Image: Jade Mountain
Macduff Everton  /  Courtesy of Jade Mountain
Jade Mountain in St. Lucia has 28 open-air suites with either infinity pools or private Jacuzzis and views of the Piton mountains.
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updated 12/29/2010 10:24:55 AM ET 2010-12-29T15:24:55

You arrive at your palace-like hotel and walk past reflection pools to your room, which has Burmese teakwood floors and rich fabrics. But the “wow” moment really comes when you step out onto your private open-air terrace, and there, off in the distance, you see the Taj Mahal. This is the experience you can have at India’s Oberoi Amarvilas, one of the world’s top 25 hotels.

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Travel + Leisure’s annual compendium of the best hotels around the globe features winning properties from New York to New Zealand. Honing in on these captivating places is no easy task. That’s why T+L looks to the ultimate critics — our readers — to rank their favorite hotels in our annual survey. The results are always surprising.

Slideshow: World's Top 25 Hotels

The top 25 hotels are just the beginning of a larger list that includes 500 hotels — 218 of which are in the U.S. — and shows that readers are interested in all sorts of experiences. Hotels at the top of the list include Triple Creek Ranch, with western-style cabins in the Montana Rockies (No. 2); California’s San Ysidro Ranch and its 41 rooms in a string of clapboard cottages in Santa Barbara’s wine country (No. 4); and Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower, set in the second-tallest building in the U.S. (No. 20). All three illustrate what travelers are looking for now: unique environments and stellar service.

Video: 2011’s hottest hotels (on this page)

Another hotel known for going above and beyond? Jade Mountain in St. Lucia (No. 11 overall, No. 2 in the Caribbean), where butlers are on call for all 28 rooms. Here, bridges lead to open-air suites with infinity plunge pools, and you can stargaze from the terrace while dining alfresco on calypso-marinated kingfish. It was enough to entice last year’s World’s Best Awards Sweepstakes winner, who chose this exclusive escape for his $10,000 grand prize.

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If you’d rather stroll around Europe, you’ll find five European hotels among the top 25. The No. 1 hotel in France (and No. 9 overall) is a perennial showstopper: Domaine des Hauts de Loire in the Loire Valley, just two hours from Paris. The 32 rooms and suites at this former hunting lodge open onto a park and the property’s pond. It’s also the top-ranked hotel for less than $250 a night (rates start at $182). On your way there, try the 147-room Hôtel de Crillon in Paris’ Eighth Arrondissement, ranked No. 19 overall, and featuring Louis XV interiors and Carrera marble bathrooms.

So what property claimed the title of world’s best hotel? Read on for that and the other top 24 hotels.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Video: 2011’s hottest hotels

  1. Transcript of: 2011’s hottest hotels

    LESTER HOLT, co-host: We're back at 8:43. This morning on TODAY'S TRAVEL , the best hotels for 2011 . Travel Leisure magazine is out with its annual list of the world's top-ranked hotels. Here with some of the best of the best , associate editor Sarah Spagnolo . Sarah , good morning and happy new year to you.

    Ms. SARAH SPAGNOLO (Travel Leisure Magazine): Good morning. Same to you.

    HOLT: Thanks for coming on. You guys cover the gamut here, all kinds of destinations, city, country, desert, beach.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yes. Every year we ask our readers to rate their favorite hotels around the world, and this year we're, you know, so excited to launch the T+L 500 in our January issue. Two-hundred-twenty-nine of them, interestingly enough, are in the US and Canada , which shows that, you know, US hotels are really stepping it up, offering added value amenities, all sorts of extra services.

    HOLT: Because very often it'd be European hotels and those abroad that which kind of -- would often outrank the US ones.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yes, but our readers are loving, you know, our domestic properties. And 62 hotels on the 500 list are also affordable. So we're going to be talking about six of those today.

    HOLT: Well, let's talk about some of them. And Portland , Oregon , I took some vacation time in it this summer.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yeah.

    HOLT: What a great town. Great walking town. And you like the Nines hotel . The readers like the Nines .

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yeah. The Nines hotel , it overlooks Pioneer Square . It's actually set in a former department store , the Meier and Frank department store . And so everything in the hotel is sort of fashion oriented. The rooms are done in Tiffany blue . There are Ralph Pucci -designed mannequins in the lobby. So it has a sort of fashion feel, which is kind of fun and offers something different.

