Valsana, Arosa, Switzerland
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Sure, this swish Swiss hotel has sweeping views of the snow-dusted Graubünden mountains and cosy yet industrial interiors but those features snowball down the slopes compared to its energy-efficient edge. The guesthouse has 40 rooms, nine family apartments and a restaurant that are all powered by an “ice battery” – a method of energy production that produces no emissions and has a 100 per cent recovery rate of potentially wasted heat. It also has an area for electric car charging and a commitment to seasonal, locally sourced food to bolster its sustainability cred.
Amanyangyun, Shanghai, China
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When philanthropist and Fuzhou native Ma Dadong discovered that a 2000-year-old forest was to be destroyed, he decided to intervene. The result was a mass migration of ancient treasures: 10,000 camphor trees, along with 50 Ming and Qing dynasty buildings, were painstakingly relocated from Jiangxi Province to the current site in Shanghai some 800 kilometres away. In the case of the buildings, reconstruction happened brick by brick in order to create the 26 antique villas now standing on the site. The trees were also so carefully transported, they managed an 80 per cent survival rate.
Bisate Lodge, Ruhengeri, Rwanda
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Nestled in the remains of an old volcano crater, Bisate Lodge is one of Rwanda’s most progressive gorilla lodges – and the most luxurious. The hotel gives guests more than just encounters with these gentle giants. The hotel’s parent company Wilderness Safaris planted 15,000 trees on the 42-hectare grounds, where 12 families of mountain gorillas now frequently pass, offering ample opportunity for tracking and sighting. Although the hotel is decidedly cutting edge, the fact that it’s designed in the likeness of a former Rwandan king’s palace means there’s no shortage of traditional touches – local craftsman created a number of the accessories and some furniture is actually hardened cow-manure painted in geometric patterns.
Treehotel, Harads, Sweden
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Trust the Swedes to reimagine the hotel experience with clever, cheeky and deceptively simple design. Despite opening seven years ago, Treehotel still stands separate from the world’s hotels for its whimsical ways. Suspended four to six metres above the ground, each of the seven rooms are unique and their names give their theme away: the Bird’s Nest, the UFO and the mind-boggling Mirrorcube room redefine the idea of a cabin in the woods.
Hotel Saint George, Marfa, USA
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As if the Texan town of Marfa needed more cool, this unexpectedly chic desert town has a new addition nonetheless. Mimicking the spirit of the city, there’s a heavy art streak throughout the property – 300 original works flood both the public spaces and the 55 rooms and suites. The very Marfa-esque cherry-on-top? The lobby, which houses a full-blown store, spruiking everything from sleek leather totes to coffee table art books.
Green Village Bali, Indonesia
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Constructed almost entirely from one of the world’s most sustainable materials, these stately bamboo structures seem defy to gravity. The creations of architect Elora Hardy (whose father, John, founded the Green School in 2010 that was crafted in the same vein), the 12 houses that comprise the village give bamboo a new use at every turn. In some spaces it creates stairs, in others it’s used for walls and doors. While each villa varies in size and shape, all retain a palpable sense of fun. There are tunnelled entrances, bridge-like passages and nest-like hanging seats. Staying here is like playing forts – but as a sensible adult, of course.
The Other Side, Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas
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Forget everything you know about glamping – The Other Side on Eleuthera Island takes it to another level. Three of the six rooms are actually tents but not as you know them: there’s no campsite feel thanks to the four poster beds and floors crafted from character-filled wood and the indoor palms that stretch their fronds almost to the very high vaulted ceilings. Add the decadence of a deck-lined pool that reaches into the shimmering waters surrounding the island and a castaway décor punctuated by unexpected artwork and camping trips will never be the same again.
Alila Yangshuo, Yangshou, China
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With sharp karst mountains and serene rivers surrounding this property, staying here feels like diving into a watercolour painting. The 50-year-old converted sugar mill’s industrial past is celebrated in the masonry exterior of local stone, as well as the retention of a towering chimney. To further balance the history of the building and its modern usage, Alila also offers travellers the chance to take part in experiences that celebrate the past of the now-revived mill – guided tours around the property explain the original uses of the building and the hands-on sugar-spinning class teaches traditional methods.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York, USA
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Whether it’s taking elevators to crowded building summits or elbowing your way into an expensive bar for the rooftop’s vista, most Big Apple visitors pay a premium to get the postcard-perfect view of the Manhattan skyline. But a free snapshot of the world’s most captivating city isn't even the major drawcard of this very modern hotel. Like your mother always told you, it’s what’s inside that counts. Firstly, sustainable architecture is a firm feature – highlights include sculptures made from reclaimed roof shingles and pine floors crafted from the barrels of a bourbon distillery in Kentucky. There’s also an indoor hammock that swings in front of the expansive window in each room – while it’s probably the last thing you’d expect to discover in your New York hotel room, this is Brooklyn, after all.
