Last December, I wrote a story about the luxury hotel openings I was most excited for in 2020. To read it now, it’s almost comical how blissfully unaware I was—how we all were—of what 2020 would actually look like.
There is actually great news for hotel enthusiasts: Despite the challenges COVID posed, several beautiful new luxury properties did open this year. I’ve chosen my favorites that combine personalized services and high-end amenities with connection to the neighborhoods the hotels are in, the local cultures, and the natural environment. Whether you’re dreaming of a trip to Spain, Botswana, Japan, or California, make these hotels your home base.
Four Seasons Hotel, Madrid
Neighborhood: City Center
Highlights: all-day rooftop dining, menu by Spanish celebrity chef Dani Garcia, and the city’s largest spa
While Four Seasons has welcomed other new hotels this year—a landmark Embarcadero property in San Francisco and a second location in Tokyo, in the Otemachi district—it’s the Madrid location that’s especially exciting. The chain’s first hotel in Spain benefits from a prime location (right in the city center, just a 15-minute walk from Retiro Park and the Prado Museum) and historic architecture (the hotel consists of seven buildings, the oldest dating to 1887). It also has all-day rooftop dining overlooking the city, a pool terrace, and a 15,000-square-foot spa over four levels—the city’s largest spa. “This is a game-changer, as Madrid needed more luxury product with name recognition,” says travel advisor Steve Harris.
La Réserve Eden au Lac, Zurich
Neighborhood: City center, near Zurich Opera House
Highlights: rooftop Peruvian Japanese dining, lakeside location, Philippe Starck design
Zurich’s city culture is often characterized by efficiency and innovation, but when I stayed at La Réserve Eden au Lac, a 40-room Philippe Starck redesign of a historic hotel, this past May, I loved how this new hotel showcased its beautiful lake culture—water sports, work-life balance—more than anything else. From my bed, overlooking Lake Zurich, I felt like I was on a boat myself—and it gave new life to Zurich, a city I consider a second home. And that’s the point—the design feels like you’re on a sophisticated yacht, with nautical paintings and mahogany panels throughout. The top-floor restaurant, the Peruvian Japanese La Muña, is already a local favorite, with panoramic lake and city views from its terrace, and a classically Swiss cozy, wood-beamed interior. La Réserve, with locations in Paris, Geneva, and Ramatuelle, keeps being one of the top boutique luxury brands to watch.
Camp Sarika by Amangiri
Neighborhood: Canyon Point, southern Utah
Highlights: year-round luxury tents from Aman, sleeping amid Utah canyons
Amangiri, surrounded by 100 acres of canyons in southern Utah (the closest airport is in tiny Page, Arizona, 25 minutes away) has drawn adventure and wellness seekers since it opened in 2009. Camp Sarika’s opening is significant in the luxury space as the first year-round tented accommodation in the United States, offering 10 private canvas pavilions made from recycled plastic bottles, each with an outdoor deck and plunge pool—plus private firepits and fireside dining. “The resort is always sold out,” says Judy Perl of Judy Perl Travel, “so it will allow more guests to experience Amangiri by increasing the number of keys, which is especially great.”
Xigera Safari Lodge, Botswana
Location: Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Highlights: artwork sourced from nearly 80 African artists, a Tata Harper spa, excursions on the Okavango Delta
Making a new luxury lodge in Africa stand out is challenging, but Xigera Safari Lodge, on the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, hits all the high notes as the shiniest new offering in a rising African destination. Run by the Travel Corporation’s Tollman family, the sustainably built lodge has design inspired by the Okavango Delta spearheaded by Toni Tollman, director of design, and the first Tata Harper spa (known for nontoxic and organic products) in Africa. Each of the 12 suites—including one two-bedroom family suite—and public areas will feature artwork by leading African artists. The entire property will sit on two small islands, floating slightly above lily-filled lagoons. And the Tollmans really do take sustainability seriously—they built the Xigera Energy Centre to meet more than 95 percent of their energy needs. The Travel Corporation, today with 42 travel brands, including Red Carnation and Contiki, started in Africa, and it has been the Tollmans’ lifelong dream to open this lodge—a full-circle coming home story for the family and brand. International air travel will open to Botswana as of December 1, and travelers must present a negative COVID test taken within three days of arrival.
Courtesy of The Travel Corporation
Xigera Safari Lodge will sit on two small islands in a water reserve
Location: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Highlights: tropical tree house accommodations, an impressive kids’ club, dining spearheaded by a French Mexican chef
The newest One&Only, built cliffside in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, is massive—105 tree houses and ocean-facing villas in a tropical rain forest, with a 40,000-square-foot kids’ club, and casual to fancy dining focused on local product and flavor. “It brings something completely different to this market, a Bali-meets-Mexico feel, with private, very well-appointed villas built into the jungle, each with its own pool,” says advisor Steve Harris, who visited during the opening week. His other insider tips? It’s under the same ownership as the Mayakoba complex (which includes a Fairmont, a Rosewood, and a Banyan Tree hotel) in Riviera Maya, and they’re about to finish a polo field and equestrian center adjacent to the property, along with a beach club and restaurant to be shared with the Rosewood Mandarina, which just started construction. “The new highway will also cut airport transfer time from Puerto Vallarta from around 70 to 40 minutes once completed,” Harris says.
