The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India
This jungle resort in Rajasthan, just ranked the best hotel in the world in Travel and Leisure's 2010 World's Best survey, spreads over a 20-acre fantasia of fragrant gardens, mango and lime groves on the edge of Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary. Passage to India-style canvas tents are dressed in tiger-printed rugs, teak floors, four-poster beds and claw-foot soaking tubs. More mini Taj than mere tent (canopies are embroidered with gold), each is nearly 800 square feet and comes with a private terrace and walled garden. The resort's warm colour scheme – all amber, brown and white – takes its cue from the wild cat.
While the hotel offers daily jungle drives (May and June are best for tiger-spotting), a grand swimming pool decorated with gold-tasselled umbrellas encourages feline-like languor. Should you prefer not to promenade the grounds and gardens, the resort's two resident female elephants provide more memorable transport. www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_vanyavilas/index.asp; from $903 Cdn.
A QUEEN'S LODGING
Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Stefan Stefan, a tiny islet dangling to the mainland via a narrow isthmus, was once a 15th-century fishing village. By grace of a massive government-funded revitalization effort, the isle is now poised for a glamorous encore as an exclusive leisure ground. The brand-new, 50-room Aman Sveti Stefan (slated to open in May 2011) claims a two-kilometre ribbon of pristine, ballet-slipper pink beach, and its assortment of red-roofed stone buildings, built to storybook effect against wind-frilled emerald seas, look like the sort inhabited by distressed damsels with pet dragons and big hair.
Across the bay, the hotel's eight-room Villa Milocer is similarly mythic in allure: formerly the summer residence of Queen Marija, VM is landscaped with ancient olive trees, cedar and pine forests, and features the kind of rooms (with stone floors, Juliet balconies and fireplaces) that make you want to take up fencing and sip potions from golden goblets. www.amanresorts.com/amansvetistefan/home.aspx; from $786 Euros a night.
San Ysidro Ranch, Southern California
This is where John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned, where Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier got married, and where celebrities (Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, etc.) came to trade the footlights for the dusty decadence of the Santa Ana foothills. You can understand why. Fresh from a $150-million renovation, the 500-acre former citrus ranch – book-ended by the mountains and the Pacific Ocean – host 41 haute-rustic suites and hand-carved, ivy-draped stone cottages (with fireplaces, outdoor rain showers and hot tubs, and ocean-facing terraces). The ranch, with its lavender-and-olive-tree-hemmed pathways, remains a choice setting for aisle-traipsing, honeymooning and wine-tasting. (The ranch offers private tours of San Ynez wine country).
The Stonehouse Restaurant puts the spotlight on regional calories (herbs and veg hail from chef John Trotta's onsite garden). Service, here, is irreproachable and the ranch is as welcoming to guests human and canine; a pet-happy property since the 1930s when former owner and state Senator Alvin Weingand's dachshunds scampered about, visiting dogs receive toys, treats and in-room massages ($65 a half hour). www.sanysidroranch.com; from $650
A NAPOLEONIC STAY
Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
The Asian hotel brand's inaugural European outpost – first built in 1896 as the private home of Napoleon Bonaparte's grand-nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte – opened recently in the 16th arrondissement after a four-year restoration. The 81 boudoirs, fashioned to princely effect by French interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, count among the city's most sumptuous hostelries to bid bonne nuit. Most decadent are the Suite Imperiale (which originally housed Prince Roland's private apartment).
The crown jewel is the penthouse Suite Panoramique (its moniker is not hyperbole) with floor-to-ceiling windows and a 1,076-square-foot outdoor deck, larger than most Parisian apartments, that proffers an absurdly close-up view of the Eiffel Tower. The Shangri La excels also at those Parisian pastimes, romance and eating: Chef Philippe Labbe (formerly at the Plaza Athenee and the Chevre D'Or) helms the hotel's culinary offerings. Along with the classic French dining room L'Abeille, the hotel welcomes Shang Palace in early 2011, billed as the first gourmet Cantonese restaurant in Paris. www.shangri-la.com/en/property/paris/shangrila; from $980; suites from $7,859.
THE BILLIONAIRE BOLTHOLE
Molori Clifton, Cape Town, South Africa
This (almost) objectionably opulent pair of villas in Cape Town is the latest from South African hotelier Kirk Lazarus. (Also in Lazarus's empire is the Molori Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, as well as the Molori Mirage, a villa on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where he has been known to helicopter guests to picnic spots on the edge of cliffs in Queensland.) With Table Mountain as a backdrop, the Clifton's villas – one sleeps 10; the other 6 – perch on a postcard stretch of Clifton Beach, known for its sugary sands and seclusion. Like its sister properties, the Clifton's villas combine contemporary design (lots of glass, sleek lines and shades of cloud whites and sand) with dramatic, pinch-me scenery. Price tags are also of the pinch-me variety: a night at the main villa will run guests – like Kate Moss, a client – $6,450. Molori means “to dream” in seTswana, and these properties are, indeed, tycoon-ready dreamscapes of wraparound decks, plunge pools, screening rooms, Jacuzzis and English butler service.
www.molori.com; villas from $6,450.
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