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World's best hotels, 2013

Jennifer Flowers
July 24, 2013

Picture a cypress-lined road in Tuscany. Now picture yourself arriving at a 10th-century former castle on more than 4,000 acres of rolling hills. Welcome to Castello di Casole, a new 41-suite hotel that already ranks as No. 2 in the world.

We asked our readers to vote in the 18th annual World’s Best Awards for properties like Castello di Casole that have won them over—weighing in on categories such as rooms, location, service, food, and value. The resulting list is not only a go-to hotel resource for planning your next trip, but also reveals the destinations that are important now.


Whether you’re ready for a nature retreat or eager to pound the pavement of South Africa, Germany or New Zealand, there’s a property for you among the World’s Best Hotel winners. Read on, and let the daydreaming begin.

No. 1 Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp,
Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Score: 96.60

Mombo Camp’s nine tents blend flawlessly into the open plain of the Okavango Delta while retaining a luxurious feel. Private balconies make for prime bird watching, and each tent features mosquito netting on four-poster beds and both indoor and outdoor showers. Tent No. 1, the farthest from the dining area, is the most tranquil.

Offering even more privacy are Little Mombo Camp’s three guest rooms, which are set apart and feature a private plunge pool. Raised walkways connect tents and allow rhinos, elephants, and other animals to wander freely through the camp. Relax with a postgame cocktail in Little Mombo’s treehouse-luxe library.

No. 2 Castello di Casole—A Timbers Resort,
Casole d’Elsa, Italy
Score: 96.18

A cypress-lined road leads to the rolling 4,200-acre Tuscan estate, whose castle dates back to the 10th century. The 41 rustic suites incorporate oil paintings and reclaimed terra cotta, while Essere Spa, originally the estate’s wine cellar, features seven treatment rooms and massages incorporating orange and basil essential oils.

(See also: Hotel guests are happier according to J.D. Power study)

No. 3 Singita Kruger National Park,
South Africa
Score: 96.14

Two lavish lodges with treetop suites and riverside rooms make up this Singita property. The glass-walled Lebombo Lodge overlooks the plains and the Lebombo Mountain Range, while the Sweni Lodge is nestled among trees along the Sweni River. Join the twice-daily game drives and request a guided walk along the Mozambique border for a good chance of sighting of zebras, giraffes, and impalas.

No. 4 Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens,
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Score: 96.14

Travelers flock to this lush region for wildlife spotting, white-water rafting, and kayaking on Lake Arenal. Among the dozens of area properties, T+L readers are partial to the Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens. Dynamic owner Leo Ghitis has outfitted the 50 villas with spacious decks (some have hot tubs), plantation furniture, and avocado-colored walls. Nostalgia wine bar serves some of Latin America’s best vintages by the glass.

No. 5 Four Seasons Resort Bora-Bora,
French Polynesia
Score: 96.00

Overwater bungalows are the most enticing lodging option at this Four Seasons, yet it counts 107 different rooms scattered along the beachside and lagoon of its private motu (small islet). Walls are made of volcanic stone, and thatched-roofed spaces are decorated with teak and merbau-timber furnishings. All have extraordinary views over the turquoise-blue, coral-filled South Pacific—and some offer glimpses of the majestic black-rock peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia.

See All of the World’s Best Hotels

No. 5 The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs,
Matauri Bay, New Zealand
Score: 96.00

The 22-suite Lodge at Kauri Cliffs rests on 6,000 acres of picture-perfect rolling North Island countryside. While golf is the main draw, there are also two tennis courts, an infinity pool, and three secluded swimming beaches. The spa, regarded as one of the best in New Zealand, is in a native totara rainforest with indoor and outdoor fireplaces for chilly Kiwi days. Book the Owner’s Cottage for 4,200 square feet of space, two bedrooms and golf course views.

No. 5 Ritz-Carlton, Berlin,
Score: 96.00

The Ritz-Carlton occupies a soaring Art Deco-inspired skyscraper near the Potsdamer Platz. Designed by Peter Silling, the 303 guest rooms—including 40 suites—are decorated with original Markus Luepertz watercolor paintings and plush fabrics in rich tones of gold, blue, and red. Dine on French cuisine at Brasserie Desbrosses, then head to the Curtain Club for premium cocktails.

No. 8 Oberoi Udaivilas,
Udaipur, India
Score: 95.73

Designed in Mewari style, the Oberoi Udaivilas sits gracefully on its own 50-acre island near Udaipur. Check-in starts with a private boat ride past palaces on Lake Pichola, and a personal butler escorts guests to one of the 87 rooms and suites. While all 19 Premiere Rooms have private pools and terraces, the nine that face the hotel’s 40-acre-plus nature preserve offer wildlife spotting (peacocks; deer; wild boar) as well as views of the marble palaces of mainland Udaipur.

No. 9 Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve,
Kruger National Park Area, South Africa
Score: 95.71

At Bush Lodge, the flagship of Sabi Sabi's collection, courtyards surround sculptures created from uprooted trees and salvaged wood. The 25 thatched suites are decorated in earthy color schemes of cinnamon, cream, and sienna. Twice-daily game drives, firelight boma dinners, and spa treatments using marula tree, African potato, and aloe vera extracts keep parents occupied, while kids can enroll in the EleFun Centre, offering conservation activities and outdoor fun.

No. 10 Singita Sabi Sand,
Kruger National Park Area, South Africa
Score: 95.64

Boulders Lodge is high-style rustic built into the landscape, while Ebony Lodge has a vintage safari feel. Private outdoor showers and well-stocked wine cellars come standard, while photography-focused safaris and cultural outings to a nearby village let you appreciate Kruger’s landscape and the local community. Book Ebony Lodge's Suite 1 for the best views of elephants bathing in the Sand River.

See All of the World’s Best Hotels