From a James Bond Jamaica hideaway to a village retreat in Cambodia and a Riviera grande dame, here’s our pick of the top world-class, bucket-list hotels for 2021.

GoldenEye

Oracabessa, Jamaica

7
Telegraph expert rating

Music, movies, literature – what cultural pedigree this Jamaican hideaway has! The GoldenEye villa was the home first of Ian Fleming, who wrote his James Bond novels there, overlooking turquoise shallows; then Bob Marley; then finally Chris Blackwell, the Island Records founder, who brought Marley, and reggae, to the wider world. Between them, they have hosted everyone from golden-age Hollywood stars to royalty and rock royalty. Blackwell had so many musicians rocking up (Sting wrote Every Breath You Take at Fleming’s desk, and Bono the theme tune to GoldenEye, the 1997 Bond film) that he built cottages to house them, event­ually turning GoldenEye into the laid-back but legendary hotel it is today, adding clapboard villas, beach huts, a restaurant and bar serving Blackwell rum cocktails at the shore.


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£
361

per night

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Taj Lake Palace

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

9
Telegraph expert rating

Rajasthan’s City of Lakes has many fine Rajput palace hotels, and the most iconic is the Taj Lake Palace. Originally a summer retreat for a big-spending maharana (and, much later, Bond girl Octopussy’s all-female lair), the 18th-century palace is an icing-sugar concoction of scalloped arches and domed pavilions that appears to float on Lake Pichola. Courtyard walls are inlaid with gemstones, hot tubs are hidden in its chhatri, rooms are decorated with hand-painted friezes, hand carved latticework and silk-canopied emperor beds. But the real beauty is the setting. Take a boat out, early morning. No dawn in the world is more silencing than the pale light that casts a silvered haze over Udaipur, the Lake Palace barely there, half-imagined – a triumphant union of nature and human design.


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£
250

per night

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La Mamounia

Marrakech, Morocco

8
Telegraph expert rating

“I have found the most idyllic place on earth,” wrote Sir Winston Churchill to his wife from La Mamounia. Its 300-year-old gardens, he told Franklin D Roosevelt when inviting the US president to join him, were “the most lovely spot in the whole world”. And no wonder he couldn’t stop going on about the place; La Mamounia is an icon of Marrakech, as seductive and romantic as the city itself, as ornate as any Moorish palace with its zellige tiling, intricate carvings, cool courtyards with palms and tinkling fountains. Inside, bars and restaurants (four of each, the food now overseen by Jean-Georges Vongerichten) are deliciously dark and velvety. The hotel recently reopened after a revamp by Paris studio Jouin Manku, which freshened up Jacques Garcia’s 2009 theatrical makeover – all bohemian mystique intact.


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£
325

per night

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Deplar Farm

Sveitarfélagið Skagafjörður, Iceland

9
Telegraph expert rating

Set in the wilds of northern Iceland, Deplar Farm is the ultimate off-grid luxury bolt-hole. The black-timber, grass-roofed lodge settles seamlessly into a mountainscape that is carpeted with green in summer and snow in winter, and it sits on a contemporary glass storey that gives wraparound views from within the Scandi-luxe interiors. Come here to detox (digitally and physically), recalibrate and play in the pristine wilderness. Wellness plays a key part and is holistic, from the nutritious food, yoga and spa therapies, to more epic outdoorsiness, such as snowmobiling, fishing and heli-skiing (this “farm” has two helipads) – but it’s about fun, too: the buzzy bar has a wraparound deck, table football and pool, and a loft packed with musical instruments and a stage for karaoke. On winter nights, the Northern Lights add to the magic, playing overhead as guests submerge in the indoor-outdoor geothermal pool (with bar), steam rising into some of the purest night air on the planet.


