Absolute travel blog
As travel experts one of the questions we get asked the most is, “What hotels are you excited about right now?” There’s so many new hotels on the scene these days it’s hard to keep up. We’re here to dig up what’s deserving of the hype, what’s not, and share the trending resorts and lesser-known boutique hotels that are blowing us way. Of all the hundreds of places we checked into in 2016, here’s our shortlist of the 10 spots to have on your radar.

What went into our decisions: superb location, thoughtful design with a sense of place, a commitment to a light footprint, food that makes it tough to try the local restaurants, and staff that made us want to stay an extra week.


Setting: Pristine Scottish highlands in the Cairngorms National Park.
Design: A 1603 stone farmhouse delicately refurbished with a Nordic aesthetic. Handcrafted white-pine furnishings by Danish and Scottish craftsmen fill the rooms. Interiors are in dove greys and Danish blues with brass accents.
Food: Wander in to the open kitchen, have a seat at the family table, and watch the cook go to work. If you’re peckish, there are homemade oven breads, cheese plates, and whatever’s picked from the vegetable patch on hand. Meals are sourced from the working farm that is part of the property, and guests dine together at the oversized oak table.
Adventure: Hike through heather fields, moorlands, and along ancient lakes on the 4,000 acre estate.
Our take: We chartered a private helicopter and soared from remote estates to private castles set on forgotten lochs. We photographed silver lakes, gentle waterfalls, and glowing green moorlands from the sky at golden hour, and touched down to hike territory unreachable by car.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Kinloch Lodge, Scotland; The Pig Near Bath, England


Setting: A revitalized 19th-century landmark building, once the headquarters of the Cotton Textile Foundation.
Design: Barcelona’s buzziest new property is part neo-classical hideaway a la Catalan bourgeoisie, part contemporary tropical oasis. Original elements like a 1957 suspended spiral staircase and parquet floors have been seamlessly incorporated into modern interiors with airy glass walls, globe chandeliers, and touches of teal upholstery.
Food: Mediterranean cuisine made from market ingredients served in a hip, cosmopolitan bar.
Adventure: Experience the culture and history of Barcelona through the lens of textiles and 19th-century high society—the Spanish cotton barons. Visit haute couture ateliers still producing some of the finest cloths in Spain, walk through life-size jewelry boxes filled with gold Art Nouveau brooches, and go behind the scenes of Circulo del Liceo—a mysterious 1847 private club which remains one of the city’s most exclusive closed-door gathering places.
Our take: Our adventure travel expert, Brooke Garnett, did a stopover stopped over in Barcelona for a few languid days sampling tapas and gazing at Gaudi architecture before heading to the snow-dusted Dolomites for trekking startlingly beautiful landscapes and après-climb champagne picnics prepared by renowned chefs.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Aman Venice, Italy


Setting: A Khmer “green” village set on eight acres of paddy fields and jungle gardens in the serene rural countryside outside Siem Reap.
Design: Phum Baitang has reimagined a traditional Cambodia village as an enclave of luxury stilted villas complete with thatch roofs, plunge pools, and charming tuk-tuks to get around. The original onsite farmhouse has been converted into the sumptuous main lodge with high-backed rattan loungers, oriental carpets, and lofted post-and-beam ceilings. There are glassy swimming pools, romantic boardwalks over the paddy fields, and secret corners with fluffy linen chairs for contemplative moments all your own.
Food: Sip fresh-squeezed juices by the pool and dine on traditional Cambodian recipes made with herbs and produce from the garden and rice harvested from the property’s paddies.
Adventure: See the spectacular temple complex of Angkor from the sky by helicopter or zip through the UNESCO World Heritage Site on a Vespa to see newly opened sections of the complex.
Our take: We recommend hiking the newly restored routes through the surrounding jungles in Phom Kalen to see endangered silver langur monkeys before heading further afield to the Cardamom Mountains to help our reformed poachers protect the Southwest Elephant Corridor—one of Asia’s last Elephant corridors.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Villa Mahabhirom, Thailand


Setting: Natural hot springs feed Amanemu’s onsens perched above picturesque Ago Bay in Ise Shima National Park.
Design: Contemplative, minimalist design puts the emphasis on relaxation, mindfulness, and melding manmade space with the natural surroundings. The focal points of each suite are the private onsens, glass walls, and private outdoor tea terraces.
Food: Taste renowned Matsusaka Wagyu beef or seafood caught fresh in the bay.
Adventure: Witness the pearl rafts and oyster divers in the bay and visit the holy Shinto site of Ise Grand Shrine and hike the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails in the hills above Amanemu.
Our take: Our Japan expert, Brian Lonergan, is the guy to go to when it comes to travel in Japan. And when he says the onsen experience at Amanemu is unmissable, we don’t question it.
If you like this, you’ll also love: The Upper House, Hong Kong


