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Our Favorite Stays of the Year

Our editors’ picks for the most restful, memorable, and invigorating hotel experiences.

A photograph of Hotel Eden Explore Hotel Eden

I HAVE NEVER had many hobbies besides traveling and eating out (so few, in fact, that when the pandemic hit I wondered if, in hindsight, it might have been wise to cultivate some others). Although I have traveled extensively for my work for years, becoming the editor of Departures has brought with it a whole new level of opportunities to stay in truly memorable places. And I am not alone: The editors on our team visited 44 countries this year, and our contributors even more than that, giving us substantial collective expertise in what differentiates the truly extraordinary property from the merely very good. Of the many trips we took this year, these are some of the stays that rose above the rest.

Explore Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden — Rome, Italy

On a family trip in April, I had the pleasure of spending a couple nights at Hotel Eden. The timing was particularly fortuitous, as we departed from a New York still bleak with the last dregs of winter, arriving on the steps of Hotel Eden during an explosion of Technicolor, Roman spring. But it wasn’t just the weather, or the flowers. Of all the many incredible hotels I stayed in this year (and there were many), there was just no rival for the level of service provided by the hotel’s attentive staff, who the property kept employed through the whole pandemic. Their enthusiasm and warmth were genuine, palpable, and frankly, infectious. My whole family dreams of when we can return. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Harbor House Inn

Harbor House Inn — Mendocino, California

Tucked among the redwoods in the wilds of Mendocino, Harbor House Inn is two and a half hours north of San Francisco but a world away. The small hotel is housed in a property from the early twentieth century (historic around these parts), its 11 rooms split between a main building and several freestanding cottages. When Elissa Polls, our head of production, stayed there, she spent a lot of time curled up by the fire, enjoying the rugged coastal views, as well as eating: Harbor House also has a 2-Michelin-star restaurant that serves meals made entirely of truly local ingredients. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Silky Oaks Lodge

Silky Oaks Lodge — Queensland, Australia

This luxury paradise consists of 40 treehouses set in the World Heritage–listed Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia. It reopened this year following a multimillion-dollar renovation and has quickly become a favorite of celebrities (our editor Alex Frank visited, spotting Orlando Bloom drinking next to him at the bar, while Kim Kardashian reportedly checked in the day he left). But that wasn’t his favorite part of the visit. He said the sumptuous furnishings blend seamlessly with the lush jungle surroundings, and that walking between the treetops left him feeling like he was in an “enduring magic hour” he never wanted to leave behind. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Passalacqua

Passalacqua — Lake Como, Italy

Passalacqua opened its doors this year to quite the buzz. For several weeks, it seemed like everyone on my social media feed was zipping across Lake Como in a boat. Our editor Sophie Mancini was one of them, visiting the property in the late spring and declaring the restoration of the eighteenth-century villa “a masterpiece.” The family that owns the Grand Hotel Tremezzo has brought this property back to life with incredible care, with textiles by Milan-based designer J.J. Martin and 24 rooms that have been individually decorated. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Golden Rock Inn

Golden Rock Inn — Nevis, the Caribbean

The Golden Rock Inn in Nevis is not your typical Caribbean retreat. Owned by the artists Brice and Helen Marden, the former sugar plantation has been transformed by the couple, along with architect Ed Tuttle and landscape architect Raymond Jungles, into a wildly leafy, colorful retreat. With just 11 rooms and an art studio for Brice, Helen says this is a property where “time goes by in a sweet way.” EXPLORE MORE

Explore Casona Sforza

Casona Sforza — Oaxaca, Mexico

Our team spent a lot of time in Mexico this year. We stayed in so many incredible properties that it was a challenge to pick just one for this list. We finally settled on Casona Sforza, a tiny hotel on the Oaxacan coast near Puerto Escondido. While the hotel is truly beautiful — the adults-only property takes the shape of eight, Brutalist brick arches designed by famed Mexican architect Alberto Kalach — we chose to include Casona Sforza because, along with being a dreamy stay, the hotel has a meaningful mission. With 100% of its proceeds going to a community project in the Sierra of Oaxaca called Pueblo del Sol, Casona Sforza is more than a hotel — it’s a meaningful vehicle for preserving Indigenous land, community, and craft. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Le Bristol

Le Bristol — Paris, France

One of the fanciest hotels in the fanciest city in the world: What’s not to love? The 1925 property retains every ounce of its classic charm while also feeling sparklingly modern. From its plush guest rooms to its magnificent interior courtyard, the hotel pulls off the trick of allowing you to forget entirely that you’re right in the middle of the city; in fact, you’re right on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, one of the chicest addresses imaginable. But my very favorite part of the hotel is the rooftop pool, decked out like a ship, from which you can see all of Paris, including the sparkling Eiffel Tower, while taking an evening dip. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Angama Mara Lodge

Angama Mara Lodge — Lolgorien, Kenya

Editor-at-large T. Cole Rachel visited several extraordinary properties during his safari earlier this year, and declared this one the “most luxurious.” Perched high on a cliff above the Maasai Mara, Angama, which in Swahili means “suspended from air,” consists of tents set on platforms overlooking the famous plains. Visit during the great wildebeest migration to watch the animals undertake this annual pilgrimage across the Mara River into Tanzania, although wildlife abounds year-round. (Rachel confessed relief at not seeing any of the lounging crocodiles actually find a meal.) Each stay also supports the property’s foundation, which engages with and supports the local community. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Capella Bangkok

Capella Bangkok — Bangkok, Thailand

Another hot spot from Rachel’s visit to Asia earlier this year, the brand-new Capella Bangkok ranks among the finest five-star hotels in all of Thailand. Situated alongside the Chao Phraya River, the hotel offers 101 suites and private villas, all with amazing views of the river itself and the city sprawl of Bangkok. The hotel boasts a showstopping spa (Auriga) and a sublime restaurant (Côte by Mauro Colagreco), but the crown jewel of the property might be the bar, Stella, which Rachel describes as “a Chinese-inspired explosion of mirrored surfaces, rattan furniture, black-lacquer accents, and hand-painted walls depicting traditional scenes of birds in repose surrounded by exotic flora.” In addition to a delicious bar menu and incredible cocktails, the bar offers guests the chance to drink cocktails beneath the plumage of a giant white peacock (not real, though it appears so), which stands majestically at the center of the space. EXPLORE MORE

Explore Le Grand Contrôle

Le Grand Contrôle — Versailles, France

This is a unique property in the truest sense of the word: It is the only property on the grounds of the Château de Versailles. What that means is that when the gates of the famed château close to regular visitors, guests of the hotel walk over to begin their private tour. Standing alone in the Hall of Mirrors is a moment I will never forget, and would be worth a stay in and of itself. But the rest of the property also has plenty to recommend, from the Alain Ducasse restaurant to the period bedrooms inspired by the interiors at the castle. “Once-in-lifetime experience” is thrown around a lot, but a stay here is genuinely one of them. EXPLORE MORE


Fine Hotels + Resorts®

Le Bristol Paris is a Fine Hotels + Resorts property. When you book with American Express Travel, you’ll receive an exclusive suite of benefits including daily breakfast for two, a $100 experience credit that varies by property, guaranteed 4pm check-out, and more. Plus, book on AmexTravel.com and you can earn 5X Membership Rewards® points, or use Pay with Points, on prepaid stays. Terms apply. Learn more here.

Our Contributors

Skye Parrott

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.

Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator

Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.

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