Travel can be hectic and when you travel to some of the busiest cities in the world, that frenetic energy can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are hotels that offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of the cities around them, while still maintaining some of the character of the destination.
One recent evening, I stumbled out of a tuk tuk in Siem Reap in a clumsy rush, the water coming down in droves all around me (a simple hazard of the rainy season). Falling from the busy riverside street into the Belmond La Résidence d'Angkor, I got my bearings and immediately noticed a sense of calm come over me.
The hotel’s warm wood-paneled lobby led out to a lush courtyard with a green canopy creating a jungle-like feeling that enveloped the outdoor hallways. And as fast as I had come in, I relaxed, almost forgetting I was in the busy Cambodian city.
La Mamounia, Morocco
This sprawling resort is only minutes from the busy and colorful souks hawking ornate jewelry and lamps. Relax by the expansive pool in the hotel’s gardens (at night they’re lit up by more than 1,000 lanterns), cooling off from Morocco’s warm days before donning your smartest outfit and grabbing a cocktail in Le Churchill, a warm and darkly-lit bar that hearkens back to a time when you’d smoke a cigar and while the night away.
Find it: La Mamounia, Marrakech
The Goring, England
London is one of the world’s busiest cities with a never-ending list of great bars, trendy restaurants and hidden corners to discover. But just beyond chic Belgravia, the private gardens of this historic hotel (built in 1910) beckon. Take a seat next to the manicured lawn, surrounded by a multicolored array of flowers where you can’t help but relax -- before getting ready to brave the crowded Tube again, that is.
Find it: The Goring, London
Belmond La Résidence d'Angkor, Cambodia
After spending the day in the hectic and tourist-laden city of Siem Reap, you’ll be in need of a much-deserved break. And you’ll breathe a sigh of relief the minute you step inside the lush courtyards of this luxury property. Treat yourself to a massage and destress in one of the spa’s two relaxation pools or sit down to a refined and modern take on local Khmer cuisine at Circle, one of the property’s restaurants.
Find it: Belmond La Résidence d'Angkor, Siem Reap
Ignacia Guest House, Mexico
Mexico City is one of the most dynamic cities in the world, but it’s also one of the most populated and sometimes you just need an escape from the millions and millions of other people who are there. This small hotel -- it’s only five suites -- channels the best parts about being in a charming home with relaxing and modern lounge areas and green spaces with just a little something extra: a home-cooked breakfast with fresh squeezed Mexican juices and comforting recipes like tamales and chilaquiles.
Find it: Ignacia Guest House, Mexico City
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
When you pull up to this sprawling estate in one of Nairobi’s suburbs, you immediately forget you’re in the busy East African capital. Set on 12 acres, this 1930s estate looks like it would be more at home in the English countryside. But all that changes as soon as one of the lanky giraffes that live on the reserve meander over to check out the new guests, creating an escape like no other.
Find it: Giraffe Manor, Nairobi
Four Seasons Milan, Italy
Milan is a city of beautiful things: impeccable fashion, cobblestone streets, and the breathtaking gothic arches of the Duomo. But it’s also a busy city, with people rushing from place to place. Stepping inside the Four Seasons Milan, however, is a lesson in tranquility set inside a restored former convent that dates back to the 15th century. Stroll through the manicured courtyard garden and admire the cloisters and frescoes, or take a seat by the 18th-century fireplace in the lobby for a much-needed break.
Find it: Four Seasons, Milan, Milan
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, South Africa
The minute you step into the pink-hued hotel in this grand South African city, you feel the enormous history of the property: the hotel was first painted its signature color in 1918 in honor of peace to mark the end of WWI and has welcomed leaders like Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. While the entire property is a calm escape, it’s the hotel’s gardens that really shine. Settle in at an outdoor table for the hotel’s expansive afternoon tea spread with every type of finger sandwich and pastry you could imagine -- plus taste the famous milk tart (trust us on this one).
Find it: Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town
PARKROYAL on Pickering, Singapore
This island nation is as huge as it is compact and the concrete sprawl can be exciting, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Stepping into this green oasis, however, is in itself an escape from the towering city around it. The hotel’s terraced sky gardens mean that no matter where you are within the property, you feel like you’re in your own little park.
Find it: PARKROYAL on Pickering, Singapore
Taj Palace, India
New Delhi is one of the most hectic cities on earth, offering a wonderful sensory overload that will overwhelm and excite you all at once. But strolling around this luxury property’s six acres of gardens is a relaxing and welcome break from the city around it. Soak up the warm temperatures by the pool or embrace total relaxation with an Indian aromatherapy massage at the spa.
Find it: Taj Palace, New Delhi