The Best Hotels
Asia’s finest hotels showcase the continent’s rich history and vibrant present. Domed ceilings and antique furnishing in hotels that could pass for former royal palaces, and modern luxuries like Hermès bath products, state-of-the-art spa treatments, and butler service. Amenities are thoughtful and creative: Muay Thai boxing, three-tiered infinity pools, bubble tea-making sessions, and culinary classes. Besides the opulence of these Asian accommodations, you’ll find five-star service in each stay.
Banyan Tree Yangshuo
First-time travelers to China may be inclined to overlook rural areas in favor of the country’s bright lights and big city draws, but missing a side trip to Yangshuo County in southern China’s Guangxi region would be a mistake. As would be staying anywhere besides Banyan Tree Yangshuo, a luxurious village resort tastefully touched with marks of Chinese artistry like bamboo and marble mosaics and latticed wood windows. Two stories of 124 suites and villas, some with Li River views, all with a pillow menu, surround a pristine tranquil courtyard, mimicking a traditional village.
A visit to the brand’s award-winning spa is practically mandatory, the signature Banyan Refresh is a delightful and rejuvenating 150-minute treatment including a soothing steam bath and Luohanguo Chrysanthemum body scrub. Back in your room, settle deeper into the blissful vibes of this countryside property with a cup of premium tea—black, green tea, or local osmanthus—before venturing to Baiyun for traditional Cantonese or Ming Yue for international flavors. If and when you finally manage to go off-grid, there’s no shortage of activities. Among the most enticing is cave exploration, where you’ll discover underground mud baths, waterfall pools, and hot springs.
Sentosa Island, Singapore
Situated on the tiny island of Sentosa, the 112-room Capella Singapore offers a tranquil escape from the busyness of mainland Singapore. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster, this idyllic 30-acre property partially housed in two colonial-style buildings from the 1880s is the epitome of understated luxury. Fresh from a well-timed refurbishment by Hong Kong designer Andre Fu, its allure now shines with a sumptuous pared-down splendor. Rooms come outfitted with chic rocking chairs and plush window seating in a pleasing sand, sage, and mineral gray palette that perfectly complements its verdant, picturesque setting. Contemporary art pieces give walls a curated pop of color and pizzaz, while selected guest abodes sport deep-soaking jacuzzis and expansive balconies.
Offering an unrivaled level of intimacy and privacy in space-challenged Singapore, distractions abound on-site. Capella’s Culturalists keep guests engaged, organizing bubble tea-making sessions and crafting workshops, decadent brunch spreads at The Knoll’s, and walking art tours of the hotel’s impressive collection, including a Pablo Reinoso sculpture on its front lawn. For downtime, the award-winning Auriga Spa beckons with its menu of life-enhancing massages, while the three-tiered infinity pool is perfectly positioned for uninterrupted ocean views. Come sunset, retreat to Bob’s Bar for cocktails made with the property’s own Navegante Rum.
Hampi, Karnataka, India
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once the capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire that held sway over South India in the late Middle Ages. To feel the grandeur of the bygone era, the most regal of stays will suffice, and Evolve Back will delight you and satisfy your greatest desires. Just 10 minutes from the center of Hampi, the resort’s entrance feels like walking into a royal palace complete with stone-paved boulevards, domed ceilings, muted shades, and corridors with floral arches. Throughout the property, the transcendent spirit of Hampi abounds, but that certainly doesn’t undercut the sense of modern luxury as suites feature canopied beds and private jacuzzi tubs.
If you can tear yourself away from the comfort of your suite, there’s a cornucopia of treats to discover, from a family-friendly pool and an adults-only infinity pool overlooking the boulder-strewn landscape, to a lotus pond-facing mantapa (pavilion) reserved for private dining, to a reading lounge with coffee table books on Hampi. Two restaurants promise to take your taste buds on a trip, with regionally and globally-inspired cuisine on offer. At the spa, treatments feature Ayurvedic therapies, just the ticket after a morning taking on the trails and walks organized by the resort.
Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai
Hoi An, Vietnam
The rooms of the Four Seasons Nam Hai must have been conceived by a 19th-century poet: dark woods, large candles, mosquito-netted bed, a writing desk situated next to a bathtub—no doubt intended for love notes to be scribbled to scrub-a-dub-dubbing partners. It’s a time machine designed for a grand romance. But walk out those doors and you’ll be wrapped in the cushy modern luxury of a Four Seasons resort straddling one of Vietnam’s most stunning beaches.
Sit down on a lounger, drive your toes into the white sand, rinse your mouth with the sheer bliss of a fruity adult beverage. But if the beach isn’t your thing, there’s always the pool, or the other pool, or the third pool, each more glorious than the last. Saunter over to the spa, where treatment rooms are housed in small floating villas moored atop a tranquil pond. And when the stomach starts a-rumblin’, the Nam Hai will stuff it with expertly-prepared Vietnamese favorites—and they’ll even teach you how to make it yourself at their Cooking Academy. In the evening, when the day is done, return to your quarters, where they light the candles with turndown, and bathe in the glow of one of Asia’s most impeccable hotels.
Tucked away along a side street in the bustling heart of Kyoto, Hiiragiya has been providing the traditional ryokan experience of attention to detail and specialized hospitality since 1818. The inn has been run by the same family for six generations, hosting an impressive list of names along the way, from Nobel Prize-winning writers to Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin. Each of the 28 individually designed Japanese-style rooms at Hiiragiya have been carefully curated, reflecting the rich heritage of the ancient capital. Rooms in the main building offer a more timeworn stay with folding screens, wooden beams, and antique furnishing, whereas the sleeker New Wing combines contemporary comforts with classic elements such as shoji screens. Most rooms overlook a traditional garden—painted pink in spring by cherry blossom.
After a day exploring Kyoto’s storied streets, slip your feet into a pair of slippers and try out Japanese-style bathing in a pine bathtub. The kaiseki dinner is elegantly served at a low table: a colorful array of seasonal specialties presented on small plates. Then all there is left to do is laze on a tatami in your cotton yukata robe and spend a peaceful night on a futon piled high with plush blankets.
La Résidence d'Angkor, A Belmond Hotel
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The luxury riverside mansion that is La Résidence d’Angkor is just a few miles from the world-famous temple complex of Angkor in Cambodia. The hotel’s teak wood interior, with its lazy ceiling fans and sun-warmed shutters, evokes the fictional romance of old Indochina, but facilities here are very 21st century. All suites come with a private terrace; the poolside rooms offer more tranquility come midnight than street-facing lodging, and high walls enclose the property. The grounds, jungle-like with tropical plants, flowers, and trees, also feature a saltwater swimming pool.
As the sun sets, head to the Martini Bar for chilled cocktails. Rebuff the charms of La Résidence to explore the UNESCO-recognized Angkor ruins—the magical remains of former Khmer empires that date back more than 1,000 years—tour the waters of giant Tonle Sap Lake, or roam the rainforest trails of Phnom Kulen National Park.
This hotel will be reopening in 2022.
137 Pillars House Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tucked away in Thailand’s striking northern mountains, the ancient city of Chiang Mai is famed for unbridled nature and timeless culture. And 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai, a five-star boutique property sitting in a leafy residential enclave a few minutes’ stroll from the historic Wat Gate Temple and upscale shopping area, evokes an old-world charm and splendor. The hotel was home to The Borneo Trading Company from 1889 to 1958 and today has been restored to its original 19th-century colonial elegance, with teak wood throughout. Each of the thirty suites embodies opulence with grand terraces or balconies and comfortable lounge beds, ensuite dressing rooms with walk-in closets, and Victorian baths. The property’s Nitra Serenity Centre is as tranquil as the name alludes to, focusing on pampering experiences that restore balance and reignite energy for the mind and body.
