Our Favorite Stays of the Year
Our editors’ picks for the most restful, memorable, and invigorating hotel experiences.
From a special object to a delicious meal, a captivating place to an unforgettable experience — a few things delighting our Departures editors this month.
EVEN THOUGH IT feels like we’ve all been breathlessly waiting for summer to finally arrive, I, for one, am always somehow shocked when it’s actually here. Suddenly it’s no longer about anticipating the season — with its beach trips, rooftop cocktails, and warm-weather getaways — but trying to squeeze the most out of it before it gives way, all too soon, to the fall. This month it’s all about getting out of the house, whether it be for an epic vacation, a little staycation, or a perfect meal. The heat is on. — Cole
A Parisian’s guide to the best hotels, restaurants, and out-of-the-way shopping...
An Arctic ski expedition with backcountry adventures and otherworldly beauty.
In Lima for a shoot recently, I had a hard time imagining returning from Peru without seeing the Andes. I extended my trip by a few days, which I spent at Los Qolqas, an eco-resort in the Sacred Valley. Built on several acres of land outside of Ollantaytambo, the resort is made up of luxury tents, mature trees, and flowering gardens — all tucked between two sheer cliff faces. The property has a focus on sustainability: it uses solar for lighting, treats and recycles its wastewater, and is built with such a light footprint that it could be packed up and returned to farmland in just two weeks. From the hotel, I took a day trip to Machu Picchu, returning in time to have a massage, bathe in the Japanese soaking tub, and eat dinner at the property’s restaurant, which serves a daily menu cooked with whatever is fresh and local; during my visit that included river trout breaded with quinoa, and salads made from greens grown on the property and edible flowers. While I was eating, staff members came into my room to light the fire in the wood stove, which I very much appreciated, as the nights were wonderfully chilly. It was an ideal jumping-off place for exploring the Sacred Valley, but also would be a lovely stay for anyone who wants to simply relax surrounded by spectacular beauty. — Skye
If I were to ever “Eloise” it in Santa Fe — a serious prospect considering how much I love that little adobe city and its surrounding state — I would set up camp at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. It’s the Santa Fe–iest of hotels, right smack in the center of town, with wood ceilings, smooth walls, Pendleton blankets, Nambé alloy serveware, and, everywhere you look, handcrafted ceramics. Santa Fe is bright and hot in the daytime sun, but cools down dramatically to hoodie weather when it gets dark. There are kiva fireplaces in each room that the staff make sure to light during turndown service, so when you come back from dinner, the room is toasty and glowing. One night during my stay, there were cookies and a handmade dreamcatcher waiting for me on my pillow as a gift from the hotel. I swear I’ve been sleeping better since.
On the ground floor, there’s a cozy library that’s actually enjoyed by the guests, who curl up to have coffee in the morning and read books and play board games on big couches in the evening. The hotel’s bar fills up at cocktail hour, a mix of locals coming after work and hotel guests ordering fancy drinks like French 75s. Though it’s a casual hotel that fits with the Southwest spirit, it has a richness to it as well. It’s the kind of place that attracts guests who still want to look nice for dinner — one night, I rode the elevator with an elegant Texas lady in Chanel, who filled up the space with her flowery perfume. The restaurant is lined with pillowed banquettes, so after a long day in the desert sun, you can eat your bison steak while lounging comfortably.
Ultimately, the best part about the Rosewood Inn is the feeling that, along with the turquoise jewelry you buy and Georgia O’Keeffe paintings you see, you’re experiencing something that could only exist right where you are and nowhere else. When I visit a hotel, I want to feel like I’m in the place I’m in — the Carlyle embodies New York, the Chateau Marmont is incredibly LA, and the Rosewood Inn is Santa Fe. Give me a few more weeks there, and maybe I could be too. — Alex
If there’s any possible silver lining to living in a New York City apartment building that is undergoing seemingly never-ending construction (Surprise! No water! No electricity!), it might be that it provides a good excuse to take frequent little staycations in your own city. Recently, my partner and I fled our digs and took refuge at the five-star Peninsula New York, a stately luxury property located on Fifth Avenue’s iconic thoroughfare. Even though I’ve lived in New York City for close to three decades, it’s still an amazing paradigm shift to spend a couple of days nestled in a different part of town, seeing the city through a different lens. Housed in a 1905 Beaux-Arts landmark building, the Peninsula offers the kind of old-school glamor one might expect — complete with views of Central Park — while still giving you all the luxe bells and whistles. Over the course of one long weekend, we woke up early for breakfast, took dips in the hotel’s indoor pool, and treated ourselves to massages at the hotel’s iconic spa (one of the very best in NYC), pretending we were jet-setting travelers as opposed to people whose own beleaguered apartment was only a few subway stops away.
