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Big Sleep Awards 2018

When the hotel is a destination in itself, you know you’ve arrived. So step into our Big Sleep Awards, where we champion the new hotels, lodges, B&Bs and glampsites that are raising the bar

The judges' categories

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Spoilt Rotten

Even spa naysayers are seduced by the new generation of hotels that deliver more than just a good massage. From vegan retreats that spoil you rotten to state-of-the-art sleep clinics, these places have you covered, supine and cured.

The winner
Chablé, Mexico
A painstakingly restored 19th-century sisal estate is home to this new jungle-fringed hacienda hotel, with a spa at its heart and soul.

Our panel said: With crumbling walls, slick rooms, plunge pools and a brilliant restaurant, there’s much to award this hotel. The highlight, however, is its spa, centred around an ancient cenote (freshwater pool) with cabins angled to maximise the surroundings and the Mayan-inspired menu: including everything from three-hour rituals to meditation led by local shamans, and a trio of temazcals (local saunas) in which to sweat it out.

Runners-up
Six Senses Duxton, Singapore
An opulent, Oriental-inspired outpost in the heart of Chinatown has all the trappings of a luxe retreat — from five-star service to traditional Chinese medicine.

Four Seasons Resort Bali, At Sayan, Ubud, Indonesia
Yoga in a bamboo bale? Water blessings from a high priestess? This lush, luxurious hideaway has ‘spoilt rotten’ written all over it.

 

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Castaway

These are the waterside resorts and private island getaways that make us feel like we’re miles from our everyday lives, somewhere our stresses and strains just melt away — and we wish it could stay that way.

The winner
Bawah Island, Indonesia
A quintet of rainforest-carpeted tropical isles set in three luminous blue lagoons, home to 13 beaches and unlimited spa treatments.

Our panel says: This new tropical island escape has all that you’d expect of a luxury island fantasy — white sand, turquoise water teeming with fish, lush jungle, cool architecture, great food, a spa and endless watery activities. And it’s also pleasingly environmentally responsible.

Runners-up
Kokomo Private Island, Fiji
With the Pacific a dazzling blue backdrop, paradise doesn’t come much purer than this island sanctuary.

Gladden Private Island, Belize
Sleeping just two to four castaways and ringed with coral reefs, this private island is pure indulgence.

 

Design Den

These hotels are both visually bewitching and functionally smart, from a pioneering science-focused design den to a quirky fashionista’s favourite. The winner has forever changed Cape Town’s landscape, setting the bar high for any hotels to come.

The winner
The Silo Hotel, Cape Town
Set on top of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, The Silo Hotel is the ultimate destination hotel for lovers of art and architecture.

Our panel said: British designer Thomas Heatherwick was charged with remodelling the industrial concrete facade of this former 1920s grain silo, and the result has launched a thousand magazine covers: industrial concrete and striking windows conceal a rich and confidently eclectic decor. In terms of design, this is the most exciting hotel ever to open in Cape Town and it’s set the benchmark high.

Runners-up
Barceló Torre de Madrid

Spanish designer Jaime Hayon’s new offering teases from the off; quirky pieces sit against a stylish palette of pastel hues.

Hotel EMC2, Chicago
Clever science-meets-art design runs throughout this urban bolthole, with quirky contraptions and sketches bringing a touch of Einstein to the walls.

 

Family Favourite

This place treats your offspring like a little prince or princess while also catering to adults. Are there activities to make even the most truculent of teens express gratitude?

The winner
Another Place, Ullswater
This property from the owners of Cornwall’s Watergate Bay Hotel is the new benchmark for brilliant family holidays.

Our panel said: Here, tots can fling fish goujons around in the restaurant without reproach, and teens can frolic in the water with abandon. The pool’s good, too.

Runners-up
Wild Coast Tented Lodge, Sri Lanka
Luxurious four posters, teak floors and copper tubs, all under canvas.

Legoland, Windsor
This site now comes with a Castle Hotel, complete with themed rooms.

 

Clean & Green

The very best ‘green’ hotels live and breathe the natural world. We celebrate the most sustainable, carbon-neutral champions out there.

The winner
Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
The first foray into Rwanda by Wilderness Safaris has us singing its wildlife-conscious and beautifully designed praises.