Setting: Surrounding a massive banyan tree on the outskirts of a pastoral village, just beyond the Pench National Wildlife Park where wild tigers roam through the forest.
Design: Jamtara effortlessly marries safari chic, traditional art, repurposed materials and even a radical record player for a fresh take on camp life. Striking tribal art is mounted on the walls alongside slide images taken by the owner’s grandfather who helped Indira Ghandi found India’s first wildlife parks. The floorboards used throughout the property are recovered old doors with a worn turquoise hue that hint at their past life. Each of the canvas tents has a private wooden deck with teak chairs and overstuffed floor cushions, perfect for restful afternoons drawing your surroundings with brightly colored pencils provided in each room.
Food: Of course the fare is fantastic, but it’s the dining atmosphere that struck us most. Meals are served family-style by candlelight at the long wooden table or under the shelter of the central banyan tree.
Adventure: Spend a night in the star bed modeled after a Machan, or elevated platform used by farmers for nights spent watching over their crops. During the day, enter Pench National Wildlife Park through an overlooked gate. With fewer crowds, your chances of spotting a tiger increase–we saw more than one for extended periods when we visited!
Our take: As we write this, Absolute Travel’s Sasha Lehman is falling asleep on her second night at Jamtara! She was immediately wowed, writing that on the first morning she “woke to the sound of a leopard who can sometimes be seen right from the camp.”
If you like this, you’ll also love: Jawai Leopard Camp, India; Galápagos Safari Camp, Galápagos Islands


Setting: Set on a 77,000-acre private concession in the Okavango Delta and only reachable by light aircraft hopper flights, it doesn’t get more out there than this.
Design: The six luxury expedition tents are outfitted in quintessential safari fashion with oriental carpets, wide verandas, and four poster beds. The tents sit on a little wooded island on the Delta. Robinson Cruseo-esque bridges connect the island to prolific wildlife areas.
Food: You may be surrounded entirely by wilderness, but you’ll eat better than you ever have before. Plus, sundowners!
Adventure: Botswana is the place to go for wildlife. What makes it really special is that because of anti-poaching initiatives the animals aren’t spooked by humans so you’ll see them going about their business as if you aren’t there.
Our take: This is the spot to visit for a safari straight from the pages of National Geographic. In fact, National Geopgraphic filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert filmed many of their wildlife documentaries here.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Duba Plains Camp (coming March 2017); Segera Retreat, Kenya


Setting: Sanctuary wanted to get travelers as close to the wildlife action as possible, so they built a raised platform over a papyrus bed on the Boro River. The camp is situated in a private concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve.
Design: The five stilted suites hover over the quietly moving water. Each has its own luxurious tin outdoor soaking tub and the four poster beds can be wheeled onto the deck if you want sleep under the open sky.
Food: Have a bush lunch with resident elephants Jabu, Morila and Thembi!
Adventure: This is your chance to live with elephants! Baines’ camp is home to several rescued elephants cared for by Doug and Sandi Groves, founders of the Living With Elephants Foundation. You’ll get to interact with the elephants and connect with these intelligent and emotional creatures. You’ll also learn what it’s like to be the lifelong caretakers for a group of orphan African elephants.
Our take: We have so much respect for the philosophy behind Baines’ camp and the thoughtful experience guests have when they visit. Safari goers leave not only having had unforgettable wildlife encounters, but with a deeper understanding of the ecosystem and the creatures who live there.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp


Setting: 2,000 meters above sea level in the Jabal Akhdar or “Green Mountain” stretch of Oman’s Al Hajar mountain range. The region is a rugged fanfare of ragged cliffs and plummeting gorges.
Design: Every element, from the architecture to the irrigation system, was designed to be in harmony with the region’s fragile ecosystem. To avoid introducing foreign elements to the ecosystem, the structure was built from stone gathered from the area. The resulting structure is a modern take on the great forts and signature details of Omani architecture. Heavy wooden fort doors open to rooms with with copper lanterns, timber floors, and stonewashed ceilings.
Food: Sample rich Arabic dishes influenced by spices and traditions of the trade routes that stretch from the Middle East to the Mediterranean.
Adventure: Visit the forgotten hamlets, uninhabited villages, and secret caves and canyons in the surrounding mountains.
Our take: Our Oman Expert, Matt LaPolice, says Alila Jabal Akhdar has a powerful sense of place that is rare to find in a hotel.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan


Setting: A coastal farm and four luxury villas sprawling along the remote Banks Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean.
Design: No matter your taste, there is fit for you from the homestead with its porticos and country-chic interiors to the open-plan modernist Scrubby Bay villa.
Food: Have a private chef at your disposal. Your chef will create seasonal menus using local ingredients (artisanal cheeses and small-batch wines that are only found in New Zealand) based around your personal preferences.
Adventure: Wild New Zealand is at your fingertips. Hike or bike coastal trails without another soul in sight, join your private chef in the kitchen for a cooking lesson, or hit the water and see dolphins, fur seals, and penguins who inhabit the coast.
Our take: We’re planning our next retreat to Annandale’s Seascape villa right now.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia


Setting: The private Antigua home of the design mind behind Guatemala’s famed Casa Palopo on Lake Atitlan. The home is so exclusive and under the radar we can’t even share photos!
Design: The charm of Villa Las Pilas is that it truly feels like a home, a very beautiful home at that. There are only three rooms, each opening onto the central courtyard, with traditional touches like in-room fireplaces.
Food: Dine as Antiguans do on homemade tortillas, roasted tamales, and hot chocolate.
Adventure: Surrounded by volcanoes, colonial Antigua is most traveler’s gateway to greater Guatemala. From Antigua, you can easily take day trips to hike active volcanoes, tour organic coffee farms, and visit the famous Chichicastenango market.
Our take: Absolute Travel’s Leslie Overton spent a few nights at Villa Las Pilas with her teenage daughter. A couple nights was not enough! They were torn between cuddling down with a book by the roaring fire in their room, playing games in the library, or having a drink in the central open-air courtyard.
If you like this, you’ll also love: Hotel Casa San Agustin, Colombia