The hottest hotels, resorts, spas and glamping sites of 2018 (so far) named

It's the end of the financial year, time for everyone, even our team of experienced Traveller writers, to audit their experiences and record their highlights and occasional low lights. Here, they describe their most memorable stays from the past 12 months.

UNDER CANVAS, UNITED STATES

The glamping revolution has reached the US, with Under Canvas boasting luxury camps in Utah (Zion, Moab), Montana (Glacier, Yellowstone), Tennessee (Great Smoky Mountains) and South Dakota (Mount Rushmore), with one soon to open near the Grand Canyon. The camps are all positioned on national park borders, with sensational views. The tents are cosy, environmentally friendly and resource-efficient. See undercanvas.com

CAMP JABULANI, SOUTH AFRICA

satjun30annualinside Craig Tansley Satjun30coverannual satjun30annual satjun30annualinside

Photo: Rikki Hibbert

If the crowds of South Africa's Kruger National Park aren't your thing, next door you'll discover a sanctuary to trek among wild herds of adopted elephants. Camp Jabulani has room for just 12 guests in villas built above the savannah where the Big Five roam at night. See campjabulani.com

ROVE HOTELS, DUBAI

At last, a chain of Dubai hotels offering smart, fuss-free, affordable accommodation for those travellers who don't want to splash out on a 24-carat gold gilded palace. Rove Hotels, a locally grown brand, is expanding rapidly in the region, as guests respond positively to the stylish digs and upbeat vibe. See rovehotels.com

RE-PURPOSED MOTELS

The Bower at Byron Bay

The Bower Byron Bay

Once tired and tatty, old motels around the world are being reborn as designer hotels. Each has its own vibe, from the gingham bedspreads of Los Angeles' rustic-chic Farmer's Daughter Hotel to Portland's pop-tastic Jupiter Hotel. On NSW's north coast, the celebrated Halcyon House has been joined by the serene The Bower Byron Bay. See farmersdaughterhotel.com Jupiterhotel.com Halcyonhouse.com.au thebowerbyronbay.com.au

RAFFLES EUROPEJSKI, WARSAW

Oh hello, gorgeous! After a grand launch in May, the 160-year-old Hotel Europejski was introduced to the world as the reimagined Raffles Europejski Warsaw. The height of luxury in the Polish capital, this palace-style hotel is a glittering sign of good things to come for Poland's tourism industry. See raffles.com/warsaw

KATHMANDU GUEST HOUSE, NEPAL

satjun30annualinside Louise Southerden Satjun30coverannual KATHMANDU GUEST HOUSE, NEPAL satjun30annual satjun30annualinside
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Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this 103-room hotel began as a 13-room guesthouse, the first in Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist district, and became synonymous with the rise of adventure travel, a home base for mountaineers, Peace Corps volunteers, artists, actors and writers; Tony Wheeler even penned a few Lonely Planet guides there. See ktmgh.com

CITIZEN M SHOREDITCH

Budget-friendly chain hotels get a bad rap. Not this trendy Dutch affair, which promises "affordable luxury" in London's hippest neighbourhood (rates start at about $160). Rooms are minimalist but futuristic. Everything from lighting and heating to movies and background music is controlled by iPad (OK, moodpad). See citizenm.com

BANYAN TREE PHUKET SPA SANCTUARY

Double Pool Villa, Banyan Tree Resort

Double Pool Villa, Banyan Tree Resort

While some resorts have "all you can eat buffets", Banyan Tree Phuket Spa Sanctuary offers "all you want massage treatments". That's right, unlimited 60-minute in-villa massages are available daily as part of the resort's dedication to wellness and relaxation. The 12-villa, adults-only spa retreat is a 30-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. See banyantree.com

JAYA HOUSE RIVER PARK, SIEM REAP

If you haven't stayed there yet, you might wonder if the gushing TripAdvisor reviews are a bit over the top. They're not. This Siem Reap boutique hotel is sheer delight, from the charismatic GM to the heartfelt service to the hundreds of lotus flowers hand-folded daily. The complimentary daily massage sweetens the deal. See jayahouseriverparksiemreap.com

AUTOCAMP, RUSSIAN RIVER

AirStreams inside the AutoCamp complex.