Our panel said: With a unique design, it’s a beautiful tribute to Rwanda’s cultural heritage, and its six rooms snuggle onto a slope where locals and guests have already planted more than 15,000 trees.

Runners-up
Rosewood Phuket
This beautiful Thai retreat is gloriously green.

The Sill, Northumberland
The Youth Hostels Association’s new flagship is entirely run on renewable energy.

 

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City Slicker

This category rewards the boldest, brightest and, in some cases, brilliantly brashest city hotel. This new kid on the block has bags of style and comfort, tailored to discerning urban travellers. We reveal the slickest addresses out there for city-bound tourists.

The winner
The Murray, Hong Kong
One of the most hotly anticipated hotel openings in Hong Kong in years, this 1960s high-rise has been reimagined, retrofitted and refurbished to hotel perfection by Foster + Partners.

Our panel said: This former office block scooped up armfuls of prizes for its pioneering energy-efficient design when it opened in 1969. Nearly 50 years on, it’s been transformed into one of the hippest hangouts in Asia, with monochrome rooms, leafy terrace restaurants and a sensational rooftop bar.

Runners-up
The Whitby, New York
Fresh, fun and slap bang in the middle of Manhattan, expect bold, boutique design from Kit Kemp and an in-house cinema and library.

Palácio Tangará, São Paulo, Brazil
Don’t be deceived by its lush, jungly location — this luxurious sanctuary abounds with cutting-edge design, chic decor and full-on indulgence in the heart of the city.

 

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Hangout

This is a hotel-cum-hangout where locals come just for larks — for top-notch cocktails and that weekend DJ, or for the communal lounge where the wi-fi is super-strength and the sofas super-plush. Here, we reveal where you can feel like a native.

The winner
Downtown Camper, Stockholm
The latest addition to the growing crop of hip hotels on central Stockholm’s former no-go Brunkebergstorg Square has multitasking communal spaces, a wild ‘nest’ rooftop spa and happening cocktail bar.

Our panel said: From the locally made kayaks, longboards and bikes available to borrow in the lobby, to its campfire, hammock and giant swing chairs, this is a playful urban retreat. There are no less than five communal areas, including lively games rooms and a popular workspace, and recommendations for joining everything from rooftop walks to barefoot running groups are as individual as the locally made goodies for sale in the pop-up shop.

Runners-up
Selina, Medellín, Colombia
This boutique, budget place has brought its laid-back ambience to this up-and-coming metropolis.

The Hoxton, Paris
A brand that goes from strength to strength, The Hoxton is the epitome of a cool urban refuge.

 

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Landmark Legend

Venerable. Classy. Established. Properties in this category represent the greatest grande dames of the hotel world. Whether they’re one-off, big-name hotels or a branch of a chain whose reputation transcends that of its umbrella company, we’re simply looking for a hotel that’s a celebrity — a place that’s a destination in its own right.

The winner
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, Paris
The legendary Hôtel de Crillon had a much-needed overhaul at the skilled hands of the Rosewood Group last year. The result is sensational.

Our panel said: This is Parisian perfection, with beautiful dove-grey and pale blue rooms (including the most comfortable bed we’ve ever slept in), pretty, leafy courtyards for cocktails, two brilliant restaurants, and a bar with preserved fresco-covered ceilings. There’s a spa downstairs, with a pool topped with a glass roof, and the service throughout is spot-on.

Runners-up
Hotel Eden, Rome
After a hefty sprucing up, Rome’s elegant grande dame is ready for its close-up, with sizeable suites, gleaming white marble and Bottega Veneta toiletries for all to see.

One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius
A masterclass in refurbs, this long-time favourite is now classic contemporary to its core, swathed in tropical gardens and situated right on the beach.

 

big sleep

Gourmet Getaway

Hotels are forming a formidable front line in the foodie revolution, with guests willing to travel to the ends of the earth to sample the latest tasting menu. We reveal those hotels with the finest kitchens fed by only the freshest ingredients and most adventurous culinary talent.

The winner
Akelarre, Spain
The newest hotel in Spain’s Basque region has immaculate credentials, built around the three Michelin-starred Akelarre restaurant.

Our panel said: This five-star boutique hotel just outside San Sebastián serves up food for all the senses and boasts a soul-stirring setting on a hillside overlooking the Baay of Biscay. Inside, the 22 rooms are set deferentially into the hillside beneath Akelarre restaurant, a Basque culinary landmark since the 1970s.

