return to an age of gracious luxury.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Sizzling Beach Playground

Rio De Janeiro

Rio’s legendary Copacabana Palace holds court like a glamorous silver-screen siren on the most famous beach playground in Brazil. Opened in 1923, its elegant spaces have attracted sophisticates, movie stars, politicians, sport legends and royalty. Latin and Mediterranean design and architecture with touches of art deco and antiques provide interest and distinctive style, while exceptional service and excellence distinguish this beach icon. Extensive refurbishment has added modern amenities while maintaining the hotel’s original belle-epoque splendor. Lounge at the swimming pool, play a game of tennis on the rooftop court, enjoy the spa and fitness facilities, or head out to white sands just outside the hotel, where beach service will provide everything you didn’t think to bring. Rio’s beaches, hopping nightlife and sizzling culture make this a one-stop destination for some of travel’s best elements.

Montego Bay, Jamaica – Friendly Caribbean Retreat

Jamaica

In 1954, the founders of this Caribbean vacation escape purchased 35 acres on Jamaica’s northwest shore. Their dream: to build a permanent vacation escape in their favorite winter retreat of Montego Bay. Naming their retreat after the crescent-shaped beach, they set about combining laid-back luxury and exemplary service with Jamaica’s friendly, gentle spirit. The cottages, villas and beachfront rooms and suites of the Half Moon Resort have hosted U.S. presidents, tycoons, movie stars and royalty. Enjoy the 18-hole signature golf course, the equestrian center, the resort’s private two-mile beach or the 68,000 square-foot spa for a treatment in an over-water bungalow. Plunge into one of the 54 pools; ride or run on the cycling and jogging trails; play a few games of tennis, squash, croquet, basketball or volleyball; or meander through the shopping village. Kids can frolic in the Children’s Village and watch the dolphins in the lagoon. With 400 acres of lush Caribbean playground at your service, the Half Moon requires little in the way of mental exertion.

Perthshire, Scotland – Refined Sporting Tradition

Scotland

The countryside estate of Gleneagles Hotel houses three of Scotland’s top championship golf courses. The Ryder Cup is booked here in 2014, and organizers of the G8 Summit chose it to host world leaders in 2005. Once you’ve made the one-hour drive north from Edinburgh or Glasgow, you’ll appreciate why. Gleneagles was billed as a “Riviera in the Highlands” when it opened in 1924 and even boasted its own railway station. Blending old-fashioned opulence and a relaxed, modern ambience, it continues to embody the romantic Scottish mystique. Guests can pursue all manner of traditional sports and leisure on its 850 acres. Have a go at falconry or target shooting, or learn how to handle a trained gundog. Modern-day adventurers can try off-road driving on the two designated courses. Those who prefer the slower life can submerge at the spa, stroll through garden mazes or cycle along the estate’s peaceful lake admiring the fall foliage. The Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie restaurant serves gourmet French cuisine with a Scottish twist.

Monte Carlo, Monaco – Legendary Riviera Glamour

Monte Carlo

The postage stamp-size state of Monaco occupies a stellar position between France and Italy on the illustrious French Riviera. Its luminous weather and one-of-a-kind European flair attract visitors to stay, gamble, stroll or simply ogle. Book a stay at the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, a dazzling palace that overlooks the azure waters of the Mediterranean. The opulent 1824 structure stands adjacent to the glamorous Grand Casino and a stone’s throw from enticing restaurants, shops and pubs. Relax at the terrific hotel spa or dine gardenside—either way, you’ll have magnificent water views. If that gets tiresome, venture out to explore. Monaco’s 1 1/4-mile stretch of hilly, coastal terrain features leafy parks, an opera house, sports stadium, beach, royal palace, museums, cathedrals, casinos, nightclubs and an annual Formula 1™ street race.

Miami, FL – South Beach Glitter

Miami

Miami’s South Beach became a playground for millionaires in the 1920s. During that time, hotelier Ben Novack purchased a mansion and transformed it into the Fontainebleau, the largest hotel on Miami Beach. Its rooftop gym, 17,000 square-foot lobby, elevated swimming pool, supper club with hydraulic stage, formal gardens modeled after Versailles and a 6,500 square-foot bowtie-shaped pool humbled its competitors in size and luxury. Although critics first panned the daring structure for its curving façade, the Fontainebleau became an architectural icon and the most popular destination hotel of the time. Stars like Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Dean Martin, Bob Hope and Judy Garland made it their choice for performances and stays. Completely renovated in 2008, the glitzy legend retains a nod to its glamorous past. Explore its 22 acres along the beach, enjoying the hotel’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs; 40,000 square-foot spa, dipping and lounging pools; and private cabanas with flat-screen TVs, phones, wireless Internet and butler service.

