The World's Top Ten Luxury Hotels
Philippe Kjellgren offers up a supreme bucket list of luxe hotels and resorts.
Philippe Kjellgren, or ‘PK’ as he is known, is one of the world’s most-connected travel personalities and author of seven travel books. Formerly the founder of luxury hotel site Kiwi Collection, he has launched a hotel app called PK’s List, hailed as the Michelin Guide for the luxury hotel world.
His experience spans 20 years and PK has personal relationships with owners and management teams at more than 3,000 of the world’s best hotels, regardless of their size or brand affiliation.
PK has done the ‘hard work’ in scouting out the greatest places on Earth (and those that claim to be great but are not).
Here are his must-do-before-you-die hotels.
- Laucala, Fiji
This private island resort in Fiji is the most luxurious in the world. It offers 25 Fijian-styled villas, with incredible interior design and good taste, with 450 staff; its own Wagyu beef farm; and a submarine for guests. The 3,500-acre island is 90 percent self-sufficient. It is owned by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz.
We took jet skis out with a guide and toured around the entire island by water, exploring the diverse flora and trying to spot dolphins and turtles. We each had a chance to take a ride in the DeepFlight Super Falcon, a winged micro-submersible with 360-degree viewing capability, so we could go ‘scuba-diving’ without getting wet. We also did the farm tour and visited the Wagyu beef farm, the pig pens, goats, sheep, ducks, and chickens.
- The Brando, French Polynesia
Once the home of Marlon Brando and still home to his family. On a preserved archipelago of many islands, the resort blends in perfectly, offering amazing diving. As private as it gets.
We did a safari, searching for sea turtles, manta rays and exotic birds. We loved walking the beach and ending at the beach club for a fresh seafood lunch. But our favourite thing to do was just hanging out in our villa since it was so private and comfortable, with a pool and direct beach access. Every morning, we would run out and jump into the warm turquoise waters before doing anything else: the perfect way to start the day.
- Time + Tide, Miavana, Madagascar
The newest and most exclusive private island resort in Madagascar, with 14 beach-front villas. This is as lux as it gets. You can do a helicopter safari that takes you to remote forests where you’ll spot otherwise hard-to-see lemurs.
We arrived at this private island by helicopter and, since there were not many guests on the island at the time, the helicopter landed right on the beach in front of our villa, where a row of staff and the general manager were there to greet us. We did the helicopter safari to a remote area where we spotted the golden-crowned sifaka; the rare black lemur; and the Perrier’s sifaka. On another day, the hotel surprised us with sundowners at an old lighthouse where panoramic views over the surrounding archipelagos were magical. Every villa gets a private golf cart to zip around the island. We also had a romantic picnic that was supposed to be on a private beach but, because of unstable weather, was set up by the pool in our villa; it was still an incredible experience and the food was fresh and amazing.
- Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe
The best there is as far as safari camps go. Located high above a dam with stunning views; a massive private concession where you will spot the ‘big five’; and the best design of any safari lodge.
The unique thing here is the safari on the dam where there are many hippos and crocodiles. We visited the local Shangaan village to gain insight into the community’s life. We learned to make a fire by rubbing sticks; shot a bow and arrow; made a trap to catch hares; wove baskets; made a kind of pastry and ate it; and then watched the community perform their local dance.
- VillaTreville, Amalfi Coast, Italy
A hidden gem in an otherwise crowded Positano village, this is one of the very best hotels in Italy. It also has a private beach club not far away from the hotel’s boat transfer.
Positano and the Amalfi Coast are steeped in history and culture and very pretty, the reason why they get so many visitors each year. We drove the windy roads and visited the exquisite towns and villages, full of artisan shops, boutiques, and endless restaurants, bars and cafes. The property is so serene and peaceful, we enjoyed sitting on the terrace of our villa at dusk, sipping an Aperol spritz and watching the sunset over the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
- NihiSumba, Indonesia
Barefoot luxury as it was meant to be on the remote island of Sumba, an hour’s flight from Bali and three times its size. It is also one of the best surf spots in the world.
We did a three-hour spa safari; this consists of a 90-minute hike though beautiful countryside and rice paddies and ending up at the spa located on the coastline. We were greeted with cold towels and a guy who chopped a fresh coconut for us each, followed by a tasty breakfast. Then we could each choose two treatments from the menu (body scrub, body wrap, facials, 90-minute massage). After treatments, we had a swim in the ocean and relaxed. Then we were driven back to the resort by open-air jeep. We did a horse-back ride through the countryside and then removed the saddles from the horses and took them swimming. The horses here love the water and liked swimming with us bareback. We also went surfing with Tropicsurf (very good instructors).
- Aman, Venice, Italy
A perfectly restored private palazzo, where the owner still lives in an apartment. The most exclusive hotel in Venice by a mile.
Located on the Grand Canal but away from the crowds, Aman Venice is a historical 16th-century palazzo with two ‘piano mobile’ floors, filled with museum-quality art. We spent a couple hours wandering around the property absorbing the art and architecture. The gondola is a symbol of Venice, and when you’re there, no matter how clichéd it is, one must take a ride on the canal in a gondola. We glided along some small canals, admiring historic palaces and iconic bridges, passed by La Fenice theatre, and then went down the Grand Canal: this is the way Venice was meant to be seen.
- Uxua, Brazil
For me, this is a perfectly designed tropical resort. It’s located in Trancoso, a UNESCO-protected village, which is to Brazil what Ibiza is to Spain. This is where the ultra-chic and cool venture
We stayed in one of the four houses that is located right on Trancoso’s square, so it was fun watching the action unfold from the comfort of our front door/window. This is a most-desirable location since it is where all the shops, restaurants, cafes and other homes are located (it’s also car-free). The beach club is the place to be; it’s rustic with a restored fisherman’s boat turned into a bar, serving delicious food and cocktails. Surfing, sea kayaking, beach volleyball, and a wooden gym are there for guests to use but most people (including us) mainly enjoyed lounging on the beach and people watching.
- Vik, Chile
Incredible design, amazing wines, a beautiful landscape and horseback rides through the wineries. Be sure to book one of the new glass houses. We went horseback riding though the vineyard; the most incredible feature of this resort is the winery. It’s unique and the design is unprecedented: avant-garde, highly sustainable, technologically creative and the wines are delicious (we had a private guided tour). We also enjoyed wandering around the property checking out the many contemporary art pieces (the owner, Alex Vik, is an avid art collector).
- Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado, US
This could be a movie set: an old mining ghost town given new life as a luxury hideaway, with ogival cabins and a salon with etchings by none other than Butch Cassidy.
You feel like maybe you’ve taken the wrong turn but then you arrive at this magical place, where John Wayne might step out at any moment to greet you. We went horseback riding in the Colorado Rockies. Every day, we made it a thing to immerse ourselves in the on-site hot springs. The hotel has three hot springs on site: each is at a slightly different temperature, with one being inside a romantic bathhouse. The springs are very rich in lithium, manganese and sulphur so the water is great for the skin. We did the hot-spring circuit or what we liked to call hot-spring hopping.