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£
2,283

per person, per night

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Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc

Cap d’Antibes, Côte d’Azur, France

9
Telegraph expert rating

The glamour of the French Riviera’s grande dame has never dimmed during her 150 years. Set in 22 pine-forested and landscaped acres of the Cap d’Antibes, the villa was originally a retreat for writers and artists. Picasso, Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds all came to stay, create and party, drawing all society into their glittering social whirl – and so the Riviera scene was born. Soon, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc became the most exclusive hotel in Europe. Rita Hayworth fell in love with the Aga Khan here, Marlene Dietrich with Joseph Kennedy. In the 1960s, photographer Slim Aarons captured the rich, famous and beautiful who waterskied, swung from the trapeze out over the Med, and sunbathed around its saltwater pool carved into the rocks. But rich, famous, beautiful or not, every guest is treated as though they are exceptional; despite all its grandeur, the ethos is inclusive and laissez-faire. This year, the hotel reopened after a birthday facelift, smarter still and yet unchanged in spirit.


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£
595

per night

Phum Baitang

Siem Reap, Cambodia

9
Telegraph expert rating

A bucket-list hotel for a bucket-list wonder, Phum Baitang is hidden in the jungle beside the temples of Angkor Wat. The Arnaud Zannier retreat is built in the style of a traditional Khmer village, with thatched wooden houses on stilts among 20 acres of lemongrass and paddy fields. Unlike a traditional Khmer village, however, the houses have plunge pools and Nespresso coffee machines, and the offerings – outdoor infinity pool, spa temple, two restaurants and bars – are very much five-star. Angelina Jolie and her crew commandeered the entire place for three months when it opened in 2015; what she loved most, says Zannier, was its authenticity.


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£
188

per night

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Le Sirenuse

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

9
Telegraph expert rating

The Amalfi Coast can become almost unbearably clogged with tourists in summer, but that doesn’t matter when you’re staying at one of its glorious cliffside villas, because there is nothing between you, on your thrillingly vertiginous terrace, and the iridescent Tyrrhenian Sea below. Le Sirenuse is one of these glorious villas, passata red, with lemon trees overhanging the pool; opened in 1951 and run still by a charismatic local family, it is one of Positano’s most eternally beautiful hotels – that is to say, one of all Italy’s most beautiful hotels. Here you can appreciate the spectacle that brought us flocking to Positano in the first place: the magnificence of the coast, the extraordinary quality of the light, and bougainvillea to stop you in your tracks.


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£
477

per night

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Amangiri

Utah, United States

9
Telegraph expert rating

Miles from anywhere, under the scorching sky, Amangiri is an oasis of luxury amid the fiery red expanse of the southern Utah desert. The Navajo sandstone, whipped by wind and time into flowing, linear formations, forms an otherworldly landscape. Within it, Aman’s seminal resort is built in harmony with its surroundings, the low-lying, polished-concrete building echoing the rock strata, the pool wrapping itself organically around the hillside, reflecting earth and sky, bright blue against the ochre scrub. Wellness is a focus, with a spa (treatment rooms, like bathrooms, are open to the elements) and activities (yoga, Pilates, hikes) included. This is the ultimate in distancing. A place to re-evaluate not just your own little life, but your place in the universe.


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£
1,760

per night

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Fogo Island Inn

Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

9
Telegraph expert rating

The drama of Fogo Island Inn’s architecture is matched only by its end-of-the-earth location, a rocky coast of an island off Newfoundland; next stop, Greenland (or, indeed, Ireland). Resembling an art gallery as much as a hotel – a clue as to what’s inside – the stark white prism cantilevers out over the rocks, floor-to-ceiling windows ­giving wide-open views of the raging North Atlantic, with sea-view wood-fired saunas and outdoor hot tubs on the rooftop. Philanthropist entrepreneur Zita Cobb built the inn-and-arts-centre to help save the Fogo Island community, and is dedicated to her causes: there’s a library, cinema and gallery showcasing a changing programme of contemporary art, and a focus on the hyperlocal, from the food producers to the guides who reveal to guests the natural treasures of the island.


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£
1,310

per night

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Longitude 131

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia

9
Telegraph expert rating

Curving across the red earth, Longitude’s 16 luxury tented pavilions have widescreen views of Uluru. Beds are surrounded on three sides by glass walls, so Uluru is the first thing you see when you wake. It’s run by the couple behind Southern Ocean Lodge (currently being rebuilt after the bushfires). Longitude 131º has a spa, an outdoor pool, and spaces to eat, drink and take in the surroundings. Sustainable activities offer new ways to see the sacred rock without setting a foot on it: on walkabouts, camels, Harley Davidsons, bicycles; or, in the evening, dine among the dunes at a table lit with candles, watching the colours deepen under a darkening sky.


