Forbes: hottest hotels in 2019
With a slew of interesting, luxurious hotels opening (and reopening) from Aspen to Athens, 2019 is looking like a good year to sleep around. Some are one entrepreneur’s small passion project, while others are large-scale moves by big brands into new territory like Bahia and Rishikesh. They share both a painstaking attention to detail and a willingness to rewrite the rules. Between them, they’re adding remote destinations and new corners of big cities to the luxury travel set. Here’s what’s on the map for 2019.
The Fife Arms, Scotland
Swiss art power couple Iwan and Manuela Wirth (founders of Hauser & Wirth) are the creative forces behind this new Highlands lodge. They opened it in December, after two years of extensive renovations to a storied 19th-century Victorian coaching inn. The art collection features more than 12,000 works by internationally renowned artists such as Zhang Enli, Guillermo Kuitca, Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher and an outstanding array of Scottish artworks.
Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel, Athens
You might have thought Four Seasons was all over glamorous European capitals, but the fact is, it hasn’t been yet. This year will see several openings that change that, starting with this major update of a historic hotel, expected to debut this winter or spring.
In-the-know Athenians have long flocked to the day- and nightclubs of the Athens Riviera, the coastline that stretches south of the city. Now Four Seasons is bringing that laid-back vibe to international visitors while positioning them just 30 minutes from the city center.
Il Vesconte, Italy
It’s out of the way in northern Lazio, but this 16th-century royal residence is one of the country’s finest hidden gems. This year, the dashing, ambitious young count who turned his family home into a bed and breakfast in order to preserve its history is expanding it to a full-service hotel. There will be five new bedrooms with Etro fabrics and family antiques (bringing the total to 18), a bar in the horses’ stable, a restaurant and a wine-tasting venue in the hunting room. Here, noblesse oblige.
In mid-2019, the legendary hotel—one of Asia’s grandest since 1887—will be reborn after a massive restoration that began in 2017. Along with three new suite categories, there will be new restaurants by a coterie of renowned chefs including Alain Ducasse, Anne-Sophie Pic and Jereme Leung. The Long Bar and its Singapore Slings aren’t going anywhere.
Six Senses Shaharut, Israel
Once again, the sustainability-minded Asian brand Six Senses is making a foray off the beaten path. (It’s a dare that worked for them when they ventured into Oman a decade ago and, more recently, onto the Turkish coast.) The goal here is to showcase the rich Biblical heritage of the Negev Desert’s Arava Valley.
But expect far more than religious tourism: There’s the enchanting emptiness of the desert, dramatic sunsets over cliffs and sand dunes, 60 suites and villas that are incorporated into the landscape and, of course, an extensive wellness program.
Taj Rishikesh, India
Opening in March in the sacred city of Rishikesh, the latest hotel from the homegrown Taj group is a far cry from the humble ashrams that occupy this area. (It’s one of the yoga capitals of India.) The Beatles Ashram (where they met the Maharishi) has just been refurbished and reopened this year, adding another reason to visit. The property is grounded in wellness and, like most Taj resorts, has a Jiva Spa, which works Ayurvedic practices into its offerings.
Coqui Coqui, Bora Bora
The first boho-chic Coqui Coqui Residences and Spa, in Tulum, helped put that Mexican spot on the map. It’s a good bet the hoteliers will work similar magic here. One of them, perfumer Nicolas Malleville of the Yucatan-born Perfumeria, has already begun his new chapter. He has opened a stylish perfumery on the site using Polynesian flowers, fruits, woods and herbs. A barefoot luxury hotel is expected to join it later this year.
Nukutepipi Island, French Polynesia
This new private island resort is part of Sunset Luxury Villas, a private collection of destination retreats curated by Canadian entrepreneur Guy Laliberté, cofounder of Cirque du Soleil, One Drop Foundation and Lune Rouge. Sold for exclusive use, the island accommodates up to 52 guests across 16 beachfront villas and bungalows. The spa will have Tahitian-inspired treatments, and the water sports range from scuba diving to swimming with humpback whales.
Magashi Camp, Rwanda
Rwanda is on the map in a big way, with the installation of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s new gorilla conservation center with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and new safari camps such as Wilderness Safaris’ iconic Bisate Lodge.
It’s a conservation success story. The newest place to experience it is at Wilderness’ upcoming Magashi Camp, a six-tent enclave with a luxurious lounge, dining and bar area, wine cellar and pool. It’s located in the northeastern part of Akagera overlooking Lake Rwanyakazinga (home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, some very large crocodiles, and the secretive sitatunga and shoebill stork), an area in which poaching has essentially been eliminated and wildlife is now thriving.
