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Legend Awards—and travel awards in general—typically revolve around hotel openings abroad. And as travel editors, our international travel is at least partially motivated by new hotel openings outside the U.S. Simply put, hotel openings abroad are one of the clearest signs that a certain destination is about to surge. A new luxury hotel can help the resurgence of a small town or the blossoming of a city. So, while we couldn’t visit any new international hotels in person over the last 12 months, we still felt the need to highlight the biggest hotel openings abroad. Here, the 2021 Legend Award honorees for best international hotel openings—vetted from afar.
Kruger Shalati, South Africa
Taking safari experiences to new heights, Kruger Shalati, also known as “The Train on the Bridge”, officially opened in September, creating a truly immersive experience for guests. Positioned on a bridge above a river in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, this boutique hotel resides in a refurbished steam train with a 31-room occupancy. The train itself is a tribute to African design, featuring local artwork and glass walls to appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. To top it all off, guests can swim in the elevated pool, suspended over the river for peak wildlife viewing.
Paradero Todos Santos, Mexico
Set in the heart of historic Todos Santos, Paradero Todos Santos opened to guests in January 2021. Designed to blend into the Mexican landscape, this adults-only hotel brings indoor-outdoor living to life in their garden suites, rooftop suites, and master casita suites. With fabulous spaces for connection and wellness, the serene pool, and exquisite dining experiences, Paradero is a stop you won’t want to miss on your next trip to Todos Santos.
The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, Japan
A tranquil oasis overlooking Mount Nantai in Japan, The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko offers guests holistic spa experiences, fine dining, and contemporary guest rooms and suites in soft organic colors. Having officially opened in July 2020, this luxury hotel displays sleek modern design that blends in with the natural surroundings of Nikko National Park. From outdoor activities like hiking and paddleboarding, to meditative and cultural experiences, guests will be thoroughly immersed and entertained during their stay.
SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences, UAE
Home to some of the highest pools in the world, the SLS Dubai Hotels & Residences first welcomed guests on April 5 to their downtown Dubai property. The 75-story tower is an architectural wonder, offering 360-degree views across the city, and a playfully chic design by renowned architect Aedas and interior designer Paul Bishop. Between the whimsical dining concepts and high-class amenities like the Ciel Spa, the SLS is a standout on the Dubai hotel scene.
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Capella Bangkok, Thailand
Opened in October 2020, the Capella Bangkok offers guests 101 gorgeous suites and villas along the Chao Phraya River in Thailand. For an amazing meal, dine at any of the hotel’s restaurants including Côte by Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco. Seek rejuvenation in their sanctuary-like spa or explore the city with a Capella Culturist, either way you will leave more enlightened than when you arrived.
Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Musheireb, Qatar
Upon first glance, the Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Musheireb appears to be more of a destination than a hotel because it comes with a cinema, shopping mall, salon, swimming pools, and a theme park. The architectural masterpiece, designed by distinguished interior designer Jacques Garcia, opened in April and features modern design with pops of color in the vast selection of retreats, suites, apartments, and residences on the property. To finish off the experience of living in luxury, the hotel offers five unique cultural cuisine dining options sure to leave you satisfied.
Hotel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf, St. Barth
After postponing their opening because of COVID-19, Hotel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf finally made a truly grand entrance to the international hotel scene in October 2020. With stunning views of the water surrounding St. Barth, this five-star hotel has elite rooms, suites, and a private villa for the ultimate vacation experience. Between the delicious restaurants and activities like spending the day on a Catamaran sailing the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, you’ll fall in love with this tropical paradise.
Park Hyatt Auckland, New Zealand
Perched on the waterfront of Waitemata Harbour in New Zealand, the Park Hyatt Auckland, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, opened its doors in September 2020. Due to New Zealand’s COVID-19 border restrictions, the hotel has only been catering to locals seeking the ultimate luxury “staycation” until international tourism resumes. This magnificent building houses 195 guest rooms, four dining and bar options, a relaxing day spa and fitness center, as well as a stunning infinity pool.
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Fairmont Residences Taghazout Bay, Morocco
On April 1, the Fairmont Residences Taghazout Bay began welcoming guests to their waterside oasis in Morocco. Offering 52 gorgeous villas and a deluxe hotel with 150 suites, this luxurious stay surrounds you with breathtaking landscapes, waterfront views, sleek design, and top-notch amenities. Play on the golf course or paddle in the surf, the relaxing options are endless.
Capella Hanoi, Vietnam
The Capella Hanoi opened in April, welcoming guests from around the world to revel in bold design at this Vietnam hotel. Each of the 47 rooms and suites, designed by renowned interior designer and architect Bill Bensley, highlight different opera legends, using elements such as geometric prints and 1920s décor. Treat yourself to regionally inspired cuisines and cultural art experiences at this mystical hotel.
One&Only Mandarina, Mexico
Officially opened on November 1, the One&Only Mandarina offers a nature escape in the form of eco-designed treehouses, cliffside villas, grand villas, and “villa one,” a stunning residence set atop the hill, complete with an infinity pool, spa, and wine cellar. With a focus on natural materials and cutting edge design, One&Only Mandarina melds nature with high luxury seamlessly.
An ode to conservation and African design, Sussurro opened to the public in January, welcoming guests to stay in nature-shrouded bungalows, celebrating Mozambican architecture with furniture carved onsite and unique artisanal sub-saharan pieces. In this immersive Bush experience, Sussurro offers personalized wilderness itineraries, conservation-minded safari excursions, and a unique dining experience that breaks the barrier between chef and guests while supporting local farmers’ markets and ingredients.
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One&Only Desaru Coast, Malaysia
Opened in September 2020, One&Only Desaru Coast welcomes guests to southeast Malaysia with a remarkable collection of suites, private homes, and a luxurious villa. Experience cultural flavors at Ambara, among other restaurants on property, unwind at their on-site Ember Beach Club, or enjoy one of many offered activities, such as the tranquil spa or nature excursions amid the surrounding landscape.
FUFU Nara, Japan
A Zen oasis nestled in Nara Park, Japan, FUFU Nara opened its 30 rooms to the public in June 2020. The design of this hotel has historic undertones and features crafts made by local artisans and many natural elements. From the hot spring to guided tours of the area, there are endless ways to find rejuvenation while also appreciating the beauty of nature at FUFU Nara.
Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, Thailand
Opened on December 18, 2020, the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River has 299 rooms and suites waiting to welcome guests with soft neutrals and contemporary finishes. From sweeping views and a riverfront infinity pool to private boat tours and exquisite dining experiences, the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok will have you wanting to stay for all four seasons.