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Rooms with a view: 5 of the best

Some hotels are so special they’re destinations themselves. Check into the places that take luxury to the next level

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Private swimming pool, Penthouse Suites, Belmond Copacabana Palace. Image: Belmond

Private swimming pool, Penthouse Suites, Belmond Copacabana Palace. Image: Belmond

The A-lister

Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro

A historic haunt of the rich and famous, this art deco stunner is quite possibly Rio’s most iconic hotel. Made famous in the 1933 film Flying Down to Rio, A-list guests since have included Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. As its moniker suggests, it flanks Copacabana beach, where be-thonged cariocas parade along the shore while others in speedos play volleyball. Check into one of 226 rooms and swish suites (book one with an ocean view), and kick back poolside with a caipirinha, keeping your eyes peeled for VIPs.
X Factor: Michelin-starred pan-Asian Mee Restaurant, owned and fronted by Ken Hom.
Verdict: The place to be seen.
Superior City View Rooms from £229, B&B.
Alternative: Park Hyatt Sydney — harbourside, overlooking Sydney Opera House, with a rooftop pool to boot. Guests have included Rhianna and Lady Gaga. From AUD$950 (£480) for a City Harbour room, B&B.

Words: Stephanie Cavagnaro

Poolside at Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Poolside at Fregate Island Private

The island hideaway

Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Seven white-sand beaches on a 0.7sq mile island, 150 staff for just 16 villas, and your nearest neighbours the 100 species of tropical birds and colony of giant Aldabra tortoises… For many, this is one of the icons of the Indian Ocean, and following a renovation, it’s got even better. The butler-serviced villas have private pools and ocean-view whirlpool baths, while beyond the resort, jungle trails lead across the island.
X Factor: Much of the produce is grown on-site, and staff catch fish for dinner.
Verdict: Iconic island style.
Villas for four from £3,402 a night, full board.
Alternative: Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort, Mozambique. On the Quirimbas Archipelago, this resort has 12 rustic villas with pools. From £566.

Words: Julia Buckley

Aman Summer Palace

Aman Summer Palace

The World Heritage Site

Aman Summer Palace, China

Founded in 1750 (although subsequently destroyed and rebuilt), the Summer Palace has landscaped imperial gardens that sprawl over 716 acres and feature pavilions and temples worked into a landscape of woods, hills and lakeshore. Next to the East Gate is a complex of 100-year-old pavilions that once housed guests awaiting a royal audience; today, even those without royal connections can stay over. Aman hotels are known for their understated luxury, and this is no exception, with traditional Chinese design paired with attentive customer service.
X Factor: A private gate opening into the Summer Palace itself.
Verdict: Qing dynasty chic.
Rooms from £457, B&B.
Alternative: Parador de Granada, Spain. Located within the Alhambra Palace complex, this former Franciscan monastery is now a flagship parador (state-run hotel in a historic building). Doubles from £201, room only.

Words: Julia Buckley

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

The natural wonder

&Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania

‘Versailles meets Maasai’ is the tagline for this lodge overlooking the largest intact caldera on the planet, Tanzania’s 2,000ft-deep Ngorongoro Crater. Spread across three camps, each with its own sitting and dining areas, 30 standalone suites — mud and thatched cottages, inspired by Maasai manyatta buildings — pair chandeliers and antiques with African art and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the caldera. Butlers take care of everything, from lighting the in-suite fires to running baths.
X Factor: Game drives along the crater floor — included in the rate — allow you to spot the rhinos, elephants, lions and even flamingos living in the caldera.
Verdict: The ultimate safari lodge.
Doubles from £1,463 per night, full board.
Alternative: Longitude 131°, Australia. A tented camp nestled in the Outback beside Uluru, it’s the ultimate immersion in Australia’s Red Centre. Doubles from £1,251 per night, full board.

Words: Julia Buckley

The Great Hall, Cliveden

The Great Hall, Cliveden

The country house

Cliveden, UK

It’s rare a National Trust property lets you stay the night, but Thames-side Cliveden — whose past guests include Queen Victoria, Gandhi, Lennon and, of course, John Profumo, who notoriously spied Christine Keeler by the pool — is a guests-only NT house. It was recently renovated, although public areas remain as they were in their heyday, when owned by the Astor family — complete with 17th-century tapestries, Madame de Pompadour’s gilded dining room and a portrait of Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent in the lobby.
X Factor: The immaculate service.
Verdict: The ultimate party house.
Doubles from £445 a night, room only.
Alternative: Isle of Eriska, Scotland. A hotel on a 350-acre private island off the west coast. Doubles from £370, dinner, B&B.

Words: Julia Buckley


Read more in the Jul/Aug 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)