And while Chiang Mai is notorious for its fragrant and chaotic street food markets, epicures will also relish in the flavors of the hotel’s restaurants: Palette, serving farm-to-kitchen gourmet cuisine, and the Dining Room, home to sublime Thai and Lanna cuisine focused on organic ingredients.
Patina Maldives, Fari Islands
You’ll find the laidback Patina Maldives, Fari Islands resort on a tiny archipelago on North Male Atoll’s northern edge, a 45-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport. The 90 villas and 20 studios (studios are closer to the resort’s center, while villas are ideal for anyone dreaming of secluded sunsets), blend in perfectly with their surroundings: Think hessian rugs and vast expanses of unpolished wood.
The dining is diverse; highlights include Roots, which specializes in plant-based cuisine, while keen carnivores should consider Brasa, for sumptuous grilled meat dishes. At the beachfront Helios restaurant, you can feast on Aegean cuisine without stepping off the sand, and for those all-important sundowners, we recommend Veli Bar, where you can pair cocktails with cake. In between mealtimes, opt for a sugar rush with complimentary gelato from TukTukGelato or (weather permitting) toasted marshmallows, warmed over the resort’s campfire. If that all sounds a little too strenuous, head to the spa, with its encyclopedia-like spa menu; highly recommended is the seaweed, sea buckthorn, and walnut shell body scrub.
Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Udaipur isn’t lacking for grand hotels, but Raffles Udaipur is in a class of its own. Everything about India’s first Raffles hotel—opened in August 2021—is geared towards giving guests an unforgettable experience. Set in the middle of Udai Sagar Lake, against the picturesque Aravalli Hills, guests are ushered to this island hotel via boat, past numerous avian species that thrive in this ecosystem. As you disembark, you’re whisked to an entryway, where you’re welcomed with a shower of flower petals and a welcome drink, all before you’ve even checked in.
The grounds of the hotel are vast, veiled in acres of manicured gardens. Hand-painted frescoes, Rajasthani inlay-work furniture, and a color palette reminiscent of modern European sensibilities make up the interiors, creating a chic yet welcoming island feel. This aesthetic runs throughout the hotel, with all 101 rooms and suites boasting panoramic lake views and balconies. Some extend to private pools and gardens. With six dining options (including Raffles classics like the Writers Bar and Long Bar) serving globe-trotting menus, plus a state-of-the-art spa with ancient healing techniques, your belly, skin, and mind are well looked after here. All that extravagance not enough? Butlers are on hand to attend to your every need.
Sri Lanka is home to many luxury boutique resorts, but one stands out from the pack: Resplendent Ceylon. The brand’s three resorts—Ceylon Tea Trails, Cape Weligama, and Wild Coast Tented Lodge— are all part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio, delivering authentic experiences with an extra helping of luxury.
At Ceylon Tea Trails, a collection of decadent colonial bungalows in the high country, there’s a mountain spring-fed pool, a tennis court, croquet lawns, and opportunities for mountain biking, trekking and tea tours, meaning you can be as lazy or active as you like. Meanwhile, at Cape Weligama, on the southern coast of the island, surf lessons, cycling tours, and ocean safaris can occupy your time when you’re not relaxing in the crescent-shaped, cliff-edge infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean or tucking into the local fare. For an unforgettable safari experience in the island nation, Wild Coast Tented Lodge, sitting on the edge of leopard-dense Yala National Park, offers spaceship-like cocoon tents with classic expedition furnishings and mod cons. Mornings can be spent exploring the wilderness of the park on game drives, afternoons unwinding at the spa or by the pool; and evenings enjoying sundowners on the private beach.
Rosewood Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, Laos
With its golden temples and breezy French colonial architecture, Laos’ former royal capital has a way of slowing pulses. But to truly get in a meditative state, you’ll have to head a few minutes outside of town to the Rosewood Luang Prabang‘s immersive, luxury jungle retreat, where a collection of 23 rooms, villas, and hilltop tents line a peaceful stream with its own tumbling waterfall. The onsite spa sources botanicals (such as crinum lily and white butterfly bush) from its own garden, and you can even choose to schedule a treatment with Mr. Xong, a local Hmong healer who forages for grasses in the surrounding forest.