Zannier Hotels, the company behind top properties like Le Chalet in the French Alps and Phum Baitong in Cambodia, is bringing its discreet brand of luxury to the Namib Desert this summer. Designed as a refined British Colonial experience from the 1920s, the out-of-the-ordinary lodge offers a lavish retreat in a captivating panoramic desert landscape. Constructed on top of boulders, the 10 spacious tents are richly furnished with fine antiques, colorful carpets and precious wood. Sonop also offers a spa, a fitness center and a heated outdoor infinity pool, all facing the desert’s vastness.
This summer, operator Natural Selection will open its most refined and exclusive camp yet in the Khwai Private Reserve in the Okavango Delta. It is exclusive not only because it has a mere seven tents but also because there are very few other visitors to the nearly half a million acres of pristine wilderness. Animal sightings are plentiful.
Anantara Maraú Bahia, Brazil
The Bangkok-based luxury powerhouse Anantara is moving into the Americas in 2019. Its first hotel on the western shore of the Atlantic is a complete redo of an existing property, a 30-villa hideaway on a deserted stretch of coastline that’s home to a virgin rain forest, World Heritage site and Afro-Brazilian culture. Expect castaway luxury.
Chablé Maroma, Mexico
The much-anticipated sister property of the modern-wellness resort Chablé on the Yucatán Peninsula opened last fall in a prime location between a tropical jungle and a white-sand beach.
The 70 casitas are designed to immerse guests in nature and reference the local Mayan heritage, with retractable glass walls, indoor-outdoor rain showers, private pools and outdoor terraces. The interiors are rich in regional materials such as tropical woods, stones and marble and original designs by Mexican artisans. The spa emphasizes Mayan healing traditions, and the restaurants are led by Mexican chef Jorge Vallejo, of the top-ranked Quintonil in Mexico City and award-winning Ixi’im Restaurant at Chablé Resort.
Kachi Lodge, Bolivia
Bolivia has lately become the Iceland of South America, with stunning nature and a high cool quotient. But until now, there was no comfortable place to stay beyond La Paz. That will change in March, with the opening of this luxury tented camp on the otherworldly Uyuni Salt Flats. The six domed tents have private bathrooms, plush and cozy bedding, stylish interiors and thrilling views.
The Hoxton Chicago
The unself-consciously cool U.K. brand’s sixth hotel and its seventh in the U.S., The Hoxton Chicago is set in the city’s up-and-coming West Loop/Fulton Market neighborhood.
The 182 bedrooms reference the area’s industrial past with concrete ceilings, warehouse-style windows and midcentury furniture. In keeping with the current vogue, the communal areas will double as co-work spaces, and the bars and restaurants are collaborations with local chefs—most notably James Beard Award winner Stephanie Izard.
Isla Bella Beach Resort, Florida
The Keys’ first five-star resort post–Hurricane Irma will open in early 2019 on 24 acres of Knights Key in Marathon, the threshold of the Seven Mile Bridge. It will be the first full-service luxury hotel in the area, which for now is one of the lesser-known destinations in the island chain. The beachfront hotel has nearly a mile of private sand, a spa, four restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, and Atlantic views from all 199 of the rooms and suites.
TWA Hotel, New York City
Forget all your ideas about airport hotels. Eero Saarinen’s long-defunct 1962 landmark TWA Flight Center at JFK is coming back as a first-class hotel. The whole thing is a tribute to the golden age of aviation, when air travel was glamorous, not grindingly uncomfortable.
The 512 ultra-quiet—seriously, the glass curtain wall is 4.5 inches thick—guest rooms and the 10,000-square-foot rooftop observation deck and pool have splendid views of the runways, and there’s a museum devoted to the Jet Age and the midcentury modern design movement. Jean-Georges Vongerichten will oversee the restaurant when it opens this spring, and authentic Saarinen furnishings from Knoll decorate the rooms.
W Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is one of those destinations that tends not to change very often. When a new hotel opens, it’s big news. That’s what will happen in June, when this high-design hotel debuts at the base of Aspen Mountain, across the street from the Little Nell. The rooftop pool, lounge and guest rooms are the handiwork of Rowland + Broughton, a Colorado design firm that was recently named to the AD100.
Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf, St. Barth
After years of dormancy, this grand dame of a hotel in Gustavia is finally reopening under the Barriére umbrella. The thorough redesign was overseen by Parisian interiors firm Gilles & Boissier (known for dramatic hotels like the Baccarat in New York and the Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech), and the French food will be prepared in collaboration with Pierre Gagnaire. The views over the harbor needed no embellishment.