Top Ten Luxury Resorts

Whether it's an indulgence you treat yourself to once a year or once in a lifetime, here are our picks for the most luxurious getaways you can imagine.
By Buzzy Gordon
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Morocco’s Kasbah Tamadot
MOROCCAN INFINITY: Morocco’s Kasbah Tamadot  (courtesy, Kasbah Tamadot)

Everyone defines dream differently, but when it comes to resorts, we envision ultra-luxe digs; five-star food; beds that make you want to never crawl out from between the covers; spa treatments that both rejuvenate and relax; and exterior landscapes that inspire awe, and would foster envy in anyone not with you. To keep an even keel, we've tempered the above criteria with a touch of outdoor adventure, historical-cultural significance, and sun-dappled beachfront.

10. Tangula Luxury Train in China
Board the Tangula in Beijing and you will soon forget you're in a communist country that officially disdains bourgeois luxuries. The recent debut of China's venture into luxury train service follows just two years after the completion of the first railway into Tibet, and transports passengers on a choice of two routes: the Northern Route, along the highest rail track in the world to Lhasa, home of the magnificent Potala Palace; or the Southern Route, to Lijiang via Guilin and some of the most spectacular scenery in Asia. Both routes provide opportunities for guided off-train excursions.

The onboard services of the Tangula trains are managed by Kempinski, the European world-class hotelier. The ultra-modern dining car serves both Continental and Chinese food, while the accommodation cars feature double beds in the suites, one of the only trains in the world to do so. Other amenities include 24-hour butler service, personal entertainment systems, and onboard oxygen enrichment for coping with altitudes well over 15,000 feet.

9. Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux, France
The concept of the vinotherapy spa was born at Caudalie, amidst the vines of the Château Smith Haut Lafitte, where the pure waters of a hot spring with a high concentration of minerals and trace elements were first blended with grape seeds and skins containing polyphenols, one of the most powerful antioxidants in nature's arsenal. The innovative spa now offers four courses of therapy: beauty (reversing the ravages of aging skin), stress relief, weight loss, and post-pregnancy reshaping.

The spa's success has spawned Les Sources de Caudalie, a painstakingly designed hotel with rustic exterior and modern interiors, and décors matching themes of winemaking, spice trading, and more. This being France, the cuisine vies with the spa treatments for the center of attention: two restaurants—an orangerie and a country inn—serve up gourmet fare from equally enticing regular and "minceur" (weightwatcher) menus (the chef also conducts cooking classes). All this in the captivating countryside just outside the fabled port city of Bordeaux.

8. Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco
Located in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, less than an hour from Marrakech, Kasbah Tamadot evokes the atmosphere of a sultan's rural palace, with its crenellated parapets, meticulously manicured gardens, and infinity pool surrounded by intricately carved arches. Eighteen individually decorated bedrooms and suites, as well as the library and common areas, are appointed with traditional Moroccan furnishings and antiques.

The Kanoun Restaurant offers dining with breathtaking views from the rooftop terrace, by the fireside when it's chilly, or in a private courtyard under the stars in balmy weather. It offers both international cuisine and delicately spiced local dishes, with a fine selection of wines and champagnes. The Asounfou Spa, which contains its own indoor and Moroccan hammam (bathhouse), features treatments made from healthful herbs indigenous to the area. Sir Richard Branson personally selected this site and had it upgraded in order to add it to his Virgin Limited Edition collection of exclusive retreats.

7. The Caves in Negril, Jamaica
The most intimate of Island Outpost's string of opulent properties in the Caribbean, The Caves seamlessly incorporates the rugged beauty of a seaside cliff into the resort's design. Atop the promontory sit 11 high-ceilinged, thatch-roofed cottages, handcrafted from wood and stone and decorated with batik fabrics and native artwork; outdoor showers add to the tropical feel. Nestled in grottos below the cottages are private candlelit dining areas strewn with bougainvillea petals, while secluded sundecks and saltwater swimming holes are secreted amid the craggy cliff face's caves and outcroppings.

Want even more romance? Soak in a private hot tub for two in a furnished cave. Then, book an after-dark massage to the soothing sound of ocean waves. Throughout your stay, toast your vacation in paradise with the signature Cliffhanger: watermelon juice, ginger, and Appleton Gold Jamaica Rum.

6. Maison Souvannaphouma Hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos
Sparsely populated Laos—the ultimate blend of sophisticated France and exotic Asia—is one of the few undiscovered and underexplored tourist destinations left; and Luang Prabang, its ancient royal capital and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, finally has a hotel worthy of its unique charm. The historic residence of Prince Souvannaphouma in the heart of the city, but light years away in atmosphere, has been transformed by Angsana Resorts (a boutique brand of Banyan Tree Resorts) into a haven of serenity, its centerpiece a tranquil pool with floodlit shrine.

International as well as superb local cuisine—that mouthwatering mélange of French and Indochinese—can be enjoyed in the Elephant Blanc Restaurant overlooking the pool and gardens, or in the privacy of your La Residence or Garden Wing room balcony. Angsana Spas are an Asian hallmark; the fragrances of lavender, jasmine, and frangipani massage oils alone transport you into a world of bliss.

Published: 11 Sep 2008 | Last Updated: 15 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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