The idea of playing tourist in our own hometown is something we’d repeat again just a few days later with a night at the InterContinental New York Barclay, another storied NYC hotel with a luminous history. I was lucky to stay in a suite designed in collaboration with British multidisciplinary artist Claire Luxton, a creator known for her kaleidoscopic installations using flora and fauna. The suite provided a total sensory experience — explosive, brightly hued flower arrangements sprawling from floor to ceiling, live orchids situated in every nook and cranny, pastel mood lighting, and a variety of velvet-upholstered furnishings in deep blues and greens. The hotel itself, which opened in 1926 and was originally conceived as part of Grand Central Terminal’s design plan, is the perfect mix of old and new — grandly historical but teeming with lots of contemporary amenities. One night sleeping under one of Luxton’s giant floral installations was both surreal and incredibly restorative. My only complaint is that I had but one night to enjoy it. — Cole
I recently stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, Milan, and experienced some of the warmest and most attentive service I’ve ever encountered. The hotel is a true oasis perfectly located in the heart of the beautiful Brera district. I had an exceptional meal during my short stay, at the hotel’s 2-Michelin-star Seta by Chef Antonio Guida. Seated in a serene courtyard, I experienced a tasting menu of both elegance and opulence inspired by Guida’s Southern Italian upbringing. A memorable moment from my meal was a creamy risotto layered with a heavy dusting of raspberry essence — the familiar fruitiness adding a touch of novelty in its unlikely context. It was a special-occasion meal in a truly special hotel. — Sophie
I love being reminded that I don’t have to go far from home to feel like I’m on vacation. Recently while researching a story, I had the good fortune to stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. The hotel is in the heart of Northern California’s wine country, but the property is set apart from the road, creating a relaxing sense of distance from Sonoma’s bustle. The Mission Revival–style buildings and the grounds are beautiful, the food is fantastic, the pool is heated, and the state-of-the-art spa is fed by geothermal springs, making the experience feel therapeutic, not just luxurious. If you make it to Sonoma, check out its incredibly lively farmers’ market. (I was sure I must have arrived in the middle of a citywide party, but was told that’s just how it is.) While there, I got to meet the charismatic Gary Saperstein, a fount of wine-country knowledge and founder of Out in the Vineyard, a travel company specializing in wine events and experiences for the LGBTQ+ community. If you plan to unwind in Sonoma, he seems like the guy to know. — Nina
With all the travel I do, my skin seems to be in constant need of moisture. Despite all the serums, oils, and creams I layer on, that need can feel, frankly, unquenchable. Recently I tried Dr Loretta Intense Replenishing Serum, an antioxidant serum that I’ve found leaves my skin feeling instantly and unusually hydrated. I’ve been bringing it with me on the plane, the greatest test of any product that purports to rehydrate. All I can say is this one seems to have magic in it. — Skye
As a self-described candle queen, I am relatively shameless in my pursuit of anything consisting of wax and wick (as I type this, there are three different votives burning in various rooms of my apartment). So I am always on the lookout for my next candle obsession. I’m a longtime fan of Carrière Frères, a French candle brand dating back to 1884 and the Royal Wax Manufacturer, which is today called Trudon. The scents they produce are almost exclusively botanical in nature (woods, flowers, fruits, herbs) and the candles themselves are as beautiful to look at as they are gloriously fragrant. The brand recently unveiled a collaboration with Paris’ National Museum of Natural History that includes three new plant derivations — Artemisia absinthium, Robinia, Nymphaea – all of which deliver a heady, exotic fragrance that is leafy, herbaceous, and very, very rich. — Cole
Nothing says summer dressing quite like linen. One brand in particular does it very well. On warm-weather jaunts, my partner’s been dressing in pieces from Onia. The brand has beautiful, airy shirts, pants, and shorts that look dressy but feel like pajamas, in lovely neutral tones like cream and oatmeal. The breezy Stretch Linen Traveler Pant is especially versatile, as perfect for grocery shopping as for a dressy dinner.