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£
2,613

per night

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Arctic Bath

Harads, Swedish Lapland, Sweden

8
Telegraph expert rating

Out in Swedish Lapland’s great white expanse, Arctic Bath is an architectural masterpiece that resembles a swan’s nest floating at the edge of the river Lule – made all the more otherworldly by the northern lights swirling overhead. Dusted with snow and frozen in ice in winter, the ring of logs, in which six spare cabins and three saunas are nestled, encircles the arctic bath itself: a round, unheated (yes, unheated) outdoor pool, essential to the ritual of the Scandi ice dip – dashing from the sauna and plunging into icy river water, invigorating the system and leaving even burnt-out urbanites with hearty glowing complexions – which inspired the concept of the hotel. Six larger cabins on the riverbank have soaring glass walls giving views of the nest and the landscape.


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£
422

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Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli

Lake Garda, Italy

9
Telegraph expert rating

This peaches-and-cream palazzo on a shore of Lake Garda is an unselfconscious paean to la dolce vita, from crenellated top to toe. Built in the 19th century as a summer house for a wealthy Italian family, it has been sensitively restored to its original glory – with antique furniture and oil paintings, intricate cornicing and great carved doorways, and frescoed ceilings depicting neo-renaissance cherubs fooling about in the heavens – so that the house retains the feel of an authentic family home rather than a hotel or a tourist attraction. There are just 20 rooms and suites, all pretty as hell, with French windows opening onto balustraded stone terraces overlooking the lake. A two-Michelin-starred restaurant creates dishes every bit as floral and pretty as the rooms.


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£
957

per night

Singita Sabora Tented Camp

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

9
Telegraph expert rating

If you only go on one blow-out safari trip in your life, then Singita Sabora Tented Camp, in the wild heart of the Serengeti, is widely regarded as the best of a spectacular bunch. On Singita’s 140,000-hectare private reserve, the camp itself is beautifully designed, with an ‘Out of Africa’ timeless romance to the canvas and leather tents, wide open to the savannah, its open-plan dining area serving farm-to-table food, and net-canopied beds and tubs designed for maximum wildlife viewing. Because it’s the wildlife that’s the main attraction: big cats, elephant, giraffe are plentiful, and thundering through the neighbourhood is one of the greatest bucket-list experiences of all time: the Great Wildebeest Migration. As well as game drives there are walking and horseback safaris, and various conservation and community programmes; and Singita’s superb and smiling team complete the picture.


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£
1,817

per night

UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa

Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil

8
Telegraph expert rating

Hidden behind a humble adobe shack on Trancoso’s hippy-dippy village green lies a gem of a Brazilian beach hotel which never seems to lose its shine. Uxua, created by designer Wilbert Das (former creative director of Diesel), is made up of a handful of rustic-luxe casas set in towering tropical gardens. Each is unique, and simply but exquisitely made from reclaimed materials by local artisans, furnished with antiques and charming design objets, and most have their own pools. At breakfast in the open-air bar beside the organic-shaped pool, handtiled in turquoise pebbles, a crowd of wealthy bohemians and design-savvy go-getters drink green juices and run businesses from their phones. The vibe is om by day, party by night.


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£
258

per night

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Ritz Paris

Paris, France

8
Telegraph expert rating

Gilded and beswagged, the Ritz Paris is an OTT confection of French opulence in pastel macaron shades. It was the first of César Ritz’s eponymous hotels, opened in 1898 “to a glittering reception” on Place Vendome in the company of Chanel, Boucheron and Cartier. Now it glitters once again with the refractions of a million chandelier crystals, since it reopened in 2016 after a €400m facelift by current owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, to bring its appearance in line with its grande dame status, and compete with rival Paris dames. Yes, others may be more fashionable, some more beautiful, some have views of the Eiffel Tower. But the Ritz’s history endures: Coco Chanel moved in and stayed until she died, 34 years later; Hemingway stayed, too, while he was writing A Moveable Feast (Bar Hemingway is masculine and clubby). At its heart, the central Grand Jardin is as groomed as a Parisian cinq a sept.


