What makes a hotel great?
Is it the number of stars or awards it receives? Is it the service, the location, the amenities, the rooms, the theme, the food, or the price?
Travel experts and hoteliers mention varying factors but agree on a few points:
First, a great hotel should provide a unique experience to their guests.
Second, it should have consistent and superb service.
Third, it presents a harmonious blend of product and service.
Of course, reviews from real people who have actually stayed in these accommodations also matter. For who would be willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a room in a luxury resort if previous guests have nothing but complaints, no matter the ratings it got from glossy travel magazines or top travel websites?
Ultimately, the description of ‘top hotel in the world’ depends on a traveler’s experience upon arriving, while staying, and even after leaving. We scoured the lists of some of the most reliable online resources to find contenders for this coveted title. Here are the top 5 which popped up in more than one listing.
1. Nihi Sumba Island, Sumba, Indonesia
Included in top spots in several lists, including Travel + Leisure, Fortune, and The Telegraph, this former surf resort is the perfect place to escape from it all. According to the eco resort’s website, this is where “rugged luxury meets unregulated freedom”. And this description couldn’t be more accurate.
It’s located on the island of Sumba, famous for one of the world’s most incredible surfing waves, Occy’s Left. If riding a board isn’t for you, then explore the traditional villages or nearby waterfalls, ride a pony on the beach, or go fishing in the river.
Fresh produce comes from their own organic garden, seafood is caught on the shore, and chicken is taken from their own farm.
Accommodations are private villas with typical Sumbanese thatched roofs and are built with organic materials. Some have their own kitchen, library, pavilions, and infinity pools—perfect for multigenerational travel groups. Oh, did we mention that you get your own butler?
The staff is mostly locals who are happy to share stories about their culture, such as their animist beliefs and the weaving of their traditional Ikat cloths.
Staying here allows you to experience the mystical and enchanting island of Sumba, even from the comforts of your luxury seafront villa.
2. Ett Hem, Stockholm, Sweden
Ett Hem means “a home”, and this is exactly the ambiance this hotel imbues.
It was originally a mansion built in 1910 and has been transformed into a 12-room hotel with beautiful, cozy, and artfully decorated interiors. It has all the modern amenities you need, yet the design transports you to a whole other world. Fine wood paneling, parquet floors, antiques, and vintage and contemporary Scandinavian furniture are just a few of the attractive features.
You can relax in the Swedish sauna or enjoy your breakfast in the courtyard garden. The menu contains fresh dishes every day, whipped from the best seasonal produce by chefs trained in Michelin restaurants.
But perhaps the most charming attribute of Ett Hem is that guests are treated as friends of the family, making one feel as if they are truly home.
3. Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa
What do the guests in this magnificent villa enjoy the most? Is it its location, strategically perched on the edge of the Bantry Bay cliffs giving you perhaps the best views in Cape Town? Is it Paul Harris’ (the owner) unique wine gallery that holds a huge collection of reds and whites? Perhaps it’s the extensive art collection and charming but sophisticated decorations?
Could it be the plump sun beds and swimming pool in the terraced garden? Or is it the indulgence and intense privacy the hotel provides? There’s only one way to find out…
4. The Peninsula, Shanghai, China
It’s located in a prime spot on the Bund waterfront, and this is enough reason for business and leisure travelers to book here. But The Peninsula Shanghai offers more than just a good location. So much attention to detail is given to the retro-style interiors and to providing guests with modern luxuries. Some of these are an automatic nail polish dryer and weather panel in the dressing room, a Nespresso coffee machine, and hands-free telephones.
If you want to relax, an 82-foot heated indoor pool with a beautiful Art-Deco mosaic floor and grand skylight, an award-winning spa offering traditional and modern treatments, and a rooftop terrace bar with spectacular views of Shanghai are just a few of your options. Or you could just cozy up in your River Room and enjoy unparalleled views of the Huangpu River as you sip tea.
The hotel has five superb in-house dining options (not including room service), two of them recipients of Michelin stars. Each one carries the same tasteful and classy interiors as the rest of the establishment.
But it was the impressive service that really gave this hotel top spots on the lists we found. There is an army of concierges ready to assist and attend to your requests. And one of the luxury cars from their fleet can pick you up from the airport upon request and bring you home to The Peninsula Shanghai, your haven from this bustling Chinese city.
5. Amangiri, Utah, USA
This could possibly be the best-kept secret (well, not so secret anymore) of Canyon Point in Utah. Amangiri is described on their website as “a remote hideaway tucked within the luminous canyons of the American Southwest”. With the extreme desert landscape that surrounds it, this hidden gem is quite difficult to find.
It’s designed to blend with the Utah desert, offering spacious rooms with clean lines and natural materials. Yet it also stands out thanks to its cleverly positioned lights and a layout that allows you to enjoy uninterrupted and magnificent outdoor views from almost any spot in the hotel. You can easily get lost in your thoughts as you stare at the rugged surroundings or observe how beautiful the changing colors of the landscape are.
Selecting from the 34 rooms and suites will be a challenge. Should you book the one with the plunge pool or the one with a sky terrace? Or would you rather get cozy around your own fireplace in your exclusive outdoor suite lounge, sipping a delicious glass of wine as you gaze at stars in the seemingly endless night sky.
When you wake up from the trance of the mesmerizing surroundings, why not try a Navajo traditional healing method at the 25,000 square foot spa? Or book one of the offered activities, such as a private plane tour over Lake Powell, horseback riding, or rafting. Taste the hearty American Southwest cuisine whipped up from locally sourced ingredients. You could also just enjoy lounging by the swimming pool, which wraps around a gigantic 164 million-year-old rock formation.
So, which one of these top hotels are you including on your bucket list? Or perhaps you think there are better contenders? Share any comments or suggestions you have below.