Location: Sonoma wine country, California
Highlights: floor to ceiling glass in the common spaces for the best views, crab rolls and grilled seafood at the pool, a yoga garden surrounded by vineyards at the spa
The Montage Healdsburg, a Preferred Hotel, will give “new exposure and notoriety to an area of California wine country,” says Harris. “It’s the only truly luxury property in a beautiful small town that produces great wine. It also shares a zip code with the now famous Single Thread farm, restaurant, and inn.” Sustainability was front of mind when building the hotel’s 130 bungalow-style rooms and common spaces—the landscape includes 13 acres of vineyards and is adjacent to family-owned Jordan Winery in the Alexander Valley. There will also be three restaurants, including an upscale poolside grill and signature French restaurant Hazel Hill, an 11,500-square-foot Spa Montage, a zero-edge resort pool, an apiary, and priority guided access to the region’s best winery tours, hiking, and culture. Families receive a treat upon check-in—the hotel partnered with mom-owned organic skincare brand bāeo for a planet-based amenity kit, including geranium and lemon-scented shampoo and bath wash and a body butter made with avocado and olive oil. Opens December 12.
Singita Sabora, Grumeti Reserve
Location: Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania
Highlights: prime migration viewing, a gourmet deli, a new experience from beloved brand Singita
Singita Sabora Tented Camp is a completely new camp in Tanzania’s Grumeti Reserve, though it keeps the same name as the prior camp that was knocked down entirely. “From what I’ve seen,” says Judy Perl, “the reimagination is absolutely stunning, securing its place as one of the ultimate lodges in Tanzania.” Out of all the hotels on this list, this is the one where I would choose to go and feel restored—something we all need this year. The nine suites include private dining areas and decks to practice yoga, pilates, or just quiet meditation or reflection. There is a “Guest Deli” with baskets and fridges full of gourmet treats, evoking the best kind of camp feeling. And of course, you’ll see the best of the best in wildlife viewing—it’s set on the Great Wildebeest Migration route.
Hotel Mitsui, Kyoto
Neighborhood: City center, opposite Nijo-jo Castle
Highlights: the onsen (hot springs) experience, wood-fired pizzas, the historical location in Kyoto
While the Olympics were postponed this year, Japan is still on my mind, and this will be one of my first stops—a locally owned, 161-room Kyoto retreat built on the site where the powerful Mitsui family lived for 250 years. The hotel embodies traditional culture in its modern interpretation and aims to “embrace Japan’s beauty” throughout the hotel with the help of top talent in interior and landscape design, spas, and restaurants. The onsen (hot springs) experience is central to the property, with a public onsen and private onsen treatment rooms and suites. While the signature restaurant, Toki, focuses on Japanese cuisine, its second restaurant, Forni, focuses on Italian dishes like wood-fired pizzas made in an okudosan, or Japanese kamado-style cooking range.
Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Location: Mount Niseko Annupuri, Japan
Highlights: a new Ritz-Carlton Reserve experience in a rising ski area
After Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, opened in Los Cabos, Mexico, last November, this hotel opens as the first Reserve in Japan and the fifth worldwide. Reserve is a Marriott design concept and brand, where a luxury resort is complemented by iconic natural beauty to feel like a sanctuary. In Japan, the famed Niseko ski area is a newer luxury hot spot, but the 43-room Reserve property, at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri, will be especially attractive for international travelers wanting a local experience with service they’re used to. Guests can access Niseko’s 2,191 acres of ski terrain and come back to explore the healing elements of water at the spa and onsen. Opens December 15.
Two Notable Refreshed Properties . . .
La Mamounia in Marrakech, one of my favorite hotels in the world, unveiled a big new refresh this fall from a Parisian design firm, with two new Jean-Georges restaurants—one Italian trattoria and one with Asian classics like dim sum, noodles, and more.
In the Caribbean, the 80-room Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands is set on 500 acres of private beach. It’s one of those hotels where families return year after year, and it’s one of the year’s biggest reopenings after a four-year renovation. There’s a new Rosewood Explorers Club for kids, a cliffside spa, four new dining concepts, and six new tennis courts. Plus, there’s dedicated butler service from arrival onwards and a more glamorous arrival experience via luxury catamarans.
. . . And Two Notable, Not-Quite-Hotel Openings
The Langham Nymphenburg Residence, 15 minutes from Munich on the imperial estate of Nymphenburg Palace, is one of the most distinctive openings of the year—and notable as Langham’s first private residence. It’s also on the grounds of the famed Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, and handcrafted porcelain artwork decorates every room of the house. Langham CEO Stefan Leser says it fits very well in the current travel climate: “It’s a private residence with 9,000 square feet of space, handcrafted world-renowned porcelain, a lot of beautiful art. The villa is so luxurious and comfortable and private, with four bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a fitness area, conference suite, home cinema, private garden, and more. It’s a residence with all the amenities that a luxury hotel can provide. I’ve never seen anything with the attention to detail like this.”
Just outside the city center of Dubrovnik in Croatia is the car-free island of Lopud, dotted with orange, lemon, and olive trees—and this special stay, Lopud 1483, with five suites in a 15th-century monastery, restored over the past 20 years by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, the creative director of Lopud 1483 who is best known for her contemporary art foundation, TBA21. The Thyssen-Bornemisza family is well-known for their art collection in Europe, and their furniture and artwork is featured in each room. There’s also a Sacred Garden with nine stations to lead guests on a self-meditative journey, inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi who visited the region and encouraged monasteries to be built. Lopud 1483 is available for exclusive buy-outs and individual bookings depending on the season.