Runners-up
Jackalope Hotel, Australia
This winery with rooms on the Mornington Peninsula ticks all the right boxes: sublime plates of grub and lavish beds to retreat to.

São Lourenço do Barrocal, Portugal
Plating up rustic, regional fare, this lovingly restored estate is the perfect Portuguese bolthole.

 

Happy Glampers

Log cabins. Yurts. Gers. Teepees. Safari tents. Treehouses. Upcycled horseboxes. Airstream trailers. What’s the coolest, quirkiest outdoor glamping experience out there?

The winner
Ventana Big Sur, California
Sleep like a starlet under the stars in this new luxury campsite on the Pacific Coast between LA and San Francisco.

Our panel said: This former Hollywood hideout, perched over the Pacific at Big Sur, has reopened under the Alila Hotels banner. Doze off beneath the skies on custom-designed mattresses, and scrub up for dinner in the inn, at the Glamping Bath House, complete with showers and heated floors.

Runners-up
Luambe Camp, Zambia
These four beautifully simple tents offset all the carbon emissions from tourist activities.

Tiny Homes Holidays, Isle of Wight
Tiny but firmly on-trend for glamping rentals that sleep just two.

 

Lord of the Manor

Today’s country house hotels are a far cry from the moth-eaten mansions of old. The best rural retreats show that it’s possible to combine tradition with bright new design innovation, five-star service free from stuffy restraint, and glorious cuisine created by star chefs. We reveal the best butlered places to bed down in.

The winner
Adare Manor, Ireland
This recently renovated 19th-century stately home in County Limerick is a neogothic masterpiece reborn.

Our panel said: The first glimpse of the new wing — a seamless addition to the manor house — confirms the largest-ever Irish hotel renovation was worth the 21-month wait. The 842-acre estate offers falconry, fishing, cycling, archery and a world-class golf course, but we wonder if you’ll make it beyond the Great Hall lobby, where a new bar adjoins the 17th-century Flemish choir stalls. 

Runners-up
Lympstone Manor, Exmouth
With acclaimed chef Michael Caines in the kitchen rustling up modern British, seasonal creations, this Grade II-listed rural escape, on the Exe Estuary, is a magnificently contemporary take on the classic country house.

Château de Fonscolombe, France
A short drive from Aix-en-Provence, this former private residence is now a full-on French fairytale of a hotel, with fresh, minimalist rooms and spectacular grounds, containing a heated pool, ancient statues and a kitchen garden. 

 

Game Changer

This category celebrates the true innovators in service, tech and design; the top hotels offering more than just a place to stay — from buzzing rooftop bars to shared workspaces and battle-tested wi-fi.

The winner
The Siren Hotel, Detroit
Once a symbol of American architectural excellence, this revamped 1920s office building is a beacon of Motor City’s renaissance.

Our panel said: When it opened in 1926, Robert Finn’s Wurlitzer Building was a shining symbol of Detroit’s unstoppable energy, and almost a century later — reinvented as a hotel — it once again shines, this time as a symbol of a once-floundering city reborn. The latest of several hotels to venture back into Detroit, The Siren — with its panoramic rooftop bar, and tasting-menu restaurant helmed by James Beard Award nominee, chef Garrett Lipar — sends out the loudest signal so far that Detroit is back. 

Runners-up
Dream Hollywood, Los Angeles
With dining rooms galore and a lush pool deck, this hedonistic hub has revitalised this once run-down part of town. 

Sir Adam Hotel, Amsterdam
1970s skyscraper turned happening hangout; this hotel has helped to turn the waterfront into a hive of activity. 

 

Love Shack

Whether it’s time to fall in love again or to fan the flames of romance, a great hotel getaway can be the sweetest solution. We’ve found the ideal couples’ getaways — we’re talking couples hammocks, honeymoon suites, and balconies worthy of Romeo and Juliet.

The winner

Jabali Ridge, Tanzania
This swoon-worthy safari lodge –— part of a project to protect an African ecosystem — will steal your heart and seduce your conscience.

Our panel said: Set on a hill overlooking the vast wilderness of Ruaha National Park, there’s plenty of big game to see. But the wows also come from within. Using elegant wooden bridges and stilted terraces, its eight rooms, infinity pool and lounge areas really bring the outside in, so you can remain in the nook and watch the wild world go by. 

