Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Luxury hotels that prosperous travellers love most

Two Indian properties make the cut

Published: Nov 13, 2014 06:32:17 AM IST
Updated: Nov 12, 2014 08:37:01 AM IST
Luxury hotels that prosperous travellers love most
Palacio Nazarenas, Peru

1. Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco, Peru.
This former 16th century Carmelite convent, now a resort and spa, is next to Cusco’s main Nazarenas Square. Cusco is close to the Inca sites, the famous Machu Picchu, and the walled towns of Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman. The Nazarenas is filled with objects of historic significance, from Inca relics to the remnants of its more recent Spanish history, and features bathrooms lined with Peruvian marble and Persian rugs, among other fancies. Cusco is 3352.8 m above sea level, and the hotel’s rooms boast great views. Worried about the thin air at that altitude? The Nazarenas has piped-in oxygen in all its 55 rooms.

2. Northern Belle, UK
When they say that travel is about the journey, not the destination, they must mean something like this. The Northern Belle is a luxury train that seeks to recreate the 1930s era of posh train travel, with day trips and overnight journeys, and a variety of destinations and experiences. And don’t worry about having nothing to do but look out of the window: the onboard dining wins rave reviews.

3. Jumby Bay Island, St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
Named for the Antiguan word for a playful spirit, Jumby Bay is a 1.2 sq km private island, 3 km off Antigua in the Caribbean. Aside from the resort’s 40 rooms, the island only houses 43 homes, some of which are available for rent (their owners also jointly own the island, and the resort). It’s the perfect getaway destination, with civilisation only making its presence felt through the hospitality. There are no cars on the island; everyone gets around on bicycles. (Should the quiet life pall, the bright lights of Antigua are just a 10-minute boat ride away.) The rates you pay are all-inclusive, and lifting a finger to ask for a tall glass with an umbrella in it is about the most effort you’ll have to expend.

3. Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambore, India
In joint third place, India’s top-ranked property sits on the edge of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. You live in tents, as befit the surroundings, but these are tents that the maharajahs of yore would have found quite acceptable indeed: All mod cons, including WiFi and your personal bar. And between your morning and evening tiger-spotting jungle drives, you have the spa in which to have any remaining city-life stress kneaded out of you.

5. Golden Triangle Tented Camp, Chiang Rai, Thailand
In the middle of a bamboo jungle, this tent resort has all that you’d want in a luxury hotel, plus elephants! You can learn to hang out with the pachyderms, bathing and feeding them, as well as use them for transport as you explore the jungle. And then there are boat rides on the river to be had, the Thai food that Indians have fallen in love with, and a spa; all adds up to a fairly jumbo experience.

Luxury hotels that prosperous travellers love most

6. Wildflower Hall, Shimla, India
A 13 km-drive up from Shimla, once the British Raj’s summer capital, this colonial-era hotel sits 2,500 m above sea level, on a pine-covered hillside with magnificent views of the valleys around it. Once the residence of Lord Kitchener, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army (and the chap immortalised in those ‘Your country needs you’ British WW1 recruitment posters), the building has been restored and refurbished to give its guests the colonial sahib experience in full measure. Among the unusual features are outdoor Jacuzzis and a heated swimming pool.

7. CordeValle, San Martín, California, USA

A favourite of the Silicon Valley cashed-in-the-ESOPs set, this resort is what our colleagues at call a hidden gem of luxury. It sits in its own 6.8 sq km patch of wine country scenery.

Aside from the usual spa, pool, tennis courts and the like, what sets it apart is its award-winning golf course, good enough to host PGA Tour events (and it will host the 2016 US Women’s Open), and that it has its own vineyard and winery.

8. Olare Mara, Masai Mara, Kenya
The Masai Mara National Reserve has the highest concentration of large animals in Africa, and the Olare Mara is on its edge. The 12 rooms are technically tents, but they come furnished, with en suite bathrooms, WiFi, sofas and rugs.

The honeymoon suite even has its own plunge pool where you can wallow while watching wild hippopotami do the same in their pool. Of course the game drives are almost guaranteed to let you see a lot of wildlife.

8. The Oberoi, Mauritius
Mauritius isn’t just good for those offshore companies so many MNCs find useful. It also has beautiful beaches, and this Oberoi property sits on 600 metres of one of them, close to the capital, Port Louis. The rooms are quite adequate, naturally, but for the full experience, opt for the villas, each with its own garden and plunge pool. A good place to stop over on the way back from your, ahem, rigorous Kenyan safari.

10. Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Los Cabos, Mexico
This resort has a reputation in the business for being an innovator. Things like Evian facial mists at the pools, or Kindles for guest use, first happened here. Another feature: Underground tunnels for staff, so you’ll never see them until they materialise with your order. Its name means ‘the windows to paradise’, and the design gives guests the feeling of being alone even when its 72 rooms are full.

10. The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh, Egypt
The third Oberoi property in the top 10, this resort is on the Red Sea coast. Its domes, arches and colonnades reflect the architecture of the region, and it sprawls across 850 m of private beach, with its own reef, where you can scuba-dive with PADI-certified instructors.

10. St Regis,  Punta Mita, Mexico
Catering to the well-heeled American traveller, among the resort’s features are two par-72 Championship 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses. You also have tennis and snorkelling, infinity pools, and a white sand beach. And for the littler guests, there’s La Tortuga Children’s Club, which packs in fun days for the kids while Daddy and Mummy get some dedicated relaxing done.

10. Four Seasons Resort, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

It has 15 suites in villas on the beach, but what sets it apart is the 100 on-stilts thatched-roof ‘bungalows’ that arc out into a turquoise lagoon. So you can basically flop out of your room straight into the South Pacific. With more than two employees per guest even at peak occupancy, service levels are going to be high. And for the really big spenders, there’s a special package: Rent out the whole lot for you and your 200-odd best friends.


ReviewPro ( analysed guest reviews for both hotels and hotel brands classified as luxury over 2013. The research covered more than 100 online travel agencies and review sites, and 839,593 online guest reviews in 45 languages covering 1,692 properties and 84 hotel brands in all five continents. The brands were divided into large luxury brands (groups with 20 or more hotels) and small brands. The company then used proprietary algorithms to calculate an online reputation score, its Global Review Index, which accounts for satisfaction levels with the service, value, location, and cleanliness.

(This story appears in the 14 November, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)