Condé Nast Traveller - Condé Nast Traveller's pick of the best new hotels in the world
July-August 2016

JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa


This megawatt, all-American powerhouse is shaking up the way we experience one of Europe's greatest and most overcrowded cities. It's all about dipping in and out: overdose on gelato then retreat to the peaceful private island Isola delle Rose, 20 minutes from St Mark's Square by motorboat. The hospital-to-hotel conversion is by Milan-based Matteo Thun & Partners, which had to contend with some crude institutional architecture, including the fact that most rooms face the sea rather than the towers and domes of Venice. Yet they've managed to nail the transformation and the result is spectacular. Spaces are lustrous and bright with unfiltered Mediterranean light; the interior design is refreshingly contemporary next to all that dusty velvet and faded gilt everywhere else. The former outbuildings have been converted into delightful rooms with private pools, gardens and terraces, and the design is clean but not minimalist, with gorgeous parquet floors and smart, extravagant furnishings. Of the four places to eat, one, by Giancarlo Perbellini, was recently awarded a Michelin star; up on the fourth floor, there's a ravishing rooftop bar and pool. High-performance QMS products are used in the vast spa and Pure Oxygen facials counteract the effects of the Lido's salty air.
FLASH POINT Say goodbye to cramped quarters in this congested city; there are 16 hectares of landscaped grounds to explore, with two pools, on-tap watersports, a kids' club and a cooking academy.

Phum Baitang, Siem Reap


This collection of stilted homes is made with thatch, rattan and clay tiles to resemble the homes of Cambodian rice-farmers. The name translates as 'green village', and the landscaping echoes the surrounding paddy fields by using tall aromatic lemongrass and slender sugar palms. All 45 rooms are simple yet supremely tasteful, as you might expect from having a French fashion-entrepreneur owner, Roger Zannier. Rooms are dressed in cool cottons and linen with elegant handmade furniture, rough stone sinks and bathtubs, antique carved headboards and lantern-style lighting. On the terrace is a shaded day bed beside a plunge pool and frangipani tree. There are two restaurants, one adjoining a 50-metre infinity pool, where obliging waiters serve Khmer curries and fragrant fish amok. A staggeringly lovely spa has been carved by local stonemasons to resemble a temple, and is run by a delightfully camp Filipino called Mariano. Treatments using organic products are an excellent antidote to interacting with the thousands of visitors who visit Angkor each month.
FLASH POINT This place is so authentic, one of the bars is housed in a 100-year-old farmhouse with wicker wing chairs and oriental carpets.

Panacea, Koh Samui


Twenty years ago this Thai island was good for a cheap beach shack and full-moon party, but since then it's come of age with a cache of very smart hotels of which this, a cluster of five enormous villas on a hill above Bophut, is the latest and greatest. The main villa was once a private sanctuary for the owners, former model Evgenia Slyusarenko, credited with the interiors, and hedge-funder Pierre Andurand. Hong Kong-based architect David Clarke designed the enormous outdoor pavilions with vaulted cedar-shingle ceilings and seamless sliding doors. Inside it's all Travertine stone, teak and suar furniture, cotton and silk textiles from northern hill tribes and petrified wood. The four smaller villas each have 20-metre infinity pools (and next season they'll share a boxing ring, gym and spa), but it's the main villa that delivers the knockout blow. As well as two pools with oversized statues in gardens laid out by landscape whizz Bill Bensley, it has a private cinema, nightclub, wine cellar, boxing ring and gambling den.
FLASH POINT There are complimentary Muay Thai lessons with badass kickboxer Aan Deesamer, who speaks English like a Scouser.

Angama Mara, Maasai Mara


Hovering high above the greatest game reserve in Africa, this remarkable 30- tent lodge is designed by the brilliant Johannesburg-based architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens (North Island in Seychelles; Chinzombo in Zambia), with statement red-brick cones and towers, loft-like interiors and a Victorian walled pool. They have cleverly split the property into two 15-tent camps, which makes the whole thing far more intimate; the same goes for meals, with options to brunch in the bush, swap stories at long shared tables in the restaurant or venture into the forest for a fairy-tale, lantern-lit barbecue. The sleek tents are glass-fronted, with no pesky zips or fussy flaps; interiors include John Vogel-designed beds, roll-top bathtubs and a bold Maasai-red motif throughout. The simple French Fermob chairs on the viewing decks provide for 'rocking chair safaris', as they call them here, to watch raptors ride the thermals on the rim of Africa's Great Rift Valley. In the early morning, hot-air balloons sail above smudged blots of acacias and bronzed herds of grazers. It is, above all, the unspeakably special location which sets this place apart: minutes from the Mara Triangle and, in season, the Great Migration, which draws millions of wildebeest and zebra in one of the natural world's most marvellous spectacles.
FLASH POINT Take a wicker hamper, tartan blanket and Stanley flask to the Oloololo escarpment where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford picnicked in Out of Africa.