    The Nines: Portland, OR From $199 per Night

    HOLT: Yeah, New York Times described it as a chic haven.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yep. And it's also green. So it's eco-friendly for an environment that -- for a city that, you know, takes a lot of pride in their environment .

    HOLT: OK. Let's go over to the Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa in Scottsdale , Arizona . If you like a picturesque desert environment , I understand this is the place to go.

    Boulders Resort Golden Door Spa: Scottsdale, AZ From $199 per Night

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yes. If you're looking for a desert environment , the Sonoran Desert , it's actually set in a 21-million-year-old rock outcropping. You can see it there. It's absolutely beautiful; 221 casitas. A 33,000 -square- foot spa , which actually includes a labyrinth. So if you're looking to relax in a different sort of setting, you know, consider walking around a maze. They have all sorts of extra services that we were talking about earlier for your guests. They do guided nightly hikes to look up at the stars. You...

    HOLT: That's the moonlit hike they do.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Exactly. You can see Jupiter . You can see Venus actually right now in the sky above the hotel . They also do a desert photography tour. You know, you're seeing a lot of their wellness options there; $199 a night , so that really can't be beat.

    HOLT: Tell me about the Palazzo in Las Vegas . This is an all- suite high rise hotel that ranked very high.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yeah, an all- suite hotel , 3066 rooms. It was actually ranks by our readers as the number one hotel in Las Vegas . Affordable for their Palazzo Suite Life package, $179, you stay in one of their suites with these sunk-in living rooms -- you can see it there -- multiple TVs. They also throw in breakfast for two and a $30 in- suite credit. So you can...

    HOLT: Hm.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: ...enjoy, you know, all sorts of their amenities for significantly less.

    The Palazzo: Las Vegas , NV From $199 per Night

    HOLT: They've got the pool club. What is that?

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: They have a brand-new pool club. That's like the it thing to have now in Las Vegas ...

    HOLT: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: ...where you can relax by the pool. You can have Champagne , frozen grapes. They also have a Barneys if you're not interested in being by the pool in the wintertime, a Barneys , a Canyon Ranch spa. So, you know, all sorts of options there in Las Vegas .

    HOLT: Let's come east now, the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs , West Virginia . It also made the list. This is a recently renovated property, if I understand?

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Yes, exactly. The interiors were actually done by Dorothy Draper , you know, the innovative interior designer.

    HOLT: Hm.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Her protege Carlton Varney is behind the restaurant and casino complex that just opened. Interestingly enough, there's also a bunker that was built by the US government during the Cold War . You can tour it. That's not it. There's also -- there's other options. You can ice skate. You can -- you can play croquet. You can bowl. So no matter what you're looking for, this is a great family choice.

    The Greenbrier: White Sulphur Springs , WV From $199 per Night

    HOLT: But this isn't -- not just rooms there. They've got like giant suites, I mean...

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: It...

    HOLT: ...almost homes, right?

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: It's a huge complex. It's in White Sulphur Springs in the Allegheny Mountains . Everything you want, basically, this is the place . Another great deal, $199 a night .

    HOLT: And let's go to Mexico now. Cancun, Mexico , popular destination, always has been. The Casamagna -- is that how I pronounce it -- Casamagna Marriott?

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: The Casamagna Marriott Resort , 412 rooms, right on the Caribbean Sea . They have a beautiful...

    HOLT: I love their pool.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: ...outdoor pool.

    HOLT: Yeah.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Perfect place to bring the family. Nine restaurants, including a Thai restaurant where you can have a mango mojito. You can also have Thai lobster dumplings. Tepanyaki , if you want a Japanese chef to cook right in front of you. Everything there, a great place for the kids, $179 per night .

    HOLT: Before we run out of time, you got a little -- a little hotel in Italy I wanted to point out, the Hotel -- or Villa Cipriani , dates back to 1889 .

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: 1890 .

    HOLT: Where is it?

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: It's just north of -- it's just north of Venice . You can see it there.

    HOLT: OK.

    Hotel Villa Cipriani: Asolo, Italy From $245 per Night

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: It's a 31-room estate originally owned by the English poet Robert Browning , who gave it to the Irish Guinness family, who turned it over again to Giuseppe Cipriani of, of course, Cipriani in Venice , Italy .

    HOLT: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. SPAGNOLO: Thirty-one rooms, exposed beams, terra cotta floors, VitrA tile bathrooms. Everything you might want for an Italian escape, $245 a night .

    HOLT: Oh, wow. Looks great. Looks great.

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