A great hotel offers more than merely a place to rest your head and stow your stuff between sightseeing excursions. A truly standout property can offer new insight into a beloved place; bring fresh energy to a been-there, done-that neighborhood; even become a destination in its own right. That’s why we here at T+L spend months obsessively tracking new openings and major overhauls, consulting our trusted network of travel pros and jetsetting writers, and traversing the globe in search of the most memorable, game-changing hotels of the year for our annual It List.
This year, our guide to the essential openings (and reopenings) of the past year took us to 32 countries in pursuit of the unforgettable. Over the course of 2019, T+L writers and editors have trekked to a remote West Texas escape that feels like a supersize Donald Judd sculpture, hooked trout at a fly-fishing retreat in remote Patagonia, and soaked in the spring-fed baths of a Taiwan resort until their fingers went pruney — tough work, but we’re just that committed to the cause. This isn’t merely a list of the most high-end resorts, nor is it a who’s-who of major hotel chains, though you’ll find both splurgey stays and familiar brands in the mix. Instead, we’ve aimed to showcase the properties that are at the top of their game and adding something new to the conversation, whether they’re century-old stalwarts fresh off a major reno or intimate family-run boutiques that hit the sweet spot between hotel hospitality and vacation-rental hominess.
Ahead, you’ll find a stay for every style and mood. There’s a Loire Valley château, reborn as a chic grande dame for the modern era. A sleek beach retreat in Asbury Park challenges the notion that the Jersey Shore is merely a regional summer hang for the tri-state area, and in Queens, the converted TWA terminal has thrown down the gauntlet for airport hotels the world over. We’ve got end-of-the-world escapes in Bolivia and Namibia, chic city hotels in Cape Town and the UAE, and wellness resorts that will suit both hardcore health nuts and the merely spa-curious. Read on for all 72 properties on the 2020 It List — your next vacation spot awaits.
Edited by Lila Battis & John Wogan
AFRICA + THE MIDDLE EAST
Jao Camp (Wilderness Safaris) — Okavango Delta, Botswana
In 2019, Wilderness Safaris’ Jao Camp — in the 150,000-acre Jao Reserve, a private concession in northern Botswana’s wildlife-rich Okavango Delta — went through its first rebuild since it opened in 1999. The result is light and modern, with two villas and five large, open-plan suites done in shades of amethyst, tan, charcoal, and gray-blue. Heavy thatch has been switched out for low-maintenance, recycled-plastic strips that look like the real deal from afar, and swing chairs dangle from lofty rafters. A giraffe skeleton stands in the “knowledge center,” a gallery/museum hybrid. Between private game drives, mokoro (dugout canoe) excursions, helicopter flights, and sundowners in the bush, you can chill in your private plunge pool and watch impalas, elephants, and swooping woodland kingfishers. Doubles from $1,285 per person, all-inclusive. — Heather Richardson
The Oberoi Marrakech — Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakesh offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to upscale resorts, but few can now compete with the Oberoi, which is set on 28 acres of olive and orange groves with views of the Atlas Mountains. Its central building is modeled on one of the city’s most famous historic sites, the 16th-century Meder¬sa Ben Youssef, with ornate stucco and zellige tiles, cedar ceilings, and reflecting pools that seem to extend all the way to the horizon. I found enough to do on site that I almost forgot about the city beyond: each of the 84 guest rooms and villas has a private terrace and swimming pool, and there are fitness classes, hammam and spa treatments, falconry, wine tastings, and an ayurvedic wellness center that offers weeklong retreats. And — should you choose to stray off-campus — the enchanting medina is accessible via the house Mer¬cedes at a moment’s notice. Doubles from $760. — Paul Brady
Zannier Hotels Sonop — Karas, Namibia
See the rest here.