This might sound hilariously niche but I’m really into this sock brand Arvin Goods. They have the platonic ideal of the white crew sock (perfect thickness and height; feels like a hug for your foot) and are the only sock brand to work with nothing but discarded scraps. I also recently fell in love with Yuni Buffa, named after its South Korean female founder. Constantly in pursuit of the perfect summer slide, it must be endlessly walkable and streamlined, an organic extension of the body itself. I thus present the collection’s Lucca Wedge, a leg-lengthening, bouncy little shoe sent from the shoe gods. Handmade in Tuscany, the upper is a supple and gummy Nappa leather with a padded leather insole for that pep in your step that’s needed on a hot, humid day. The heel is made of weightless Sardinian cork with a shock-absorbing sole that doesn’t clack and rattle your knees as you walk down the stairs (like some hard-bottomed mules do). I chose the sage color — a whisper-quiet shade of green that acts more like a neutral. It’s a shoe made with an eye for both beauty and reality, for a wearer who wants to look elegant but has a lot of things to do and places to be. — Sophie
Washing my face is a favorite body ritual, so I am forever searching for the Goldilocks of facial cleansers: not too creamy, not too greasy, not too foamy. I have tried a dizzying number of options over the years, attempting to get as far as possible from the moisture-stripping chemical agents in the products I used as a teen, while still achieving a super-fresh clean feeling. (I can still recall the girls in those commercials, hair pulled back by a terry cloth sweatband, splashing fresh crystal-clear water on their faces. I want that feeling.) My latest find is Farmaesthetics Fine Herbal Cleanser, a 100% natural, gentle foaming cleanser that seems to have it all. It comes out of the glass pump bottle as a thin liquid but quickly foams up (not too much), and removes impurities without making my skin feel too squeaky clean or dried out. This cleanser has only five (sustainably sourced) ingredients and two of them are essential oils — lavender and geranium — so it also boasts an uplifting herbaceous aroma. I’m adding this one to the rotation permanently: It’s just right. — Nina
While in Milan I dined at the brand-new Pellico 3 Milano in the stately Park Hyatt Milan, where I had a stunning sea bass cooked in lard with peas and agretti risotto. I also tried the iconic Acanto in all its red-and-white chandeliered glory, where I all but stuck my entire face into their bowl of spaghettone with octopus, garlic, olive oil, and chili. Back in New York, the new Wan Wan in Nolita is phenomenal — an homage to the Old Phuket–style cuisine blending both local Thai and immigrant Chinese cooking into a gorgeous blend of savory broths, meats, and sauces. In terms of shared plates, do not miss their tempura scallop Yum Hoi dish, crispy tofu Taw Hu Tod, or shrimp & pork wonton Giew Goong. And for an enormously fun neighborhood drinks and food spot nearby, check out Dimes Square’s Le Dive. With a buzzy scene and a phenomenal wine list, it’s an embodiment of summer in New York — bursting at the seams with the young and beautiful, an outdoor seating area made for people watching, and a menu full of delicious, salty, fatty bites to carry you through the night. — Sophie
To mark its 13th anniversary, San Francisco’s famed Flour + Water designed a 13-course tasting menu celebrating its longstanding vendors. The meal was one of the most memorable I’ve had in the city. In lieu of a menu, chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow printed a zine called “13 years + 13 friends” listing each dish and highlighting the work of the regional vendor that produced its signature ingredient. They included friends like Devil’s Gulch Ranch, whose pork was the star of the Savory Cannoli, a divine mortadella mousse with toasted pistachio; and Morchella Wild Foods, a networker of foragers and chefs who provided the fungi for the spectacular Morel Mushroom Tortellini En Brodo. The star of the meal was Cashew Modern Miso Gelato with strawberries and brown-butter crumb — the miso was made by Shared Cultures, a thrilling new small-batch ferment producer out of San Francisco, whose novel creations have earned them a devoted cult following among Bay Area food nuts, myself included. — Nina
Skye Parrott is the editor-in-chief of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor-in-chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.
Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.
T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.
Nina Renata Aron is a writer and editor based in Oakland, California. She is the author of “Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls.” Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.
Alex Frank is a contributing editor at Departures. Based in Manhattan, Frank previously worked at Vogue.com as deputy culture editor. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Pitchfork, New York Magazine, Fantastic Man, and the Village Voice.
Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.
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