AirStreams inside the AutoCamp complex.

Camp in style aboard luxury airstream trailers surrounded by lush redwood forest in the heart of Sonoma's wine country just 90-minutes north of San Francisco. This swish glamping set-up combines all mod cons with a rugged outdoor setting ideally situated for exploring Sonoma County's stunning beaches and coastline. See autocamp.com

BURGENSTOCK RESORT, SWITZERLAND

Switzerland is more notable for its old-fashioned, chalet-style hotels than glamorous new resorts, but last year's opening of the half-billion-dollar Burgenstock Resort above Lake Lucerne provides oodles of contemporary glamour. It encompasses four hotels, 12 restaurants and Switzerland's biggest and most extravagant wellness retreat, although stupendous scenery steals the show. See buergenstock.ch

HUKA LODGE, NEW ZEALAND

Alan Pye Cottage, part of Huka Lodge New Zealand

Alan Pye Cottage, part of Huka Lodge New Zealand Photo: Patrick Reynolds

This long-established lodge on the green Waikato River outside Taupo is one of the country's best-known luxury hotels and gets the nod from the gourmet-oriented Relais & Chateaux brand for its matching fine-dining restaurant. It particularly impresses, however, for its atmosphere of utter river-gurgled, swan-paddled serenity. See hukalodge.co.nz

MISFAH OLD HOUSE VILLAGE STAY, OMAN

What do you do with a crumbling village in the Hajar Mountains of Oman, a centuries-old settlement that's been all but abandoned? You turn it, in part, into a guesthouse. Misfah Old House is a friendly B&B run by the village's former residents that offers a unique immersion into local culture. See tourismoman.com.au

WILDWATERS LODGE, UGANDA

Sunrise over the River Nile from Wildwaters Lodge, Uganda

Sunrise over the River Nile from Wildwaters Lodge, Uganda Photo: Tom Broadhurst / Alamy

Located on an island in the White Nile and surrounded by three raging class-six rapids, this stunning lodge enjoys one of the most spectacular locations on the planet. The resort's 10 luxury suites all overlook the river and the area is an adventure lover's paradise. See wildwaterslodge.com

FAIRMONT VANCOUVER AIRPORT HOTEL

Just a two-minute stroll from the luggage carousels, the Fairmont hotel is the perfect spot to break up a long-haul travel itinerary. With an indoor, heated pool, health club and spa you can work out and freshen up before grabbing a cocktail and a bite at the swish restaurant and bar overlooking the airport runways. See fairmont.com

THE MURRAY, HONG KONG

The Murray - Hotel Hong Kong

Photo: Michael Weber

The most notable luxury hotel to open in Hong Kong for years, this five-star property debuted in December. Located in the historic Murray Building, the hotel features a spa, a stunning rooftop bar and one of the city's best Cantonese eateries, Guo Fu Lou. See niccolohotels.com

See: Our full review of the Murray

SABI SAND RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA

Wildlife viewing doesn't get much better than South Africa's Sabi Sand game reserve, where you can spot leopard, lion, rhino, hippo and elephant, as well as more elusive creatures such as painted dogs. Add in luxurious lodges such as Sabi Sabi Selati Lodge or Ulusaba Safari Lodge, and you have the perfect safari experience. See sabi-sands.com Sabisabi.com virginlimitededition.com/Ulusaba

TIERRA ATACAMA, CHILE

Tierra Atacama outdoor jauzzi

Drive through the driest desert on Earth, yet it's still Tierra Atacama that's the star. Enter a dimly lit adobe-brick, open-plan hotel where guests sip Pisco Sours looking out across 6000-metre-high volcanoes that stretch to Bolivia. Shut your curtains before bed: no stars are brighter in the world. See tierraatacama.com