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£
924

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Shipwreck Lodge

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

9
Telegraph expert rating

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is one of the world’s most epic, elemental landscapes, where desert and ocean meet on a grand scale. Vast sand dunes roll for mile upon mile, and the thundering Atlantic pounds its wind-whipped shore, empty but for the bones of whales and ships lost to the treacherous offshore rocks. There’s an unearthliness that lures curious travellers, who can now stay in comfort amid the arid wilderness. Opened a couple of years ago, Shipwreck Lodge is built to look like the listing hull of one of those thousand grounded ships. Guests discover the wildlife that is to be found even here, spotting birdlife and wildlife (elephant, lion, hyena) and fishing for their own supper – and discover too a sense of scale: their own insignificance in this endless, inhospitable expanse.


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£
1,328

per person, per night

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North Island Seychelles

Seychelles

9
Telegraph expert rating

The one thing everyone knows about North Island is that Will and Kate (reportedly) honeymooned there. What else is there to know? Well, it’s very possibly the finest private-island hideaway in the world. Exquisite yet unfussy – a barefoot-luxury lodge which sits lightly on its own island in the Seychelles, where giant boulders bookend palm-fringed beaches of fine white sand, lapped by absurdly clear turquoise water. Its architects lived on the island for two years before they started building, incorporating elements from the environment into both design and materials – shells, driftwood, palm – creating thatched, open-sided salas and 11 huge villas, and reassembling heritage buildings to create a library, dive centre and boutique. Guests are given bikes, an electric buggy, and the freedom to explore this paradise island, alone or with a conservationist.


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£
5,747

per night

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Chateau Marmont

West Hollywood, Los Angeles, United States

8
Telegraph expert rating

The allure of Chateau Marmont, a turreted mock-gothic castle on Sunset Boulevard, is its off-screen Hollywood history. Since it opened in the 1920s, it has been THE place where Hollywood players network – film directors host starry gatherings in its bungalows, tucked amid banana palms in the semi-tropical gardens – and party behind closed doors. A place where anything goes. Bette Davis set the hotel on fire when she dozed off mid-gasper, Jim Morrison fell swinging from a second-storey balcony, Kate Moss and Johnny Depp did it in every room, and John Belushi died from a speedball. (Well, almost anything: Led Zeppelin managed to get themselves kicked out for outré levels of partying even beyond the Chateau Marmont’s toleration.) In the 1990s, Andre Balazs bought and refurbished it, and this summer converted it to a private members-only hotel, for now – though you can still eat at the restaurant (bag a table in the leafy courtyard garden).


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£
377

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Belmond Hotel Splendido

Portofino, Liguria, Italy

9
Telegraph expert rating

The salmon-pink Splendido started life more humbly in the 16th century, as a Benedictine monastery, before Ruggero Valentini opened it as a hotel in 1902. By its mid-century heyday, this Portofino grand dame was the Italian Riviera hangout of choice for dukes, princesses and, in particular, for Hollywood greats – Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Bogart and Bacall – all enraptured by its essence of la dolce vita.
Its splendiferousness still enraptures today – in its colonnaded terraces cascading down the hillside, riotous with wisteria, its sun decks and gardens, its saltwater pool overlooking Portofino’s superyacht-flecked bay. The classic rooms were updated recently, but its retro charm and its status as the sweet spot of the Italian Riviera remains.


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£
645

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The Brando

Tahiti, French Polynesia

8
Telegraph expert rating

The godfather of private-island resorts, this is Marlon Brando’s island hideaway in French Polynesia. Like Gauguin, Brando fell in love with a Tahitian beauty and this South Pacific paradise, and eventually bought the archipelago of Tetiaroa, a ring of islets around a blue lagoon, and among the jungle created a super-exclusive, neatly groomed eco-resort.
It’s classic castaway stuff: beaches of pristine bone-white sand, fringed with palm trees and lapped by limpid shallows, tropical birds singing in the jungle and tropical fish teeming around you as you snorkel around the supernaturally turquoise lagoon.


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£
3,031

per night