MacQ01, Hobart, Australia
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Tassie’s quite the trendsetter these days, which is why the opening of this living narrative isn’t all that surprising – until you spend a night there. Self-dubbed as a “storytelling hotel”, as much work went into compiling the stories of Tasmania’s colourful characters as into the moody, layered interiors and cypress-clad exterior. In-house researchers short-listed more than 150 locals for their cultural encyclopaedia that plays out in the fittingly bespoke rooms, which are divided into five key character traits of the ‘typical Tasmanian’ (“hearty and resilient” for example). In the common areas, you’ll find more explicit references to the charismatic cast: the Story Bar displays front pages of newspapers past and the seating near the bar’s fireplace is based on the Indigenous concept of “the knowledge bowl”.
Mar Adentro, Los Cabos, Mexico
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The provincial charm of Mexico’s colourful pueblos may tempt travellers inland but when it comes to the Baja California tip of Los Cabos, luxury is the true seductress. Mar Adentro, the creation of architect Miguel Angel Aragonés, reaches beyond accessible extravagance with its transcendental design. The entire property appears as though it’s floating on a body of water that stretches seamlessly into the North Pacific Ocean, with striking spaces that successfully shatter expectations – the nest-like chill out space is the perfect example.
Santani, Kandy, Sri Lanka
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In an area that seems to barely keep time, a new wellness retreat brings this sleepy section of Sri Lanka into a new kind of luxury. Kandy, the province that receives its most enthusiastic visitors via the scenic, tea-plantation-trimmed train from Colombo to the district capital, can now lay claim to a hotel that lets nature create the ambience. Most rooms are edged with glass walls, giving guests the sense the surrounding rainforest is embracing them as they sip tea inside. As for its wellness focus, your experience at Santani is heavy with zen possibility – Ayurveda treatments, yoga, mountain hiking and bathing in natural pools are all on offer. Although all manner of mod cons are available, shared areas are purposely wi-fi free for guests to undertake a digital detox during their stay.
Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, Las Vegas, USA
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You know the future has arrived when your concierge isn’t even human. But Pepper® the humanoid robot is close enough. Based in the Sky Lobby of the Mandarin Oriental’s 23rd floor, the “Technical Ambassador” can determine gender, age and mood by detecting certain facial, vocal and physical cues. In addition to giving directions and telling stories, she’s equipped to dance and pose for a selfie. What more could you want in a hotel employee?
The Silo, Cape Town, South Africa
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Balanced atop the recently opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art of Africa, The Silo bears little resemblance to its former use as a grain silo. Rooms are hidden inside the elevator portion of the former silo, soaring six floors above the surrounding Table Bay Harbour, creating a formidable presence over one of Cape Town’s most picturesque inlets. The vantage point of the cushion-cut windows puts the best of the city on display – views of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and even the far-flung Hottentots Holland Mountains can be seen in glorious detail. What you’ll really want a closer look at, however, is Africa’s largest collection of contemporary art, which is conveniently just downstairs.
The Warehouse Hotel, Singapore
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If you feel a sense of history while bunking at this wonderful warehouse space on the Singapore River, there’s good reason. The 122-year-old hotel has had past lives as a spice storehouse, a moonshine-making hub, the HQ of a secret society, a three-level disco that was the toast of the town in the ‘80s and an oil mill before finally emerging, after a 22-month-long renovation, as a property worth spending extended time in. The pool is a particular highlight of this godown (warehouse) – an enormous glass box with its water surface swelling like a big rectangular bubble ready to burst upon entering.
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One of these things is not like the other but that’s precisely what makes Wanderlust, a futuristic hotel in Singapore’s Little India district, so enticing. Don’t let its muted 1920s façade fool you: the interiors of this riotously designed hotel are very forward-focused. Four local design firms were each given a floor to run wild and they have – 10 rooms are dedicated to a different Pantone colour (the Yellow Submarine room is likely to deter insomniacs) and the rest are themed, with friendly monsters, spaceships and typewriter chairs making an appearance. The shared spaces are just as inventive with features such as blue leather barber chairs and metal road signs refashioned into stools.