VICTORIA-JUNGFRAU GRAND HOTEL, INTERLAKEN, SWITZERLAND

Nestled at the base of the Jungfrau in central Switzerland – and beside an alpine lake, the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa is one of Switzerland's grandest hotels. Its views of the Jungfrau is almost overshadowed by its 5500-square-metre health spa. See victoria-jungfrau.ch/en

VENTANA BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA

Ventana Big Sur

Though Easy Rider producer Lawrence A Spector's original resort for guests (including stars like Steve McQueen) to drop out among the Californian redwoods of Big Sur has been remodelled over the past 43 years, there's still elements of the freewheeling '70s sprinkled throughout. Walk through a forest to a restaurant balancing over the Pacific. See alilahotels.com/ventana

LIZARD ISLAND RESORT, QUEENSLAND

The only way in is by air from Cairns, but once you're here there's a private beach for every guest at the only resort in a 1000-hectare national park. The escape of choice for visiting celebs, escaping to the Great Barrier Reef's northern-most resort comes with no intrusions. See lizardisland.com.au

See also: Lizard Island is Australia's best barefoot-luxury resort

STANLEY'S CAMP, BOTSWANA

Stanley's Camp

Botswana has long been an African safari favourite for its abundant wildlife, pristine landscapes and excellent camps, and the (very high) bar has just been raised with the magnificent refurbishment of Sanctuary Retreat's Stanley's Camp in the Okavango Delta. Offering 10 new luxury tents set on a 260,000-acre private concession, there's also a chic new lounge tent and extended wooden deck bar reaching out into the savannah. See sanctuaryretreats.com.

BURG WERNBERG, GERMANY

Tucked into a historic corner of old Germany halfway between Munich and Prague, this hilltop castle will make you feel like Rapunzel with all its towers and medieval stereotypes, while at the same time offering a contemporary hotel experience, from gourmet cuisine to soaking tubs and efficient service. See relaischateaux.com/burgwernberg

THE REVERIE SAIGON

The Reverie Saigon

You may think this sort of luxury would be unattainable: the Murano glass chandeliers in the rooms, the blue marble floors, the wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows, the breakfast buffet with truffled eggs and foie gras. However, the Reverie Saigon, in central Ho Chi Minh City, does all of this at a surprisingly affordable price. See thereveriesaigon.com

 

THE SINGULAR, SANTIAGO, CHILE

Watch the moon rise over the Andes from the rooftop bar and forget any preconceptions you had about Santiago. The Chilean capital may not evoke the same nostalgia as its counterpart, Buenos Aires, but when the beautiful people gather at this hotel in its ritziest suburb, Lastarria, magic happens. See thesingular.com

YASAWA ISLAND RESORT & SPA, FIJI

The only way into Yasawa Island Resort is via propeller plane. When you land on a grassy airstrip, you'll be bundled into a 4WD for a bumpy ride to one of 18 luxurious bungalows built along a white-sand bay. There's 10 private beaches on site, dining on the sand, and some of Fiji's best diving. See yasawa.com

VIRUNGA LODGE, RWANDA

Perched high on a mountain in Rwanda's north-west, the lodge commands heart-stopping views of the surrounding volcanoes and lakes. It's only the promise of mountain gorilla sightings that will lure you from this exceptional retreat. See classicsafaricompany.com.au

THE SIAM, BANGKOK

So much more than a spectacular resort on the banks of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River, The Siam is a little world unto itself, a family-owned world filled with antiques and Jazz Age elegance and some of the finest pan-Asian Art Deco objects in the world. See thesiamhotel.com

See: Our full review of The Siam

Contributors: Elspeth Callender, Ben Groundwater, Belinda Jackson, Brian Johnston, Ute Junker, Nina Karnikowski, Kristie Kellahan, Jamie Lafferty, Sally Macmillan, Rob McFarland, Steve McKenna, Catherine Marshall, Julie Miller, Sheriden Rhodes, Louise Southerden, Alison Stewart, Craig Tansley, Kerry van der Jagt, Guy Wilkinson

See also: The 23 hottest destinations of 2018 (so far) named

See also: The 10 best outdoor adventures of 2018 (so far) named

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