The 10 best hotels in Asia
HERITANCE KANDALAMA, SRI LANKA
On first glimpsing the Heritance Kandalama at Dambulla, many visitors have asked, “We’re staying in that?”. Built into the surrounding rock and draped in vines, the hotel looks like an overgrown ruin; all part of the plan of renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, who created this atmospheric hotel. See heritancehotels.com/Kandalama.
Japan’s ryokan – traditional inns – are among its national treasures and Asaba, on the Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo, is one of the best. Set by a lake fringed with elegant gardens and bamboo forest, this family-run inn also offers private and communal onsen (hot springs) bathing. See asaba-ryokan.com/en/.
THE OPPOSITE HOUSE, BEIJING
In perpetually bustling Beijing, the Opposite House has gained a cult-like following for providing two very simple things: light and space. This pared-back boutique hotel may be in the heart of the action of Sanlitun, but it’s an elegant oasis full of clever design – love those rectangular wood bathtubs. See theoppositehouse.com.
PHUM BAITANG, SIEM REAP
Two million visitors a year flock to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat; to escape the crowds, check in to Phum Baitang. Set amid verdant fields just outside town, the hotel cleverly marries traditional Khmer architecture – including a 100-year-old farmhouse – with plenty of creature comforts. See phumbaitang.com.
Aman has plenty of sumptuous hotels throughout Asia, but its spectacular Javanese property – surrounded by rice paddies and soaring volcanoes, just 10 minutes from Borobodur – is one of its best. Bonus points for the many cultural activities on offer, from guided walks through the countryside to dinners in a traditional home.
THE SIAM, BANGKOK
Bangkok has no shortage of luxury hotels, but The Siam – with a riverfront perch in the historic Palace district, elegant art deco interiors, and sumptuous pool villas – is something special. Can you name any other hotels that offer private muay thai (Thai boxing) lessons? See thesiamhotel.com.
THE TAJ LAKE PALACE, UDAIPUR
India is positively awash with opulent palace hotels but for sheer romance, the Lake Palace wins every time. Originally built as a royal pleasure palace, this lovely hotel floats on the waters of Lake Pichola, with 360 degree views in all directions. See taj.tajhotels.com/en-in/taj-lake-palace-udaipur.
THREE CAMEL LODGE, MONGOLIA
Stretching the definition of the word “hotel”, Three Camel Lodge is Mongolia’s most remarkable accommodation: a set of 40 traditional gers, or tents, decked out most untraditionally with comfy beds, wood stoves and en suite bathrooms, located in the Gobi Desert. See threecamellodge.com.
DWARIKA’S HOTEL, KATHMANDU
Feeling less like a hotel and more like a village, this striking heritage property consists of traditional Newari buildings clustered around courtyards. The interiors are a mix of museum-quality artefacts and sleek design: ask for one of the rooms with a black slate bathroom. See dwarikas.com.
BENESSE HOUSE, JAPAN
The art island of Naoshima is one of Japan’s most remarkable sites: an open-air art gallery that is also home to world-class museums, all funded by one benefactor. Max out the experience by staying at Benesse House, a combined hotel and museum designed by Tadao Ando. See benesse-artsite.jp/en/stay/benessehouse.