Runners-up
Casa Telmo, Menorca
A true Balearic gem, the cosy quintet of rooms in this quaint townhouse in the Menorcan capital, Mahón, feature gorgeous, individual designs and no end of original features. 

Habitas Tulum, Mexico
Set in the town of Tulum, in the Yucatán Peninsula’s hippy heartland, this minimalist, chic getaway has a clutch of stylish suites and a private beach for lovebirds. 

 

On The Money

Here at National Geographic Traveller, great value is one of our favourite things, and we expect a lot of bang for our buck. In this category, we’re looking for rooms under £150 a night, but worthy of a queen.

The winner

DOCK INN Hostel Warnemünde, Germany
Wooden shipping containers in the Baltic seaside resort of Warnemünde transformed into one of Germany’s coolest hotels.

Our panel said: We really do like to be beside the seaside if it means staying at this mainly solar-powered hostel, a 10-minute walk from the beach. Each room has views of the docks, as well as sleeping/living areas, smart TVs and separate bathrooms (some shared). And all this from €19 (£17) per person per night. Wow. 

Runners-up
Jo&Joe Hossegor, France
Four minutes from the surf, these bargain beds near Biarritz are prime millennial fodder, with chilled vibes, watersports lessons, and great value rates. 

Steel House Copenhagen
This luxury hostel with modern, on-trend rooms in the heart of the city is a rare thing in Denmark: a bargain; with dorms from as little as £14.

 

Hometown Hero

There’s a growing expectation that our globetrotting adventures should have a meaningful social impact wherever possible. And a good hotel can allow us to do just that: give back as much as we take, and more. This category rewards hotel ventures that kept the community front and centre when developing their products.

The winner

Good Hotel London
Moored at the Royal Victoria Docks, this former floating prison shipped from Amsterdam certainly lives up to its name. All profits go to an educational charity in Guatemala, while the hotel itself offers unemployed local youngsters training in the hospitality industry and help applying for jobs.

Our panel said: Owner Marten Dresen was inspired to set up the Good Hotel Group — which combines doing business with doing good — after meeting a little girl while backpacking through Antigua, and gifting her some much-needed shoes. The social business’s mission is to benefit deprived youngsters in the immediate community and beyond. goodhotellondon.com

Runners-up
Magdas Hotel, Vienna
Refugees getting training in hospitality make up much of the staff at this inner-city hotel — expect Syrian food at the cafe and mezze for breakfast. 

Nekupe, Nicaragua
This luxury resort with a social mission sources all its staff from impoverished local communities. It’s also reforested 1,300 surrounding acres. 

 

Boutique Break

Boutique hotels will always have a special place in our hearts. These are the Fabergé eggs of accommodation, where the devil is in the detail — not just in terms of great design, but service and oh-so-stylish comfort too.

The winner

Artist Residence Oxfordshire
The newest opening from Justin and Charlotte Salisbury’s eccentric mini franchise has turned a local drinking hole into a bucolic bolthole.

Our panel said: Set in the Cotswolds village of South Leigh, this six-bedroom farmhouse retreat, complete with a cosy inn, blends urban cool and rustic romance. Within the revamped 16th-century thatched farmhouse, rooms offer a mix of antiques and flea market finds, plus House of Hackney wallpaper, Morris & Co fabrics, neon signage, modern art, rainfall showers and roll-top baths.  

Runners-up
Santa Clara 1728, Lisbon
Smooth, sleek and seriously stylish, this historic townhouse-turned-minimalist pad is so chic it hurts. 

Hotel Sanders, Copenhagen
The Danish capital’s first venture in boutique hotel features Murano chandeliers, bespoke furnishing and original artwork. 

 

Comeback Kid

This year the revamps and rebrands came thick and fast. But big overhauls can often go awry. So here’s to the hotels that took a long hard look in the mirror, made a change, and got it just right.

The winner

Bürgenstock Resort, Switzerland
Popular with the Hollywood crowd, this sprawling property set high above Lake Lucerne has finally opened its doors after a nine-year, £440m investment.