Upper Saranac Lake, NY – Secluded Luxury in the Woods

Saranac

Tucked deep in the woods of New York’s Adirondack Mountains is a place so reclusive and exclusive, you can’t even get directions until you put down a $500 deposit. Upon arriving at the gates of the Point Resort, you’ll enter a world of reflective silence with no televisions, phones or cell-phone reception. Once the 1930s home of William Avery Rockefeller, the secluded retreat rests on 75 acres of forested peninsula. Each of The Point’s 11 unique guest quarters features rustic furnishings, great stone fireplaces, antiques, game trophies, books, private decks or patios, and splendid lake views. The price of your stay includes all meals, beverages and unlimited use of the facilities and sports equipment. Dine with other guests in the Great Hall for specially prepared meals served house-party style and then saunter out to the terrace for a cognac or take a moonlight stroll in the remote splendor that most of the world will never see.

Lake Como, Italy – Queen of the Renaissance Gardens

Italy

The Lake Como region of northern Italy attracts legions of romantics who savor idyllic lakeside living. Those fortunate enough to stay at Villa d’Este in Cernobbio on the lake’s southwest arm will feel like royalty, thanks to the discreet but doting staff. Built for a cardinal in 1568, the property features 25 acres of elaborate gardens. Filled with angled avenues, sculptures, topiary hedges and blooming fragrance, the gardens climb up to bridges, passages and small fortresses in the verdant mountains. Individually decorated rooms with period pieces and oil paintings overlook the shimmering lake or the magnificent gardens. Idle on the lakeside terrace after a decadent meal, swim in the unique floating pool, stroll into town or take a boat up the lake to Bellagio. Staring at the stunning scenery of Lake Como from the shade of a massive 500-year-old plane tree, you’ll realize that time really does stand still here.

Half Moon Bay, CA – Deluxe Coastal Cliff Escape

Half Moon Bay

Driving south of San Francisco along Highway 1, plunging cliffs provide unmatched ocean views. This area is home to the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, which opened a mere 10 years ago. The property sits in regal solitude above an unpopulated white sand beach with vivid green fairways all around. Jog, stroll or bike on the coastal trail, hit a few tennis balls or play golf on the two championship courses. The nearby town of Half Moon Bay offers a short stretch of rustic shops, perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Try Chez-Shea for local organic California coastal cuisine, or stop in at the popular Moonside Bakery for a sweet treat. Afterwards, head back to your secluded castle on the coast to recuperate at the spa or have a drink near one of the outdoor fire pits. Friendly but unobtrusive staff gives you all the space you need or all the help you require. Fall is the best time to visit, when clear, sunny California skies reveal the coast’s many splendors.

Sausalito, CA – Fort of Relaxation

Sausalito

Tucked behind a hill just off the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge is a spot most people miss. Acquired as a military site in 1866, Fort Baker now rests in the capable hands of park rangers and the Cavallo Point Lodge. Former officers’ quarters have been upgraded and restored to offer modern respite. Buildings recall a bygone military era, including metal-pressed ceilings, sunrooms and porches. Remodeled historic rooms circle the former parade grounds, while recently built hillside rooms feature green architecture. Bike or drive to nearby Sausalito to enjoy fresh seafood and upscale shopping. Hike up to the bridge or stroll down to the pier for stunning views of San Francisco. A treatment at the airy and modern Healing Arts Center & Spa affords calming restoration, while a self-guided Fort Baker History Walk offers insight to the historic buildings. Kids can explore the award-winning Discovery Museum, while dogs delight in stellar walks, deluxe beds and special organic treats.

Udaipur, India – Maharaja’s Dream

India

In 1743, a young maharaja commissioned an exquisite palace in Udaipur (in the northern state of Rajasthan) in the hopes of picnicking under the moonlight with a beautiful maiden. Rising from Lake Pichhola like a white marble fairytale, the building is now a hotel, the Taj Lake Palace. Once you arrive at the jetty, you’ll be whisked into a royal fantasy that starts with a shower of rose petals. Wander through gardens and lavish corridors, courtyards and pavilions. Indulge in opulent rooftop dining, idle under a portico at the pool, have a treatment at the floating spa, or take a yoga class on the terrace and gaze at the magnificent views and sunsets. Live sitar and traditional dancing accompany evening cocktails. Attentive staff caters to you like royalty, whether you’re relaxing in the garden or on a floating pontoon. With so much to see in Udaipur, you may feel compelled to let one of the hotel’s boats carry you to shore—but, then again, you might not.

Marrakech, Morocco Arabian Majesty

Morocco

When an 18th-century sultan bestowed his gardens to his four sons, legend has it that Prince Mamoun used his as a venue for nzahas, a type of Moroccan garden party. Today, his gardens provide the oasis for La Mamounia, a storied hotel inside the old walled city of Marrakech. Step through the resort’s gates into a fascinating world of Arabian luxury. Nearly 20 acres of tranquil gardens adorned in fruit trees, flowers and centuries-old olive trees infuse the air with fragrance, while the magnificent spa restores you with its underground pools and baths. Wander through the hotel’s walkways, past reflection pools and hidden courtyards. Breathe in the scents of cedar and dates while you explore the cool, dark marble interiors that provide relief from the desert sun. An ornate blend of Moroccan craftsmanship and modernity, this recently refurbished landmark embodies both history and meticulous artistry.

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