At the Great House restaurant, grab a seat on the wraparound terrace for family-style Lao dishes, such as goi paa (minced river fish, banana flower, and galangal) and oor lam gnoua (braised water buffalo with bitter leaves, eggplant, and sakkhan roots), before retreating to the Elephant Bridge Bar, which occupies a wooden bridge overlooking the river below.
Samanvaya Luxury Resort & Spa
On an island where culture and untouched nature may feel obsolete due to over-tourism and gentrification, Samanvaya Luxury Resort & Spa is a refuge for tourists seeking authenticity in Bali. Nestled in Sidemen Valley, a pristine corner of eastern Bali and an hour’s drive from Ubud, this adults-only property is surrounded by some of “The Island of the Gods’” most breathtaking nature: rolling hills, rambling rivers, verdant fields, virgin beaches, and nostalgic villages. Samanvaya encompasses these natural elements in its design, with 15 traditional thatched-roof villas nestled snugly in the lush highlands, seamlessly blending into the landscape. The villas were built by local craftsmen using reclaimed lumber and sustainable hardwoods from the forests of East Kalimantan. Additionally, each villa incorporates elements of traditional Balinese culture, with open-air bathrooms featuring indoor landscaping and unobstructed views of the surrounding majestic mountains.
The property’s plunge pools suspended over emerald rice fields provide necessary solace from the Indonesian heat, while the ornate Ananda Spa, inspired by ancient Balinese practice and the landscape, releases tension post-explorations. While copious local restaurants dot Sidemen Valley, Samanvaya’s own Asri Dining is a must-visit for genuine flavors, focusing on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
If you have just “One Night in Bangkok” (as that 1984 song has forever memorialized), it better be at The Siam. A five-star property perched on the Chao Praya River in the historic district of Thailand’s capital, The Siam epitomizes rejuvenation amid metropolitan chaos. After all, the distinctive hotel is set on three acres of verdurous frontage overlooking the everyday activities of this life-sustaining river, a centerpiece to Thailand’s fertility. Inside, The Siam melds black-and-white Art Deco and Thai antique-infused inspiration.
Spaciousness is also paramount in the hotel’s design—-the property features 39 of Bangkok’s most stately suites alongside intimate private pool villas with rooftop terraces. An urban resort, guests choose their pursuits in the complex, from yoga and a Muay Thai boxing ring to traditional Thai cooking classes, and movies in the hotel’s cinema. Chon Thai Restaurant, The Siam’s five-star eatery located in an authentic teak house, deftly blends the subtleties and spices of the region. If Bangkok’s energy lures you outside The Siam’s gates, there’s much to explore nearby: The Grand Palace, the notorious Khao San Road, and the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Sofitel Legend Metropole
Turn-down service at the Sofitel Legend Metropole in the heart of Hanoi, albeit just far enough away from the most dizzying streets of this buzzing Vietnamese city, is no ordinary affair, thanks to ethereal macarons part and parcel of the nightly offering. Speaking of exquisite bites: The breakfast buffet at this five-star property would impress even the most jaded brunch-goers with its heavenly array of Vietnamese classics such as spring rolls and phở, and Western standards like eggs benedict and French toast along with a fresh juice bar (try the Detox or Energy, depending). Jet-lagged travelers would be wise to rely heavily on the richly flavored, borderline-addictive Vietnamese iced coffee.
The hotel’s 364 rooms are split by two wings, the historical Metropole Wing, and the newer, more modern Opera Wing, available in a range of standard and premium rooms or suites boasting Hermès bath products and staggeringly inviting beds. To be sure, this isn’t a city for sleeping, but if nap you must after a day navigating the narrow streets and tiny yet readily discoverable alleys lined with shops, consider doing it poolside after sipping the Bamboo Bar’s signature Graham Greene Martini.