Our panel said: There’s much to admire about the new-look Bürgenstock Resort, which comprises four hotels, 12 restaurants and a medical wellness centre. But the showstopper is the spectacular glass-enclosed 10,000sq metre spa, set amid meadows and snowy peaks. The main Palace Hotel has seen its fin de siècle marble pillars, hardwood parquet flooring and hand-blown glass chandeliers reincarnated with a boutique-y edge, while the Victorian timbers of the chalet-style Restaurant & Pension Taverne 1879 have been fully restored. 

Runners-up
Alila Fort Bishangarh, India
Set inside an 18th-century fort near Jaipur, Rajasthan, expect majestic yet minimalist decor and antique touches. 

The Setai, Tel Aviv
An infinity pool, 12th-century features and sea-view suites are among the hallmarks of this superbly grand renovation in historic Jaffa. 

 

The readers' categories

 

Home from Home

There are plenty of great staycation spots for us Brits to be proud of — from fashionable forest retreats to grand seafront edifices, and country houses with a foodie focus. But which ones earned your patriotic vote?

The winner

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire
One of the UK’s finest foodie getaways, with the venerable Raymond Blanc at the helm.

Our readers said: It’s been setting the bar consistently high since it opened in 1984, both in terms of its cookery school and restaurant. This stately Oxfordshire country house hotel tops our Big Sleep podium, lauded by readers not only for its ‘fantastic facilities and food’ but for its ‘thoughtfulness to surroundings and care of environment’. When walking around its glorious environs, you notice ‘everything about it is perfect’, including its ‘beautiful setting’. 

Runners-up
The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey
The family-run retreat with sweeping sea views, rolling lawns and standout dining made your top three for the second year running. 

Chewton Glen, New Forest
Every inch the English escape, this quintessential country house retreat is set in 130 acres with a world-class spa and 14 treehouse suites. 

 

Euro Star

The best Continental breaks revolve around hotels that are destinations in their own right. This competitive category included an Eiffel Tower-view palace hotel and a beautiful ocean-vista mansion.

The winner

W Barcelona
This hip seafront hotel, in the achingly cool city of Barcelona, sets a new standard in a city where the bar’s already very high.

Our readers said: This beauty won your hearts. The floor-to-ceiling windows in most guest rooms offer incredible views over Barceloneta Beach, while the service and amenities also scored top marks from you. And that’s before we get to the sleek indoor pool and buzzing rooftop bar. 

Runners-up
Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Within striking distance of the Eiffel Tower, this Parisian jewel shimmers with huge rooms, lavish touches and grand, imperial heritage. 

Belmond Reid’s Palace, Madeira
This rose-hued mansion on the lush Portuguese island is easy to fall in love with — surrounded by subtropical gardens and dramatic ocean views. 

 

 

Far-flung Fancy

A stand-out hotel stay lingers in the mind. They’re the stuff of office daydreams; they fire up our imagination and coddle with comfort. This year, casting the net far and wide, you plumped for a palace fit for a royal; a Koh-i-Noor diamond in the crown of any long-haul trip.

The winner

The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
With its shady, leafy gardens and cool lounges, this monument to Raj-era opulence is an oasis of calm in the fast-paced Indian metropolis.

Our readers said: Retaining its crown for a second year, The Taj clearly holds a special place in your hearts. Here’s what you said: ‘From the moment you set foot inside, you’re treated like a king or queen. Everywhere is spotless, the food is delicious, and the staff are the loveliest people you will meet.’ It simply ‘can’t be beaten for friendliness of staff’, who put ‘elegance and service above everything’. Also receiving plaudits were ‘the phenomenal food and… that view out to Elephanta Island!’ In short: ‘Perfection’. 

Runners-up
Raffles Hotel, Singapore
A true veteran of the hotel world, don’t forget to check back into this colonial-era gem in 2019 — it’s set to reopen later this year after a decadent revamp. 

Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai
Grand and glitzy, this family favourite wows with its pools, water park and huge, man-made beach. 

The Panel

Julia Buckley, freelance travel writer

Tom Chesshyre, travel writer, The Times

Lee Cobaj, freelance travel writer

Emma Gregg, freelance travel writer

Juliet Kinsman, luxury travel writer

Francisca Kellett, travel editor, Tatler

Alastair Sawday, founder, Sawday’s

Rose Shepherd,  Good Hotel Guide

David Whitley, freelance travel writer

and the National Geographic Traveller (UK) team

Published in the Jul/Aug 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)